With more than 1,000 miles of interstate and 60,000 miles of public roads, New Mexico motorists ride alongside commercial trucks every day. Most people arrive at their destinations safely. Sadly, some do not. Large truck accidents account for some of the most catastrophic injuries on roadways, and transportation data shows truck crashes are on the rise.
Collisions with tractor-trailers kill thousands of people every year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Even more are injured. Occupants of other vehicles – not the truck driver – almost always suffer the most harm. Big rigs often weigh 20-30 times more than the average passenger vehicle and have greater ground clearance, making it much easier for them to overpower a standard car.
With more than 150 years of combined legal experience, the attorneys at The Sloan Firm know that truck accidents can have heartbreaking consequences. Our legal team works with individuals and families who have suffered due to the recklessness of truck drivers, their employers and other responsible companies.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a truck accident in New Mexico, our 18 wheeler accident injury lawyers are committed to helping you fight for the compensation you deserve. Truck accidents can be complex cases, and we will guide you through the process every step of the way.
Why Should I Consult a Truck Accident Injury Attorney?
Determining liability in a truck crash can be very different from an average car accident. Federal regulations are comprehensive, outlining what truck drivers are allowed to do and the responsibilities of their employers to ensure the safety of their large trucks. But those aren’t the only parties that could be at fault.
Consider a truck accident involving multiple vehicles. Insurance companies from all of the involved vehicles will likely call for a recorded statement. Any good semi truck accident lawyer will advise you not to talk to insurers on your own. The Sloan Firm can handle communications with persistent adjusters to make sure that a compensation offer is fair. That way, you can focus on your recovery.
Possible defendants in a truck accident claim may include:
- Truck drivers
- The truck company
- Parts manufacturers
- Loading companies
- Cargo owners
- Vehicle inspectors
- Truck mechanics
Identifying all of the parties who played a role in your accident can mean a higher award for you and your loved ones. A truck accident attorney can make sure that every possible defendant is investigated thoroughly so that no one slips through the cracks.
It’s also important that lawyers start investigating your truck accident claim right away. It’s not uncommon for records to disappear or be destroyed. Many documents need to be collected for evidence, including police reports, driver logbooks, truck inspection information, cargo loading paperwork and information from the truck’s electronic data recorder (black box).
Common Factors in Semi-Truck Accident Attorney: Truck Accident Crashes
Truck accidents may be the result of actions that cause routine auto accidents, such as not using a turn signal or running a red light. But some contributing factors are specifically tied to the trucking industry, including:
- Poor training – Truckers are held to a higher standard when operating a commercial vehicle. Federal regulations have established specialized training standards that drivers must meet in order to obtain a commercial license. Even more training may be necessary if they intend to haul loads with multiple trailers, tanks or hazardous materials. Those who receive lax instruction are a danger to everyone on the roads, including themselves.
- Driver fatigue – Truck drivers work long shifts and may be offered incentives from their employers to make an early delivery. The law requires that truckers take a mandatory rest period after a specific number of hours on the road. When these hours-of-service rules are violated, deadly accidents can occur.
- Altered logbooks – Truckers are required to maintain logs during their routes to prove that they are getting adequate rest. Until recently, logs were on paper, which could easily be lost or falsified after a wreck. FMCSA recently implemented regulations requiring electronic logging devices to try to reduce the rising number of truck accidents caused by overtired drivers.
- Improper maintenance – Heavy trucks need frequent maintenance and close inspections. New Mexico requires that commercial vehicles travel on designated highways and must stop at every operating “port of entry” for mechanical inspections, weight and height checks and driver inspections. Many parties may be responsible for ensuring a semi-truck or other large truck is safe to operate, so it is important to check with a trucking accident injury lawyer to find out who may be held liable.
- Defective parts – Truck accidents caused by a design defect or poor manufacturing can lead to sudden equipment failures. In these cases, even the most qualified trucker may struggle to avoid an accident. Examples could be overheated brakes, engine failures, tire blowouts and tread separation.
- Unsecured or uneven cargo – Tractor-trailers and other large trucks carry incredibly heavy loads. If improperly loaded cargo spills onto the road, it can hit other vehicles. If it shifts, it could cause the truck to jackknife or roll over, seriously injuring the driver or other motorists.
- Distracted driving – Use of cell phones for texting, instant messaging, sending emails and using voice commands are banned. Making phone calls is strictly regulated, prohibiting truck drivers from dialing if they have to touch more than one button. Countless long-haul drivers also drive cross-country with computers near the steering wheel to communicate with dispatchers and perform other tasks. But researchers have found than on-board computers led to a 10 times greater risk of accidents compared to those who did not use them, causing a controversy over whether they should be allowed in the cab.
- Speeding – Trucks carrying heavy loads take 20-40 more feet to stop compared to a passenger car. More than 28,000 truck drivers were cited for driving between 11 to 14 miles over the speed limit in 2016, and speed played a role in 17 percent of accidents with at least one large truck occupant fatality that same year, according to the most recent FMCSA statistics.
Truck Accident Injuries Can Last a Lifetime
Tractor-trailers and other large trucks are the heaviest things on the road. In a collision, it’s likely that both the other vehicle and its occupants will suffer significant damage. Unfortunately, the injuries can have permanent consequences for accident survivors. Others may suffer injuries with rehabilitation periods that can last months or even years before recovery. The sudden physical limitations, combined with the financial stress and emotional trauma that surfaces after a truck accident, can wreak havoc on a survivor’s wellbeing.
Many truck accident cases involve more than one type of injury. Common injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
- Internal bleeding
- Back and neck injuries
- Seat belt injuries
- Airbag injuries
- Injuries caused by exposure to hazardous materials
- Torso injuries
In fatal truck crashes, families of the deceased may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault parties. In New Mexico, loved ones have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death truck accident lawsuit. For crash-related injuries, the statute of limitations is also three years.
What Types of Compensation Could I Receive?
Truck accident cases have high stakes with large awards. Insurers and trucking companies employ a variety of strategies in an effort to decrease payouts. Adjusters will try to contact survivors before they have had time to contact a lawyer or know the full extent of their injuries. That can trap innocent people into accepting a settlement that is far below what they will need in order to recover from their injuries.
Trucking companies may also drag their feet in turning over necessary information to proceed with a claim in the hopes that you will lose your patience and quit. When you’re in pain and can’t work, it’s a tempting alternative.
But persistence can pay off. In New Mexico, you may be entitled to different types of monetary compensation that can improve your life:
- Compensatory damages: These awards cover expenses such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, any assistive devices (such as a wheelchair), and pain and suffering. Their purpose is to restore you (as much as possible) to the quality of life you would have had if the accident never happened.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages aim to punish the negligent parties for their disregard of the law and discourage others from the same actions. For example, if a trucking company fails to fire a driver who has a record of substance abuse and that trucker causes a DUI-related accident, the court may award punitive damages to the injured party.
New Mexico does not have a cap on the amount of damages that can be recovered in most personal injury claims. The only exceptions are if you are making a negligence claim against a government entity or a medical malpractice claim.
Could Comparative Negligence Laws Affect My Truck Accident Claim?
Few truck companies will immediately admit total responsibility for an accident. A common defense in these types of cases is shared fault – in other words, that you played a role in causing the crash too. If successful, that argument could significantly impact the amount you are able to recover in damages. Here’s why.
Truck accident cases in New Mexico are subject to a personal injury law called comparative negligence. This rule enables the court to assign a percentage of fault to the various parties involved in the accident. In cases where more than one defendant played a role in causing the crash, their amount of compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault (which is determined by the court).
For example, if a jury decided you were 10 percent responsible for the truck accident that caused your injury, you would only be able to collect 90 percent of the damages. If it was a $200,000 award, you could collect $180,000.
The majority of truck accident cases can be settled out of court. Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, so it is worthwhile to work with a semi truck accident attorney to negotiate a settlement. But if you can’t come to an agreement, going to trial may be the next step.
Don’t Wait to Get Help. Contact Our Truck Wreck Lawyers Today
At The Sloan Firm, you are more than just a client. What matters to you, matters to us. If you have been injured or lost someone in a semi truck accident in New Mexico, let us fight for you. Our Longview trucking injury attorneys are compassionate and will zealously advocate on your behalf. We want you to focus on recovering, not worrying about whether insurers are lowballing you for a quick cash settlement.
Reach out to one of our truck accident injury lawyers today for a no-cost consultation. Call us or contact us online now. If we don’t win your case, you owe us nothing.