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Is Work Comp the Only Answer?: New Mexico Work Injury Law & The “Delgado Opinion”

Posted in Firm News

New Mexico workers are hurt on the job every day. Many times they immediately contact a New Mexico work comp lawyer to evaluate their case. Although this is not a bad strategy, it may result in not thoroughly exploring all recovery options available under New Mexico law.
After the Work Comp Act was passed, employees injured on the job were largely unable to recover damages beyond those limited by the Workers’ Compensation Act. The benefit of moving outside the limits of the act is that generally the amount that can be recovered is closer to fully compensating the injured victim.

Many New Mexico workers who are injured while at work are unaware that if the injury occurred, even in part, because of the conduct of someone other than an employer or co-emplyee, there may be multiple rights they have under New Mexico law. Common examples include when a New Mexico worker is hurt: because of a defective product, in a New Mexico car or truck accident caused by another driver, by a contractor at a job site, or by a third party’s negligence.

However, New Mexico employees hurt while working may also have another chance, albeit slim, of recovering damages against their employer outside the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act.

The New Mexico case that opened the door to moving beyond the act, Delgado v Phelps Dodge, established a three prong test that must be applied to all such cases:

(1)the worker or employer engages in an intentional act or omission, without just cause or excuse, that is reasonably expected to result in the injury suffered by the worker;
(2)the worker or employer expects the intentional act or omission to result in the injury, or has utterly disregarded the consequences; and (3)the intentional act or omission proximately causes the injury.

While many personal injury and New Mexico work related injury lawyers have attempted to use the Delgado opinion to move beyond New Mexico work comp law, the requirements are extensive and the cases that qualify are limited. Nonetheless, in serious New Mexico injury cases, it is often essential for New Mexico accident and injury lawyers to evaluate this option.