Articles Posted in Personal Injury Legal Theories

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.

Truck on HighwayWhen 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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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.

Truck DriverThe 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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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:Pie Chart

  • 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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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.

Exiting the BusIn 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.

Truck on HighwayIn 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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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.

Cell PhoneEvidently, 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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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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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.

Bus InteriorThe 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.

Utility WorkersThe 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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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.

BakerThe 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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