New Mexico is a hub for commercial trucking, with countless trucks passing through the state daily. Unfortunately, large vehicle accidents can and do happen, often resulting in serious injuries or death. According to FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System data, 750 accidents involving large trucks and buses occurred in the state from January to November 2022. It resulted in 341 injuries and 46 fatalities. The deadliest road in the state is Central Ave. from San Mateo Blvd. SE to Dorado PI. SE in Albuquerque.
New Mexico has created specific laws for trucking accidents that can help protect injured victims and hold responsible parties accountable. These laws can be complex and overwhelming, especially for the people involved who are facing physical, emotional, and financial challenges. Whether you are a truck driver or a trucking accident victim, it's vital to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help you protect your rights and pursue compensation for your injuries and losses.
New Mexico Commercial Driver’s License
Drivers are required to obtain a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) to operate a commercial vehicle in New Mexico. This requirement ensures that commercial drivers are properly trained and qualified to operate large vehicles safely and responsibly.
Drivers must pass a series of knowledge and skill tests to obtain a CDL. The tests will assess their understanding of commercial driving rules and regulations, covering topics such as air brakes, combination vehicles, hazardous materials, and more. The skills tests then require drivers to demonstrate their ability to operate a commercial vehicle in various scenarios.
Drivers must have a valid driver's license, a clean driving record, and be at least 18 years of age. To drive interstate, the driver must be 21 or older.
New Mexico Commercial Driver Medical Certificate
As part of the CDL requirements, commercial drivers must obtain a Commercial Driver Medical Certificate to prove that they are medically fit to operate a commercial vehicle. This also ensures that the driver has no conditions that could compromise their safety or the safety of others on the road.
The certificate can be obtained through a medical examination from a licensed medical examiner certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The exam covers vision, hearing, cardiovascular health, and respiratory health. It evaluates the driver's overall health and fitness and issues a certificate if the driver meets all requirements.
New Mexico Trucking Size and Weight Limits
New Mexico has created size and weight limits for commercial vehicles to prevent risks to public safety and infrastructure.
The maximum size limit for a commercial vehicle is 8.5 feet wide, 14 feet high, and 65 feet long. Vehicles that exceed these limits are considered oversize, and the drivers and trucking companies are required to have a special permit before being allowed to operate on New Mexico highways.
The maximum weight limit varies and it depends on the number of axles on the vehicle. For example, a single-axle vehicle is limited to a maximum weight of 21,600 pounds, while a four-foot tandem-axle vehicle is limited to a maximum weight of 34,320 pounds. The maximum gross weight for vehicle combinations is 86,400 pounds on federally designated routes. Vehicles that exceed these weight limits must obtain a special permit from the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
It is essential for commercial drivers to be aware of these size and weight limits to make sure they are operating their vehicles safely and within the legal requirements of the state.
Failure to comply with these limits can result in fines and even the driver's commercial license suspension. The fines vary depending on the extent of the violation. For example, a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds overweight may be fined $50, while a vehicle that exceeds the maximum weight limit by 20,000 pounds may be fined up to $5,000.
New Mexico Overweight Law
In addition to size and weight limits, the state has overweight and oversized trucking regulations. By obtaining the necessary oversize and overweight permits and following size and weight limits, commercial drivers can help ensure they operate their vehicles safely and responsibly on New Mexico's roads and highways. These permits come with fees that commercial drivers must pay to operate their vehicles legally.
For single trip oversize and overweight permits, the fee is $25.00. However, if a state police escort is needed, an additional fee of $300 per day is charged. Multiple Trip Permits of $250 are available for combination vehicles that do not exceed certain dimensions, including 140,000 lbs, 14' wide, 15' high, 120’ long, 15' front overhang, and 25' rear overhang. These permits are valid for a specified period, typically 30 to 365 days, depending on the permit type.
New Mexico Hours of Service Regulations
New Mexico’s hours of service regulations are designed to promote road safety by limiting the hours commercial motor vehicle drivers can operate commercial vehicles without taking a break.
Under these regulations, drivers of commercial motor vehicles are subject to federal hours of service regulations established by the FMCSA. The regulations limit the number of hours drivers can operate their vehicles and require them to take a certain number of rest breaks. Specifically, drivers may only drive for up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and they must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving. In addition, drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, and they must take a 10-hour break before starting their next shift.
New Mexico Truck Speeding Law
New Mexico has speeding laws for commercial vehicles to prevent accidents caused by speeding trucks and protect all road users.
The maximum speed limit for commercial vehicles is 75 mph on highways with posted speed limits of 70 mph or higher. On other highways, the speed limit for commercial vehicles is 65 mph. Additionally, commercial drivers must reduce their speed when driving on roads with adverse weather conditions or other hazardous conditions, such as construction zones.
Violating New Mexico's trucking speeding laws can result in fines ranging from $25 for 10 mph over the limit to $200 for driving over 35 mph over the limit. Drivers who accumulate too many speeding violations may face license suspension or revocation.
Commercial drivers operating on New Mexico's roads should familiarize themselves with these laws to ensure compliance and avoid penalties for noncompliance.
New Mexico Trucking DUI Law
New Mexico law imposes strict penalties for commercial drivers convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These penalties include fines, license suspensions, and even jail time.
New Mexico regulations have established that commercial drivers are considered to be under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.04% or higher. This is half of the legal limit for non-commercial drivers, which is 0.08%. Additionally, commercial drivers are not allowed to consume alcohol within four hours of driving a commercial vehicle.
Penalties for a first DUI offense can include fines of up to $500 and 90 days in jail. Subsequent offenses can result in fines of up to $5,000, five years of probation, and 12 years in jail. Commercial drivers convicted of DUI may also be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for up to three years, depending on the severity of the offense.
Commercial drivers operating on New Mexico's roads should know and understand these laws and take steps to avoid driving under the influence, such as designating a sober driver or using alternative transportation.
New Mexico Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
New Mexico requires commercial trucking companies to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage to protect both commercial trucking companies and other drivers on the road in the event of an accident. It follows federal minimum amounts of insurance coverage, which include:
$300,000 for non-hazardous cargo transported in vehicles weighing under 10,001 pounds;
$750,000 for carriers of non-hazardous property transported in vehicles over 10,001 pounds;
$1,000,000 for carriers of oil and certain hazardous wastes in vehicles over 10,0001 pounds; and
$5,000,000 for carriers of hazardous materials in vehicles weighing 10,001 or more pounds.
These minimum coverage amounts are designed so that commercial trucking companies can cover the costs of damages and injuries when an accident occurs.
In addition to liability insurance coverage, trucking companies may also need to carry additional insurance depending on the specific cargo that they are transporting and the type of operations they are running. For example, they may need to carry cargo insurance to cover lost or damaged cargo or workers' compensation insurance for injuries sustained by their employees on the job. Other commercial vehicle insurance options include towing, bobtail, loading and unloading, and collision coverage.
Commercial trucking companies must adhere to the minimum insurance requirements listed above to make sure their vehicles are operating legally and do not pose any risks to other drivers on the road. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in fines of up to $300, license suspension, and jail time of up to 90 days.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in New Mexico?
The amount someone can sue for in a truck accident depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Generally, the compensation is based on the actual damages incurred by the plaintiff. This includes economic damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, as well as non-economic damages like emotional distress and pain and suffering. It's important to note that the state does not have a cap on economic, non-economic, or punitive damages for truck accident lawsuits.
If you have been involved in a truck accident in New Mexico, you must consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to help you understand your rights and pursue a fair and just settlement in your case.
New Mexico Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
The statute of limitations in New Mexico for personal injury lawsuits is three years from the date of the accident, this includes those involving truck accidents. This means the plaintiff must file a lawsuit within three years of the truck accident in order to have their case heard in court. The limitation is the same for wrongful death cases.
The court will probably dismiss the case if the injured victim does not file a lawsuit within the deadline, and they will not be able to use the legal system to seek compensation for their losses and injuries.
However, there are various exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, if the plaintiff is a minor at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations may be extended until three years after the plaintiff's 18th birthday. Additionally, for claims against a government entity, there is a 90-day tort claim notice limit and a two-year statute of limitations for lawsuits.
New Mexico Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
New Mexico follows a fault-based system for insurance claims related to truck accidents. This means that in the event of an accident, the party that is determined to be at fault for causing the accident is responsible for paying for the damages and losses.
Since drivers are required to carry minimum liability insurance, their insurance company is responsible for paying damages caused by an accident up to the policy limit. If the damages exceed the policy limit, the at-fault driver may be personally liable for paying the remaining damages.
New Mexico Is a Pure Comparative Fault State for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
New Mexico is a pure comparative fault state for trucking accident lawsuits. This means the injured victim’s recovery depends on their degree of fault, regardless of how high that degree of fault may be.
New Mexico's pure comparative fault rule allows for the possibility of recovering damages even if they were partially at fault for the accident. However, it also means a plaintiff's damages may be significantly reduced if they are found to have contributed to the accident in any way.
For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault for a trucking accident and the damages awarded to them total $100,000, the plaintiff's recovery would be reduced by 30%, or $30,000. In this scenario, the plaintiff would be able to recover $70,000 from the defendant.
Average Settlement for New Mexico Trucking Accident Lawsuits
Determining the average settlement for a New Mexico trucking accident lawsuit can be difficult because each case is unique. Settlements can vary widely based on the circumstances surrounding the accident, like the severity of the injuries, property damage, and non-medical costs incurred.
Truck accident victims are eligible to receive compensation for economic damages, including lost wages, hospital bills, and future medical care. They can also file claims for non-economic damages for mental anguish.
However, it's important to note that the state follows the pure comparative fault rule, which means a plaintiff's recovery may be reduced proportionally to their degree of fault. It's important for truck accident victims to work with experienced attorneys who can help maximize their recovery while considering the pure comparative fault rule.
Legal Resources for New Mexico Trucking Accident Victims
The State Bar of New Mexico Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is an online directory for individuals who need legal counsel. It provides referrals to qualified attorneys who can assist with a wide range of legal issues, helping individuals connect with a licensed attorney who has experience handling trucking accident cases similar to theirs. The LRS makes referrals based on your location and language preferences.
New Mexico Legal Aid is a non-profit organization that provides free legal services to low-income families in the state. NMLA's mission is to give everyone in the state access to quality legal representation, regardless of income or background. Its team of attorneys is dedicated to advocating for the rights of its clients and helping them navigate the often-complex legal system.
The Commercial Drivers License program ensures that drivers of large vehicles such as buses and trucks have the necessary skills and training to operate these vehicles safely on the road. The Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) provides the requirements for obtaining a CDL, the testing process, and the types of endorsements available for specific vehicles and cargo.
The New Mexico CDL Driver Manual is a comprehensive guide for commercial drivers seeking to renew their CDL license. It contains detailed information on various topics, including driver safety, vehicle inspection, and hazardous material transportation.
The Trucker's Guide is a comprehensive resource for commercial truck drivers operating in New Mexico. It provides details on safety regulations, driver qualifications, and vehicle inspections. It also includes a range of helpful resources like maps, fuel economy tips, and how to find parking and rest areas.
NMRoads Traffic Advisory System is an online tool providing up-to-date information on New Mexico traffic conditions. It is designed to help drivers plan their routes and avoid congestion, delays, and other potential hazards. The website uses a map-based interface to display real-time traffic data like current speeds, accidents, and road closures.
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