In order to successfully bring a personal injury action for a car accident, you must first show that the other party was at fault for your injuries. Without the other party's fault, you will not have much of a claim.
The issue of fault actually involves a number of considerations. First, the other party must have caused the car accident. Second, you must show that the party was negligent. Third, you must address any fault that you may have had in the car accident. Finally, you must show that the party's negligence was actually the cause of your injuries.
Each one of these elements of fault can get fairly complicated. You need only ask any first year law student studying tort law to know this. However, at its core, the issue is fairly straightforward no matter how complicated and convoluted the issues may become on deeper study.
Careless or Negligent Behavior Required
The essence is that the other party caused the accident and that he or she was behaving carelessly to some degree or another. This usually speaks for itself in a car accident. For instance there is some behavior that is by definition careless or negligent. This would include speeding, weaving in and out traffic, running a red light, and failure to yield to name only a few. It would also include reckless behavior such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A relatively recent phenomenon which is causing mayhem on our roads is texting while driving which is also presumptively negligent.
Careless or Negligent Behavior Was the Cause of the Accident
In these cases, the negligence of the other party is clear. However, you must still show the party's negligence was the cause of the accident. There are situations where a party is driving negligently, an accident occurred but the negligence of the other party was not the cause of the accident. The most common example and gets to the third element is your own responsibility for the accident.
Comparative Negligence Standard in New Mexico
This gets to the issue of comparative and contributory negligence. To begin, New Mexico follows the comparative negligence rules. This is very good news for injured drivers since the contributory negligence rules (still followed by a small number of states) would prevent any recovery at all for even the slightest negligence on the part of the injured person.
It is easy to see how contributory negligence would lead to very unjust results. Related to this, it is clear that the negligent driver, or more accurately his or her insurance company, would look for even the smallest error on the part of the injured driver. This would incentivize the insurance company to fight even the most meritorious cases.
Comparative negligence on the other hand apportions negligence. In other words, if you were 50% at fault, then you only get compensated for 50% of your injuries and damages. This is very important because with very serious injuries or death, the damages can be huge meaning that even if you were 80% at fault, the recovery could be significant.
Accident Caused the Injuries (i.e. Argument of Preexisting Injuries)
The last requirement and one that is often hotly contested is that the other party's negligent actually caused your injuries. The insurance company will often argue that your injuries were preexisting and not caused by the accident. This issue must be dealt with head on. After all, just because you had prior injuries or medical conditions does not mean that you were not hurt in this accident. At the very least, your prior conditions may have been made worse for which you can seek compensation.
These issues can become vastly more complicated as one delves deeper into the issues. Rest assured the insurance company will do just that. And that is why you need an attorney on your side that is experienced in dealing with car accident cases.
Reexamined Duty of Care in New Mexico Personal Injury Lawsuits
Comparative Negligence Decided by Jury in New Mexico Personal Injury Cases
Disclosing Pre-Existing Conditions and Injuries in a Personal Injury Case