Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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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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