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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Legal News GavelAs a general rule in New Mexico personal injury cases, while an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee in some circumstances, companies are not normally responsible for the negligent acts of independent contractors they hire to perform work. However, there are certain exceptions to this, including when the task assigned to the contract involves a non-delegable duty.

A non-delegable duty is one which a party cannot delegate to another party. For example, in a recent premises liability case, a grocery store was held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor who was paid to clean up the store after hours.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped on a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the man responsible for mopping the aisles the night before forgot to clean up the puddle of water.

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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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Recently, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presented an issue that commonly arises in New Mexico slip-and-fall cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a gas station could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that were the result a slip-and-fall accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was open and obvious, and that the gas station did not have a duty to warn her of the allegedly dangerous condition.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a car that stopped to get gas at the defendant gas station. As the driver exited the vehicle to pump the gas and then go to pay, the plaintiff got out of the car in search of a squeegee. As the plaintiff was looking for the squeegee, the heel of her right shoe got caught in a small groove in the pavement. The plaintiff was unable to maintain her balance and fell to the ground.

As it turns out, the grooves in the pavement were actually part of a positive limiting barrier (PLB). PLBs are a series of grooves in pavement that are designed to trap fuel in the event of a spill. The PLBs are required under state law, and these particular PLBs conformed with all state requirements.

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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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In all New Mexico personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must commence their lawsuit within a certain amount of time. Under New Mexico Statutes section 37-1-8, the statute of limitations for a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit is three years. Section 41-5-13 provides the same three-year statute of limitations for New Mexico medical malpractice cases.

Legal News GavelThese deadlines are of critical importance to all New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because a plaintiff’s failure to file their case by the relevant deadline will result in the case being dismissed. There are, however, exceptions to the general rules that govern when a case must be filed. For example, if the plaintiff is a minor, the plaintiff’s injuries are not immediately discovered, or the defendant has concealed some aspect of their own potential negligence, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until a later date.

Another interesting issue involving statutes of limitations is whether the parties can contractually reduce or extend the amount of time they have to file a lawsuit against each other. States vary on whether this is permitted, and the determination is very fact-specific. However, in a recent case, a court dismissed a plaintiff’s case based on her agreement to a reduced statute of limitations.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought by a customer of a grocery store after she fell in one of the store’s aisles. The court discussed an important issue that frequently arises in New Mexico slip-and-fall lawsuits.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The case stemmed from an accident that occurred about six years ago at a grocery store. The plaintiff was shopping at a grocery store with her husband when she went to use the restroom. As she was returning, she slipped on a brownish liquid and was immobilized as a result of the fall. At the same time, a store employee was mopping up similar liquid in an adjacent aisle. The plaintiff’s husband stated that, coincidentally, he noticed one of the bottles in his cart was leaking.

The store manager testified that the bottles in the plaintiff’s cart arrived at the store and were then transported to pallets. After that, the bottles were taken out of the shrink-wrap in which they arrived, and they were inspected by the store manager to verify the number and quality. Store policy requires that if an employee sees a spill, the employee must stand at the spill until they can get the attention of a maintenance person to clean it up.

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The New Mexico Supreme Court recently issued an opinion finding that the plaintiffs were unable to appeal a jury’s verdict because they did not object to the verdict prior to the jury’s discharge.

Legal News GavelFacts of the Case

An ironworker fell off a wall while he was in the middle of a construction project in Las Cruces. The worker fell off a 30-foot wall and landed on his head. Sadly, he was pronounced dead within a few minutes of reaching the hospital.

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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