What Are Your Rights and Obligations When You Are in an Automobile Accident in New Mexico?

Car accidents, even minor ones, can be traumatic and disruptive, especially if you are left wondering about your legal rights and obligations.  Understanding your rights and obligations will make a difficult situation a little bit easier.   

Stay on the Scene

In every accident involving injury or property damage, the driver has an obligation to stay on the scene until the driver has shared his or her information and help has arrived, if necessary.  New Mexico Stat. § 66-7-201.Penalties for leaving the scene vary based on the severity of the accident, from a misdemeanor when the accident only involves minor property damage, to a fourth-degree felony when the accident involves great bodily harm or death. 

Share Information and Help

When the accident involves injury or death, the driver is obligated to help any injured person.  New Mexico Stat. § 66-7-203. The driver must also share his or her name, address and the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall, upon request exhibit his driver's license to the person struck, or to the other driver if the accident does not involve an injury.

Striking an Unattended Vehicle

Sometimes a car accident can involve an unoccupied car.  When that happens, New Mexico law requires drivers to try to locate the owner of the car, to share his or her name, address, and owner of the vehicle.  New Mexico Stat. § 66-7-204. If the owner cannot be found, New Mexico law requires that driver leave that information in a conspicuous place in the struck vehicle, informing the owner of the name and address of the driver, and a statement of the circumstances of the accident.

Reporting to Law Enforcement

In New Mexico, you are obligated to report an accident if you were the driver if the accident results in bodily injury or death of any person, or $500 worth of property damage.  New Mexico Stat. § 66-7-206. New Mexico law requires that when an accident involving bodily injury or more than $500 of apparent property damage occurs, the driver must report the accident “immediately” and must, through “the quickest means of communication,” give notice of the accident to the police department if the accident occurs within a municipality, or to the office of the county sheriff or the nearest office of the New Mexico state police.

Reporting to the Department of Transportation 

If you were the driver and the accident resulted in bodily injury or more than $500 of apparent property damage, you must forward the report to the Department of Transportation within 5 days.  New Mexico Stat. § 66-7-207. The Department of Transportation may ask you for supplemental reports or may seek additional information from witnesses or others on the scene at the time of the accident.  It may be difficult to determine whether or not a car accident has resulted in bodily injury or more than $500 worth of apparent damage. The police or sheriff will also generate a written report, which they will forward to the Department of Transportation.  

Take Pictures and Video from the Scene (If you are able to.) 

Preserving the scene of your accident as soon as possible is of the utmost importance.  If you are able, take pictures of the site of the accident, video of the traffic conditions, and recordings of the weather conditions, skid marks on the road, street signs, and any other external factors that might help establish what happened.  Similarly, capture images of your vehicle and any other property that may have been damaged prior to repair. An experience attorney will help gather evidence to bring the strongest possible claim.

Seek and Follow Medical Advice

Although sometimes injuries resulting from a car accident are obvious, sometimes they do not manifest immediately.  Whether or not you have immediately obvious injuries, it is crucial to seek an evaluation from a medical professional immediately, and to follow all medical directives or recommendations for follow-up care, treatment, or appointments.  Seeing medical care right away will help ensure that all injuries are both diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion, but it will protect your claim from allegations that your injuries are unrelated to your accident.

Keep Receipts and Other Documents Related to Your Case 

You may be entitled to recover all of your costs related to the accident, including medical bills, a rental car, and less-obvious damages such as lost wages related to your absence from work.  Keeping receipts and other documentation will be necessary to recover the full amount to which you are entitled. When in doubt, don’t throw it out.   

What Can Marc Grano and His Team Do for Me? 

We are committed to handling your case with personal attention and the utmost respect. We will fully investigate your case and deal directly with the insurance adjusters. We will fully assess your claim and prepare the case for trial.  Most importantly, we will treat you with respect, keep you fully informed every step of the way and fight for the best outcome possible.

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