Every time you get on the road, you put your life into the hands of the hundreds of other drivers you will pass that day. No matter how safely and defensively you drive, it is impossible to avoid every mistake that others may make behind the wheel. In fact, the most recent data available from the New Mexico Department of Transportation shows that, in 2015, there were 269 fatal crashes in the state. In addition, 13,207 crashes occurred which caused personal injury to an individual, and there were 31,833 accidents resulting in property damage.
Furthermore, the data found that 14.1% of these 45,309 total crashes were hit and run cases, meaning that the at fault driver who caused property damage, injury, or even death, fled the scene without exchanging information with the other party. These situations can be a nightmare for those who are left with substantial medical bills or property damage without a way to collect from an insurance company.
Minimum Insurance Requirements in New Mexico
Each state has their own requirements for minimum levels of car insurance that each driver on state roads must carry. This minimum is set so that drivers who are not at fault for an accident can be compensated by the at fault driver for the cost of their medical bills and property damage. There are many different kinds of optional insurance that drivers may choose to purchase in order to protect themselves financially in the event of an accident, but many drivers only purchase state mandated minimums. Each state has different minimum requirements, but in New Mexico, drivers are required to purchase insurance in the following amounts.
- $25,000 for injury to or death of one person per accident
- $50,000 for injury to or death of two or more people per accident
- $10,000 for property damage per accident
If drivers are pulled over and found to be driving without this minimum insurance, they are subject to criminal penalties including fines. If the New Mexico DMV is made aware of a driver's lack of insurance, they will also suspend the car's registration until the driver sends proof of insurance.
Accidents with Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers
These minimums mean that, in the event of an accident, the driver who caused the accident has insurance to pay the other driver up to $25,000 for any costs associated with injury or death. If there is more than one victim, the total amount for injury or death cannot exceed $50,000. In many cases, this is not enough to cover the costs of the medical bills associated with injury or death. In addition, $10,000 worth of insurance to cover property damage may leave some car owners without a way of repairing damage to their vehicle. If you get into an accident with a driver who does not have sufficient coverage to pay the total amount that you should be compensated, they are considered “underinsured.”
Unfortunately, even though there are legal mandates requiring individuals to purchase a certain amount of liability protection, often drivers choose to get on the road without insurance. Even more alarmingly, New Mexico has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers on the road, with estimates between 21% and 26% of drivers operating without insurance. This means that, if you get into an accident, around one fourth of the time you will not be able to easily collect any amount of money from a driver who hit you.
Some drivers choose to purchase uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage. This coverage kicks in when an individual is hit by a driver who does not carry insurance or who does not have enough insurance to cover the full cost of medical bills and property damage associated with the accident. There are three possible sources of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage from you might collect compensation for personal injury and wrongful death (though not property damage in all cases). They include
- UM/UIM coverage on the vehicle involved in the accident
- UM/UIM coverage on another vehicle that you own which was not involved in the accident
- UM/UIM coverage on a vehicle owned by a family member living in the same household
New Mexico insurance regulations require providing the option to purchase uninsured motorist coverage with the same minimum limits at the time when they offer you basic liability coverage. You are able to reject UM/UIM coverage, but in order to sell you this “liability only policy,” the insurance company must offer you uninsured motorist coverage and explicitly tell you the price. In order to forgo the uninsured motorist coverage, a driver must sign a waiver stating that they were informed about their decision and the price of the coverage and chose not to purchase it. An insurance company must produce this signed waiver in order to prove that you did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage if you make a claim and it is denied.
UM/UIM Reduction Coverage
In New Mexico, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is known as “reduction coverage.” This means that UM/UIM coverage policy is reduced by the amount of liability coverage carried by the at fault driver. For example, imagine an accident is caused by a driver with the minimum liability coverage of $25,000, and the victim's UM/UIM policy originally carries a limit $50,000 for personal injury. In this case, the victim would be able to collect $25,000 from the at fault driver, but if the cost of their injuries exceeded this amount, they would only be able to collect $25,000 from their own coverage, because the original $50,000 limit was reduced by the other driver's liability insurance.
Collecting from an Uninsured Motorist in New Mexico
Dealing with uninsured or underinsured drivers after an accident can be extremely frustrating, especially when you are simultaneously trying to repair a damaged car, heal from personal injuries, or even mourn the death of a loved one. At Revo Smith Law, we will do everything in our power to help you collect from the at fault driver and work to ensure that you have the compensation justice requires and which you will need to move forward with your life. To schedule a free consultation on your case, call us today at (505) 293-8888 or contact us online.