How to Win a Negligence Case in New Mexico
Many personal injury cases in New Mexico revolve around the concept of negligence. But what, exactly, is negligence? New Mexico’s laws generally follow the legal theory of comparative negligence, which differs from other states that rely on the concept of contributory negligence. Here, we will examine negligence in New Mexico and what it takes to win a negligence case in the state.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
The idea of negligence refers to someone not taking proper care in doing something, which causes injury to another person. Comparative negligence is officially defined as the legal doctrine that each defendant is only liable for the amount of a plaintiff’s full damages allocated to that defendant in proportion to the defendant’s percentage of fault. A separate judgment is entered against the defendant in that amount. Under comparative negligence, a plaintiff takes partial responsibility for any personal injuries that they have suffered. So, even if a plaintiff is 99 percent at fault, they are still entitled to recover that one percent from another person who carries responsibility for that amount of the damage done.
If, however, a plaintiff has intentionally caused or contributed to the injury or death that has taken place, they are not entitled to recover any damages from anyone else.
Under New Mexico’s comparative negligence statutes, there also exists a right to contribution. If two or more people are both liable for someone’s injury, the right of contribution comes into play. This means that the responsibility for paying a plaintiff’s damages is shared among everyone who holds some responsibility for that injury.
How Does Comparative Negligence Differ from Contributory Negligence?
Some other states follow the legal doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this type of negligence, which is harsher, a plaintiff is not entitled to recover any damages if they contributed in any way to their injury, even if they are only one percent at fault. This type of negligence offers little to no protection to a plaintiff for their own personal injuries. States that follow this contributory negligence doctrine include Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia, and Alabama.
Some states (such as Colorado and Utah) follow the model of modified comparative fault. This is more confusing as it is split into two categories – the 50 percent bar rule and the 51 percent bar rule. Under the 50 percent bar rule, a plaintiff who is 50 percent or more responsible for an accident is not entitled to recover any damages. Under the 51 percent bar rule, a plaintiff may not recover for damages if they are 51 percent or more at fault.
What Must One Prove to Win a Negligence Case in New Mexico?
In general, four elements must be proven in order to win a negligence case in New Mexico:
Duty – It must be proven that the defendant owed some type of duty to the plaintiff, usually through the relationship that exists between them. As an example, a doctor owes a duty to care for the health of a patient, and must therefore provide proper medical care.
Breach – It must be proven that the defendant breached their duty to the plaintiff by failing to exercise reasonable care. In the example above using the doctor-patient relationship, the doctor may breach their duty of care by administering the wrong treatment to the patient.
Cause – It must be proven that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Damages – It must be proven that there is some way that the court can compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. For example, in a medical malpractice case, the court may award the plaintiff with enough money damages to cover the cost of medical treatment that is necessary to fix the mistake that the doctor made.
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to another’s negligence, contact our New Mexico personal injury law firm today.
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