police carRecently, a state appellate court released a written opinion in an auto accident personal injury case discussing the issue of government liability as it pertained to a car accident that was allegedly caused by a police officer while he was responding to an emergency call. The case is important to New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates how courts view claims against government entities. That being said, the New Mexico Tort Claims Act provides a more favorable legal landscape for accident victims.

The Case Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured when she was struck by a police car that was responding to the scene an emergency call. The accident occurred when the police officer entered an intersection against a red traffic signal in an attempt to make a left turn. However, as the officer’s vehicle entered the intersection, it struck the plaintiff’s car. It was later determined that the plaintiff was not speeding and could not have seen the officer approaching the intersection given the road’s surroundings.

The plaintiff filed an injury lawsuit against the police officer along with the city where he was employed. The defendants claimed that they were entitled to government immunity because the officer had been responding to an emergency situation at the time, and his decision to enter the intersection against the red signal was a discretionary one, which was entitled to immunity under state law.

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beer mugNew Mexico sees over 100 drunk driving deaths per year. When a motorist is injured in a New Mexico drunk driving accident, they can pursue a claim against the drunk driver through a New Mexico car accident lawsuit. However, under the state’s Dram Shop law, there may be other potentially liable parties that can also be named in the case.

The New Mexico Dram Shop law allows for an accident victim to hold an establishment responsible if the establishment overserved alcohol to the customer past the point of intoxication and the customer then went on to cause the accident victim’s injuries. The classic example is a bar that overserves a patron who is involved in a drunk driving accident after leaving the bar.

New Mexico Statutes section 41-11-1 contains the state’s dram shop law and provides that a person or establishment can be held liable if:

  • The establishment sold or served alcohol to a person who was intoxicated;
  • It was reasonably apparent that the person was intoxicated; and
  • They knew or should have known from the surrounding circumstances that the person was intoxicated.

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car insuranceIn many New Mexico car accident cases, courts are tasked with interpreting the written language of an insurance policy. This is because insurance policies are essentially written contracts, and are governed by contract law. However, due to the complex nature of the insurance business and the fact that all motorists must obtain car insurance, most motorists just quickly obtain a policy without really reading the fine print.

Insurance companies are businesses that operate for a profit. Thus, over time, insurance companies began including terms in their policies that limited the insured’s rights in certain circumstances. One very important issue that has come up time and again in New Mexico car accident cases is that of insurance stacking.

What Is Insurance Stacking and How Is It Beneficial to New Mexico Accident Victims?

Insurance stacking allows the insured to combine the insurance maximums of multiple covered vehicles in the event the damages sustained in an accident exceed the limit for one vehicle. Under New Mexico case law, there is a judicially-created stacking doctrine which requires an insurance company obtain a written waiver of coverage before writing a policy that does not allow stacking.

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bicycle rideRecently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that frequently arises in New Mexico personal injury cases that are filed against government agencies or others who allow for the free use of their land. The case presented the court with the issue of whether the defendant city was entitled to immunity in a case filed by a plaintiff who was injured when he struck a pothole while riding his bicycle in a public park.

Ultimately, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that the city had knowledge of the pothole, and thus was unable to establish that the city acted “willfully or maliciously.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. As the plaintiff was riding along a paved path in the park, he struck a pothole and fell of his bike. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city.

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ladder injuryIn a recent opinion, a state appellate court discussed whether a casino could be held liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor when while crossing a small gap between the casino’s main building and a stationary gaming boat. The case presents an interesting issue that frequently arises in New Mexico personal injury cases involving the negligence of a party that was acting as an independent contractor.

The General Rule Involving Independent Contractors

In general, companies that retain the services of an independent contractor are not liable for the contractor’s actions. However, there are exceptions when a company can be liable either to a contractor or for a contractor’s negligent actions.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was employed as a maintenance worker for a company that was contracted to clean the ducts for the defendant casino. The ducts were accessible from the roof of the casino. However, the casino consisted of a main building as well as a floating casino vessel where patrons could gamble. These two structures were not connected in any way, and they were separated by a gap of two or three feet.

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police officerHistorically, the state and federal governments were presumed to be immune from liability involving the negligence of government employees. Over time, however, this broad grant of immunity left many injury victims without any way to recover for their injuries, and the injustice of the rule became evident. Thus, the federal and state governments passed a series of laws called “tort claims acts,” under which government entities could be held liable in some situations.

The New Mexico Tort Claims Act allows for those who have been injured due to the negligence of a government employee to recover for their injuries through a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit in many situations. However, a plaintiff must be able to establish that their case fits within an exception to the general grant of immunity.

A recent case discusses the difficulties one plaintiff had when pursuing a case against a police officer she claimed was responsible for causing a car accident.

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product liabilityWhen someone is injured while using a product for its intend purpose, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a New Mexico product liability lawsuit. As is the case with other claims, there are several different types of product liability claims, and a plaintiff should know which claim they are bringing in order to best present the necessary elements.

In short, there are three types of New Mexico product liability claims: design defect claims, manufacturing defect claims, and failure-to-warn claims. These claims are, for the most part, self-explanatory. A design defect claim alleges that a product was designed in a way that rendered regular use of the product dangerous. A manufacturing defect claim alleges that a product is unreasonably dangerous based on a manufacturing error that may not be present in all of the company’s products. Finally, a failure-to-warn claim alleges that a company provided an insufficient warning for a product that was in some way dangerous.

A recent federal appellate opinion discusses the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim against a manufacturer of heavy construction equipment.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an interesting issue that arises in many New Mexico personal injury cases. Specifically, the case required the court determine what standard the defendant’s conduct should be held to in determining whether he was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In New Mexico personal injury cases, in order for a plaintiff to be successful, they must establish that the defendant violated a standard of care that was owed to them by the defendant. In most New Mexico personal injury cases, the negligence standard is applied. However, in some limited situations, other standards can apply. The case mentioned above involves the application of the “reckless misconduct” standard. Importantly, New Mexico law differs from that applied in the following case, however, the case does offer a good illustration of how courts approach this analysis.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was golfing with the defendant when, on the eighth hole, the defendant struck the defendant with the golf cart the two had been using to get around the course. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

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Legal News GavelWhen someone is injured on another’s property in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, or other type of premises liability accident, the injury victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries. However, in order to succeed in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish the elements of their claim.

A New Mexico premises liability claim is a type of negligence claim. Thus, a plaintiff must establish the same four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. In New Mexico, all landowners owe a reasonable duty of care to those who enter their property, with the exception of trespassers. Thus, for all invited guests to whom a duty is owed, landowners must take action to protect guests against both known and foreseeable harms.

When it comes to establishing that a breach occurred, courts look to whether the landowner had knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. If the defendant landowner did not know of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff’s claim will fail. However, even in situations where a defendant landowner does not have actual knowledge of the hazard, a plaintiff may still be able to succeed by establishing that the landowner had constructive knowledge, or “should have known” of the hazard’s existence.

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In a recent federal appellate opinion, the court dismissed a plaintiff’s case against the U.S. government based on the plaintiff’s failure to timely file her case after her initial claim with the United States Post Office (USPS) was denied. The case presents an important issue for New Mexico car accident victims because it involves the application of the Federal Tort Claims Act filing requirements, which may be implicated in any case against the U.S. government.Legal News Gavel

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving her car when she was struck by a USPS vehicle. The plaintiff claimed that the driver of the USPS vehicle was responsible for the accident. Two weeks after the accident, the plaintiff filed a claim with the USPS, seeking compensation for her injuries.

The USPS processed the plaintiff’s claim, ultimately denying the claim seven months after the plaintiff sent it in. Eight months later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case in federal court against the USPS, as well as the USPS driver.

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