Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Personal Injury Laws in Indiana
Below are the answers to common initial questions many clients have when they first contact Keller and Keller. We hope that the information below address many initial concerns you may have, but if you don't find the answers here, please contact us with questions specific to your case. The consultation is free and confidential.
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What if the other driver was uninsured?
Unfortunately, we see this problem far too often. Our client is severely injured in a motorcycle accident that is not their fault, but the person that hit them doesn’t have car insurance. In these situations, we must look to our client’s own insurance policy to see if it has uninsured motorist coverage. If uninsured coverage is available, we must look to our client’s own insurance company to be responsible for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Many people are apprehensive about filing a claim against their own insurance company. However, we explain to them that it is important to understand that you pay your insurance premiums for a reason and have this coverage for a reason. That reason is for instances exactly like this when you need protection from the at fault driver who was uninsured.
Even when filing a claim with your own insurance company, it is critically important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for your injuries.
Are there special motorcycle laws in New Mexico?
In order to operate a motorcycle in the state of New Mexico, one must obtain a motorcycle license. According to the New Mexico DMV website, a Class M motorcycle license comes with three levels depending on age and how powerful your motorcycle is. A W endorsement is for 100cc and larger motorcycles. Y endorsements are for motorcycles between 50cc and 100cc. Finally, a Z endorsement limits riders to motorcycles with a displacement of less than 50cc. To obtain a Class M license, a driving and written test is required specific to which endorsement you will need and will go over basic motorcycle fundamentals.
Some states have moved toward requiring drivers of motorcycles to go through Motorcycle Safety Foundation training. New Mexico has not yet made that a requirement. However, the state is aware that many of the motorcycle accidents occurring each year in New Mexico are related to driver inexperience. Therefore, taking a motorcycle training class is highly recommended by New Mexico’s Motor Vehicle Division for everyone, but is required for motorcyclists under the age of 18.
New Mexico motorcyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet. If you are over 18, the decision is up to you, but is highly recommended.
What if my damaged bike was customized?
It is not uncommon for our clients to ask us about recovering for custom features on their motorcycle. Property damage recovery for motorcycles can be more difficult than recovery for cars due to the customization on the bike – it isn’t as simply as going to the store and picking out a new bike. The best way to make sure that you are fully and fairly compensated for you bike is to do the following:
- Keep and present receipts for customization to the insurance adjuster. If you have records of the expense of a custom paint job, exhaust, or other feature to your bike, receipts will often be sufficient proof for the adjuster to compensate you for these details.
- Take photographs of the damage and of specific damage to customized features.
We will always be happy to offer advice regarding your properly damage. However, we typically advise our clients that it is in their best interest to handle this portion of the claim on their own. The reason for this is because if we were to represent you with regard to your property damage, we would legally have to charge a fee, leaving you with less money than your bike is worth or less money than what you need to repair it.
What should I do after a motorcycle accident?
You’ve just been in a motorcycle accident. If you are able, the first thing that you should do is call 911. This is important for many reasons, but specifically so that you and anyone else involved can get medical treatment as quickly as possible. Secondly, calling 911 will ensure that the police respond to the scene and document what happened.
Collect the Insurance Information of the Other Driver
Unless you are taken away in an ambulance, it is important to exchange information with the other driver or drivers involved. Obtain their name, license plate number, and insurance information.
Document the Scene of the Accident With Photos
Take photos of the accident scene and of the damage to all vehicles involved. If possible, it is important to document the accident before the vehicles are moved. Take photos of where the vehicles are positioned in the roadway, of skid marks, and of surrounding features including signs, light posts, and traffic signals.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Lasting, contact the insurance companies. Contact your own insurance company immediately to report the accident. If you have the information for the other driver’s insurance company, contact them as well. This will insure that the ball gets rolling on your property damage and personal injury claims. The insurance company will likely ask you questions about the accident, since the full extent of your injuries are likely unknown at this early stage, we encourage clients to state that they are unsure of the extent of their injuries at this time and that information will be provided at a later date.
I heard I should ask for 3x my medical bills in New Mexico, is this true?
The use of this “formula” is often brought up in consultations and is thought of by many as a way to value car accident claims. Though it could be true that you may receive three times your medical bills, it is also just as likely that you could receive more or less. Never assume that the value of your accident claim is simply “3x’s your medical bills.”
There are many important factors that must be considered to determine the true value of your case including the total amount of your medical bills, your lost wages, the severity of your injuries, and your pain and suffering.
There are also factors that can increase the value of your claim. Scenarios that can do so include:
- The client’s injuries worsened over time, leading to unforeseen treatments and costly procedures.
- The client didn’t predict the type and/or duration of treatment their injuries required.
- The client didn’t anticipate the strain the accident would place on their personal life.
- The client didn’t account for the long-term psychological effects.
While your accident may include more or less factors than listed above, it is important to realize that no one can give you an actual dollar amount until your claim has been fully investigated. Ultimately, your damages are likely to have additional value if presented to an insurance company by way of experienced legal representation. Having an attorney allows you to see the full picture of your claim while relieving you of the stress from dealing with the insurance company and allowing the time to focus on getting better.
When should I call an injury lawyer?
As soon as possible. Hiring a qualified, experienced attorney who you are comfortable with and that you can trust will be the best thing you do for your case. Many people initially try to speak with the adjuster and settle the case on their own, which is understandable. Other people seek an attorney right away because they do not want to deal with the hassle of handling the claim on their own and need to focus their attention on their medical treatment. Most often, it is wise to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Don’t Be Pushed Around by Insurance Adjusters after an Accident
Often times, the insurance adjuster seems nice, fair and reasonable—at first. They will probably tell you that you don’t need an attorney. But, then they start to pressure you to settle. They tell you that they will pay for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, IF you settle NOW. But, beware and make sure you stop and think before you sign anything. Remember that you can only settle your case once. If you are still experiencing pain or haven’t been released from your doctor’s care, don’t settle. If your doctor said that you need to follow up in one month, wait. If you are worried that the pain might return, hold off. Once you accept the insurance company’s offer, you are barred from further recovery. So, if you sign today but go to the doctor tomorrow, your doctor’s appointment tomorrow will not be covered. Therefore, it is often when the insurance adjuster starts to be not so nice that the attorney is called.
Be polite when an insurance representative calls, but firmly state that you do not wish to give a recorded or written statement. Do not lie or exaggerate about the accident, Having the facts written down can be helpful. If you do not know the answer to a question or can’t recall, simply state that you cannot answer at the time.
Early Investigation Is Key
Hiring an attorney as soon as possible will not only ensure that you aren’t pressured to settle before you are ready, but will also ensure that your case is thoroughly investigated so that you can get every dollar you deserve. Thorough investigation of the vehicles, scene and evidence can be critical to your case. Obtaining witness statements can also be pivotal. An attorney with the resources and personnel to investigate your case is key.
What am I entitled to after a car accident under New Mexico Law?
When you are involved in a car accident caused by the act of another driver, you are entitled to a recovery on two separate claims; your property damage claim and your bodily injury claim. These claims are entirely independent of each other.
Property Damage Claims Allow You to Recover Compensation for Damage to Your Car
When you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, you are entitled to recovery for the damage to your vehicle. You can submit a claim for property damage compensation to the insurance company of the driver who is at fault. Usually, that company will pay for the damage to your vehicle and other property lost, destroyed or damage in the collision unless they are contesting who is at fault. You may also submit a claim to your own insurance carrier for the damage to your vehicle, but only if the policy includes “collision” coverage. Often times, your claim is handled more quickly when filed with your own insurance company who will then work with the other party’s insurance company to get reimbursed.
If your vehicle is a total loss, you are entitled to recover the Fair Market Value of your vehicle. A vehicle is considered a total loss if the repair cost PLUS salvage value is more than its fair market value. The Fair Market Value is what a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for your vehicle immediately prior to the collision. Factors that go into determining fair market value include year, make, model, mileage, previous damage and general condition of your vehicle. Fair market value has nothing to do with what you owe on the vehicle.
Here at Keller & Keller, we do not typically handle property damage claims. The reason for this is that if we were to represent you legally for repairs or replacement of your vehicle, by the time our fees were covered, you would end up getting less money for your car or truck than its actual value. We understand that you need to use the full amount of money to get your car fixed or get a new car. With that being said, we are always more than happy to answer any questions you have regarding your property damage claim.
If You Were Injured in the Accident, a Personal Injury Claim Can Make Sure You Have the Funds to Fully Recover
If you are injured in a car accident in New Mexico, you are also entitled to recovery for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The value of your personal injury claim will be determined by the severity of your injuries and medical documentation. It is important to remember that the insurance company will only settle once. They will quickly offer to pay your first few medical bills or lost wages so that they can settle quickly and wash their hands of the incident. However, remember that if you settle with them today, your treatment tomorrow will not be covered. So, it is important to consider not only how you are feeling today, but how you may feel tomorrow, next week, next month, and maybe even for years to come. If you settle your case too early or sign anything from the insurance company, you may be signing away your right to full compensation should your injuries become worse or should you need further treatment.
By law, all registered vehicles in New Mexico must be covered by car insurance. New Mexico minimum coverage law requires liability coverage of $25,000 per person for injury or death, $50,000 total injury or death if there are multiple people in the vehicle, and 10,000 for property damage. Unfortunately, even though it is the law, many drivers do not have auto insurance. In fact, according to the Insurance Research Council, in 2012, 21.6% of New Mexico motorists were uninsured. While there are penalties for uninsured motorists, including fines and license suspension, getting in a collision with an uninsured motorist puts an unintended penalty on the not at fault party.
Therefore, it is important to protect yourself in advance for the possibility that you are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist in New Mexico. Because of this potential risk, many drivers carry a form of coverage known as “uninsured motorist coverage.” Uninsured motorist coverage protects not at fault drivers when they suffer a property damage loss or injury from an accident with an uninsured motorist. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, and it is confirmed that the at-fault driver does not have insurance, then your own insurance company will compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, as well as damage to your vehicle.
Some people are hesitant to file an uninsured claim for their accident since they are pursuing their own insurance policy. Though pursuing your own insurance company may not make sense initially, what is important to understand, is that you pay monthly premiums for this coverage and it is meant to protect you.
If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, and you do not have uninsured coverage, your chances of recovery are limited to a civil suit against the at-fault driver.
What is the first thing to do after a New Mexico car accident?
Anyone who has ever been in a car accident will know that the first reaction is shock. Everything happens so suddenly and most of the time it takes a few moments to gather your bearings and figure out what just happened. When there is an accident, injuries may be severe and emotions high. Right after the accident happens, there are some important steps you need to take immediately.
Always Stop After the Accident
Never leave the scene of an accident, even if the injuries or damage seems minor at the time. If you leave, not only are you giving up your opportunity to speak to authorities about what happened, but you may face serious criminal penalties for being a hit and run driver.
Contact the Authorities
After a crash, your first step should always be to call 911. This is important for two reasons. First, calling 911 ensures that an ambulance is sent to treat injured parties or transport them to the hospital. Even if there are no serious injuries, it is often helpful to have victims checked out by medics. Secondly, calling 911 and having the police come to the scene ensures that the accident will be appropriately documented. This report will become critically important because it will be an unbiased documentation of the accident.
Exchange Information With the Other Driver(s)
After calling 911, exchange information with the other drivers involved. Be sure to get the name of the driver, license plate number, driver’s insurance company name and policy number.
Take Photographs to Document the Scene of the Accident
If you injuries do not require you to go to the hospital immediately, it is important to take some photographs. Photos should be taken of all vehicles involved as well as of the accident scene. Be sure to photograph any skid marks, property damage to trees, light poles and any other stationary objects. If possible, take photographs before the vehicles are moved from the scene.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to notify them of the accident. If you have the name of the other driver’s insurance company, contact them as well. Once the claim is open, the insurance company will likely ask you questions about your injuries. Since the full extent of your injuries may not be known at that time,, we recommend that clients simply state that they are unsure at this point and will provide information later.
Note: Once you notify the insurance companies involved, you will start receiving phone calls and letters from them requesting information. If you are handling the claim on your own, it may be necessary to provide the information. If you plan to hire an attorney, it is best to ask the attorney how to handle communication with the insurance company.
Why shouldn't I settle with the insurance company myself?
Don’t Take Their First Offer
Initially, the insurance adjuster is going to seem nice and helpful. Don’t be surprised if they tell you that you don’t need an attorney. They will say that they will work with you to resolve your case fairly. The offer from the trucking may even sound appealing, and maybe even fair, at first. But, keep in mind, it is neither the trucking company’s nor its insurance carrier’s job to pay you what your case is worth. Instead, it is their job to pay you the smallest amount possible.
Insurance companies will quickly offer to may your first few medical bills or lost wages so that they can settle your case quickly and wash their hands of the incident. It is important to remember a couple of important things: (1) the insurance company will only settle with you once. If you settle with them today but go to the doctor next week, that doctor’s visit may not be covered and you will not be compensated for your ongoing pain and suffering, and (2) it is import to consider not only how you are feeling today, but how you will feel tomorrow, next week, next month, and maybe even for years to come. If you settle your case too early or sign anything from the trucking company, you may be signing away your right to full compensation should your injuries become worse or should you need more treatment.
Truck Accidents Are Complicated
They require expert investigation and liability analysis that only an experienced attorney can provide. You may not even be able to get your hands on all of the evidence without an attorney involved. In order to see the full picture, assess every avenue of liability, and ensure that you get full and fair compensation, hiring an attorney is an absolute must.
What regulations affect truck accidents in New Mexico? Why are semi accidents different?
Both Federal and State laws regulate trucking companies and semi drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates drivers of commercial motor vehicles and applies to all vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating in excess of 10,000 pounds. The FMCSA monitors vehicle drivers’ licenses as well as the safety of the drivers’ practices. Interstate trucking on public roads is overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT). State regulations govern purely intrastate activity.
The carrier is the company behind the trucks and their operators. Before a carrier even puts one truck on the road, it must agree to adhere to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Furthermore, interstate motor carriers (those carriers whose trucks travel across state lines) must register with the United State Department of Transportation to comply with the following:
- Regulations of the Secretary of Transportation and Surface Transportation Board
- Any safety regulations, duties of carriers and employees, and safety fitness requirements imposed by the Secretary, and
- The minimum financial responsibility requirements
Carriers that operate only within one state must comply with state regulations, which are often very similar to federal regulations.
A carrier must register with the FMCSA which grants operating authority to the carrier and receive a USDOT number that must be displayed on each commercial motor vehicle to identify the carrier name. The USDOT number identifies who owns the vehicle and assist with monitoring the carrier’s safety data from crash investigations, inspections, audits and compliance reviews.
The FMCSR states that the motor carrier has a clear, nondelegable duty to monitor, control, and supervise the conduct of every driver and employee, including independent contractors. This duty includes:
- Documentation and preservation of records
- Supervision and retention
- Financial responsibility
- Weight and size restrictions
- Post-accident truck driver testing
Not just anyone can drive a semi truck. Truck drivers must meet certain basic qualifications and comply with federal regulations before they can ever get behind the wheel. Federal regulations require truck drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license or CDL. The New Mexico DMV website has information on New Mexico CDL testing requirements and has the Commercial Driver’s License Manual available for download.
After a driver has obtained their CDL and starts driving, there are many other regulations that they must then follow:
A driver is required to produce a “Driver Vehicle Examination Report” at the end of each work day. A driver must also properly document his hours of service.
Before beginning on his route, a driver is required by federal regulation to check and be satisfied that equipment and parts are in good working order.
3. Basic Operation
A driver must report to his employer any and all traffic violations.
4. Cargo Securement
A driver is responsible for ensuring that he is not transporting an overload, which can be very dangerous and may result in serious accidents.
5. Fatigue and Truck Driver Hours of Service Rules
One of the most controversial issues for truck drivers and those traveling on the road around them is driver fatigue. A new regulation took effect in July of 2013 mandating that the truck hours of service must not exceed 11 hours after the trucker has spent 10 consecutive hours off duty.
6. Texting and Driving
The FMCSA prohibits texting and driving. This law applies to both truck drivers and bus drivers carrying a CDL.
The FMSCA Regulations are exhaustive and can be difficult to understand. If a truck driver and/or their company failed to comply with one or more of these regulations and the violation contributed to your injuries, an experienced attorney may be able to use the violations as a basis for your lawsuit. Hiring an attorney with experiencing in handling truck accidents and knowledge of trucking regulations is key to the successful outcome of your case.
What is the New Mexico law on nursing home abuse?
Nursing Home Abuse in New Mexico is governed by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and the New Mexico Administrative Code (NMAC). The NMAC's issuing agencies are the New Mexico Department of Health, Public Health Division, Health Facility Licensing and Certification Bureau.
Pursuant to Title 7, Chapter 9 of the NMAC. "Services for residents shall be provided on a continuing twenty-four (24) hour basis and shall maintain or improve physical, mental and psychosocial well-being under plan of care developed by a physician or other licensed health professional and shall be reviewed and revised based on assessment."
The NMAC also defines Abuse as follows:
"Abuse" means any act or failure to act performed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly that causes or is likely to cause harm to a resident, including but not limited to:
(1) Physical contact that harms or is likely to harm a resident of a care facility.
(2) Inappropriate use of physical restraint, isolation, or medication that harms or is likely to harm a resident.
(3) Inappropriate use of a physical or chemical restraint, medication or isolation as punishment or in conflict with a physicians order.
(4) Medically inappropriate conduct that causes or is likely to cause physical harm to a resident.
(5) Medically inappropriate conduct that causes or is likely to cause great psychological harm to a resident.
(6) An unlawful act, a threat or menacing conduct directed toward a resident that results and might reasonably be expected to result in fear or emotional or mental distress to a resident.
Nursing Homes can also be charged criminally by the State under New Mexico Statutes 30-47-1 through 10, Resident Abuse and Neglect.
How much does Keller & Keller charge their semi-accident clients?
Keller & Keller works on a contingency fee basis. This means that we will never ask anyone who was struck by a semi-truck to pay us up front costs or hourly rates while we work on your case.
This arrangement is especially advantageous for our clients who were injured in an accident involving a semi-truck or tractor trailer. These cases often require outside expert analysis and special investigation, likely making it cost-prohibitive for a client to try and handle the claim on their own.
Truck Accidents Are Unique. You Need an Attorney With Experience Handling Truck Wreck Claims
Semi-truck accidents are different than most accidents. They take many months to settle and your lawyer will make a great investment with regard ot his or her time on your case. The fact that we offer our clients a contingency fee contract means that you won't be paying us large hourly rates. This is yet another attractive feature of our fee agreements.
Anyone Who Contacts Keller & Keller for Semi-Truck Accident Representation Will Be Able to Afford Our Legal Services
From our office in Albuquerque, we’re proud to serve the entire state of New Mexico. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you deserve the same tenacious legal representation the
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