Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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When a bar, club, or restaurant over-serves a customer to the point of intoxication, and then that customer goes on to cause a drunk driving accident, intuition tells us that the driver should not be the only one held responsible. In fact, there are laws in most states that allow for the victim of a drunk driving accident to look to the establishment that over-served the person who caused the accident for liability. These laws are historically called “Dram Shop laws.”

pub-by-night-1233587Roughly 30 states have these statutes, allowing an injured plaintiff or their representative to bring a suit against the party who sold alcohol to the alleged wrongdoer. Out of those 30 states, about 22 have statutory limitations regarding what degree of liability can be brought against the provider. New Mexico is one of the 22 states that limit the provider’s liability.

The New Mexico “Dram Shop” statute states that a party who sells or provides alcohol to an individual who caused an injury may be held liable if the plaintiff can meet very specific elements. First, the party must have actually served or sold the alcohol to a person who was intoxicated. That individual’s intoxication must also have been “reasonably” apparent to the person who provided them the alcohol, or the person must have known that the individual was intoxicated.

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Two women, a mother and a daughter, were involved in a roadside verbal altercation that escalated to violence and ended in death in Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to a news report, the mother and daughter were traveling in their car with a third party when the mother and daughter got into a fight.

speed-1505441The third party indicated to police that the daughter was driving dangerously, and this upset the mother. The witness stated that the women had been drinking when the altercation occurred. The mother demanded that her daughter get out of the car. When the parties were outside the car, they began to argue with each other, and that verbal altercation resulted in a physical fight. During this fight, the two women ended up rolling onto the highway, where they were sadly hit by a car. Police indicated that an initial investigation has not revealed that the driver was at fault. However, an investigation is still ongoing. Both of the women were killed upon impact.

Apportioning Liability under New Mexico Law in Car Accidents

The above accident may open the door to several different types of lawsuits by various parties. There may be a suit by the family of the mother and daughter, if the investigation reveals that the driver was acting negligently, or a suit by the passenger, if she was hurt in the accident. Finally, and most likely, there may be a suit by the actual driver of the car, if he was hurt.

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Earlier this month, New Mexico police apprehended a man after he was involved in an accident and found to be driving under the influence of alcohol. According to one local news report, the man was driving southbound on Coors Street when he rammed into the rear of another car. Unfortunately, the impact was so severe that the rear-ended car ended up rolling about 10 times before coming to a rest.

cup-of-beer-1329193When police arrived at the scene, they determined that the man causing the accident had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear at a traffic court hearing. The two victims of the crash, surprisingly, were not seriously injured, although they were taken to the hospital to be evaluated. Police later revealed that the man was not speeding, but he also did not have insurance, was not wearing a seat belt, and did not have a license. The driver’s record also indicated that he was previously mandated to attend alcohol education classes. The man was arrested but released on bail. Further charges are still pending while the investigation continues.

Pursuing a Personal Injury Case in a Drunk Driving Accident in New Mexico

In the above case, the current reports do not indicate that the two victims were seriously injured. However, this will not always be the case in drunk driving accidents, and it also does not mean that those who suffer non-fatal injuries do not have a claim for the pain and suffering they did endure. In cases where serious injuries take place, often an insurance company will get involved in an attempt to lessen the payout.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of South Carolina decided a case in favor of a plaintiff who lost her husband in a tragic equipment-related accident. In the case, Riley v. Ford Motor Company, the court determined that the trial judge properly adjusted the damages award in favor of the plaintiff after the jury returned a shockingly inadequate amount.

car-door-handle-1309254.jpgAccording to the court’s written opinion, the fatal accident occurred when the plaintiff’s husband was driving on the highway in a Ford truck. As the man was driving on the highway, a student on his way to school pulled out in front of the truck. In an attempt to avoid a collision with the young man’s car, the driver of the Ford truck swerved. However, as he did so he lost control of the vehicle, and it ended up colliding with the teen’s car nonetheless.

The impact from the collision sent the man’s truck off the side of the road, where it struck a tree. Upon the impact with the tree, the truck’s door latch released, allowing the door to open and sending the driver out of the vehicle with significant force. The man was killed in the accident, and the man’s wife then filed suit against the teen driver as well as against the Ford Motor Company. The plaintiff settled with the teenage driver prior to trial, and the case against Ford proceeded to trial, where Ford was ultimately found liable.
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