Deadly New Mexico crash illustrates trucking lawsuit regulations

A deadly accident in 2011 claimed the lives of several people in New Mexico, illustrating how trucking accidents lawsuits work.

In June 2011, a 22-year-old woman and her 4-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son were driving along Interstate 10 near Las Cruces, New Mexico. According to reports from the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican, the mother put on blinking lights and was either stopped or attempting to pull over when a truck from FedEx slammed into her vehicle. The accident killed the woman, the driver of the FedEx truck and the little girl. The 19-month-old incurred serious injuries.

A Santa Fe district judge in July upheld a jury's decision to award the family of the deceased $165.5 million from FedEx. The case highlights how New Mexico's tort laws work and how victims or their families can hold corporations responsible for similar incidents.

Case details

The husband and parents of the 22-year-old mother involved in the trucking incident filed a lawsuit against FedEx. The suit claimed that the company was negligent in contracting its trucking services. Further, the attorney for the family noted that the driver of the truck had been taking medication for problems associated with sleep.

A jury returned the $165.5 million verdict, which is the largest-ever award in the state's history. FedEx filed a motion to get a new trial, but a district judge denied the move. Attorneys anticipate that the company could appeal the decision.

Understanding New Mexico's laws

New Mexico operates under a comparative negligence law, which means that damages are awarded based on how much fault each party in a personal injury lawsuit has. For example, in this case, a jury determined that the young mother was only 5 percent responsible for the incident. According to the law, FedEx would be responsible for 95 percent of the damages she suffered.

Anyone who wishes to file a personal injury lawsuit in New Mexico will have to abide by the statute of limitations. These dictate that a claim must be filed within three years of the incident. However, if the incident involves a state government agency, the New Mexico Tort Claims Act only provides 90 days to notify them of an intent to sue and two years to file the suit after discovering the negligence caused harm.

Trucking accident responsibility

There are a number of factors that can lead to a trucking accident. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration collaborated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to evaluate what leads to such severe incidents. Their findings included the following associated factors:

  • Brake problems were associated with 29 percent of events.
  • Speed was associated with 23 percent of events.
  • Over-the-counter drug use and exhaustion were associated with 17 and 13 percent of events, respectively.

Depending on the circumstances of the incident, a victim or his or her family may be able to list various defendants on a lawsuit. The driver, the company and the manufacturer of the truck could all be held liable following an accident.

The attorneys at Curtis & Lucero will answer any further questions you have regarding your potential case.