The New Mexico Tort Claims Act covers all personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against state, county, and local governments. This includes all governmentally run entities, which covers a very broad spectrum (i.e. hospitals, clinics, parks, streets, sidewalks, government vehicles, government buildings and many more).
For any such claim, there is a very short and critical notice deadline. Missing the deadline will bar the claims completely. If you cannot find an attorney to do it for you, then you must do it yourself to protect your claims.
The New Mexico Tort Claims Act requires that a notice of claim be sent to the appropriate governmental entity within a short period of time from the date of the alleged negligent act leading to the personal injuries.
For personal injury claims, the deadline is only 90 days from the date of negligence. The deadline for wrongful death claims is only slightly longer at 6 months.
These deadlines are very short and can seem quite daunting for non-lawyers, assuming they know about it at all. Though there is little to be done about the length of these deadlines, complying with the notice requirements need not be overly stressful. It can be done with relative ease.
What to Do
For those that have suffered personal injuries or wrongful death, the first step is often to find an attorney. However, these short deadlines can pass very quickly while the process of looking for an attorney is underway.
In some cases, it may be difficult to find an attorney to take the case. In others, the process may get started late for any number of reasons. For one, many are unaware of the urgency of the Tort Claims Notice requirements. Others may not look for an attorney immediately because they are dealing with the injuries and everything that follows such as treatment, hospitalization, pain, depression, loss of employment and so on.
In these cases where the Tort Claims Notice deadline is fast approaching, it is important that the injured person or the survivors in case of wrongful death send the notice themselves if they are unable to get an attorney to do it for them.
No Leeway for Non-Attorneys
Though it is certainly preferable to have an attorney involved in a Tort Claims situation, this is not always possible. This does not mean that an injured person should give up. It certainly will not excuse missing a deadline.
This point cannot be stressed enough due to the expectations for some that these deadlines are flexible and someone without an attorney will be treated differently. Attorney or not, these deadlines are firm and missing one will bar the claims completely in all but very rare circumstances.
DIY Tort Claims Notice
This need not be a problem. An attorney is not necessary for sending in the Tort Claims Notice. You can do it yourself. The State of New Mexico has made it relatively easy by providing an online notice of tort claims form with directions on how to use it.
Follow the directions on the form to the letter. If you have questions or otherwise do not understand the form, then contact the State Bar of New Mexico attorney referral service online or by phone at (505) 797-6000. They will be able to refer you to an attorney that can assist with this specific issue without commitment to taking the case.
“Actual Notice” Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act
New Mexico Statute of Limitations & Exceptions — Time is Always of the Essence!-€¨
Tort Claims Notice Requirements: Contents & Delivery of the Notice