What You Need To Know
If there is one phrase that the personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm dread hearing when they discuss a case with an injury victim it is, “I wish I would’ve known that earlier.” This is typically said after we have had the unfortunate duty to tell an injury victim about some previously unknown legal nuance or requirement that, by virtue of being ignored has a disastrous effect on a case.
While there can be many times in which an injury victim may say this, it has been our experience that there are three common themes that most frequently generate this response. If nothing else, hopefully, any New Mexico accident or injury victim can at the very least be aware of these factors to that they do not find themselves in the unfortunate position of telling someone later on down the road, “I wish I would’ve known that earlier.”
Statute of Limitations and Case Preservation
Regardless of how the injury occurred, whether by car or truck or motorcycle accident, medical malpractice, tort claim, slip and fall, or premises liability, all New Mexico injury cases are affected by a statute of limitations. This statute imposes the window of opportunity by which point a lawsuit must be filed and in the event, it is not, the injury victim will forever lose their ability to pursue the case. The criteria that affect a statute of limitations are vast and impossible to identify in a single paragraph. However, we have encountered people who either mistakenly believed that they had a very long amount of time to pursue a case or a very short amount of time to pursue a case and have not done so. Depending on the specific facts of the accident or injury, a New Mexico victim may have as long as six years or as short as two years to file a lawsuit. In certain situations including when a minor child is involved or in other very unique circumstances the statute may be even longer. However, separate from a statute of limitations, some cases such as any claim against the government, may require a letter be sent to various entities within 90 days of the date of an injury. It is this deadline that most often times results in an unknowing injury victim losing the ability to pursue his or her case.
Because of the various factors involved that may affect how long a case has before it must be pursued, we recommend that an injury victim at least discuss this issue if nothing else with an attorney within a couple weeks of the incident. Hopefully, a brief telephone call with an experienced personal injury lawyer will either encourage an injury victim to take immediate action, or comfort them and knowing that they may have some breathing room before they must formally pursue their case.
The way in which medical bills are paid is important Even when an injury victim does a good job in listening to medical advice and establishing necessary medical care shortly after his or her injury, there are still other crucial decisions to be made. Often times injury victims are told that they do not need to use their health insurance for any medical care and should instead sit on their medical bills until the case moves forward. This is highly dangerous. Depending on how medical bills are paid, an injury victim may experience a significantly easier, or on the other hand more difficult, time trying to negotiate his or her case. In addition, when medical bills are handled wisely, and injury victim can significantly increase their ultimate recovery in a case. For the most part, the options that may be available to cover medical expenses include health insurance, workers compensation insurance, medical payment coverage through car insurance, letters of protection, or self-pay. Although there are various factors to consider and each decision must be made on a case-by-case basis, our general approach is to tell an injury victim that if they have any available insurance coverage that may help with medical expenses, to use it. Sometimes this encounters resistance as an injury victim does not want their health insurance to pay for medical treatment because of somebody else’s fault. While this is understandable, it is often times a misconception that may result in the injury victim recovering less money. For this reason, before any decisions are made regarding how to have your medical expenses paid for, it is wise to contact an experienced New Mexico or injury attorney to discuss which approach is best.
The other side is not obligated to preserve evidence
Often times accident or injury victims contact us months after they were injured and in discussing the case reference various video footage, incident reports, computer data, witness statements, or other documents that they believe will clearly prove their case. When the same injury victims are told that the evidence may low longer exist because the defendant may have no legal obligation to preserve it, we received the dreaded response, “I wish I would’ve known that earlier.” This is especially true when we tell injury victims that a legal obligation could be imposed on a defendant by sending a simple letter known as a “spoliation letter” or an “evidence preservation letter.” By sending these letters promptly, and injury victim can quickly establish a legal duty that the defendant may have to preserve whatever evidence is in their possession or else face serious legal consequences.
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Again, there are countless number of other issues that may be just as important to an accident or injury case as the above three, but if every New Mexico accident or injury victim knew the three issues listed above and nothing else, it is likely that most any injury attorney would hear the sad phrase “I wish I would’ve known that earlier,” much less.
Finally, most any reputable accident and injury attorney is more than happy to discuss the case with the client and should be able to highlight some immediate issues that the injury victim may wish to focus on. However, it is, of course, impossible to provide concrete and encompassing legal advice based on a five-minute case summary or a brief description of events. Nonetheless, contacting an attorney within the first couple weeks, even if just to discuss the case, can help make sure that an accident or injury victim at the very least does not find him or herself saying, “I wish I would’ve known that earlier.”