Recently in Uninsured Motorist Category

January 7, 2014

New Mexico Appeals Court Holds Uninsured Motorist Lawsuit Barred by Claim Preclusion

file841272198500 morguefile username Jusben.jpgThe Court of Appeals of New Mexico has held that a family's lawsuit seeking uninsured motorist benefits was barred by claim preclusion. In Pielhau v. State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., Jared Pielhau was unfortunately killed in a single-vehicle traffic wreck in 2004. At the time of the deadly crash, the vehicle Jared was riding as a passenger in was uninsured and Jared's parents owned five vehicles that were insured by State Farm through four separate policies. Following the accident, the Pielhaus sought to collect financial compensation as part of the uninsured motorist coverage on two of their vehicles. After State Farm refused to allow the Pielhaus family to stack coverage, the couple filed a lawsuit against their insurer and their insurance agent. That case was later settled and dismissed with prejudice.

In 2011, the Pielhaus sought to recover uninsured motorist coverage from the individual insurance policies that were in effect on each of the family's remaining three vehicles in 2004. Prior to Jared's fatal accident, however, the Pielhaus rejected uninsured motorist coverage on each of the three policies. After State Farm failed to respond to the Pielhaus' request for uninsured motorist compensation, the couple filed a lawsuit for damages in district court. According to the Pielhaus, their rejection of uninsured motorist coverage was invalid pursuant to subsequent New Mexico caselaw.

After filing the second case, the family asked the court to grant a motion for partial summary judgment against State Farm. The trial court granted the motion and the Pielhaus voluntarily dismissed their remaining claims. State Farm then appealed the case to the Court of Appeals of New Mexico.

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February 26, 2013

Negligent Hit-and-Run Driver Flees Following Three-Car Injury Accident in Santa Fe

687139_semaphore_ sxchu username caramdesig.jpgA recent three-vehicle accident on Airport Road near Cerrillos Road in southwestern Santa Fe reportedly sent four people to the hospital in serious condition. According to Santa Fe Police Captain Aric Wheeler, the driver of an Acura sedan struck a pick-up traveling through the intersection during rush hour. The pick-up allegedly rolled and hit a Dodge sedan. Emergency responders reportedly extracted two teen passengers from the Acura using the Jaws of Life before transporting them to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center for treatment. Paramedics also purportedly took the driver of both the pick-up and the Dodge to the same hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Police stated the driver of the Acura fled the accident scene before they arrived.

Wheeler said the cause of the injury accident is currently under investigation. At this time, it is not known whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision. Wheeler added that it is unclear which vehicle failed to stop at a red traffic light and police do not know why the driver of the Acura fled the scene of the crash.

Each year, unexpected car accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury claims filed in the State of New Mexico. A crash may result when a distracted, inattentive, impaired, or simply careless motorist gets behind the wheel of a car or other vehicle. In addition, car accidents frequently result from hazardous road conditions, motor vehicle defects, and any number of other factors. Too often, drivers refuse to take responsibility for their negligence and flee the accident scene.

The victim in a hit-and-run accident may be entitled to recover compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, disability, and more. Additionally, the personal representative of someone who was killed in a tragic traffic wreck may be eligible to receive financial compensation pursuant to the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act. It is important for accident victims to understand that uninsured motorist coverage in New Mexico allows individuals who were hurt by a hit-and-run motorist to recover for their damages even if the driver who caused their injury is never apprehended. A crash victim may be entitled to file a claim against the uninsured motorist policy of a family member who resides in the same household even if the insured vehicle was not involved in the collision. A skilled car accident attorney can explain your right to recovery in greater detail.

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May 4, 2011

Wrong Way I-40 Accident & New Mexico Uninsured Motorist Coverage

On February 17, 2011, shortly before midnight, a woman was speeding east on Interstate 40. She was going the wrong-way in the westbound lanes.

When she approached Rio Grande Boulevard, she collided with a westbound vehicle. The male driver died at the scene. The woman was hospitalized in critical condition.

It is not yet known why the woman was eastbound in the westbound lanes of Interstate 40. A blood test showed that her blood-alcohol concentration was .09. Under New Mexico law, .08 is proof of impairment.

A New Mexico personal injury lawyer could make a claim for wrongful death damages against the wrong-way driver. If the driver’s insurance is not adequate to satisfy the wrongful death claim, the decedent’s insurance company could be liable for the amount of damages not covered by liability insurance. The decedent’s insurance company could be liable under the “underinsured motorist” provision of the decedent’s insurance policy.

The limits of “underinsured motorist” coverage would be equal to the total of liability limits on all of the vehicles insured by the decedent. Insurers must provide “underinsured motorist” coverage equal to liability coverage. Unless the insured explicitly declines to buy the “underinsured” coverage, New Mexico law requires the insurance company to provide the coverage.

In many cases, the defendant’s liability insurance is not sufficient to satisfy the wrongful death claim. The New Mexico car accident lawyer would then seek full compensation for all wrongful death damages from the “underinsured motorist” insurance available to the decedent’s family.

December 13, 2010

New Mexico Personal Injury Cases and the Economy

To what extent does the economy effect New Mexico personal injury claims? One theory is that injuries are related to economic activity—the more economic activity, the more injuries will occur. This is because economic growth produces construction, the use of roads, increased shopping, eating out, etc., which increases the numbers of accidents.

Personal Injury lawyers are in disagreement about the effects of an economic downturn. A large number of personal injury cases arise from automobile use, and past recessions have shown that American's driving habits are somewhat “inelastic,” meaning that people drive about the same amount, regardless of the overall economic situation. So, in economic hard times, people are on the road about the same amount as in good times.

Another factor complicating how to judge the relationship between economic growth and personal injury litigation is the lag between the injury, itself, and when lawyers become involved. After an injury, the first priority is undergoing medical treatment. Often, a New Mexico personal injury claimant will need to finish medical treatment before being able to evaluate his/her case. A period of negotiation may then follow, so that lawyers may not become involved for some time after the initial accident.

August 19, 2009

Solving New Mexico Insurance Policy Questions

New Mexico is far from the richest state in the nation. New Mexico residents rarely have substantial assets buried in their back yard that can compensate New Mexico accident victims for their injuries. As a result, the financial recovery available to New Mexico car accident victims is often limited to the insurance policies in effect at the time.

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Unless the negligent driver has substantial assets to cover the injuries caused by the accident, many times the biggest question for serious car accidents or New Mexico wrongful death cases, is what is the available limits of insurance. Answering this question typically requires obtaining the other driver’s insurance policy. However, if the accident victim has any New Mexico uninsured or underinsured coverage, than a simple review of the policies can shed some light on what the minimum available limits may be.

If you have been injured in a New Mexico accident, you can check your own insurance to see if you see the letters “UM” or “UIM” next to various numbers. If you see these letter, it means that you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage that if necessary can be used to help in the recovery. Next to these letters you will see two numbers separated by a “/”, such as “25/50” or “100/200.” Whatever these numbers may be, they are your policy limits on that particular vehicle. The way to read these figures is to look at the first number which indicates the most that any single person is able to recover from injuries resulting from the accident, and the second number which is the most that can ever be paid by the insurance company for the accident.

Before looking at your New Mexico insurance policy and thinking you figured everything out, it is important to be familiar, or at least talk to somebody who is familiar, with New Mexico uninsured motorist law. Under New Mexico law, a car accident victim may be entitled to use other insurance policies beyond those in effect on the vehicle that was involved in the accident, to recover additional money. For this reason, it is highly recommended to speak with an experienced New Mexico car accident lawyer before contemplating, let alone accepting, any offer for a car accident case.

January 21, 2009

Recent New Mexico Uninsured Motorist Study

The New Mexico injury lawyer blog has provided, on numerous occasions, a soapbox on which to emphasize the importance of New Mexico uninsured motorist coverage. However, a recent study by the Insurance Research Council serves to reinforce this position. Be recent study concluded that New Mexico led to the nation and 2007 with uninsured motorists. These statistics showed that one out of every four New Mexico drivers, get behind the wheel without insurance in. This would mean that any New Mexico accident victim has a one out of four chance of the responsible party having no insurance.

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The study also found a correlation between economic conditions and uninsured motorists. The connection suggests that the worse the economic situation, the more uninsured motorists there are on the roads. Although this is certainly not the primary concern with the nation's current economic crisis, it is nonetheless an effect of it that cannot be ignored.

The study points out that uninsured motorist coverage becomes more of a necessity when a number of insured drivers in the surrounding area decreases. Hopefully to be one out of four statistic will encourage more New Mexico drivers to obtain uninsured motorist coverage and ensure that they are adequately protected. Until then, the study places New Mexico at the top of yet another undesirable list.

November 19, 2008

Taos Hit-and-Run Accident: What Injury Law Can Help

For the second time this month a Taos accident has resulted in a fatality. Earlier this month, the New Mexico Injury Lawyer Blog featured the tragic story of a Taos motorcycle accident. Sadly, another fatal Taos car accident recently occurred that has taken the life of a two year old toddler. Words cannot express the depth of loss that such an accident causes and certainly no legal outcome, whether civil or criminal will ever be just.

The accident occurred when a Taos hit-and-run driver struck the child and fled the scene. Following the car accident, the child was taken to Holy Cross Hospital where revival efforts were unsuccessful. The vehicle involved was a dark colored, beat up, late 1990's model pickup. Anyone with information can contact the Taos Police Department.

The accident again brings to the forefront the New Mexico personal injury law governing both hit and run and pedestrian accidents. A little known area of New Mexico uninsured motorist coverage would allow for recovery if any of the victim's family members who live in the same household have uninsured motorist coverage. This is true even the the vehicle that is insured has nothing to do with the accident. Again, while no recovery could come anywhere near adequate, this situation highlights the importance of contacted an experienced New Mexico injury and accident lawyer to explore all possible options.

November 15, 2008

New Mexico Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Are You Covered?

The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently wrote an opinion regarding New Mexico uninsured motorist coverage waivers. Prior to the recent opinion, it was understood that unless an insurance company could produce a written waiver by their customer specifically asking to exclude uninsured motorist coverage, they were required to provide it.

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Many of our New Mexico car accident clients have benefited from this law when they were involved in accidents in which the negligent driver did not have insurance. Although the client's insurance company would initially attempt to exclude uninsured motorist coverage, when they were unable to produce the necessary documents, they had no choice but to provide such coverage and pay our client's claim.

The recent decision involves a driver who was injured while working for a large company and who sought to stack his employer's uninsured motorist coverage. The insurance company denied the stacking despite not having a signed waiver. The court did an about-face and concluded that the signed waiver is no longer a requirement and instead the waiver must only be made part of the policy.

Although the court expressly limited its opinion to the specific case, it is hard to imagine that the door has not been cracked open for insurance companies to argue a sweeping change.

November 6, 2008

Vehicular Homicide Charged After Taos Motorcycle Accident

A recent fatal accident in Taos Canyon leaves a woman coping with her serious injuries while simultaneously mourning the loss of her husband. The accident occurred on November 2nd when a a vehicle crossed the center line and struck the motorcycle head on. The driver was cited for vehicular homicide after his reckless driving was found to have caused the accident.

Taos%20Motorcycle%20Accident%20Lawyer.jpgFrom a New Mexico motorcycle accident lawyer's perspective, this is an all too common story. The reckless driving charge will likely allow for the pursuit of punitive damages which typically can only be recovered with substantial assets or the victim's own underinsured motorist coverage.

The recent Taos Canyon motorcycle accident highlights that motorcycle accident are often the most gruesome of accident on New Mexico's highways. I do not hesitate when I say that paying for New Mexico underinsured motorist coverage is one of the most important decisions a motorcycle rider can make.

June 15, 2008

Albuquerque Drive-By Shootings - What New Mexico Injury Victims Need To Know

Drivers hurt in Albuquerque car, truck, and motorcycle accidents usually find they are the victims of another's negligence. However, sometimes New Mexico injury victims suffer injuries not because of negligence, but rather someone else's intentional act, such as drive by shootings.

driveby%20shooting.jpgAn Albuquerque story recently emerged in which an innocent Albuquerque woman was smoking a cigarette outside when she was caught in crossfire from two vehicles shooting at each other. Bernalillo County deputies and other New Mexico officers believe the bullets came from a drive-by shooting.

Although the woman was not seriously injured, others are often not so lucky. Many times injuries from New Mexico drive by shootings are serious if not fatal. When victims or their families call our office to see if anything can be done, the conversation typically focuses on the availability of New Mexico uninsured motorists coverage. The reason is that the shooters rarely have substantial assets and if they do have liability insurance, it almost always excludes intentional acts, such as drive-by shootings. Fortunately, New Mexico uninsured motorist coverage, will typically provide coverage in such situations.

The rules regarding New Mexico uninsured motorist coverage are complex and it is wide to discuss the situation with a New Mexico drive-by shooting and injury lawyer early on to determine how to best proceed. Although drive-by shootings are sudden attacks capable of leaving lasting injury, there may be some form of compensation available for victims and their families.