Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

A state appellate court recently decided that a personal injury case involving an underinsured motorist claim should be remanded back to the trial court, due to ambiguities in the insurance contract. The main issue that was being disputed was a clause in the insurer’s policy that required that an underinsured motorist claim must be brought within three years, although the policy also stated that the insured individual must first exhaust the underinsured’s insurance policy.

Signing a ContractIn this case, a mother and her two sons were involved in a serious car accident with an underinsured motorist. The mother filed a lawsuit against the other driver, and her own insurance company also filed a complaint against the driver. The insurance company was seeking damages for payments they made as a result of the accident. However, the other driver’s insurance policy coverage was minimal. The mother filed a claim with her own insurance company as well because the other driver’s policy was insufficient to cover her damages. However, since this was done more than three years after the accident, the insurance company filed a motion to dismiss and argued that the claim was barred by the requirement in the contract that all claims be brought within three years.

The trial court denied the insurance company’s motion, and they then appealed. The court affirmed the trial court’s decision and found that the policy was ambiguous and should be construed in favor of the plaintiff.

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In a recent opinion, a court held in favor of an injured driver who sued their insurance company after filing a claim with the company and receiving a very small amount of damages. The case stemmed from a 2007 accident in which the driver was rear-ended by another vehicle. Sadly, the accident caused serious harm to the driver’s back, and as a result, he filed a claim with his insurance company.

Wrecked CarThe driver brought the claim under the insurance company’s “uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.” The insurance company and the driver had several months of back and forth until the insurance company finally paid a very small amount. The driver went on to sue the insurance company and claimed that the company breached their contract and caused an unreasonable delay. The jury found in favor of the driver, and the insurance company then appealed. The insurance company argued that the driver produced erroneous expert testimony and was unreasonable. However, the District Court ruled in the driver’s favor and affirmed the $2,250,000 damages award.

New Mexico Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Insurance Policies

Although accidents are a natural risk that everyone takes when driving, it does not mean that the devastation is any less when it does occur. Drivers purchase insurance policies in order to mitigate the financial cost of an accident. However, frequently insurance does not cover all of the costs associated with an accident. A particularly difficult situation arises when the culpable party does not have insurance at all. In these situations, many drivers rely on their own insurance company’s under-insured or uninsured policy.

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court released an opinion earlier this month regarding a tragic accident that resulted in the death of an employee who was driving a rental truck on behalf of his employer. The accident occurred in 2011 when the driver slid off an icy road. The victim’s family filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver’s employer and the truck rental company.

GavelThe lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. They found that the driver was barred from suit due to certain provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act. Additionally, the truck rental company did not proximately cause the injuries the victim suffered. The plaintiff’s estate then appealed the judgment, but the court agreed with and affirmed the lower court’s judgment. They found that the plaintiff’s evidence did not establish proximate cause by the truck rental company and also that the lawsuit was barred by the Act.

New Mexico Respondeat Superior Law in Personal Injury Lawsuits

When individuals are injured in an accident, often another party is responsible for the accident. In those cases, the victim may wish to pursue a claim against the negligent party, and in some instances, if the party was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred, they may even bring a lawsuit against the employer.

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Earlier this month, a Maryland appellate court issued a written opinion involving the death of a young boy who had been drinking at a friend’s home. In the case, Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court determined that under a traditional negligence analysis, an adult who knows that minors are consuming alcohol on their property has a duty to those who may be injured in an accident involving the intoxicated minors.

CocktailThe Facts of the Case

The Kiriakos case presented two cases consolidated for the purpose of appeal. The second case, Dankos v. Stapf, presents a clear factual scenario of when liability may arise. In the Dankos case, Dankos was with several friends drinking at one of his friends’ houses. The friend’s mother, Stapf, was present and didn’t do anything to stop the children from drinking. Importantly, she also didn’t do anything to stop them from driving.

On the next morning, one of the other intoxicated teens and Dankos left the Stapf home. The driver of the car was involved in a serious accident, and Dankos died as a result. The Dankos family filed a negligence lawsuit against Stapf, arguing that her negligence in allowing the minors to consume alcohol in her home contributed to their son’s death.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia released its opinion in a case stemming from a car accident. According to the opinion, the plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car accident in the parking lot of the plaintiff’s place of employment. The plaintiff brought a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant and claimed that the accident caused injuries to his neck, right knee, and back.

car accident

Additionally, the plaintiff argued that he accrued over $25,000 in medical expenses, and about half of that came from his neck and back, with the rest from his right knee. The defendant took responsibility for the accident and for the neck and back injuries. However, he stated the right knee problems were not a result of the accident. At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony, and at the close of evidence, the lower court advised the jury that the plaintiff could not recover compensation for injuries that he suffered or any conditions that existed prior to the time of the accident.

After trial, the jury then awarded the plaintiff damages for his neck and back injuries only. The plaintiff then went on to file a motion for a new trial, which was granted by the circuit court. The defendant appealed the motion for a new trial and argued that the jury finding was not against the “clear weight of evidence.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court of West Virginia agreed with the defendant and concluded that the lower court abused its discretion in granting the plaintiff a new trial.

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New Mexico is a scenic state that has a lot to offer to both tourists and residents. Many people travel the New Mexico highways to explore all that the state has to offer. However, as a result, the roads are often filled with out-of-state drivers, inexperienced drivers, and fatigued drivers. All of those combined with potential dangerous conditions can lead to deadly situations.

HighwayThroughout the United States, the number of accidents and accident-related deaths varies greatly. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety releases data that tracks state population compared to vehicle miles traveled, fatal crashes, and deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. New Mexico is one of the states where these numbers are extremely high. As of 2014, New Mexico’s population was 2,085,572, and the vehicle miles traveled were 25,347,000. The number of fatal crashes was 337, and there were 383 deaths. These numbers translate to about 18.4 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.51 deaths per million vehicle miles traveled. These numbers are startling and among the highest in the country.

Furthermore, the Institute tracks deaths by crash type and state. The most recent statistics from 2014 reveal that New Mexico had about 242 single-vehicle crashes and 141 multiple-vehicle crashes. Most interestingly, New Mexico was behind only one other state, Oklahoma, in accidents that involved large trucks. It is important that individuals understand and consider these statistics when driving on New Mexico roadways.

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Any time someone is injured in a New Mexico accident, they are entitled to file a negligence claim against any and all parties they feel were responsible for their injuries. However, before an injured party is allowed to recover for their injuries, that party must prove certain elements. One of the most often contested elements in New Mexico auto accident cases is establishing that the defendant breached the duty of care he owed to the plaintiff.

Liquor BottlesEstablishing that a defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care is usually simple in auto accident cases, since all motorists owe those with whom they share the road a duty to safely operate their motor vehicle. However, proving that the defendant breached that duty can be more complicated, and this is where the bulk of litigation often occurs in car and truck accident cases.

In order to prove that a defendant breached a duty, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant’s negligent acts could foreseeably result in the harm ultimately suffered by the plaintiff. In other words, if a defendant’s actions could not foreseeably result in the harm suffered by the plaintiff, the law may not be willing to say that he breached a duty to the plaintiff.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit released its opinion in a personal injury case earlier this month. The case arose from a 2011 accident in which a woman drove through a stop-sign and caused a multi-vehicle accident. The plaintiff in the case was a motorist who was driving with two passengers.

Wrecked CarThe at-fault driver had an insurance policy that had liability limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. The plaintiffs settled the case and opted to collect under the per-accident limit, so the driver received $250,000, and the two passengers split the remaining $250,000. The plaintiffs then argued that the amounts they received were inadequate to make them whole and as a result put a claim in through the plaintiff-driver’s insurance company through their “underinsured” motorist clause.

The insurance company denied the claim and held that this clause did not apply because their policy states that the coverage is limited to $500,000, and the plaintiffs already received that amount through the original claim. The plaintiffs argued that the insurance company’s policy does not make clear that the underinsured motorist policy is limited to $500,000 per accident, and the limit should be considered a per-person limit.

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With the prevalence of ride sharing and privately operated car services, discussions regarding the rights and liabilities of those injured by or as passengers in these vehicles have begun to make headlines. Although taxi cabs have been around for decades, the increased availability of private driving services has resulted in many legal questions. A recent national newspaper article reported on these concerns from the perspective of the drivers.

Taxi LaneGenerally, these private car services are app-based and driven by individuals not employed by any company. These drivers operate their own vehicles and are supposed to be insured. At this point, these drivers are not considered “commercial drivers,” and as a result their insurance policies do not address the complicated issues that may arise when they injure someone in a car accident.

In most cases, when a passenger is injured in a car accident, there are several ways they may try to recover damages for the injuries they suffered. For example, an accident victim may bring a negligence lawsuit in civil court, or they may try to collect from the driver’s insurance company or even their own insurance company. In New Mexico, if the parties have low coverage limits, the injured party may be able to collect enough by bringing claims against both their own and the other party’s insurance company.

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Over the past 18 months, auto manufacturers have announced numerous recalls, reaching into the millions of vehicles. These recalls have involved a number of issues, ranging from faulty ignition switches to airbags that sporadically deploy without warning. In a recent case brought by a couple who sustained minor injuries in a Saturn Sky, the jury found that although the vehicle was “unreasonably dangerous” because it contained a faulty ignition switch, that was not the cause of the accident, and GM should not be held liable as a result. However, the judge overseeing the trial warned followers not to read too deeply into the jury’s verdict, since it may not be an accurate prediction of how other cases may turn out.

keys-473462_960_720Dangerous Components Make for Dangerous Vehicles

Auto manufacturers have a duty to their customers to make safe vehicles. Of course, despite the best efforts of a manufacturer, a defective part may be included in a vehicle, making it dangerous to drive. Most of the time, when this occurs, a manufacturer will issue a voluntary recall in order to fix all the potentially dangerous vehicles. However, a recall may be issued too late to help all drivers. In these cases, injured motorists may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a product liability case against the auto manufacturer.

Ignition Switch Claims

Over the past few years, drivers of various GM vehicles have reported problems with the ignition switches installed on the company’s vehicles. When the ignition switch is defective, it can slip out of place and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. In some cases, drivers have also reported that the vehicle becomes difficult to stop once the switch slips. The defective switches have resulted in hundreds of serious accidents, some fatal.

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