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Albuquerque Drunk Driving Accident Attorney

Who Is Liable in a Drunk Driving Accident?

In most drunk driving accidents the majority of the blame will fall on the intoxicated driver.

Seeking Compensation from a Drunk Driver

Charges may be brought against a drunk driver in criminal court. Even if the defendant (at-fault party) is not convicted, moreover, you can potentially bring a lawsuit against them in civil court. Different standards of proof apply in criminal and civil court, and the standard in civil court (“preponderance of the evidence”) is much easier to meet than the criminal standard of proof. In other words, you must only provide evidence of negligence that convinces the courts that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused the crash resulting in your injuries. To do so will require establishing the following four elements of negligence:

  • Duty of Care: The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care (e.g., to operate their vehicle safely and drive sober).
  • Breach of Duty: The at-fault driver breached their duty of care (e.g., driving while intoxicated).
  • Causation: The at-fault driver is directly responsible for your injuries (e.g., the injuries you suffered would not have been caused but for the defendant’s breach of duty).
  • Damages: You suffered financial and other losses as a result of the accident (e.g., medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc.).

You may be able to recover both compensatory damages and punitive damages from a drunk driver who caused you to suffer serious injuries. Punitive damages are awarded both to punish and deter, and the amount varies depending on what would be necessary to accomplish those purposes. However, even if you can get a judgment in a civil case, you may not be able to recover the full amount of damages if the drunk driver does not have an insurance policy with significant coverage or does not have assets.

Additionally, New Mexico courts apply the law of pure comparative negligence system. Under this rule, each driver is assigned a percentage of fault for an accident based on the evidence. As a result, a drunk driver may not always be entirely to blame. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 and found 10 percent at fault, you will receive 90 percent of your award, or $90,000.

Seeking Compensation from a Third Party

There may be other parties that contributed and may be partially liable in a drunk driving accident. For example, New Mexico has a dram shop law (New Mexico Statutes Annotated, section 41-11-1) that can impose liability on an establishment or homeowner that serves alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. It may be helpful to sue an establishment under dram shop laws. However, in dram shop and social host lawsuits, the bodily injury damages are capped at $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident.

You can potentially recover compensation from a bar, for example, if you show it sold alcohol to the defendant while he or she was already drunk, his or her drunkenness was “reasonably apparent,” and the server knew or should have known from the circumstances that the person was drunk. All of this may be proved through circumstantial evidence.

You can also try to hold a social host liable if he or she gives alcohol to guests recklessly in disregard of the rights of others, including the drunken guest. For example, if a person goes to a party, the host of the party may notice that this person is staggering around and speaking unintelligibly but still serve him drinks. If the drunk driver is speeding and crashes into you, causing you to suffer paralysis, you can sue both the driver and the host. You would have to prove that the host served the alcohol in reckless disregard of your rights and the defendant’s rights.

Compensation Available During a Drunk Driving Accident Suit

The goal for most plaintiffs during drunk driving accident claims is to obtain compensation for their damages. At the Fine Law Firm, we do not believe you should have to pay for your vehicle repairs or medical bills if a drunk and reckless driver caused them. We can take the appropriate legal steps to help you recover financial compensation for your economic and noneconomic losses.

  • Past and future medical expenses. This includes medical bills beginning from the time of the accident and any future treatment you may require. For example, transportation to the hospital, surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, doctor appointments, physical therapy, and any other medical needs.
  • Lost income and capacity to earn. The wages you would have earned had you not been injured in the crash. This kind of compensation also covers future lost wages and loss of capacity to earn if your injuries permanently impact your ability to make the same level of income as you did before the accident.
  • Property damage. For the repairs to or the replacement of your vehicle if it is totaled, and any other personal items destroyed in the collision such as your cell phone, clothing, laptop, car seat, etc.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses. Compensation to reimburse you for any other costs related to the accident, such as a rental car, costs for transportation to doctor visits, medical equipment, modifications to your home if you suffered a permanent disability, etc.
  • Pain and suffering. Compensation for the severe physical pain you have had to endure due to the accident.
  • Emotional distress. If you suffered any psychological conditions as a result of the crash that impact your life (e.g., depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, etc.).
  • Punitive damages. This type of compensation is not available in all car accident claims, but they are commonly awarded in drunk driving accident cases. Punitive damages are meant as punishment for the defendant for their extreme reckless disregard for the safety of others.

The value of your drunk driving accident case will depend on factors such as the seriousness of your injuries. In general, you will qualify for a higher settlement or judgment award if you have catastrophic injuries such as broken bones or a concussion. Our attorneys can evaluate your case and let you know how much we believe it could be worth. Then, we can represent you during a damage claim to demand maximum compensation.

How Can a Lawyer Help You Hold a Drunk Driver Accountable?

Once you hire an injury attorney, they will make sure the drunk driver is held accountable by taking a number of actions on your behalf to build a solid case. For example:

  • Investigating and documenting the accident to collect evidence of fault.
  • Collecting all available photos and videos of the accident and aftermath.
  • Obtaining copies of receipts for alcohol purchases and seeking any surveillance footage of the defendant purchasing or drinking alcohol if applicable.
  • Obtaining phone records if necessary.
  • Interviewing witnesses to the accident or at locations where the defendant purchased and/or consumed alcohol.
  • Determining all parties that contributed to the accident and are liable.
  • Accurately estimating your losses after gathering documentation on your injuries, medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
  • Ensuring the at-fault party’s insurance company treats you fairly and negotiating a fair settlement agreement.
  • Pursuing your case in court if the insurer refuses to pay the amount of compensation you are entitled to.

A drunk driving accident can be devastating and may require a lengthy recovery. A drunk driving accident lawyer will have the experience and resources necessary to protect your rights and ensure you recover fair compensation while you focus on healing.

What Is New Mexico’s DWI Law?

As is the case in most states, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in New Mexico. Any degree of impairment could lead to a driving while intoxicated charge in New Mexico. With a blood alcohol content level of at least 0.08% while driving, however, a police officer needs no other reason to make an arrest for DWI if you are 21 or older. The limit for individuals under 21 is .02 and .04 for commercial vehicle drivers. The penalties for driving while intoxicated can include expensive fines and time in jail, as well as suspension of the driver’s license. The drunk driver could also face civil liability if he or she causes an auto accident. As a victim of the crash, you may be able to hold the drunk driver financially responsible for your damages.

The Consequences of Drinking and Driving in Albuquerque

When a person is arrested for a DWI, their driver’s license is immediately seized and revoked for six months if it is their first offense or one year for a second or third offense. If later convicted of a DWI, they may face the following additional penalties.

1st Offense 2nd Offense 3rd Offense
Jail Up to 90 days 96 hours to 364 days 30 to 364 days
Fines Up to $500  $500 to $1,000 $750 to $1,000
Community Service 24 hours 48 hours minimum 96 hours minimum
License Revocation One year plus one year with an ignition interlock device (IID) Two years plus two years with an IID Three years plus three years with an IID

Convicted drivers may be able to drive with an IID unless they refused BAC testing when arrested. The revocation periods related to the arrest are also typically credited towards the revocation mandated by a criminal conviction. In addition, DWI offenders will have to complete a substance abuse program dependent on their substance abuse screening. The judge will decide on the program based on the screening results, but at a minimum, a first-time offender must complete a DWI educational course. Second or third offenses require a 28-day inpatient course or other court-approved treatment.

Aggravated DWI

When a DWI involves an injury accident or the driver’s BAC was .16 or higher, it is called an “aggravated DWI.” These offenses carry mandatory jail time of 48 hours for first offenses, 96 hours for second offenses, and 60 days for third offenses.

In addition to a potential conviction and criminal penalties, when someone drives drunk and survives a crash that injures or kills other people, they must also live with the psychological consequences. That emotional burden can be worse than any bodily harm.

What to Do if You Spot a Drunk Driver

When you see a driver that you believe is intoxicated, here are three steps to take next:

  1. Keep your distance. Pull over to stay safe or put as much distance between you and the potentially drunk driver as possible. That way, you are not at risk from their dangerous driving.
  2. Call 911. Notify the police and be prepared to give your location, the vehicle’s make, model, and color, and their license plate if you memorized or wrote it down. The sooner you contact the police, the more likely the drunk driver will be apprehended and a collision prevented.
  3. Choose an alternative route. After reporting the driver to the police, check for an alternative route to get to your destination if you are worried about catching up to the drunk driver again.

What to Do After an Accident with a Drunk Driver

Try to Remain Calm

The aftermath of an accident can be chaotic and overwhelming, but try to stay calm to help you make rational decisions.

Call 911

Notify the police even if you do not believe anyone is injured. When they arrive, mention that you think the other driver is drunk, and they will assess the situation. Emergency responders will evaluate you and may transport you to the hospital.

Take Photos and Video

If you are not immediately taken to the hospital, try to stay at the scene and document as much as possible. Take photos and videos of the vehicles, their damage, the surrounding area, any debris or skid marks, and your injuries.

Ask For Contact Information

If the other driver is coherent, ask for their contact and insurance information. If not, law enforcement will obtain this information, and you will be able to find it in the police report.

Get Medical Attention

See a doctor as soon as possible if you do not go to the hospital. Some severe injuries can have delayed symptoms, and you also need medical records to link any injuries and potential injuries to the accident caused by the drunk driver.

Speak to an Attorney

Schedule a free consultation with an Albuquerque Drunk Driving Accident Attorney to ensure you recover full and fair compensation.

How Much Does an Albuquerque Drunk Driving Accident Attorney Charge?

Most drunk driving accident lawyers in Albuquerque, including the Fine Law Firm, take cases on a contingency fee basis. What that means is that your attorney will pay for the costs of handling your claim so that you do not have to pay any money for legal fees upfront. They will only be paid for their representation if you settle your claim or you are awarded damages at trial. If you do not recover compensation, your lawyer does not get paid either.

Ultimately, this is an ideal scenario for both drunk driving accident victims and their lawyers. Victims have a chance to hire skilled and experienced legal representation regardless of their financial situation, and their attorney will be motivated to win. Their contingency fee will generally be around 33 and a third percent of your recovery. For example, if you receive $100,000, your attorney will be paid approximately $33,000. However, the contingency fee can vary by firm, and some lawyers may increase their fee based on the amount of work involved in your case.

During the COVID-19 crisis, The Fine Law Firm is working and available to discuss your case with you. Contact us today.