Visitor Question

Vehicle rollover due to severe road shoulder drop-off…

Submitted By: Richard (Bloomfield, New Mexico)

Traveling on a narrow paved road, I pulled to the right of the roadway where there should have been a shoulder. What I encountered was a drop-off, a rut, that is 13-14 inches deep and 18 inches wide, and which runs/extends along the road approximately 200 feet. From that rut, and out to what should be a shoulder, is a dirt hill angling up at 45 degrees and about 3 feet high from a level line of the pavement.

When my front tire dropped into the rut the weight and force of my vehicle caused my tire rod (steering assembly component) to literally snap, thereby causing me a loss of steering control.

When I attempted to steer out of that deep drop-off, my vehicle was literally thrown across the roadway. This caused it to go into a sliding skid, with the rear-end of the vehicle coming around to my left while at the same time I felt the front end drifting to the right.

As determined later, the right front wheel, no longer connected to my steering system, was angling to the right and in the process my vehicle did a complete 360 degree rollover, landing upright.

I suffered a compound lateral fracture above my left ankle of the Tibia, severe enough that I came close to losing my left foot; a second lateral fracture took place just below my left knee; I cracked several ribs; and in the course of the rollover my head, and left shoulder, was exposed through the open driver’s door window to serious scraping on the pavement.

Who is liable for this accident and my injuries? The accident was caused by the severe drop-off of the road shoulder. Is the city, county, or state responsible? What can I do? Thank you for any direction you can give.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Richard,

Like other states, Mew Mexico and its governmental agencies typically enjoy sovereign immunity. This means the state, city or county can not be held liable for property damage or injuries caused by the entity itself, and/or its employees.

There are exceptions. Under New Mexico’s Tort Claim Act Section A (7), immunity can be waived in cases of “Constructing and maintaining any bridge, culvert, highway, roadway, street, alley, sidewalk or parking area.”

Claims against New Mexico government agencies or employees must be filed with New Mexico’s General Services Department Risk Management Division. To file a claim go to this page. There you will find a form to complete which will be sent to the Transportation Services Department.

If the accident occurred on a city or county road, you may need to contact the government agency for that entity and request information about filing a damage claim. Because each government entity has a statute of limitations (time period) in which a claim must be filed, it’s important you file your claim as quickly as possible.

Learn more at the New Mexico Department of Public Safety website.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: September 12, 2015

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