There are many challenges to a full recovery for your injuries and damages resulting from an auto accident. Among the most immediate challenges and necessities is the identification of available auto insurance coverage. Insurance coverage will almost always dictate whether or not you are compensated for your injuries and other losses.
You should take steps to identify every available insurance coverage to insure that your rights to recovery are fully protected. You should do this whether or not you have an attorney. If you do decide you need an auto accident attorney, the Albuquerque Attorneys of Collins & Collins, P.C. are here to help with these sometimes complex, confusing and frustrating insurance issues.
Many Possible Sources of Insurance in an Auto Accident
There are often many possible sources of insurance if you know where to look. Some are pretty obvious. Others are not as obvious depending upon your circumstances. Identifying all possible coverage can be a challenge. It is very important and will often be the difference between in a full and fair recovery for your injuries and other damages.
Auto Accident Liability Coverage
Liability insurance is the first option. Unfortunately, in New Mexico, drivers often have little or no liability coverage.
The first and most obvious source of insurance is the other driver’s liability coverage. Keep in mind that this insurance may be called into play even where you were partially at fault.
The reason for this is that New Mexico is a comparative negligence state. This means fault and liability is apportioned. In cases of serious injuries, in the end, what this means is that even with some fault on your part, you will still be entitled to recovery against the other driver’s insurance.
Unfortunately, in New Mexico which leads the nation in uninsured drivers, the other driver may not have insurance. Even if the other driver has insurance, he or she may be underinsured, often grossly underinsured.
The minimal liability policy limits in New Mexico is only $25,000. It is easy to see that in cases of serious personal injury or wrongful death, this will not come close to fully compensating the innocent victim in an auto accident.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
This brings us to the next source of possible coverage. Uninsured/underinsured coverage(UM/UIM) is a must in New Mexico, or anywhere else for that matter. In the event of an auto accident in New Mexico, this is likely to be the only available coverage assuming you have it.
There are several important things to keep in mind in determining whether you have UM/UIM coverage. The first thing to keep in mind that just because your insurer says you do not have it does not make it so.
There are very strict rules on the rejection of UM/UIM coverage. If this issue comes up, then you most definitely need an attorney to help you sort it out.
Second, there may be a question of how much coverage you have. This brings up a couple of additional points. Related to the last issue regarding rejection of coverage, unless you effectively rejected coverage, your UM/UIM coverage will be equal to your liability coverage.
The next point is extremely important in New Mexico. Unlike some
other states, you are allowed to stack UM/UIM coverage. This means that if you have 3 cars in your household, you will have 3 UM/UIM coverage limits that can stack. For example, if you have 3 cars each with $25,000 in UM/UIM coverage, then you will have a total of $75,000 in coverage.
Employer’s Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured insurance is often the best or only option for coverage in a New Mexico car accident.
Many folks are injured in auto related accidents while working. In these cases, the injured worker may be able to call upon UM/UIM coverage even though he or she does not carry it.
If you are injured during work in an auto related accident, which covers a lot of ground, you can make a claim against your employer’s UM/UIM coverage. Like individuals, the employer will have coverage on all vehicles unless it was properly and effectively rejected.
Personal Liability Umbrella Policies
Very few people carry these policies in New Mexico. These are carried by high income individuals. These policies usually carry a minimum of $1 million in coverage.
This would be in additional to the minimum $500,00 in liability coverage that is typically required in order to obtain a PLUP (personal liability umbrella policy). Again, this is pretty rare in New Mexico where the more likely scenario is that the driver has no insurance and no assets.
There are many other insurance issues that will come up in an auto accident. It seems the more serious the accident and injuries, the more insurance issues that will arise.
Judgment Proof Defendants
Those without insurance typically have no assets making them “judgment proof”.
Why is all this so important? It takes us back to the first point of the discussion which is that insurance coverage will often dictate recovery.
In the case of an uninsured or underinsured driver, your recovery may be entirely dictated by your own UM/UIM coverage. If you do not have it, your recovery of damages pay be extremely limited.
After all, drivers that carry no insurance generally have no assets and little income against which you could collect a judgment. These drivers are called judgment proof. This means even if you get a verdict and judgment against them, you cannot collect on it. As they say, you can’t get blood out of a turnip.
Seek Legal Guidance – Insurance Issues Can Be Complex and Confusing
It is important to understand them all. In cases of serious injuries or wrongful death, it is highly inadvisable to attempt to deal with the insurance company on your own.
An attorney experienced in auto accidents and insurance issues can guide you through the maze of insurance issues while also dealing with the insurance companies to insure that your rights are fully protected.