Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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In New Mexico, in order to prove a case against a negligent driver, the plaintiff must show four main elements. Simply stated, these are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The most often overlooked element of a negligence claim, surprisingly, is the damages element. However, it is also one of the most vital.

car-wrecked-845143_960_720Establishing that a defendant was at fault for an accident is a meaningless exercise unless there is something to be obtained as a result. In many cases, the injuries will speak for themselves. However, in other cases the injuries may be internal. Perhaps the stress and anguish of having been put through a traumatic event exists, or else the loss of companionship a family member experiences when a loved one is hospitalized for months on end. In any case, it is very important to a suit’s overall viability to be able to pinpoint what the damages were.

Recent Case Results in Zero Dollar Award for Plaintiff

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff that consisted of zero dollars. In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the plaintiff was injured as a result of an accident with an underinsured motorist. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the underinsured motorist, which resulted in the plaintiff receiving some compensation; due to the low policy limit, it failed to cover the costs of any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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In a recently released ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision in a personal injury case that had denied the plaintiffs any relief for their claim. The case was filed by two plaintiffs, who were struck by an out-of-control vehicle while standing at a walk-up window paying for fuel at a gas station owned by the defendant. Based on the high court’s ruling, the plaintiffs will be permitted to conduct further discovery on the issue of the foreseeability of the danger that resulted in their injuries, and they may be able to collect compensation from the defendant for their injuries.

gas-pumps-1-1447222The Plaintiffs Are Struck by an Out-Of-Control Vehicle Approaching the Gas Station

The case of Stanley v. Scott Petroleum Corporation was filed after the plaintiffs were injured while paying for gas near an exterior walk-up window at a gas station owned by the defendant. According to the most recent decision, the brakes malfunctioned on a car that was traveling on the highway adjacent to the station. The vehicle then entered the parking lot going 45 miles per hour and collided with a set of vending shelves, knocking them into the plaintiffs and causing injuries. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the walk-up window was in an unreasonably dangerous spot and that the defendant negligently failed to place a curb or barriers between the roadway and the walk-up window.

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Vehicle accidents not only hold the possibility of a serious injury or death but also may take a great emotional and financial toll. When individuals have been involved in an accident, it is incredibly important that a determination of fault, often through an investigator, takes place. Although many people are under the impression that the fault determination is decided through a police official, it is actually more often than not conducted by an insurance company. The insurance company will investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident and will determine the fault of the parties. The importance of having your own advocate and investigator in these situations cannot be overemphasized.

wrecked-car-2-1479823To determine fault, in New Mexico, the investigator has to decide which individual breached a duty of care that resulted in the other person’s injuries. The insurance company will rely on the initial police reports and statements from witnesses and those involved in the accident.

After the insurance company determines who was at fault in its opinion, it will next apportion liability to the parties it finds responsible. As of 2012, several states, including New Mexico, follow the comparative fault standard. Under this theory of liability, a person’s damages award is reduced by the amount of fault that is apportioned to them.

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The Supreme Court of Montana recently released an opinion in an accident case dating back to 2012. The plaintiff in this case was stopped in a traffic jam when the defendant slammed into the back of the plaintiff’s car, causing a domino effect in which the plaintiff ended up hitting the car in front of him. The defendant admitted negligence, and the plaintiff filed for damages. The plaintiff argued that they suffered a series of serious physical injuries, and as a result they brought a claim for those physical injuries in addition to emotional distress, medical bills, and loss of income.

courtroom-1-1236725The lower court in this case awarded the plaintiff around $3,000 after factoring in payments she already received. The plaintiff was not satisfied with this amount and appealed the case to the state supreme court. She argued that the court erred when it excluded testimony from her physician and physical therapist. Additionally, she claimed that the court erred by granting a directed verdict related to her injuries and then concluding that she was not owed damages related to her loss of business. The court did not find that the lower court abused their discretion when they rendered their evidentiary rulings.

The Importance of Expert Witnesses in a New Mexico Personal Injury Case

Like attorneys, experts are an indispensable tool when pursuing a claim for personal injuries following an accident in New Mexico. In some cases, it is required that individuals who have been injured have expert witnesses to substantiate their injuries. Expert witnesses are almost always needed when “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence.”

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After an individual has been injured in an accident, they often suffer damages, ranging from physical injuries to property damage. Under New Mexico law, the victims in these cases deserve to be compensated if their injuries stem from the negligence of another. A judge or jury will generally decide the amount of damages to which the victim is entitled.

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There are two main types of damages, compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are designed to make the “victim whole again.” Under compensatory damages, an analysis is done to determine the economic losses and non-economic losses that the victim suffered. An economic loss includes things such as lost earnings, lost wages, and past and future medical expenses. Non-economic losses include the emotional aftermath that a person has to endure due to the accident. This encompasses pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of the enjoyment of life.

A third type of damages is punitive damages. New Mexico is very reluctant to award punitive damages, and the standard that gives rise to this sort of damages is difficult to meet. Unlike the damages discussed previously, punitive damages are unique in that they are solely designed to punish and deter the wrongdoer.

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Product liability cases are often quite complex because there are usually several parties involved, each of which is likely trying to impute liability to another party. After an individual has been injured by a dangerous product, they may try to bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a product. And in certain cases, the law is clear when attributing liability. However, there are many issues that arise in these product liability cases.

ignition-key-1473503One issue that can arise in a product liability case is the notion of “legacy equipment” liability. This theory addresses what a manufacturer’s liability is for older versions of its products, when there have been more recent developments in safety. This is commonly seen when individuals have been injured because of a defective car part that has since been replaced by the manufacturer.

Some states have addressed this issue clearly. However, New Mexico has not specifically implemented a statute to resolve this issue. Two prominent cases, Brooks v. Beech Aircraft and Couch v. Astec, did not directly answer the question. However, the issue was discussed in each of these two opinions. Both of those cases revolved around injuries that could have been prevented with the use of a safety mechanism that was later implemented in subsequent models.

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Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver flees the scene after being involved in an accident. While people may be tempted to flee out of a fear of liability for the accident, leaving the scene of an accident is illegal and can carry serious consequences.

parking-lot-1446642In New Mexico, it is illegal to leave the scene if you were involved in a car accident. This is true even if no one was injured. If two drivers have been involved in a car accident, both drivers must stop their cars and give the other driver and any injured persons their contact information, vehicle registration number, and insurance information.

Even if a driver damages a parked car, and no person is present at the time, the driver must attempt to locate the driver or owner of the car. If the driver or owner cannot be located, the driver is obligated to leave a note with his contact information, insurance information, vehicle registration number, and the contact information of the car owner.

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New Mexico has very specific laws that address when sovereign immunity applies and which waivers accompany the statute that was created in the late 1970s. The act that was created to address suits against the government was intended to protect the government from an inundation of legal suits based on actions that are necessary to carrying out the State’s day-to-day business. This act protects the government from being sued without its consent. However, there are still some situations in which this immunity may be waived.

police-car-1515955If an individual wants to file a claim against a government entity, it must be filed within 90 days from the accident that gave rise to the claim. The filing must be very specific, and it has to include many details of the accident. If an individual fails to comply with these requirements, their case will likely be dismissed.

One potential issue with the idea of sovereign immunity is that it may give citizens the idea that the government is not accountable for the tortious acts of its employees, so there is no accountability. In response to that concern, certain waivers to this immunity were created.

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Many people are familiar with the term “pain and suffering” when it comes to damages awards following a successful negligence lawsuit, but not many people know that damages are not always automatically awarded to plaintiffs. There are several different types of damages awards to which a plaintiff may be entitled when a judge or jury finds that a defendant was indeed negligent. There are awards for medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, even punitive damages.

don-t-turn-left-1446780Pain and suffering is just one type of potential damages. This award looks to not only the pain the plaintiff has already endured but also the future pain and suffering they may have to experience. Pain and suffering damages are not clear-cut because pain and suffering is fluid, and it is hard to quantify. Unlike economic damages, they are not dependent on the economic losses a plaintiff may have suffered. Instead, they are solely subjective and at the discretion of the judge or jury.

There are instances when a jury or judge may award compensation for medical bills but then refuse to provide any compensation for pain and suffering. This can result in lengthy motions and appeals. Although it is difficult, it is important that a plaintiff be able to show precisely the type of pain and suffering that they have been suffering or will continue to suffer. Some common ways a plaintiff may do this is by quantifying the amount of pain they are in, by showing how their day-to-day life is affected, or by showing how they can no longer enjoy the activities they used to participate in. They can elucidate their pain and suffering by referring to the injuries, treatment, and future procedures they may need.

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