Punitive Damages in New Mexico Truck Accident Cases

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.

The 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.

In a recent case, a court discussed what must be shown to justify a punitive damages award against an employer of a negligent truck driver.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were driving through a construction zone on the highway when they were struck by a truck owned by the defendant trucking company. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the company, claiming that it was responsible for the driver’s actions because he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The plaintiffs also included a negligent hiring claim, arguing that the trucking company was negligent in hiring the truck driver, given his past convictions for drugs and significant history of traffic offenses. The plaintiffs sought punitive damages on each of their claims.

The defendants acknowledged that they were liable for the employee’s negligence but argued that by acknowledging their own responsibility, they were not liable for punitive damages.

The Court’s Decision

The court concluded that, in this specific case, the trucking company could not be found liable for punitive damages based on the facts presented. However, the court explained that when an employer had advance knowledge of an employee’s dangerousness and employed him with a conscious disregard of others, punitive damages may be appropriate.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of New Mexico truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the truck driver’s conduct as well as your injuries, you may be eligible for award amounts to assist you with your medical expenses and lost wages. You may also be able to recover for any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. In some cases, punitive damages may also be appropriate. To learn more, contact the Fine Law Firm at 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a knowledgeable New Mexico personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

The Dangers of Distracted Driving on New Mexico Roads, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2017.

Apportioning Liability in New Mexico Personal Injury Lawsuits, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 17, 2017.