New Mexico Car Accident Laws – A Complete Guide


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

It’s wise for anyone hitting the road in the land of enchantment to also learn New Mexico car accident laws. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), New Mexico tops the list for the highest number of distracted drivers. For three years in a row.

There are state laws in New Mexico that can dramatically influence the payout you’ll receive for your injuries.

  • The three-year statute of limitations for filing your auto accident claim
  • Pure comparative fault laws that determine liability
  • Laws regarding when to report a New Mexico car accident

Fortunately, this complete guide can help you know what to do in case of a New Mexico crash. Read on to learn how to report, who determines fault, and when you need a New Mexico car accident attorney.

Free Auto Accident Evaluation

Hurt in a wreck that wasn’t your fault? Don't settle for less! Click here to speak with a nearby attorney for FREE about your claim.

What to Do at the Scene of a Car Accident

Regardless of where you live, the first step after any crash is to get yourself and other passengers to safety. If your car is impeding traffic, move your vehicle, if possible, to avoid a multi-car accident or further damage.

Next, check for injuries. Call 911 if anyone requires serious medical assistance. This step is important even when injuries are not visible but seem probable. That’s because sometimes conditions like whiplash and internal bleeding show up after the fact.

Additionally, New Mexico car accident laws require drivers to report crashes where there are injuries or damages exceeding $500 (N.M. Stat. § 66-7-206). You’ll want to get law enforcement to come to the scene as soon as possible.

How to Report a Car Accident in New Mexico

Per New Mexico Statutes §66-7-206 to 207, any driver involved in a New Mexico crash must report the accident.

The law stipulates the driver must do so “immediately, by the quickest means of communication.” In most cases that probably means a phone call to the local police, county sheriff or New Mexico state police.

Additionally, drivers must file a written report of the accident with the New Mexico Department of Transportation within five days. If you’re struggling to figure out how to file a report, a car accident attorney can help guide you.

Remember, reports are only a legal requirement when there are injuries, death or $500+ property damage.  However, it’s wise to acquire a police report regardless, since it may become necessary supporting documentation in future fault determinations.

Is New Mexico a No-Fault State?

New Mexico is actually an at-fault state. The at-fault driver or their insurance company is responsible for the damages they cause in a New Mexico car crash. And that includes paying for the other victim’s injuries and property damage.

However, it’s not as straightforward as one person being named completely at-fault and another being innocent. That’s because New Mexico follows a pure comparative fault system.

With that policy, authorities may find both parties carry some percentage of responsibility for the crash. And that will affect each driver’s ability to receive a settlement.

Comparative Negligence Laws in New Mexico

Most states use some kind of comparative negligence system for determining fault in auto collisions. New Mexico car accident laws follow the most driver-friendly option, which is pure comparative fault.

Under these rules, a driver can still recover damages, even if they’re more at-fault than the other drivers. However, there will be a reduction in damages by whatever percentage of fault each driver receives.

With pure comparative fault, if a driver is 99% responsible for a crash, they can still collect 1% in damages. This is different from many other states like Maine, which permit people to collect only if less than 50% at-fault.

However, it’s not much of a win for the more at-fault driver. Especially since they’ll still be responsible for covering the other driver’s damages.

In most cases, the driver who seems less at-fault may be the one to file a claim. The assignment of what percentage of fault belongs to each driver will likely come from a judge or jury.

As such, the goal is to receive the smallest percentage of fault possible in order to earn a larger settlement. That’s why it’s a really good idea to hire an auto accident attorney if you’re in a New Mexico crash.

This also makes a very clear case for why anyone driving in New Mexico needs to carry automobile insurance.

New Mexico Car Insurance Laws

New Mexico’s Mandatory Financial Responsibility Act (MFRA) requires all motorists to maintain some “proof of financial responsibility.” This is to ensure that anyone largely at-fault for an accident has at least some money to cover damages.

While there are various ways to satisfy MFRA requirements, the easiest option is to take out an automobile insurance policy. According to the New Mexico Motor Vehicles Division (MVD), drivers must carry minimum liability coverage in the following amounts:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more persons
  • $10,000 for property damage in any one accident

The alternative is to deposit $60,000 in cash or a surety bond with the New Mexico State Treasurer. Accordingly, most people opt to acquire an insurance policy.

Once purchased, a driver must ask their insurer to register their policy with the New Mexico Insurance Identification Database (IIDB). They can do this by visiting their website or calling 866-891-0665.

If no one registers this proof of insurance within 30 days, it will result in suspension of your vehicle’s registration. As such, you may also wish to contact the IIDB yourself with your insurance information.

Additional Insurance Options

It’s important to remember that New Mexico’s insurance minimum requirements only cover damages you might cause other drivers and vehicles.

Many drivers choose to take out additional types of insurance to make certain they can cover personal expenses if necessary. Though New Mexico law requires only that you have the minimum liability insurance, you might also decide to add:

  • Collision insurance. This pays to repair or replace your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who is at-fault. Collision insurance is handy when protecting your vehicle from hit-and-run accidents.
  • Comprehensive insurance. This type of insurance covers vehicle damage caused by phenomena separate from vehicle collisions, like fires and floods. For instance, if you hit an animal while driving, comprehensive insurance will cover your car’s repair fees.
  • Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance. This covers you if you’re in a wreck with drivers without insurance, or whose policy doesn’t cover enough. It will typically only pay for personal injuries, however, and not damage to your car. So, you’ll need both UM/UIM coverage and collision insurance.
  • Medical Payment Insurance (MedPay). This insurance pays medical bills for you and your passengers even if you were to blame for the accident.

Typically, it’s a good idea to carry whatever extra insurance your budget allows since car accident claims get very expensive.

Car Accidents Involving an Uninsured Driver in New Mexico

It’s a crime to drive without car insurance or some other MFRA in New Mexico. Drivers in accidents who don’t have insurance may find themselves:

  • Facing a misdemeanor charge, which can carry a fine of $300, 90 days in jail, or both.
  • Losing their motor vehicle registration.
  • Being sued for damages by the other driver.

Bottom line, it’s a really bad idea to drive without insurance in New Mexico. And if you end up in an accident with someone without insurance, recovering any damages will be harder. That’s when having added UM/UIM insurance, as well as a skilled auto attorney in your corner will really help.

Types of Damages After a Car Accident in New Mexico

In New Mexico car accident law, damages refers to the money a victim may receive to compensate for their losses. Most commonly, these awards come through insurance claims, settlement negotiations, or civil lawsuits.

In legal cases, the driver who is less at-fault will sue the other driver in court. They may seek compensation for property loss or personal injury, which generally means asking for either economic and/or non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

These are the tangible damages — monetary and otherwise measurable losses resulting from an accident. Common examples of economic damages include:

  • The cost of past and future medical treatments
  • Lost income, wages, or employment because of the accident
  • Damage to property
  • Car repairs and maintenance costs
  • Purchase of assistive devices (like wheelchairs)

Non-Economic Damages

These are intangible losses that are very real in concept, but harder to prove. It’s because they don’t come with measurable losses like bills or lost wages. Still, a claimant might successfully win awards for things like:

Limits on Damages

Many states place caps on the amount of compensation you may earn in an auto accident case. However, New Mexico doesn’t set limits on damages for car accident cases.

Still, asking for wildly inappropriate amounts may work against the claimant. An experienced auto accident injury attorney will help you determine what you’re owed to maximize your potential settlement.

Suing for Diminished Value After a Car Crash

New Mexico car accident victims may also file claims over a vehicle’s diminished value. This is because after a crash, a car’s resale value will be less than similar vehicles that weren’t in collisions. Even if there have been repairs on the car, this loss of fair market value holds true.

To levy this type of claim, however, a vehicle owner must not be wholly at-fault. It must also be within four years of the accident. And the driver will have to show photos of the damage and the repairs.

New Mexico Statute of Limitations

If you’re in a New Mexico crash, you have a limited time during which you can file a civil lawsuit.

This statute of limitations in New Mexico for personal injury cases is three years from the date of incident. The same three-year threshold applies with wrongful death cases, only the clock starts from the moment of the victim’s passing.

If you’re purely filing a claim for property damage, you actually have four years from the date of the accident.

Whichever deadline applies to your case, don’t wait. If you miss filing within the deadline, your case may be barred from court.

It also takes a while to gather information for a claim, so don’t cut it too close. Cases where details are fresh always stand a better chance of a positive resolution.

Connect With Our Network of Expert Auto Accident Attorneys

One final thing we must mention, never accept an insurance offer without first talking to a lawyer.

We know it’s tempting to just settle a car accident claim with your insurance and go on with your life. However, even though you’re their client, remember that their goal is to get you to accept the lowest payout possible.

Rather than risk getting a paltry settlement, let us connect you with an auto accident attorney in LegalASAP’s network. It won’t cost you anything out of pocket since the consultation is free and most lawyers work on contingency.

New Mexico may have too many distracted drivers, but we can get you the right settlement with no distractions.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit:, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann