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Navigating Car Accidents in New Mexico Construction Zones

Causes, Impact, and Legal Assistance

Poorly maintained roadways can increase the risk of a bad car accident, but so too can repairing the infrastructure. Serious and fatal car accidents in highway and on-street work zones are increasing in New Mexico and across the U.S. The vast majority of work zone crash victims are drivers and passengers.

As a result, it is essential for those who drive in the state to understand the risks of accidents in construction zones and the importance of consulting an experienced New Mexico car accident attorney to protect legal options and rights.

New Mexico’s definition of street work or construction zones

In New Mexico, highway work zones, also known as construction zones, are designated areas authorized by the state or local authorities for construction, reconstruction, or repair work on streets or highways. They are typically accompanied by temporary single traffic lanes and special traffic control devices or barricades to notify drivers of speed changes or traffic pattern alterations as required by law.

Drivers and pedestrians must adhere to signs, signals, markings, and flagmen in work zones in accordance with state law. Violation constitutes a misdemeanor and could lead to fines, imprisonment, or both. In cases where violation causes injury or death in an accident, drivers may be held liable for damages and face felony charges.

Work zones significantly change the environment, but they do not shift liability or fault in a car accident. While accountability exists for negligent work zone behavior that contributes to or results in a crash, by law, drivers still have a duty to exercise care and maintain the safe operation of their motor vehicle in all conditions.

Work zone car accident statistics and data

The number of serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents in New Mexico work zones shot up after the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, the state experiences anywhere between 5 and 10 fatal work zone accidents per year. Commercial trucks and pedestrians are often involved in this type of crash, according to state data. Here are some key statistics about work zone accidents:

  • Up to 24 percent of work zone crashes are rear-end collisions.
  • Up to 33 percent of work zone fatal accidents involve a commercial motor vehicle like a tractor-trailer, big rig, construction vehicle, delivery van, etc.
  • Nearly 40 percent of work zone crashes involve speeding.

New Mexico work zones on interstate highways and principal arterials and freeways are the most dangerous work zones for motor vehicle accidents. A little under half of all fatal work zone crashes happen on state and federal highways.

Factors in highway work zone car accidents

The presence of lane closures and shifts, unexpected detours, and fluctuating speed limits can increase crash risks in work zones. Traffic changes raise the potential for confusion, which may lead to rear-end collisions, sideswipes, or loss of vehicle control. Leading factors in work zone car accidents include:

  • Speeding. In work zones, speed limits are typically lower than surrounding roads. Exceeding these limits can pose significant risks, including difficulty navigating through narrow lanes and tight spaces, thereby substantially elevating the likelihood of accidents.
  • Distracted driving. Many people sustain injuries due to distracted driving, which can be especially pronounced in construction zones. Here, distraction can lead to severe consequences, such as overlooking workers near flimsy barriers or causing rear-end collisions. Drivers must be alert and responsible in construction zones to prevent accidents.
  • Not following work zone signs and directions. In construction zones, clear signals are implemented to guide drivers through lane changes and alert them to upcoming challenges, often through flashing lights, directional signs, and road markers. However, despite these warnings, some drivers disregard them entirely. They may speed through construction areas without slowing down or enter blocked-off sections marked by traffic cones or signs. Such actions greatly heighten the risk of accidents.

An experienced highway accident lawyer who understands conditions on New Mexico’s I-40, US 70, I-25, and other major roadways can help injured victims and surviving family members of fatal car accidents make the best case for compensation.

Who pays for work zone crash injuries in New Mexico?

Injured victims of work zone motor vehicle accidents are entitled to pursue compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and more. In New Mexico, determining who pays for injuries in a work zone accident on a highway can depend on various factors such as the specifics of the accident, insurance coverage, and negotiating skill. Typically, if the accident was caused by the negligence of another party such as a construction company, contractor, or driver, their insurance carrier may be responsible for covering the costs associated with the injuries.

Work zone accidents often involve multiple parties and can result in a number of injury claims. That’s because New Mexico uses a comparative fault system – if multiple parties are found to be at fault for the accident, liability for the injuries and damages is divided among them based on their degree of fault. In this situation, claimants usually must file multiple claims seeking a proportional percentage from each party. A lawyer can help investigate the crash, identify liable parties, and fight to hold them accountable for injuries.

New Mexico work zone regulations

A spotlight was put on the risks posed by New Mexico’s work zones in 2023 when a project on I-40 resulted in an average of one fatal crash per month. In just five months, New Mexico State Police responded to 18 crashes at the Albuquerque work zone near Clines Corners. The accidents resulted in many injuries and four deaths. Officers said speeding and vehicles following the car in front of them too closely (tailgating) were common factors in these auto accidents.

Work zone safety is on the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s radar. NMDOT continually works on highway construction safety. With four out of five people killed in work zone crashes being motorists, NMDOT has focused on early warnings and education for drivers as well as setting and enforcing construction zone safety standards for building, repair, and maintenance employers and employees.

The state has set requirements and standards regarding work zone visibility, flagger certification, permits for temporary traffic control devices, and signage, as well as inspection and documentation. With a few exceptions, the rules apply to all highway work zones in the state, including those set up on major routes like I-10, I-25, I-40, US-54, US-285, US-380, and US-550.

Get results with the help of a New Mexico car accident attorney

Securing legal representation following a New Mexico highway work zone accident is essential for successfully navigating the legal process and obtaining rightful compensation. At Szantho Law Firm, our legal team is skilled in evidence collection, negotiating with insurance firms, and providing representation in court as necessary. We leverage our knowledge of the law and past case experience to play a critical role in advocating for your rights and recovering maximum compensation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a New Mexico highway work zone accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Szantho Law Firm online or call one of our law offices in Albuquerque or Santa Fe for a free case evaluation. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to pay unless we recover damages on your behalf.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “Navigating Car Accidents in New Mexico Construction Zones.”