Determining Fault in a New Mexico Car Accident

auto accident in Albuquerque

The majority of car accidents are completely preventable. Research tends to suggest that upwards of 90 percent of all car crashes are at least in some part due to human error. When someone causes a wreck due to carelessness, inattention, distracted driving, or intoxication, the crash involves negligence. This means someone is at fault.

However, determining who is at fault for a car accident is not always straightforward. That’s where experienced and highly skilled car accident attorneys can help.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Prove Liability in a Car Accident

Have you been hurt in a car wreck? If so, a car accident attorney in Albuquerque from Parnall Law can help you pursue financial recovery from the driver at fault for the crash by:

  • Investigating the accident to recover evidence
  • Reviewing the evidence and working with experts to identify everyone at fault for causing the crash
  • Documenting your injuries and losses
  • Putting a dollar figure on the financial and personal costs of the accident
  • Negotiating aggressively for that figure in settlement discussions
  • Taking your case to court if the insurer won’t make a fair offer

Since 1997, Parnall Law has advocated for the rights of auto accident victims across Central New Mexico. A proud Albuquerque High Bulldog, attorney Bert Parnall takes a bulldog-like approach to pursuing compensation and justice for clients. His tenacity has helped him compile a proven record of success with results that include:

  • $4 million recovery for a client who suffered severe injuries in a drunk driving accident
  • $1.5 million for an auto accident caused by a teen driver
  • $1.15 million wrongful death recovery following a motor vehicle accident caused by criminals

Let our team fight for the compensation you deserve after a New Mexico car accident.

What is a Fault in a Car Accident?

Determining Fault in a New Mexico Car Accident

In the auto insurance world, fault is the word used to describe who is ultimately responsible for causing the incident and who, in turn, is responsible for paying for the damages. It’s not a crime to cause a car accident – at least in most circumstances.

A distracted driver who runs a red light while looking at a cell phone is acting recklessly. Drivers know the dangers and ignore them, putting others in danger. When a driver’s recklessness or negligence causes injury to another, they are “at fault” and required to pay for the damages they cause.

New Mexico Fault Laws

Many people ask, “Is New Mexico a no-fault state?” The answer is no. Each state treats fault differently.

Several states have moved toward a “no-fault” system. That means that in those states, each driver is responsible for carrying no-fault insurance. If you are injured in a no-fault state, your own auto insurance picks up the costs of your property damage and for a certain amount of your personal injuries, up to the no-fault limits.

Most states have exceptions for serious injuries and fatalities. If your injuries are so severe that they exceed your insurance coverage, you can go after the other driver for the remainder of your losses.

New Mexico maintains the more traditional “fault-based” tort system. This means that each driver is responsible for their own mistakes.

If someone causes a crash, that person and their insurance company may be held responsible for paying for the damages, including physical injuries.

How is Fault Determined in an Accident in New Mexico?

Fault is proven the same way as any other type of negligence. There are 5 basic elements that must be proven to recover from your injuries:

  1. Other drivers owe you a legal duty.
    As soon as you get behind the wheel, the law says you owe others on the road a duty to use reasonable caution to avoid an accident and safeguard the welfare of others. The duty a driver owes extends to other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and anyone else who is using the road.
  2. The other driver breached their legal duty.
    If a driver does something that violates or fails to meet their duty, they have breached their duty. That breach triggers a presumption of fault. But proving that the other driver made a mistake is not enough.
  3. That breach directly caused the accident.
    You must also prove that the specific breach actually caused the accident. Consider that a driver may have been texting and driving drunk, both of which are clearly breaches. But if you are the one who rear-ends that driver at a stop light, his breach had nothing to do with causing the wreck.
  4. Your injuries were directly due to the accident.
    Once you prove that the other driver had a legal duty to you, failed to meet that duty, and that directly caused the crash, then you must prove that you suffered an injury directly because of the crash. This may seem fairly straightforward, but it can get tricky. Say you have pre-existing injuries and get into a wreck. The insurance company might argue that even though their driver caused the wreck, your injuries were not due to the crash.
  5. You suffered damages or injuries in the crash.
    Finally, you still have to prove the extent of your damages. How badly were you hurt, and how much should you be compensated?

How to Prove Fault in a New Mexico Car Accident Case

Although some car accidents may involve a presumption of fault or liability – such as a rear-end crash or a drunk-driving auto accident – others involve disputes between the drivers over who caused the crash. Proving the other driver’s fault for the car wreck may require compelling evidence that clearly shows what happened in the crash to identify which driver caused it.

Here are some types of evidence you can use to prove fault in a car crash claim.

Police Crash Reports

When a law enforcement officer responds to a car accident, they write a report summarizing the results of their investigation. A police accident report contains information about the people involved in the crash, injuries and damages caused by the accident, a diagram of the accident scene, summaries of witness statements, and possibly the officer’s determination of fault for the crash. Police crash reports can provide compelling evidence of fault since police officers have training and experience in investigating motor vehicle accidents and offer a neutral, unbiased view of the accident.

Witness Testimony

Statements from the drivers and passengers involved in the crash and eyewitnesses who saw the collision can help an insurance company or jury determine what caused a car accident, particularly when multiple accounts line up. Neutral bystanders’ testimony can also settle disputes between drivers whose versions of what happened are at odds.

Video Footage from Traffic, Surveillance, or Dash Cameras

Camera footage of the crash can also clearly depict what happened in a car crash, such as whether any of the drivers made a careless maneuver.

Accident Scene Photos

Photos taken immediately after the accident can provide critical evidence for a car accident claim. The individuals involved in the crash may take photos of details such as skid marks on the road, damage to the cars, road and weather conditions, and the presence of any traffic signs or signals.

Damage Measurements

Accident reconstruction experts may take skid marks or vehicle damage measurements to calculate details such as vehicle speed or the angle of collision.

Traffic Citations

When the police cite a driver for a motor vehicle code violation after an auto accident, the citation and a subsequent conviction can provide compelling proof of that driver’s fault for causing the crash due to their violation.

Can I Still Recover If the Fault is Shared?

Yes. You may have a legal right to seek compensation even if you are partly at fault.

New Mexico law apportions fault among the parties, so the fault can be divided, such as 80/20 or 60/40, for example. Your recovery would be reduced proportionately, but you would still be entitled to a recovery.

Insurance companies may tell you that because you were partly at fault, there is nothing they can do. They know that you may not fully understand your rights, and they are hoping that you’ll just walk away from the case.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Many auto crashes involve minor damage. Fender benders that do not involve significant injuries may not require legal representation.

Suppose you only had damage to your vehicle, and the other driver admits liability. In that case, you may be better off working with your insurance company to keep your expenses low and resolve your case.

However, even with smaller injuries, it can be helpful to work with an attorney. There are a lot of things that go into resolving an auto injury claim that people don’t consider.

For example, you may have health insurance liens, Medicare or Medicaid liens, or unpaid collections and medical bills. You may find that your health insurance company wants to be paid back for unrelated medical care that has nothing to do with the crash, thus stripping you of your entire settlement. You might find that the other driver changes their story, even after initially admitting fault.

A lot of annoyances can come up during an auto accident case that can make a lawyer’s guidance helpful. Consider whether you have time to deal with medical debt collectors, insurance lien holders, and multiple insurance adjusters calling for statements, on top of performing a thorough investigation into the evidence. It can cost a lot of money to pursue a case. Working with an attorney ensures you do not have to go through it alone.

Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer for Help

If you’ve been seriously injured by someone else’s negligence, you deserve aggressive and experienced legal representation. Don’t take chances with the insurance company. Parnall Law Firm has the experience and resources to tackle even the most challenging car wreck cases. Insurance companies want you to wait. They want you to delay doing anything about your case until the statute of limitations expires because then you have no right to recover for your injuries. They want you to believe that you have no options or that you should take whatever they offer you.

Whether the other driver has already admitted fault or the insurance company is disputing it, our team of car accident attorneys and paralegals will give your case the personalized attention you deserve. Don’t settle with the insurance company. Don’t give a recorded statement. And don’t sign anything until you’ve talked to an experienced injury lawyer about your case. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.