At the Law Firm of David C. Chavez, our clients have frequently asked the following questions when they have been involved in a motor vehicle accident. The information contained herein is based on New Mexico law in effect at the time of this writing. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice or all of the information you may need to know in the event of a motor vehicle accident. You should consult with an experienced lawyer for specific legal advice and more detailed information.
Do I need to see a doctor after my car accident?
Yes. Make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible after your car accident, no matter how minor the collision was. Many injuries sustained in car accidents surface days or even weeks after the collision, and seeing a doctor can help lessen the extent and severity of these injuries. Additionally, if you do not receive medical treatment after an accident, an insurance company may use this delay against you and you may have to relinquish your right to financial compensation.
How do my medical bills get paid?
If you have automobile insurance coverage it may provide payment of medical expenses as follows: 1. Medical payment insurance coverage is designed to pay for your medical expenses if you are involved in an automobile accident regardless of fault. 2. If you have personal health insurance, you may have your healthcare provider bill your personal health insurance carrier who may be reimbursed when your case is settled. 3. Your attorney may provide a "letter of protection" to your healthcare provider authorizing payment to the healthcare provider upon the resolution of your case.
How can a lawyer help me prove the other driver was at fault?
One of the best ways to prove fault in a car accident is to obtain a police report. Fault can also be determined through predetermined fault, traffic law violations, and witnesses to the collision.
In certain types of car crashes, such as a rear-end collision or left-hand turn, the cause of the accident will almost always clearly be one driver’s fault. If you are rear-ended, the driver who hit you is almost always found at fault. Similarly, if you are involved in an accident involving a left-hand turn, fault almost always falls upon the left-turning driver.
Assigning fault in an accident is usually simple when one of the drivers has broken a traffic law. This includes speeding, failure to yield, running a red light or stop sign, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or turning into the wrong lane.
Sometimes, witnesses are listed on the police report. Other times, the investigating officer will not get the witnesses’ names. Video cameras on buildings, parking lots, and light poles are another source of evidence we may be able to obtain to investigate the collision.
We will conduct a thorough investigation of your accident to prove the other driver was at fault.
How much is my car accident claim worth?
While there is no set amount of damages for car accidents, there are a few key variables that determine the value of your claim. These include insurance coverage limitations, property damage, medical expenses, loss of household services, disfigurement, loss of income or earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and in some cases punitive damages. We will review all the circumstances surrounding your case and fight for every dollar that you are owed.
Punitive damages are intended to deter the defendant from engaging in conduct similar to that which forms the basis of a lawsuit. You may be entitled to punitive damages if the other driver was texting while driving, driving under the influence, or acting out of aggression (road rage).
Should I answer questions from the other driver’s insurance company?
No, not without your attorney present. Insurance companies are invested in protecting the interests of their insured. Most insurance companies will use anything you say against you later in the claim. Contact us immediately if the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, and direct the insurance company to talk to us.
Should I take a settlement offer from the insurance company?
Most insurance companies look for ways to resolve claims as quickly as possible, often offering a settlement that falls far below the actual damages you have suffered. While it is ultimately your decision, we advise against accepting a settlement without our guidance. You only have one chance to settle your case, and an early settlement may not provide you with the justice you deserve.
The driver who hit me doesn’t have insurance. How can I be compensated for my car accident?
Although car insurance is a requirement in New Mexico, not every driver follows the law. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy, you may be able to pursue a claim against your own insurance company. If you do not have uninsured/underinsured coverage, we will investigate all the circumstances surrounding your accident to determine what other options are available to get you the compensation you deserve.
What is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage?
In a case of an uninsured or underinsured motorist, we will file a claim against your own insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have car insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage protects you if the other driver’s insurance fails to cover all damages or medical expenses. For example, if the other driver only has $25,000 for bodily injury, but you have incurred more than $25,000 in medical bills for injuries sustained in an accident, underinsured motorist coverage may cover the remainder of your bills up to your insurance policy limits.
My car is damaged from the accident. Should I get it repaired?
The first step is to have your vehicle’s damages inspected. We recommend taking your vehicle to 2-3 different auto repair shops. Once the damages have been inspected, you may choose to repair your vehicle. How you handle your damaged vehicle is your decision. You may pay for the repairs and seek reimbursement from your insurance company or let the insurance company send a payment directly to the auto repair shop. As discussed below, if your vehicle is declared a total loss, you are entitled to the fair market value of the vehicle.
Who pays for the property damages to my car and do I get a rental car?
If you are not at fault for the accident, the other driver’s liability insurance will pay for your car repairs. If the other driver does not have insurance, then your own insurance company will pay for your repairs and expenses if you have uninsured motorist coverage. If your vehicle is a total loss, you are entitled to receive the fair market value of the vehicle. There are a number of ways to determine the fair market value, including Kelley Blue Book value, newspaper ads, Auto Trader, and similar publications that would provide comparable values. If the vehicle is not totaled, then you are entitled to have the vehicle repaired. There is also a value for the diminished value of the vehicle after it is repaired. You may be entitled to a rental vehicle depending on insurance coverage.
What does it cost to have an attorney?
You will pay us nothing until your case settles. Upon settling your case, we typically charge a contingency fee of 33 1/3%, taxes, and costs of the total recovery of the claim if your case is settled outside of court. This means that out of every $3.00, we will keep $1.00 plus New Mexico state tax and costs, such as medical record fees, photocopying, filing fees, investigators/witnesses, etc. A contingency fee means that if we do not win your case, you do not pay.
In the event it should become necessary to try your case in court, then such contingencies will be handled by separate agreement.