New Mexico Car Accident Claims: Frequently Asked Questions
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 person who hit me doesn't have insurance?
By law, all registered vehicles in New Mexico must be covered by car insurance. Yet New Mexico continues to have one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists in the country, according to the Insurance Research Council. Their 2017 report revealed that 20.8 percent of New Mexico drivers were uninsured in 2015. That means that if you are in a collision with another driver in Albuquerque, there is a nearly 1 in 4 chance that he or she will not have insurance. 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 you.
Insurance Requirements in New Mexico
New Mexico minimum coverage law requires drivers to carry 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. If you are injured in a crash with an insured driver and he is found to be at fault, you would be able to file a claim to recover up to the limits of his insurance policy. However, if he does not have insurance, you will not be able to recover anything from him. He may be fined and even lose his license for not having insurance, but that won’t help you with medical bills, property damage, and other losses.
Protect Yourself by Carrying the Right Insurance
Therefore, it is important to protect yourself in advance for the possibility that you will be 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 (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM/UIM coverage protects 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 should 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, it is important to understand that you pay monthly premiums for this coverage and it is there to protect you.
Hire an Experienced New Mexico Car Accident Attorney
If you discover that the driver who caused your accident is uninsured, your first move should be to call the car accident attorneys at Keller and Keller in Albuquerque. We will help you file a claim with your own UM/UIM policy if you have the coverage, or investigate the possibility of a civil suit against the at-fault driver. It is important that you do not give up hope. Our attorneys will help you get the best possible recovery. Fill out the form on this page to connect with us today.
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.
Can I afford to hire Keller and Keller for my car or truck accident claim?
The first question most callers ask our lawyers is: “How much does it cost to hire Keller & Keller?”
Immediately after a car accident, friends and family will likely start talking to you about your personal injury case, including how expensive it is to hire a lawyer. Unfortunately, the people giving you this advice often aren’t attorneys, and you may feel pressured to accept a low-ball settlement offer thrown at you by the insurance company simply because you think hiring a lawyer is too costly.
You Can Afford Legal Representation in Your Injury Claim
Before you try to settle your car accident claim on your own, know this: because we work on a contingency fee basis anyone can afford to hire Keller & Keller!
What Is a “Contingency Fee’?
A contingency fee agreement is a very attractive arrangement that allows you to focus solely on your physical and emotional recovery without having to stress about paying our lawyers an hourly rate just to work on your injury case.
Our Zero Fee Guarantee Means You Don’t Pay If We Don’t Win
With regard to Keller & Keller’s contingency fee agreement, we offer everyone a Zero Fee Guarantee, meaning no one at our offices will ever ask you to front case costs with money that comes from your pocket, and the only way our attorneys are paid is if a recovery is made on your behalf.
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"At every juncture of the process... everyone involved, were more than thorough. I never had any questions. It was just matter of fact, straight to the point, and taken care of."by Jill S.