CALL (800) 863-5312 TO SPEAK WITH SANTA FE DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYERS FOR FREE
Drunk driving accidents are unfortunately all too common on roadways in New Mexico and across the United States. Despite laws, ad campaigns, and other strategies to reduce drunk driving, drivers continue to get behind the wheel and drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident in Santa Fe, you should call the experienced Santa Fe drunk driving accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation to explore your options. If we are not able to win your case, you will not owe us anything.
NEW MEXICO DRUNK DRIVING LAWS
According to New Mexico law, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is defined as the operation of a vehicle on a public road while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Pursuant to NMSA 66-8-102, the driver is guilty of drunk driving if the driver’s blood has a BAC of 0.08 or higher “within three hours of driving.” In some instances, a driver can be convicted of driving while intoxicated even if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.08 if he or she is “under the influence of any intoxicating liquor” or “under the influence of any drug to a degree that renders him/her incapable of safely driving a vehicle.”
A driver under the age of 21 may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if he or she drives on a public road after consuming alcohol, regardless of his or her BAC. Police officers generally determine an intoxicated driver’s BAC using a breathalyzer or blood test. If the driver’s BAC does not exceed the legal limit, then it must generally also be proven that the driver’s cognitive and motor functions were impaired due to the influence of the substances he or she consumed.
Signs that the driver may be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol include:
- The driver smells like alcohol and/or drugs.
- The driver exhibits slurred speech.
- The driver’s eyes appear to be red, bloodshot, or have a glassy appearance.
- The driver was recklessly operating a vehicle, including acts that led to the accident.
DRAM SHOP LAWS IN NEW MEXICO
The term “dram shop” is derived from “dram,” a former unit of measurement for alcoholic beverages. Dram shops are comparable to modern bars, clubs, or other alcohol vendors. Dram shop laws exist to hold alcohol providers accountable in ensuring the safety of those consuming alcohol. Drivers are expected to drink responsibly and not operate vehicles while intoxicated. However, alcohol vendors should not prioritize revenue over the safety of their patrons and should share the responsibility of maintaining a safe environment where alcoholic beverages are available. Licensed alcohol vendors are legally obligated pursuant to New Mexico Statutes Section 41-11-1, the New Mexico “dram shop” law, to not serve an individual any alcoholic beverages past the point of evident inebriation. The bar owner or alcohol vendor who served alcohol to the drunk driver may be held liable for injuries caused by that intoxicated person if the victim’s injuries were a direct result of the drunk driver’s inebriation and the following conditions are met:
- The customer is under the age of 18, or
- The customer was noticeably inebriated and is a safety hazard to himself or herself and others, or
- The establishment knew or should have known that the person was intoxicated, and
- The establishment nonetheless served alcohol to that intoxicated person
Social Host Liability
New Mexico Statutes Section 41-11-1 also provides for New Mexico’s dram shop laws outlining social host liability. According to this law, a drunk driving accident victim may sue a social host who serves a guest “gratuitous” amounts of alcohol in certain situations before that intoxicated guest then drives intoxicated and causes an accident. To hold the social host liable, the drunk driving accident victim must prove that the alcohol was “provided recklessly in disregard of the rights of others, including the social guest.”
Cap on Dram Shop Damages
Finally, Section 41-11-1 establishes a cap on any potential damages which limits compensation for dram shop claims or social host liability claims to $50,000 per person or up to a maximum total amount of $100,000. Further, the statute establishes a $20,000 limit for damage to personal property, such as the victim’s vehicle. However, this dram shop liability or social host liability is generally in addition to any potential personal injury claim you may be able to pursue against the drunk driver who caused the accident.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT
1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If you have been involved in an accident, you should always seek immediate medical attention to treat any potential injuries as soon as possible. Even if you do not immediately appear to be injured, many injuries may not be readily apparent but may become serious or life-threatening if left undiagnosed or untreated. You should also maintain a record of any medical treatment you receive and any medical expenses incurred, as this documentation may be critical in supporting any damages claimed in your drunk driving accident lawsuit.
Common types of injuries include:
- Brain or head injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Broken bones
2. Contact the Police
If you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver, you should contact law enforcement immediately. The drunk driver should remain at the scene of the accident until the arrival of law enforcement. It is common for drunk drivers to attempt to exchange insurance information with the victim quickly before then fleeing the scene of the accident to avoid a DUI charge. All documentation should be completed by law enforcement at the scene to ensure that all the information is factual.
3. Document the Drunk Driver’s Intoxicated State
If possible, you should use your cell phone or another device with video and audio recording capabilities to record a video of the intoxicated driver. A video can be extremely useful evidence in proving the liability of the other party. It is common for intoxicated drivers to deny that they were drunk or impaired during the time of the accident to avoid criminal charges as well as liability for the accident. Photo and/or video evidence can often be critical to proving their inebriation and supporting your claim.
4. Gather Any Available Documentation
In addition to taking photos and videos from the accident scene, it is also to your benefit to collect the names and contact information of any available witnesses to the accident or the other driver’s intoxicated state. If you are injured or otherwise unable to collect this information yourself, you should ask another person at the scene to do so for you if possible.
5. Cooperate in Any Prosecution of the Drunk Driver
After being involved in a drunk driving accident, it is important for you to cooperate with the district attorney who may be pressing criminal charges against the intoxicated driver. Your civil case could be strengthened by the other party being convicted of driving while intoxicated as this conviction may be considered strong evidence supporting your claim. If you are called to testify by the district attorney, you should do so and be honest when testifying.
6. Contact a Santa Fe Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
Drunk driving accidents may be complicated, especially without a DUI conviction or other evidence proving the other party’s intoxication at the time of the accident. If you were involved in an accident with an intoxicated driver, you should hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible to handle your case. Your lawyer may be able to help you seek compensation for losses and damages you suffered as a result of the accident.
Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case
CAN I GET PUNITIVE DAMAGES FOR A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT?
If you were injured as a result of an accident with a drunk driver, the other driver’s insurance company may seek to reach an early settlement with you to pay as little as possible for the drunk driving accident. The insurer may attempt to contact you and reach a settlement before you have hired an experienced attorney to help you pursue a claim. By reaching an early settlement before you have hired a lawyer to level the playing field, the insurer hopes to avoid paying many of the damages that a Santa Fe drunk driving victim’s attorney would know to seek, such as punitive damages.
Read More: Santa Fe Wrongful Death Lawyers
Do I Qualify for Punitive Damages?
Under New Mexico law, drunk driving accident victims may be able to pursue punitive damages because a drunk driver’s behavior is generally considered to be “reckless,” “willful,” or “wanton,” because of the intoxicated driver’s decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Indeed, New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction 13-1827 provides that punitive damages may be available if your lawyer is able to prove that the drunk driver is guilty of:
- Malicious conduct, defined as the “intentional doing of a wrongful act with knowledge that the act was wrongful,”
- Willful conduct, defined as the “intentional doing of an act with knowledge that harm may result,”
- Reckless conduct, defined as the “intentional doing of an act with utter indifference to the consequences,” or
- Wanton conduct, defined as the “doing of an act with utter indifference to or conscious disregard for a person’s [rights] or [safety].”
Because driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs generally meets these requirements, punitive damages may be available as a way to both punish the drunk driver as well as to deter other drivers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Punitive Damages Must Be Reasonable
A punitive damages award must generally be reasonable and just while taking into consideration all relevant circumstances, such as the nature of the wrong, as well as any aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The jury instruction requires juries to ensure that any punitive damages award be reasonably related to the injury and the compensatory damages and not disproportionate to the circumstances. An experienced drunk driving accident lawsuit in Santa Fe may include a claim for punitive damages and may impact your settlement amount from the insurance company.
GET HELP FROM A DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT LAWYER IN SANTA FE TODAY
At Zinda Law Group, our drunk driving accident lawyers in Santa Fe may help you with your claim. Our Santa Fe attorneys have years of experience helping our clients pursue the maximum compensation after they or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving accident.
Call (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. You will not pay anything unless we can win your drunk driving accident case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
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