Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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.

PassengerDetermining 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.

Oil WellFacts 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.

Desert HighwayFacts 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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Earlier this month, New Mexico’s Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding a complex dispute between a driver and an insurance company. The case was the subject of two jury trials and two appeals. Two specific evidentiary issues were appealed to the Supreme Court.

Law BooksFacts of the Case

The case stems from a dispute between two drivers and their insurance company. Apparently, the driver, who was covered under his parent’s insurance, was involved in an accident at around 1:30 a.m. on November 4, 2002. The insurance company claimed that the policy expired at 11:59 p.m. on November 3, 2002 – approximately 90 minutes prior to the accident.

The insurance company filed for a declaratory judgment, asserting that the parties were not insured at the time of the accident. The driver and his parents filed a counterclaim, arguing that they should be covered because the insurance company was acting in bad faith. During this time, the driver was sued by an injured third party. The insurance company paid a settlement but reserved its right to be reimbursed by the driver.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a defendant-turned-plaintiff who claimed that his own insurance company failed to settle a case against him in bad faith. The case raises the broader issue, prevalent in many New Mexico car accident cases, of an insurance company’s duty to settle a case, and what should happen when an insurance company acts in bad faith.

Wrecked CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the estate of a man who was killed when he caused a car accident that resulted not only in his own death but also in the injuries of several others. This case only tangentially involves the case against the plaintiff for causing the accident.

Several of the injured parties filed a personal injury lawsuit against the estate of the man who caused the accident, seeking compensation for their injuries. The attorney for these victims reached out to the plaintiff’s insurance company, inquiring about settling the case.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that illustrates an important point that routinely comes up in New Mexico personal injury cases. The case involved the issue of a jury’s verdict in favor of a plaintiff who claimed she suffered lost wages as a result of an accident. The court, however, rejected the plaintiff’s claim, finding that the evidence presented was speculative and failed to establish that the loss in wages was reasonably certain.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident with the defendant. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries and filed a personal injury claim against the defendant. The defendant admitted that the accident was his fault, but he claimed that the accident was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the case proceeded to trial on the issue of damages only.

At trial, the plaintiff made two claims. First, she argued that she was entitled to future medical expenses. In support of this claim, she had an expert witness testify that she would need palliative care, which was estimated to cost between $525,000 and $850,000. The expert also opined that, while not absolutely necessary, it was recommended that the plaintiff get cervical surgery to improve her quality of life. If successful, the plaintiff would not need future surgeries; however, if it were unsuccessful, the plaintiff would likely then need a subsequent lumbar surgery. The cervical surgery was estimated to cost between $90,000 and $120,000, and the lumbar surgery between $60,000 and $90,000.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion that presents an important issue for many New Mexico car accident victims. This case discusses in which circumstance the government can be held liable when a government employee is involved in an automobile accident. Specifically, the case required the court to determine if a sheriff deputy could be held liable for an accident occurring during a high-speed chase.

Police CarThe Facts of the Case

The case stemmed from a lawsuit commenced by two individuals who were injured in a collision that occurred while police were in pursuit of a man fleeing from a routine traffic stop. According to the court’s opinion, a county deputy was monitoring traffic when he noticed a driver with an out-of-state license plate straddling two lanes and attempted to pull the car over.

As the deputy began to pursue the car, the driver increased his speed and began to veer in and out of traffic very quickly. The county deputy continued to pursue the driver and notified an adjacent county police station about the aggressive driver. The sheriff’s department in the other county began pursuit, and the original county officers had to stop due to a tire blow-out.

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Expert witness testimony comes into play in a significant number of New Mexico car accident cases. Understanding the rules regarding expert witnesses is important for all potential personal injury plaintiffs. Recently, one state’s supreme court reversed a lower court’s judgment that granted a plaintiff summary judgment in a car accident case. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2014 accident in which an individual rear-ended the plaintiff.

CourtroomAfter being hit, the plaintiff received medical care and was diagnosed with right shoulder strain and whiplash. The plaintiff continued treatment for the psychological and physiological issues she suffered following the accident. Subsequently, she began receiving advance payments from the other driver’s insurance company. At some point, the insurance company asked to have an independent medical examiner review the plaintiff’s medical records to determine whether her ongoing issues were actually a result of the accident. The plaintiff refused to comply with providing documentation, but the medical examiners nonetheless concluded that there was no actual physiological damage and that most of her continued pain was psychological.

Despite this finding, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no genuine issue of material fact to dispute that her ongoing damages were a result of the accident. In response, the insurance company argued that the opinions of the two independent medical examiners resulted in a question of material fact. The case was appealed all the way to the state’s supreme court, which concluded that after comparing the plaintiff’s affidavits with the independent medical examiners’, it was clear that there was a disputed issue of material fact. As a result, it was not clear whether the plaintiff’s ongoing expenses were actually related to the accident. Thus, the court remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

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Being involved in a New Mexico car accident is a stressful experience, both physically and emotionally. In the immediate wake of the accident, the focus is on physically recovering from the injuries of the accident. Once the physical wounds heal, there is often the emotional stress that accompanies missing time at work, constantly visiting a physical therapist, and getting back behind the wheel of a car. This can take time.

Front-End DamageOnce both body and mind have recovered, there is the issue of the financial toll that the accident took on the victim. In some cases, insurance will help cover these costs. However, insurance companies will not approve all claims, and they may deny an accident victim’s claim for any number of reasons. In these cases, a New Mexico car crash attorney can assist accident victims with the preparation of their case. A recent case illustrates one insurance company’s efforts to evade responsibility.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was involved in an accident with another motorist. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, that driver’s insurance company, and the plaintiff’s own insurance company. The insurance companies were named as defendants because they were contractually obligated to cover the costs associated with the accident, pursuant to the drivers’ insurance policies.

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Auto insurance is supposed to help accident victims recover for their losses after being involved in a serious accident. However, in reality, insurance companies are for-profit companies that are solely motivated by profit. In too many New Mexico car accident cases, insurance companies refuse to offer fair settlements or contest accident victims’ claims altogether. A recent personal injury opinion illustrates how an insurance company may try to limit the amount of money it pays out following a serious car accident.

Signed ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs lost two loved ones in a fatal car accident. At the time, the plaintiffs insured five cars through the insurance company and were provided two policy numbers. The limit on each policy was $250,000. Thus, the plaintiffs were seeking a total of $500,000. However, the insurance company claimed that the plaintiffs only had a single policy and paid out just $250,000. Following the accident and the insurance company’s failure to pay their requested amount, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the other driver as well as their own insurance company.

At trial, the insurance company sought dismissal of the case, taking the position that the plaintiffs had only one insurance policy and arguing that it had already paid what was due under the plaintiffs’ single policy. The trial court rejected the insurance company’s argument and denied the insurance company’s motion. The insurance company then appealed to a higher court.

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