New Mexico car accidents have a number of causes, only some of which involve a negligent motorist. In some cases, a vehicle contains a defective part that compromises a driver’s ability to safely control the vehicle.

BridgeBack in May of last year, a former Navy Seal died when the vehicle he was driving, a Tesla Model S, crashed into a truck that failed to yield the right-of-way as it crossed the highway. After the collision, the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) conducted an official investigation into the fatal car accident. According to a recent news report, the results of the more than year-long investigation have just been released.

The recently released NTSB report faults both drivers in the accident, stating that the truck driver failed to yield when he crossed the highway and that the Tesla’s driver should not have relied so heavily on the auto-pilot technology. However, the report also mentioned that the auto-pilot technology in the Tesla Model S allowed drivers to over-rely on the system. The report recommends that future versions of auto-pilot technology do not allow drivers to use the technology on roads that are not appropriate for its use.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion that will be of interest to victims of New Mexico slip-and-fall accidents because it illustrates the type of evidence necessary to establish liability in these types of cases. In this case, the plaintiff’s case was tried before a judge without a jury. After hearing the evidence on both sides, the judge entered a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor for approximately $108,000. The defendant appealed the lower court’s ruling to a higher court.

SidewalkThe Plaintiff Stubs Her Toe on a Hospital Sidewalk

The plaintiff was at the defendant hospital visiting a loved one when she stubbed her toe and fell while walking on the sidewalk immediately outside the hospital. In her deposition testimony, the plaintiff explained that she did not know what caused her to trip at the time, only that the front of her toe slammed into something on the ground and that she subsequently fell. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff sustained a broken toe and other injuries.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant hospital, claiming that the hospital was negligent in maintaining the walkway. The plaintiff presented two reports from witnesses, explaining that there was a small but visible divot in the pavement in the immediate area where she fell.

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After a judge or jury enters a verdict in a New Mexico personal injury case, that verdict is final unless one of the parties files an appeal to a higher court. If an appeal is filed, the appellate court may only consider alleged legal errors. This means that an appellate court will not revisit factual findings of the judge or jury below, but it may consider issues related to the admission of evidence or other legal rulings made during the course of the trial.

Diving BoardAppellate courts will also only consider arguments that were made during the trial. For example, if a party fails to object to a ruling with which they disagree, that party will be prevented from raising the issue on appeal in most cases. In a recent case, the plaintiff’s premises liability claim was dismissed on appeal because the arguments he made on appeal were not raised below.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an investor looking to purchase a rental home. He contacted the defendant real estate agent and arranged to see one of the agent’s listings. The agent met the plaintiff at the home and showed the plaintiff around. The home had a pool in the back yard that had been emptied prior to the property being put up for sale.

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Medical malpractice cases may be filed against any medical professional, including doctors, nurses, or hospital administrators. New Mexico medical malpractice claims must follow strict requirements or risk being dismissed without ever being heard. This includes filing the claim by the appropriate deadline, including all of the necessary facts in the initial complaint, and drafting the complaint such that it provides notice of the allegations to the defendant. A recent case illustrates how important properly pleading medical malpractice allegations can be, as well as the repercussions for failing to do so.

Breast SurgeryThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a breast cancer survivor, who was discussing reconstructive surgery with the defendant doctor. However, due to the radiation that the plaintiff received to treat the breast cancer, there were certain risks associated with the procedure. Her left breast, specifically, received the radiation treatment.

Initially, the plaintiff wanted the doctor to operate on both of her breasts. However, after thinking about the risks involved, she decided to only proceed with the surgery on her right breast. She proceeded to have the defendant perform the surgery, but there was some miscommunication between the plaintiff and the defendant, and the defendant operated on both breasts. The defendant later claimed that he was not made aware that the plaintiff had changed her mind, and he presented his records indicating as much.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion that discusses an important concept in New Mexico car accident cases. The case presented the court with the task of determining whether a waving gesture made by the defendant to encourage the plaintiff to complete a left-hand turn through traffic was the cause of an accident that occurred when the plaintiff was struck by another vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that it is a driver’s own responsibility to safely complete a left turn through traffic and that the defendant’s gesture was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Traffic JamThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an on-duty police officer who was heading back to the barracks. As the plaintiff approached the barracks heading westbound, he needed to make a left hand turn across two eastbound lanes of traffic in order to enter the barracks. At the time, there was a line of cars in the closest eastbound lane of traffic waiting at a red light. The defendant was one of the cars waiting at the traffic light.

The plaintiff inched his car forward and angled his car as though he wanted to make a left turn. He made eye contact with the defendant, who checked his own mirrors before waving the plaintiff on. The plaintiff slowly proceeded in front of the defendant’s vehicle, but as he entered the far eastbound lane of traffic, another motorist collided with his police cruiser.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Connecticut issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving the question of whether the trial court improperly excluded certain defense evidence from consideration at trial. The case is illustrative for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because the very same considerations are present in New Mexico personal injury cases when a judge determines whether to admit evidence, and if so, how much weight it is given.

Front-End CrashAdmissibility Versus Weight

As a preliminary matter, only certain evidence is relevant in a personal injury trial, and only relevant evidence will be admitted for the jury’s consideration. However, once a judge determines that evidence may be admitted, it is then up to the fact-finder (either a judge or a jury) to assess the evidence and determine how much weight to give it.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident involving an employee of the Department of Transportation. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Department, claiming that it should be responsible for its employee’s negligent conduct.

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New Mexico drunk driving accidents are too common, claiming upwards of 100 lives per year. To combat the threat drunk driving poses, lawmakers have enacted strict drunk driving laws that prevent drivers from getting behind the wheel when they have had too much to drink. Additionally, in some cases, New Mexico imposes liability on bars and restaurants that over-serve customers who go on to cause serious accidents through the state’s Dram Shop statute.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving an allegedly drunk driver who caused an accident after drinking several alcoholic drinks during a round of golf. The question the court had to answer was whether the golf course could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, based on the state’s Dram Shop statute. While the New Mexico Dram Shop statute differs from Florida’s in several ways, the basic concepts are similar.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s wife was killed when she was struck by an allegedly drunk driver. The driver was on his way home after a round of golf at the defendant golf course. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the golf course, claiming that it should be held responsible for his wife’s death because employees of the golf course over-served the driver to the point of intoxication.

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Whenever a doctor performs a surgery or procedure, the doctor is supposed to explain all of the risks associated with the procedure to the patient. This entails explaining to the patient what exactly will be done during the procedure, what the expected outcome of the procedure is, and what the likelihood of encountering a complication is.

Operating RoomIf a doctor fails to properly inform a client about the risks of a procedure, and the patient is injured during the surgery, the patient may be able to file a New Mexico medical malpractice case seeking compensation for their injuries. This may be the case even if the doctor was not negligent in performing the surgery. A recent opinion issued by an Oklahoma appellate court held that in order to obtain truly informed consent, a doctor should also advise the patient of any non-doctor assistants who will be helping with the procedure.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patient of the defendant doctor. At some point in the course of treating the plaintiff, the defendant doctor suggested the plaintiff undergo a specific surgery. The plaintiff agreed, and the defendant doctor had the plaintiff sign a general release waiver giving permission for the defendant and “whomever he/she (they) may designate as his/her assistants, to perform” the procedure. However, the space provided for the doctor to provide the names and credentials of any assistants who would be involved in the procedure was left blank.

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As if being involved in a car accident is not bad enough, sometimes New Mexico car accident victims encounter significant trouble when they try to seek compensation for their injuries. In many cases, these troubles are due to the involvement of insurance companies. While insurance companies are ultimately the source for most car accident victims’ compensation, these companies are operated on a for-profit motive and are financially incentivized to settle claims for as little as possible.

Car AccidentInsurance companies know that the post-accident recovery period is a difficult time for accident victims. In some cases, insurance companies take advantage of this vulnerability by offering to settle a claim for far less than the costs that the accident victim actually incurred. In other cases, insurance companies will deny claims altogether, requiring the victim to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is what happened in a recent case involving a car accident caused by an underinsured motorist.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a car being driven by a friend. The two were heading to the grocery store. When they pulled into the parking lot, the plaintiff and her friend began talking in the car. Before they finished their conversation, they heard a loud bang. As the plaintiff looked over, she saw that two vehicles had gotten into an accident. She exited the vehicle and approached to provide assistance.

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New Mexico is a beautiful state with huge amounts of open land that can be used for recreational purposes, whether it be hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, or hunting. To encourage landowners, including local governments, to open up their land to the public, New Mexico lawmakers have passed a recreational-use statute that provides immunity from liability for some accidents that occur on a party’s land.

FireworksNot all landowners are immune from liability, however. After an accident occurs, the burden is on the landowner to prove that they are entitled to recreational-use immunity. In order to qualify, the landowner must establish that they did not receive any compensation from the person who was injured on their land. Even then, there are several exceptions that apply. A recent case illustrates how another state court handled a slip-and-fall plaintiff’s claim against a city for an injury that occurred in a public park.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff planned on watching the 4th of July firework display at a park that was owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park in the morning, and upon exiting her car, she made her way past a set of vertical poles used to establish the bounds of the parking area. The plaintiff later explained that she didn’t pay much attention to the poles as she walked by them, and even if she had looked at them, they would not have caught her attention.

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