Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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.

Car AccidentThe 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.

Insurance ContractA 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.

Car AccidentThe 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.

Head-On CollisionThe 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.

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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