Another motorcycle accident fatality was recently reported in Chaparral, New Mexico, when the driver of a sport utility vehicle turned into oncoming traffic and struck a 42-year-old Texas man on his bike.
The crash occurred around 7 a.m., and if the police reports are accurate, the SUV driver will most likely be found at-fault. That means under New Mexico's "fault" auto insurance law, the decedent's estate can pursue damages from the at-fault driver.
They may claim damages for:
- Wrongful death;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss wages/ loss of support;
- Loss of consortium.
Even if the motorcyclist had been deemed partially to blame, New Mexico follows a system of pure comparative fault (see 1981 Mexico Supreme Court decision in Scott v. Rizzo). What this means is a plaintiff/decedent's own negligence will not be grounds to prohibit recovery of damages from others who are to blame, but it may proportionally reduce one's damages.
For instance, if the motorcyclist had been 30 percent at fault but the SUV driver was 70 percent at fault, the motorcyclist's survivors might be able to collect 70 percent of the total damages.
New Mexico Motorcycle Accidents
Sadly, our Albuquerque motorcycle accident attorneys know crashes like this are all too common.
Last year, there were 48 fatal motorcycle accidents statewide, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. That's about 12 percent of the total, which far outpaces the number of registered motorcycles in the state, and is disproportionate to the number of motorcycle accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 5,000 motorcyclists die on U.S. roads annually, and another 90,000 are seriously injured. In 2015, per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclist deaths occurred 29 times more frequently than passenger vehicle occupant deaths in traffic crashes.
Less than half of all motorcyclists die in single-vehicle crashes. In those cases, passengers may be entitled to collect damages from the driver's insurer, or from their own personal uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy—even though they weren't driving.
Staying Safe on Albuquerque Roads
Motorcyclists, because they lack the protection of air bags and seat belts, must do their best to use great caution and drive defensively. This is especially true for new motorcyclists and those who may be getting back into riding for the first time in years. Research shows motorcyclists are most vulnerable in the first month after they are legally permitted to ride.
Some safety tips, as outlined by the NMDOT include:
- Make yourself visible. This means choosing the right protective gear that will increase your visibility, such as bright colors in the day and reflective clothing at night.
- Ride in places where you can be seen. There is no place you can ride in which you will be completely free of the risk of a motorcycle accident. However, you can improve your odds by not riding in a driver's blind spot, making your moves gradually, and always using your turn signal when you switch lanes.
- Don't share a lane with a vehicle. Drivers may not know you are there, and they aren't conditioned to look for bikes.
- Signal your intentions. Always do this before switching lanes. Never weave.
- Beware of left-turning cars and red light runners. This is the leading cause of motorcycle accident deaths in New Mexico.
But even if every necessary precaution is taken, motorcycle accidents can still happen. If you are injured in a New Mexico motorcycle crash, our attorneys may be able to help you recover damages.