Reckless and Aggressive Drivers

Uninsured underinsured motoristsThe law in New Mexico is clear -

It is the duty of every operator of a vehicle to exercise ordinary care, at all times, to prevent an accident.

It is the duty of every operator of a vehicle, at all times, to keep a proper lookout and to maintain proper control of his vehicle so as to avoid placing the operator or others in danger and to prevent an accident.

The duty to keep a proper lookout requires more than merely looking. It also requires a person to actually see what is in plain sight or is obviously apparent to one under like or similar circumstances.

Further, with respect to that which is not in plain sight or readily apparent, a person is required to appreciate and realize what is reasonably indicated by that which is in plain sight.

It is bad enough when people do not exercise ordinary care. It is bad enough when someone risks our safety because they are a negligent driver or a distracted driver. It is a special kind of bad when they are an aggressive or reckless driver - when they knowingly or heedlessly endanger us.

We have all been there, driving home on I-25, I-40, or just about any other street or road in New Mexico, when along comes someone else, speeding, tailgating, cutting in and out of the lanes, driving recklessly, driving aggressively, virtually pushing other cars out of their way, and putting everyone at risk of harm or death. They don't seem to think the rules apply to them. They don't seem to think the law applies to them. They don't seem to care about anyone or anything but themselves. It is only a matter of time before someone will get hurt; hurt badly. When it does happen, it's not an accident - it's a wreck caused by a reckless or aggressive driver.

New Mexico law has special criminal and civil laws for reckless and aggressive drivers.

§ 66-8-113 NMSA 1978 provides the following regarding reckless driving from a criminal standpoint:

A. Any person who drives any vehicle carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others and without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property is guilty of reckless driving.

B. Every person convicted of reckless driving shall be punished, notwithstanding the provisions of Section 31-18-13 NMSA 1978, upon a first conviction by imprisonment for not less than five days nor more than ninety days, or by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars ($ 25.00) nor more than one hundred dollars ($ 100), or both and on a second or subsequent conviction by imprisonment for not less than ten days nor more than six months, or by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($ 50.00) nor more than one thousand dollars ($ 1,000), or both.

C. Upon conviction of violation of this section, the director may suspend the license or permit to drive and any nonresident operating privilege for not to exceed ninety days.

There are additional civil claims against reckless or aggressive drivers.

There are two types of damages in a civil case; compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are damages, or money, paid to make up for the harms or loss that were caused. For example, if someone was negligence and caused you an injury, your medical bills should be paid. They should also have to pay for time you missed from work. You are entitled to damages for any pain and suffering your experienced. Those are examples of compensatory damages.

Punitive damages are damages, or money paid by the reckless or aggressive driver, to punish the reckless or aggressive driver. They are damages paid to punish and to deter that particular person, and other like them, from engaging in reckless, willful, wanton conduct. Punitive damages go beyond just paying bills.

You can recover more money from a reckless or aggressive driver. You are entitled to punitive damages - damages meant to punish an aggressive or reckless driver.

From a civil standpoint, a plaintiff or claimant is entitled to recover punitive damages from a reckless or aggressive driver. New Mexico allows the award of punitive damages for conduct which is considered malicious, willful, reckless, or wanton. Reckless conduct is defined as the intentional doing of an act with utter indifference to the consequences - it is willfully and heedlessly endangering others.

The amount of punitive damages will depend upon the circumstances of your case and what happened, including the nature of the wrong and such aggravating or mitigating circumstances as may be shown. See Chavarria v. Fleetwood Retail Corporation of New Mexico, 2006-NMSC-29, ¶ 36. The nature of a defendant's conduct is an important factor in determining the amount of punitive damages to be awarded. See State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 419 (2003). In cases where the conduct of the offender is proscribed by criminal statute, like with reckless driving, and punishable by a jail sentence, like reckless driving, such conduct justifies a substantial award of punitive damages in the civil context. See Chavarria v. Fleetwood Retail Corporation of New Mexico, 2006-NMSC-29, ¶ 39.

The amount of the punitive damages must be enough to deter the defendant and others from acting the way the defendant did. Punitive damages should act to specifically deter the defendant driver, and to generally deter others in society from engaging in the conduct of the wrongdoer. See Chavarria v. Fleetwood Retail Corporation of New Mexico, 2006-NMSC-29, ¶ 37. Because the whole purpose behind an award of punitive damages is to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from similar conduct, even in cases where there is a relatively low award of compensatory damages, a substantial award of punitive damages may be entirely appropriate to punish a defendant and generally deter others. See Chavarria v. Fleetwood Retail Corporation of New Mexico, 2006-NMSC-29, ¶ 37.

As a result, there is even more reason to pursue civil and insurance claims against the reckless or aggressive driver. Not only is it important to hold them accountable for their willful, wanton, reckless conduct, but it is also important to make them pay. People understand money - hit the bad guy in the pocketbook. That is more likely to change behavior, to make sure they don't choose to do it again, to make sure they won't kill someone next time.

Don't take a chance - call Matt Vance!

Click to Call 505-242-6267
Even if the reckless or aggressive driver does not have insurance, you may still be able to recover punitive damages.

If you suffer injury or property damage because of a reckless or aggressive driver, you may be able to recover damages, even if the driver was not insured. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage protects you from reckless or aggressive drivers. Your uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy will pay damages caused by reckless and aggressive drivers, including punitive damages.

Even if the reckless or aggressive driver does not have enough insurance, you may still be able to recover more, including punitive damages.

Even if the reckless or aggressive driver did not have enough insurance coverage, you may be able to recover more if you had Underinsured Motorist Coverage, which is automatically part of any insurance policy providing uninsured motorist coverage.

Even if the reckless or aggressive driver's insurance company tries to deny coverage for punitive damages, you may still be able to recover punitive damages.

Some liability insurance carriers will say they don't cover punitive damages. First, that may not be correct. New Mexico courts have not yet been asked to make recent decision on whether punitive damages can be excluded from an automobile liability insurance policy following some changes made to the Mandatory Financial Responsibility Act. As a result, some insurance companies pay punitive damages under the liability policy. More insurance companies though have sought to pay less and deny punitive damage claims under the liability portion.

If that happens, you may still be able to make a claim and recover money under the uninsured motorist coverage on your policy, if you purchased that coverage. In that event, your insurance company should pay the punitive damages under your policy and will then sue the wrongdoer, personally, to recover their money. This allows you to recover all of the damages you are legally entitled to, hits the reckless or aggressive driver in the pocketbook, and holds them responsible and accountable for their actions.

If you have been involved in a car accident, car crash, car wreck, or trucking accident with a reckless or aggressive driver, including a bully truck driver, I can help you identify the damages you are legally entitled to and we can punish them for recklessly and needlessly harming you or your loved ones.

Don't take a chance - call Matt Vance!

Click to Call 505-242-6267