Accidents involving semi-trucks can be some of the most devastating for victims and their families.
Given the size and force of a commercial truck, the injuries are often permanent and can result in death.
At Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C. our experienced personal injury attorneys have handled a number of truck accident cases for our clients in Las Cruces.
We can help you get the compensation you deserve for your trucking accident case.
Below is a summary of truck accident law in New Mexico.
Statute of Limitations
In New Mexico, the law allows only a small window to file a lawsuit for a trucking accident.
This is known as the statute of limitations. The statute dictates how long a person has to file a lawsuit.
New Mexico code section 37-1-8 gives a victim three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for damages.
In the case of wrongful death, the family of the loved one lost in the truck accident has three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Section 37-1-4 of New Mexico law gives four years from the date of the accident to file a case for vehicle and personal property damage if no injuries were caused.
Elements of a Truck Accident Case
Truck accident law falls under the theory of negligence. Negligence means that the victim needs to prove that the driver was reckless or disregarded others’ safety. In order to show negligence, the following elements must be proven to insurers or in court:
- Duty: The truck had a duty to drive safely on the road
- Breach: The operation of the truck failed to drive safely
- Causation: As a direct result of the breach, the victim was injured
- Damages: The victim suffered actual damages that can be compensated
The breach in duty for truck accident cases can be caused in a number of different ways.
Driver error in operation, truck maintenance or malfunction, or cargo issues are a few of many reasons why a trucking accident can occur.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
Commercial trucking accidents happen for a number of reasons, any of which could cause potential harm to you and your family.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) set minimum standards of care that all commercial trucks must abide by. Proving that any FMCSR has been violated in a trucking accident can go a long way in establishing negligence.
The FMCSRs apply to all large trucks on the road that weigh more than 10,000 pounds or that operate in interstate commerce.
Negligent operation of the truck is one of the most common reasons for trucking accidents. This includes:
- Distracted driving,
- Fatigued driving,
- Failure to place warnings near a disabled truck,
- Unsafe driving in bad weather, and
- Improperly securing cargo loads.
Another common cause of trucking accidents is negligent inspection and maintenance. This includes failure to check brake calibration and tire treads in between trips, light and reflector placement, or not replacing a cracked windshield.
Negligent hiring, retention, and entrustment is a third common cause of trucking accidents on the road today. This includes failing to do background checks on the drivers before hiring, failure to properly train drivers, allowing drivers to operate trucks after repeated violations, log book violations, and encouraging drivers to operate trucks past the point of fatigue.
Injuries Caused by Trucking Accidents
Because of the size and force of a commercial truck on the road, the injuries in trucking accidents are often life-altering and severe.
The almost three-quarters (73%) of all injuries and deaths in trucking accidents happen to the other vehicle because it is so much smaller than the truck. The most common injuries that arise from truck accidents include the following:
- Head trauma
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Neck and back injuries
- Broken bones
- Amputated limbs
- Internal organ damage
- Torso and rib injuries
- Cuts, lacerations, and disfigurement
- Burns and road rash
- Spinal cord injury
- Wrongful death
These injuries can result in a lifetime of care and significant financial expenses for the victims. It is vitally important that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney after a semi-truck accident to make sure that you receive the compensation you need to treat your injuries.
Compensation for Truck Accidents in New Mexico
After a trucking accident, the victim and their family may be entitled to a number of damages for compensation.
These include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to physical, out-of-pocket expenses such as current and future medical costs, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and property damage.
Non-economic damages refer to the less tangible, but still important harms, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and disability. In cases of wrongful death, the family of the victim may also file damages for the loss of love, security, companionship, and consortium.
New Mexico is one of a few states that operates under a pure comparative negligence doctrine when it comes to personal injury cases. This means that the court determines the degree of fault for each party involved in the accident and reduces the total award for compensation by that percentage.
For example, if a person was awarded $100,000 in damages and found ten percent at fault, the total award would be $90,000. Because it is a pure comparative state, this means that a person found 99% at fault for an accident could still recover one percent of their damages after an accident.
It is also important to note that New Mexico does not have caps on personal injury awards in semi-truck accident law, so there is no limit to the amount that the court can award a victim or their family for the damage caused by a large commercial truck.
The Importance of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
After a semi-truck accident, it is vitally important that you hire a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Insurance companies may offer you a settlement right away after the accident, but they are trying to settle for as little money as possible or make a statement about the accident that is not in your best interests.
A truck accident lawyer protects you from the insurance companies and makes sure that you are receiving the compensation you deserve after the accident. A lawyer will conduct their own investigation into the case and serve as a wall between you and the insurers. They will negotiate on your behalf for damages, and if the insurers will not give you the compensation you need after a trucking accident, a lawyer can take your case to court. Given the severity of truck accidents, hiring a personal injury attorney can mean the difference between getting the care you need or suffering physically, emotionally, and financially for years after an accident.
Call Our Office Today to Learn More About Semi Truck Accident Law
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial trucking accident in the Las Cruces area, our expert personal injury attorneys may be able to help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a free consultation of your case.