What You Need To Know About Filing Auto Accident Claims in an At-Fault State

States are usually either fault or no-fault states for car accident claims. The distinction is significant because it can impact your ability to recover damages for an auto accident claim. 

New Mexico is a fault or at-fault state for auto accident claims. In the sections to follow, our Albuquerque car crash attorneys discuss the differences between at-fault and fault states, including what you need to know about filing auto accident claims in a state like New Mexico. 

What Does It Mean To Be an At-Fault State for Car Accident Claims?

In a no-fault state, drivers are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. PIP insurance is no-fault car insurance that pays benefits regardless of who caused the accident. 

Generally, you file a claim with your insurance provider if you have no-fault insurance. Your provider pays benefits according to your insurance policy, even if you caused the accident. You receive benefits without proving the other driver caused the accident, too.

However, in an at-fault state like New Mexico, things work a bit differently. First, a bit of background: as with most no-fault states, drivers must purchase liability insurance. Liability insurance coverage pays the accident victim in a crash that you caused. New Mexico drivers must have minimum liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death to one person
  • $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death to two or more people per accident
  • $10,000 in property damage coverage

If you get hurt in a car accident in New Mexico, you can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy – as opposed to going through your own PIP policy. You also have the option of filing a lawsuit against the other driver, which you normally couldn’t do in a no-fault state.

Proving Liability for a Car Accident Claim in an At-Fault State Like New Mexico

As noted, if another driver caused your accident, you can file an auto accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (or file a lawsuit against them). However, before you receive compensation for damages, you must prove fault.

Negligence is the most common basis for at-fault car accident claims. Therefore, you must have evidence proving the following legal elements of a negligence claim to recover compensation for damages:

All motorists have a duty of care to follow traffic laws and use reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle. Breach of duty refers to conduct that does not meet the reasonable standard of care for a given set of circumstances. The level of care is based on what a reasonable person would have done in a given situation.

For example, a motorist speeds through a school zone, going 30 miles over the speed limit. A jury might conclude that the driver breached their duty of care because a reasonable person would not drive that fast in a school zone. 

However, you must also prove that the driver’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of the car crash. In other words, the driver could reasonably foresee that their conduct could result in harm to others, and the accident would not have occurred had it not been for the driver’s conduct.

Lastly, you must prove that you sustained damages. Damages represent the harm you sustained because of the car accident. They can include your pain and suffering, as well as your financial losses.

What Damages Can I Receive for an Auto Accident Claim in Albuquerque, NM?

No-fault insurance typically compensates you for medical expenses and loss of income. In some states, PIP only compensates the person for a portion of their losses. PIP does not compensate the person for damages related to their pain and suffering.

Liability insurance is different. You can file a claim against the at-fault driver for the full value of your economic damages. Those damages include:

Additionally, you can file a claim for non-economic damages. These damages represent the pain and suffering caused by the accident and include:

  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Mental anguish
  • Impairment and disability
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Physical pain and suffering

The value of your damages depends on many factors. Generally, damages increase when the person sustains a catastrophic injury or permanent impairment. 

Other factors impact how much your case is worth, including the parties involved in the case and the strength of your evidence proving fault. Your fault for causing the accident also impacts how much money you receive for an auto accident claim in an at-fault state.

Contributory Fault and At-Fault Auto Accident Claims in New Mexico 

With no-fault insurance, you do not need to prove who caused the accident. Your PIP insurance provider pays you benefits no matter who caused the car crash. You could be partially to blame or entirely to blame for the cause of the crash and receive the same benefits.

However, in an at-fault state, the victim’s degree of fault for causing an accident directly impacts their compensation for damages.

If the other driver is 100% to blame for causing your car accident, you can receive up to the full value of your damages. However, if you share the blame for causing the car accident, New Mexico’s comparative negligence law impacts how much you receive for damages. 

Under the state’s contributory fault law, a victim’s compensation for damages is reduced by their fault level for causing the accident. Suppose a jury awards you $100,000 for damages caused by a car accident. 

However, the jurors found that you were 50% to blame for causing the crash. Because you are one-half to blame for causing the accident, you would only receive one-half of the damages award or $50,000.

Insurance companies use comparative negligence to undervalue damages. An insurance adjuster may try to convince you that you should accept a car accident settlement instead of pursuing your claim because you could receive much less than the company offers to settle.

Schedule a Free Case Review With a Car Accident Lawyer

In an at-fault state, it is crucial that you don’t admit fault for causing an accident without legal advice. It would be best to speak with an Albuquerque car accident lawyer before accepting a settlement offer as well. Settling a car accident claim without legal counsel could result in receiving much less than you deserve for your claim.

Contact the New Mexico Car Accident Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Albuquerque, NM, and need legal help, contact our Albuquerque car accident attorneys at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers
400 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 650
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 594-3621