Driving drunk is incredibly dangerous. It significantly increases the risk of an accident, and those accidents can often have catastrophic injuries. The victims are often left with serious injuries and the consequences that come along with that. However, if you work with the right Albuquerque drunk driving accident lawyer, you may be able to recover compensation for everything that you’ve suffered.
The costs of a car crash can be significant in terms of medical bills, auto repair, and missed time at work. It also creates a bevy of non-financial costs as well. The psychological and emotional effects of the accident and injuries can be difficult to manage. At Berenson & Associates, PC, we help our clients seek what they deserve after a drunk driving accident.
In a drunk driving accident, fault or negligence must be proven, just like in any other car accident case. To do this, your drunk driving accident lawyer must use the evidence that they gather from their investigation and show that the three components of negligence all apply in your case:
In most car accidents, a duty to care is mostly a given. It means that the defendant had a duty to behave reasonably carefully to avoid creating any unnecessary risk or danger for others around them. Given the inherent dangers and risks associated with motor vehicles, the idea of a duty to care in any kind of car accident claim is generally understood and not difficult to establish.
For someone to commit a breach of duty simply means that they have not lived up to their duty to care. In a drunk driving case in Albuquerque, NM, it is the act of driving intoxicated that is the breach.
It’s generally well-understood that driving drunk does not show a reasonable amount of care for others on and around the road. As long as your drunk driving accident lawyer can persuade the court that the defendant was, indeed, intoxicated, then a breach is properly demonstrated.
Finally, your lawyer must be able to connect the breach, which is the drunk driving, directly to the injuries that you sustained. This is typically a two-part process.
First, it must be shown that the defendant’s drunk driving was the cause of the accident. That may seem obvious, but there are situations where that could not be the case. For instance, if someone had a blood alcohol concentration that is technically over the legal limit, but they were slammed into while stopped at a red light, it’s not the intoxication that caused the accident. Your drunk driving accident lawyer must be able to directly establish the intoxication as the reason why the accident occurred.
Second, the injuries must also have a direct connection with the accident. Proof is needed for this, as well, since people have sometimes tried to embellish their injuries. They also may try to get pre-existing injuries or those that happened after the accident covered.
Once negligence on the part of the defendant is established, you can seek damages to cover the costs that you have incurred as a result of your injuries from the accident. To do this, there must also be another direct link established. Your drunk driving accident lawyer must demonstrate that the costs were a direct result of the injury and weren’t something you would have had to deal with otherwise.
One category of damages that may be awarded is economic damages. Through these damages, you are compensated for the financial costs associated with the accident. Things like your medical bills and the cost of physical therapy or rehabilitation are included. The cost of repairing the damage to your vehicle or replacing it is also a part of these damages. Additionally, if you had to miss work as a result of the injury and lost wages, that can also be compensated.
Any future expenses or losses will also be part of the case award. For example, if your injuries require ongoing medical care, that will be a part of the calculation, along with any lost earning capacity if you are unable to return to the same level of work that you had before the injury.
The costs that aren’t financial in nature are compensated through non-economic damages. These are the emotional and psychological costs that result from the injury. Things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of enjoyment in life are included in this category. If you lost a body part or the use of a body part, that could also be included.
In some cases, even mental anguish, like anxiety or depression, can be part of the award if its origin can be traced back to the accident. Of course, money isn’t going to solve these problems. However, an estimated value is placed on these things, and those funds can hopefully reduce stress and burdens in other aspects of life, making it easier to manage these kinds of issues.
In some cases, it’s possible that punitive damages could be awarded. These are meant to act as a kind of punishment and deterrent for behavior that is particularly egregious or malicious. While these aren’t awarded in every drunk driving case, it is possible in cases where the court believes that it is warranted.
While there isn’t a cap on damages for a drunk driving accident in New Mexico, your damages still could be limited by the system of pure comparative negligence that New Mexico operates under.
This system allows the defendants in personal liability claims to make the case that the plaintiff is at least partially responsible for the accident. When this happens, the burden of proof switches to the defendant’s lawyers, and they must show that the plaintiff was negligent and prove the three elements involved.
If the defendant’s team is able to successfully argue that the plaintiff bears some responsibility for the accident, it is up to the court to determine a percentage that describes the plaintiff’s share of fault for the accident. Their awarded damages will be reduced proportionately to the share of blame that they hold.
For instance, if the plaintiff in an accident was determined to be 20% at fault for their injuries, and their damages award was $50,000, then they would only be able to collect $40,000.
It’s worth noting that, in some states, once a plaintiff’s share of damages is 50%, they are unable to collect any damages for the claim. Since New Mexico operates on a system of pure comparative negligence, that is not the case.
No matter what share of fault the plaintiff has, they will still be able to collect some amount of damages. Even if the plaintiff was discovered to be 99% at fault in an accident, they would still be able to collect 1% of the damages award.
You cannot wait indefinitely to file an accident claim. The deadline for filing is determined by the statute of limitations in the particular case. A drunk driving claim falls under the personal injury statute of limitations, and it is generally going to need to occur within three years of the date of the accident.
However, it is possible that the limit could be shortened or extended, depending on the specifics of your claim. Factors such as whether the injured party was a minor, when the injury was discovered, and who the defendant is could all affect the limit for when you can file the claim.
Contacting a law firm, like Berenson & Associates, PC, to discuss your case can help you understand the statute of limitations in your case. However, it’s important to realize that the deadline can be shortened, and you can most effectively protect your options by contacting a drunk driving accident lawyer in Albuquerque as soon as possible after the accident.
One of the questions that victims of these kinds of accidents often ask is whether they should settle their claim or take it to court. The ideal option for your case will depend on the specifics of your case.
Generally, though, there are some benefits and risks to both options. The significant risk in settling is that you could possibly get more by taking the case to court. Typically, an insurance company is willing to settle because they believe that it’s the better financial decision for them.
There are, though, some significant risks in taking a claim to court as well. The biggest of these is that it’s possible that the claim doesn’t go your way and the defendant is found to not be at fault, meaning that you won’t receive any damages.
It’s also possible that you could be found to be at fault and have your damages reduced or possibly even wiped out. Additionally, going to court could take quite a bit of time, meaning that you will need to wait for the funds that you need.
The benefits of a settlement are that they address these concerns, even if the payout could be less. In a settlement, whatever damages are agreed to is guaranteed to come your way. It also is not subject to the long delay of the court process and is usually paid very shortly after the agreement is reached.
Whether to settle or go to court, though, will depend very much on your situation. Working closely with your attorney, you can get a sense of what might be the right option for your situation.
If you want to give your case a strong chance of success, then you can benefit from working with an experienced legal team, as you can find at Berenson & Associates, PC. It’s our job to represent you and put forth a case for you to receive what you deserve.
The foundation of our process is a thorough investigation of the drunk driving accident. We can examine all the facts and any evidence that we can find to help make your case.
We also consider the possibility of defendants asserting your liability and look for evidence that can be used to challenge those claims. It’s this foundation of understanding the situation that allows us to represent you from a position of strength, whether in negotiations or in court.
We can represent you in working with the insurance companies as well. This is important for a few reasons. One of these is that we can help you avoid saying something that might hurt your claim.
The insurance companies will look for anything that sounds like an acceptance of blame. That could help them reduce the payment that they owe by using New Mexico’s comparative negligence policy. They could claim that you are liable for some portion of the accident. Letting a lawyer communicate on your behalf can help avoid these situations.
Allowing a drunk driving accident lawyer to negotiate for you also lends a sense of seriousness to the proceedings, as it carries an implication that if an adequate settlement can’t be reached, a civil claim is a strong possibility. The reality of this threat can sometimes cause these companies to approach negotiations with a different perspective. If a settlement can’t be reached, though, then we can represent you in court and make the case for what you are owed.
A drunk driving accident can be a devastating experience. It can leave you with a stack of medical bills, car repairs, and missed work. That doesn’t even begin to address the reality of managing the injuries that you’ve sustained, which can sometimes have lifelong impacts. Unfortunately, it can be made all the more painful knowing that the situation was entirely avoidable if someone else had made wiser decisions.
Fortunately, the law does allow for you to seek compensation from those responsible for what they did. Their insurance company, though, is usually not eager to follow through. However, when you work with an experienced legal team, as you find at Berenson & Associates, PC, you can be sure that you have a strong chance of getting what you’re owed. Contact us to discuss your situation.