A driver looking through his car's papers after an accident with another vehicle.

Car accidents occur all too frequently, but when they happen to you, problems like painful injuries, medical bills, missed work, and other difficulties can be overwhelming. The combination of injury-related expenses and losing time at work can quickly destabilize an injured person’s financial situation, sometimes wiping out savings and leaving debts.

Turning to the responsible driver’s insurance company isn’t always helpful, as the driver or their insurance adjuster might blame you for the accident. How can you get the compensation you need for your car accident?

Contact a New Mexico Car Accident Attorney Today

Securing the settlement you need to recover is more challenging than it should be, and many people face claim denials. Even if the insurance carrier approves your claim, you may not receive the total damages you deserve.

New Mexico law allows for shared fault in car accidents, with each party remaining responsible for their own share of damages. That means if the insurance adjuster overestimates your portion of the fault, you could lose money that’s rightfully yours.

It’s also possible the insurance company could undervalue your damages, further reducing your settlement.

While a car accident claim can have many potential pitfalls, the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer will ensure you receive the best possible settlement. At Olson Personal Injury Lawyers, we’re dedicated to helping injured people get the assistance they need to recover.

We’ll review your car accident case, answer your questions, and explain the possibilities for pursuing a claim. Your initial consultation is free, and if we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we successfully resolve it.

Please contact us today to learn more about your options.

What Causes Car Accidents in New Mexico?

Car accidents have many root causes, including issues with weather, road conditions, and vehicle malfunctions, but most accidents are caused by driver error. As discussed earlier, New Mexico is a pure comparative negligence state for personal injury cases like car accidents, so the fact that one driver made an error doesn’t necessarily mean they were 100 percent at fault.

In many accidents, both drivers make mistakes that contribute to the crash. The challenge is ensuring that the insurance company fairly evaluates how much fault each party has.

Here are some of the most common causes of car accidents and what you can do to prevent them:

Distracted Driving

In the Land of Enchantment, many drivers are enchanted with their phones, leading to an increased risk of accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that New Mexico is the state with the most distracted drivers based on 2021 data.

That year, 195 deaths were attributed to distracted driving,

Texting and driving is strictly prohibited in New Mexico, as is using handheld phones or other devices while driving. Most drivers (except for those with an intermediate license) are allowed to use “hands-free” devices like Bluetooth headsets as long as they are voice-operated.

However, people sometimes become distracted if their hands-free device stops working, so it’s always better to wait until you reach your destination to make calls.

Although a smartphone is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about distracted driving, other distractions like eating, drinking, grooming, or adjusting the radio or GPS can also cause accidents. If you need to do these tasks, please find a safe place to pull over first.

Unfortunately, you can’t stop others from driving while distracted, but you can pay attention to your own driving and other vehicles on the road. If you see a car moving erratically or a driver with a phone in their hand, slow down and give them plenty of space.

Be prepared to stop or move out of the way if necessary. You can also call 911 to report reckless driving.

Drunk Driving

While New Mexico ranks first in the nation for distracted driving accidents, it ranks third for drunk driving crashes. About 37 percent of all fatal crashes in the state are alcohol-related.

Fortunately, state efforts to address the problem have reduced drunk driving deaths in recent years, but it’s still important to keep an eye out for drivers who are swerving, speeding up, slowing down, or weaving in and out of their lane. If you see these signs of intoxication, put as much space as possible between your vehicle and theirs and report any violations to the police.


Even if you’re sober and paying attention to your driving, speeding can increase your risk of a collision and your risk of injury if an accident occurs. It also limits your ability to respond if another driver commits a traffic violation or takes any action that could cause a crash.

Following the speed limit and slowing down when conditions demand are two of the best steps to stay safe on the roads.

Speeding is often an issue in shared-fault accidents. Some people believe they’re entirely at fault because they drove too fast, but this isn’t always the case.

While we strongly urge you to slow down, you shouldn’t take all the blame if the other driver’s decisions also contributed to the collision. We’ll review the accident details and determine if the insurance adjuster’s estimate of your contributions is accurate.

Running Red Lights/Stop Signs

One common type of accident is the T-bone crash, which usually occurs at intersections. The front of one car collides with the side of another, often causing serious injuries for anyone on the impacted side of the vehicle.

These accidents typically happen because one driver ran a red light or stop sign or got confused about handling a four-way stop.

The person who ran the light frequently insists they looked both ways first. They are still at fault if they ignored a traffic signal or failed to stop at a stop sign.

It’s easy to miss other vehicles (especially small ones, like motorcycles) when you don’t come to a complete stop as directed.

However, we also see cases where both drivers claim they had the light or right of way. A New Mexico personal injury attorney will investigate the accident to determine who actually had the right of way at the time of the collision.

Following Too Closely

This is most commonly the cause of rear-end accidents. Some people think of rear-end accidents as “fender benders,” but in reality, you can suffer significant injuries like whiplash from a rear-end collision.

The impact from behind might cause your head to jerk forward and back, straining the neck muscles. While most people recover from whiplash within a few weeks, others develop chronic pain as a result.

A three-second following distance is usually prudent, but you should increase the distance in some situations (such as poor weather conditions or low visibility).

When another motorist follows you too closely, try to find a safe way to let them go around. If you can, move over to the right, take the next exit, or pull over.

People sometimes ask if the rear driver is always at fault in rear-end accidents. This is usually true, and the insurance companies will likely view the collision that way.

However, there are some exceptions. For instance, if another vehicle cuts in front of you without allowing enough room for you to slow down, that isn’t your fault.

Or, if the driver in front of you doesn’t have their lights on at night, they might be responsible for the collision. Proving it to the insurance company could be difficult, though, so if you’re in this situation, we recommend contacting a car accident attorney right away.

Drowsy Driving

Rates of drowsy driving are harder to track than drunk driving, but many experts believe that drowsy or tired driving can be as dangerous as driving drunk. When you’re tired or have been awake for at least 17 hours, your reaction time and hand-eye coordination decrease, raising the risk of a collision.

Unfortunately, drivers are less likely to think, “I should call a rideshare,” when they’re tired than when they’ve been drinking. The reality is that it’s better to avoid driving in both situations.

The signs of a drowsy driver can often look like the indicators of drunk driving: The tired motorist may be weaving or bouncing off curbs, and again it’s best to give the other vehicle as much space as you can if you spot these issues.

You should also look for signs of tiredness in yourself, especially when driving for long periods of time. These might include:

  • “Zoning out” or having no recollection of the previous several miles you’ve driven.
  • Struggling to focus or keep your eyes open.
  • Being startled by the loud noise of a “rumble strip,” the ridged areas of roads that alert drivers they’re crossing a line.
  • Frequent yawning.
  • Missing signs or exits.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s a good idea to pull over and consider alternative ways to get home or let a passenger who isn’t tired drive for a while.

Turning and Lane Change Issues

Turning or changing lanes isn’t usually dangerous if done correctly. Unfortunately, we see a number of accidents where one motorist moved over without fully looking to ensure the way was clear.

In some situations, it can be difficult to see into a “blind spot,” but checking your mirrors can help. It’s also a good idea to briefly turn your head and look behind you before changing lanes in case there’s a vehicle you can’t see in your mirrors.

At a minimum, you should look both ways at least once before turning. However, there are some cases where a driver swears they did so and still didn’t see another vehicle coming.

This is especially common in motorcycle accidents because bikes are smaller and more difficult to see. It can also happen on gray or cloudy days or in other low-visibility situations.

An additional safety measure is to turn off the radio and lower your window before turning so you can hear another vehicle coming even if you don’t see it.

Occasionally, road design or city planning can affect turning accidents. For example, if the road is designed so that even careful drivers can’t see other vehicles before turning, the government entity or private company responsible for the road design or city planning might be liable.

However, most turning accidents result from a simple driver error, so always look thoroughly in both directions before turning.

How Can a New Mexico Car Accident Attorney Help With Your Car Accident Claim?

Following a car accident, an injured person will usually seek help from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, but the insurance adjuster is often determined to pay as little as possible. There are several ways the injured person could run into difficulty when seeking a fair settlement:

  • Claim denials: Frequently, these are based on the assumption that the injured person was completely at fault for the accident. If you believe the insurance adjuster has erroneously identified you as the at-fault driver, please contact an attorney right away. We’ll investigate the accident and search for evidence to show what happened.
  • Attributing too much blame to the injured person: Earlier, we talked about New Mexico’s pure comparative negligence laws and how they can affect a claim. The good news is that being partially responsible will not completely prevent you from recovering compensation. The bad news is that one or more insurance adjusters will determine precisely how much fault each party has. Unfortunately, in some cases, the insurance adjuster may overestimate your level of responsibility, reducing your settlement excessively. Worse, many people who handle their own claims never realize their portion of fault is inaccurate because it’s difficult for the layperson to calculate their own culpability.
  • Undervaluing your damages: This is another area where the average person doesn’t know what to expect, so it’s easy to lose some of the compensation you rightfully deserve. The insurance adjuster will add up your damages—which can be economic or non-economic—and assign a total value to your claim. However, we often find they’ve overlooked or underestimated some damages, potentially costing the client thousands of dollars or more.

A New Mexico car accident lawyer can help you with all these situations. First, we’ll meet with you personally to learn about your situation.

You can ask us whatever you want, and we’ll answer your questions.

We’ll also review the police report from your accident, and we may ask you questions to clarify how the collision happened. We may examine other evidence to learn more if we suspect you were incorrectly blamed for the accident.

This could include visiting the crash scene, talking to witnesses, searching for video (sometimes doorbell cameras or security cameras are good sources), and studying the black box data from both vehicles. In some cases, we can find additional evidence to show the other driver was all or primarily at fault.

Then, we may be able to appeal a claim denial or negotiate for a more reasonable settlement from the insurance company.

Another important step is calculating the total value of your claim. We’ll ask about your injuries, property damage, and related expenses or losses.

This can include medical bills, lost income from missing work, paying out of pocket for mobility aids or making your home accessible, physical therapy costs, renting a car while yours is repaired, etc. However, non-economic damages like pain and suffering are also valid, and you deserve compensation for these as well.

Once we’ve learned more about your losses, we’ll estimate a fair settlement amount. If the insurance company’s offer is reasonably close to this amount, you can accept the offer and move forward with your recovery.

Of course, if the insurance company has underestimated your damages or overestimated your contributions to the collision, we’ll fight for a better deal.

Do You Have to Go to Court for Your Car Accident Case?

It’s possible but very unlikely. We can successfully resolve most car accident cases out of court, which usually saves time and allows the client to get their settlement sooner. However, in a few situations, the insurance company may refuse to agree on an appropriate settlement despite our best efforts.

When this occurs, we are prepared to argue your case in court if necessary.

What if the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured?

New Mexico requires at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person ($50,000 per accident) and $10,000 in property damage liability. Unfortunately, almost 25 percent of New Mexico drivers ignore this requirement and drive uninsured.

If one of these motorists causes an accident, you may find yourself wondering what to do.

Your first step should be to contact a car accident lawyer who can help you learn about the options in your case. Depending on the specifics of your situation, we may consider one of more of the following:

  • Suing the driver. In many cases, we don’t recommend this option because the at-fault driver has no significant assets. It’s not in your best interests to sue someone who can’t realistically pay a judgment if you win. However, we might recommend a lawsuit if we believe we can collect on a judgment.
  • Using your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UI) coverage. New Mexico requires that insurance companies offer this coverage to all their customers, but the policyholder can refuse it in writing. We don’t recommend turning down UM/UI coverage, as this may be your only option if you are injured by an uninsured driver who can’t afford to pay your claim. The minimum UM/UI coverage is the same as the minimum liability coverage, but we encourage you to buy a larger amount if possible. This will provide protection if the uninsured driver causes a more severe accident with extensive damages.
  • Suing a third party. This is possible in a few limited situations. If a defective car component caused or contributed to the collision or injury (for example, an airbag that didn’t deploy when needed), you might have a case against the manufacturer. New Mexico also allows for dram shop liability in certain drunk driving cases. For instance, if an establishment that sells alcohol serves an already intoxicated patron, and it is “reasonably apparent” that this person is intoxicated, it’s sometimes possible to sue the establishment.

The most reliable of these options is a robust UM/UI policy. You can also use UM/UI if the at-fault driver is insured but your damages exceed their policy limits.

So if the other motorist only has the minimum liability coverage, but you are severely injured and have over $100,000 in damages, you could seek restitution from your own policy after recovering $25,000 from their liability coverage.

What Should You Look for in a New Mexico Car Accident Law Firm?

We believe open communication is essential to helping our clients. If your attorney never has time to return your calls or emails, and you struggle to get even a vague update on your case, it may be time to find other representation.

At Olson Personal Injury Lawyers, we strive to respond promptly to clients and keep them apprised of our progress. Not every case can be resolved quickly, but we’re always happy to explain where we’re at in the process and provide an updated time frame.

Whenever you have questions or concerns about a car accident or other personal injury matter, please contact Olson Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. If you’re not sure whether you have a case, that’s a great time to contact us—we’ll learn about the accident and discuss your options for recovering compensation.

Sometimes, we can identify opportunities for recovery that the client might not have known about.

Olson Personal Injury Lawyers was founded by attorney Sean Olson in 2012. Mr. Olson still lives by the motto of his childhood soccer coach, who encouraged him to “build others up.”

Every day, he works to do just that by advocating for those struggling to navigate our complex legal system. In his spare time, he loves enjoying the great outdoors with his family.

Work with Olson Personal Injury Lawyers today when you call (505) 391-4149.