Distracted driving is a significant problem on New Mexico roads these days. When someone is at least paying attention to the road, they may make a maneuver at the last moment that reduces the impact of a collision, even if a crash still occurs.
When someone is distracted, though, the impact is likely to be more direct and damaging. If you are the victim of an auto accident involving a distracted driver, an Albuquerque distracted driver accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you need.
In the past, distracted driving might have been limited to messing with the radio, putting on makeup, or some other activity that would pull a driver’s attention away from the road. Today, things like text messaging, social media, and other activities on someone’s phone are the activities that divert drivers’ attention. These distractions not only make an accident more likely, but the consequences will also probably be more significant as well.
A distracted driving accident in Albuquerque, NM usually leaves the victim with a pile of bills for medical care and vehicular damage. It can also leave them with significant costs that are less tangible, like pain and suffering. These victims deserve some restitution for these costs, so the law requires that they be compensated for their losses.
The insurance companies that usually pay these claims, though, often need a push in the right direction. When you work with Berenson & Associates, PC, you can have an experienced team behind you that knows how to deal with insurance companies to secure your restitution.
The deadline for filing a claim is set by the statute of limitations. Generally, the statute in a drunk driving case is the same as in any other car accident claim, giving you three years to file your claim with the court.
While that is the general rule, there may be some exceptions based on who the defendant is, when the injuries were discovered, or other factors. These could lengthen the window to file, but, in some cases, they could also shrink it. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to contact a distracted driver accident lawyer quickly after your case so that they can begin work on your claim and assess the proper deadline for filing it.
The decision of whether to settle your case or take it to court is going to be highly dependent on the specifics of your case and what you are able to negotiate. For many people, though, settling can offer some distinct advantages. One of these is that it takes away the risk of a ruling that isn’t in your favor. When you settle, you will get everything that is agreed to, according to the terms of the settlement.
Another advantage of settling is timing. Taking a claim to court can be a lengthy process, and this could leave you waiting extra months or even years to receive the funds you need. Settling can often get you your funds much more quickly.
Of course, the insurance companies would only settle if they are benefiting in some way as well. Typically, this would mean not paying as much as they would in a court ruling. However, there are times when a case might be so clear-cut that they can save money just by avoiding the expense of going to court.
Nevertheless, in most cases, it does mean they are paying a little less in a settlement than the absolute maximum you might receive in court. Whether this trade-off is worth it to you to get the money sooner and avoid the risks of taking it to court will be up to you and the specifics of your case. An accident attorney can help you get an estimate of what your case may be worth, either in court or in a settlement. In either scenario, they can work to maximize your award.
To win a distracted driving claim in court, your lawyers need to demonstrate that the defendant was at fault for the accident. The burden of proof is on your lawyer to persuade the court that, were it not for the actions of the defendant, you wouldn’t have suffered the injuries that you did.
To make your case, your distracted driver accident lawyer must rely on:
They will also need to prove the three elements of negligence on the part of the defendant:
The first thing that your distracted driver accident lawyer must prove is that the defendant had what is known as a “duty to care.” This means that they had a responsibility to be careful not to put others at any unnecessary risk by the actions that they were taking.
Typically, given the danger that automobiles pose, most people understand that the duty to care is present whenever vehicles are involved. In a distracted driving case, this isn’t really difficult to prove.
Once a duty to care is proven, your lawyer then needs to demonstrate a breach of that duty. This means that the defendant did something that didn’t live up to or meet the duty that they had. In the case of distracted driving, this means demonstrating that distracted driving is a breach of duty, which is generally easily understood.
It also means demonstrating that the driver was driving while distracted. Your distracted driver accident lawyer must have some evidence that the other driver was distracted while they were driving.
Once a breach of duty has been established, the last component is to demonstrate that the breach was the direct cause of the injuries that you suffered. This usually means first demonstrating that the breach was the cause of the accident. This is not always the case, which is why the connection must be shown.
For instance, a driver is checking a text message but is otherwise driving properly. Their car is then hit in an intersection by another car running a red light. Although the driver was technically committing a breach of duty, that breach is not necessarily the cause of the accident. Your lawyer must be able to show why the breach was, in fact, the cause of the accident.
When it has been shown that the breach was the cause of the accident, your Albuquerque distracted driver accident lawyer must then be able to explain how the injuries that you received were the result of the accident. Although one may assume that there wouldn’t be conflict regarding this, people have attempted to pass off pre-existing conditions or injuries that occurred after the accident as having come from the accident. People have also embellished their injuries in an attempt to defraud the insurance companies.
Therefore, the defendant’s lawyers may push back regarding the source and nature of the injuries. However, good documentation regarding your injuries can often help address these kinds of situations.
The compensation available in a distracted driving case is known as damages. The costs that you are seeking to have damages cover must be the direct result of the injuries that you suffered. This must also be something that your distracted driver accident lawyer is able to demonstrate.
When it is shown that the costs are the direct result of the injuries, this completes the causal connection from the duty to care to the costs incurred. At that point, the defendant is liable for those costs. The damages that could be awarded in a distracted driving case fall into three categories:
Those costs which have a clear, easily calculable financial component are included in economic damages. These include:
It’s not only prior costs that are addressed but future ones as well. If your injuries are serious enough that they will require ongoing medical care, those costs are estimated and included. Similarly, if you are unable to return to the same level of work that you had prior to the injury, lost earning capacity will also be compensated through economic damages.
The costs of an accident aren’t limited to the financial. There are an array of emotional and psychological costs that come with an accident. These things can’t be addressed by money in the same way that the things covered by economic damages are. Money can’t make pain and suffering go away or solve mental anguish.
However, a value is given to these things, and an award is then paid out through non-economic damages. The money is not meant to fix these issues. Rather, it is meant to address stress and burdens that can be lessened by money, hopefully freeing up the injured to better manage these issues.
This is a special category of damages, and they aren’t awarded in most cases. They are usually meant to serve as a punishment and often require proof of something malicious or especially reprehensible on the part of the defendant. They aren’t likely to be awarded in a distracted driving case, although if there was something especially egregious about the other driver’s behavior, it is possible.
In New Mexico, you don’t have to worry about any particular damage cap on the award in a distracted driving case. However, there is still the possibility that your damage award could be reduced as a result of the state’s pure comparative negligence rules.
Under these rules, the defendant will be offered the opportunity to argue for liability on the part of the plaintiff, as an accident sometimes occurs because both parties made a mistake. The defendant’s team will have the burden of proof in these situations and need to prove the elements of negligence as related to the plaintiff’s actions.
If the defendant is able to successfully argue for fault on the part of the plaintiff, then both parties will be given a percentage that represents their share of the blame in the accident. In most states, if the plaintiff’s share is greater than 50%, then they are unable to collect any damages.
However, this isn’t the case in New Mexico, where there is a pure comparative negligence system. No matter the plaintiff’s share, even if it is greater than 50%, they will be able to collect damages, only the damages awarded will be reduced proportionately to their share.
For instance, if a plaintiff is found to be 10% responsible for an accident that awarded them $40,000, the award would be reduced by 10%, meaning they could only collect $36,000 instead of the full $40,000. Part of what your distracted driver accident lawyer can do is prepare to defend against any of these kinds of challenges in your case.
If you’re lucky, a car accident with a distracted driver might leave you only with some car damage and bruises or scrapes. Even in that case, you may have repair bills and medical bills. More often, though, the injuries and damage are much more serious.
The medical bills are more significant, and you may even be left with lifelong consequences. While you, of course, wish the accident never occurred, you can at least legally seek restitution for the costs you’ve suffered as a result of someone’s distracted driving.
In most cases, it’s a driver’s insurance company that is responsible for paying out those costs, but they don’t like to do things that will negatively impact their profits. It’s possible that they will lowball you or even try to avoid paying altogether.
However, when you work with an experienced legal team, like Berenson & Associates, PC, you can better your chances of getting the compensation that you need. We can represent you in negotiations, and the insurance company will know that there is a credible threat of going to court.
If we can’t get a satisfactory settlement, we can follow through on that threat and fight in court for what you’re owed. Contact us today so we can evaluate your case.