States have varying laws when it comes to liability in an accident. New Mexico adheres to a fault-based system, meaning when a driver causes an accident as a result of his or her own negligence, she or he is responsible for paying any damages the crash caused.
Some states are no-fault states. In these states, each party must turn to his or her own insurance policies to pay for medical bills, property damage, and other expenses related to the accident. Only if the damages from the accident reached a certain level of severity can a plaintiff file a claim against the at-fault party. However, New Mexico residents need not be concerned about this, as New Mexico is an at-fault state.
In this article, we'll discuss car accident liability – what happens when you are at fault, when liability is divided among parties, and other things to know about liability after an auto accident in New Mexico.
If you have questions about liability in a car accident of which you were a part, call or text our car accident lawyers in Santa Fe, New Mexico today at (505) 386-2807. You can also fill out our online contact form, and we'll reach out to you.
What If Fault Is Divided Among Multiple Parties?
When two or more parties are responsible for the car accident, fault can be shared. In this case, New Mexico follows the “pure comparative negligence” theory. This means that liability will be divided among the parties according to the percentage of fault each party had in the accident. Comparative fault allows at-fault drivers to receive some compensation after an accident; the compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
For example, if a plaintiff was rewarded $100,000 in damages, and they were found to be 20 percent liable, they'd receive $80,000 in compensation from the defendant who was found to be 80 percent responsible for the wreck.
Proving and dividing liability can get complex in these situations. As such, it's important to have a car accident lawyer in Santa Fe on your side. Your attorney will collect evidence to prove your fault was as low a percentage as possible, which will provide you more compensation down the road.
How Can You Prove the Accident Wasn't Your Fault?
To prove that you had no liability in the accident (or that it wasn't entirely your fault), your auto accident lawyer will collect evidence to present your case to the insurance company. Additionally, your lawyer will help you file paperwork, communicate with the insurance provider(s), and negotiate your settlement. In some cases, if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, your lawyer may need to file a lawsuit to get you the compensation you deserve.
As stated above, determining fault can be complicated. To do this, your attorney will gather evidence that may include any of the following:
Police accident reports
Accident reconstruction analysis
Video and photo evidence from the scene
Electronic crash data
Medical records and bills
Even if parties are pointing fingers and denying fault, there is usually neutral evidence that can be found to prove who caused the auto accident.
What If the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance Coverage?
Unfortunately, if the at-fault driver who hit you has no insurance, you may have to turn to your own insurance policy to pay your bills. This is why uninsured motorist coverage can be vital to recovery after a car accident. Despite this, uninsured motorist insurance is optional in New Mexico. Purchasing this optional coverage could save you a lot of money and grief should you get into an accident with an uninsured party.
If you do get into an accident with someone who has no insurance, rest assured that the insured party will not get off easily. The uninsured, at-fault driver will be fined and may lose his or her license. Officials are authorized to request proof of insurance following an accident. If it cannot be produced, the uninsured driver will be penalized – whether at fault or not. Within a 30-day period, it is required to inform your insurance agent to update the insurance status with the motor vehicle department. If insurance had not been previously purchased, it must be purchased. After the 30-day period, drivers will be charged with a misdemeanor. Penalties could include fines, jail time, or both, depending on what the court decides. NM Stat § 66-5-205.
These situations are less than desirable for all involved. Protect yourself, and purchase uninsured motorist insurance. Additionally, never drive without proof of financial responsibility, as it is prohibited by New Mexico law.
What Is the Timeline to File a Personal Injury Suit in New Mexico?
In New Mexico, you have three years from the time of your accident or the date you discover your injury to file a civil suit. If you are bringing a case against a government agency in New Mexico, you will only have two years to file. However, in the event, you are seeking a property damage-only lawsuit, you have four years from the date of the accident.
The longer you wait, the harder it will be to prove a claim; evidence may be lost, car accident parties may move, medical records may be compromised, or a number of other events may occur. Contact a car accident lawyer in New Mexico as soon as possible to increase the efficacy of your claim.
Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in New Mexico?
Hiring an auto accident attorney is advisable, especially if the fault of the accident is contested, or the insurance company is offering you a ridiculously low settlement. A lawyer will help establish fault, communicate and negotiate with insurance companies, and get you the compensation you need and deserve.
If you have been in an accident and need legal help, text or call us at (505) 386-2807 for a free consultation. You can also fill out this online form. Don't go at this alone– we're here to support you.