In general, civil “statute of limitations” laws determine when a civil legal claim is barred and the defendant will win solely because too much time has passed. There are also criminal statutes of limitations. Each type of claim (and criminal charge) can have a different time limit, from contract breaches to medical malpractice.
When Does the Time Limit Begin?
The clock starts for a person to sue when that person knew or should have known that he or she suffered a harm and the nature of that harm. For example, a girl has a tonsillectomy when she’s 11 years old. When she has a car accident 10 years later, they find out by taking an x-ray that a metal object is still lodged in her throat. The time wouldn’t start until she knew about it.
However, let’s say she’d been having throat trouble for many years and did nothing about it, then she should have known to take action and her failure could bar her claim. This is the “discovery of harm” rule and generally doesn’t come into play in more common personal injury claims, like car accidents and slip-and-falls.
Extending the Statute of Limitations
The time to sue can be extended or “tolled” if the victim is considered legally incapacitated. For example, injured children don’t have the clock start running until they’re no longer minors in the eyes of the state law. Another reason the time limit could be extended is serious mental disability. If someone was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for many years, during which she was sexually abused by staff, it would be unfair to expect her to have the mental capacity to sue for the wrong that was done to her.
Therefore, once they’re 18, in most states including New Mexico, or regain sanity, the statute starts to run. However, the plaintiff only gets one additional year in which to sue after turning 18 or otherwise losing their legal disability.
Suing the Government
Federal, state, and local governments have immunity to many types of lawsuits, meaning you can’t sue them for some things at all and for other things the recovery could be limited. Even when you can sue them, the statute of limitations for injury claims against the government could be shorter than for other individual or business defendants. Therefore, if you’ve been harmed by any government agency or employee, you need to talk to a knowledgeable attorney, and quickly.
The following chart lists some common statutes of limitations for civil cases in New Mexico.
|Code Sections||New Mexico Statutes Chapter 37, Article 1: Limitations of Actions|
|Libel or Slander||3 years|
|Injury to Person||3 years|
|Injury to Personal Property||4 years|
|Professional Malpractice||Medical Malpractice: 3 years, Legal Malpractice: 4 years|
|Collection of Debt on Account||4 years|
|Contracts||6 years for written contracts or 4 years for oral contracts|
|Judgments||14 years from the date of judgment for court judgments, otherwise it’s a 6 year limit for written contracts|
|Child Sexual Abuse||Claims related to actions that would be considered criminal child sexual penetration, contract, or exploitation must be brought by the victim’s 24th birthday or three years from the date the person had reason to know the child sexual abuse injured the person as established by medical or psychological testimony.|
|Other Actions||Typically, if it’s not provided in these statutes, it’ll be a 4 year limit.|
This table can be a wake-up call that if you think you have a legal claim and it’s been some time since the incident occurred, you should consult an experienced New Mexico civil litigation attorney so you don’t wait too long and lose the ability to bring your claim. Similarly, as a defendant, keep these dates in mind if you’re worried about something that happened several years ago.
Note: State laws are revised regularly by state legislators, federal law changes, and state referendums. Please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these laws.
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Free Claim Evaluation by a New Mexico Attorney
New Mexico's civil statute of limitations depends on the circumstances of your case and the cause of action you will be pleading. An experienced attorney can find the right cause of action that falls within New Mexico's statute of limitations. Your New Mexico attorney will also know whether the statute will be tolled due to incapacity or other applicable factors. If you are dealing with a personal injury that needs legal recourse, it's in your best interests to contact a New Mexico injury attorney for a free claim evaluation.
Contact a qualified attorney.