It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in New Mexico without carrying the proper insurance. However, if you get into an accident, there’s a chance you won’t be properly protected. New Mexico’s legal requirements for minimum insurance are low enough that you could end up not receiving your full compensation, even when the other driver is insured. Worse, many drivers illegally drive without having insurance at all—often leaving injured parties in the lurch.
A lawyer can win a case or settlement against the at-fault driver, but when it comes to getting that money, you can only collect what exists. If the other driver is underinsured or uninsured, there may be absolute limits on what you can collect. And if your bills run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you can’t collect what you’re owed.
How Common are Accidents with the Underinsured?
Given that the costs of a moderate or severe car accident can easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, one would think that every driver would refuse to even enter their vehicle without the proper insurance. But financial pressures or other reasons can lead to drivers taking to the streets without the necessary insurance.
The risk of getting hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver in New Mexico is exceptionally high. New Mexico has the fourth-highest rate of underinsured drivers in the United States, trailing only Mississippi, Michigan, and Tennessee. New Mexico’s uninsured driver rate of 21.8 percent means that more than one in five drivers doesn’t have insurance.
However, insured drivers can and do cause accidents. And in New Mexico, they aren’t required to carry a large amount of insurance. The minimum liability insurance required by the state only requires $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 for property damage. Frequently, that minimum level isn’t enough to deal with the cost of replacing a new car, not to mention the high costs of healthcare and rehabilitation.
The sad reality is that even careful drivers in New Mexico deal with underinsured drivers every day. In 2019, there were 48,124 traffic crashes reported in New Mexico. That’s more than 130 car accidents per day! While it’s impossible to pin down the exact number of crashes involving underinsured or uninsured drivers, the numbers suggest that those types of drivers are involved in dozens of crashes in New Mexico every day.
What Happens When You’re Not at Fault?
Let’s say that you’re in an accident and you’re entirely not at fault. A single accident in a new car can easily exceed New Mexico’s minimum property damage limits. Moderate to severe injuries can also rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages. Consequently, a single injured person can require more compensation than New Mexico’s minimum liability insurance calls for. That doesn’t even include the costs of a multi-person accident, which is especially important to consider if you’re a parent.
While it can take some time for a settlement to be reached, the worst-case scenario is that you receive fair compensation, only to discover that the at-fault driver was not insured and doesn’t have the means to pay. In that case, there’s very little that the law can do for you. If the at-fault party doesn’t have the money, you have little recourse and will be stuck with whatever bills, lost wages, and other expenses you’ve accumulated.
At this point, you may be thinking about your insurance. Shouldn’t it cover you in a situation like this? While liability coverage protects you from the costs of accidents you cause, liability policies do not apply when you’re the not-at-fault party. That means you could find yourself completely out of luck, even if you have good coverage overall.
How You Can Protect Yourself from Underinsured Drivers
You can’t protect yourself from underinsured drivers if you are underinsured, too. Uninsured motorist coverage covers the losses created by an accident with an uninsured driver. A related coverage, underinsured motorist coverage, helps top off the amount that a poorly insured driver is able to pay.
While uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are nice things to have, there’s a decent chance that you may not have it without realizing that it’s not a part of your policy. While some states require that drivers carry uninsured/underinsured coverage, New Mexico does not. That means that you can carry excellent liability insurance and perfectly comply with the law, but not truly cover yourself in the event of an accident.
The good news is that New Mexico requires insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage with each policy, but you can still opt-out if you so desire. Given the number of uninsured drivers on the road in New Mexico, it’s good to keep that coverage, even if it costs a little bit more. Not having it when you need it can create a massive problem down the line. Because New Mexico requires insurance companies to offer underinsured motorist coverage at a 1:1 ratio with the rest of your plan, the better your overall coverage, the better protected you’ll be in this area.
Uninsured motorist coverage also protects you in one critical situation: hit and runs. In hit-and-run accidents, the offender’s identity is often unknown, making financial recovery impossible. With uninsured motorist coverage, you’ll be able to collect money from your own insurance company in the event of a hit-and-run accident, something you’re not otherwise able to do.
Insurance can be pricey, but given the risks of going underinsured, getting the best coverage is the right move for everyone. That’s why we recommend that all drivers in New Mexico choose to carry uninsured motorist insurance. By doing this, you can help mitigate the problems that uninsured drivers cause, and can ensure that you and your family will be taken care of in the event of a traumatic accident.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.