Elderly Car Accidents
Legal Guidance for Motor Vehicle Collision Victims in the Albuquerque Area
For many elderly people, keeping their driver’s license is a sign they are still independent. However, studies show that older drivers are at a greater risk of being killed or injured in a car accident, and they are also at a greater risk of causing accidents. While the elderly must take a vision test each time they renew their license, and after age 75 a license must be renewed annually, there are no other restrictions for older drivers. If you have been involved in a car accident caused by an elderly person in the Albuquerque area, the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm may be able to help.
Holding an Elderly Driver Accountable for Your Injuries
Elderly drivers can become unfit to drive due to poor vision, declining physical health, reduced reflexes, and other cognitive impairments. In New Mexico, drivers can get driver’s licenses lasting for 4-8 years until age 67, when they can get only a four-year license. At age 75, they must renew annually. They will have to take a vision test each time they renew. However, they do not have their reflex and reaction times tested, and often a failure to act quickly is what causes accidents.
People hurt in a car accident must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached the duty, caused the accident as a result of the breach, and forced the plaintiff to incur damages. All elderly people owe the same duty as younger people to drive safely considering the specific road conditions and the weather. A breach of duty may include driving in difficult conditions when you know that you cannot see as well, or when you know that your reflexes have slowed.
For example, if an elderly person has weak joints and has trouble hitting the brakes hard enough, and someone in front of him stops suddenly, requiring an immediate response for the elderly person, the elderly person might breach his duty by failing to hit the brakes quickly enough. If the other driver was rear-ended and suffered soft tissue injuries, he or she could likely recover damages from the elderly person.
Often, someone is injured in a car accident that is partially his or her own fault. New Mexico follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by his or her percentage of responsibility. For example, if you are hurt in an accident, and the jury finds that your damages are $100,000, but you are 25% responsible for the crash, you can recover $75,000 from the other at-fault driver, but you are responsible for $25,000 yourself.
Sometimes an elderly person suffers injuries that are more severe than what a younger person would have suffered in the same accident. New Mexico follows the “eggshell plaintiff rule.” Under this rule, a defendant takes the plaintiff as he or she is. The defendant cannot argue that a younger person would not have been hurt in the accident in order to get out of paying an elderly plaintiff. The elderly are often susceptible to greater injuries than younger people, but this susceptibility is not to be considered in awarding damages. However, if the plaintiff has a pre-existing condition, the plaintiff is only entitled to compensation for the worsening of that condition, not damages that were already being suffered before the accident.
Contact an Albuquerque Attorney to Assert Your Rights after an Auto Accident
After a car accident, Albuquerque residents should consider enlisting a motor vehicle collision lawyer who understands all the different possible avenues of relief. At the Fine Law Firm, we are experienced trial attorneys who can help you assert your right to compensation. For a free consultation, contact us via our online form or call us at (505) 243-4541. The Fine Law Firm also represents accident victims in Rio Rancho and other areas of New Mexico.