We get into our cars every day thinking that we will arrive safely at our job, shopping center or other destination. Most of us drive safely, follow the rules, and protect others on the road. In an instant, a negligent, distracted or drunk driver can cause an accident that can change our life forever.
The Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C. specializes in representing injured victims in car accident or car crash cases. Throughout my legal career of more than fifteen years, I have been helping victims of negligence recover full and fair money and property damages after getting injured in a car accident.
Filing an auto insurance claim should be easy, but it's not. You can expect the other person's insurance company to work against you. They will want to deny as much as they can get away with and pay as little as possible, not what you are morally and legally entitled to recover. The opposing insurance adjuster, someone the insurance company spent time and money training, will use road blocks and delay tactics, hoping that you will eventually settle for the minimum they offer.
If the negligent driver was uninsured or underinsured, you may have to file against your own insurance company. After years of paying premiums, you will find that your company will treat you with hostility.
Contact me to discuss your car accident injury claim. I offer a free consultation to explain the process and determine whether you should expect to receive compensation. Every case is different. You will never get half-truths or confusing answers at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C. - I stand behind everything I say and I stand up for every client I represent.
Car Accident Attorney Matt Vance - representing clients across New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Deming, Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Gallup, Grants, Carlsbad, Roswell, Las Vegas, Raton and Farmington.
Automobile accidents occur every day, and in great numbers. They also tend to result from negligence; e.g. someone disobeying a traffic control device, speeding, driving drunk, or simply failures to pay attention. The legal and insurance issues involved in an automobile accident case can also be very detailed and involved.
Most car accident cases will be pursued as general negligence causes of action. Some examples of negligence would include, but not be limited to: failure to pay attention, driver inattention, failure to yield the right of way, following too closely, improper turn, lane violation, passing a stop sign, and driving too fast for conditions. New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction. That means that when deciding who is at fault, the judge or the jury will look at what each person did or failed to do, and then decide who has what percentage of fault.The Parties to An Automobile Accident Case
There is of course the innocent victim - the injured person - the plaintiff.
Next, you will want to identify the other driver or drivers - the defendant(s). Get the basics by looking for name, address, telephone number, and insurance information. Then dig a little deeper and look for criminal and civil history and other background information related to the defendants. Who are they, where do they come from . . .?
Be on the lookout for other defendants. Start circling outward from the at-fault driver or drivers: was the driver the owner of the vehicle; was the vehicle entrusted to them; were they employed and "on the job" at the time; was the other driver served alcohol by someone else before the crash, etc.? In looking at other defendants, don't forget to double check your tort claims notice and statute of limitations deadlines.
A significant step is to also identify the different insurance companies that will be involved. If the defendant driver was insured, you or your attorney will need to contact their automobile liability insurance carrier. You may have had a policy with collision coverage, medical payments coverage, and/or uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. If you had health insurance and your health insurance company paid any portion of your medical expenses, then they will have a right to recover at least some portion of the money they paid out. You or your attorney will need to deal with any subrogation claims.Investigation of a Car Crash
The investigation of an automobile accident case can range from simple to complex, depending on the nature of crash and the significance of the damages.
In most cases, an investigation may include interviewing the injured victim, getting a copy of the police report, photographing the vehicles involved, researching driver history, collecting weather reports, contacting witnesses, and visiting the scene of the crash.
In a more complex cases you or your attorney may also need to consider securing and preserving the vehicle or vehicles involved, retaining an accident reconstructionist, hiring a forensic photographer to document the scene conditions as perceived by the human eye on video or photos, early video depositions of parties or witnesses, and other expert witnesses.Interviews in a Car Accident Case
If there are witnesses, steps should be taken to have them interviewed as soon as possible after the crash. Because memories fade and people move, you will want to work to preserve the evidence.
Generally I recommend having a good private investigator conduct the initial interviews. It also helps if you have drawn up at least a basic outline of questions for the investigator to step through. The outline of questions will help ensure that the investigator makes sure to ask the questions you think are important and will help to prepare the investigator for future cases. Using a private investigator also permits you to avoid becoming a witness in the case or be accused of pressuring witnesses.Other Considerations to Keep in Mind in Car Accident Cases
Automobile accidents involving a drunk driver can have important factual and legal nuances. Having a drunk driver as a defendant can provide you with significant moral momentum. Legally, in an automobile accident/negligence case, you are generally seeking compensatory damages. In a case involving a drunk driver, you will also be seeking punitive damages. The drunk driving element can require additional evidence to prove the Driving While Intoxicated and may affect insurance coverage. For example, some liability insurance carriers are taking the position that an automobile liability insurance policy excludes coverage for punitive damages. You will need to take that in to consideration when evaluating uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage, off-sets, and whether to settle with the tortfeasor, the at-fault driver, or not. It may mean filing one lawsuit against the tortfeasor, the tortfeasor's liability carrier, and your uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier.Subrogation Claims
If any insurance company other than the tortfeasor paid any part of your damages (property damage, medical expenses, etc.) then you need to check for a subrogation claim.
Subrogation claims will frequently arise in an automobile accident case. You may have insurance for your automobile. You may have health insurance. If your automobile insurance company or health insurance company paid any part of your medical expenses, they will acquire a right to recover those payments from the tortfeasor. If you interfere with that right by settling the claims and signing a complete release of claims, you may be sued by the subrogated carrier, instead of the tortfeasor. On the other hand, if you and your attorney, as part of the personal injury claim, work to recover the insurance company's money for them, then they may be required to reduce their subrogation claim for a proportionate share of attorney's fees, taxes, and costs - effectively helping to pay for your representation to ensure a complete and full recovery of damages.
Basic cases to look at are White v. Sutherland, 92 N.M. 187, 190, 585 P.2d 331, 334 (Ct. App. 1978), Amica Mutual Insurance Company v. Malony, 120 N.M. 523, 903 P.2d 834 (1995), and Gutierrez v. City of Albuquerque, 1998-NMSC-643, 125 N.M. 643, 964 P.2d 807.
These cases will discuss the New Mexico "common fund doctrine," equitable reductions of subrogation claims, and proportionate share of attorney fees and taxes.
My law firm is your complete motor vehicle collision insurance litigation firm in New Mexico. We represent people that have been in car accidents, car crashes, and car wrecks. It's what we do. It's what we specialize in. It's what we believe in. I represent clients throughout the state in all litigation matters involving:
- Car accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Distracted drivers
- Reckless and aggressive drivers
- Uninsured and underinsured motorists
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- ATV and recreational vehicle accidents
- Catastrophic injuries
- Brain injury
- Wrongful death
Learn more about auto accident personal injury claims at these information pages:
- FAQ about personal injury
- Anatomy of a civil personal injury case
- Car crash information form
- What to do after a car crash
Contact me, car accident attorney Matthew Vance at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C., anytime to arrange a free consultation about your car accident.
Weekend and evening appointments are available by special arrangement.