New Mexico utilizes the traditional fault-based tort system. What this means is that when a car accident occurs, the at-fault party must pay for his or her mistakes, which means paying for damages. However, what happens when a car accident involves multiple vehicles, and when several individuals may be at fault? In these situations, New Mexico’s pure comparative fault statute may come into play.
The Three Types of Comparative Fault
There are three types of comparative fault theories that states follow. The first is pure contributory negligence. The second is pure comparative fault. The third and most common is modified comparative fault. New Mexico is one of 13 states that follow a pure comparative fault theory.
Pure Contributory Negligence
The pure contributory negligence theory is the most stringent of the three theories. As such, only five states continue to use it. Per this theory, the courts bar car accident victims from recovering any damages if they assume even just 1% of liability.
Pure Comparative Fault
New Mexico is one of 13 states that abide by a pure comparative fault theory, which is the most lenient of the three theories. In states that follow this theory, individuals may collect damages even if the courts determine they were 99% at fault. However, the courts will reduce any approved settlement or verdict by the percentage of fault that the plaintiff assumes.
Modified Comparative Fault
Most states abide by one of two versions of the modified comparative fault rule. In the first, plaintiffs may recover damages if their percentage of fault does not exceed 49%. In the second, the courts bar recovery once a plaintiff’s level of fault reaches 51%.
What New Mexico’s Pure Comparative Fault Rule Means for Your Multi-Vehicle Accident Case
Whether your car accident involved one other vehicle or several others, pure comparative fault will come into play. However, this rule proves particularly useful in multi-car collisions.
Following a multi-car collision, the deciding parties will assess the evidence and determine whether one or several parties’ negligence caused the crash. If, say, two other drivers assume liability, you would recover full damages (assuming you filed the claim), which the two at-fault parties would split according to their level of fault. However, say the deciding parties did assign fault to you. Your recovery would depend largely on how much fault you assume and whether you are the only person to file a claim. Below are a few examples of what your recovery may look like, assuming your damages total $100,000, based on varying percentages of negligence.
- If the courts determine you are 10% at fault, you may recover $90,000—which is $100,000 less $10,000.
- If the courts determine you are 50% at fault, you may recover $50,000.
- If the courts determine you are 99% at fault, you may recover $1,000.
The higher the percentage of fault you assume, the less it makes sense for you to pursue a personal injury claim. This is especially true if there is a third party to your accident to whom the courts assign zero fault.
How an Attorney Can Help Following a Multi-Car Collision in New Mexico
A car accident attorney can prove useful even in a case involving a standard, two-vehicle collision. However, due to the complexity of multi-car accidents, and due to the intricacies of the pure comparative fault rule, you may struggle to prove your entitlement to a fair recovery. An attorney who is familiar with negligence laws and who understands what goes into building a strong case, on the other hand, can competently guide you through the legal process and to a favorable outcome.