Law for Teenagers, Part One:  Automobile Insurance in New Mexico

By Melissa Morris and Charles McElwee

First, the basics:

Every person in New Mexico who owns a car has to register it with the Motor Vehicle Division.  To register a personal vehicle here, the owner must have a certain amount of auto insurance to help pay for any damage or injury to someone else if a person driving the car causes an accident.  If the Motor Vehicle Division finds out that the insurance has lapsed after the car was registered–and it almost certainly will because insurers have to report lapses and cancellation of coverage–it will suspend the owner’s driver’s license and registration. Any insurance agent who sells automobile insurance will know what the minimum requirements are.  For your information, however, the minimum required as of June 2014 is $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 total, and $10,000 for property damage.  Considering the current value of most cars and the cost of health care, we strongly recommend you consider carrying more than the minimum coverage required.

Police - Writing TicketDriving your parent’s car:

If you are driving your parent’s car, your parent’s insurance usually covers you.   You and your parents should not just presume or hope that’s true.  The insurance agent can tell you for sure.

If you are a terrible driver with a bad driving history, your parents might decide to take you off their policy to make the cost of their insurance lower.  Or they might decide to not put you on the policy simply to save money, even if you are a good driver. In that case, if you drive your parent’s car and cause an accident, when you are 18 years old or older, you could be sued and end up with a judgment against you that will hang around for 14 years.  If you drive your parent’s car and cause an accident at any age, your parents could be sued for letting you drive the car and if they lose, they would have to pay for the damages out of their own pockets, even if you are also liable for the payment.

Driving a car you own:

It is an excellent idea to get more than the minimum legally required insurance, because the damages from an auto accident can easily exceed the minimum amount of insurance.

Despite the requirements of the law, some people drive without insurance.  A third to almost a half of all accidents are caused by drivers who are not insured. That’s why everyone should purchase what is called an “uninsured motorist” policy.   If you are in an accident and the other person has no insurance and very little money, you’ll end up paying for the damage to your own car and maybe a lot of your medical expenses yourself unless you have this kind of policy.  New Mexico has a law that Insurance companies must offer Uninsured Motorist coverage.  You don’t have to buy it, but if you don’t you must sign a waiver saying you have been offered the insurance, and do not want it.

Driving a friend’s car:

If you are driving a friend’s car, you may not be covered in some situations. New Mexico allows a person’s license to be suspended if she has an unpaid judgment against her for damages from an auto accident if the car she was driving was not insured.  So, don’t drive someone else’s car without making sure that it is registered and insured!  If you cause an accident and the other driver sues you and gets a judgment, your license could be suspended possibly for as long as 14 years until you pay the full amount.

If you have questions about this article or automobile insurance questions of your own, call 505-246-0231 or 800-435-3290 to talk to an attorney at Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC.

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