A personal injury lawyer studying documents at his desk for a client's case.

Determining what to do after a serious injury can be complicated. Injured people often wonder if they need a personal injury lawyer or if they even have a personal injury case.

They may be unsure who was at fault, whether they should file an insurance claim, or how much they should receive in damages. Those who receive an offer from the insurance company might wonder if it’s fair or if they deserve more for their injuries.

If you’re wrestling with questions about a recent injury that you even suspect was caused by another party’s negligence, please contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We’ll review the details, answer your questions, and explain the options for seeking compensation.

There is no obligation, but if you want to move forward with our help, we won’t charge you anything until we win or settle your case.

How Does a New Mexico Personal Injury Attorney Evaluate Your Case?

First, we learn about the accident or injury to ascertain exactly what happened and who was at fault. Sometimes, a client comes to us with a solid understanding of these facts, but in other cases, they might be unclear about what caused their injury.

Either way, we’ll get to the bottom of it and work to determine if anyone was negligent. If we identify another party’s negligence, we may be able to seek damages from that party or their insurance carrier.

What Is Negligence?

The legal definition of negligence is failing to act with the degree of care a reasonable person would be expected to use in similar circumstances. What a reasonable person would or wouldn’t do can vary with the situation, but everyone is generally expected to take sensible steps to avoid harming others.

Of course, no one can anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, which is why it’s important to determine if the other party’s actions were reasonable. For instance, a reasonable person knows that excessive speed greatly increases the risk of an accident and injuries if an accident occurs.

So, if you were hit by a driver going 90 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, it would be fair to say they were probably negligent.

What if You Were Also Negligent?

Clients often think the accident or injury might have been their fault, but they aren’t sure, so they seek legal advice. If this describes your situation, talking to a New Mexico personal injury lawyer is indeed the best way to gain clarity on your situation.

The good news is that, in many cases, the injured person is only partially responsible, and another party also contributed to the injury. There are several different legal systems for dealing with these joint liability scenarios.

Some states bar the injured person (sometimes called a plaintiff) from recovering damages if they have a certain percentage of responsibility (usually 50 or 51 percent).

However, New Mexico uses a system called pure comparative negligence, in which the plaintiff is only barred from recovery if they are entirely at fault. Otherwise, they can recover the other party’s percentage of their damages.

So, if you were 40 percent at fault in a car accident and another driver was 60 percent at fault, you could recover 60 percent of your damages.

If you believe you had some fault in your accident, the next step you should take is to talk with an attorney. Sometimes, people who think they’re at fault are incorrect, and a lawyer can help you determine if this is the situation.

If you do share responsibility, we’ll work to learn how much fault you have. This is crucial because the insurance company will also estimate your level of fault.

The insurance adjuster frequently inflates the injured person’s level of responsibility, resulting in a smaller settlement than they deserve. Fortunately, an experienced attorney has the skills to negotiate for a fair estimation and settlement.

What Kinds of Injuries Can a New Mexico Personal Injury Attorney Help You With?

A personal injury attorney can help with almost any case if we find evidence that another party was negligent. The type of injury is less important than meeting the criteria for negligence, which are:

  • The negligent party or defendant had a duty of care. This refers to the general expectation that people will be reasonably careful not to harm others, although reasonable care can vary from one situation to the next.
  • This duty of care was breached. The defendant failed to make a reasonable effort to avoid causing harm. For example, they may have been speeding excessively in a car or ignored a hazardous condition on their property.
  • The breached duty of care caused your injuries. Your attorney will spend significant time on this part. It’s essential that we show exactly how the defendant’s lack of care led to your injuries. If we can’t demonstrate causation, it doesn’t matter how negligent they were.
  • You have damages resulting from your injuries. Damages typically include medical bills, lost income from missing work, lost earning potential if you were permanently disabled, property damage, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and more. If you lost a loved one to another’s negligence, damages in a wrongful death case might include final medical expenses, funeral or burial costs, loss of income or financial support, loss of consortium or companionship, and other losses. For this step, we may ask you to collect your bills, invoices, and estimates so we can calculate your damages.

There are several broad categories of personal injury cases we handle, but if your injury doesn’t fit into one, we may still be able to help you. If you’re unsure, always contact us for a free consultation about your case.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

This is one of the most frequent causes of personal injury cases.

Unfortunately, high rates of distracted and drunk driving in New Mexico contribute to a significant number of vehicle collisions. However, even if the other driver was clearly at fault, their insurance company could still claim you were partially responsible.

Under pure comparative negligence laws, this would allow them to reduce the amount they pay for your claim. The best way to avoid this potential problem is to engage the services of a seasoned car accident lawyer.

In other situations, the fault is not as apparent. Both parties may claim the other is solely responsible, and if there aren’t other witnesses or evidence at the scene, it can be difficult for the responding officer to determine what happened.

They will do their best to find the truth and complete a police report, but the injured person may feel the report was incorrect. In these cases, it’s beneficial to speak to an attorney immediately.

We’ll conduct our own investigation, and if we can find additional evidence that the other driver is at fault, we can challenge the police report if necessary.

Immediately after a car accident, we recommend you do the following:

  • Report the accident right away by calling 911. Sometimes, another driver will offer to pay for your damages because they don’t want to involve the police or the insurance company. These situations often turn into a massive headache for the injured party. Insist on making a police report and exchanging insurance information. If the other party refuses to divulge their insurance info, inform the police and let them handle it.
  • Ask if anyone is injured and request an ambulance if needed.
  • Do not accept responsibility for the accident or speculate about fault at the scene. When interviewed by the police, answer their questions honestly but be brief, stick to the subject at hand, and don’t volunteer additional information.
  • Seek medical attention for your injuries, even when they don’t seem serious. Another scenario we see frequently is when the injured party believes they are fine or their injuries are minor, so they don’t see a doctor. After several days or weeks, they are still in pain or feel worse and finally seek treatment. Then, they make an insurance claim. The insurance adjuster notes the gap between the accident and the first medical appointment and decides the two events are unconnected, so they reject the claim. It’s best to see a healthcare provider as soon as you notice any pain or symptoms after an accident to establish when and how the injury occurred.
  • Unless your injuries prevent you from doing so, take extensive photos at the scene. Document the damage to both vehicles, taking pictures from all angles. Photograph the street or ground, especially any tire marks, and the surrounding areas. Finally, take pictures of your injuries.
  • Don’t sign anything from an insurance company until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. The insurance company’s first offer could be for less than you deserve because they may have attributed too much fault to you, undervalued your damages, or both. Your lawyer will review the offer and discuss any deficiencies with you. We can then negotiate for a better deal on your behalf so you can concentrate on your recovery.

Motor vehicle accidents are not just car accidents—we also see cases involving large trucks, motorcycles, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable road users. Although severe or fatal injuries can occur in any road accident, they are more common when a large truck strikes a passenger vehicle or when any vehicle hits a vulnerable road user.

Medical Malpractice or Medical Facility Abuse or Neglect

It can be hard to accept the idea that your trusted physician has made a mistake that injured you, but unfortunately, these mistakes do happen. Doctors are human and make errors like the rest of us—but when a physician makes a mistake, sometimes the consequences are severe for the patient.

If you have suffered severe health complications and you have even the slightest suspicion your doctor is at fault, we advise you not to accuse your doctor of anything. This can complicate your situation. Instead, quietly retrieve your medical records—today, most facilities place these in online portals where patients can easily access them.

Next, speak with a medical malpractice attorney right away. In most cases, you only have three years from the date of the mistake or injury to file your medical malpractice claim, although there are a few exceptions.

Remember that your attorney may need time to investigate your case, and we will also need to file an “application for review” with the state’s Medical Review Commission. This is a requirement before any medical malpractice lawsuit can proceed, and the review commission could take up to 60 days to consider your application.

So, if you’re considering whether you might have a malpractice case, we recommend contacting a lawyer immediately.

Doctors aren’t the only healthcare workers who can cause harm. Sometimes, nurses or other workers in a medical facility also make mistakes, such as administering the wrong medication.

In other situations, a healthcare worker may even intentionally abuse or neglect a patient. This can happen in any healthcare facility, but unfortunately, it’s especially common in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

If you believe a medical facility has injured a loved one, please seek legal advice immediately.

Premises Liability

These cases revolve around an injury caused by an unaddressed, hazardous condition on someone else’s property. For instance, if you slip and fall in a store, the store’s management may have been negligent.

The store is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the premises so they are relatively safe for customers. If the manager knew the roof was leaking and did not take reasonable steps to protect guests—such as placing a bucket under the leak and a “Wet Floor” sign to warn others—the store might be liable.

Falling is one of the most common premises liability cases, but it’s not the only one. Other potentially hazardous situations include:

  • Loose railings
  • Any issue with floorboards, carpet, or flooring that could cause a person to trip
  • An unfenced swimming pool that could prove an “attractive nuisance” to young children
  • Hazardous materials like harsh chemicals that aren’t properly secured
  • Blocked emergency exits
  • Fire or electrocution hazards
  • Lack of security to prevent criminal actions like robberies or break-ins

In any of these situations, it’s necessary to demonstrate that the owner or manager knew or should have known about the hazard and failed to address it in a reasonable length of time.

If you slipped and fell two minutes after another customer spilled a milkshake in a store, the store probably wasn’t negligent. It’s unreasonable to expect the store’s staff to clean up the mess instantly.

However, if you fell an hour after the drink was spilled, then we could argue the store staff should have been checking the aisles regularly, noticed the spilled drink, and cleaned it up.

In most cases, it’s hard to know how long a hazardous condition existed before you were injured. Fortunately, our investigators can look into the matter and learn more about how your injury occurred.

The sooner you contact us, the more likely we are to find evidence, such as store security video or witnesses, that can shed light on the situation.

Construction or Workplace Accidents

Over 200,000 construction workers are injured every year, and more than a thousand tragically lose their lives in construction site accidents. Although you can be injured at any job, the heavy and sometimes dangerous equipment used in construction work increases the risk of injury.

People who have been hurt at work usually expect Worker’s Compensation to pay for their medical bills and some of their lost income. While Worker’s Compensation is a no-fault system, that doesn’t mean your claim’s approval is guaranteed.

Many injured workers are surprised to learn their claim has been rejected for other reasons, such as:

  • The insurance adjuster believes the injury is fake or the worker is malingering.
  • A claim can also be denied if the worker was not at work when it occurred. This is commonly a reason for claim rejections when the injured person has a repetitive motion injury, such as a shoulder injury from swinging a hammer every day. The adjuster might claim the injury was caused by some activity outside of work and is therefore not eligible for Worker’s Compensation.
  • The insurance company can deny a claim because the employee was intoxicated, horsing around, or caused their injury on purpose.
  • The employer could claim they were not notified of the employee’s accident or injury within 15 days of the event. Unfortunately, we sometimes meet clients who insist they did report the injury right away, but their boss claims they have no recollection of the conversation. To avoid these difficulties, we recommend reporting your injury in a traceable way, such as an email or text from your personal account or phone (so you will always have access to the sent message).
  • Independent contractors don’t qualify for Worker’s Compensation, but employees do. However, sometimes employees are misclassified as contractors. If you are truly a contractor and your injury was caused by your employer’s negligence, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim instead.

If your Worker’s Compensation claim has been denied for any reason, please contact an attorney right away. We’ll review your claim, and in some cases, we may be able to file an appeal and secure the compensation you deserve.

We can also assist you if you have not yet filed a claim. We understand that sometimes employees feel uncomfortable making a Worker’s Comp claim or might even worry their jobs are in jeopardy.

Retaliating against an employee for making a Worker’s Comp claim in good faith is illegal, but unfortunately, it does happen. If you have questions or concerns about a work injury or Worker’s Comp claim, you can always have a confidential conversation with a personal injury lawyer.

We’ll be happy to discuss your options and address any concerns you have.

When you suffer injuries as an independent contractor, it’s also imperative that you seek legal advice. First, we’ll ask you some questions about your work to make sure you’re really a contractor.

If we find evidence that your employer has misclassified you as a contractor when you’re performing the functions of an employee, we may be able to seek Worker’s Compensation and back benefits like healthcare coverage.

It’s important to note that construction workers aren’t the only people who can be injured on or near a construction site. Sometimes, passersby suffer injuries due to falling objects or other hazards.

Construction crews are required to follow various precautions to protect the public, such as placing signs and cones to direct people away from potentially dangerous areas. If the crew did not take sufficient care to warn you of the dangers or to contain hazardous materials, the site or project owner may be liable.

In these cases, we will file a personal injury claim for damages.

Where Can You Get Help From a New Mexico Personal Injury Law Firm?

No matter how your injury happened, if you believe it was caused by someone else’s negligence, Olson Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help. You can contact us for a free consultation at any time to review the details of your case.

We’ll discuss your options and do our best to help you find the right solution. If we take your case, there are never any upfront charges—you won’t owe us anything until we successfully resolve the matter.

About Attorney Sean Olson

In 2012, attorney Sean Olson established Olson Personal Injury Lawyers to advocate for the needs of injured people. Drawing inspiration from his childhood soccer coach’s mantra to “build others up,” Mr. Olson remains committed to this philosophy.

His daily mission revolves around championing the rights of people who have been harmed by another’s negligence.

Mr. Olson began his career as a photojournalist, and his passion for storytelling ultimately led him to the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. After graduating in the top one percent of his class, he began working to tell the stories of those who were seriously injured.

When he’s not advocating for clients, he loves spending time outdoors with his family. Call him and his team of experts today at (505) 391-4149.