In many respects, these accidents are treated like any other auto accident. However, there can be important differences depending upon the circumstances of the accident. It is important to understand the differences and the possible means of compensation for your injuries. A personal injury attorney with experience with both auto accidents and work related accidents can help.
The First Challenge is Identifying Insurance Coverage
Like any auto accident, the first and most important step is to identify available insurance coverage.
First, the issue of possible personal injury claims should be distinguished from possible worker’s compensation claims. The focus here is on personal injury claims. The availability of worker’s compensation benefits will follow a very different analysis under the “coming and going rules” related to work-related travel, which will not be addressed here. Aside from that, the same “coming and going” rules apply if you are driving your employer’s vehicle or your own.
The personal injury aspect would be treated much like any other auto accident claim. The big challenge, like any other auto accident, is in identifying insurance coverage. The general coverage issues will follow the general rules governing New Mexico auto accidents and insurance coverage for such accidents.
Underinsured Insurance Coverage Often Only Available Coverage
Work related injuries often come with many restrictions on coverage. In auto accidents, there actually may prove to be greater coverage than other accidents depending upon the auto insurance coverage of the employer.
The first issue that will arise is obviously whether the other driver is insured and to what degree. In a significant portion of auto accidents in New Mexico, the at-fault driver is either uninsured or underinsured. In these cases, the primary concern will then shift to the availability of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage).
here could in fact be a couple of possible sources of UM/UIM coverage. If in fact you were driving your employer’s vehicle, then you would be entitled to any UM/UIM coverage on that vehicle. Unfortunately, despite the marginal costs of UM/UIM coverage, some employer may reject the coverage, which might foreclose the possibility of this coverage under the employer’s policy.
Validity of Rejection of Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage Including Stacking Must be Examined Carefully
Rejection of underinsured coverage, including stacking, is not favored in New Mexico and comes with many restrictions on the insurer.
However, New Mexico law places fairly strict requirements on the rejection of UM/UIM coverage. This will apply to both individual and employer rejection of coverage. As a result, it is important to determine whether the UM/UIM coverage was properly rejected. There are cases where it was not, which means that the full benefits of UM/UIM coverage, including stacking of coverage, will be available through the employer’s coverage.
Stacking is very important, as we have discussed in a number of other posts. Basically, stacking allows the insured to stack the UM/UIM coverage across multiple vehicles. For example, if there is $25,000 in UM/UIM and there are 3 vehicles on the auto policy, then the total coverage would be $75,000. These same rules apply to employer policies.
Just like the rejection of UM/UIM coverage, generally there are strict requirements on the rejection of stacking. Just like the rejection of UM/UIM, rejection of stacking must meet strict requirements or stacking will be allowed.
The availability of UM/UIM and stacking will more often than not make the difference of full compensation in the case of serious personal injuries. As mentioned previously, there are employers, including very large employers that reject UM/UIM on its policies. This is really inexcusable in light of the very high number of uninsured and underinsured drivers in New Mexico. Such behavior places employees at great risks in case of an accident.
Your Own Auto Insurance Coverage Will Come into Play Even Though Driving Employer Vehicle
Do not forget to look to your own underinsured policies if you have them. This coverage will protect you in any auto accident, including work related auto accidents.
In case the employer has rejected UM/UIM coverage, then you may still turn to your own UM/UIM coverage, which hopefully you have purchased. Despite the fact that you are driving your employer’s vehicle, you are still fully covered under your own policies.
In fact, there may be cases involving very serious injuries where both the employer’s UM/UIM and your own UM/UIM will be enlisted for full compensation. The existence and use of one will not rule out the use of the other.
In any event, like most auto accident cases, the critical questions will come down to insurance coverage. The insurance companies are not going to lead you through all the possible coverage. In fact, just the opposite is likely, as the insurance companies will often begin with the position that there is no coverage. It is important that you identify all available coverage.
Seek Guidance from an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
As should be clear, work related auto accidents come with special considerations and challenges. In cases involving serious personal injury or wrongful death, it is extremely important to identify all possible means for compensation.
Keep in mind and expect that the first response from your insurer, your employer’s insurer and your employer will likely be to deny coverage. Do not accept this position at face value. A thorough examination and investigation of insurance coverage issues will likely find otherwise.