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Icy Roads Causing Tractor Trailer Accidents in New Mexico

Serious Injuries and Fatal Crashes: When Icy Roads Causing Tractor Trailer Accidents in New Mexico Bring About Liability

An icy and snowy storm has grasped most of the United States, including New Mexico.  Border city El Paso, Texas has reported over 200 weather-related crashes in a 24-hour period.  Many of these accidents occurring on I-10 leading into New Mexico.  These crashes have also continued to occur in New Mexico on I-10, with New Mexico State Police reporting a semi tractor trailer accident resulting in a fatality.  The tractor trailer rollover over on the interstate due to the icy roads and killed a California passenger in the truck.  This occurred in Grant County and the truck was a 2017 Freightliner tractor trailer traveling west on Interstate 10.  Our trucking accident lawyers in Albuquerque, NM know that icy roads causing tractor trailer accidents in New Mexico can be a serious problem.

This is why here, at the Caruso Law Offices, P.C., our experienced team has over three decades (30 years!) or protecting the rights of families in New Mexico who have been harmed by the negligence of another person or business.  New Mexico State Police have identified the individual wrongfully killed in the semi tractor trailer as Zhang Wenbo, who was just 36 years old from Chino Hills, California.  Our law firm extends its deepest condolences to the Wenbo family for this tragedy.  

While the weather certainly had a great deal to do with this fatal crash, that does not mean it is an excuse to liability.  Our Albuquerque tractor trailer accident lawyers look at the liability and facts for this type of crash and who could be at fault.  Hint, fault is usually truck driver error when a single vehicle crash like this results in the injuries or wrongful death of an innocent person like a passenger.

Passengers are Rarely at Fault

Initially, it is important to note that a passenger injured or wrongfully killed in a semi tractor trailer crash are usually not at fault for the crash.  This is because a passenger is not in control of the vehicle and is unable to control the speed, direction, turning, or other functions of the vehicle.  Of course, if a passenger is interfering with the vehicle or otherwise causing the driver to drive recklessly, that could result in liability.  But there are no indictions that they may have happened here.  It appears that Zhang Wenbo, 36 of Chino Hills, California, was an innocent victim.

The Driver of a Tractor Trailer Has Special Obligations on Dangerous Roads Under New Mexico Law and Federal Regulations

Icy roads causing tractor trailer accidents in New Mexico are usually due to negligence.  This is based on both New Mexico law and federal regulations.  These laws and regulations can be used by a trucking accident lawyer in Albuquerque, NM to prove liability for a victim’s family to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, loss of income dependency, loss of affection, support, guidance, and consortium, burial costs, funeral expenses, and other damages.

New Mexico Law

Under New Mexico law, NM Stat. section 66-7-301 (b) (1) requires “[i]n every event, speed shall be so controlled by the driver as may be necessary to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway.”  This includes all drivers such as truck drivers or other commercial vehicle operators.  

This means that a truck driver will have to slow down and control his or her speed as necessary.  A truck driver on icy or snowy roads may have to go under the speed limit to avoid causing a collision or rolling over such as the accident on I-10 in Grant County.  This could mean slowing down way below the speed limit.  A police officer could give a truck driving under the speed limit but still causing a crash a ticket for speeding under tis section.

A victim and his family of a trucking accident such as Zhang Wenbo and the Wenbo family could also be entitled to compensation.  An experienced trucking accident lawyer in Albuquerque, NM like our lawyers at the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. could get liability automatically proven through the doctrine of negligence per se.

Under the doctrine of negligence per se, a defendant who violates a statute that was meant to protect a certain victim from a certain type of harm could be automatically liable if that harm occurs to that person.  In the fatal I-10 crash in Grant County, the driver likely violated NM Stat. section 66-7-301, Zhang Wenbo is a type of person to be protected by the statute, and the statute is meant to prevent needless injury and wrongful death to innocent people.

Therefore, an experienced Albuquerque trucking accident lawyer like ours at Caruso Law Offices, P.C. could likely automatically prove liability for the Wenbo family through use of the negligence per se doctrine.  This means we could focus on hiring experts to prove damages to maximize the recovery for a family.

Federal Regulations

While New Mexico statute law is strongest to use, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations are also very applicable in this situation.  These regulations govern commercial vehicle drivers and carriers no matter what state they are from, in, or going to.  These are the minimum requirements, and states could add heightened responsibilities if they so desire.  

Here, 49 CFR section 392.14 governs hazardous conditions and the use of extreme caution.  It is applicable to this crash on Interstate 10.  This regulations provides for the following:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.

The dangerous condition is snow and icy roads causing tractor trailer accidents in New Mexico.  The news over the last several days and hours before the crash, especially in the El Paso area of Texas next to New Mexico and also on I-10, have demonstrated to be dangerous.  Notice of pileups and other accidents were common.

A truck driver should have slowed down (“speed reduced”) during icy and snowy conditions.  This could mean operating well below the speed limit, or even half or less of the speed limit.  A truck driver must protect the life of passengers and himself, as well as others on the roadway.  Truckers need to reduce speed.  This accident is likely due to truck driver error and is negligent.

However, if the conditions become very icy and snowy making them treacherous (“sufficiently dangerous”), a truck driver must stop driving (operation “shall be discontinued”) and a truck driver cannot start driving until it is safe to do so (“shall not be resumed until [the truck] can be safely operated.”).  

Whenever icy roads causing tractor trailers accident in New Mexico result in serious injuries or a wrongful death like Zhang Wenbo, it could result in liability due to a FMCSA violation through the doctrine of negligence per se.

Unlike a state statute that is violated, the doctrine of negligence per se is not automatic for a regulatory violation.  Rather, the violation of a regulation is just evidence of negligence.  This can, however, still be very strong to a jury.  It can also be very likely to result in a successful case at trial or a settlement with the defendant trucking company.

Families Who Have Lost a Loved One in Icy Roads Causing Trucking Accidents Should Call the Caruso Law Offices, P.C.

The Caruso Law Offices, P.C. extends its sincerest condolences to the Wenbo family.  Unfortunately, we have seen this type of tragedy all too often.  It is very sad and frustrating to keep seeing trucking companies and truck drivers placing profits above safety.  

This is why our compassionate and experienced trucking accident lawyers in Albuquerque, NM have represented families throughout New Mexico and in California.  We work hard to protect the rights of families while they can focus on recovery.  Even though no amount of compensation can bring back a loved one, we work hard to ensure that families recover compensation to help support them like their lost loved one would have.

Call to schedule a FREE consultation with the Caruso Law Offices, P.C. by dialing (505) 883-5000.  We handle causes throughout New Mexico, including Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Roswell, Cuervo, Rio Rancho, Clovis, Farmington, Hobbs, Albuquerque where our office is located, and anywhere else throughout New Mexico.  Please call to schedule for FREE appointment by dialing (505) 883-5000 or contact us through our website’s easy to use and convenient contact box available here.