Articles Posted in Truck Accidents

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.

Fire TruckCivilian 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.

Semi-TruckIn 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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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.

Truck MirrorUnlike 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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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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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.

Mug of BeerOne 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.

Desert HighwayThere 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;Desert Highway
  • 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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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.

Snowy RoadSemi-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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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.

Bus LanesTo 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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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.

Semi-TruckNo 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 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.

Bike in TrafficThe 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.

Dump TruckThe 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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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.

No U-TurnThe 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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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.

Fire TruckAlthough 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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New Mexico is a vast state that is home to many long-haul truck drivers, making cross-country trips. As a result, there are many serious and fatal truck accidents that occur each year. Trucking accidents occur for a variety of reasons, including driver fatigue, mechanical failures, inexperience, and distraction. In a situation in which an individual is involved in a trucking accident, it may seem most logical to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver, and this is often the case. However, the driver is not always the sole party responsible for the accident. Victims should consider the root cause of the accident and the possibility that the trucking company was also at fault.

Three TrucksThe theory that is used to pursue a claim against a trucking company is referred to as “respondeat superior.” This is a Latin phrase representing the idea that in certain instances an employer should be held liable for those whom they are supervising. However, there are many caveats to this doctrine, and it can be complicated to navigate without an attorney who is well-versed in this specific area of the law.

Generally speaking, the employer will be responsible if the negligent truck driver was acting within the “scope of employment” when the accident occurred. Of course, as with many things in the law, this is not always straightforward. Issues may arise when the trucking company claims that the truck driver was an “independent contractor,” and therefore the company should not be liable. An experienced attorney can assist a victim with going through the intricacies of the law and making sure that they are fairly compensated by all responsible parties.

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Truck accidents occur each day on New Mexico highways. While some of them are minor, and all parties involved are able to walk away from the crash, others are much more serious. In fact, in 2014, the total number of fatal trucking accidents was 337. Since several of these truck accidents resulted in multiple fatalities, the total number of lives lost was 383. This equates to about 18 deaths per 100,000 people.

TruckerThere are many causes of truck accidents. Of course, sometimes it is as clear-cut as police determining that the truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident or had fallen asleep behind the wheel. Other times, however, determining who is at fault in a fatal truck accident, and how the accident was caused, can be difficult. In these cases, it is often left to the court system to make a determination of who was at fault. Even in cases in which citations were issued, the court system must still enter its own judgment before any victim is entitled to compensation for their injuries.

It is therefore very important that anyone involved in a serious or fatal truck accident retain dedicated counsel to assist them with the preparation of their case. Accident victims only get one chance to bring their case against an allegedly negligent truck driver, and if a court finds that the truck driver was not at fault, an accident victim’s opportunity to recover compensation is gone.

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When most people think of a truck accident, they think of a high-speed wreck on the highway. However, since trucks are difficult to maneuver, and drivers have a hard time checking all their blind spots, parking lots can also be a dangerous area for pedestrians when trucks are around. In fact, low-speed accidents account for a large portion of the truck accidents that occur each year.

Gas PumpsTruck drivers have a legally imposed duty to make sure that when they are operating their vehicle, they are doing so in a safe manner. This includes giving the truck a pre-trip look over to make sure that all the external mirrors, locks, and equipment are properly attached and functioning. Once the truck driver conducts that check, he also needs to make sure that he carefully leaves the parking lot. If the proper care is not taken, a serious or fatal pedestrian accident could take place, leaving the truck driver liable for the damages. In fact, this very type of accident recently occurred in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania gas station.

Truck Driver Runs Over Pedestrian in Gas Station Parking Lot

Earlier this month, one man was killed when he was run over and then dragged by a tractor trailer after he had stopped to get gas off the highway. According to one local news report covering the tragic accident, the tragedy occurred in the early morning hours on a main state highway.

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The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently released its opinion in a case that arose from a tragic drunk driving accident back in 2011. According to the court’s opinion, the decedent was killed when he drove drunk after leaving a local restaurant. Evidently, the decedent was a frequent patron of the restaurant and was witnessed to have been drunk on several prior occasions. There was also evidence that he was heavily drinking on the night of the accident. Evidence also showed that on a prior night, the decedent was with his two young daughters at the very same bar. One of his daughters was crying and told the bartender that she was crying because her father was drunk, but the bartender continued to serve drinks to the man.

Liquor BottlesAfter the deadly accident, the deceased man’s daughters filed a wrongful death action under state law, claiming that the defendant was negligent in serving alcohol to their father. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs did not have personal knowledge of the circumstances, and therefore the case should be dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the case should not be dismissed because the state’s Dram Shop Law allows affidavits based on other information and beliefs, and this particular case satisfied the evidentiary requirements. In other words, first-hand knowledge was not required.

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Trucking accidents are some of the deadliest types of accidents. This is largely because of the size and weight of large trucks, and the resulting damage that occurs when large vehicles crash into one another. It is no surprise that many of New Mexico’s trucking accidents are caused by negligent driving. To ensure safe roads, truck drivers in New Mexico are required to undergo training prior to being issued a commercial driver’s license. Additionally, it is important that truck drivers are routinely educated on new safety regulations and are aware of the intricacies of the specific truck they are driving. At no time are diligence and care more important than when weather conditions are poor.

Rainy RoadInclement Weather and New Mexico Truck Accidents

Weather conditions in New Mexico can change drastically, and it is extremely important that truck drivers adjust their driving to those conditions. Truck drivers should always conduct a pre-journey inspection of their vehicle. This includes a visual and hands-on inspection, making sure to pay particular attention to brakes and wipers. Additionally, when the weather begins to change, the drivers should immediately and safely slow down. Many times, truck drivers do not pay attention to the speed they are driving, or they consciously speed to get to their destination more quickly.

Fast-moving trucks next to normal-sized sedans can cause sedans to have to swerve out of the way or be splashed with ice or snow. Furthermore, truck drivers should always hold their steering wheels with a tight grip and provide enough space for other drivers to safely pass them. Most importantly, although drivers have deadlines to meet, it is important that if road conditions are especially bad, they get off the road so that they do not cause an accident.

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As of 2012, all 50 states in the U.S. have some version of a Move Over Law that was enacted to make the roads safer for law enforcement and first responders. Move Over Laws were a response to the increasing number of workers, law enforcement, and first responders who have been injured or killed by a car when they were working on the side of the road. Evidently, in 2005, almost 400 workers were killed in what is termed “struck-by” accidents, when they were conducting roadwork. Additionally, the FBI has stated that law enforcement officers being struck on the side of the road is one of the major causes of law enforcement deaths.

police carIn 2005, New Mexico implemented a Move Over Law, which applies to law enforcement, emergency vehicles, and first responders. The law mandates that drivers slow down and change lanes, as long as it is possible, to provide the individuals on the side of the road with ample room to safely conduct their business. New Mexico Law 66-7-332 explained that as soon as an individual approaches an authorized emergency vehicle that has flashing lights on, they must yield the right of way and drive to a position as close to the right-hand side of the road, edge, or curb as possible. Furthermore, they must remain there until they are directed by the police officer to move.

Moreover, if a driver approaches a stationary emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing lights, barring very specific extenuating circumstances, they must drive in a lane that is not adjacent to the stopped car and proceed with caution. If they cannot drive in an adjacent lane, they must decrease their speed, proceed with caution, and be prepared to stop. Importantly, this law still requires that the emergency vehicle driver abide by the duty of care to drive safely on the highway.

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Car accidents are an inevitable risk that individuals must take when traveling. Often, people rely on their driving skills and attention to avoid these situations, but when a person is a passenger in a vehicle, they lose that sense of control over situations that may arise. This is especially true when a person is traveling in a taxi cab or similar vehicle.

crash-1308575_960_720Although accidents involving passengers may seem straightforward, they are often not, especially if a truck is involved. Generally, a taxi-cab passenger will likely be able to collect damages from either the taxi-cab driver or the truck driver, since one party has to be liable or partially liable for the accident. Issues arise when neither party will assume responsibility, or if liability is difficult to attribute.

There are certain steps that an injured person must take to ensure that the case gets resolved quickly and without issue. First, after a party has been injured, it is important that they get all of the contact information of the parties involved. It may be difficult to do this if any of the parties is severely injured, but it is important to try and remember as much information as possible. The party should then immediately contact police officials.

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Bus drivers, taxi cabs, and train operators all share one thing in common, and that is a duty to their passengers. While all drivers have a duty to others on the road, these “common carriers” also have a heightened duty to ensure that the passengers they are transporting for pay enjoy a safe trip. When a common carrier lapses in this duty, the individual driver as well as the company employing him may be held liable in a New Mexico lawsuit.

up-in-clouds-1556517Lawsuits against common carriers rely on a breach of the common carrier’s duty to its passengers. Commonly, this is established through some kind of violation of the law or showing that the driver was somehow negligent in the operation of the vehicle. This can be shown through direct evidence, such as a blood-alcohol report indicating a driver was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident, or though circumstantial evidence.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that tends to prove something but requires a fact-finder to make an inference to reach the ultimate conclusion. For example, if a driver inexplicably crosses over the center line and into traffic without any explanation, and no evidence of a medical emergency was presented, a fact-finder may determine that the driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel. This is similar to what happened in a recent accident that claimed 12 lives in France.

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Earlier this month, the West Virginia Supreme Court released its opinion regarding a trucking accident that was caused by one driver’s road rage. Evidently, in 2010 the plaintiff-truck driver was injured when he tried to avoid the defendant who negligently veered in front of the truck driver. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was acting with road rage when he cut the truck driver off and quickly slammed on his brakes.

semi-mirror-1-1455724The plaintiff had to swerve to avoid the car and subsequently wrecked his truck and injured himself. The defendant left the scene of the accident; however, he was later apprehended because a witness followed him and wrote down his license plate information. The defendant claimed that he was unaware an accident had occurred and alleged that he was the victim of mistaken identity. The evidence at trial proved otherwise. Nevertheless, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. They found that the plaintiff did not prove that the defendant negligently caused the accident.

The plaintiff asked the court to set aside the judgment. He argued that the defendant was not honest during pretrial discovery when he claimed that he had not been issued prior citations. The plaintiff claimed that because of this the verdict was unjust. The trial court, however, did not grant the plaintiff’s motion.

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According to the National Transportation Safety Board, New Mexico is known to have one of the highest amounts of truck traffic per capita on its highways. Often, these long-haul truckers have been driving for many hours without a break, and this, compounded with other factors, can result in dangerous accidents with potentially devastating results. Trucking accidents can be caused because of driver fatigue, distraction, lack of training, and truck malfunctions or loading mistakes.

gas-pedal-397481_960_720While an equipment malfunction may be categorized differently than fatigue or distraction, in many cases, it too can be the result of a party’s negligence. When a truck malfunctions and ultimately causes a dangerous situation that results in an accident, there may still be parties that should be held liable for their role in the accident. These parties may include the driver, the employer of the truck driver, or even the company that manufactured the defective part.

Truck drivers are supposed to make sure that their trucks are in proper working order prior to embarking on a trip. This includes doing a pre-travel check as well as mid-route check-ups. A truck driver can be held liable if they did not properly inspect their vehicle before embarking on their trip. Furthermore, the driver’s employer may be held liable if it did not properly train the driver on how to handle certain common circumstance that may arise in the course of his or her employment.

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Whenever someone is injured in an auto accident that was caused at least in part by the road’s poor condition, that person may consider bringing a lawsuit against the government entity that maintains that roadway. In the majority of cases, this means that a plaintiff will bring a suit against the local or state government. Although these cases may seem straightforward, they are anything but. Suing the government comes with myriad issues because of the restrictions on those who attempt to sue the government. Additionally, sometimes there are several agencies that share control of maintaining different parts of the roadway, which complicates the matter even further.

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New Mexico is governed by the Tort Claims Act. This Act grants government entities certain immunities in personal injury cases. This was enacted to prevent the government from being burdened by an onslaught of lawsuits. However, taking into consideration public policy concerns, there are some exceptions in which individuals may still sue the government despite this immunity. In such cases, the immunity will not attach, and the lawsuit can proceed as normal.

New Mexico is a state that has a series of exceptions to the aforementioned Act, and these exceptions allow the government to be sued. One of the exceptions is when a person is injured because they were involved in an accident on a poorly maintained roadway. However, even after a plaintiff establishes that the roadway was poorly maintained or designed, they must still determine who is actually responsible for the part of the road that actually caused their injuries. For example, maybe one governmental agency designed the road and another agency was supposed to make repairs. In this situation, the plaintiff needs to indicate exactly which parties’ negligence caused their injuries. A failure to do so could result in the accident victim losing their ability to recover damages.

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Personal injury lawsuits are one of the most common ways to financially recover after being injured in an accident due to another person’s negligence. Although the requirements of a negligence lawsuit may seem clear-cut at first glance, they are anything but. This is especially the case when a government or government agency is alleged to be responsible for the accident.

snow-plows-1252488Unfortunately, the government is a powerful entity, and suing them entails significant hurdles. New Mexico, like many other states, is controlled by the Tort Claims Act. This Act was enacted to protect the government from being sued for its own negligent acts. However, as much as the government needs to be protected, individuals’ rights and remedies are also a legitimate concern for the government. Therefore, even though the government has certain protections, there are several situations when the immunity is waived or does not apply, and an individual is permitted to bring a claim against the government.

However, even when an exception may apply, bringing a suit against the government still entails additional procedural hurdles. For example, the government may assert that the employee who committed the tortuous act was an independent contractor. In those situations, the government can avoid liability and demand that the suit be dismissed.

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Every state in the United States has a law that outlines the repercussions for those who are found liable in a hit-and-run accident. Generally, hit-and-runs are accidents in which a person hits another vehicle, a pedestrian, or property and leaves the scene without attempting to call emergency personnel or render assistance. It also may include a failure to exchange information, even if no one is hurt in the accident.

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Under New Mexico law, specifically statute 66-7-203, the driver of a vehicle that is involved in any accident that causes an injury or death must comply with certain very specific requirements. First, the individual must provide their name, address, and registration number to the individual who was hit or any law enforcement authority that requests this information. Furthermore, the individual who collided with the injured party must attempt to render reasonable assistance. This usually means that they must call emergency personnel or make arrangements for carrying the individual to a hospital for treatment.

Unlike many other offenses, a hit-and-run does not necessarily include the element of fault. This means the violation occurs when a person leaves the scene of the accident, regardless of their level of fault in the initial incident. Thus, a driver can be found liable for a hit-and-run even for an accident they did not cause.

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New Mexico, like many other states, has very specific rules regarding when an employer can be held liable for their employee’s behavior. There are four theories on which a claim can be brought. These theories are respondeat superior, negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, and negligent supervision or training.

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Under the theory of respondeat superior, an employer may be held liable for injuries caused by one of their employees if the employee was acting within the “scope” of his or her employment. There are very specific elements that must be met in these types of cases, including establishing whether the behavior was incidental to employment and whether the employee was actually engaged in their work at the time of the accident.

The next theory under which a victim may bring a claim is negligent entrustment. In these cases, a victim must show four very specific elements. This claim generally arises in car accident cases. The victim must show that the person in control of the vehicle allowed the at-fault driver to operate the car, and they knew or should have known that the person to whom they lent the vehicle would create an unreasonable risk of harm to another individual. Furthermore, the victim must be able to show that the person who was driving was actually negligent and that their behavior resulted in the victim’s injuries.

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Early last week, two individuals were killed in a tragic accident near El Paso, Texas. According to one news report, the accident occurred when a music group’s touring van collided with a large 18-wheeler near a Border Patrol checkpoint. Evidently, the metal band was traveling in their tour bus at around 9:00 a.m. near U.S. 62/180 at the time of the accident. The tour bus was carrying about 11 people, 10 of which were band members. The band was on their way to Mesa, Arizona to perform a show when the accident occurred.

gianini-1491869An initial investigation revealed that the band’s tour bus was traveling westbound and slammed head-on into the 18-wheeler. Currently, the reason the band’s bus slammed into the truck is not known. The El Paso Police stated that both the driver of the tour bus and the driver of the semi-truck were killed on impact. Several of the other band members are still facing serious to critical injuries.

Pursuing a Case for Damages as a Passenger in a New Mexico Accident

New Mexico is considered an at-fault state, and therefore a victim needs to prove fault and liability for any damages. In New Mexico, a person can seek financial compensation for what they have been through in one of several ways.

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An investigation of a multi-vehicle crash in Arizona revealed that a New Mexico resident was one of the victims. According to an Arizona news report, the victim was a 26-year-old resident of Farmington, New Mexico. The report indicated that the accident occurred late last week on Highway 89.

i-haul-1450942Emergency personnel told reporters that a tractor-trailer that was proceeding north on the highway crossed into the center median. As the tractor-trailer was shifting lanes, it swiped a medium-sized moving van that was driving in the southbound lane. After that side swipe, the tractor-trailer slammed head-on into a pickup truck that was behind the moving van. The initial reason that the tractor-trailer shifted lanes so abruptly is still unknown.

The driver of the moving van could not control his van after being struck and had to stop beyond the actual point of the accident. The pickup truck was severely damaged, and the New Mexico driver was found dead in the vehicle when emergency personnel arrived. The driver of the van was reported to have suffered minor injuries but was still transported to the hospital. An investigation is ongoing, and at the time of the report no charges had been filed.

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Earlier this month, an unborn child, two adults, and two children were involved in a fiery crash with an 18-wheeler. According to one news report, the accident occurred on a major highway in Dallas, Texas at around 6:30 in the morning. The details of the accident are still being determined, since there is still a question as to whether the large truck was stalled or was experiencing other mechanical issues. However, the passenger vehicle and the 18-wheeler crashed into each other on the ramp.

truck-1560934Evidently, the tanker’s fuel tank erupted after the collision, and a fire ensued, engulfing the lumber that the truck was transporting. The flames quickly took over the entire highway, and smoke could be seen from miles away. A witness to the accident stated that he was driving right behind the truck when he saw it burst into flames. At that point, the witness did not even see the other car. He noted that he saw the truck driver get out of the car as the fuel was leaking from the large tanker.

Unfortunately, by the time emergency personnel arrived at the scene of the accident, the car was incinerated. Police officials have not released the names of the deceased individuals. An investigation into the cause of the fatal accident is ongoing.

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France recently experienced one of the largest truck crashes in the country’s long history. According to a national news report, over 40 people, mostly seniors, were killed while they were on a day trip visiting a countryside town. Evidently, this was the worst road disaster the country experienced in over 30 years.

old-blue-bus-2-1451006According to initial reports, a tourist bus crashed into a truck carrying logs and other timber materials. Witnesses and local residents of the town told investigators and news reporters that the location of the accident occurred at a very dangerous bend in the road. After the truck and bus slammed into each other, they both caught on fire and became engulfed in flames.

An investigation is ongoing to determine the actual cause of the accident. Some stated that the timber driver lost control of his truck and was left in the middle of the road, and when the bus approached the driver was unable to avoid an accident. Some conflicting reports stated that the bus driver was able to get some people off the bus. Townspeople reported seeing massive amounts of smoke from miles away. The two large vehicles were basically incinerated and completely black when emergency crews were finally able to get the flames under control.

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Earlier this month in New Jersey, the driver of a tanker truck was killed when he was involved in an accident with another vehicle. According to one local news source, the cause of the accident was at least in part due to mattresses that had fallen off another vehicle and onto the highway.

tanker-truck-reflection-1562831.jpgEvidently, as the truck was heading down the highway, the driver failed to notice that traffic had slowed for the mattresses that were in the middle of the highway. By the time the driver did see traffic slowed ahead of him, it was too late. While the truck driver attempted to avoid a collision with a Honda CRV that was in front of him, the truck driver was unable to do so.

After the initial collision, the truck flipped over onto its side and then crashed through a guard rail, eventually bursting into flames. According to emergency responders, the flames burned at high intensity for several hours before they were able to be put out.
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Three people were recently killed in a tragic accident near Denton, Texas. According to news reports, a giant 18-wheeler was proceeding south on the highway when it somehow veered into the median. After crossing into the median, the truck crashed into a cable barrier and eventually ended up in the northbound lanes, subsequently crashing head-on into a minivan.

big-rig-1495770.jpgAccording to one local news source, the driver and their passenger were immediately killed at the scene of the accident. The truck did not stop after crashing into the car, and it continued to drag the barrier down the highway and caused a grass fire. The truck driver was immediately taken to a hospital, and he was also pronounced dead. The investigation is pending, but family members of the truck driver have claimed that the man suffered a heart attack while he was driving the truck and became unconscious. Police have yet to reveal the results of any further investigation.

Establishing Negligent Behavior in Trucking Accidents in New Mexico
Car accidents are an unfortunate reality of life, and in many cases the victims walk away with minor bruises and damage. However, in accidents such as the one above, when a giant truck was involved in a head-on collision, the ensuing damage is often devastating. In many cases, an accident is just that: an accident. However, that does not necessarily mean that one of the parties was not negligent.
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Last month, an early morning multi-vehicle collision in Texas ended up causing the death of a truck driver. National news reports indicated that the 54-year-old truck driver succumbed to the serious injuries he suffered following the six-vehicle crash on Interstate 81.

truck-accident-1450067.jpgEvidently, traffic began to slow down on the northbound lane of I-81, and as that happened the truck driver slammed into the back of a sedan. Because of that collision, the sedan was pushed into the median of the highway. The truck driver was unable to control the tractor-trailer, and it continued to slide north and ended up hitting another similar sedan. That car was also pushed into the middle of the highway. Even the second collision did not stop the truck, and it continued sliding north and hit another sedan. That third sedan slammed into another car, which then collided with the final vehicle involved.

Eventually, the truck turned into the median and ended up flipping over onto its right side. All of the drivers were taken to various local hospitals, and their current medical status is unknown. Unfortunately, the truck driver was not wearing a seat belt, and he was killed in the accident.
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Earlier this month, a truck that was being inspected by its driver collided with a Toyota Tundra that was carrying a family. The accident occurred during the evening hours in Georgia. According to one local news report, the truck driver was attempting to do a safety inspection on his semi-truck at the time of the accident. To make matters more dangerous, the semi-truck was carrying hazardous/corrosive cleaning chemicals.

park-brake-1448019.jpgEvidently, the driver allegedly failed to put the truck’s parking brake on. Unfortunately, that failure caused the giant truck to begin rolling into the northbound lane of traffic. The truck ended up ramming right into the Toyota Tundra that was carrying the young mother, her husband, and two children. The mother was sitting in the passenger seat and was killed upon impact.

Emergency personnel stated that it took over two hours to get the father and children out of the vehicle. The father was taken to a local hospital and did not suffer life-threatening injuries. The two children were taken to a children’s hospital, and, although they are in serious condition, they are expected to survive.
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Earlier last month, a truck in Mexico ended up slamming into a series of cars and religious pilgrims, killing several and injuring dozens. According to a news report, the tragic accident occurred near Mazapil.

funride-1366505.jpgEvidently, several hundred pilgrims were walking toward the famed San Gregorio Mango church when a truck carrying sand rammed into the marching individuals as well as several cars. The truck then ended up swerving into a building and pinning people up against the façade. Witnesses explained that the dump truck driver jumped out of his truck before the vehicle finally stopped. Fourteen individuals were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, and many other individuals were transported to local hospitals because of severe injuries.

The Health Minister explained that the death toll had risen to around 26 individuals by the end of the day. Additionally, about 120 people were hurt, and over 40 were still hospitalized. There is no information regarding the cause of the dump truck’s initial crash, but the owner of the trucking company has been identified. The religious festival brought over 1,000 people from the surrounding areas to the north-central town.
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Four young students were involved in a fatal accident as they were participating in a driver’s education course. According to one news report, the three students were sitting in the backseat, while a fourth student was driving.

steering-wheel-1480110.jpgEvidently, a tractor-trailer and the students’ car approached an intersection at approximately the same time. The tractor-trailer had a blinking yellow light, and the car had a blinking red light. The tractor-trailer driver explained that the students’ car stopped at the blinking red light but then suddenly went through it. The tractor-trailer driver stated that he did not have enough time to stop, and he rammed into the side of the car. Of course, this is just the truck driver’s side of the story. It is very possible that the truck driver’s account of the accident differs from the others involved.

Unfortunately, the three students sitting in the backseat were killed upon impact. The fourth student was taken to the hospital and is listed in critical condition. The instructor and truck driver were both hospitalized and are expected to recover. The school has organized counseling services for all students and faculty who wish to participate.
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Earlier this month, an Ohio highway was closed for over 16 hours after a large tanker truck was involved in an accident. The early evening crash caused a fiery explosion on the Ohio State Highway. The exact circumstances surrounding how the accident actually occurred have not yet been revealed. However, news reports have indicated that the tanker truck was carrying about 5,000 gallons of “marine pollutant.” Thankfully, no other vehicles were involved in the accident.

tanker-truck-reflection-395160-m.jpgAuthorities do not believe that any of the pollutant leaked from the truck. However, the truck’s fuel likely burned or leaked out of the vehicle. Following the crash, toxic fumes began to fill the air, and police advised residents to “shelter in place” to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes. Additionally, residents were advised to turn off their air conditioners until it was determined that hazardous fumes were no longer in the air. Traffic was diverted while emergency personnel cleared the scene. The truck’s driver suffered non-life threatening injuries. Latest reports do not indicate whether the driver will be charged with any crimes.

Transportation of Hazardous Material in New Mexico
In New Mexico, commercial transportation is an important and growing industry, and many of those commercial vehicles are in the business of transporting hazardous materials. Trucking activities are highly regulated in the United States, and truck drivers who cross state lines need to be registered under the International Registration Plan. Furthermore, truck drivers who transport hazardous materials are under even more strict scrutiny by the government. The government has implemented very specific rules and regulations to ensure that these truck drivers are abiding by all safety regulations and are transporting their materials in the most efficient and safe way.
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Earlier last month near Savannah, Georgia, five people lost their lives when a semi-truck and two cars were all involved in a serious accident on Interstate 16. According to a local news source, the multi-vehicle crash occurred just a few miles west of Savannah, near where Interstates 16 and 95 intersect.

truck-delivery-1042539-m.jpgEvidently, witnesses told reporters that they saw a semi-truck “drifting in and out of lanes” and colliding with cars, eventually catching fire. In total, the accident involved seven vehicles. Five of the people involved in the accident were pronounced dead. Three of them were in a vehicle that was struck by the semi-truck, and two were in another vehicle that was crushed between two semi-trucks. Several others were injured as a result of the accident.

Police are still in the midst of an investigation into the cause of the fatal accident. However, at this early juncture police believe that the truck driver may have fallen asleep behind the wheel of the truck. Charges are pending, awaiting the result of the investigation.
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Right before Memorial Day weekend, a 17-year-old recent high-school graduate was killed after a collision with a logging truck in Tennessee. Evidently, the girl was planning on beginning her undergraduate studies at Lee University.

logging-truck-1019695-m.jpgRecent reports indicate that on May 21st the girl was waiting at a red light near Highway 11. As the light turned green, the girl attempted to make a left turn onto Highway 11. However, a logging truck was proceeding north on Highway 11, heading towards the intersection the girl was turning on. The logging truck driver did not stop at the light and slammed into the girl’s car. He ended up crashing his truck right into the driver’s door, killing the recent graduate.

The Cleveland Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are still investigating the incident. The Tennessee Highway Patrol has reported that charges are still pending.
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Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.19.53 PM.pngEarlier this month, a semi-truck crashed into another vehicle on Interstate 70 in neighboring Topeka, Kansas. According to one news source, the semi-truck was traveling on the highway when it attempted to avoid a disabled vehicle that was in the shoulder of the eastbound lane. As the semi-truck was swerving on the rain-slicked pavement to avoid the disabled car, the driver ended up steering into the right side of the highway. While veering to the right, he ended up ramming into the back of a Dodge that had stopped on the right shoulder to assist those in the disabled vehicle.

The semi-truck ended up in a ditch on the side of the highway, and then it proceeded to roll into a fence and finally came to a rest in the grass. The semi-truck began leaking fuel because its diesel tank was punctured. The Fire Department and Hazmat crews came to the scene of the accident to assist in the cleanup of the fuel. The semi-truck driver and the driver and the passenger in the Dodge were taken to a hospital by an ambulance that arrived on the scene. Apparently, the semi-truck driver and the driver of the Dodge were wearing seat belts, but the passenger in the Dodge was not.

Comparative Negligence in New Mexico

In the above case, it seems clear that that there were a number of variables that contributed to the outcome and severity of the accident. First, there was a car parked on the side of a presumably busy highway. Second, a semi-truck was attempting to swerve on a wet highway, and third, one of the injured individuals was not wearing a seatbelt. There are also several parties that can be named in a lawsuit: possibly the owner of the car that was parked on the side of the road, the employer of the truck driver, or even the driver of the Dodge.
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In nearby Bell County, Texas, a fire truck and pickup truck were involved in a serious accident after each of the vehicles hydroplaned. Both accidents happened on FM 429. According to a firefighter-oriented newspaper, the fire truck hydroplaned, rolled over, and then proceeded to slam into a tree. Apparently, the pickup driver suffered a very similar fate, when the truck hydroplaned, hit the fire truck, and rolled off the road.

firefighters-1099588-m.jpgThe local news reports indicated that four people in the fire truck were stuck inside, while another was thrown from the truck. The firefighter who was ejected from the truck remains in serious condition. The other firefighters were stuck so badly in the truck that hydraulic tools were necessary to extract them from the vehicle. Two individuals who were traveling in the pickup truck were also taken to the hospital as a result of their injuries. In an ironic and unfortunate twist, the ambulance that was dispatched to assist at the scene of the accident was also involved in a crash.

Preventing Hydroplaning and Avoiding Accidents
Many people do not fully understand the dangers of driving when there is inclement weather. It is important for drivers, and especially trucks and those vehicles carrying passengers, to take all measures to avoid hydroplaning. Hydroplaning can be avoided if drivers take preventative measures before and while they are driving in the rain or snow.
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bright-orange-truck-1-979783-m.jpgEarlier this month in Eunice, New Mexico, a tragic accident occurred on State Road 248. According to New Mexico news reports, a 25-year-old woman was killed after colliding with a semi-truck. Evidently, the woman was in the process of turning left towards northbound State Road 18 when the accident occurred. When she was making her turn, she ended up pulling in front of a truck that was proceeding in the southbound lane on State Road 248.

The New Mexico Motor Transportation and State Police were called around 10:15 a.m. for emergency assistance. Unfortunately, the young woman was declared dead at the scene of the accident. The semi-truck driver was carrying two passengers in his truck; however none of them sustained any injuries as a result of the accident. The New Mexico State Police and Motor Transportation are currently investigating the cause and circumstances surrounding the accident, but no updates have been released yet.
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The end of February brought a series of weather-related accidents in New Mexico. A local newspaper article reported on one of the most recent ones, in which a major pileup occurred near Interstate 40. According to reports, over 24 cars and trucks were involved in the disastrous wreck. The Office of Emergency Management, the Potter County Sheriff’s Office, and New Mexico DPS arrived at the scene to assist in the wreck. A New Mexico state trooper explained that the accident was a result of a chain reaction after certain vehicles lost control when it began snowing.

icy-conditions-1-929304-m.jpgEvidently, the accident began when a few cars crashed into each other. Then, another eight vehicles, including several semi-trucks, got involved as they approached the pile up. In total, over two dozen cars and trucks ended up being involved in the crash.

One of the troopers involved explained that individuals were likely driving too fast for the weather conditions at the time of the accident. Two individuals had to be hospitalized, but they suffered only minor injuries. In addition to this wreck, several other accidents occurred on several major highways in New Mexico that are frequented by long-haul trucks.
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A family was on their way home driving back to Salt Lake City, Utah when they were able to avoid a horrendous car accident between two large semi-trucks. According to a news report, there was a huge pile-up of trucks near I-84 near Baker City. Apparently, about 20 vehicles, mainly semi-trucks, were involved in the massive accident. Officials have indicated that one of the main causes of the accidents was black ice. About 50 vehicles were affected by the crash. Two of the large trucks were apparently carrying hazardous materials.

bright-orange-truck-1-979783-m.jpgUnfortunately, about 12 people were seen at a local hospital for a varying array of injuries. Many other individuals were diverted to other local hospitals for additional treatment. As of right now, one person is still in critical condition, but thankfully no one was fatally injured. The road was closed for an extended period of time because of the size of the pileup and the amount of vehicles involved.

Multi-Truck Accidents in New Mexico
Truck accidents are often more severe than regular-sized vehicular accidents. The magnitude of the truck, its load, and the likelihood that many cars are involved are just some of the reasons these types of accidents can be particularly damaging.
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An recent analysis of New Mexico’s traffic fatalities has revealed significant data regarding the most frequent types and causes of accidents. Through the middle of November, New Mexico logged about 46 traffic accidents that resulted in fatalities.

yellow-truck-shots-4-291281-m.jpgAlthough drunk driving accidents have gone down, accidents due to other causes have increased. A New Mexico Police Captain has indicated that a lot of individuals who drive commercial vehicles and work on the oil fields do not live in the two counties with the highest amount of fatalities. As a result, the commuter traffic has risen almost three times in the past few years. He went on to explain that many of these commercial drivers and other employed individuals work long shifts and then proceed to drive home in the evenings or early mornings. This often results in a significant number of drowsy drivers on the road. Other New Mexico police officers have also indicated that about 90% of their calls are for oil field trucks, not necessarily just commercial drivers.
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Tracy Morgan is still struggling after his serious brain injury from an accident that occurred several months ago. The Associated Press recently reported that the star was involved in an accident with a Wal-Mart truck in New Jersey and suffered leg, nose, ribs, and traumatic brain injuries. Apparently, the truck crashed into a limo that the actor was in. There were several individuals in the limo, and unfortunately one person was killed.

truck-1094965-m.jpgThe truck driver was charged with four counts of assault by auto and death by auto. Additionally, Morgan has commenced a lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages against Wal-Mart. The company has argued that the victims were partly responsible for their own injuries because they were not wearing seatbelts during the time of the incident.

The initial investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the truck driver was driving 65 mph until about a minute before he slammed into the limo. The speed limit at the time of the incident was 45 mph. It is normally 55 mph, but there was construction during this particular period.
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A saddening accident occurred earlier this month when a semi-truck struck and killed a bicyclist at an intersection in Tempe, Arizona near Arizona State University. According to a report by Tucson, Arizona NBC affiliate KVOA, the bicyclist was traveling eastbound on Elliot Road against the flow of traffic in the early morning of June 5, and the semi-truck was at an intersection turning right into the westbound lanes when the collision occurred. It appears that the driver of the semi-truck did not see the bicyclist in the roadway as he was making the turn, and he was unable to avoid the collision. According to the report, paramedics arrived at the scene to perform first aid but were unable to save the bicyclist’s life. Police have stated that the truck driver was not impaired, and they do not intend to file criminal charges against him.

gears-1428393-m.jpgAlthough this accident occurred in our neighboring state of Arizona, the dangers of accidents with semi-trucks are very much the same here in New Mexico. Semi-trucks, especially when they are carrying trailers with full loads, have limited visibility, and the drivers often cannot see everything in their vehicles’ paths at all times. People in smaller vehicles, and especially bicyclists and pedestrians, must exercise extreme caution when traveling near semi-trucks. It is always safest to assume that a semi-truck cannot see you, and to avoid placing yourself in a truck’s path.

In New Mexico, the law states that bicyclists are to drive on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic, unless it is impossible or exceedingly dangerous to do so. The fact that the bicyclist involved in this month’s fatal crash was traveling against the flow of traffic may have contributed to the cause of the accident, although the exact details remain unknown. Although the police have declined to file criminal charges against the semi-truck driver, he still may be subject to civil liability from the accident if it can be shown that he acted negligently in some other way.
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In a recent case, the Federal Court for the District of New Mexico ruled against a plaintiff who was injured in an accident with a semi-truck in 2012 and has forbidden the issue of punitive damages from being heard at trial. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff will be limited, as a matter of law, as to the amount of damages that she can request. Even if the jury wants to give an additional reward to the plaintiff as a result of the intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent behavior of the truck driver, the plaintiff raised the issue of additional damages too late for it to be heard by the jury.

gasoline-tanker-21066-m.jpgThe Accident and Plaintiff’s Claim
In this New Mexico accident lawsuit, the plaintiffs are arguing that the defendant truck driver caused one of the plaintiffs to lose control and then crashed his vehicle into theirs, causing injury to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs did not allege in their initial complaint or subsequent filings that they would seek additional punitive damages against the defendant. They were simply seeking the actual damages that resulted from the defendant’s alleged negligence. Nearly a year after the initial complaint was filed, the plaintiffs alleged, in a final pretrial order, that the defendant should be responsible for punitive damages because of its conduct. By including this claim in the pretrial order, the plaintiffs were attempting to give the jury the opportunity to award them more damages than what they actually suffered, as a way to punish the defendant for its conduct that led to the accident.

How to Allege Punitive Damages and the Court’s Ruling
Punitive damages are allowed in New Mexico accident cases as a way for the jury to punish a defendant for conduct that is so excessive or abhorrent that it must be condemned above and beyond what is required to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries. In order for a jury to award punitive damages against a defendant, the plaintiff must properly allege such damages throughout the case. To be heard by the jury, an allegation for punitive damages must contain a claim that the defendant “acted maliciously, willfully, recklessly, wantonly, fraudulently, or in bad faith.” In this case, the Court found that the plaintiffs did not allege anything needed to seek punitive damages until they prepared the final pretrial order. The complaint, statement of the issues, and discovery disclosures contained no claim for punitive damages, and the Court therefore decided that the claim within the pretrial order was not made properly. As a result of this finding, the Court denied the plaintiff’s request to give the jury the option of imposing punitive damages against the defendant, and it ordered that the case go to trial on only the issues alleged in the initial complaint.
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A report by the Current Argus news has pointed out that Eddy County, New Mexico has been a hub for traffic related deaths, and is now the county in New Mexico with the third highest number of deaths from traffic accidents this year. The reasons for the danger may vary, but all drivers should use caution when travelling on New Mexico roads, especially in Eddy County. New Mexico authorities are trying to pinpoint the causes of the danger and prevent more deaths on New Mexico roads.

Thumbnail image for old-truck-1357724-m.jpgThe Accidents
Earlier in April, a 50 year old woman was sideswiped by a semi-truck that was making a wide right turn in Loving, New Mexico and killed. It appears the semi-truck driver in that accident may not have seen the woman. More recently, on April 21, a 40 year old woman and her two young grandchildren were travelling northbound on County Road 206 when they were T-boned by a semi-truck at an intersection. According to police, the woman failed to yield the right of way to the truck and was hit while both vehicles were going full speed. The woman and her 3 year old granddaughter were pronounced dead at the scene and her one year old granddaughter was injured and is still being treated at an El Paso hospital.

The Dangers in Eddy County
According to the article, Eddy County roads may be more dangerous than other New Mexico roads because of the increase in traffic caused by the oil and natural gas extraction that occurs there. The increase in traffic, especially the large trucks that are involved in fuel extraction and production, results in more wear and tear on the roads, and could explain the increase in New Mexico truck accidents on Eddy County roads. The New Mexico legislature has been working on plans to reduce the number of fatalities. Laws have been proposed to repair the roads in New Mexico’s most dangerous counties, as well as to educate the public on the dangers and defensive driving techniques. While road conditions may be bad and traffic may be heavy, the best way to prevent tragic accidents is for New Mexico drivers to use attention and caution, and err on the side of safety.
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A horrific accident near Sacramento, California on April 10 has killed at least ten people, including five high school students who were en route to tour a college campus. The busload of students and chaperones was travelling northbound on Interstate 5 when a FedEx freight truck in the southbound lanes crossed over the median and slammed head on into the bus, causing explosions and starting both vehicles on fire.

According to reports by CNN and the Los Angeles Times, the students, who were high school seniors from various schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District, were on a trip to visit Humboldt State College and tour the school. The crash occurred about 100 miles north of Sacramento, near Orland, California at approximately 5:00 PM. For an unknown reason, the freight truck veered into oncoming traffic, sideswiped another vehicle, and struck the bus head on. According to witnesses, both vehicles were on fire almost immediately after the collision, and a series of explosions occurred shortly after the crash.

fireman-1037766-m.jpgSeveral bus passengers were able to escape through emergency exits or by breaking windows, but many were unable to get out of the burning bus. Some that did manage to escape were severely burned by the flames. The crash killed both the driver of the bus and the driver of the freight truck, as well as eight passengers on the bus, including five students and three chaperones. The driver and passengers in the other vehicle that was involved suffered only minor injuries. Police report that at least 31 people were injured, and survivors were transported to seven different hospitals.
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The New Mexico federal court’s ruling in Tom vs SB Inc. denied the defendants’ requests to enter evidence of adjustments they had made to the time logging practices that their semi-truck drivers used. This ruling demonstrates that many commercial semi-truck drivers fail to keep the required time logs, and even when they keep a time log, the logs often include dishonest or inaccurate information.

logbook-338505-m.jpgThe Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, a relative of the plaintiff was killed in an accident with a truck driven by an employee of the defendant trucking company. After the accident and death of the plaintiff’s loved one, the trucking company wanted to introduce evidence that they have improved their time logging practices since the accident (this is a unique situation, as defendants usually want to exclude evidence that they fixed a problem after an accident that was allegedly their fault). Apparently the defendants wanted the jury to see that they shouldn’t be tacked with punitive damages because they fixed a problem when they found out about it.

The Court’s Opinion

Under Federal Rule of Evidence 407, plaintiffs are excluded from introducing evidence of remedial measures taken by a defendant after the alleged accident occurred. In this case, the defendants wanted to introduce the evidence and the plaintiffs were using Rule 407 to prevent them to. The Court here actually sided with the defendants in deciding that the Rule 407 exception only applies when a plaintiff want to introduce evidence and a defendant refuses.
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Earlier this week in Pennsylvania, a truck driver died after getting into a serious accident involving several other cars while trying to enter the highway. According to a report by a local news source, the truck was entering the highway shortly after 3:30 p.m. when it struck two other trucks as well as a car. A life-flight helicopter landed on the highway and took the driver to a nearby hospital critical condition. The driver died later that day.

i-haul-299523-m.jpgThe accident is still under investigation. No other drivers were injured and several of the other vehicles involved were able to drive away from the accident scene.

Truck Accidents in New Mexico

Although this accident occurred across the country in Pennsylvania, it could have just as easily occurred in New Mexico. In fact, due to the state’s location between several larger states, New Mexico sees a significant amount of semi-truck traffic on its highways.
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