Drunk driving is a serious issue across the United States, especially in New Mexico. The state of New Mexico ranks fifth in the country for fatal DWI accidents per capita. New Mexico Department of Transportation statistics show that, in 2018, nearly 5 percent of car crashes in the state involved alcohol. Drunk driving accidents are frequently deadly; there were 141 fatal crashes involving alcohol in New Mexico in 2018, accounting for 40 percent of the total number of fatal car accidents that year.
A DWI car accident can be devastating for victims and their families. In many cases, a standard payout from an insurance company doesn’t provide adequate compensation. Survivors may face years of medical bills, lost wages, chronic pain, mental trauma, and emotional suffering.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving alcohol, you may be entitled to additional damages to address mental anguish, ongoing medical bills, and loss of wages. At Whitener Law Firm, our attorneys have the experience to help you pursue maximum compensation from a DWI accident. Schedule a consultation to discuss your case by calling our Albuquerque, New Mexico, office at (505) 883-7877. You can also fill out our online form.
New Mexico’s Drunk Driving Laws
Under New Mexico’s DWI laws, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. The limit is lower for commercial vehicle drivers (0.04 percent) and individuals under the age of 21 (0.02 percent). A driver may be convicted of DWI even with a BAC under the legal limit if it is proven that his or her driving ability was impaired by alcohol (or drugs).
A conviction for drunk driving in New Mexico can lead to numerous penalties: monetary fines, jail time, license suspension, and required substance abuse treatment. There are several mandatory penalties for a first offense:
- Attending DWI school
- Completing 24 hours of community service
- Attending a victim impact panel
- Completing a substance abuse screening and recommended treatment plan
Potential additional penalties for a first DWI offense include up to 90 days in jail and 1 year on probation, fines up to $500, license suspension up to 1 year, and a requirement to use an ignition interlock device for 1 year. A minimum of 48 hours in jail is mandatory for a first offense that is an aggravated DWI. A DWI is considered aggravated if the driver has a BAC over 0.16 percent, refuses to submit to a chemical test, or causes bodily injury while driving under the influence.
Subsequent offenses incur stricter possible penalties: longer jail and probation time, higher fines, longer license suspension, and inpatient substance abuse treatment. Driving with a revoked license for DWI can also lead to severe penalties.
Who Is Liable in a DWI Accident?
The question of liability in a car accident can be complicated, even if alcohol is involved. While it may seem like the drunk driver would always be at fault in a car accident, many real-world situations are more complex. There may be multiple parties that are each partly responsible for the accident, which can affect both criminal charges and civil suit outcomes.
The drunk driver
When alcohol is involved in a car accident, the drunk driver may be liable for the crash and face both criminal DWI charges and personal injury lawsuits. Under New Mexico laws, however, there may be other liable parties in a DWI accident.
The alcohol provider
New Mexico’s “dram shop law” covers liability for individuals or entities that are licensed to sell or serve alcohol. Under this rule, an alcohol licensee may be liable in a personal injury lawsuit under certain circumstances:
- The licensee sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person
- It was “reasonably apparent” to the licensee that the person purchasing or receiving the alcohol was intoxicated
- The licensee understood from circumstances that the person buying or receiving the alcohol was intoxicated
New Mexico’s dram shop law places a cap on liability damages for the alcohol licensee: $50,000 for bodily injury or death (of one person) and $20,000 for property damage.
The social host
Another New Mexico law relates to alcohol that a “social host” serves to guests at a party or event. This statute is a subsection of the dram shop law and assigns liability in certain circumstances:
- The host “gratuitously” provided alcohol to a guest
- The guest became intoxicated and then caused injury, death, or property damage to another person
- The host recklessly provided alcohol
New Mexico state law does not cap liability damages for social hosts.
Comparative Negligence Laws
Another aspect of determining liability for a DWI car accident involves New Mexico’s comparative negligence laws. Car accidents are often caused by more than one party. The comparative negligence law means that damages are awarded according to the proportion of fault. For example, if you were speeding when you were hit by a drunk driver, a court may decide that you were 25 percent at fault for the accident. As such, you could receive 75 percent of the awarded damages.
Pursuing Additional Damages After a DWI Accident
If your car is damaged and/or you are injured in a car accident, you may receive compensation from the liable party’s insurance provider. If the person responsible for your car accident was driving while drunk, he or she may face criminal charges. However, a criminal conviction does not usually provide the victim of a crash with any financial compensation. Filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court is often the best way to pursue damages for your DWI car accident injuries.
There are several different types of damages you may pursue:
- Property damage (including but not limited to your vehicle)
- Medical expenses (doctor’s bills and medical treatments)
- Loss of income (lost wages during recovery and/or inability to return to your job)
- Pain and suffering (physical, mental, and/or emotional trauma)
- Punitive damages (financial penalties for the drunk driver’s misconduct)
An injury lawsuit can take a long time and involve doctor’s visits, paperwork, and investigation of the accident, so it’s wise to start your case as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for compensation for your car accident, consult an injury attorney.
Statute of Limitations
If you decide to pursue additional damages for a DWI accident through a civil lawsuit, you have a limited amount of time to initiate your suit. In New Mexico, that statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is three years. This means that you must file your lawsuit with the court within three years of the date of the car accident.
An Attorney Can Help with Your DWI Accident Compensation Case
Any car accident is a tragedy, but one involving a drunk driver is especially devastating because it probably could have been prevented. If you or a loved one was involved in a DWI accident, you may be dealing with extensive injuries, trauma, lost wages, or even death. Even if you receive benefits from a car insurance claim, they may not be enough to address all the consequences of the accident.
Depending on the details of the accident, you may be eligible for additional damages and compensation. At Whitener Law Firm, we understand that pursuing compensation can be challenging, especially if you are recovering from an accident. Our attorneys have experience helping clients in New Mexico pursue maximum compensation for DWI accidents resulting in injuries or deaths.
If you are dealing with an injury or the death of a loved one from a drunk driving accident, our team is here to help. When you schedule a consultation, we’ll help you understand your available legal options. The number for our office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is (505) 883-7877. You can also use our contact form.