Car accidents are a daily occurrence in New Mexico. Even if you are a good driver, you can’t prevent a bad driver from rear-ending you or swerving into you. The reality is that most New Mexicans will be in one or more motor vehicle crashes in his or her lifetime. This means that you will probably make an insurance claim at some point in your career.
After a car crash, each victim may suffer a different type of damages case. Some may only have a claim for minor property damage but others may have a more complicated claim for diminished value or loss of use. Physical injuries are common but vary widely. These types of damages can range from soft tissue and whiplash type injuries to herniated discs, paralysis or even wrongful death.
Despite the type of damage, the claims procedure that needs to be followed is pretty much standard. Here are the basic steps for a New Mexico motor vehicle insurance claim.
When you are at the scene of the crash, you should try to collect evidence for your case. This usually means taking photos of the vehicles right after the crash. However, it may also mean writing down names and contact information for witnesses. Do not rely on the police officers to collect this information. Officers often don’t collect the witness names and information and the reason is that most of the officers don’t care about investigating car crashes. This is not all officers but I would say it is common.
CALL AND SET UP A CLAIM
After a crash, it is important to obtain the negligent driver’s insurance information: insurance company name, driver name and policy number. Report the claim promptly because the process takes time. Give a clear and simple description of how the collision happened. DO NOT ADMIT ANY FAULT when communicating with the adjuster. Make sure you explain how the other driver is at fault and what the other driver did wrong to cause the collision.
ASSIGNMENT OF ADJUSTERS
Two adjusters are usually assigned to a claim. The lead adjuster is usually the bodily injury claims adjuster. The second adjuster is the property damage adjuster. It is important to ask the property damage adjuster to come inspect your car as soon as possible.
The lead adjuster will investigate the claim. If it is one of the few good insurance companies, they will call their insurer right away and try to figure out what happened. However, most will try to get a recorded statement from you and try to trick you during the recording. DO NOT GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT. You may need to contact the adjusters constantly to get them to act. We recommend regular daily phone calls.
PROPERTY DAMAGE REPAIRS
Unless your car is less than one year old, expect the insurance company to use aftermarket parts. Some companies will consider a 2-year-old car new but anything beyond that will get aftermarket and used parts. You will have to pay extra for new replacement parts.
PROPERTY DAMAGE REPAIRS
Present whatever evidence you have showing that your vehicle is worth more if there is a total loss. This may mean showing new tire receipts, new battery receipt or other improvements. Recognize that recent repairs do little to increase the total loss value of a vehicle. Look at Kelly Bluebook or NADA value estimates.
BODILY INJURY EVIDENCE COLLECTION
To make a claim for bodily injury, you will need to provide evidence of your medical bills and treatment. The injury victim needs to demonstrate what the injury is, how it affected his life and that it was caused by the crash. An adjuster will not pay a claim without all of this evidence. Insurance companies will only pay for “reasonable” medical treatment and “reasonable” bills. It is tough to do this on your own and your best bet is with retaining a personal injury attorney who specializes in personal injury claims.
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ADJUSTER
After the adjuster assesses the medical records and bills, the injured party will receive an offer. Adjusters know that unrepresented parties will have to accept less money than the true value of their claim because they almost never have the wherewithal to file a lawsuit and meaningfully pursue the claim against the insurance company lawyers. When you are negotiating, you have to be willing to walk away from the table to get what is fair.
If the adjuster’s offer seems to be low, you should send a letter asking the adjuster to explain the basis of the offer and the adjuster’s reasoning and justification for this offer. Focus most on the tangible injuries and any permanent injuries. However, there must be medical evidence to back any claims you make or they will be ignored.
GET A LAWYER
The best way to ensure that you re getting a fair shake is to retain a personal injury attorney who specializes in these types of cases. Because most attorneys work on a contingency fee basis (this means no attorney fee unless there is a settlement or trial verdict), most injury victims should seriously consider this option. Whitener Law Firm offers free consultations and you can meet with an attorney to discuss your case and make sure this firm is a good fit.
If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, call Whitener Law Firm to find out what we can do to get you the money you deserve. For a free consultation regarding a personal injury claim, contact us at 505-883-7877.
There is NO FEE unless we win your case.