Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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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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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In many New Mexico car accident lawsuits, the case is actually defended by the insurance company that provided coverage to the at-fault driver. Indeed, one of the major benefits of obtaining sufficient insurance coverage is that, by virtue of the policy agreement, the company agrees to defend any claims against the insured.Legal News Gavel

When it comes to interpreting their own policies, however, insurance companies have a vested interest. Thus, motorists are routinely frustrated by an insurance company’s denial of their claims. In a recent case, the plaintiffs’ case against an insurance company that provided underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage to a car dealership was dismissed after the plaintiffs were rear-ended by another motorist while test-driving a vehicle.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were on a test-drive when another motorist rear-ended them. The plaintiffs sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, that driver did not have sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the plaintiffs for the injuries they sustained.

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Recently, a state appellate court rejected a plaintiff’s claim against a defendant employer after the plaintiff was injured in an accident caused by one of the defendant’s employees while the employee was on his way home from work. The case presents an interesting issue for New Mexico car accident victims who were injured in an accident that was caused by someone who was on-the-job at the time of the accident.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking along the sidewalk when he was struck by a car that had just been hit by an employee who was attempting to turn into the post office on his way home from work. The employee was employed by the county, and while he was not required to have his own car, the realities of his position made having a car a near-necessity. This was because he had to visit various locations across several cities, and because public transportation was not a particularly convenient option based on where he lived. The employee did, however, occasionally take public transportation, and testified that he would have taken it more if it was more convenient.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employee as well as the employer. The plaintiff’s argument was based on the theory of vicarious liability, under which an employer can normally be held liable for the negligent actions of an employee, if those actions are taken in the course of his employment.

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An insurance policy is essentially just a contract between the insured and the insurance company. The insurance company agrees to provide certain coverage, detailed in the policy, and the insured agrees to pay a stated premium. In some New Mexico car accidents, an insurance company’s obligation to provide coverage is clear. However, in many cases insurance companies dispute coverage.

Legal News GavelA recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates the difficulties a plaintiff may encounter when attempting to file a claim with an insurance policy. In that case, the plaintiff was the estate of a man who was killed while mowing his lawn by a motorist that was driving while under the influence. The at-fault driver did not have car insurance.

The employer of the man who was killed in the accident, however, maintained an insurance policy with uninsured motorist (UIM) protection. Thus, in hopes of obtaining compensation for the loss of the decedent’s life, the estate filed a claim with his employer’s insurance policy.

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The State of New Mexico requires that all drivers maintain a certain amount of car insurance in order to legally operate a vehicle on the road. This requirement is designed to ensure that, in the event of a serious accident, the at-fault party has the ability to compensate the victim for their injuries. However, under New Mexico law, a driver need only obtain the following coverage:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death to one person;
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death to two people; and
  • $10,000 for property damage.

Legal News GavelThe reality, of course, is that most serious New Mexico car accidents result in monetary damages far exceeding these limits. For this reason, New Mexico requires that insurance companies offer un/underinsured motorist (UIM) protection as an option in every insurance policy sold in the state.

Un/underinsured motorist protection kicks in when the at-fault party’s liability coverage is insufficient to cover an accident victim’s expenses. This coverage is crucial in the event of a serious New Mexico car accident, and it is recommended that all drivers obtain additional UIM coverage for just such circumstances. Otherwise, motorists risk not being able to obtain sufficient compensation for the injuries they have sustained.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if the jury was improperly instructed and, if so, what the remedy should be. The case is relevant to New Mexico car accident victims because it illustrates the importance of jury instructions, and what can be done to preserve an appellate issue in the event a judge provides the jury with an adverse instruction.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, two motorists were driving in opposite directions on the same road when one of the drivers lost control of his vehicle, crossed the center line, and crashed into the other driver. The exact cause of the accident was disputed; however, it was clear that the defendant’s vehicle experienced some kind of steering malfunction prior to the collision. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that his negligence resulted in the serious injuries she sustained to her hand in the car accident.

Negligence Per Se

The plaintiff argued that the defendant knowingly operated his vehicle on a roadway while the vehicle was unsafe. She claimed that this constituted negligence per se because his actions were a direct violation of a law that was enacted to protect the public from unsafe and improperly maintained vehicles.

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The requirements of filing a personal injury lawsuit are generally the same throughout the United States, but the outcomes of similar cases can vastly differ, depending on where the case is filed. The reason for this discrepancy is due, among other things, to the various rules surrounding the apportionment of fault and liability, subrogation, and allowable defenses.

Legal News GavelDetermining another party’s fault is the core objective in any New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. Most states use one of four models for establishing fault and recovery. The four systems are: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, modified comparative fault, and slight/gross negligence.

The strictest, and least favorable to plaintiffs, of the models is pure contributory negligence. This model provides that if a plaintiff is at all responsible for their injuries, they are totally barred from recovery.

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Recently, a state court issued an opinion in a car accident case in which the driver was acting in the course of his employment for the defendant employer when the accident occurred.

Legal News GavelFacts of the Case

An energy company hired a drilling company to drill oil and gas wells on a property they owned. During similar projects, the drilling company would arrange for bunkhouses to be placed on the property for their employees, but in this instance, the energy company did not permit these bunkhouses. Instead, they agreed to pay the drilling company $50 a day to compensate one of the drilling company employees for driving other employees to off-site housing.

One of the employees volunteered for this position and would routinely drive other employees to the bunk site or to his home. On one occasion, the driver was transporting his coworkers to the bunk site when he was involved in a devastating accident. He hit another vehicle, which resulted in the death of two of his coworkers and serious injuries to himself and an additional coworker. The driver filed a claim before the Texas Department of Workers’ Compensation. The drilling company argued that the accident occurred while the driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment. The department found his injuries to be compensable.

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Earlier this year, a federal appellate court issued a ruling in a negligent entrustment lawsuit filed by two individuals against a rental car company, whose patrons injured the plaintiffs in a New Mexico car accident.

Legal News GavelFacts of the Case

In 2014, a group of 21-year-old men from Turkey rented a car from a rental company in Lake Powell. The individual who rented the car was able to provide the company with a Turkish driver’s license and a credit card; another person in the group also provided his Turkish license, and another positively affirmed that he possessed a license. Although all of the individuals were under 21, the rental car employee still permitted one of the individuals (D1) to rent both a caravan and a convertible, and he authorized the other person in the party to be listed as an authorized driver. However, no one in the group completed the additional driver application, including the third individual in the group (D2). Renting a car to an individual under 21 was noted to be a departure from company policy and contrary to policies followed by most other rental car companies.

During the rental, D2 was driving the convertible, turned left without yielding to traffic, and ran into the plaintiff. The collision resulted in the plaintiff suffering severe injuries, including broken bones and a punctured lung.

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