From Albuquerque to Las Cruces, there are thousands of miles of roads to explore in New Mexico. The roads of the Land of Enchantment are used by nearly 1.4 million licensed drivers, who each drive approximately 12,000 miles per year. As people go about their busy lives in New Mexico, there are inevitably many serious and even fatal car accidents. If you are living in or visiting New Mexico, you would be wise to learn the laws and regulations of this state. That way, you will know that you are within the law as you drive in New Mexico.
Statistics and Notable Settlements
According to a recent car insurance company study, New Mexico drivers were the second worst in the United States. Statistics from the NHTSA in 2014 seem to bear out this finding. New Mexico was rated the fifth worst for careless driving accidents.
The state also has a high number of drivers with no auto insurance. A 2012 review of claims by the Insurance Research Council found that nearly 22% of the drivers in New Mexico do not have auto insurance. The national average is 12.6%
Below are some of the most serious problems with driving in New Mexico in recent years:
- Drinking and driving. According to a 2014 study released by the CDC, the state has a serious problem with drinking and driving. New Mexico has experienced more deaths per capita from drinking and driving than any other state. There is a loss of 51.2 residents per 100,000 due to drinking and driving. Alaska is the second worst in the nation at a distant 41.1. In 2015, 1037 crashes in New Mexico that led to loss of life were related to drinking and driving.
- Driver inattention. In 2015, 21,894 of the 62,787 crashes caused by human error listed driver inattention as at least one factor. The second most common reason for accidents was failing to yield right of way; this led to 6,202 crashes in 2015.
- Young drivers. The 20-24 age group had the most crashes in New Mexico in 2015. More than 10,000 of the states 83,415 drivers in accidents were between the ages of 20-24.
- New Mexico currently ranks #12 in the US for speeding tickets. Speeding tickets are especially common on I-10, I-25 and I-40.
- Month of December. December was the leading month for New Mexico car accidents from 2011 to 2015. For December, the five-year average was 3,977 accidents. Possible factors include increased holiday traffic and winter weather.
More accident statistics from New Mexico:
- Every 13 minutes, there is a car accident in New Mexico
- Every half an hour, someone is in a car accident with a personal injury.
- Every hour, a distracted driver causes a car accident.
- Every day, a person is killed in a car accident.
One of the most notable personal injury lawsuits in recent memory occurred in Albuquerque in January 2017. Police stated that two men stole an M. Electrician, Inc. van that was left running in the driveway of an employee. Those two men then ran a stop sign as they ran from the police. They killed a mother and her high school aged daughter. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the company, and it was settled for $1.15 million.
New Mexico Negligence Laws
The state of New Mexico follows a pure comparative negligence standard regarding personal liability. This means if you are injured in a car accident and are partially at fault, your potential recovery will be reduced based upon your percentage of fault for the accident. If you were more at fault than the other driver, you may be precluded from collecting damages for your crash injuries.
New Mexico Fault Law
New Mexico is a fault state. This means that car insurance can be used to allow the accident victim to obtain compensation for their injuries. This can be done through your own insurance company; that company may then contact the at-fault driver’s policy for reimbursement. You also may open a claim with the other party’s insurance provider, or you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
It is important to remember that the laws pertaining to fault/no fault go with the state, not the driver. Therefore, if you are from Michigan and are in a car accident in New Mexico, you follow New Mexico’s laws.
New Mexico Statute of Limitations
The state of New Mexico has a statute of limitations of three years to file a personal injury lawsuit related to a car accident. The clock begins on this time frame from the day of the accident. The statute of limitations for personal property damages is four years.
Auto Insurance Requirements in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico requires that you carry a certain level of auto insurance. Under the tort system of this state, you can be held liable for economic damages, such as property damage, lost wages and medical costs, as well as non-economic damages, such as mental and physical pain and suffering. Thus, it is important to carry at least the following amounts of insurance coverage in the state:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person for each accident
- $50,000 bodily injury for all people for each accident
- $10,000 for property damage
- $25,000 and $50,000 underinsured/uninsured coverage for bodily injury
- $10,000 uninsured driver property damage for each accident
Auto insurance companies in New Mexico have to offer you underinsured and uninsured motorist protection but you can decline it. The state also does not require you to have personal liability insurance or comprehensive or collision insurance. However, bear in mind that the minimum coverages are often inadequate to protect you against a major financial loss in a serious car accident.
Also keep in mind that there are many uninsured drivers in this state. If you are hit by another driver without insurance and suffer a lot of injuries, you may have no legal recourse for reimbursement. The other party may not have insurance and no assets, so you will be on the hook for paying for your own injuries.
Other New Mexico Laws
The state of New Mexico has a ban on texting and for all cell phone use while driving for novice drivers only. There are no such restrictions currently for drivers over the age of 18. Interestingly, only drivers of state vehicles are banned from using a handheld phone while they are driving.
If you are in an accident that caused death, injury, or property damage above $500, you are required to file a report with the New Mexico police.
There is no cap on personal injury damages in New Mexico for car accident victims.
New Mexico Car Accident Resources
Have you been in a car accident in New Mexico? You may have questions about what to do and where to get advice about next steps. Below are some helpful resources and tips to help guide you through a New Mexico auto accident:
- Not sure what your case is worth? You can get a complimentary case evaluation today with Lawsuit Info Center.
- If you are in a car accident in Albuquerque, any criminal matters will probably be handled through Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.
- If you need to get a copy of a police report for an accident in New Mexico, you can visit the Department of Public Safety and make a request online.