Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

All fatal traffic accidents are tragic. However, those that involve a drunk driver and a young victim feel particularly devastating. Lawmakers and police do everything they can to enact and enforce laws that deter drunk driving, but there is no substitute for good judgment. In fact, drunk driving is such a problem in New Mexico that between the years of 2002 and 2013, over 1,200 people lost their lives due to alcohol-related accidents. Furthermore, New Mexico’s per capita rate of death in drunk driving accidents is 30% higher than the national average.

CocktailSadly, nothing can be done to bring back someone who lost their life in a drunk driving accident. However, the family of the victim may be able to hold the responsible party accountable through a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death cases in New Mexico are technically brought by the administrator of the deceased’s estate. However, they are brought for the benefit of the surviving family members, usually a spouse, children, or grandchildren. In order to prove a New Mexico wrongful death case, the person bringing the lawsuit must show that the defendant’s negligent act caused the death of their loved one. In the case of a drunk driving accident, this is often proven through evidence of the driver’s intoxication.

23-Year-Old Man Killed in Wrong-Way Drunk-Driving Accident

Earlier this month, a young man was killed in a drunk driving accident on Interstate 25. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred at around 11:30 in the evening in Santa Fe.

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The Alaska Supreme Court recently rejected a plaintiff’s challenge to a jury’s verdict in a personal injury case that had denied the plaintiff relief and found the defendant was not operating his vehicle negligently when the accident occurred. The state high court ruled that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the accident was not the defendant’s fault and that he should not be held accountable for the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff in the accident. Based on the latest appellate ruling, the plaintiff will most likely not be compensated for the injuries that she suffered in the crash.

Snowy RoadThe Defendant Slides on Ice and Crashes into the Plaintiff’s Vehicle at an Intersection

The plaintiff in the case of Marshall v. Peter was a woman who was struck from behind by the defendant’s vehicle while she was waiting to make a left-hand turn at an intersection. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties agreed that the road conditions were icy at the time of the accident, and the police officers who responded to the crash cited the defendant for causing the accident by making an improper start. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant after the accident, alleging that he negligently failed to account for the road conditions and maintain a safe following distance from the plaintiff, causing the accident and her subsequent injuries.

The Jury Finds that the Defendant Was Not Negligent

After trial on the plaintiff’s claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, finding that the defendant had operated his vehicle with due care considering the conditions at the time, and the accident was an unavoidable and minor result of uncontrollable conditions, rather than the defendant’s fault. In response to the verdict, the plaintiff asked the court to enter judgment in her favor notwithstanding the jury’s findings, but the trial court rejected her request. The plaintiff then appealed that ruling to the state supreme court, arguing that the defendant should be liable for the accident as a matter of law and that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

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A division of the Court of Appeal of the State of California recently published an opinion reversing a trial court ruling that had prevented an accident victim from pursuing a negligence claim arising from injuries he suffered in a crash allegedly caused by a paramedic who was responding to a medical emergency. The trial court previously rejected the plaintiff’s claim because it was not filed within California’s one-year statute of limitations for negligence claims against a medical professional. The appellate court determined that the plaintiff’s car accident claim should not be restricted by the statute of limitations for professional negligence and remanded the case back to the trial court to proceed toward a trial or settlement.

AmbulanceThe Defendant Ran a Red Light While Responding to an Emergency and Injured the Plaintiff

The plaintiff in the case of Aldana v. Stillwagon is a private citizen who was injured when his vehicle was struck by the defendant as he drove through an intersection. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the defendant was a paramedic and was driving a standard pickup truck en route to a medical emergency when he failed to stop at a red light and crashed into the plaintiff, who had the right of way at the time of the accident. Based on the injuries suffered in the accident, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant approximately 17 months after the crash.

The Plaintiff’s Suit Is Dismissed Based on a Special Statute of Limitations

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant argued that California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act contained a statute of limitations that barred the plaintiff’s claim. Under California law, a victim of professional negligence by a medical provider must file a claim within one year from the date the injury was discovered. Since the defendant was working as a paramedic and responding to an emergency at the time of the crash, the trial court determined that the plaintiff’s claim was subject to the one-year statute of limitations and dismissed the case, resulting in the plaintiff’s appeal.

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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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