You will likely have many questions after getting into a car accident in Albuquerque. If your insurance claim turns into a personal injury lawsuit, this may lead to more questions instead of answers. Understanding the general stages of a car accident lawsuit in New Mexico can help you know what to expect from the process ahead.
Before you can file a claim, your lawyer will engage in pre-litigation. The pre-litigation phase involves collecting evidence, facts and documents that support your side of the story. Pre-litigation is key to a strong and well-developed car accident lawsuit. This stage involves identifying the defendant, gathering evidence and filing your lawsuit before the state’s deadline.
Pre-litigation can involve many steps to set up a car accident claim for success. Hire a lawyer in the very first stage for the fastest and most efficient process possible. Your lawyer can revisit the scene of your car accident, make phone calls, hire experts and take other steps to get to the bottom of crash causation. First, you will have a free consultation with your attorney. During your consult, you will get answers to your questions, identify your goals and work with your lawyer on a legal strategy moving forward.
Next, your personal injury attorney will go to work on calculating and proving damages. Your lawyer will assess all the ways the car accident affected you, including medical expenses, lost wages, property damages and psychological injuries. Then, he or she will collect copies of bills, receipts, medical records and other documents to prove these damages. Finally, your lawyer will hire investigators to find evidence of the defendant’s fault for your losses.
Once your lawyer has determined the identity of the defendant and built a strong case to damages, he or she can help you fill out the initial claims paperwork. Claims documents can be confusing and difficult to fill out properly on your own. Your lawyer can help you with the legwork of the claims process, including filing with the correct civil court by the statute of limitations. You will have three years from the date of your car accident to file a personal injury claim or four years for a property-damage only claim in New Mexico.
After you file your car accident lawsuit, you and your attorney (as well as the other side of the case, the defendant) will go through the discovery phase. This is a formal process in which both sides have the opportunity to learn what the other knows. The discovery phase of litigation often involves swapping documents, looking at key evidence and giving depositions. A deposition is an interrogation in which the other side may ask you questions about the car accident, and your lawyer can do the same to the defendant. Your attorney can walk you through all the steps of discovery, including sitting with you during deposition testimony to protect your rights.
Mediation and settlement negotiations will come after the discovery phase. These are pre-trial negotiations that often lead to case resolution. Most car accident and personal injury lawsuits end in the mediation phase. During mediation, you, your lawyer, the defendant and the defendant’s counsel will meet in front of an unbiased third-party mediator who will help you work out a settlement agreement. You will remain in control of the outcome of settlement negotiations.
Trial and Appeal
If the defendant refuses to come to a reasonable settlement, your case will proceed to the trial phase. You will not have control over the outcome of a trial. Instead, a judge or jury will make the final call after listening to evidence presented by both sides of the case. Should the jury rule in the defendant’s favor, your lawyer will have the ability to appeal the decision, if you wish. Your case will then go before the court of appeals. During all phases of a car accident lawsuit, retain an attorney to stand by your side. The right Albuquerque car accident lawyer can guide you through the complex injury claims process.