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Government Liability in New Mexico Traffic Accidents

Posted in Firm News

Whenever someone is injured in a New Mexico traffic accident involving a government employee, certain complications can arise. For example, personal injury lawsuits naming a government employee or entity must comply with additional procedural requirements in order to be properly heard by the court. Moreover, the issue of government immunity is likely to come up in any case claiming that a government entity is liable for a New Mexico trucking accident.

Government immunity has been around since the country’s formation and is discussed in the U.S. Constitution. As a general rule, states cannot be held liable for the negligent actions of their employees unless they consent to be named in the lawsuit. However, through the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, the government consents to be sued in many types of personal injury cases. A recent case illustrates the type of claim that is not covered under governmental immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when the truck he was driving collided with a fire truck as the two vehicles entered an intersection. At the time of the collision, the fireman operating the truck was returning after conducting a “routine patrol” of the area. The routine patrol consisted of “learning the streets and areas, inspecting the streets and layout of the city,” and covering the territory in case someone needed assistance. Once the routine patrol had concluded, the fireman stopped briefly at a grocery store and then was planning on heading back to the station.

The fireman testified that, on the way back to the station, he noticed the plaintiff’s silver truck just before it entered the intersection. At the time, the fireman explained that he had the right-of-way and was proceeding into the intersection with a green light, when the plaintiff’s truck entered the intersection “for no apparent reason.”

The fireman claimed that he was entitled to government immunity because he was conducting official city business and was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Furthermore, he claimed that by conducting his routine patrol, he was “formulating plans, policies, and designs,” which is an activity to which immunity attaches.

The court, however, rejected the fireman’s assertion of immunity. Initially, the court was skeptical of the claim that being on routine patrol was equivalent to “formulating plans, policies, or designs.” However, the court based its decision elsewhere.

The court explained that the evidence showed that the fireman was no longer actively on routine patrol at the time of the accident, and he had concluded the patrol for the day. The court noted that this was by the fireman’s own admission that he had stopped at the grocery store and was planning on heading back to the station. As a result, immunity did not attach, and the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Traffic Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico traffic accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, if the driver alleged to be at fault is a government employee, that may introduce additional complications into your case. The skilled New Mexico trucking injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience helping local New Mexico victims pursue the compensation they need and deserve. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation today. We will not bill you for our services unless we can help you recover on your claim.

More Blog Posts:

Hit-and-Run Accidents Involving New Mexico Semi-Trucks, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 25, 2017.

Holding a New Mexico Employer Responsible for the Negligent Acts of an Employee, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 4, 2017.