car keysMost New Mexico personal injury lawsuits are settled before the case goes to trial. This is due to several reasons, but primarily because a mutually acceptable settlement agreement eliminates the risk on both sides. Thus, a settlement agreement allows for an accident victim to count on receiving a certain amount of compensation for their injuries. And at the same time, the defendant avoids the risk of losing at trial and having the jury return a damages award that is significantly higher than that which the plaintiff would accept prior to trial.

The ability of a New Mexico personal injury attorney to negotiate and execute a favorable settlement agreement is therefore one of the most important skills an attorney can possess. Not all settlement agreements are clear-cut, and some can present issues if the proper language is not used. A recent case illustrates this concept, and highlights why the language in a pre-trial settlement agreement is very important.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a traffic accident with a delivery driver for a chain fast-food restaurant. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, the restaurant, and the restaurant’s insurance company (“the defendants”). The plaintiff did not name the owner of the vehicle or the owner’s car insurance company in the lawsuit.

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semitruckA federal appellate court recently issued an opinion in a personal injury case that was appealed by a plaintiff after the district court excluded the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony. The case is important for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs, because the Daubert standard employed by the court in this case is the same standard that is used in New Mexico personal injury cases.

The Facts of the Case

The case stems from a 2013 accident in which a young woman and her infant son were involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer that was manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff sustained severe debilitating brain injuries as a result of the accident and filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant. The police report indicated that the tractor-trailer was turning on the highway when the woman struck the left side of the trailer. The trailer did not have a side underride guard.

The Case’s Procedural History

The woman’s legal guardian and the infant’s legal guardian filed a lawsuit that was ultimately moved to federal court. Several of the claims were resolved, leaving only a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the trailer. The claim that they were basing their lawsuit on was “crashworthiness” of the trailer. Specifically, that the design of the underride guard installed on the truck was defective, and that there was an alternative design that would have likely prevented the plaintiff’s injuries.

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semi truckAfter an accident, especially one where there have been fatalities or serious injuries, there is often an investigation that takes place. In New Mexico car and truck accidents, the New Mexico State Police will often be the first agency to begin an investigation to determine the cause and potential fault in accidents. These findings can be used in a subsequent New Mexico personal injury lawsuit filed by any of the injury victims. However, even with New Mexico State Police findings, courts will often consider insurance company findings as well.

In many cases, after an accident and before filing a personal injury lawsuit, an injured party and the at-fault party will file a claim with their insurance company. As soon as the claim is filed, a claims adjuster will begin reviewing the claim and investigating the accident. The investigator will likely look over any police reports, conduct investigations and interviews of both parties and any witnesses. They may also visit the accident site and review medical records. In some situations, the insurance adjuster may come to a different conclusion of fault or damages than the police. If the injured party disagrees with the insurance company’s findings, the accident victim may file a personal injury lawsuit.

The National Transportation Safety Board Investigative Process

In addition to a police and insurance company investigation report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may also conduct an investigation. This entity was established as an agency that is designed to investigation all major accidents in the United States, including civil aviation accidents. NTSB investigation findings are often reported and addressed in large-scale accidents, however, most people are not aware that NTSB has no regulatory or enforcement powers, and therefore their findings cannot be entered as evidence.

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semitruckA tragic accident out of Australia highlights the need for a dedicated New Mexico truck accident attorney, should a similar accident occur and injuries be sustained within our state. Earlier this month in Western Australia, a young mother and her ten-year-old son were killed in a fatal truck accident. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the mother and son were among a family of six that was traveling across the country in a motorhome that was struck from the rear by a passing semi-truck.

Evidently, the family’s motorhome ran out of gas. The woman’s husband was driving the motorhome and got the vehicle safely to the side of the road. He then left his family in the motorhome while he went out in search of gas.

While the husband was searching of gas, a passing semi-truck towing two trailers collided with the rear of the family’s motorhome. At the time, the wife and all four of the couple’s children were inside the vehicle. The mother and her ten-year-old son sustained fatal injuries in the accident and were unable to be revived by emergency responders. The couple’s other three children were all injured in the accident as well, although each is expected to survive. The woman’s husband was found about five miles away from the scene of the accident.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent appellate decision, a court held that an employer’s insurance contract covered an accident that was caused by an employee of the company who was drinking and driving. The case illustrates important concepts regarding insurance coverage that are frequently implicated in New Mexico truck accidents.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when he was rear-ended by the defendant while waiting at a traffic light. After the accident, the defendant admitted to police that he had consumed several drinks and was under the influence of alcohol.

At the time of the collision, the defendant was driving a vehicle that was owned by his employer. The employer provided the vehicle to the defendant for the defendant’s use while at home as well as when the defendant was traveling for work. This accident took place on a work trip but not while the defendant was working.

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A few weeks ago, a New Mexico truck accident resulted in three fatalities and over 20 injuries. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the multi-vehicle collision occurred in the early morning hours on Interstate 25, near Bernalillo.Legal News Gavel

Evidently, a car ran into the back of a pick-up truck, starting a chaotic chain of accidents. After the initial collision, the disabled car remained on the highway, blocking several lanes. The driver of that car was ejected. As a result of the damage sustained in the collision, the car’s lights were no longer illuminated. The driver of the truck was able to pull off onto the median, out of the way of traffic.

As the damaged car and injured driver lay stationary on the highway, a passenger bus approached. The bus driver was apparently unable to see the ejected driver or unlit car until a moment before the two vehicles collided. The bus driver swerved in a last-minute attempt to avoid a collision, losing control of the bus and causing it to roll over onto its side. The bus slid across the highway and up against a roadside barrier cable. Moments later, a semi-truck approached the accident scene and was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision with the toppled bus.

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Although trains are not as common a feature in the American West as they once were, they are still used to transport billions of dollars of goods across the country each year. As a result, there are a fair number of New Mexico train accidents that occur each year. Normally, these accidents occur at rural railroad crossings that may not have the lighted signs and electronic lowering gates that are present in more populated areas.Legal News Gavel

Due to the fact that trains have an immense amount of inertia, stopping a train that is traveling at full speed is not easily done. In fact, it can take upwards of a mile for a train to come to a complete stop. That being the case, when it comes to train safety, prevention is key because there is little that can be done to stop an imminent train accident other than the engineer sounding the horn.

Railroad companies are responsible for creating a safe network of railways, including intersections where train tracks cross a road. It is imperative that these intersections are well-marked and free from all vegetation and debris that may obscure a motorist’s view of the railroad. In a recent case, the court affirmed a jury verdict in excess of $10 million after a man was killed while driving across a set of railroad tracks.

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Legal News GavelThe ultimate question in a New Mexico truck accident case is whether the truck driver was negligent, and whether any such negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Over time, courts have come up with various legal doctrines to help make these determinations. One such doctrine is called the “sudden emergency doctrine.” A recent case illustrates its application.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was rear-ended by a truck driver after another motorist aggressively passed the vehicle in front of the plaintiff and then slammed on the brakes. Based on the aggressive driver’s conduct, the car in front of the plaintiff also slammed on their brakes, causing the plaintiff to do the same. The defendant, however, was operating a fully-loaded semi-truck, and despite his efforts to come to a safe stop in time, he crashed into the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant truck driver, who claimed that he had not acted negligently because he was merely responding to the “sudden emergency” created by the aggressive driver slamming on his brakes.

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Chances are, most people who have driven in wet road conditions have experienced driving a vehicle that has hydroplaned. Hydroplaning occurs when the vehicle’s tires travel on a thin layer of water rather than on the road’s surface, as would normally be the case in dry conditions. Perhaps the most frightening thing about hydroplaning is that it can occur when there is the slightest amount of moisture on the road, even when a road doesn’t seem to be slippery.

Legal News GavelHydroplaning is extremely dangerous, and is a major cause of New Mexico truck accidents. This is because as a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road’s surface, the driver is unable to steer the vehicle, and any attempt to quickly slow down can result in the driver losing control of the vehicle.

Experts have studied the science behind hydroplaning vehicles, and have recommended that motorists take the following precautions anytime there is moisture on the road’s surface:

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a woman who was injured when her vehicle was struck by the defendant truck driver. The court was tasked with determining whether, despite her failure to object at the time, the plaintiff was entitled to a new trial based on comments at trial referring to her undocumented status. Ultimately, the court concluded that the comments were “incurably prejudicial” and warranted a new trial.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when her vehicle collided with the defendant’s truck while the truck driver made a lane change. It was undisputed that the defendant made contact with the plaintiff’s car during a lane change; however, other evidence at trial was hotly contested, including whether the plaintiff was speeding at the time.

Immediately after the accident, the defendant apologized to the plaintiff, acknowledging that he was at fault. However, in later depositions, he took that back, explaining that he learned why the accident had been caused, and upon further reflection no longer believed he was at fault.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New Mexico truck accident case affirming a $164 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the significant jury award was permissible under state law. Finding that there was no reason to reject the jury’s determination, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict.

Truck AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s wife, daughter, and son were traveling a few miles per hour in the right-most lane of the highway when a Fed Ex truck slammed into the back of the family’s vehicle. The damage was tremendous, and the plaintiff’s wife and daughter were both killed in the collision. The plaintiff’s nineteen-month-old son survived despite sustaining serious injuries.

The plaintiff brought a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against several parties, including Fed Ex and the driver of the truck, who was an independent contractor for Fed Ex. The case proceeded to a jury trial, and after the conclusion of the evidence the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The verdict consisted of several different categories of damages, but the total award was nearly $165 million. The economic damages awarded by the jury were roughly 1-3% of the total award; the rest being non-economic damages.

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Although school busses are known as a relatively safe means of transportation, New Mexico school bus accidents are still a major concern for parents. And despite the clear research that seat belts help save lives in the event of a serious accident, only six states in the country require school busses be equipped with seatbelts. New Mexico is not among those states.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, school busses are not required to have seatbelts. The state’s rationale is based on a 1987 study from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) claiming that most fatalities in school bus accidents would not have been prevented had the bus been equipped with seat belts. However, after a fatal school bus accident earlier this year, the NTSB seems to be reversing its previous position.

In May of this year, a New Jersey school bus was struck by a dump truck as the driver of the bus attempted to make a U-turn on the highway across three lanes of traffic. According to a local news report, when the truck collided with the bus, it ripped the bus from its frame. As a result of the accident, one student and one teacher were killed and dozens of others were injured. At the time, New Jersey was one of the six states that required lap belts on school busses.

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Earlier this month, one woman was killed in a tragic accident not unlike some New Mexico truck accidents, involving a runaway car that was being loaded onto a tow truck by a private towing company. According to a local news report, the tow truck driver was loading a vehicle onto the flatbed of the truck when a malfunction with the tow truck resulted in the vehicle becoming unhooked from the truck.

Legal News GavelThe vehicle rolled down the declined portion of the flatbed and began rolling toward three city workers. Two of the three workers were able to get out of the vehicle’s way, but the third was struck and killed by the errant vehicle. Authorities told reporters that no one was arrested after the accident and that the tow truck driver has been fully cooperative with police in their investigation.

The worker who was killed in the accident was a 34-year-old woman who was employed as a utility plumber for the public utility commission. The police investigation is ongoing.

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Legal News GavelThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that was enacted to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles. The agency develops and enforces regulations to balance safety and efficiency. It also provides trucking companies and truck drivers with guidance on how to improve safety and avoid accidents. If FMCSA safety standards are properly implemented, the likelihood of a New Mexico car accident may be reduced.

Some of the easiest and most basic ways commercial motor vehicle drivers can avoid an accident is to load all cargo carefully and evenly. Drivers should take steps to ensure that their cargo is loaded securely and will remain that way throughout the entirety of the trip. Further, truck drivers should take the time to become very familiar with their trucks, including knowing where all blind spots are located and the stopping distance of the truck under regular circumstances.

Drivers should also ensure that their trucks are in proper working order before embarking on any trip. This means inspecting their vehicles and making sure that it is up to all current safety standards. Moreover, truck drivers have an awareness of the traffic and safety rules of all the states they will be traveling through.
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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of a tragic train accident. After hearing the defendant’s appeal, the court affirmed a $20 million verdict in favor of the victim’s wife. The case is important for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because it illustrates the types of issues that can arise in New Mexico wrongful death cases when each party claims the other was at fault.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

A woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a railway company, after a train hit her husband’s pickup truck at a railroad crossing. The woman alleged that the railway company was negligent because it did not trim the vegetation around the crossing, which resulted in her husband being unable to see the oncoming train. In addition, the woman filed a respondeat superior claim against the railway company, alleging that its employees were also negligent because they did not stop or slow the train. Specifically, the woman also alleged that the company was negligent because it removed certain sight tables from its engineering instructions. These instructions, the plaintiff claimed, were intended to serve as guidelines on railroad crossings to provide motorists with warnings.

The Case’s Procedural Posture

The trial jury found in favor of the woman and apportioned 15% of the fault to the railway company, 80% of the fault to the employees, and 5% of the fault to the victim. In total, the woman was awarded $20 million. The defendant appealed the verdict on several grounds, but ultimately the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s award of damages.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting ruling that addressed economic damages in situations in which an insured accident victim seeks treatment outside their network. Although the case arose outside New Mexico, the various issues presented in this opinion may be relevant in New Mexico trucking accident cases in which an insurance company denies coverage or offers only limited coverage.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The accident occurred when a couple was driving their motor home on a California highway and experienced a flat tire. The woman put her hazard lights on and pulled over to the side of the highway. While the couple was on the side of the road, a truck driver, who was traveling about 50 miles per hour, slammed into the motor home. The impact was so strong that the passenger seat was completely destroyed. The husband suffered injuries to his lower back, neck, teeth, and face.

The Medical Treatment Sought

The husband initially received treatment through providers that were covered under his insurance, but, after filing a lawsuit against the defendants, he began seeking treatment through a specialist outside his network. The defendants argued that, contrary to the plaintiff’s assertion that he was referred to the doctor by his colleagues, he was actually referred there by his attorney. The defendants argued that this was a tactic precipitated by his attorney to recoup a larger payout for the firm.

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New Mexico statute 41-3A-1 describes how courts are to apportion liability when more than one party is alleged to be at fault for an accident. New Mexico traffic accidents are a tragic yet unavoidable fact of life. Compounding the emotional, physical, and financial trauma that an accident can cause, these lawsuits can also result in lengthy legal proceedings full of uncertainty.

Legal News GavelIn many New Mexico personal injury cases, negligence is not clear-cut. Frequently, a plaintiff may find themselves in a situation in which they are defending their own conduct. This can occur when a defendant argues that the accident was caused because of some behavior of the plaintiff. In these situations, New Mexico personal injury lawyers can determine which statutes apply and how much, if any, responsibility the plaintiff has.

New Mexico is considered a “pure” comparative negligence state. This means that the plaintiff in a personal injury case can be held responsible for their part in the accident. However, unlike some other states that apply a stricter doctrine, New Mexico allows an at-fault plaintiff to still recover damages, based on their percentage of fault. Their recovery will be reduced by the percent of fault, as determined by the jury. This is beneficial to New Mexico accident victims because they will not be precluded from recovery if they had some responsibility in causing the accident.

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One of the major concerns with New Mexico truck accidents – aside from the mayhem of the initial collision – is the potential that the accident causes a chain-reaction accident. A chain-reaction accident occurs when the disabled vehicles involved in the initial collision end up being struck by other motorists or when an accident is caused due to the backed-up traffic that forms following a collision.

Legal News GavelChain-reaction accidents are common on New Mexico highways, where motorists travel within feet of one another at high speeds. When a truck driver loses control of his rig, given the speed with which other motorists are traveling and the distance that most motorists follow, a chain-reaction accident is likely.

When it comes to determining fault in a New Mexico chain-reaction accident, courts use a “comparative fault” analysis to determine which motorists are entitled to recover for their injuries. Under a comparative fault analysis, any motorist injured in an accident can pursue a claim of compensation against any of the other motorists they believe to be at fault for their injuries. This is even the case when the motorist bringing the case is partially at fault. However, courts will reduce an accident victim’s award amount by their own percentage of fault.

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To help protect those who live in New Mexico, the state’s department of transportation has created specific guidelines that trucking companies and truck drivers are required to follow when they are hauling goods throughout the state. These restrictions are put in place to protect both the truck driver as well as other potential motorists and pedestrians.

Legal News GavelVehicle Restrictions for New Mexico Trucks

Although rules vary slightly by city and roadway, generally speaking, vehicles are not supposed to be:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) periodically conducts studies on the rate of crashes and compiles data on the fatalities, injuries, property damage, and causes of these types of accidents. The most recent study has shown that the rate of fatalities following a large truck accident has increased by almost 30% since 2009. The study showed that there has been about an 8% increase in large truck accidents since the last time the study was conducted. Furthermore, there has been about a 2% increase in bus accidents. The study also found that the distance traveled by large trucks has increased by about 0.3%. Most pertinent is that at least one driver-related issue was noted for almost 35% of fatalities related to large truck accidents.

Legal News GavelCommon Causes of Large Truck Accidents in New Mexico

The FMCSA noted that speeding was the most noted driver-related factor in these accidents, but the second was distraction and then impairment. Impairment is considered to consist of things such as illness, intoxication, and fatigue.

Fatigue occurs when a truck driver is physically or mentally exerted to a point at which their performance is impaired. Some common reasons for this may be long work hours, inadequate sleep or rest, and difficult or laborious work.

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Many people associate propane tank explosions with grills and malfunctioning water heaters at a person’s house. However, with the rise in trendy food trucks, these incidents are also occurring on those vehicles as well.

Legal News GavelWhen a propane tanks explodes, establishing liability can be complicated because there are often many entities that are responsible, at least in part, for the accident. First, if the tank was defective in some manner, the manufacturer may be responsible for the accident. However, even this may not be clear-cut because in some situations, the specific parts of the tank are manufactured by different companies, so another company may actually be responsible.

Furthermore, if someone acted negligently in the care or maintenance of the tank, this person may also be held liable. This could be the owner of the tank or even an employee who was in charge of caring for the tank. Propane tanks are often recycled, and although this may be good for the environment, many times defective tanks are not discarded and are put back into the consumer stream. Next, individuals such as independent sellers or retailers may also be liable if the tank is defective. Finally, the individual or entity that installed the tank or stored the tank may also be responsible for the accident.

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With the rise in online shopping and demand for quick delivery, semi-trucks are becoming increasingly prevalent on New Mexico roadways. With this increase in vehicles on the road, the frequency of accidents is also escalating. Recently, a national transportation group conducted research to determine New Mexico’s need for safe and efficient mobility. The research found that between 2010 and 2014, almost 1,800 people were killed as a result of traffic accidents in New Mexico.

Legal News GavelThe researcher also looked into the types of roadways that were associated with a higher level of accidents. Since many highways have implemented restrictions on weight and size, trucks are now finding alternate routes to their final destination. As a result, fatality rates on New Mexico’s rural roads are more than one-and-a-half times higher than other roads in the state.

When a semi-truck causes an accident involving other passenger cars, apportioning liability can be a daunting and confusing task. However, without establishing liability, an accident victim will not be able to recoup damages. Making matters more complex, New Mexico is considered a “pure comparative” fault state. This means that even if a plaintiff is at fault, their recovery will not be barred; however, their recovery will be reduced depending on the percentage they are determined to have been at fault. This applies even if the plaintiff is more at fault than the defendant.

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A state appellate court recently issued a decision in a product liability case that was filed by the widow of a man who was killed while working at a factory. While New Mexico product liability law differs from that which was applied by the court in this case, the case is still illustrative of how manufacturers can be held liable for products that are defectively designed or manufactured.

Legal News GavelAccording to the opinion, the man worked at a paper plant, where his primary job was to operate a folder gluer. During his employment, he volunteered to train as a lift truck operator. On the day of the accident, a supervisor asked the man to use a lift truck to assist in unloading paper from a truck. After a few trips, the truck became lodged in a gap. The man and a colleague used a tow chain to try to get the lift truck off the dock. The truck had an alarm that was designed to sound if the parking brake was not applied. There were no chocks under the wheels, since they were not available, and the clamp was not lowered. As a result, when the man placed himself between the two trucks, the truck began to roll, and he was ultimately crushed by the impact.

The man’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several parties, one being the manufacturer. She argued that the truck was negligently designed, and there was a breach of warranty. She specifically argued that the parking brake was negligently designed. The lawsuit went through several appeals and was ultimately heard by the state supreme court.

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Understanding and obeying safety standards and rules while driving are very important in avoiding New Mexico truck accidents. This is especially true when drivers are operating a large commercial vehicle. The importance is highlighted by the implementation of certain federal regulatory agencies that guide the specific standards that commercial truck drivers must follow.

Legal News GavelThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is one such agency that guides these drivers. Although states may have some additional rules and regulations, the drivers must still follow the rules set forth by the FMCSA.

In order to receive a license, the individual must test for and receive a commercial learner’s permit, they must have this permit for 14 days, and then they must take a road skills test. The skills test is extremely important because this determines whether the driver is proficient enough in both the knowledge and practical skills of driving a large vehicle. However, each state’s test may vary slightly, and this variation can lead to drivers with varying skill levels traveling on shared roads. Furthermore, the passing score is only 80%. Fortunately, certain vehicle licenses require additional endorsements that indicate a higher level of skill. These include school buses and vehicles carrying hazardous products.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a wrongful death case in which a man was killed after rear-ending a slow-moving tractor trailer. The tragedy was heightened by the fact that the victim’s sons witnessed his body burning, and his family suffered severe emotional distress as a result of learning of his death. The case acts as a good example of how New Mexico wrongful death cases are handled by courts.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, a man was driving his tractor trailer on the highway when he realized that his truck was malfunctioning. He pulled over, turned on his flashers, and exited his car to inspect the malfunctioning light; he was ultimately able to resolve the issue. The driver proceeded to reenter the highway and was driving approximately 15 miles an hour when the victim came around a curve and crashed into the slow-moving tractor trailer.

Tragically, the crash caused the victim’s vehicle to immediately catch on fire, and he was killed instantly. The victim’s son was also driving on the highway in a company truck. The son saw his father in the cab of the vehicle and tried to pull him out and extinguish the fire, but he ended up sustaining severe burns and could not rescue his father. He witnessed his father’s body burning.

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While many think of New Mexico strictly as a desert state, in reality, much of the state sees quite a bit of snow during the winter months. Snow, perhaps more than rain or wind, greatly affects a driver’s ability not just to see the road ahead of them, but also to safely and effectively control their vehicle.

Legal News GavelWhile adverse weather conditions affect all drivers, they present an especially difficult situation for those who operate large commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks and buses. Indeed, a significant number of New Mexico truck accidents are caused by adverse weather conditions and the driver’s failure to adjust their driving behaviors to the conditions of the road.

Notwithstanding the difficulties adverse weather conditions present to New Mexico truck drivers, the responsibility remains theirs to ensure that they are safely operating their vehicles. This means slowing down when the road conditions call for it. It may even mean pulling off to the side of the road and waiting for conditions to improve. When an accident is caused due to a driver’s failure to make reasonable adjustments, the driver may be liable for any resulting injuries.

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When a fire truck is involved in a New Mexico truck accident, several issues can arise that may not be present in other accidents involving large commercial trucks. The most common issue that arises in any New Mexico truck accident involving a fire truck or other government agency is whether the government is entitled to official immunity.

Legal News GavelHistorically, the New Mexico government enjoyed official, or sovereign, immunity. State lawmakers did away with this general grant of immunity when they enacted the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA). The NMTCA replaced much of the immunity the state and local governments enjoy, but it also established specific areas in which that immunity is waived. Thus, if an accident victim can establish that the government has waived official immunity, the case will proceed to trial, as would be the case if any other defendant was named in the case.

Of course, there are certain procedural requirements that a New Mexico accident victim must follow when filing a case against a state or local government. For example, an accident victim must file a claim, noting the time, place, and circumstances of the injury, with the agency they claim is responsible for their injuries within 90 days of the date of the incident.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a construction accident case involving the question of whether the defendant – a government employee – was entitled to official immunity. The case presents important issues for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs who have been hurt due to the negligence of a government employee or agency.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

A husband and wife were traveling on a rural highway when they quickly came upon a parked construction vehicle. The wife, who was driving the van at the time, was unable to avoid a collision, and both plaintiffs were injured as a result. It was later established that the plaintiffs were traveling within the speed limit, and the weather was clear at the time.

The construction vehicle was similar to a back hoe, and it was parked on the road behind a small pile of dirt that had been dug up to access a leaking pipe below the road’s surface. The construction worker responsible for the job had previously been told by his supervisor to place warning signs in front of an active work zone. However, no one specifically told the worker to place warning signs that day.

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In most New Mexico personal injury cases, the parties do not agree on the underlying facts. For example, in a car accident involving two motorists, each motorist may claim that the accident was caused by the other driver. In many personal injury cases, this hypothetical situation creates an issue of fact that would need to be resolved by a judge or jury.

Legal News GavelIf the parties do agree on the underlying facts, and the only issues that need to be resolved are legal in nature, a judge can resolve the case through a motion for summary judgment. An example of this would be if both motorists agreed on what happened prior to the accident, but each believes that the law is on their side. In these cases, the judge resolves the legal issue, and the case is resolved.

Assuming that the parties do not agree on the underlying facts, the question then becomes which version of the facts will the jury adopt. This is where the importance of an experienced trial attorney comes into play. An attorney who is well versed in cross-examination can expose a party’s bias and may be able to establish that a witness is attempting to cover up certain facts.

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Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case finding that summary judgment should be granted because the plaintiff did not properly respond to the defendant’s motion. The case is important for New Mexico trucking accident victims because it illustrates how crucial it is to comply with all court-imposed requirements.

Legal News GavelFacts of the Case

The plaintiff was a truck driver who was injured when he opened the door to his truck’s trailer, and a load of boxes toppled over on top of him. The truck driver sustained injuries and subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the person who loaded the truck and that person’s employer.

The company moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not establish each element of his case. However, the plaintiff did not respond. Instead, the plaintiff asked the court to allow him to call an expert witness to testify at trial. The lower court found that since the driver did not respond to the summary judgment motion, he essentially accepted the facts presented in that motion, and as a result, the motion should be granted.

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One state supreme court recently released an opinion regarding a trucking accident in which multiple parties were alleged to be responsible for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. The opinion is important to New Mexico trucking accidents victims because the situation is one that commonly arises in trucking accidents.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and defendant were co-drivers and were employed by a private trucking company that was hired to haul a FedEx trailer. The defendant was provided training by co-driving trucks with experienced drivers. For the first few months, he was paired with one driver and then was paired with the plaintiff.

On the day of the accident, it started to snow as the defendant’s shift started. For safety reasons, he pulled over onto the side of the road for a short period of time, but when he attempted to start the truck, it would not move. The defendant then decided to wake the plaintiff up because he needed assistance getting the truck to move.

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When someone is injured in a New Mexico motor vehicle accident, they might think that their first and only recourse is to bring a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. However, this benefit is limited and not always available, depending on the circumstances.

Legal News GavelWorkers’ compensation laws vary by state, but generally, workers’ compensation covers individuals if they are injured at work. In workers’ compensation cases, the employee does not necessarily need to establish that their employer was at fault in order to obtain benefits. However, workers’ compensation benefits are limited to actual expenses incurred.

In certain instances, an employee may be injured due to the negligence of a third party while at work or performing their work-related duties. These cases are aptly called “third party liability” lawsuits. This occurs when the accident or injury stems from a person or entity that is unrelated to the injured worker’s employer.

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School buses are designed to be very visible to reduce the possibility of a driver not seeing a bus. This is illustrated by their bright color and flashing lights. In addition, the law specifically provides protection to school buses because they carry such precious cargo. One example is that it is illegal for motorists to pass a school bus while children are being picked up or dropped off.

School BusesWhile school buses are designed to be some of the safest vehicles on the road, they are not immune from being involved in a serious accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an entity that was established following the Highway Safety Act of 1970 – is tasked with researching and studying highway and vehicle design and safety. According to the NHTSA, from 2006 to 2015, there were about 324,710 fatal car accidents, and of those, about 1,172 were related to school transportation. Sadly, there have been about 1,313 children and adults killed in school vehicle accidents. Over 100 of these accident victims were school-aged children.

When these accidents occur, aside from being emotionally devastating, establishing liability and recovering compensation can be very difficult. One reason is that there are many issues in play, including who caused the accident, why the accident occurred, and whether the school district, the bus driver, or another party may be held liable.

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Those who have been injured in a New Mexico bus accident may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries they have sustained in the accident. This compensation may include amounts for past medical expenses, as well as for any future medical needs. Additionally, successful accident victims often recover amounts for any lost wages, if applicable, as well as compensation for their pain and suffering.

Legal News GavelIn order to establish liability in a bus accident case, an accident victim must establish several elements. Essentially, the accident victim must show that the bus driver owed them a duty of care that was violated by some action of the bus driver. Alternatively, an accident victim can also establish liability by showing that the bus driver should have taken a necessary action to prevent an accident or injury but failed to do so. Additionally, the accident victim must be able to show a link between the bus driver’s alleged negligence and their injuries.

While it may seem straightforward to establish liability in a New Mexico bus accident case, in reality, the task can often be quite complex. For instance, there may be a question as to whether the bus driver was actually negligent, or a question of whether the bus driver’s employer should also be named in the lawsuit. These questions are important for accident victims to consider in advance of filing their lawsuit.

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In hopes of decreasing the number of fatal New Mexico truck accidents, lawmakers have recently been considering a number of trucking industry regulations. Indeed, during the previous administration, several regulations were implemented that resulted in a significant amount of push back from the trucking industry. Continuing in this vein, according to a recent news report, close to 3.5 million truck drivers began protesting around highways and truck stops across the nation in an attempt to stop a new safety regulation that is set to be implemented sometime this year. Two of the most hotly contested regulations were related to testing drivers for sleep apnea and requiring drivers to log their hours electronically.

Legal News GavelThe pending regulation that caused the truck drivers to organize was related to the requirement that commercial trucks electronically log their hours, rather than using the old pen-and-paper system. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) believes that written logs are inaccurate and easily manipulated by drivers to meet requirements.

The truck drivers and trucking companies retorted that these devices are expensive and are designed in a way that ignores the nuances of truck driving and transportation. The executive vice president of one truck driver organization complained that truckers work in the most over-regulated industry in the United States, and the FMCSA does not understand the intricacies of the job.

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Periodically, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts studies involving accidents that occur on U.S. highways. The NTSB is a federal agency that was created to promote safety standards for trucks and other vehicles transporting goods across state lines. The NTSB tracks accidents, injuries, and their causes in an attempt to develop new safety standards to decrease the frequency of accidents in the future.

Legal News GavelThe most recent study conducted by the NTSB indicates that there are over eight million single-unit trucks registered in the U.S. that travel over 110 billion miles each year. Even though these vehicles only amount to about 3% of registered motor vehicles, they account for about 9% of all fatal accidents. These startling numbers show the true hazard to all drivers and passengers these trucks pose. Ultimately, the study revealed that there are many areas in which safety improvements are needed, such as ones to prevent underride accidents.

One important conclusion of the most recent study was that many fatalities are caused due to underride accidents. Interestingly, this is due in large part to the fact that many single-unit trucks are excluded from many safety rules that apply to tractor-trailers. As a result, these vehicles do not meet the safety standards for improved underride guards, which can prevent a significant number of deaths and injuries.

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During this time of year, many companies and organizations host holiday and end-of-the-year parties. In an attempt to avoid to avoid drunken or fatigued driving, many companies enlist the assistance of private buses to transport employees. However, even though hiring a private bus or charter company is generally a good idea because it is economical and efficient, accidents can still occur.

Legal News GavelWhen a New Mexico bus accident occurs, it may be confusing to determine who are the responsible parties and how fault should be apportioned. In these situations, there are often several entities that can be held liable for the accident, including the bus company, the bus driver, the touring company, and potentially even an employer that arranges the transportation.

When a company hires a company to transport employees to various locations, the company has a duty to ensure that the driver is trained and experienced in transporting large numbers of people on a bus. If the company did not perform due diligence in the selection of a transport company, the company may be held liable.

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According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), approximately 25 million school-aged children ride school buses in the United States, either to or from school or to or from other extracurricular activities. As a result, there are almost half a million buses that travel over 250 million miles a day. These vehicles carry our most precious cargo and for the most part are some of the safest vehicles.

Legal News GavelIn fact, school buses are specially designed with a “compartmentalization” technology, which is a protection system designed to make sure students stay safe. However, a recent report by the NTSB indicates that although school buses are some of the safest vehicles, the compartmentalization system is not enough to avoid all risk of injuries or death in a New Mexico school bus accident.

Crash simulations have shown that seat belts could prevent a significant number of serious injuries and death. When put this way, it is odd that seat belts are not mandatory on school buses. The NTSB has now recommended that school buses should have a three-point seat belt to ensure that if the school bus is involved in a crash, the impact will be mitigated because of the school bus’ design.

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Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit released an opinion stemming from a 2014 negligence lawsuit brought by an injured plaintiff against a trucking company and a driver who worked for the company. According to the opinion, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants, alleging that a tractor-trailer hit his car, causing him to lose control and slam into the median. The defendants argued that the plaintiff was actually the one who lost control and hit the median before ever hitting the tractor-trailer.

Legal News GavelBoth parties moved for summary judgment, and the lower court granted the defendants’ motion to strike the plaintiff’s statement of facts – including two expert reports. The expert reports were excluded because they were filed about four months after the deadline. Furthermore, the lower court judge held that the plaintiff did not comply with a rule which requires that any opposition to summary judgment include a statement of material facts.

The plaintiff filed objections and appealed the ruling. The plaintiff argued that the late disclosure was because he believed that there was an open-ended discovery period after an order posting a status was issued. The appellate court found that there was no abuse of discretion in the lower court’s decision to exclude the plaintiff’s expert reports. Furthermore, the court stated that there is nothing in the record that supports the plaintiff’s position that the tractor-trailer hit him. In fact, the court noted that during depositions, the plaintiff admitted to not looking in his rear-view mirror prior to the accident. In sum, the court held that there were no facts in the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment that supported his version of the events.

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When someone desires to become a commercial truck driver, there is a series of skills and knowledge tests that they must pass. In order to drive a truck or other large vehicle, it is important that the driver possesses the advanced skills that are necessary to maneuver a commercial motor vehicle. Furthermore, due to the potential hazards in the event of a New Mexico truck accident, these drivers are understandably held to a standard higher than those operating any other type of motor vehicle.

Legal News GavelIn order to acquire a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the driver must first get a special license from their home state. If a driver will be operating a vehicle with multiple trailers, tanks, hazardous materials, or other passengers, they must get additional “endorsements” on their license. These endorsements indicate that the driver has obtained additional safety and skills training.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) maintains a database that tracks the safety records of trucking companies and drivers. The Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) is one record-keeping tool that tracks company records. These records indicate the types of vehicles the company maintains, their inspection records, crash data, and other safety-related ratings.

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Many people are under the impression that if they are injured at their workplace, they will be able to recover compensation for the injuries they sustained by bringing a lawsuit against their employer. However, this is not usually the case. Many New Mexico employers are covered through the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, if an employer employs three or more individuals, they are required to have self-insurance or workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation is designed to provide quick benefits to injured workers in a way that is reasonable and manageable for the employer.

If an employee is covered under a workers’ compensation policy, a workers’ compensation claim may be the employee’s only avenue of recovery. However, if a third party was responsible for an employee’s injuries, the employee may pursue a New Mexico personal injury case against that third party.

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While New Mexico truck accidents have a variety of causes, one of the most common reasons is an improper lane change. Semi-trucks, due to their length, have large blind spots along the sides of the truck, as well as behind the truck. This means that if a motorist is traveling in one of these areas, the truck driver most likely will not see them.

Legal News GavelWhile trucks are known to have blind spots, that does not mean that truck drivers are not responsible for an accident involving another vehicle that is traveling in a truck’s blind spot. As a general rule, New Mexico truck drivers are responsible to be aware of the traffic conditions as well as whether there are any motorists traveling in their blind spot. Of course, exceptions do exist, and in some cases a truck driver may be excused of liability if the motorist is negligently operating their own vehicle.

When a motorist believes that a truck driver was responsible for an accident, the motorist may file a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver. In some cases, the truck driver’s employer can also be named as a potentially liable party. This further increases an accident victim’s chance of recovering compensation for their injuries. It is also important to name all potentially liable parties in a New Mexico truck accident lawsuit because otherwise a named defendant may be able to shift liability away from themselves and onto a non-present party. If this occurs, the accident victim will likely be without any means of recovery.

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While the causes of some New Mexico truck accidents are clear from the surrounding circumstances, other truck accidents present a more difficult task for the investigators charged with determining what precipitated the collision. Often, accidents with more than two vehicles involved are those in which investigators have their work cut out for them. However, there can be unanswered questions in some two-vehicle collisions when the damage to both vehicles is substantial or when there are significant injuries.

Legal News GavelThe result of an accident scene investigation can be used by both criminal and civil courts. Initially, the police and prosecutor’s office will review an investigation to determine if criminal charges are appropriate given the circumstances of the accident. However, even if no criminal charges are pursued, the victims of the truck accident may proceed with a civil lawsuit against the truck driver and potentially the truck driver’s employer.

It is important for New Mexico accident victims to understand that the result of a pending criminal case – while potentially helpful – is not necessary to establish civil liability. This is because the burden of proof placed on the prosecution in a criminal matter is the highest anywhere in the law. However, a personal injury plaintiff’s claim for damages must only be proved by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is to say that it was more likely than not that the defendant’s actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

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New Mexico personal injury cases are often based in negligence. In some cases, there may be accusations that the injured party was partly at fault for the accident. These cases require a consideration of the state’s comparative negligence law and the effect it can have on a case.

Legal News GavelNegligence Claims

Motor vehicle crashes are generally results of negligent conduct rather than intentional conduct. To succeed in a New Mexico truck accident case, a plaintiff must prove the following:  the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach was a proximate cause and cause in fact of the plaintiff’s damages.

Comparative Negligence

If more than one party is alleged to be at fault in an accident, the fact-finder will have to determine the percentage of fault of each of the parties. States have different rules about how courts should consider a plaintiff’s own fault in causing an accident. Generally, states follow either a “contributory negligence” model or a “comparative negligence” model. In a contributory negligence state, a plaintiff cannot recover any damages if the plaintiff is found to be even one percent at fault for the accident. Although this was the traditional rule for many years, very few states continue to follow a contributory negligence model.

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Determining what happened in the moments leading up to a fatal New Mexico truck accident is not always a simple task. While some truck accidents are straightforward, and the causes can readily be determined by local authorities, others require an in-depth investigation. An investigation into a fatal truck accident may require investigators to look into cell phone records, rest logs, and maintenance records.

Legal News GavelBack in October of last year, a fatal bus accident that occurred on a California highway claimed 13 lives and injured several others. According to reports at the time, the bus was carrying upwards of 40 passengers when it rear-ended a semi-truck. At the time, it was clear from the wreckage that the bus was traveling much faster than the truck, but authorities were unsure what caused the accident.

According to a recent news report, the driver of the semi-truck that was rear-ended was arrested and charged with several counts of vehicular homicide and reckless driving. Apparently, the truck driver had stopped his truck on the highway in a traffic jam that was caused by road construction up ahead. However, while he was stopped, the truck driver fell asleep. When traffic resumed, the truck driver remained asleep until his truck was rear-ended by the bus moments later. The bus was traveling at 76 miles per hour at the time of the collision.

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Whenever someone is injured in a New Mexico traffic accident involving a government employee, certain complications can arise. For example, personal injury lawsuits naming a government employee or entity must comply with additional procedural requirements in order to be properly heard by the court. Moreover, the issue of government immunity is likely to come up in any case claiming that a government entity is liable for a New Mexico trucking accident.

Legal News GavelGovernment immunity has been around since the country’s formation and is discussed in the U.S. Constitution. As a general rule, states cannot be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees unless they consent to be named in the lawsuit. However, through the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, the government consents to be sued in many types of personal injury cases. A recent case illustrates the type of claim that is not covered under governmental immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the truck he was driving collided with a fire truck as the two vehicles entered an intersection. At the time of the collision, the fireman operating the truck was returning after conducting a “routine patrol” of the area. The routine patrol consisted of “learning the streets and areas, inspecting the streets and layout of the city,” and covering the territory in case someone needed assistance. Once the routine patrol had concluded, the fireman stopped briefly at a grocery store and then was planning on heading back to the station.

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New Mexico bus accidents happen. And sometimes, the person responsible for causing the accident does not have the ability to pay for the damages themselves and may not even have adequate insurance coverage to ensure that the victims are properly compensated.

Legal News GavelFor this reason, it is very important that all bus accident victims are extremely diligent when it comes to investigating their claims, and they should take every precaution to ensure that all potentially liable parties are named in the complaint. A plaintiff’s failure to name all of the appropriate parties may result in a plaintiff being under-compensated for their injuries or, worse yet, being unable to collect compensation at all.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, employers can be held liable for the negligent acts of their employees in some situations. Before an accident victim is able to recover damages from a negligent employee’s employer, they must first show that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. In New Mexico, this can be shown by establishing:

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Under New Mexico law, any time a truck driver is involved in a New Mexico truck accident, the driver is required to stop and exchange information with any other party who was involved in the accident. Additionally, the truck driver must arrange to get anyone injured in the accident the necessary medical treatment. Often, the means calling 911 and waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.

Legal News GavelWhen a truck driver flees after causing an accident, he may be criminally liable when apprehended by authorities. However, the fact that a driver fled the scene may be an indication that they do not have insurance. Even if a driver is located, there is the possibility that they do not have adequate insurance to cover the expenses of the accident victims. Under New Mexico law, drivers are only required to have $25,000 in coverage per person and $50,000 per accident. In situations in which an at-fault motorist does not have adequate insurance, accident victims can file a claim with their own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision.

Filing a claim, however, is by no means a guarantee that an accident victim will receive fair compensation for their injuries. If an insurance company believes there is any basis to reject an accident victim’s claim – for example, if the accident victim was partially at fault – the insurance company may offer a very low settlement figure or deny the claim altogether.

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School bus drivers are entrusted to safely transport children to and from school, a job that carries an incredible amount of responsibility. However, school bus drivers, like all other motorists, are human and can make mistakes. When a bus driver is involved in a New Mexico school bus accident, an in-depth investigation is nearly always conducted by the authorities to determine if the accident was due in any part to the bus driver’s negligence.

Legal News GavelMost of the time, school bus drivers travel the same route day after day, enabling them to become very familiar with the route. Other times, however, a bus driver may be assigned a temporary route, or a construction project requires that a bus driver take a different route. In these situations, it is incredibly important for the bus driver to safely travel the route and follow all posted traffic laws along the way. This may mean slowing down, pulling over, or traveling the route in advance to ensure that the students are safe along the journey.

When a bus driver does cause an accident, and students are injured as a result, the parents of the injured students are entitled to seek compensation for their children’s injuries through a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit.

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Construction sites are known to be dangerous. For most people, the dangers of a construction site are normally thought to be limited to the site itself. However, New Mexico truck accidents involving construction vehicles and machinery are not uncommon. Indeed, construction vehicles are large and cumbersome, and often they must navigate crowded city streets.

Legal News GavelDue to the difficulties of driving a large commercial vehicle, New Mexico truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license in order to legally operate a dump truck or any other commercial vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds. This requires the driver to complete a safety course that educates the driver on how to safely control large commercial vehicles. However, even with specialized education, drivers still make mistakes.

When a truck driver negligently causes an accident, they may be held liable for any injuries caused as a result of the accident through a New Mexico trucking accident lawsuit. In some cases, the truck driver’s employer may also be named as a defendant, potentially increasing an accident victim’s chances of being fully and fairly compensated for their injuries.

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Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles have the potential to cause major havoc when they are involved in a New Mexico truck accident. Not only are accidents involving semi-trucks often more serious than those involving other vehicles, but also they are more likely to occur, due to the size and weight of these large trucks. For example, given their large size, semi-trucks take a much longer distance to come to a safe and complete stop, resulting in a higher likelihood of rear-end accidents.

Legal News GavelWhen a New Mexico truck accident occurs, several motorists may be involved, especially if the initial collision resulted in a subsequent chain-reaction accident. Determining liability in a New Mexico chain-reaction accident can be difficult, given the number of motorists involved and the task of determining which motorist was responsible for causing the initial accident. Additionally, fault may reside with several of the other motorists involved if they were not taking adequate precautions prior to the accident. For example, a motorist may be partially responsible for an accident if they are found to have been following too closely.

Establishing Fault in New Mexico Chain-Reaction Accidents

When it comes to determining who is financially liable in a New Mexico chain-reaction accident case, the task is usually left to a jury. New Mexico employs the “pure comparative negligence” model when determining which accident victims are entitled to recover compensation for their injuries and whether their award amount should be reduced due to their own fault in contributing to their injuries.

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While seeking financial compensation after any traffic accident can be a lengthy and frustrating process, perhaps no other type of accident is more frustrating than a New Mexico hit-and-run accident. For starters, the responsible party may not be located for days or weeks after the accident – if at all. This puts accidents victims in a difficult spot when it comes time to pay for the myriad costs associated with being an accident victim.

Legal News GavelEven when a hit-and-run driver cannot be located, however, hit-and-run accident victims may have a means of recovering compensation for their injuries through their own insurance company. New Mexico law mandates that all drivers carry a certain amount of insurance coverage, including $25,000 per person for two people, for a total of $50,000. Thus, a driver with even the bare minimum amount of insurance in New Mexico can file a claim for compensation under their own insurance policy up to these limits. Of course, it is recommended to carry more than the minimum amount of insurance, in the event that injuries from an accident exceed $25,000 per person.

Driver Flees Scene After Bus Accident

Earlier this month, one man was arrested after he initially fled the scene of a bus accident and then returned a short time later. According to a local news report, the accident occurred when the bus driver attempted to make a left turn through an intersection and clipped another vehicle that was waiting to make a turn in the process. Thankfully, no one was injured; however, witnesses say that it was very clear the accident involved property damage, and the bus driver must have known that he was involved in a collision.

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In most New Mexico truck accident cases, the fact that one of the drivers involved in the accident had marijuana in their system would seem to be a relevant fact. However, in a recent truck accident case out of California, the court held that evidence of the plaintiff’s prior marijuana use was not admissible.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a truck accident that was caused when the defendant truck driver pulled onto the highway after taking a nap on the side of the road. The plaintiff was unable to stop his vehicle in time, and he crashed into the side of the semi-truck, which was completely blocking his lane.

While the plaintiff was being treated for his injuries, he disclosed that he occasionally smoked marijuana but that he had not done so in the last 36 hours. A preliminary drug test was given to the plaintiff, and it came back showing that there were trace amounts of the inactive metabolite of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

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New Mexico truck drivers routinely drive hundreds of miles across the country delivering goods. The majority of a truck driver’s time is spent navigating the nations’ vast highways, often traveling hundreds of miles without making a turn. Indeed, highways are specifically designed for large trucks to easily travel from one city to another. Even when they are operated on roads designed to accommodate these large vehicles, New Mexico truck accidents are still common.

Legal News GavelWhen truck drivers begin and end their journey, however, they are often operating their rigs on city streets. These surface streets, unlike highways, are not designed for large trucks and present truck drivers with a unique set of challenges. For example, city streets are narrower than highways, limiting truck drivers’ visibility and offering reduced space to complete necessary turns. Additionally, truck drivers must navigate around countless motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Despite the additional challenges of driving on city streets, it is a part of a truck driver’s job, and truck drivers must take all of the necessary precautions to prevent accidents. In many cases, truck drivers will approach their destination late at night, after fatigue has set in. In these situations, truck drivers should pull off the road, find a rest stop, and get some sleep so that they are alert as they drive on city streets.

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New Mexico is a vast and fairly unpopulated state with thousands of miles of dirt roads stretching across the state’s open deserts. Many of these dirt roads cross federal lands that are virtually unoccupied, but other roads, however, are more frequently used by hunters and others seeking to explore what New Mexico has to offer. While dirt roads allow residents to access remote areas, they also pose a risk to motorists because most dirt roads do not have signage or markings, and they may be in various states of disrepair.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, it is common to encounter dirt roads crossing both government and private land. Regardless of whose land a dirt road is on, the owner of the land may have a duty to ensure that the road is safe, especially when it comes to known travelers. However, it is worth noting that in some cases, New Mexico’s recreational use statute will protect landowners who open up their land at no cost to others.

In addition to the duties placed on landowners, those who use dirt roads must operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. This includes driving at a reasonable speed and following other applicable traffic laws. When a motorist is injured in a New Mexico truck accident due to either the landowner’s or truck driver’s negligence, the injured accident victim may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit.

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Emergency vehicles may need to park on the shoulder of the highway for a number of reasons. Commonly, these vehicles are responding to New Mexico auto accidents or are taking care of official government business. However, the presence of these vehicles in such close proximity to fast-moving traffic certainly presents safety issues.

Legal News GavelCivilian motorists as well as the government employees who operate emergency vehicles are responsible to take the necessary actions so that traffic is not impeded and motorist safety is not jeopardized. Indeed, in 2005, New Mexico lawmakers passed a “move over” law, requiring motorists to change lanes and slow down as they pass emergency vehicles.

At the same time, drivers of emergency vehicles have a duty to make sure that they take adequate precautions. For example, emergency vehicle drivers should ensure they are pulled over as far off the highway as possible and illuminate any emergency lights on their vehicle to notify passing traffic of their presence.

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Truck accidents can occur for a number of reasons. For example, it is common to see reports of truck accidents being caused by distracted drivers or drivers who fail to get the necessary amount of rest between shifts. However, one of the most common causes of New Mexico truck accident continues to be intoxicated driving.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, it is estimated that there are approximately 120 alcohol-related deaths per year. While this number has been going down over the past several decades, the reality is that drunk drivers still pose a serious threat to the safety of New Mexico motorists. Any drunk driving accident can be serious, but when a truck driver gets behind the wheel after having too much to drink or after taking illegal drugs, the consequences are often disastrous.

Truck drivers, like all motorists, have a duty to ensure that they operate their vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. Of course, this includes refraining from drunk driving or driving under the influence of illegal drugs. However, truck drivers are also responsible to avoid taking prescription medications that may affect their ability to drive. In fact, the law makes no distinction regarding whether the substance involved is prescribed or illicit.

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Earlier this month in Bavaria, Germany, an accident between a passenger bus and a semi-truck resulted in 18 deaths and dozens of injuries. According to a national news report covering the tragic accident, a tour bus full of seniors enjoying a summer holiday crashed into the back of a truck that had slowed down for an approaching traffic jam.

Legal News GavelEvidently, the accident occurred at around seven in the morning, on a day with fair weather and good visibility. Reports indicate that the bus, which was carrying 48 seniors between the ages of 66 and 81, was immediately engulfed in flames as it collided with the truck. Several people were able to evacuate the bus in the moments after the accident. However, firefighters told reporters that by the time they got to the scene, no one else was able to be removed from the wreckage, due to the extreme heat given off by the burning bus.

The accident is still under official investigation, and a final report has not yet been released. However, at this early juncture, it seems as though the bus driver was either distracted or had fallen asleep behind the wheel. There is no indication that he suffered a medical event in the moments leading up to the accident. However, since the bus driver was among those who were killed in the accident, authorities will not be able to obtain his side of the story.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a truck accident case involving an accident caused while the owner of the truck was present in the cab but not operating the truck. The court was required to determine if the truck’s owner should have his liability reduced under a state law that limits an owner’s liability to $100,000 when liability is based only on the fact that the owner loaned the vehicle to another person who negligently caused the accident. The court ultimately determined that the owner did loan the vehicle to the driver and limited his liability accordingly.

The Facts of the CaseLegal News Gavel

The plaintiffs’ daughter attempted to pass the truck owned by the defendant. As their daughter began to pass the truck, she was in a passing zone, but as she entered her own lane of travel, she was in a no-passing zone. When she crossed back into her lane of travel, she noticed another vehicle was stopped, waiting to make a left turn. She quickly applied her brakes and was able to stop; however, the truck behind her was not able to stop and rear-ended her. The plaintiffs’ daughter was killed in the accident, and her parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both the truck’s driver and its owner.

As it turns out, the owner of the truck had been driving but previously asked the passenger to drive while he took a nap in the back.

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As self-driving and partially self-driving cars begin to become more common, questions about safety and liability arise. Self-driving cars have been touted as safer than regular cars because they reduce driver error. However, others worry that relying on software and technology brings a different kind of risk. Some drivers have claimed that the self-driving cars behave erratically, for example by failing to recognize cars stopped in front of them.

Legal News GavelThere are also questions about who is liable when a crash occurs. Manufacturers have generally required buyers to agree to keep their hands on the steering wheel, even when the car is on autopilot. But if a product malfunctions and causes a crash, the manufacturer might be to blame. As fully self-driving cars inch closer to reality, these questions will no doubt play out in courts across the country.

New Details Emerge About 2016 Semi-Truck and Tesla Autopilot Crash

New details about a fatal 2016 Tesla autopilot crash have recently emerged. According to one news source, the crash, which occurred in May 2016, involved a collision between a semi-truck and a Tesla Model S, which was on autopilot with a driver inside. It was the first known crash that occurred while autopilot was activated. The Tesla driver had been driving in Florida when a truck made a left turn in front of the car. The car went under the truck, hitting the bottom of the trailer, and the car then went off the road and crashed. The roof was torn off the car, and the driver was killed.

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In New Mexico personal injury cases, there are several types of awards that a successful plaintiff may be awarded. The most common type of damages is compensatory damages. These damages include amounts for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Compensatory damages are designed to put the plaintiff back into the position in which they were before the accident resulting in their injuries.

Legal News GavelThe other category of damages available in some New Mexico truck accident cases is punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for especially reprehensible conduct and to deter other potential defendants from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages awards are often significant, but obtaining them can be difficult.

In New Mexico, punitive damages require a showing that the defendant’s conduct was “willful, wanton, malicious, reckless, oppressive, grossly negligent, or fraudulent and in bad faith.” New Mexico courts use several factors in determining if punitive damages are appropriate. Essentially, courts will look at the type of harm suffered and the level of reckless disregard the defendant exhibited when determining if punitive damages should be awarded.

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New Mexico statute 66-8-102 prohibits people from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. Drivers who are impaired, whether due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or for any other reason, offer strong evidence of negligent conduct if they are involved in an accident.

Legal News GavelNormally, the levels of intoxication shown in the blood are admitted into evidence for the drivers involved in the accident, and sometimes for passengers as well. This may be true even if the person is not intoxicated beyond the legal limit. The question of whether a person’s level of intoxication may be admitted into evidence depends on whether the person could have avoided or mitigated the accident by exercising due care—that is, by being sober and alert. Drivers may also be considered impaired for other reasons, including fatigue, a physical disability, or driving without a license.

Intoxication and Punitive Damages

Driving while intoxicated or impaired may also give rise to punitive damages. If a defendant’s conduct is found to be willful, wanton, malicious, reckless, oppressive, or fraudulent, punitive damages may be imposed in New Mexico. Reckless conduct means acting intentionally with utter indifference to the consequences. This may be shown by demonstrating that a defendant was intoxicated while driving.

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Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in New Mexico and across the country. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 alone, nearly 3,500 people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver. This places distracted driving as the third-most common cause of fatal traffic accidents, behind drunk driving and speeding.

Legal News GavelUnlike drunk driving or speeding, however, it is not always easy to determine if driver distraction was a factor in an accident. While some causes of distracted driving can be prevented, such as cell-phone use, other causes are much more difficult to regulate. For example, a driver may be distracted by a passenger, by a road-side sign, or by their GPS system. This makes it difficult for lawmakers to completely outlaw distracted driving.

While lawmakers cannot outlaw distracted driving as a whole, they have taken steps to reduce the causes of distracted driving. For example, in New Mexico, it is against the law for drivers to talk on the phone or text while driving. While the penalty for distracted driving consists only of a small fine, the real import of this law is that it can assist accident victims in proving their case against a driver who was distracted by their phone at the time of the crash.

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Trucking accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence on New Mexico highways. The state is located in a prime position for many truck routes to pass through while on long-haul trips across the United States. Often, truck drivers have been traveling for hours upon end without taking a significant break. This can create situations in which truck drivers are not as alert as they should be.

Truck on HighwayWhen large trucks are involved in an accident, domino effects may occur. Unlike sedans or even SUVs, large trucks are difficult to maneuver and are especially difficult to stop quickly. This makes it difficult for truck drivers to avoid accidents that occur ahead of them. Additionally, the reality is that many truck drivers are not as experienced as they should be, which can lead to instances of negligent driving, increasing the risk of an accident. According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 14% of fatal accidents involved these large trucks.

Victims of truck accidents may seek compensation for the injuries they suffered. However, the domino effect of these accidents often makes it difficult to apportion liability or determine who actually caused the accident. Some accident victims are tempted to rely on an insurance company’s assessment of who is at fault and which parties should be compensated. However, that is rarely the best course of action because insurance companies are looking out for their own best interest and may offer low-ball settlement offers in hopes of making a case “go away” for as little money as possible.

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When an accident occurs and a lawsuit is filed, the jury’s main purpose is to apportion liability and award damages. To do this, the jury must determine who was at fault for the incident and the resulting damages. In some circumstances, the negligent party is very evident given the surrounding facts; however, in certain situations, determining liability can be a bit murkier. In these situations, it is possible that the plaintiff may be found at fault for some or all of the accident. The outcome in a case in which the plaintiff is at fault can vary greatly depending on the state in which it occurs. Generally, there are four theories of negligence when determining liability:Legal News Gavel

  • Pure contributory negligence
  • Pure comparative negligence
  • Modified comparative negligence (50% rule)
  • Modified comparative negligence (51% rule)

New Mexico applies the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. This means that any injured party can file a lawsuit against any other party involved in the accident, regardless of the injured party’s percentage of fault. In these situations, the jury will make a determination as to the fault of each party involved and then apportion liability and damages in accordance with that level of fault. If a plaintiff is found to be partially at fault in causing the accident that resulted in their injuries, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by their own amount of fault. Since New Mexico employs pure comparative negligence, there is no bar to recovery even when a plaintiff’s fault exceeds 51%.

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There are few accidents more deadly than head-on collisions. In fact, depending on the type of vehicle involved in the accident and the age and physical condition of the passenger, survival rates in head-on collisions are typically less than 50%. While head-on collisions are dangerous, they are one of the easiest types of accidents to avoid if both parties are paying sufficient attention to the road.

Legal News GavelHead-on collisions are most commonly caused by one driver failing to pay attention to the road ahead of them. This may be because the driver is distracted by a passenger or is texting on their cell phone. In other cases, head-on collisions are caused by drunk or intoxicated drivers who have a difficult time maintaining control of their vehicle. In either case, a drunk or distracted driver can be held liable for any injuries resulting from a head-on collision through a New Mexico personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

New Mexico Wrongful Death Lawsuits

As noted above, most head-on collisions are fatal. Thus, many of the personal injury cases that are brought in the wake of a head-on collision are wrongful death cases. A New Mexico wrongful death case must be brought by a personal representative of the deceased person. If successful, any proceeds from the lawsuit will be distributed among the deceased’s heirs according to New Mexico Statutes 41-2-3. Generally speaking, the surviving spouse, children, and grandchildren of the deceased have priority. Secondary beneficiaries include siblings, parents, and the survivors of the deceased’s parents.

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Truck accidents are often devastating, and since they frequently occur on the highway, they often involve several vehicles. In such cases, there may be more than one party that is responsible for causing the accident. For example, while a truck driver may have ultimately caused a collision between several vehicles, there may have been a series of negligent acts performed by other parties leading up to the accident that added to the severity of the accident and the resulting injuries.

Legal News GavelIn these cases, New Mexico’s law on joint and several liability may apply. Joint and several liability falls under the general concept of comparative negligence. New Mexico follows the idea of “pure” comparative negligence. Under comparative negligence, if a plaintiff is injured in an accident but was partially at fault, their recovery will be reduced by their degree of fault.

In a situation in which comparative negligence applies, the issue of joint and several liability can also arise. Joint and several liability applies when there are multiple negligent actors who contributed to an accident. Under the doctrine, each responsible party is responsible for the portion of the damages judgment that is equal to their particular degree of fault. However, if one party is unable to pay, the other parties are liable for the full amount. This way, a plaintiff has an increased chance of receiving their full award, even if one or more defendants are insolvent.

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Truck drivers are almost always employed by a private trucking company. These trucking companies generally provide training and set routes and designate responsibilities and job requirements for the truck driver employee. As a result, when a truck driver causes an accident due to their own negligence, it is sometimes possible to hold the trucking company liable for at least some part of the damages that the victim incurred.

Legal News GavelIn order to succeed in a truck accident case against an employer, a plaintiff can rely on the theory of vicarious liability. This theory encompasses the idea that employers can be responsible for the acts of their employees. In order to succeed in a claim of this nature, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the truck driver was acting within the scope of employment when they acted negligently. In certain cases, trucking companies will try to avoid liability by arguing that the truck driver was an independent contractor, and therefore the company should not be held responsible. However, an experienced New Mexico plaintiff’s attorney can assist accident victims in challenging this defense.

It is also important to note that in certain instances, employers may be held liable under a unique and separate theory of liability. This may occur when the plaintiff can establish that the company negligently trained, hired, or maintained their equipment. If a trucking company does not provide proper upkeep of a vehicle, and the lack of upkeep is what caused or exacerbated the accident, the company may be held liable. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the trucking company to provide the employee with proper job training. If the company fails to do this, it may be held liable if the employee causes an accident due to lack of training or supervision. Finally, trucking companies should be diligent in their hiring practices. This includes properly screening applicants and ensuring that they possess the skills necessary to safely operate a truck. If a trucking company fails to do this, once again, they can be held liable for any accident that their employee causes.

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According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 135 people are killed in school transportation-related crashes each year. Most of these fatalities occurred between the hours of seven and eight in the morning and between three and four in the afternoon. For example, between the years of 2003 and 2012, over 1,200 people were killed in school transportation-related accidents, many of these children. While this statistic only amounts to approximately half of one percent of the total 348,253 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes that occurred between those years, the thought of these accidents is terrifying.

Legal News GavelThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for many years did not find seat belts were needed on school buses. However, that position has recently changed. Federal law does not require seat belts on most school buses, which some say sufficiently protect students due to the way they are designed. However, school buses do not always protect children in certain types of crashes or rollovers. For this reason, many safety organizations now recommend seat belts on school buses.

While federal law does not require seat belts, more and more states are beginning to require seat belts in school buses. This year, many states have introduced legislation that would make seat belts mandatory, at least in newly manufactured school buses. However, some lawmakers question whether seat belts may slow students down to evacuate in an emergency. Right now, only six states — California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas — have laws requiring seat belts on school buses, and even then, some of these states have not provided the necessary funds for the schools to complete the required upgrades.

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With the increase in popularity of text messaging, distracted driving has become a leading cause of deadly accidents throughout the United States. As a result, the majority of states have implemented some sort of law or policy against distracted driving. These new laws have imposed strict punishments upon those who choose to engage in distracted driving. In some instances, texting or even using a cell phone while driving is illegal.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, it is against the law for any motorist to text or talk on the phone without a hands-free device. Motorists found to be using a cell phone while driving will be fined $25 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. However, lawmakers are pushing to increase the penalties for cell-phone use while driving.

Advocates Fight for Stricter Distracted Driving Laws

With the rise in distracted driving accidents and fatalities, many lawmakers and citizens have begun fighting for stricter laws to combat distracted driving. These individuals and groups have started focusing their efforts on companies that employ large numbers of people. Advocates have started pressuring the business community to implement complete bans on using cell phones while driving. This push is similar to one many years ago when lobbyists began encouraging employers to require their employees to wear seat belts.

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Earlier this week in Texas, an accident between a pick-up truck and a bus claimed the lives of 13 of the 14 people aboard the bus. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the bus was heading back from a church retreat when the collision occurred.

Legal News GavelEvidently, moments before the accident, another motorist who was driving behind the pick-up truck that caused the accident noticed that the truck was swerving in and out of the lane of oncoming traffic. The motorist called 911 and told operators, “he’s going to hit somebody head on or he’s going to kill his own self. Somebody needs to get this guy off the road.” The motorist’s girlfriend, who was also in the vehicle with him, took out her phone and began recording the truck’s erratic movements. The motorist made several calls before the truck crossed over into oncoming traffic and collided head-on with the bus.

After the accident, the motorist who had called the police confronted the driver of the pick-up truck, who told him, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was texting.” Due to the seriousness of the accident and the number of fatalities, the federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is joining in the investigation with state authorities. The NTSB declined to comment on the accident but did indicate that distracted driving would be among the issues the agency investigates.

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Commercial truck driving is a crucial and important facet of commerce in the United States. Truck drivers are highly utilized, especially recently with the prevalence of online shopping. Due to the demand placed on them, truck drivers are often overworked and are expected to follow strict delivery deadlines. With this increase in trucking activity, and often a shortage of labor, some truck drivers turn to stimulants and other drugs to keep them awake so that they can travel longer distances in a given day.

Legal News GavelAside from the obvious criminal and physical health issues that arise when individuals are taking illicit drugs, there is also a major danger to those with whom these drivers share the road. A few years ago, a study was conducted that analyzed how frequently truck drivers use drugs while on their shift. The study combined self-surveys and physical tests. Interestingly, the study had the highest positive result for alcohol use while on shift. In addition, the study revealed that truck drivers were frequently using amphetamines, cocaine, and other psychoactive drugs to stay awake.

Recently, an industry news source reported that the American Trucking Association (ATA) is lobbying the federal government to require hair samples as a form of mandatory drug testing. The organization has put forth the effort to allow companies to use hair testing instead of urinalysis. The ATA explained that many trucking companies have the burden of paying for testing out-of-pocket because the government does not cover it, and they should be given a choice in how the testing is conducted. Supporters also argue that hair analysis is a much more reliable form of drug testing, and it is more effective at preventing habitual use. It is believed that more stringent testing will reduce the number of truck driver accidents.

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In every state there are harsh criminal and civil punishments for drunk driving due to the catastrophic consequences drunk driving has on the community. In New Mexico specifically, 33% of all traffic fatalities are a result of drunk driving. A large portion of these accidents are caused by intoxicated truck drivers.

Legal News GavelOne reason that truck drivers too often get behind the wheel while intoxicated is because of the long hours truck drivers must work. In many situations, despite regulations mandating a certain amount of rest time, truck drivers push their physical limits by trying to stay out on the road as long as possible to travel as far as they can each day. This can lead to the abuse of stimulants or other drugs to help keep a driver awake.

The National Transportation Safety Board has commissioned studies about the prevalence of drug use among truck drivers. Through these studies, it was found that out of all of the truck drivers questioned, about 85% admitted to the easy accessibility of methamphetamines at truck stops. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) explicitly states that truck drivers are not permitted to consume alcohol or be under the influence of drugs or alcohol within four hours of operating a truck. Commercial truck drivers are often subjected to regular and random drug and alcohol testing. Unfortunately, despite these stringent laws, these sorts of accidents continue to occur. Even with vetting and continuing education, truck drivers continue to engage in this dangerous and potentially fatal behavior.

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Although getting into an accident is an unfortunate risk that motorists take on every day they choose to drive, most accidents can be avoided with the exercise of due care. When a preventable accident occurs, the injured party may bring a negligence claim against the at-fault party. In order to do this, the accident victim must be able to establish that the other party owed them a duty of care and the other party acted in such a way that the duty was breached. The accident victim must also show that they subsequently suffered damages.

HighwayMany car accidents, however, are not black-and-white affairs. In fact, there are commonly accidents where the injured party was also culpable to some extent. In this situation, either party involved in the accident will be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the other. That said, both parties’ total recovery amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault under the doctrine of comparative fault. New Mexico is one of only 13 states that follows the theory of pure comparative fault. This means that even if the injured party is 99% at fault they can still recover something. Their damages will just be reduced by their degree of fault.

State Highway Patrol Officers Injured After Tractor-Trailer Accident

Earlier this month, two Missouri highway patrol officers were injured after they were struck by a tractor-trailer that drifted out of its lane while on the highway. According to one news report, the two officer’s cars were parked on the shoulder of the highway when the accident occurred. Evidently, the tractor-trailer left the highway and drove onto the shoulder, slamming into both of the police vehicles.

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Semi-trucks have the propensity to cause serious damage if they are involved in an accident. The sheer magnitude of the vehicle compounded with the high speed of most truck accidents can result in fatalities and serious property and physical damage. It is important that all truck drivers, especially those who travel the long highways of New Mexico, are properly trained in all pertinent areas of truck driving.

Legal News GavelThere are a few common causes of truck driving accidents in New Mexico, and with proper training and monitoring, many of these can be avoided. For example, too often, truck drivers are not alert in the late night and early morning hours. Truck drivers drive long hours with few breaks, and this can cause drivers to become fatigued, resulting in slower reaction times. Federal rules require that truck drivers keep track of their rest hours and that truck drivers cannot start a shift without first having 10 hours off duty prior to starting.

Other truck accidents are caused by inclement weather. It is important that truck drivers are properly trained with their specific vehicle and have adequate experience and training on how to drive when severe weather occurs. Furthermore, even though truck drivers often have extremely strict deadlines they have to meet, the safety of others should always come first. It is important that, when possible, truck drivers avoid heavy traffic and peak driving hours. If truck drivers cannot avoid driving at peak times, they should change lanes as infrequently as possible.

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When a semi-truck driver causes an accident that results in injuries to one or more parties, the injured parties may be able to seek financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit brought under the theory of negligence. In order to succeed in a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligent act or omission resulted in the plaintiff’s injury. This requires the plaintiff to submit proof of four elements:

  • The truck driver owed the plaintiff a duty of care;Legal News Gavel
  • The truck driver violated that duty of care through some act or omission;
  • The truck driver’s breach of the duty owed to the plaintiff resulted in the plaintiff’s injury; and
  • The plaintiff suffered some kind of injury.

Generally speaking, evidence must be provided to the court as to each of these four elements, or the court will dismiss the case. In some cases, under the doctrine of negligence per se, evidence that a truck driver was violating the law at the time of the accident can help an accident victim’s case because it helps them meet the second and third elements. This is also the case if the truck driver faces criminal charges after an accident.

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Hit-and-run accidents are a particularly devastating and deadly type of accident. When the hit-and-run accident involves a large truck, the severity of the damages and the potential for harm is only heightened. Accidents are classified as hit-and-runs when a driver is involved in an accident and flees the scene without providing assistance or calling for emergency assistance. These types of accidents often have deadly consequences because every second is crucial after a serious car accident, and any delay can result in the exacerbation of injuries, up to and including death.

Legal News GavelAccording to New Mexico law, all drivers, including commercial truck drivers, must stop their vehicle after being involved in an accident. This is especially important if any property damage, injury, or death has likely occurred. Police and emergency personnel should be immediately contacted, and the parties must provide all pertinent identifying information to anyone else involved in the accident. In some cases, drivers should also attempt to provide a reasonable amount of care to the injured party.

If a New Mexico truck driver fails to follow the law regarding hit-and-run accidents, they may face civil liability. These cases are not taken lightly, and law enforcement thoroughly investigates the scene of the accident and questions any available witnesses in an attempt to find the culpable party. An attorney can assist anyone injured in a hit-and-run accident in bringing a lawsuit against the at-fault party. In the unfortunate circumstance that the at-fault driver is not caught, an attorney may assist an accident victim in handling a claim against their own insurance company.

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Back in 2015, a car full of nursing students was on their way to their last day of clinical training when they were rear-ended by a semi-truck going nearly 70 miles per hour. At the time of the accident, the students were completely stopped on the highway due to a major traffic jam caused by an unrelated accident up ahead. A police investigation following the tragic accident showed that the driver of the semi-truck did not apply the brakes in the moments leading up to the accident.

Legal News GavelIn all, five of the six passengers in the car were killed, leaving only one survivor. The families of the deceased accident victims all filed wrongful death lawsuits against the truck driver as well as his employer. These lawsuits were settled out of court before they reached trial. However, the lone survivor could not reach an acceptable resolution with the trucking company in pre-trial settlement negotiations, and the case proceeded to trial.

According to a news report covering last month’s trial, the jury found in favor of the accident victim and awarded her $15 million in damages. Aside from hearing about the circumstances of the accident, the jury also heard from the victim herself, who explained that she suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident and still suffers from ongoing anxiety.

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Earlier this month in Alabama, an appellate court discussed when it is appropriate for a lower court to set aside a default judgment that has been entered in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant failed to respond to the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The recent case discussed the three-factor test applied in Alabama, which is similar to the two-factor test applied in New Mexico courts.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was a truck driver who was planning to unload cargo off his truck after backing the truck into his driveway. As he was lining the truck up to back it into his driveway, it necessarily was blocking all lanes of travel. The plaintiff, a minor, was driving a van and struck the defendant’s truck. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver.

After three months, the truck driver had not officially responded to the lawsuit and the plaintiff asked the court to enter a default judgment against the defendant. A default judgment is the court’s mechanism for ruling in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to respond to the lawsuit. Because the defendant had not yet filed any response, a default judgment was entered in the amount of $550,000.

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Although many people imagine New Mexico as a desert state without much variation in weather, New Mexicans know that the state is actually prone to a significant amount of drastic fluctuations in weather conditions. These fluctuations can lead to dangerous consequences for motorists, especially truck drivers. Often, when truck drivers are involved in an accident during severe weather conditions, they will try to attribute the accident solely to the weather. However, research into these accidents has indicated that despite bad weather, many accidents can be avoided, and in many cases, truck driver negligence is the actual cause.
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There are regulations in place that guide truck drivers and their employers regarding the length of time a driver is allowed to drive without a break. However, there are many financial incentives in the trucking industry for quick delivery and turnarounds. This often leads to exhausted and distracted drivers. This, in combination with a severe or drastic change in the weather, can lead to potentially deadly situations.

When individuals are injured due to the negligence of a truck driver, it can be extremely difficult to determine the cause of the accident and attribute liability. Truck drivers will sometimes be protected by their employer’s legal counsel, so it is important that victims in this situation are just as protected.

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A frightening accident earlier this month has left a truck driver injured and several livestock dead in Minnesota. According to a local news report, the crash appears to have been caused by the driver losing traction and slipping on icy roads, ultimately rolling the truck over into a ditch. The driver of the truck, a 37-year-old North Dakota man, was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. This accident points out the increased danger that is presented to everyday drivers by fully loaded semi-trucks in the wintertime.

Legal News GavelSemi-Truck Loses Traction While Delivering Hogs to Local Farm

The accident has been blamed on icy road conditions, which seem to have caused several more accidents in the area. Indeed, winter conditions have been affecting New Mexico drivers as well this season. Although the icy roads can be blamed partially for the increase in accidents, it is common knowledge in the trucking industry that the risk of losing traction or having another type of accident increases in the winter. Trucking companies and their drivers need to have the right training to act appropriately when driving in winter conditions. If a company fails to train drivers for the conditions they could foreseeably expect to encounter on the job, the company and driver could be liable following a crash.

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At least three people have died as a result of a chain-reaction accident involving two 18-wheelers and several other vehicles last month. According to a local news report, the crash occurred at about 5:45 in the morning on December 27, when the driver of a semi-truck failed to slow down and avoid crashing into a group of vehicles that had slowed as a result of a traffic buildup. Another semi-truck was the first vehicle hit, which was pushed into a Ford pickup and Toyota Corolla and eventually into a concrete barricade. The smaller vehicles were crushed into the barricade by the force of the two semi-trucks. Three accident victims were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, and five others were hospitalized.

Legal News GavelSemi-Truck Drivers Are Required To Maintain a Safe Following Distance to Prevent Collisions

Semi-trucks and construction vehicles can be some of the biggest, heaviest, and most difficult vehicles to control. The drivers and operators of these vehicles must receive specific training and an additional license to operate them on New Mexico roads. As part of that training, semi-truck drivers are taught that these trucks have a much greater stopping distance than other vehicles, depending on the load and weather and road conditions. Drivers need to ensure that their speed and the distance between their rig and the vehicle in front of them gives them a safety cushion to come to a complete stop without hitting the other vehicles in the event of a sudden traffic jam.

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Semi-trucks present a serious danger to the other motorists with whom they share the road. Between a truck’s large size, increased stopping distance, and inability to be quickly maneuvered, there are many concerns that a semi-truck driver must keep in mind every time they get into the cab. One concern that is too often overlooked by both truck drivers and trucking companies is whether the truck has been properly loaded with the cargo it is carrying.

Legal News GavelSemi-trucks routinely carry many tons of cargo. While the trucks themselves are equipped to tow fully loaded trailers if they are properly loaded, if a trailer is not properly loaded, there is an increased chance that the cargo can shift, causing the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. The same is true of overloaded trucks. The importance of properly loading a trailer increases when the cargo being loaded is especially unwieldy, large, or of uneven weight.

If a truck driver or trucking company fails to take the necessary precautions loading the trailer, and an accident is caused as a result, both the truck driver and the trucking company may be held liable for any injuries that were caused. Anyone injured in a New Mexico truck accident should consult with a dedicated attorney as soon as possible to discuss the rights they may have.

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The joyful atmosphere of a seasonal holiday market was tragically disrupted earlier this month when a semi-truck plowed through a crowd of shoppers and killed at least 12 innocent people and injured dozens more. The saddening event has been deemed an intentional attack, but it highlights the destructive power and tragic consequences that semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles can have in accidental or intentional crashes, especially if pedestrians are involved as victims.

Legal News GavelAccording to a national news report, the crash occurred when a man drove a semi-truck with a tractor trailer through the Berlin Christmas Market last week. Authorities released a statement that the truck involved in the crash was stolen from a Polish worksite that was about a two-hour drive from the Christmas market in Berlin. The crash occurred in a pedestrian-only zone, but it may raise concerns about the destructive power of large vehicles when they are able to quickly drive off a road and into a crowded area.

The Legal Consequences of Negligent Versus Intentional Conduct Causing Injuries or Death

The victims of the recent event in Germany may be entitled to compensation through a legal proceeding, but the jurisdictional and legal requirements for actions in other countries in Europe or elsewhere can differ greatly from those that apply to New Mexico semi-truck accident victims. Under some circumstances, U.S. state or federal courts may have jurisdiction over a civil or criminal claim based on events that occurred outside the U.S., although specific requirements must be met for such an action to succeed.

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The California Court of Appeals recently released a decision that upheld a trial court’s ruling to set aside their previous dismissal of an injury case filed by a woman who was hurt in an accident involving a passenger bus that was allegedly caused by the dangerous and reckless conduct of the bus driver. The plaintiff’s claim was initially dismissed after her attorney failed to respond to a motion to dismiss the case or attend the hearing to argue against it. However, the court set the dismissal aside after her attorney swore in a statement to the court that the mistake was his own fault. Using a provision that is relatively unique to California law, the court set aside the dismissal without evaluating the attorney’s failure to respond to the motion or attend the dismissal hearing. Since the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision, the plaintiff will be able to have her day in court, and her claims against the defendant will proceed toward a possible settlement or trial.

Legal News GavelThe Plaintiff Suffered Injuries as a Passenger on a Greyhound Bus

The plaintiff in the case of Gee v. Greyhound is a woman who was hurt when the passenger bus on which she was traveling was involved in a crash that she blamed on the bus driver. After the accident, she consulted an attorney and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the company operating the bus as well as the driver, seeking damages for the injuries she sustained in the crash. In response to the lawsuit, the defendant sought to change the venue of the claim to another county where other plaintiffs had filed lawsuits based upon the same incident, and their request was granted. In addition to the venue change, the plaintiff was ordered to pay certain fees related to the change of venue, which her attorney failed to do.

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When an individual is injured due to the negligence of another party, they may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at-fault party. However, before the injured party is entitled to receive compensation for their injuries, they must establish the elements of the claim they are asserting. Generally, a personal injury plaintiff must establish that the defendant was negligent in causing an accident and that the defendant’s negligence was either the actual or proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Importantly, the type of harm the plaintiff sustained in these cases must have been foreseeable.

Legal News GavelThe legal concept of foreseeability questions what the culpable party could have reasonably foreseen as the consequences that could result from their actions at the time of the alleged negligence. Thus, an individual whose actions result in the injury of another person is not legally liable to the injured party if the injury does not reasonably or foreseeably flow from the allegedly negligent act.

It is important that anyone considering bringing a personal injury lawsuit seek proper legal representation. Defendants in these cases may claim that their actions are too attenuated to give rise to liability on their part. An attorney can assist accident victims in establishing the necessary elements of all personal injury cases. In most truck accident cases, anyone injured due to a truck driver’s negligence will be considered a foreseeable victim. However, in some chain-reaction accidents, a court may find that the negligent act was too attenuated to have foreseeably resulted in the subsequent injuries.

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Driving a truck or another large vehicle takes a substantial amount of training and continuing education. Truck drivers face a series of tasks every day, including ensuring the safety of their vehicle, maneuvering difficult roadways, combating fatigue, and meeting delivery deadlines. As a result, it is crucial that trucking companies ensure that the trucks in their fleet are well maintained and that drivers are properly trained.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, if an individual is interested in driving a commercial truck, they must obtain a New Mexico commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are three different “classes” that are distinguished by the weight of the truck the driver plans to operate. In order to be considered for a CDL, the applicant must be 18 years old. However, it is important to note that the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that individuals who are transporting goods across state lines must be at least 21 years old. Moreover, applicants are required to pass a written test and a three-part driving skills test.

In addition to this basic testing, some drivers may be required to take additional exams, depending on the specific type of vehicle they are driving or cargo they are carrying.

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Trucks have the capacity to cause a significant amount of damage when they are involved in an accident. Just their sheer size should be enough to caution drivers to keep a safe distance when sharing the road with a large truck. However, unfortunately, even the most cautious drivers sometimes end up as victims in a truck accident.

Legal News GavelOne common cause of trucking accidents is related to the lack of an effective underride guard on a truck. An underride accident is basically when a vehicle gets wedged underneath a truck because the truck runs over the vehicle. Trucks should have underride guards on both the front and the back of the vehicle to protect against this kind of accident, but some do not. An underride guard is a steel frame that is fixed to the back of a truck. The guard is intended to act as a barrier so that a car will not go underneath a truck in the event of a rear-end collision. Underride accidents are often fatal and are most often caused by sudden braking by the truck driver, malfunctioning brake lights on the truck, or inclement weather.

After a series of deadly accidents, federal regulators mandated that a study be done to quantify and pinpoint the reason that underride guards fail and to determine whether regulations should be implemented regarding underride guards. As a result of the study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new rule that requires truckers to maintain a stronger grade of steel on their guards. Their research suggests that a better designed underride guard could help prevent fatalities.

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Operating a large vehicle involves a significant amount of training and expertise. Large trucks and buses have the ability to cause serious damage if the vehicle is involved in an accident. In fact, there are many situations each year in which a truck or bus accident claims the lives of several people all at once. The New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is aware of the great responsibility it is to undertake a career driving a large motor vehicle and has created certain rules and regulations that govern these occupations.

Legal News GavelIn New Mexico, generally, in order to receive a driver’s license, individuals need to pass a written exam, pass a driving test, and then pay a fee. However, if someone is planning on driving a large vehicle or one that will be carrying passengers or cargo, the driver must apply for a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Specifically, school bus drivers have a very unique set of rules and requirements that pertain to them. These individuals must become specially certified and trained as a school bus driver, which includes:

  • Passing a criminal background check;
  • Maintaining a clean driving record;
  • Passing an additional written exam that focuses on school buses specifically; and
  • Passing a driving test while operating a school bus.

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In New Mexico, many people rely on public transportation on a daily basis. Although public transportation provides individuals with a cost-effective way to travel within a city, there are risks that are associated with this mode of transportation.

Legal News GavelTo help protect passengers, under New Mexico law, bus drivers are considered “common carriers,” meaning they are responsible for the safety of passengers. However, unlike other automobiles, many buses do not have seat belts and other safety features that are generally present in cars. Furthermore, bus drivers often suffer from fatigue and distraction as they become over-confident driving the same route day after day. As a result, accidents are a sad but frequent consequence of using public transportation.

Although there are varying rules and regulations outlining when and under which circumstances a city bus driver can be sued, it is important to note that a lawsuit is possible in many situations. It is very important that individuals who are injured in a bus accident seek medical treatment right away. Often, pain and discomfort do not make themselves readily apparent right after an accident. However, in order to preserve your claim, it is crucial to seek treatment. An attorney can help injured passengers pursue the compensation they are entitled to receive.

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In New Mexico, trucking companies must ensure that their drivers abide by all safety rules and regulations. A variance from the rules and regulations not only can result in truckers and their employers incurring hefty fees, but also it can cause serious or deadly injuries to other drivers.

Legal News GavelAll truck drivers in New Mexico need to possess a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). In order to initially receive a CDL, the driver must take and pass a written test, then receive a CDL learner’s permit, and finally take a skills driving test. Additionally, drivers must participate in a commercial driver medical exam and receive a medical certificate. Moreover, truckers are required to abide by load limits, obtain trucking permits, and obey travel time restrictions.

If a truck driver is involved in an accident, either the driver or his employer may be liable for the damages he caused. A truck driver may be held responsible for causing the actual injury. In addition, the employer may be held liable under certain circumstances, such as if the employer did not ensure that their driver followed the rules and regulations of the trucking industry. Sometimes trucking companies may try to evade liability by claiming that their driver was actually an independent contractor. An attorney can help potential plaintiffs understand all of the parties that can and should be held responsible and the proper compensation to demand from each.

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One of the main causes of serious and fatal truck accidents is drowsy driving. Truck drivers are compensated by the mile, so the longer a driver can stay on the road per day, the more money he or she will make. However, these long hours on the road come at the obvious cost of a driver’s decreased ability to remain awake and fully aware of his surroundings.

Legal News GavelTo help combat the incentives for truck drivers to stay on the road as long as possible, federal government regulations require that truck drivers get a certain amount of rest per day and between long trips. To help enforce these regulations, truck drivers are required to keep logs of the hours they spend on the road as well as the time they spend resting.

Until recently, trucking companies had a choice to keep electronic logs or hand-written logs. However, the use of hand-written logs has long posed a problem because truck drivers can keep dishonest records or even change the records in the event an accident occurred. For example, if a truck driver is involved in an accident and knows that he has been on the road longer than he should be, that driver may be tempted to change the rest log so that when an investigation is conducted, his violation will not be discovered. This may no longer be possible.

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A recent news story out of Indiana serves as a saddening reminder of the danger that is presented by semi-trucks and other large vehicles to bicycle and motorcycle riders. The report describes a fatal accident between a box truck and a bicyclist that occurred in Indianapolis earlier this month. It appears from the report that a woman on a bicycle was killed after she steered her bicycle into the path of the truck driver. After the fatal crash occurred, the driver of the box truck called the police and explained what happened to investigators.

Legal News GavelNo Criminal Charges Will Be Filed at This Point

After the accident, the police department released a statement that criminal charges will not be brought against the truck driver for his role in the crash, and authorities are continuing to investigate the exact cause of the crash. Even with the decision not to press criminal charges against the box truck driver, the family of the deceased woman may still be entitled to compensation after her tragic death. If the semi-truck driver has personal injury protection insurance coverage, sometimes known as “no-fault” coverage, a claim could be brought on behalf of the woman, regardless of her responsibility for the accident.

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A court of appeals in California recently released an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that reversed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff who sustained injuries when he was struck by a vehicle being driven by an employee of the defendant as he returned from work. The court found that the jury’s verdict against the employer was not appropriate because the driver was operating his own vehicle and not acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Based on the recent appellate ruling, the plaintiff will be unable to receive the amount that he was awarded by the jury as compensation for the injuries that he suffered in the crash.

Legal News GavelThe Plaintiff Is Injured by the Defendant’s Employee

The plaintiff in the case of Jorge v. Culinary Institute of America was the family of a teenager who was struck by a driver while he was crossing an intersection on foot and was killed as a result. Through a legal representative, the plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver and his employer, the defendant in this appeal.

Evidently, the driver was returning from work when the accident occurred, and he was driving his own vehicle and was not being paid for his time. After a trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff over $880,000 from the employer as compensation for his injuries. The jury determined that the defendant’s employee was acting within the scope of his employment when he caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

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A bicyclist in Chicago was killed in an accident with a flat-bed truck last month. The result of the latest accident adds to the already high death toll from accidents between bicyclists and commercial vehicles. According to a local news report discussing the crash, the latest fatality is the fifth incident in Chicago since June in which a bicyclist was critically injured or killed after being hit by a large commercial vehicle. The unacceptable number of fatalities in the last few months in that city alone supports the argument that large commercial vehicles and semi-trucks present an increased threat to commuters everywhere when they travel on small city streets with high levels of traffic.

Legal News GavelThe Truck Driver Never Saw the Bicyclist

According to the news report, the latest fatality occurred on the morning of Monday, September 26. The bicyclist, a 23-year-old woman, was riding in the designated bike lane of a major roadway, and the flat-bed truck was traveling in the same direction at approximately the same speed. As the bicyclist was alongside the truck, going through an intersection, the truck driver made a right turn and crashed directly into the cyclist. Witnesses of the crash noted that the truck driver was distraught after the crash, and they told police that it seemed the driver did not see the bicyclist before making the turn.

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Earlier this month in North Carolina, a tragic accident took the lives of two men and left two others injured when the pickup truck in which they were riding was involved in an accident with a heavy-duty dump truck, which left the pickup truck in flames. The response of two good Samaritans who helped get the three occupants of the pickup truck out of the burning vehicle likely saved one man’s life, although the other two occupants perished in the fire.

Legal News GavelThe Pickup Truck Appears to Turn Directly into the Dump Truck During the Early Morning Commute

According to a local news article discussing the recent crash, the cause of the accident is still under investigation. From the available information, it appears that the driver of the pickup truck was making a turn onto Route 9 from Rabbit Road in Durham, NC, and failed to avoid the dump truck that was in his path. The pickup struck the dump truck near the vehicle’s gas tank, resulting in the fire that engulfed the pickup truck. Speed and visibility may be factors in the accident, although the final analysis has not yet been released.

Recent Construction May Have Made the Road Unsafe

According to the news report, several accidents have occurred at this same intersection in recent months. There is a possible correlation between the spike in accidents at this location and road construction that was recently completed near the intersection. Although the article states that there is no connection between the road construction and the recent accidents, changes made in the design and function of the intersection could have resulted in increased dangers that the municipal authorities may need to address.

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The Ohio Supreme Court published a decision recently that rejected a plaintiff’s personal injury claim because the defendant was protected by the state’s Good Samaritan law, which broadly relieves any person who administers emergency care or treatment at the scene of an emergency from liability for negligence. The plaintiff had sued the defendant and alleged that he acted negligently when attempting to move the truck by which the plaintiff had been accidentally struck.

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The Plaintiff Suffered an Injury After He Was Pinned Between a Truck and a Loading Dock

The plaintiff in the case of Carter v. Reese was a man who was seriously injured after the defendant found him pinned by a semi-truck and attempted to render aid and move the truck. The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the defendant failed to operate the truck properly and worsened the plaintiff’s injuries by mistakenly putting the transmission in reverse after being told by the plaintiff not to do so, resulting in the plaintiff’s leg being broken and ultimately amputated.

The Defendant Was Protected By the State’s Good Samaritan Law

In response to the plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit, the defendant cited state laws that are designed to protect anyone responding in an emergency situation and attempting to render aid or assistance. Since the defendant was responding to a random emergency and trying to help the plaintiff out of an emergency situation, he was found to be completely immune from liability for any injuries that were sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s allegedly negligent operation of the truck he attempted to operate. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s ruling that Ohio’s Good Samaritan statute protects both medical professionals and members of the general public from liability, whether they are rendering medical care or other emergency assistance.

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A violent accident that occurred recently in Maine demonstrates the tragic consequences that can occur when an unauthorized vehicle uses the turnouts that are built into divided highways for the use of law enforcement and other authorized agencies during emergencies or road construction. According to a local news report discussing the crash, a semi-truck driver attempted to use an authorized vehicle turnout to perform a U-turn on a state highway and caused an accident when an SUV behind the semi lost control while trying to avoid a collision with the semi-truck. The driver of the SUV was seriously injured after he swerved to avoid the tractor-trailer and lost control of the vehicle, which left the roadway and rolled several times, leaving the driver in critical condition from injuries sustained in the crash.

Legal News GavelThe Semi-Truck Driver Faces Criminal Charges

According to the report, the driver of the semi-truck is facing criminal charges for his role in the accident and for unauthorized use of the vehicle turnout. Although the semi-truck was not hit by the SUV, it was the driver’s decision to slow down and attempt an illegal U-turn that resulted in the tragic crash. Although vehicle turnouts are commonly used by authorized vehicles on highways and interstates, unauthorized vehicles are not permitted to use them to turn around, and their drivers could face civil and criminal sanctions for an accident they cause.

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently published an opinion that reversed a federal district court’s decision in a wrongful death case that had been filed based on a fatal New Mexico semi-truck accident involving a tractor-trailer. The appellate court ruled that, for the purpose of determining insurance policy limits, the tractor and detached trailer involved in the accident are a single vehicle. The lower court had previously determined that the policy limits for both the insured vehicles involved in the accident could be accumulated to cover the plaintiff’s damages, but the appellate court disagreed. Based on the most recent appellate ruling, the insurance company will only be required to cover the policy limit of a single vehicle.

Legal News GavelA Disconnected Trailer Results in a Deadly Crash

The plaintiffs in the case of Ace v. Romero are the surviving family members of a man who was killed in a New Mexico accident involving a semi-truck and trailer insured by the defendant on a dark night in March 2011. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the deceased was driving on the dark highway and crashed into an unlit trailer that was in the middle of the road. The trailer had been attached to a tractor but somehow became disconnected, and the crash occurred before the truck driver was able to turn around and reconnect it to the rig. The plaintiffs later filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and his insurance company, alleging over $2 million in total damages.

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When individuals are injured because of the negligence of another party, there is often a way to at least get some sort of relief, whether it be through a personal injury case or an insurance claim. However, this is not necessarily the case when the other party is a governmental entity. All states have some form of governmental immunity that bars civil personal injury lawsuits against the government. This was originally enacted to ensure that the government runs smoothly without being unduly delayed by many, occasionally frivolous lawsuits. However, this bar can cause a serious problem for victims who are left without any recourse after being injured by a negligent government employee or agency.

Legal News GavelAlthough the Tort Claims Act bars many lawsuits, there are still certain waivers that can allow the government to be held liable. First, it is very important that individuals know that if they want to bring a lawsuit against the government in New Mexico, they give notice within 90 days of the event that gave rise to the claim. Furthermore, the case must involve an actor that falls within one of the exceptions to immunity.

In New Mexico, government immunity attaches to governmental actors, such as those that were operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft, as well as government agencies like those operating or maintaining a public park or building, operating an airport, or operating a hospital or mental institution. Furthermore, this waiver may apply to injuries or damages that were caused by law enforcement officers who were acting within the scope of their employment.

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