Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Personal Injury Victims
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Are punitive damages possible after a New Mexico car crash?
If you are injured in a car accident in New Mexico, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain suffering from the negligent driver who caused your collision. Depending on his actions when causing the crash, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
What You Must Prove to Be Entitled to Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are not designed to compensate car accident victims. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a negligent driver for especially egregious conduct and to deter him and others from engaging in that type of wrongful behavior.
It is not easy to establish that punitive damages should be awarded in a car accident claim. In New Mexico, it must be proven that the other driver engaged in one of these types of egregious conduct:
- Malicious conduct. Conduct can be malicious if it is an intentional wrongful act done, knowing that it is wrong.
- Willful conduct. A negligent driver can engage in willful conduct if he intentionally engages in an action that he knows could harm others.
- Reckless conduct. A motorist’s conduct may be considered reckless if he intentionally takes an action with utter indifference to the consequences.
- Wanton conduct. Conduct may be wanton if it is done with total indifference to or with a conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.
It is up to the jury to decide whether punitive damages should be awarded. The jury is permitted to consider the property and wealth of the negligent driving in making an award. The amount of punitive damages must be in proportion to the driver’s conduct and wrongdoing.
When Can You Sue for Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases?
Punitive damages are not available in all auto collision claims. They are most commonly awarded in cases where a driver was driving while intoxicated (DWI) either due to alcohol or drug use. Other types of accidents where punitive damages may be justified are when the motorist was driving at an excessive speed above the speed limit or was engaged in road rage behaviors that caused a crash.
How Our Experienced Attorneys Can Assist You
Were you injured in a car accident? Was a family member killed? Let our experienced car accident lawyers help you hold the negligent driver and his insurance company accountable for fully compensating you for your injuries. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis so you only owe us attorney fees when we settle your claim. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
Can I file a lawsuit if my loved one died in a New Mexico car crash?
It is never easy to lose a family member, but having a loved one killed in an auto accident can make the grief even more painful. Fortunately, you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent driver in a wrongful death action. While this will not lessen your pain, it can give you justice and help you move forward in your life.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico?
Under New Mexico law, a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file a wrongful death action again the at-fault motorist. If the deceased had an estate plan, such as a will, he would have appointed a personal representative or executor in this document. The personal representative is frequently a surviving spouse, adult child of the deceased, or adult sibling. The court can appoint a personal representative if the accident victim did not have an estate plan.
While the personal representative represents the deceased person in the car accident lawsuit, he does not decide how the settlement proceeds are distributed. The beneficiaries of the victim’s estate would be entitled to these funds.
Time Period to File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico
The statute of limitations is the deadline a person has to file a lawsuit and can be different depending on the type of legal claim being pursued. Under New Mexico law, the time period to file a wrongful death action is three years from the date of the deceased’s death. If a lawsuit is filed after this deadline has expired, the judge will most likely dismiss the complaint.
Damages Awarded in NM Wrongful Death Cases
If the other driver’s negligence in causing your loved one’s death is proven, the personal representative can seek damages on behalf of you and any other beneficiaries. The types of compensation that you may be awarded include:
- Medical expenses caused by the car accident
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the deceased’s companionship
- Mental anguish
- Any pain and suffering your family member suffered due to his injuries before his death
- Your loved one’s financial contribution to your household
- Loss of inheritance
- Punitive damages to punish the driver if his actions were grossly negligent
Our Experienced Attorneys Are Here to Help
If you have lost a loved one in an auto collision, our skilled and compassionate car accident lawyers are here to explain your legal options to you and take over the burden of filing your wrongful death claim so that you can focus on your grief. To schedule your free consultation, start a live chat or fill out our convenient online form.
Who is responsible for a multi-vehicle crash?
If you suffer injuries in a multi-vehicle accident in New Mexico, you must prove which driver was at fault in causing your collision in order to receive the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. These cases can be much more complicated than crashes involving just two autos. You will need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney if you want to win your case.
Common Causes of Multi-Vehicle Accidents
There are many reasons that negligent drivers cause multi-car pile-ups, and more than one person may be partially to blame. Common causes of these accidents include:
- Tailgating another vehicle
- Drowsy driving
- Distracted driving, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, or fiddling with vehicle instrument controls
- Not driving for weather conditions
- Failing to follow traffic laws, such as failing to yield at an intersection, not using turn signals, or making an unsafe lane change
How to Identify the Negligent Drivers
An experienced lawyer will know how to conduct a thorough investigation of your collision to determine who was at fault in causing it. He may recommend retaining an accident reconstruction expert who can examine the evidence and create a reenactment of how your crash happened.
As part of his investigation, your attorney will collect and analyze evidence that will help him identify the negligent drivers. This can include the following:
- Pictures of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles
- Police report
- Witness statements
- Surveillance tapes from nearby businesses
- Traffic camera footage
- Statements of any drivers involved in the collision
- Cell phone records
Negotiating Your Settlement Can Be Complicated
Because more than one driver may have caused your accident, you may have to file claims for compensation with more than one insurance company. They may try to point the finger at each other in an effort to deny any liability or reduce the amount they have to pay in settlement of your claim. A lawyer will be able to conduct complex negotiations with multiple insurance companies simultaneously to ensure that you receive what you deserve in your settlement.
If you were injured in a multi-vehicle crash, our experienced car accident attorneys are here to provide you with the personalized legal assistance that you need. To learn more about your legal options and how we can help, call our Roswell office today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
How can I determine whether or not a drowsy driver caused my vehicle collision?
Too many motorists cause serious collisions because they are too sleepy to operate their vehicles properly. Drowsiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgement, and increases collision risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving caused 795 fatalities during 2017.
Drowsy Driving Causes
Most drowsy driving collisions occur when drivers drift out of their lanes or leave the road, leading to head-on collisions, sideswipes, and side-impact accidents. Drowsy driving is often caused by:
- Shift work. Employees who routinely work the night shift or irregular hours may suffer from sleep deprivation, causing them to drive while they are exhausted.
- Alcohol. Alcohol consumption can increase a driver’s drowsiness.
- Sleep disorders. Drivers with undiagnosed sleep apnea or narcolepsy may fall asleep while they are on the road.
- Sedating medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can induce drowsiness in motorists.
Drowsy Driving Evidence
Unlike alcohol and drug testing, there are no tests to determine whether or not a motorist is guilty of drowsy driving. However, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather evidence to prove that the driver was drowsy, including:
- A lack of skid marks at the accident scene, indicating that the sleepy driver made no effort to stop the vehicle.
- Work or school attendance records, which may be used to show that the motorist was suffering from a lack of sleep.
- Prescription records for medications known to induce drowsiness.
- Cell phone records, social media posts, and credit card records proving that the drowsy driver had been awake for an extended period of time.
You Need the Representation of a Skilled Vehicle Accident Attorney
Fatigued driving can be just as risky as drunk driving, and victims of these accidents need representation by a skilled vehicle accident attorney. If you’ve been hurt by a drowsy driver, your attorney can gather evidence to establish 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.
What should I do when an insurance adjuster requests a recorded statement?
After you’ve sustained injuries in a vehicle accident, you may be contacted by an adjuster from your own insurance company, as well as the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. Your response to requests from these adjusters can have a huge impact on your vehicle accident claim.
Responding to the Insurance Company
Regardless of whether you are contacted by your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, the insurance adjuster’s job isn’t to help you. The adjuster works for the insurance company, with the goal of saving the insurer as much money as possible. The insurance adjuster will likely ask you for a recorded statement. The appropriate response to this request depends on whether you are being contacted by an adjuster from:
Your Own Insurance Company
If the adjuster from your own insurance company asks for a recorded statement, you must either comply or risk denial of your claim. This is because you, as the insured, are contractually obligated to cooperate with your insurance company. While you are required to comply with your insurer’s request for a recorded statement, you should only do so under the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
The other driver’s insurance company will likely contact you and request a recorded statement. However, you are under no obligation to provide a statement to someone else’s insurer—and you shouldn’t. Insurance adjusters are experts at asking leading questions, and they will attempt to make you admit that the collision was partly your fault. If you say anything that can be interpreted as an admission of guilt, the other driver’s insurance company will likely use your statement to reduce or deny your claim. Instead, you should have an experienced personal injury attorney speak with the insurer on your behalf.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Claim
If you’ve been injured in a vehicle collision, a personal injury attorney can help you avoid making mistakes that jeopardize your claim. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
Do I have to go to court for my car accident case?
The vast majority of vehicle accident cases are successfully settled out of court. However, a competent attorney will be prepared to go to trial if doing so is in a client’s best interest.
Settling a Vehicle Collision Case Out of Court
There are a few reasons why car accident cases typically settle out of court, including:
- Insurance companies normally want to settle. Vehicle collision defendants rarely pay judgements out of their own pockets. Instead, their insurance company is typically responsible for resolving the claim, and they generally want to do so as soon as possible.
- Both parties wish to avoid the unpredictability of a trial. The outcome of a trial is never certain. When a vehicle accident case goes to court, the plaintiff risks receiving nothing, and the defendant risks having to pay a huge judgement. While a settlement may mean that neither party gets everything they want, it also allows both the plaintiff and the defendant to control their risks.
- The plaintiff wishes to receive compensation as soon as possible. Due to the time value of money, a payment received today is more valuable than the same payment received a year from now. Additionally, vehicle accident victims often have bills piling up due to extensive medical expenses and loss of income. Settling out of court allows a plaintiff to receive payment relatively quickly, so bills can get paid and life can return to normal.
- Both parties wish to minimize the cost of litigation. Litigation is expensive, particularly when a case drags on for years. Both sides must endure the costs associated with procuring evidence, hiring expert witnesses, and taking depositions, but a settlement minimizes these expenses.
An Attorney Can Help You Prepare for the Best Outcome
While it is generally in a plaintiff’s best interest to settle a vehicle accident case out of court, the particular circumstances of your claim will determine the best course of action. We are always prepared to go to trial when necessary, in order to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.
What is drugged driving in New Mexico?
Everyone 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?
Injury 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 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.