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New Mexico Lawyers Serving New Mexico's Legal Needs Since 1997

Which State’s Law Governs in Personal Injury Cases?

A recent case rendered by a court in Colorado, but involving an accident which occurred in New Mexico,  

presented a situation in which the court had to determine whether New Mexico or Colorado law should govern a case. In Delarosa and Mendoza Rios v. Coyote Pumping Services, Inc. and The Mine Supply Co.[1] , a man who resided in Colorado, but was injured in New Mexico, brought a civil action for personal injury in a Colorado court. His wife joined him in bringing the suit because she was asserting her own claim for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is a type of claim where a spouse, or other close family member to the injured party, can assert that a personal injury caused damage to the relationship (e.g., loss of intimacy), or the capacity of her husband to provide assistance and support at home to which his spouse was accustomed before the accident occurred (this is separate and apart from lost wages from being unable to work).

Mr. Delarosa was working on a construction project in Belen, New Mexico when he sustained some serious injuries caused when a torn or ripped hose through which concrete was being poured. When the breach of the hose occurred concrete struck Mr. Delarosa and knocked him into a 30-foot column receiving the concrete.

Later when Mr. Delarosa and his wife filed suit against the two defendants in the Colorado court, the Colorado court had to determine whether to apply Colorado or New Mexico law to the case. The court noted that the most significant relationship either state had with the matter was the site of the accident. The court determined that since the accident occurred in New Mexico, the law of the State of New Mexico governed the negligence case and the damages that affected Mr. Delarosa.

However, since loss of consortium is a separate, albeit related, derivative claim belonging to the wife who has lost her husband’s services at their home and in their community in Colorado, the court determined that the law governing the loss of consortium claim was the law of the State of Colorado.

This August 2013 case illustrates a recurring issue in many cases where it is not completely clear whether the law of one state governs a particular matter. Sometimes the laws of the different states do not differ on important issues. Here the law concerning negligence in personal injury cases is different in that the law in Colorado would bar a recovery for Mr. Delarosa if it were found during trial that his own negligence exceeded the negligence of either of the two defendants. However, under New Mexico law, he could still recover for his damages even if he were found to have more than 50 percent negligent (although the size of that recovery would be diminished by the percentage of Mr. Delarosa’s fault).

The attorneys at Giddens, Gatton & Jacobus, P.C. represent individuals who have been injured in car or truck accidents in New Mexico. Giddens, Gatton & Jacobus, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at giddenslaw.com.


 

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10400 Academy Road NE
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Albuquerque, NM 87111

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