Liability and Truck Accidents in New Mexico
Read our blog to learn how to best pursue a personal injury claim after an accident with a big rig and secure your right to receive financial compensation for your injuries; it all depends on who is liable for your accident.
Dangerous accidents involving heavy trucks are on the rise in New Mexico. In 2018, according to a report by the New Mexico DOT, the number of truck accidents rose to 2,658—the highest such figure in the past few years. Sadly, big-rig accidents claimed 60 lives in 2018—which represents 15.3 percent of all fatalities that occurred on New Mexico roads that year.
When a passenger car collides with a big rig, the result is often extensive property damage, catastrophic bodily injuries, or even death for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. Accident survivors may find themselves in need of extensive medical treatment and months of physically demanding and painful rehabilitation.
If you are a professional or a regular driver, then a collision with a big rig, 18-wheeler, or another type of a commercial truck is a real—and extremely dangerous—possibility. In fact, with three interstate roads totaling 998 miles in length, in a country whose infrastructure relies heavily on truck transportation, it is practically impossible to avoid trucks in New Mexico.
Who is Liable for Your Injuries in a Truck Accident?
Following an accident with a large truck, the most important question from the perspective of your potential injury claim or lawsuit is: Who is liable for your injuries?
In the case of most car accidents, the party that caused the accident will be liable to the injured party and therefore obligated to provide financial compensation for injuries and losses incurred. In other words, if you get into a collision caused by the driver of another car, your medical bills, your lost wages, and the cost of the repairs to your car will most likely be covered by his or her personal liability insurance.
However, when you get injured in an accident with a commercial trailer-tractor or heavy truck, your personal injury claim may proceed differently. In fact, determining fault in large truck accidents can be a challenging and complex process, as there may be multiple parties liable for the crash. A thorough investigation by an accident specialist is sometimes necessary to determine all liable parties involved.
Potential at-fault agents may include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company
- The owner of the truck
- The company leasing the truck
- The manufacturer of the truck or its specific components
When the Trucking Company is Liable
There are many ways in which the trucking company may be liable for the accident. One is negligent hiring. This relates to scenarios in which the driver was hired even though he or she lacked the professional training, experience, or health necessary to perform well on the job.
A trucking company may also be held liable in relation to negligent inspection, maintenance, or repair. Trucking companies are required by federal law to regularly inspect vehicles for mechanical failures and to maintain safe operating conditions. If an accident occurs due to poor maintenance, the trucking company can be held responsible for the injuries.
Another circumstance in which a trucking company can be held liable for an accident and related injuries is when the company violates regulations governing the trucking industry. These may relate, for example, to hours-of-service limits which stipulate how many consecutive hours a truck driver can stay on duty. These limits are in place to decrease the number of accidents caused by drowsy drivers. If a trucking company encourages or tacitly allows its drivers to ignore those limits, it can be held liable for injuries that may result from this violation.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Even if a trucking company is not found liable in connection with any of the circumstances mentioned above, it can still be recognized as one of the at-fault parties due to a legal principle called vicarious liability. In general terms, this principle states that an employer will be held liable for the damage and injuries caused by an employee.
In order for the employer to be held vicariously liable, the accident must have occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of his or her job-related duties. In practical terms, this means that if a truck driver took a detour to pursue a personal matter and contributed to an accident along the way, the trucking company may avoid liability for the resulting injuries.
Keep in mind that if you decide to pursue a claim against the trucking company, you will actually bring the claim against the company’s insurer. These insurance companies are often represented by aggressive lawyers who want to make sure that you are paid as little as possible in compensation for your losses. Truck accident claims are also notoriously complex. Thus, it is advisable that you work with an experienced truck accident lawyer from the very beginning.