Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Personal Injury Victims

It is natural to have questions about your accident, your rights, the legal process, and more after you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of someone else’s careless behavior. Find thoughtful, experienced answers from our dedicated legal team here. If you do not see the information you need, do not hesitate to reach out to us by phone or through our website!
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  • What is drugged driving in New Mexico?

    Medication With Car Keys and SunglassesEveryone knows that drunk driving is dangerous, but drugged driving accidents can be just as devastating. According to a study published by the Governors Highway Safety Administration, drugged driving collisions are also more common than drunk driving accidents. In fact, 43 percent of drivers with known drug test results tested positive in 2016, while 38 percent of motorists with known alcohol test results tested positive during that same year.

    Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

    Under New Mexico law, NM Stat. 66-8-102 makes it “illegal for a person who is under the influence of any drug to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle to drive a vehicle in this state.” In addition, under common law, driving under the influence of drugs breaches a motorist’s duty of care to others on or near the roadway. Some of the most frequently used drugs by New Mexico motorists include:

    • Marijuana. While medical use of marijuana is legal in New Mexico, recreational use of the drug is not. Marijuana impairs driver judgment, limits coordination, and slows reaction times.
    • Sedatives. Opioids, medications for depression and anxiety, sleep aids, and seizure medications can cause sleepiness, dizziness, and lack of concentration when drivers are behind the wheel.
    • Stimulants. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illicit substances, as well as certain prescription medications such as ADHD treatments, can cause reckless and aggressive driving.

    You Need an Attorney

    There is no roadside testing for drugged driving in New Mexico, which can make the offense of driving under the influence of drugs difficult to prove. However, even in the absence of a positive drug test, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather and present evidence of the at-fault driver’s reckless behavior. If you’ve been injured in a collision with a drugged driver, you need professional legal representation to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • How are damages calculated for pain and suffering?

    Injured Victim Sitting on the Couch With CrutchesInjury victims frequently cope with high medical bills, loss of income, and long recovery periods. In addition, they sometimes endure pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a legal term that encompasses the physical and emotional pain stemming from accidental injuries.

    Special Damages Versus General Damages

    A personal injury claim has two primary types of possible compensation, special damages and general damages. Special damages include economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and loss of income, while general damages include pain and suffering. Special damages are typically relatively easy to value, since they are based on bills for vehicle repairs and medical expenses. However, calculating general damages, such as pain and suffering, is far more challenging.

    Pain and Suffering Calculation Methods

    While there are a number of approaches that insurance companies may take when calculating pain and suffering, the two most common are the multiplier method and the per diem method. The following is a brief overview:

    • Multiplier method. The multiplier method is the most frequently used approach for calculating pain and suffering. An insurance company totals all of an accident victim’s special damages and multiplies them by a number of the insurer’s choosing. This number, called a multiplier, depends on many factors that may include: the extent of a victim’s injuries, the prospects for a full recovery, the impact of a victim’s injuries on his life, and the degree of the other party’s fault for the accident.
    • Per diem method. The per diem method requires payment of a fixed dollar amount, or daily rate, for every day an injury victim must live with the pain caused by an accident. While this daily rate may be calculated using a variety of methods, the victim’s actual, daily earnings are frequently used.

    An Attorney Can Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve

    If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, or any other type of accident that was someone else’s fault, you deserve compensation for the physical and emotional pain you’ve suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney can prove the extent of your injuries and demand that you receive fair compensation. To learn more, contact us today by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • Do I need an attorney to represent me in my car accident claim?

    If you weren’t hurt in your vehicle accident, you likely don’t need to hire an attorney. Even if you were hurt, if your doctor has confirmed that your injuries are minimal, you can probably handle the claim on your own. However, if you’ve suffered any serious injuries or lost a significant amount of income due to missed work, you should discuss your situation with a car accident lawyer.

    When to hire a car accident attorneyWhen to Consider Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

    Common circumstances that may warrant hiring an attorney include:

    • Serious injuries. Car accident injury victims often don’t realize that the at-fault driver’s insurance company has already started building a defense immediately following the crash. Pursuing a claim for serious injuries requires extensive experience and resources that only an attorney can provide.
    • Lost wages. Employed individuals who have missed out on income due to their vehicle accident injuries are entitled to recover their lost wages. An experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather evidence of these lost wages and arrange expert witness testimony regarding future income loss.
    • Disputed fault. If fault for the collision is unclear, an attorney can gather evidence and expert testimony in order to establish liability. New Mexico is a comparative negligence state, meaning that an injured party may be held partially liable for his or her injuries. An attorney can argue against claims that the injured client should be held partly responsible and fight to minimize any reduction of the claim.
    • Insurance company denials. If the insurance carrier can find any excuse to deny a claim, they will. They have teams of accident investigators busily collecting information that may be used to reject claims, so vehicle accident victims need representation by an experienced personal injury attorney.
    • Accident with a drunk driver. An accident victim injured by a drunk driver needs representation by an attorney experienced in DUI accident cases. The attorney can gather any necessary evidence, including police accident reports, medical records, and sobriety test results.

    Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today

    If you have been hurt in a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering if you need a car accident attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. At the Injury & Disability Law Center, we can help you make the right decision for your specific situation. Contact our office today to speak with one of our bilingual case managers and schedule a free case consultation. We will review the details of your case, help you to understand your legal options, and answer all of your questions. There is no obligation, so give us a call today or contact us using the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!

     

  • How much does it cost to hire a car accident attorney?

    Personal injury attorneys are typically compensated under a contingency fee arrangement. Some injury victims are hesitant to pursue litigation, since they can’t cover the cost of legal services upfront. Contingency fees allow injury victims to pursue justice, and receive the compensation they need and deserve.

    Contingency Fee Arrangements

    Contingency fees are a percentage of the settlement due to personal injury attorneys when they are successful in recovering compensation for accident victims. In other words, the lawyer is only paid when he wins the case. This provides a number of benefits for clients, including:

    ●     Lower risks. When a client enters into an hourly rate agreement with his attorney, he may face substantial legal bills regardless of the outcome of his case. With contingency fees, clients only pay if and when their attorney succeeds in securing their compensation.

    ●     A better attorney-client relationship. When attorneys are paid on a contingency basis, their compensation is tied directly to the outcome of the case. This can make for a great partnership between the client and his attorney, since the lawyer has a strong financial incentive to reach a favorable settlement in a timely manner.

    ●     The attorney has confidence in his client’s case. Since their own compensation is tied directly to the outcome, contingency fee attorneys are unlikely to accept cases they don’t believe are winnable. If an attorney is willing to risk losing out on legal fees based upon the outcome of a case, that case probably has a lot of merit.

    ●     Representation against companies with deep pockets. Due to contingency fees, injury victims don’t have to be wealthy in order to secure quality legal representation. Huge corporations and insurance companies can easily afford attorneys to represent them, but few individuals can pay an experienced attorney hundreds of dollars per hour to pursue litigation.

    You Need Representation

    If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, you need experienced representation by a contingency fee attorney. Our consultations are confidential, free, and there is no obligation. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.

     

  • Do I need to visit the doctor after a car accident, even if I’m not hurt?

    Driver With a Sore Neck After a Car WreckYou should see a doctor as soon as possible after your collision, even if you feel fine. You could have internal injuries that have not yet surfaced, jeopardizing your health. Promptly seeking medical help will also strengthen your vehicle accident claim. Here is a short overview of some common car accident injuries:

    • Internal Injuries. Internal injuries caused by a vehicle collision can worsen over time when left untreated.
    • Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly thrust forward and then backward in a vehicle accident. The chronic pain caused by whiplash may take days, or even weeks, to develop.
    • Concussion. Violent jolts to the body stemming from the impact of a vehicle collision may cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull with tremendous force. This can cause a concussion, leading to symptoms that include headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, lack of concentration, and memory lapses. While these symptoms can be very serious, they often do not surface immediately.
    • Soft tissue injuries. Typical soft tissue injuries include strains, sprains, and tears to the tendons, muscles, and ligaments of the back, neck, and shoulders. Injury victims may not experience any pain or swelling until a week or more after the collision.
    • Traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a jolt to the head, and symptoms can take several weeks or more to emerge. These injuries may result in hearing problems, vision difficulties, and memory lapses.

    Receiving a Medical Evaluation

    If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident, you should obtain a medical evaluation even if you don’t believe that you’re injured. If injury symptoms surface in the future, you’ll need documentation showing that you sought prompt medical treatment. Otherwise, the insurance adjuster will likely argue that your injuries aren’t serious. Your health insurance should cover any necessary medical treatments, and your insurance company can be repaid out of any future vehicle accident settlements you may receive. To protect your right to compensation, consult an attorney as soon as possible. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by using the form on this page.

     

  • What is the most dangerous type of distracted driving?

    A Distracted New Mexico Driver Looking at GPSThere really is no such thing as a most dangerous form of distracted driving, since anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road is dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents during 2016 alone.

    Types of Driving Distractions

    Unfortunately, our modern, always-connected lives provide plenty of opportunities for driver distraction. There are three primary types of driving distractions:

    • Visual. Any person, object, or event that causes a driver to take his eyes off the road constitutes a visual distraction. It only takes a matter of seconds for a driver to miss spotting an obstacle in the road, drift out of his lane, or fail to notice that traffic is slowing ahead of him. Watching kids in the backseat, studying a map, or looking at the navigation system display are common visual distractions.
    • Manual. If a driver takes one or both hands off the wheel, his vehicle can quickly drift into another lane. He also loses the ability to respond quickly to road hazards or other emergencies. A manual distraction is anything that causes a driver to remove his hands from the wheel, such as using an electronic gadget or reaching for items in the vehicle. Typical examples of manual distractions include texting, smoking, eating, and personal grooming.
    • Cognitive. Even when a driver’s eyes are on the road and his hands are on the wheel—his mind may be elsewhere. He may be daydreaming, thinking about his plans for the evening, or reliving an argument he got into at work. Anything that causes a vehicle operator to think intently about something other than driving is a cognitive distraction, which can affect both judgment and reaction time. Talking with a passenger, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and driving while fatigued are common cognitive distractions.

    Receiving Compensation for Your Injuries

    If you’ve been injured in a collision with a distracted driver, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can investigate to establish proof of the driver’s negligence and help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

     

  • I used my personal health insurance for treatment following an accident caused by another driver. I settled with that driver's insurance, and now my health insurer id demanding to be reimbursed. Do I have to pay them?

    Yes

    Explanation:

    When your health insurer pays for your medical expenses for treatment caused by someone else’s negligence, and you ultimately recover monetary damages from that negligent person, your health insurer has a right to be reimbursed (these are called rights of subrogation) from you out of the accident money you received. 

    Here is the reasoning - Your settlement money from the negligent driver’s insurance included payment to you for medical bills resulting from your treatment.  But your health insurer also paid you (by paying the health care provider) for those same medical bills. 

    To allow you to be paid for the medical bills, while also having your own health insurance pay for those same bills, is the legal equivalent of “double dipping”.  Instead, your health insurer has a legal right of subrogation (i.e. right of reimbursement) that requires you to reimburse them in the amount they paid on your behalf for treatment resulting from the accident.

    Keep in mind, if you do not ultimately make a recovery from the responsible driver, either because they didn’t carry insurance, or for any other reason, you would not be required to reimburse your health insurer anything.  Your health insurance company’s subrogation rights are triggered only upon your receipt of monetary damages from the negligent party. 

    This answer provides a simple explanation, but there are often more complex factors involving subrogation rights, including the amount that must be reimbursed.   For this reason, we recommend seeking legal counsel to help ensure all of your legal rights and remedies are considered when dealing with issues of reimbursement. 

    Call us at 575-208-1630 for a free consultation to see how we can help you. 

  • Should I use my own personal health insurance for medical treatment following an accident?

    Yes.  If given the option, you should insist on using your own personal health insurance for all of your medical treatment, even if the accident was caused by another person.

    Explanation:

    After an accident, you should seek immediate medical attention.  The most important thing is to get the treatment you need, and do not let issues of insurance and payment prevent you from getting the proper treatment.   Your safety and health will always be top priority!

    If given the option, you should insist on using your own personal health insurance for all of your medical treatment, even if the accident was caused by another person. 

    Understandably, many people are hesitant to use their own health insurance to pay since their injuries were caused by someone else—shouldn’t the responsible party’s insurance have to pay?  The answer is yes, they should!

    But, determining who the “responsible” party is may not be immediately clear and often times can only be determined after a lengthy investigation.  Many accidents have disputed liability (i.e. who was at fault).  There are also other factors that must be determined, such as whether the other driver carried insurance.

    Since medical treatment is typically required immediately after an accident, you do not want to delay medical treatment while the legal issues of the accident are sorted out.  This is where New Mexico law provides the appropriate remedy.

    New Mexico law provides reimbursement rights to your health insurer for benefits paid out on your behalf that were caused by another person’s negligence.  That means if your health insurer pays for your medical expenses for treatment caused by someone else’s negligence, and you ultimately recover monetary damages from that negligent person, your health insurer has a right to be reimbursed (these are called rights of subrogation) from you out of the accident money you received.  

    Quick Example:
     
    You are driving and a negligent driver runs a stop sign and hits you.  An ambulance arrives and transports you to the hospital.   You remember reading something from The Injury and Disability Law Center that said to use your personal health insurance if you are in an accident.  The hospital bills your personal health insurance for payment for your treatment.  It is later determined that the other driver was at fault for causing the accident, and carried auto insurance.  The negligent driver’s insurance company then pays you for your bodily injury damages from the accident, which include your medical bills.  Your receipt of payment from the responsible party’s insurance for your damages triggers the legal right of your health insurance company to be reimbursed what they paid out for your treatment caused by the negligent driver. 
     

    As you can see in the example, the law ultimately is designed to place the financial burden on the wrongdoer.  In this example, the negligent driver.  Even though your health insurance paid out initially, the wrongdoer paid for those damages through a settlement with you, and you are then able (and required) to pay your health insurer back.  This process ensures there is no improper shifting of the financial burden unfairly to your health insurer, while at the same time allowing you to receive the timely medical treatment you need. 

  • How much is my personal injury case worth?

    When you must make the difficult decision to file a claim for compensation after suffering an injury in a car, slip and fall, or other personal injury accident, it's important to know whether or not it's worth your time to file a claim. To start this assessment, you first have to know the damages for which you can receive a settlement.   

    Types of Compensation You're Entitled to in Personal Injury Cases

    Although each personal injury claim is unique, most people report the same type of damages in order to regain financial stability after suffering an injury. You may be awarded compensation for the following:

    • Medical bills. You're entitled to reimbursement for the cost of doctor visits, hospitalizations, surgery, prescription medications, physical therapy, and any other expenses associated with treatment for your injuries.
    • Wage losses. This includes income you'll lose while you're off work, vacation and sick time benefits, bonuses, and commissions. If you must make a career change or become disabled due to your injuries, you may also be entitled to lost earning capacity, which is the future income and job benefits you might lose as a result of those changes.
    • Pain and suffering. You're entitled to be reimbursed for emotional trauma, pain, and suffering caused by your accident and injury. Since there isn't a set formula for calculating this amount, you'll need the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney to value this part of your claim.
    • Wrongful death. If a family member died as a result of his or her injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for the financial losses you suffered as well as the support, companionship, and advice of your loved one.
    • Punitive damages. When the at-fault party’s actions are grossly negligent, punitive damages may be awarded.

    Factors That Affect the Value of Your Claim

    The exact amount you receive in a settlement is based on a number of factors that affect the strength or weakness of your claim. Some of these factors include:

    • Liability. If the liability of the negligent party is clear-cut, or he admits being at fault, this strengthens the claim and makes it more likely that you'll receive what you are owed. When there are issues about your fault in contributing to your injuries, you may have to accept less when settling the case.
    • Severity of injuries. Your claim will be worth more if your injuries are more severe or cause some permanent injury than if you suffer a minor injury that you recover from quickly.
    • Insurance coverage. The amount of insurance coverage for the negligent party affects the value of your settlement in a practical way. No matter how much the amount of damages, you can only receive the insurance liability coverage in settlement of your claim.
    • Your attorney. Having an experienced personal injury attorney with a track record of successfully settling and trying cases similar to yours can increase the value of the case. He or she will be able to thoroughly investigate your accident, build a strong case against the negligent party, and negotiate a settlement that provides you with deserving compensation.

    If you were injured in a personal injury accident, call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We'll discuss the parties who could be responsible for compensating you and the value of your personal injury claim.

     

  • How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in New Mexico?

    If you or a family member suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle, slip and fall, or personal injury accident, you may need to file a claim for compensation with the negligent party’s insurance company.

    When you do this, it's important to understand the basic process, such as the types of compensation that you may be entitled to, how personal injury claims work, and the evidence that you will need to prove your case.

    In addition, a crucial law to understand is the statute of limitations in New Mexico.

    What Is the Statute of Limitations in New Mexico?

    The statute of limitations is the New Mexico law that sets the time period for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against all negligent parties who caused your accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit within these time periods, you waive your right to do so, and the judge would most likely dismiss your case.

    It is very important that you always consult an attorney to make sure you are filing your claim within the statute of limitations.

    As a general guideline, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury case is:

    • Two years from the date of the accident for a claim against a governmental entity, including a 90-day tort claim notice from the date of the accident
    • Three years from the date of the accident for personal injuries suffered
    • Three years from the date of the victim’s death if a loved one died from his or her injuries and you must file a wrongful death action
    • Four years from the date of the accident for property damage suffered

    Act Fast: Contact an Attorney Soon After Your Accident

    One of the best ways to ensure you receive what you deserve in a settlement is to retain an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after your accident. Even if your accident happened recently and you have a long time to file a lawsuit, you might be making a big mistake that could weaken your claim for compensation.

    If you wait to hire a lawyer, you limit his ability to promptly investigate the cause of your accident and interview witnesses. If too much time lapses between the incident and his investigation, scene evidence may disappear, or individuals may move or forget important details to help your claim. Your attorney can also handle all communications with the insurance adjuster and help you avoid mistakes, such as agreeing to give a recorded statement or signing the insurance company’s medical release, which could hurt your case.

    Do you need to file a claim following a personal injury accident? Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options, and how we can help you fight to hold the negligent parties accountable.