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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.