Frequently Asked Questions

Answers From an Experienced Rio Rancho Lawyer

Suddenly being faced with a legal matter can be overwhelming. Many people can get confused and disoriented when trying to deal with filing a lawsuit after an injury. Because it can be so difficult, Goodwin Law Office has provided information that can help to clear up some confusion!

How Much is My Case Worth?

Deciding how much your New Mexico personal injury case is worth is a very important job to be performed by your personal injury lawyer.

It's important that your case is not undervalued because you might accept a settlement offer that's less than fair. It's also important not to overvalue your case because then you might turn down a fair settlement offer, go to trial, and end up getting less money overall.

Your best bet is to consult with an experienced New Mexico personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds of personal injury cases in Rio Rancho, Albuquerque, and other cities throughout the state.

Some of the factors we use to determine the value of a personal injury case in New Mexico are:

  • The amount of medical bills
  • The amount of lost wages
  • The amount of pain and suffering
  • How long the injury lasts
  • The intensity of pain
  • Whether the injury is permanent
  • The impact of the injury on activities and enjoyment of life
  • The amount of future medical bills and pain, if any
  • Any permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Ability to earn a living in the future

What if I Don't live in Albuquerque or Rio Rancho? Can I Still Consult with Mr. Goodwin?

Yes. Goodwin Law Office represents clients all over the state of New Mexico. Attorney Goodwin takes pride in his rapid response service to clients. In serious cases, he will travel to your town or city to meet with you, and to collect evidence if necessary. Over the years, Rio Rancho personal injury attorney Brad Goodwin has represented personal injury clients in almost every county of New Mexico.

What Will This Cost Me?

Personal injury lawyers generally take cases on contingency fees. This means you pay nothing up front, you don't pay a retainer, and you don't pay by the hour. Instead, you pay the personal injury lawyer a fee out of the final settlement or recovery at the end of the case. If no compensation is recovered, you pay no legal fees.

At Goodwin Law Office, the usual personal injury fee is one-third of the gross settlement or recovery, although this can be adjusted!

Use of contingency fees helps level the playing field in our legal system. It gives equal access to our courts for all people, even those who couldn't normally afford to pay for an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Are There Any Hidden Costs?

In addition to the contingency fee, the client also pays for expenses and costs. However, the majority of personal injury lawyers in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque pay for many of the costs as they arise. Common costs in personal injury cases are expenses paid to healthcare providers for medical records and payments to police departments to get accident reports. These costs are typically less than $100.00 to $300.00 in most cases.

Costs are much greater to file personal injury lawsuits, hire expert witnesses, and go to court. The costs hinge on the level of complexity of the case. At the end of the case, the client reimburses the attorney for these expenses from the final settlement or recovery.

Do I Really Need a Lawyer?

Yes. Retaining the services of a qualified personal injury lawyer is a great advantage, and it also helps to work with an attorney with extensive trial and litigation experience. You will also need an experienced personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit and go to court in New Mexico.

A lawyer can help with:

  • Giving legal advice before you make statements to adjusters.
  • Gathering and preserving evidence before it disappears.
  • Making sure your medical bills get paid.
  • Making sure your injuries and losses are properly documented.

There is also something to be said for the peace of mind you get when you hire an experienced accident lawyer to handle your case. At Goodwin Law Office, clients are confident knowing that a lawyer with over 25 years of experience is on their side.

How Long Does a Case Take?

This largely depends on whether your case settles or goes to trial.

You should not even try to settle a case until after you have fully recovered from your injury, or until you have recovered as much as possible. The reason for this is that once you settle, your case is closed forever and you can't go back and get more money. So to be sure you get paid for all your losses, it is recommended that you wait to settle your case until after you know the full extent of your expenses. The duration of your personal injury case will first depend on how long it takes you to recover from your personal injury. There are exceptions to this, but this is the general rule.

When your case is ready for settlement, it can then take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to finish settlement negotiations with the adjuster. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, a personal injury lawsuit is filed. During this, your case will to go to court. In New Mexico, it usually takes one to three years for a case to get to trial after a personal injury lawsuit is filed.

However, even after filing a personal injury lawsuit, it's common for the insurance company to offer a settlement before trial.

How Do I Pay For My Medical Bills?

The at-fault party's insurance company must pay your medical bills, but the insurance company won't pay anything until you're ready to accept a lump sum settlement to settle your entire claim. This means the insurance company will pay your medical bills, but not until the end of the case.

You must therefore find ways to pay your medical bills while you wait for your final personal injury settlement or court verdict.

There are 3 possible ways we can get your bills paid while waiting to settle your personal injury case in New Mexico:

  • Health insurance - This includes any group health plan you have at work, private health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. It is best to be aware of exactly what your health insurance will cover and to what extent they will cover it.
  • Medical payments coverage - In car accident, motorcycle accident, or truck accident cases in New Mexico, you may have full coverage on your personal auto insurance policy to pay some of your medical bills. In a slip and fall accident, the property owner may have medical payments coverage on their premises insurance policy to pay for some of your medical bills.
  • Letter of Protection - A New Mexico personal injury lawyer can give a letter of guarantee to your doctor promising to pay medical bills from the final settlement. Many healthcare providers will take a letter of guarantee from a personal injury lawyer, and hold the bills until the end.

Does the Insurance Company Have to Pay My Lost Wages?

Yes. The law requires that insurance companies pay lost income in personal injury cases. However, you must be able to prove that your injury prevents you from doing your job. It is helpful to get a report from your doctor confirming your disability.

However, the insurance company won't agree to pay anything, including lost wages, until you are ready to accept a final lump sum settlement of the entire personal injury case. Therefore, although they pay lost wages, you may not get this money for a long while, sometimes even years. This delay is very difficult in cases of serious personal injury with a sudden drop in family income.

Does the Insurance Company Have to Pay "Punitive Damages"?

Although you hear a lot about punitive damages on the news and in public reports, the truth is that punitive damages are usually not paid in personal injury cases. Punitive damages are different than most items of compensation. Most items of compensation are payments to you for your losses, such as payments for your medical expenses, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering.

Under New Mexico law, punitive damages are extra payments that the at-fault person must pay as punishment for behavior that is unusually dangerous, reckless, immoral, or intentional. The amount of punitive damages depends on how bad the behavior was. So punitive damages are only paid when the defendant's behavior was more than simple carelessness or negligence; the behavior must be highly reckless, immoral, or intentional to support an award of punitive damages. An example of a personal injury case where you can get punitive damages is if you were injured by a drunk driver in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or truck accident.

How Much is Pain and Suffering Worth?

There is no direct answer to this in any law book. In the end, pain and suffering is worth whatever your judge or jury decide at trial, and every case is different. So, before trial, when a personal injury lawyer puts a value on pain and suffering, this is just prediction of what a court would award.

Brad Goodwin is experienced Rio Rancho personal injury lawyer who has seen thousands of cases settle or go to trial. Because of this, he has particular skill with predicting what a judge or jury might award for pain and suffering.

How Do I Pay For Expert Witnesses?

Expert witnesses in New Mexico personal injury cases can be very expensive, but they are required in many personal injury cases. Common examples are accident reconstruction experts in auto accident cases, and doctors in medical malpractice cases.

Personal injury lawyers sometimes advance the costs for paying expert witnesses. The client then reimburses the attorney out of the final settlement or court verdict. Because these costs can be very high, lawyers must be careful to take only cases they feel they can win, and then aggressively pursue the case to victory.

If the trail is won, the losing party is usually required to repay many of the litigation costs, so not all of the costs are repaid by the client.

What is a Wrongful Death Case?

A wrongful death case in occurs when someone's life is lost due to a safety violation or negligence committed by someone else. Wrongful death cases can arise from car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and even slip and falls. In New Mexico, wrongful death cases are filed by surviving family members who must be appointed as personal representatives in order to file.

The at-fault person must pay the following items of compensation in a New Mexico wrongful death case:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Medical bills, if any, incurred after the injury but before death.
  • Pain and suffering, if any, experienced by the deceased before death.
  • Loss of the deceased's future income.
  • The value of the deceased's life apart from earnings capacity.
  • Emotional distress to surviving family members caused by the loss of the companionship and guidance of the deceased.

The money which is received in a New Mexico wrongful death case goes to the surviving family members who are named in wrongful death statute. When a child dies, it is common for the natural parents to be the beneficiaries. When a parent or spouse dies, it is common for surviving children or surviving spouses to be the beneficiaries. The determination of who the beneficiaries are can be complicated depending on the situation.

If a Minor Child is Seriously Injured, Who Gets the Money if We Win?

The personal injury settlement money for a minor child must go to the child, and cannot be used by parents for household or personal needs. In cases where a minor receives a substantial amount of money in a personal injury or wrongful death case in, a personal injury lawyer will often create special trust accounts to make sure the money is protected for the exclusive use of the child.

In this case, the money is properly invested for the child's future needs, such as college expenses.

How Long Do I Have to File My Lawsuit?

The deadline for filing a lawsuit in New Mexico is called the "statute of limitations." If you fail to file your personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit within the statute of limitations you automatically lose your case.

The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in New Mexico is three years. But this is not always the case, so it is very important that you ask a qualified lawyer what the statute of limitations is for your case.

One exception to the three-year statute of limitations is for claims against the city, county, or the state. These claims usually have a two-year statute of limitations under New Mexico law, and there is also a separate deadline in these cases requiring that you give notice of your claim within 90 days after the injury or within six months if there is a death. There are also separate deadlines for cases against federal agencies and federal employees, and there are different statutes of limitations when the injured person is a minor.

If you want to know what the statute of limitations is for your case, you should call Brad Goodwin, a Rio Rancho personal injury lawyer.

What Should I Do if I'm Ready to Seek Legal Advice From a Lawyer?

If you're ready to contact a Rio Rancho personal injury lawyer, call Brad Goodwin at (505) 340-2223 for a personal injury consultation. Mr. Goodwin can answer all your questions over the phone or in a face-to-face meeting at his Rio Rancho or Albuquerque locations. All personal injury consultations are free! You can also contact Attorney Goodwin by email.

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