A lovely vacation in Mexico or another foreign country can quickly turn sour if someone gets hurt. A slip-and-fall or a burn can ruin your vacation and turn relaxing time off into months or even years of stress. This on top of losing the vacation time you built up to be able to go abroad in the first place and having to deal with the healthcare system in another country.
Injury vs. Personal Injury Cases
There is a difference between a personal injury case and simply injuring yourself. In a personal injury, someone else (whether an individual, company, or organization) is liable for your injury due to their own negligence. If you trip on your own shoelaces and hurt yourself while at a hotel, the hotel is likely not liable. However, if you are injured tripping on uneven concrete in an established walkable area at the hotel, the hotel may be liable. Hotels are expected to have reasonable safe walking conditions in the areas their patrons transverse.
Unlike Worker’s Compensation, another type of personal injury lawsuit, there is no one universal standard agreed upon for individual personal injury cases. Personal injury cases are constructed based on results of similar previous cases, but there is no universal statue to follow. Because of this, there are many different angles from which an experienced lawyer can make a case.
Personal injury can cover many different kinds of injuries, including those incurred from:
- Slips and falls
- Faulty or defective products
- Automobile accidents (personal and commercial)
- Bites from dogs or other animals
These types of injuries are leveled by an individual at either another individual, a company, a government agency, or a corporation when the individual believes the other party’s negligence caused their injury. In many cases, the property owner or business will have liability coverage and the case is handled by insurance with no litigation necessary.
Statute of limitations
Though varying by country, statute of limitations applies no matter where an accident occurs. Place of citizenship (e.g. being an American citizen in Mexico) does not affect the length of statute of limitations, but rather if the accident took place in Mexico. The State Civil Code of the Mexican state in which the accident occurs is what determined the statute of limitations. Typically, the statue of limitations is 2 years, but it varies from state to state. Some effects from an accident may not show up immediately, so don’t make final decisions on whether or not to pursue a personal injury case until enough time has passed that you are sure you’ve accounted for all effects.
Most Personal Injury claims are resolved through a settlement process between insurance companies. Still, any extrajudicial claim or action will not delay the statute of limitations, which is why it is important to seek legal help immediately. Personal Injury settlements can take a while to resolve, so it’s best to begin the settlement process well before approaching the end of the statue of limitations. It can be more difficult to deal with insurance companies if the delay runs too long.
Both in cases involving insurance and involving litigation, documenting everything is key. Here is a list of documents to keep (and make sure you have digital backups in case the hard copies are lost).
- Accident reports
- Any and all medical records and bills
- Contact information for all involved
- Witness contact information
- Documentation of lost wages and medical care (W-2’s or 1099’s)
- Photos from every angle of the injury
- Photos of damaged property
- Your insurance card, other party’s insurance
Where applicable, you should also have documentation of these:
- Police reports
- 911 call recordings
- Evidence of past violations or safety concerns
- Vehicle service history
How to File a Claim
Most personal injury cases can be settled without litigation, where a lawsuit never needs to be filed. The first thing you need to determine is if the person or business you want to file a claim against has insurance. In these cases, you make a “third party claim” against the insurance carrier of the person at fault.
Usually, a settlement is offered because of insurance companies’ involvement in personal injury cases. Lawsuits are expensive and long lawsuits even more so. The individual/company/agency accused of negligence can offer a sum of money to cover medical expenses in exchange for not being sued.
Not only are lawsuits expensive, most companies want to avoid a noisy public trial if they’re trying to keep a low profile. If only one or a few people were harmed by their alleged negligence, it makes sense to offer a settlement and stay out of the news. This works to the advantage of the injured person since litigation can be more costly to an individual than to a large business.
Do U.S. Embassies play a role?
According to the U.S. Department of State travel advice, the U.S. Embassy can help you find doctors or physicians in the area out-of-country if you need medical assistance, or you can consult the American Board of Medical Specialists to find a doctor. Here is a list of U.S. Embassies in Mexico if you are currently in Mexico and seeking assistance.
Thank you for reading our legal blog. We are Loit & Associates – Mexican Law Attorneys and Specialists. If you need legal help with an accident or personal injury case that occurred in Mexico, our experienced lawyers can help.