Understanding Uninsured Motorist Claims Is Important
Almost 30% of all car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents in New Mexico are caused by drivers who fail or refuse to carry New Mexico’s minimum liability coverage on their vehicle. That’s why New Mexico law requires that all insurance companies provide uninsured motorist coverage when you purchase your own liability coverage on your vehicle. The uninsured motorist claim is applicable for wrongful death, personal injury and property damage.
Uninsured motorist coverage requires your own insurance company to pay you the same money damages that you would have received from the at fault driver had he carried liability insurance. That means that you are paid property damage for repair or total loss value of your vehicle, rental car or loss of use of your vehicle, towing, storage and diminution in value of the vehicle. It also means that you are paid for wrongful death and personal injury damages for you and all passengers in your vehicle. This includes past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering, past and future lost earnings and wages, permanent injury and disability and punitive damages.
Do You Have NM Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
There are 3 possible sources of uninsured motorist coverage for property damage, personal injury and wrongful death claims as a result of your vehicular accident:
1. Uninsured motorist coverage on the vehicle involved in the accident. (This coverage will get you personal injury, wrongful death and property damage.)
2. Uninsured motorist coverage on your own vehicle which was not involved in the accident. (This coverage will get you personal injury and wrongful death only.)
3. Uninsured motorist on any other automobile insurance naming you as an insured. (This coverage will get you personal injury and wrongful death only.)
3. Uninsured motorist coverage on any other vehicle owned by a relative living in your same household. (This coverage will get you personal injury and wrongful death only.)
Could I Have Waived Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Insurance companies will often sell you automobile insurance without uninsured motorist coverage to get people the lowest rate possible. This is called a liability only policy. In order to sell this kind of insurance the agent must do the following:
1. Offer you the uninsured motorist coverage and tell you the cost of the coverage.
2. Have you sign a written waiver stating that you were offered the uninsured motorist coverage, that you were told the cost of the coverage and that you wanted to decline the uninsured motorist coverage
If they have met this criteria, then you have effectively waived the uninsured motorist coverage.
Important Note: Always ask your agent for a copy of the waiver. Don’t take the agents word that you signed the waiver. Get a copy. If the agent cannot produce the waiver, then the assumption is that you DO have the coverage. The burden is on the insurance company to prove that you effectively waived uninsured motorist coverage.
Will My Rates Go Up If I Use My Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Absolutely not. Your rates cannot be increased, you cannot be cancelled and the insurance company cannot hold it against you. Often times, insurance agents will infer that your rates will go up. If your agent makes this inference, you should immediately report his/her statements to the insurance commission.
Will I Have A Deductible on the Uninsured Motorist Claim?
Yes, by NM state law there is a $250 property damage deductible. There is no deductible for property damage. You should get back this $250 deductible once your insurance carrier is reimbursed by the at fault driver.
What Personal Injury Damages Can I Collect on the Uninsured Motorist Claim?
You can get compensation for the following:
1. Medical Expenses (past and future):
All medical expenses that are reasonable and needed as a result of the injuries you sustained in the car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident. This includes all ambulance, emergency room, urgent care visits, primary care doctor visits, specialist visits, chiropractor, medical massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, dental, psychological, diagnostic and other health care. See our blog on medical expenses from car, truck and motorcycle collisions.
2. Pain and Suffering (past and future):
All pain, suffering and inconvenience that you had as a result of the injuries you sustained in the car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident. This includes the measurable physical pain, difficulty sleeping, time to go to and from medical treatments, inability to participate in normal daily activities such as hobbies, sports and family time. See our blog on pain and suffering.
3. Lost Earnings and Wages (past and future):
All earnings, wages and commissions that you missed from work or your place of employment as a result of the injuries you sustained. This includes sick pay, annual pay and vacation pay that you used so that you would not be without pay for the pay period. You need to show that a physician instructed you to remain off work for the time claimed or that you took off work for specific medical appointments.
4. Permanent Injury, Impairment and Disability:
Any permanent injury, impairment and disability documented by a medical doctor (MD) as a result of the injuries. This includes the inability to fully perform your current occupation and/or physical pain for the rest of your life.
5. Punitive Damages:
Punitive damages are applicable when your car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident was caused by a drunk driver, a hit and run driver, a reckless driver or a driver evading the police. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at fault driver for their intentional action and to deter such action in the future. This punishment damage is actually paid for by your own uninsured motorist carrier because the at fault driver has no insurance. See our blog on punitive damages in New Mexico.
Settlement Of The Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim?
Once you have completed all of your medical treatment, you are ready to settle your personal injury claim. Remember, your own insurance company is covering the damages that would otherwise be paid by the at fault driver if he had his own automobile insurance. If you are unable to settle with your own insurance company, then you may need to demand arbitration or file a lawsuit against your own insurance company. Your own company must deal with you in good faith to settle the claim. If they don’t, then you may have a separate claim against your own insurance company for “bad faith handling of your claim.”
Do I Need An Attorney?
Studies have shown that individuals receive more money when they retain a personal injury and wrongful death attorney to help with the claim. Some clients want an attorney to assist with medical bills and to offer letters of protection to doctors and other health care providers. This promises to pay the health care provider at the end of the claim so that there is no deductibles or co-payments. Other clients want an attorney to deal with the stress of the entire claims process. The attorney deals with all communication with the insurance adjuster. Others know that they won’t be taken advantage of by the insurance company when they have an attorney involved in the claim. The attorney protects the client in all aspects of the claim. Some insurance companies in NM are much more difficult to deal with and settle your claim. For a list of the 5 worst NM insurance companies to settle your claim with, see our blog.
Can Caruso Law Offices, PC Help Me?
Yes, we limit our entire law practice to personal injury and wrongful death claims. That’s all we do. And about 40% of all the cases in our office are uninsured motorist claims. We are the law firm that other attorneys call to help them find possible uninsured motorist coverage. We have extensive experience and success with uninsured motorist claims, and we have received endorsements from other attorneys and our clients. The majority of our new clients are referrals from our former clients,, other attorneys who don’t handle personal injury claims and others.
Former Insurance Company Attorney
Mark Caruso has 31 years experience and is a former insurance company attorney. He used to work for the insurance companies. Now he works for the victims against these same insurance companies. Mark Caruso knows the ins-and-outs of the insurance claims practice. He uses this experience to get his clients the most money possible on their uninsured motorist claims from their car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident. Mark Caruso has trained the attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants and legal staff on how to deal with insurance company adjusters and their attorneys.
Free Consultation Today
If you would like to meet with Mark Caruso to confidentially discuss your personal injury and wrongful death claim, you can call him now at 505-355-2969. He will give you a FREE legal consultation with no obligation whatsoever. We have two offices in Albuquerque to serve our clients-Northeast Heights and Westside. Mark Caruso can meet with you at one of these offices or at your home, work, hospital or other location on weekends or after hours. We serve personal injury and wrongful death clients statewide throughout New Mexico and in the reservations and pueblos of our state.