Filing a personal injury case may be in your best interest if you get injured in a preventable accident, such as a car crash or slip and fall. A lawsuit may seem difficult, but it could result in the financial compensation that you need. Knowing what to expect from the timeline of a personal injury case in New Mexico can make it easier for you and your family to get through the legal process.
The first step – the step that initiates a personal injury case in New Mexico – is filing the claim. As an injured accident victim, you will do this by contacting your own insurance company and the insurance carrier of the other party involved in the accident. You should make these phone calls as soon as possible after your accident or injury, as many insurance companies have short deadlines. You will submit a demand letter to the insurance company describing the accident, listing your losses and naming an amount that you wish to receive in compensation.
Unlike most other states, New Mexico does not give a specific deadline for insurance companies to respond to claims. Insurance companies simply must respond in a “reasonably prompt” manner. In general, this is within 15 to 30 days, but it can vary based on the circumstances. Most insurance companies send initial letters notifying claimants that they received the claim within a few days. Then, it can take a few weeks for the insurance company to investigate and come to a decision. New Mexico also does not have a time limit for the investigation; the insurance company has a “reasonable timeframe.”
The next step is an in-depth investigation of the accident. First, the insurance company that receives the claim will assign someone known as a claims adjuster to the case. The adjuster can interview witnesses, review police reports, hire accident reconstruction experts, analyze property damage and take other steps to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident. The investigation will inform the claims adjuster’s decision of whether the insurance company should reject or accept the claim. If you hire a personal injury lawyer to represent you, the law firm will also perform its own investigation to preserve and collect evidence.
If the insurance company accepts the claim, this means it agrees that its policyholder is liable and will cover the victim’s costs, up to the limits of the policy. The insurer will offer a settlement that may or may not match the amount that you put in your demand letter. You and your attorney will then have the opportunity to submit a counteroffer letter and negotiate back and forth with the insurance company until you reach a settlement agreement. Although the timeline for these negotiations can vary, many personal injury settlements are reached within about six months.
Waiting for the Point of Maximum Medical Improvement
A case involving serious injuries can take longer, as the settlement process is delayed until the victim reaches the point of maximum medical improvement. This is the date by which the victim’s doctor believes he or she will recover no further. It is important to wait for this date, even if it delays the settlement process, so that you fully understand the extent of your injuries and how much they will impact your future.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you cannot reach a settlement with the insurance company, your case may have to go to trial to be resolved. This can add considerable time to your case, as you may need to wait a year or longer for your court date. The discovery phase of a lawsuit can also take many months, depending on the difficulty of the investigation.
Every Case Is Unique – Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
While there is a general set of steps that most personal injury cases follow, every case is unique. There is no straightforward timeline that will apply to every case. The best way to find out how long your case might take is by contacting a New Mexico personal injury lawyer.