Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that may be of interest to New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs. The case illustrates how a defendant may attempt to argue that a plaintiff assumed the risk of injury, potentially defeating the plaintiff’s claim.
Assumption of Risk in New Mexico Personal Injury Cases
In some jurisdictions, a defendant may be able to completely preclude a plaintiff from recovering compensation for their injuries by successfully arguing that the plaintiff assumed the risk of harm in the situation. For example, if an athlete is injured while playing football, it is likely that a court would find that the athlete assumed the risk of injury if he were to file a personal injury lawsuit against the league because it is common knowledge that playing football can result in certain types of sports injuries.
In New Mexico, the assumption of the risk doctrine does not act to completely bar a plaintiff’s lawsuit but instead is factored into the comparative negligence analysis. Under comparative negligence, a plaintiff can recover for their injuries even if they are somewhat at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. However, the plaintiff’s total award amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. Therefore, in New Mexico, a jury will be able to consider whether a plaintiff assumed the risk of injury, but it will not preclude the plaintiff’s ability to recover for their injuries, unless the plaintiff is found to be completely at fault.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a serious motorcycle accident while riding a dirt bike. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was with the defendant on a camping trip when the defendant convinced the plaintiff to go on a two-hour motorcycle ride to a sand dune. The plaintiff initially expressed concern about riding in the sand, but the defendant assured her that the road was hard-packed dirt the whole way.
As the defendant promised, the road surface was hard-packed dirt up to the sand dune. Once the couple got to the dune, the dirt road turned into sand. The defendant rode up the dune, and the plaintiff followed. As the plaintiff was riding back down the dune, she lost control of the bike and was thrown over the handlebars. The bike ended up landing on top of the plaintiff, resulting in her becoming permanently paralyzed.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant, claiming that his promise of a hard-packed road induced her to accompany him on the ride and that he should be held responsible for her injuries. However, the court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved in dirt biking. The court explained that riding dirt bikes presents known dangers, and the defendant did not do anything to make the risks the plaintiff faced any more serious.
Importantly, this case would have proceeded differently in New Mexico. As mentioned above, a finding that the plaintiff assumed some of the risks involved will not bar their recovery in most cases but will instead be used to reduce the plaintiff’s ultimate recovery amount.
Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience handling a wide range of personal injury cases, including those in which multiple parties are involved. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
New Mexico’s Recreational Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 24, 2017.
Dealing with Difficult Insurance Companies Following a New Mexico Car Accident, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 11, 2017.