New Mexico Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

In terms of road safety, New Mexico hovers near the lower end of the top 10 safest states in the country. Even so, more than 300 drivers lose their lives every year on New Mexico roads, and many more are injured. New Mexico has instituted comprehensive legislation covering personal injury, wrongful death and road safety.

Statute of Limitations: You have three years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, and four years to file a property damage lawsuit. If someone dies in an accident, the plaintiff has three years from the date of death to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: New Mexico has adopted a “pure comparative fault system” – when the plaintiff shares fault with the defendant, the court will assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff and deduct that exact percentage from the plaintiff’s damages. This rule applies regardless of whether the plaintiff is 1 percent at fault, 40 percent at fault or 99 percent at fault.

Fault/No Fault Rule: New Mexico is a “fault” auto insurance state – you may look to the at-fault driver’s insurance for compensation, or file a lawsuit seeking damages.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: New Mexico’s minimum required auto liability insurance is $25,000 per victim, $50,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: New Mexico does not require its motorists to purchase coverage for uninsured or underinsured drivers, although such insurance coverage is available.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available, except for a $600,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. There are no caps on punitive damages.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: Strict product liability is available in New Mexico, although comparative negligence principles may limit your recovery if you were partly at fault.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): The New Mexico Tort Claims Act allows you to sue the state government for money damages for personal injury or wrongful death.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All under-18 riders on New Mexico roads must wear helmets. Failure to wear a helmet might be used against you if you file a civil lawsuit.

Seat Belt Laws: All riders 18 and older must wear seat belts. The maximum first-offense fine is $25. Failure to wear a seat belt can be used against you if you file a civil lawsuit.

Dram Shop Law: Licensed alcohol vendors and social hosts face civil liability if they serve a minor under 21 or an intoxicated adult who injures a third party due to his intoxication.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): A first-offense DUI offender can face up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and a driver’s license suspension of up to one year

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): In-state drivers may not use hand-held electronic devices while driving. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. Drivers on Learner or Provisional driver’s licenses may not use cell phones even if they are not hand-held.