May 2011 Archives

May 25, 2011

Fatal Ejection on I-25 - New Mexico Dram Shop Law

On March 24, 2011, at 7:30 p.m., a car with five occupants was speeding down an Albuquerque on-ramp to southbound Interstate 25.  When the car reached the end of the ramp, the driver lost control.

The car veered across the southbound lanes.  A southbound van clipped the rear of the car.  The car went into a spin.  Two passengers were ejected, one landing in the northbound lanes.  Both died at the scene.  Two other passengers sustained minor injuries.  The three occupants in the van were not seriously injured. 

The police noted that excessive speed and influence of alcohol were factors in the accident.  The driver of the car had been convicted of DWI in 2008.  The driver was treated at the hospital for a possible head injury.  A test of her blood revealed a blood-alcohol concentration of .23. 

A New Mexico car accident lawyer could file claims for wrongful death damages against the driver of the car from which the decedents were ejected.  If the driver’s liability insurance is not adequate to cover the wrongful death compensation claims, the accident attorney would look to other sources of recovery.

If the decedents were “insureds” under their own auto policies, there could be a recovery under the “underinsured” provisions of the policies.  There is also the possibility that a decedent was an “insured” under an auto policy owned by a household member.

The results of the blood test indicate that the driver was highly intoxicated at the time of the accident.  A New Mexico car accident lawyer would investigate the possibility of New Mexico wrongful death claims under New Mexico’s dramshop law.  If the driver was served alcohol when she was impaired, dramshop liability could apply. 

If a bar or a retail store supplied the driver with alcohol when she was intoxicated, the alcohol provider could be liable for its proportionate share of wrongful death damages.  Under New Mexico law, liability can be imposed if the intoxication was a substantial cause of the fatal accident.

May 6, 2011

Is Santa Fe Responsible for Bus Driver's Conduct?

Local news is reporting a Santa Fe bus driver is behind bars following reports that he molested, or at least inappriately touched, his young passengers.  The story began to unravel when one especially shrewd passenger managed to record the Santa Fe bus driver's horrendous conduct on her camera phone.  After the recording was shared with Santa Fe authorities, the bus driver was called in for questioning. 

According you reports, the bus driver quickly confessed to having contact with not only the student who recorded his assault, but also other victims including an 8-year-old. Admittedly, no possible financial recovery could reverse the impact that the bus driver had on each of his victims however, the question nonetheless remains, who could be held responsible for the driver's conduct. Typically, such matters are goverened by New Mexico personal injury theories of agency. Agency liability claims are premised on the theory that an employer can be responsible for the actions or conduct of an employee. Although all New Mexico injury cases must be evaluated separately, common themes that arise are whether or not the employee: was in the course and scope of his employment, was acting under the direction of any supervisor, had a pattern of behavior or record that suggested such conduct was likely to occur, or even if the employee appeared to be an agent of the employer.

 

Although the bus drivers currently incarcerated and facing significant criminal charges, this does not preclude victims from pursuing civil lawsuits that seek money damages. Although the story is still developing, it is clear that the girl who managed to record the attack not only saved herself future encounters, but also saved countless others a similar fate.

May 4, 2011

Wrong Way I-40 Accident & New Mexico Uninsured Motorist Coverage

On February 17, 2011, shortly before midnight, a woman was speeding east on Interstate 40. She was going the wrong-way in the westbound lanes.

When she approached Rio Grande Boulevard, she collided with a westbound vehicle. The male driver died at the scene. The woman was hospitalized in critical condition.

It is not yet known why the woman was eastbound in the westbound lanes of Interstate 40. A blood test showed that her blood-alcohol concentration was .09. Under New Mexico law, .08 is proof of impairment.

A New Mexico personal injury lawyer could make a claim for wrongful death damages against the wrong-way driver. If the driver’s insurance is not adequate to satisfy the wrongful death claim, the decedent’s insurance company could be liable for the amount of damages not covered by liability insurance. The decedent’s insurance company could be liable under the “underinsured motorist” provision of the decedent’s insurance policy.

The limits of “underinsured motorist” coverage would be equal to the total of liability limits on all of the vehicles insured by the decedent. Insurers must provide “underinsured motorist” coverage equal to liability coverage. Unless the insured explicitly declines to buy the “underinsured” coverage, New Mexico law requires the insurance company to provide the coverage.

In many cases, the defendant’s liability insurance is not sufficient to satisfy the wrongful death claim. The New Mexico car accident lawyer would then seek full compensation for all wrongful death damages from the “underinsured motorist” insurance available to the decedent’s family.