Articles Posted in Car Crash

alcoholic beveragesDrinking while intoxicated by alcohol reduces the ability of a driver to control a moving vehicle and judge distances, speeds, and movements of other vehicles on the road.

Under New Mexico’s DWI laws, it is illegal for drivers who are 21 years old and older to drive with a breath or blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The limit is 0.02 for drivers under 21 years of age and 0.04 for drivers of commercial vehicles.  Drivers whose breath or blood tests show they are driving with alcohol levels in their bodies above the legal limit, or drivers who refuse to take a breath or blood test, can lose their licenses to drive, in most cases for a period of over one year.  In New Mexico, a person can also be convicted of DWI in instances in which breath or blood tests show alcohol levels below the legal limit, but the ability to drive is impaired by drugs or alcohol.  People driving while intoxicated also risk heavy fines, increased insurance rates, and jail sentences.  Still, unfortunately, people drink and drive, causing many New Mexico drunk driving accidents.

A program at the Department of Transportation has resulted in a new free smartphone app called Zero Proof to offer children tips on how to avoid underage drinking and handle drunk people whom they encounter.

school busRecoveries of monetary damages can be had in New Mexico by way of financial compensation for injuries sustained in accidents in moving vehicles.  Injuries can be worse when people are not wearing seat belts.  Currently, New Mexico law does not require school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

A New Mexico school bus accident north of Española that took place in 2013 brought public attention to school bus safety issues. According to reports, at around 7:30 in the morning, a school bus left the road and went down a 30-foot embankment.  The driver had about 30 years of experience and was killed in the accident.  According to a spokesman for the police, nine students between the ages of six and 16 were on board when the accident occurred.  Eight of the children were taken to a local hospital.  Most of the children suffered bumps, bruises, and scrapes – relatively minor injuries, considering the gravity of the accident.  Among the most severe of the immediate injuries sustained by the children who were aboard the bus at the time of the accident were a broken back suffered by an eight-year-old boy and a broken jaw suffered by a 16-year-old girl.

New Mexico seat belt laws require drivers and all passengers in cars to wear a seat belt.  Additionally, child safety seats and booster seats are required for young children. Specifically, New Mexico law requires that all children who weigh less than 60 pounds, as well as all children up to their seventh birthday regardless of their weight, must ride in a child safety seat.  The law also requires that children ages seven to 12 years old ride in a booster seat until adult seat belts fit them properly.  Booster seats need to be used with not only a shoulder belt but also a lap belt.  If a child or any other passengers are not wearing seat belts when stopped, the officer stopping the car can issue child restraint or seat belt violations, depending on the situation, to enforce New Mexico’s seat belt laws.

Accident victims who successfully prove liability, or legal fault, in a New Mexico truck accident case may be awarded several types of damages. Compensatory damages are a common type of damages, which includes lost wages, costs of medical care, and emotional pain and suffering.  Compensatory damages serve the purpose of placing the accident victim in the position they would be had the accident not occurred.

truck accident
Another type of damages available to some truck accident victims is punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the defendant(s) for their conduct and to deter others from engaging in similar practices.  While punitive damages awards are often large in size, it can be challenging for accident victims to obtain them in a personal injury case.

In a recent case before a California appellate court, the court analyzed what is required to justify an award of punitive damages against the employer of a negligent truck driver. This case is relevant to New Mexico lawsuits because, like California, New Mexico law requires that to award punitive damages, the defendant’s conduct be egregious. Among other things, this means that the conduct must be willful, wanton, malicious, reckless, or negligent and in bad faith.  Courts apply different factors to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate.  In most cases, the analysis will focus on the type of harm suffered and the level of recklessness the defendant exhibited to assess whether punitive damages should be awarded.

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.