In your mind, there is no question about who caused the crash that left you seriously injured. You did not break any traffic laws and were not ticketed at the scene. The other driver came out of nowhere and slammed into you. The responding officer even issued him a traffic ticket. Now you are shocked to hear that the insurance company for the at-fault driver is claiming that your actions contributed to the crash, so they should not have to pay you as much in compensation. How can this be? We take a look at how comparative negligence rules work in New Mexico.
Beware of Insurance Company Tactics
You might have left the accident scene confident that the other driver would be held accountable for causing the crash. However, once his insurance company gets involved, you can be sure they will do everything they can to limit their liability. In other words, they want to pay out as little as possible on the policy. They will engage in many sneaky tactics to do so, one of which might be trying to pass off some of the blame for the crash on you. How does this help their bottom line? New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that fault can be shared among drivers, with each driver being assigned a percentage of the blame. If the court agrees with the insurance adjuster’s claim of shared fault, then the damage amount for the victim will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to him. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 10 percent at fault, damages will be reduced by 10 percent. Suddenly, a $50,000 claim is only worth $45,000.
What Does it Mean to be Partially at Fault?
You might think that you either caused the crash or you didn’t. How could you only partially cause a crash? The idea of comparative negligence is that while one driver might have broken the law by speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he would not have crashed into you if you hadn’t also made a minor error of some kind. Another argument an insurance adjuster might make is that you would not have sustained the severe injuries you did if you had not been negligent in some way. Insurance adjusters will make all kinds of wild arguments, but some possible examples of claims they might make include:
- You were not wearing a seatbelt. You are required by law to wear a seatbelt in New Mexico, so if you were not wearing one at the time of the crash and you suffered serious injuries, the insurance adjuster could argue that you broke the law and contributed to your injuries, so they should not have to pay 100 percent of your medical bills.
- Your taillights were out, or you didn’t signal. If you were rear-ended in the crash, the adjuster could claim that your tail lights or brake lights were out or that you did not use your turn signal, and their client wouldn’t have hit you if the lights were functioning.
- You were speeding. Even if their client ran a red light or stop sign, the adjuster could argue that he wouldn’t have hit you if you were not speeding through an intersection.
- You were distracted. Arguing that you could have taken evasive action to avoid the other driver if you hadn’t been distracted by your phone or passengers is another claim the adjuster might make.
Even if these claims only amount to a small percentage of fault, you could lose thousands of dollars in compensation.
A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
In order to convince the court that you should be assigned partial fault, the adjuster will have to provide evidence that you did something to earn it. That is why you need an attorney on your team to defend you. Not only will your attorney fight the claim that you were partially at fault, but he will present strong evidence that the other driver was 100 percent at fault and that your injuries warrant the amount of compensation you are demanding.
Have questions about comparative negligence? Contact our firm in Albuquerque to schedule a free consultation.