All aspects of this article are for informational purposes only - see disclaimer below
In most Mexican States, liability exposure in Mexico is lower than in the U.S.
In general your liability for damages and injuries done to other parties is much more limited in Mexico, than it is in the U.S. This is mainly because unlike in the U.S., the limits on damages other than actual damages, such as punitive or "moral" damages are much lower or nonexistent in Mexico.
Types of Damage
In the event of an automobile accident, liability is broken down into two components. One is actual damages which are based on the actual value of the other party's automobile, property, medical expenses, and/or loss of wages. The second is "moral damages" which are roughly equivalent to the U.S. concept of pain and suffering and which in most Mexican states is limited to a fraction (often a third) of the actual damages. Recently, some states (notably the Federal District DF and the state of Chihuahua) have adopted a new precedent which allows a judge to set damages at his/her discretion, based on the surrounding facts of the case, and therefore for all practical purposes removes set limits on moral damages.
Difference Between Civil and Criminal Liability
Liability cases in Mexico may be tried under civil or criminal law. Criminal liability differs from civil liability in that damages in a criminal case may not be subject to the limits which exist in civil liability cases. Also, in a criminal case, an accident victim does not have to hire a lawyer to seek damages- the lawyer is appointed by the public prosecutor. For both of these reasons, it preferable to seek damages as a criminal case rather than a civil case.
How Much May You Be Liable For in A Civil Case?
While in some Mexican states (such as the D.F. and Chihuahua) judgements are growing closer in severity to that of the U.S., most states including Baja California, are still very lenient in terms of liability exposure. In an accident which occurs in Baja California in which you are at fault and there is a fatality involved, the damages you may be liable for are:
- Damage to the other party's vehicle- Most likely limited to actual cash value of the vehicle at the time of the accident.
- Damage to any other property, such as other vehicles.
- Medical Expenses (including hospitalization, medication, ambulance etc.)- These are most likely much less expensive than in the United States.
- Funeral Expenses
- Economic Damages for wrongful death- These are basically based on the U.S. notion of loss of wage, and are based on the minimum daily wage($3.50) over 2 years (730 days) times some multiplier (2 - 4). In Baja, this would be: $3.50 X 730 X 2= $5,110.
- Moral Damages which are no greater than 1/3 of the total physical, medical, and economic damages.
While liability exposure may be lower in Mexico than in the U.S., this is changing. The trend is towards more discretionary limits imposed on a case by case basis as seen in states such as the D.F. and Chihuahua. In terms of insurance coverage, even though the costs for judgements may be less in Mexico than what we are accustomed to in the U.S., it is still very important to have adequate coverage.