Articles Posted in Insurance Companies

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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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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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.

Legal News GavelFacts 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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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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.

Legal News GavelThe 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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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.

Legal News GavelInsurance 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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A state appellate court recently decided that a personal injury case involving an underinsured motorist claim should be remanded back to the trial court, due to ambiguities in the insurance contract. The main issue that was being disputed was a clause in the insurer’s policy that required that an underinsured motorist claim must be brought within three years, although the policy also stated that the insured individual must first exhaust the underinsured’s insurance policy.

Legal News GavelIn this case, a mother and her two sons were involved in a serious car accident with an underinsured motorist. The mother filed a lawsuit against the other driver, and her own insurance company also filed a complaint against the driver. The insurance company was seeking damages for payments they made as a result of the accident. However, the other driver’s insurance policy coverage was minimal. The mother filed a claim with her own insurance company as well because the other driver’s policy was insufficient to cover her damages. However, since this was done more than three years after the accident, the insurance company filed a motion to dismiss and argued that the claim was barred by the requirement in the contract that all claims be brought within three years.

The trial court denied the insurance company’s motion, and they then appealed. The court affirmed the trial court’s decision and found that the policy was ambiguous and should be construed in favor of the plaintiff.

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In a recent opinion, a court held in favor of an injured driver who sued their insurance company after filing a claim with the company and receiving a very small amount of damages. The case stemmed from a 2007 accident in which the driver was rear-ended by another vehicle. Sadly, the accident caused serious harm to the driver’s back, and as a result, he filed a claim with his insurance company.

Legal News GavelThe driver brought the claim under the insurance company’s “uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.” The insurance company and the driver had several months of back and forth until the insurance company finally paid a very small amount. The driver went on to sue the insurance company and claimed that the company breached their contract and caused an unreasonable delay. The jury found in favor of the driver, and the insurance company then appealed. The insurance company argued that the driver produced erroneous expert testimony and was unreasonable. However, the District Court ruled in the driver’s favor and affirmed the $2,250,000 damages award.

New Mexico Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Insurance Policies

Although accidents are a natural risk that everyone takes when driving, it does not mean that the devastation is any less when it does occur. Drivers purchase insurance policies in order to mitigate the financial cost of an accident. However, frequently insurance does not cover all of the costs associated with an accident. A particularly difficult situation arises when the culpable party does not have insurance at all. In these situations, many drivers rely on their own insurance company’s under-insured or uninsured policy.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit released its opinion in a personal injury case earlier this month. The case arose from a 2011 accident in which a woman drove through a stop-sign and caused a multi-vehicle accident. The plaintiff in the case was a motorist who was driving with two passengers.

Legal News GavelThe at-fault driver had an insurance policy that had liability limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. The plaintiffs settled the case and opted to collect under the per-accident limit, so the driver received $250,000, and the two passengers split the remaining $250,000. The plaintiffs then argued that the amounts they received were inadequate to make them whole and as a result put a claim in through the plaintiff-driver’s insurance company through their “underinsured” motorist clause.

The insurance company denied the claim and held that this clause did not apply because their policy states that the coverage is limited to $500,000, and the plaintiffs already received that amount through the original claim. The plaintiffs argued that the insurance company’s policy does not make clear that the underinsured motorist policy is limited to $500,000 per accident, and the limit should be considered a per-person limit.

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