Santa Fe Commercial Vehicle Accident Lawyers
CALL (800) 863-5312 to talk about your accident with Santa Fe Commercial Vehicle accident lawyers
Santa Fe commercial vehicle accident lawyers help victims of car accidents that involved commercial vehicles. When commercial drivers fail to adhere to the rules of the road, their negligence can harm drivers to whom they owe a duty of care. If you were the victim of such an accident, keep reading to learn about your next steps and whether you could benefit from the help of an attorney.
Commercial vehicles come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. A flower shop might use a van to make deliveries, or a trucking company might use a semi-truck to transport goods across the country. These are only two of the many kinds of commercial vehicles used every day in Santa Fe. If you were hurt in a commercial vehicle accident with one, call a Zinda Law Group personal injury lawyer at (800) 863-5312 today and schedule your 100% free consultation.
What are the requirements to be a commercial vehicle driver?
Most often when we talk about commercial vehicles, we are referring to semi-trucks, but a commercial driver’s license (CDL) can allow a driver to operate several kinds of vehicles, including passenger vehicles, school buses, and tank vehicles.
All commercial vehicle drivers in New Mexico must have a CDL, and there are several physical, knowledge, and skill requirements that an applicant must pass to get a CDL in New Mexico. There are also multiple fees for background checks, DWI record checks, and the license fee. These requirements for obtaining a CDL help show the industry’s standard of care in a negligence case, which we will discuss in more depth later.
Before a driver can take steps toward getting his or her CDL, the New Mexico driver must provide the following:
- Proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residence in the United States
- Two forms of proof of physical residency in New Mexico, such as a utility bill, credit card statement, government benefits statement, etc.
- Proof of identity
- A non-commercial, New Mexico driver’s license or a valid, out-of-state CDL
- Certification of agreement with New Mexico’s motor carrier safety regulations
- Receipt of a CDL learner’s permit
Next, a driver who wishes to obtain a CDL must pass New Mexico’s physical requirements. For those, the driver must:
- Not use a Schedule 1 drug, amphetamine, or narcotic
- Have vision of 20/40 or better in both eyes together with glasses or contacts
- Have vision of 20/40 or better in each eye individually with glasses or contacts
- Have blood sugar at 200 or lower
- Have blood pressure of 160/100 or lower (with the use of prescription medication, if necessary)
- Not have diabetes which is controlled through insulin injections
- Be able to hear a forced whisper at a distance of at least five feet
Drivers must pass a CDL knowledge test that contains fifty multiple choice questions. These questions require a driver to be familiar with the driving laws and regulations of both New Mexico and the United States.
Finally, once a driver has successfully passed the knowledge test, the applicant may take the CDL road skills test. The test examiner checks the vehicle that the driver plans to use and verifies that the vehicle qualifies for the CDL class that the driver is attempting to obtain. The examiner also ensures that the vehicle is in a suitable condition.
The applicant must show his or her knowledge and control of the vehicle by addressing the vehicle’s features. Then, the driver demonstrates his or her understanding of road laws in practice.
Causes of commercial vehicle accidents
There are some common causes of commercial vehicle accidents that also occur in other kinds of accidents that do not involve commercial vehicles. Some examples of these common vehicle accidents include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; failing to take extra precautions while driving in severe weather; and disobeying traffic safety laws such as stop signs or traffic lights.
There are also causes that are more specific to commercial vehicle accidents. First, driving while fatigued is unfortunately common among truck drivers, despite federal law to prevent the unsafe practice. Drivers and trucking companies must also adhere to regular inspections and maintenance. If a driver improperly loads a truck or drives an overweight truck, there are extra risks of the trailer swaying or whipping.
legal theories in commercial vehicle cases
In car crash cases, the legal theory usually involved is negligence. The legal aspect that sets a commercial vehicle car crash case apart from other car crash cases involving negligence is the doctrine of respondeat superior, which we will discuss in the next section.
In claims for negligence, the plaintiff must prove several elements. The plaintiff must establish a duty of care that the commercial vehicle driver owed him or her and that the driver breached that duty of care. The plaintiff must also show that he or she sustained an injury for which he or she can recover and that the commercial vehicle driver caused that injury.
Standard of the Duty of Care
A legal duty of care develops out of particular relationships. Drivers typically owe each other a duty of care on the level that a reasonable person would exercise; drivers should strive to prevent foreseeable harm to themselves and other drivers. Sometimes there is a greater standard of care for professionals, or sometimes employers create standards of care by which they require their employees to abide.
In the trucking industry, employers themselves are held to standards of care regarding scheduling sleep time for employees and their procedures for loading and inspecting semi-trucks. We will discuss this duty more in the section about respondeat superior. When a person or company fails to provide the proper standard of care, that person or company might be negligent.
The Victim’s Injury
The person or company’s failure to maintain the correct standard of care must have caused you an injury for you to be able to sue under a theory of negligence. Also, the injury must be the kind for which it is possible for you to receive compensation; most physical injuries will meet that definition. If you are unsure about whether your injury would allow you to sue the commercial vehicle driver for negligence, talk to a personal injury attorney in Santa Fe.
The doctrine of respondeat superior dictates that employers must take responsibility for the torts their employees commit within the scope of their employment. The employer itself is not negligent under the doctrine of respondeat superior; rather, the employer must take responsibility for its employee’s negligence.
However, you may have noticed when you were reading the section about the causes of commercial vehicle accidents that employers can be negligent too. They can negligently hire someone with a bad driving record, fail to enforce restrictions on driving hours, or otherwise fail to implement best industry practices.
There are further tests to determine whether respondeat superior applies, that inspect the “scope of employment” standard. These tests involve intensive fact inquiries. If you are unsure whether the commercial vehicle driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment, you might consider discussing your case with a lawyer.
Exceptions to Respondeat Superior
There are a few exceptions to the doctrine of respondeat superior. Trucking companies are not subject to the doctrine of respondeat superior when they hire individuals as independent contractors instead of as employees. Often, commercial vehicle drivers will purchase their own semi-trucks and work for themselves. In that case, victims will probably want to sue the driver’s company.
Federal workers do not fall under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Additionally, if the driver was not (or if the company can prove that the driver was not) working for the employer at the time of the incident, then the victim might only be able to sue the driver and not the company.
How can Santa Fe commercial vehicle accident lawyers near me help?
New Mexico has a statute of limitations of three years for personal injury claims, which means that victims of commercial vehicle accidents have three years starting from the day of the accident to file their complaint. You might be afraid of messing up your legal claim by missing a deadline or filing something incorrectly. An experienced personal injury attorney in Santa Fe knows these procedures by heart, so it is relatively efficient and painless to let your advocate take on such burdens for you.
Things often happen quickly at the scene of the accident. Based on the severity of your injuries, you may or may not have the time or ability to gather information at the scene of the crash. If a party to the accident or a witness called 911, a peace officer will have arrived and filled out a crash report. These become public record soon after the accident and include information about the drivers and vehicles involved.
In addition to the officer’s report, you may have taken your own pictures and record of the accident, perhaps including the names and contact information of witnesses who saw the accident and the other parties involved in the accident. This will be helpful for your personal injury attorney to follow up with such witnesses and help establish favorable facts to your case.
Your lawyer can also correspond with the commercial vehicle driver, that driver’s employer, and the attorneys representing them to get the other side of the story. Your lawyer can find weaknesses in the other side’s case and begin negotiating a settlement.
Medical Reports and Bills
By the time you hire your attorney, you may have already made countless visits to doctors and received extensive treatment and billing. If you have not yet seen a doctor, you should do so as soon as possible to ensure that you have not sustained any invisible injuries; for example, if you experienced severe enough whiplash, there is a chance you could suffer from a mild traumatic brain injury. Mood changes or changes to your balance or coordination should be taken seriously and relayed to a doctor for treatment advice.
Keep a record of all of your treatment and medical bills, including diagnoses, treatment plans, follow up visits, surgeries, referrals, X-rays, and MRIs. Not only can these all be used as evidence of the economic damages you suffered as a result of your injuries, but they are also evidence of your missed wages from time off of work.
Whether or not a commercial vehicle driver was negligent depends entirely on the facts of the case. The crash report alone may not give the whole story of events as they occurred. A lawyer can help you show the other parties involved that their case would not be successful at trial because the facts—based on the investigative work by your lawyer—show that the driver of the commercial vehicle was negligent.
The insurance company of the commercial vehicle driver or that driver’s employer are highly unlikely to award you full compensation if you cannot show that the other driver was negligent, and the company will look for ways to show that you were also partly at fault for the accident. Your experienced Santa Fe personal injury attorney can use evidence of deposed witnesses and defendants to combat such claims.
We already discussed how medical records are evidence of economic damages; economic damages refer to the readily calculable expenses of your injury. Personal injury victims can also receive noneconomic damages for the pain and suffering they experience from the fallout of the accident, such as psychological difficulty driving again or difficulty in caring for their families. In very serious personal injury cases, punitive damages might be awarded to punish drivers whose torts are particularly egregious.
Our Zinda Law Group Santa Fe commercial vehicle accident lawyers are here to help you
Sometimes we expect commercial vehicle drivers to abide by a more rigorous safety agenda while driving because they represent the face of a company and drive more often than most other motorists. That expectation is often true, and you can find out whether the commercial vehicle driver involved in your accident must be held to a higher standard of care than an average driver on the road by letting a Zinda Law Group Santa Fe personal injury attorney research the law as it pertains to the commercial vehicle driver and his or her employer, the employee handbook, and other materials that might be relevant to your unique case.
The aftermath of a car crash can feel like a burden that makes you miss out on life. You might have new routines of doctor visits, physical therapy, and legal appointments. Victims deserve to return to the condition they were in before their accidents. If you are unsure who was at fault and who to sue in your case, we are ready to help you find out so you can recover for your injuries and move on from the accident.
At Zinda Law Group, we want you to have the chance to talk with a personal injury attorney in Santa Fe. Call (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our compassionate attorneys. We offer our clients a No Win, No Fee Guarantee to give them the confidence that they will not fall even further behind financially; that means that our clients do not pay us unless we win their cases for them.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.