There are many factors considered when assessing the value of a personal injury claim in New Mexico. I will include the TEN MOST IMPORTANT factors along with a brief description. For more details on each of these factors, check out my free downloadable book, “Car Accident Cases Made Simple(r).
1. Liability / Comparative Negligence
Determining who is at fault or liable for the accident or injury is crucial. New Mexico follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, which means that the plaintiff's recovery can be reduced if they are found partially at fault. For instance, if your total damages are $100,000, but you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, your final recovery would be reduced to $80,000.
Therefore, it's essential for claimants to establish clear liability and minimize evidence of their own negligence to maximize their potential recovery in motor vehicle accident cases.
All the other factors on this list won’t matter if you can’t successfully argue liability – making this the number one factor on this list.
2. Nature and Extent of Injuries
The severity of your injuries and the related medical treatment play a significant role in determining your claim’s value. Consideration is given to whether your injuries will have long-term or permanent effects, including disability, pain, or emotional distress.
3. Economic Damages
Economic damages are those damages you suffer that have a specific dollar value that can be assigned or calculated. These are the most common economic damages.
- Medical Expenses: The cost of past and future medical treatments, including surgeries, rehabilitation, medications, and therapy.
- Lost Income: Compensation for wages or income lost due to the injury, which may include future earnings if you are unable to work in the same capacity as before.
- Property Damage: If your personal property, such as a vehicle, was damaged in the incident, you may be entitled to compensation for repair or replacement costs.
4. Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are those damages that do not have a specific dollar value that be assigned or calculated specifically. For this reason, non-economic damages tend to be more difficult to value and are more heavily argued by insurance companies. The most common non-economic damages are:
- Pain and Suffering: The physical and emotional distress caused by the injury.
- Loss of Consortium: Compensation for the impact of the injury on your relationship with your spouse or family members.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the loss of ability to participate in activities you once enjoyed.
5. Insurance Coverage
The insurance policies of the parties involved can significantly impact your claim’s value. This includes the limits of liability coverage and any additional coverage available, such as underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.
6. Settlement vs. Trial
The willingness of both parties to reach a settlement out of court can affect the final compensation amount. In some cases, a trial may be necessary to achieve a fair outcome. However, a settlement may result in less than the top value of your claim, but a settlement also eliminates the risks of a trial that could leave you with zero. A settlement also avoids the stress that clients feel with a trial and, for that reason, may be more appealing. These are important factors that must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
7. Unique Circumstances
Every personal injury case is unique, and various additional factors may come into play depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
Have the injuries sustained impacted you differently than they do most? For example, I once had a client who had a unique business of providing specialized physical therapy to horses. Her injuries impacted her ability to perform her job and participate in many of her hobbies and activities.
Unique circumstances can also be something like you couldn’t obtain medical treatment because you didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford medical treatment. In these situations, the medical bills might not be an accurate measure of the value of your damages.
Every case is different. Look for the unique factors that might increase the value of your claim.
8. Pre-Existing Conditions
If you had pre-existing medical conditions, the defendant's liability may be limited to the extent the injury worsened those conditions. A defendant is only responsible for the injuries/damages caused by their negligent action. Your medical condition prior to the accident is an important factor in understanding the value of your claim.
9. Emotional Distress
Technically, this is non-economic damage that I reference above in the pain and suffering, but this is an important factor, so I decided to mention it again because it comes up a lot. Claims for emotional distress or mental anguish are valid in New Mexico but can be challenging to quantify (put a value on). Evidence such as therapy records and expert testimony may be necessary.
Something to keep in mind, the emotional distress damages will not usually be valued as high as you feel it should. Every accident comes with an emotional impact. However, in general, the level of emotional distress damages will have a correlation to the level of injuries sustained. In other words, if you have a minor accident with limited treatment, then your emotional distress damages would then be expected to be minor as well. If you were in a catastrophic accident with permanent injuries, the emotional damages are thus equally more significant.
10. Punitive Damages
In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant for egregious misconduct - think of drunk drivers or very high-speed accidents (20+ MPH over the speed limit). Don’t forget about texting and driving, too. Some courts have started awarding punitive damages in cases where the defendant was texting while driving.
Contact Our New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Today to Get Your Consultation
It's important to consult with an experienced New Mexico personal injury attorney who can thoroughly evaluate your case, assess these factors, and provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances. A personal injury attorney in New Mexico can help you pursue the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Our dedicated personal injury team here at The Injury and Disability Law Center is here to help you. Schedule your free initial consultation today by calling our office at 575-300-4000, starting a chat, or filling out our online form.
If you want even more information, download my free book, Car Accident Cases Made Simple(r), where I discuss this topic and more.