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Car Accidents

Does New Mexico Uninsured Motorist Law Require “Physical Contact”

By April 15, 2020No Comments

What does it take for uninsured motorist coverage to be triggered? 

Let’s say that a driver is cut off by another vehicle and a single-vehicle accident occurs, but the two vehicles never touch.  The other vehicle leaves the scene of the crash and cannot be found. The driver of the crashed vehicle is injured and has uninsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM).  

Will the injured driver’s uninsured motorist protection provide coverage even though there was no physical contact between the two vehicles? 

Physical Contact Rules in New Mexico

Unlike some states, New Mexico does not require physical contact with the uninsured vehicle.  This means that New Mexico policy allows coverage even without physical contact.  

This policy came to light during the New Mexico Supreme Court case Chavez v. State Farm, and the NM Supreme Court decided that New Mexico’s uninsured motorist statute only requires two things:

  • that the insured driver be legally entitled to recover damages
  • that the other driver is uninsured

(Phantom drivers who leave the scene of an accident are considered uninsured drivers pursuant to New Mexico law.)

Thus, there is no requirement for physical contact between the two vehicles.

What if there are other factors, such as out-of-state drivers and insurance policies?

This law applies to all accidents that occur in New Mexico – even if the injured driver is from out of state and their UM/UIM policy from out of state has different requirements.  

For example, I live in Texas and have a Texas UM/UIM policy with State Farm.  My policy requires physical contact for UM/UIM coverage. But if a phantom vehicle ran me off the road in an accident in New Mexico, my UM/UIM would still apply in this circumstance – even though there was no contact with the other vehicle – simply because the accident took place in NM.

(In fact, this was the exact fact scenario in a 2006 New Mexico Court of Appeals.)

Do all states have this law, like New Mexico?

No. Many states, including Texas, require physical touch between the two vehicles for coverage. That’s why you should contact an experienced car accident attorney – preferably one who is licensed in multiple states – to help you through this case.

Contact Harmonson Law Firm today

If you have any questions about your New Mexico (or Texas) uninsured motorist coverage, please give us a call. Our team at the Harmonson Law Firm is happy to help you through your case and help you seek the compensation you deserve.

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