Articles Posted in Car Crash

People hurt in a New Mexico car accident have the right to pursue legal remedies against all at-fault parties for causing their harm. Often, car accident legal claims are filed under a negligence theory of law.  Negligence is a failure to act reasonably, under the circumstances.  Careless drivers who speed or drive distractedly may be deemed negligent by a judge or jury if the plaintiff proves all of the necessary legal elements of a negligence allegation.  These elements include duty, breach, causation, and damages.

traffic signal
In a recent appellate case, the important concept of causation was at issue, when that court assessed whether a defendant’s hand gesture in waving the plaintiff forward in his vehicle proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  After reviewing the facts of the case, the court determined that the plaintiff was unable to show the defendant’s conduct caused his injuries. This case is significant because New Mexico negligence law also requires a showing of causation, since the defendant’s conduct must be the but-for cause of the accident. In other words, but for the defendant’s conduct, the accident would not have occurred.

The plaintiff in the appellate case was an on-duty officer driving in his patrol car.  He approached an intersection and was attempting to make a left hand turn across two lanes of traffic, in order to return his car to the barracks.  The plaintiff encountered a line of cars in the close eastbound lane and made eye contact with the defendant, who was operating a vehicle in the close eastbound lane of traffic.  The defendant checked his mirrors and motioned for the plaintiff to drive forward.  As the plaintiff slowly proceeded in front of the defendant’s car and entered the far eastbound lane of traffic, he was struck by another motorist.

The New Mexico statute prohibiting texting while driving makes clear that while driving a motor vehicle, no person shall read or view text messages or manually type on their mobile device.  Drivers who are stopped temporarily, at a stoplight, at a stop-sign, or in traffic, are required to abide by this ban.  New Mexico fines drivers $25 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.

distracted driving
According to the statute, “driving” means that an individual is in actual physical control of their car.  If a driver has pulled to the side of the road, or has stopped and remains stationary, they are not considered to be driving.  This is important, and a New Mexico car accident lawyer will recognize that the law provides a way for drivers to communicate via mobile phones while in the driver’s seat of their car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made clear that millions of drivers across the nation are using cell phones.  Restricting the use of cell phones while behind the wheel should help to reduce collisions. In other words, the importance of this texting and driving law is that it targets a major cause of motor vehicle collisions throughout the state.  Drivers who remove their eyes from the road, especially while traveling at a high rate of speed, can travel long distances and cause serious harm to others due to their neglect.

Drunk driving, or driving while intoxicated, remains a major problem throughout New Mexico. The epidemic of drunk driving continues to cause serious car accidents and catastrophic, even fatal harm.  New Mexico car accident attorney Matthew Vance is familiar with the devastating consequences of collisions resulting from drivers who choose to operate their vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A recently proposed bill in the New Mexico legislature seeks to address drivers who continue to drive under the influence of alcohol.

liquor store

While HB 271 did not reach the New Mexico House floor during the regularly scheduled session, it is a bill that will likely be considered again in the expected special legislative session this year.  HB 271 bars the sale of alcohol to repeat DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenders throughout the state.  Representative Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert (R-NM) intends to ban second-time DWI offenders from purchasing alcohol for a year, and third or subsequent offenders will be prevented from buying alcohol for life.

The intentions of HB 271 are to address New Mexico’s growing alcohol abuse problem.  The New Mexico Department of Health indicates that the state has the highest alcohol-related death rate in the United States. In fact, statistics indicate that New Mexico’s alcohol-related death rate is increasing, while it is decreasing nationally.

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At issue in a recent appeal before a New Mexico District Court was whether the plaintiff had deliberately misled the court into suspecting she lied about her car accident injuries. In their analysis, the court discussed whethecrashr evidence submitted by a physician who had examined the plaintiff should be stricken from the record.  Additionally, the court assessed whether there remained a genuine issue of material fact or whether the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment regarding a claim that the insurance company breached their duty by denying her the value of her claim.

The underlying accident in this case was a rear-end collision, which allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries to her neck and back.  She made a claim with her own insurance for medical payments after the accident.  Eventually, the plaintiff settled her third-party claim against the at-fault driver for $43,000.

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Following a car accident, injured individuals may find themselves dealing with an automobile insurance claim.  The complexities of these claims can range from determining potential coverage to assessing whether the insurer is acting in good faith.  Recently, a lawsuit before the New Mexico District Court ceparking dentntered on claims that an automobile insurance company mishandled an insured’s claim for damages following a car accident.  The court issued a ruling on whether to bifurcate the trials, meaning that they would separate the plaintiff’s claims. According to the court, separate trials may be necessary to avoid prejudice or to encourage efficiency.

The plaintiff in this case alleged that she suffered injuries in a rear-end collision in Deming, New Mexico.  According to the plaintiff, the other driver struck her vehicle on the rear bumper.  While this driver’s insurance coverage extended to $25,000, the plaintiff claimed that her injuries extended beyond this limit. She made a claim against her own insurer, which provided bodily injury liability coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  She claimed that according to her policy, the insurer should pay her damages because she suffered injuries due to another driver’s negligence.  According to the plaintiff, her claim against her insurer was timely and reasonable but had been denied.

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The New Mexico Supreme Court recently held that fraudulent concealment tolls the statute of limitations for a cause of action under the Wrongful Death Act (WDA). Essentially, the question was whether the WDA should be strictly construed, and the three-year statue of limitations should apply, or whether willful, deceitful conduct by defendants tolls the statute of limitations. The Court reviewed policy considerations underlying New Mexico’s law, and it held that while plaintiffs must diligently pursue their claims once an injury (or death) has been discovered, defendants cannot benefit from fraudulent concealment that prevents plaintiffs from filing claims. In this opinion, the Court held that fraudulent concealment tolled the statute of limitations for plaintiffs pursuing a wrongful death claim.

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The facts of this case center on a fatal car accident. In September 2006, the victim’s 2002 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated into a highway intersection. The car collided with a tractor-trailer and burst into flames. On behalf of the deceased driver, her estate filed a wrongful death claim in August 2010. They asserted products liability claims as well as other legal claims against the car manufacturer, the car dealer, and others (defendants).

The wrongful death action had been filed over three years after the date of the victim’s death. The defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the three-year statute of limitations in the Wrongful Death Act (WDA) barred the claim. They contended that the WDA statute of limitations, which accrues as of the date of death, is to be strictly construed.

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New Mexico drivers need to remember and practice the rules of safety when driving in adverse weather conditions, including rain, snow, and ice.  Too often some drivers negligently disregard the conditions, fail to pay attention to the changing driving conditions, don’t allow themselves extra time to negotiate the adverse circumstances, or simply speed on ahead in all disregard of their safety and ours.  As you take to the road in the winter, please remember you are not the only one on the road.  Slow down at the first sign of snow, rain, or other inclement weather.  Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.  Keep pace with traffic.  Be aware of others on the roadway and anticipate that an emergency circumstance is more likely to arise; drive defensively.  In short, as the risk of danger increases, so too does your duty to exercise reasonable care.  Be a reasonable and safe driver.

This week Albuquerque got hit by its first major winter storm.  The arctic blast left a layer of snow over much of the city and turned roads into sheets of ice for the first few hours of the morning on Friday.  At first schools, businesses, and courts went on a delay, then they began to close for the day because the cold temperatures were turning the layer of fresh snow into ice.  The City of Albuquerque and State of New Mexico Department of Transportation were hard pressed to keep up with the conditions.  While some drivers stayed home or limited their driving, others took to the streets.  I was one of those that took to the streets.  I was scheduled to be a mediator on a case and there were going to be a number of people waiting on me and depending on me to keep the appointment.

I’ll admit, as I left my house I had a certain amount of anxiety about driving in the ice and snow.  However, the greater weight of my anxiety came from my apprehension about other drivers, about their commitment to being safe in the adverse conditions.