Sometimes there is more than one person at fault. In New Mexico, as a general rule, if more than one person negligently causes an indivisible injury, the doctrine of "several liability" applies.
Several liabilities mean that liability is apportioned among all contributing parties based on the percentage of fault of each party. In some cases, the plaintiff may have negligently contributed to his or her own injuries in some way. In that case, the plaintiff's damages are reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
For example, assume that the defendant ran a red light causing the car wreck and the plaintiff was texting at the time of the car wreck and could have avoided the car wreck if he or she had not been texting. The jury might place 90 percent of the fault on the defendant who ran the red light and 10 percent on the plaintiff who was texting. In this case, the plaintiff's damages would be reduced by 10 percent. If the plaintiff's damages were $100,000, the total amount awarded to the plaintiff would be $90,000.
New Mexico also recognizes joint-and-several liability. Joint-and-several liability applies to any persons who acted intentionally to inflict harm, persons who are vicariously liable for the conduct of another, persons that would be liable for manufacturing or selling a defective product, and any other person mandated by public policy.
Under joint-and-several liability, each defendant may be liable for the entire injury and the damages awarded, and they must sort out their individual responsibility based on theories of proportional indemnification or contribution.
In New Mexico, joint-and-several liability may also apply in the case of successive parties causing separate, divisible injuries, known as "successive tortfeasor liability." Under successive tortfeasor liability, the first party causes a first injury. Then that first injury causally leads to a second injury or an enhancement of the first injury caused by a second party. For example, Driver A hits the plaintiff's car, which causes a leg injury.
The plaintiff goes to the hospital and, due to the negligence of Doctor B, now has permanent brain damage. Driver A is responsible for both the initial leg injury and the permanent brain damage because Doctor B's negligence is foreseeable. Doctor B is only responsible for the second injury—the permanent brain damage. However, if Doctor B made the leg injury worse, he or she would also be responsible for the enhanced leg injury.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident here in New Mexico, our legal team can help determine who is at fault. You should not be left responsible to pay for the damages, so let our firm hold the negligent part or parties accountable for their actions.
Contact us now to speak with an Albuquerque personal injury lawyer from the Law Office of James H. Wood today. James Wood is a Board Certified Trial Lawyer and he is ready to put his 20 years of experience to work for you. Call us today for a free case evaluation at (505) 906-6774.