New Mexico allotted more than $10 million to its Department of Transportation to improve a section of U.S. Highway 285 that has claimed as many as 11 lives in six months. Although the effort may help save future lives, it will not bring back the 39-year-old Roswell man killed in a head-on collision with an oil truck in February 2018.
The crash victim’s family sued the trucking company, the truck driver and the Department of Transportation. The family included the DOT in the suit, claiming that the state shared responsibility for the death of their loved one, according to KRQE News. The wrongful death lawsuit claims that the NMDOT did not properly address the safety issues present on the 22-mile stretch leading to the Texas border.
One of the busiest and most dangerous roads in the state, U.S. 285 is a major conduit for oil fields. The Roswell man’s death occurred when an oil truck heading north attempted to pass in the southbound lane. The truck driver clipped a semi instead and then collided head-on with the victim’s pickup truck.
The family’s suit claims that the truck driver was speeding, fatigued and using his phone at the time of the crash. They also claim that the NMDOT shares responsibility for the death by failing to properly maintain the highway and add shoulders and additional lanes.
As KRQE News reported in a December 2019 update, the DOT found itself dismissed from the suit near the end of 2018, and the plaintiffs reached a $4.8 million settlement with the remaining defendants. The DOT has since designated the dangerous stretch of road as a “safety corridor” in which traffic violations receive doubled fines. Patrols in the area have also increased.
No amount of monetary award can fully compensate for a loved one’s tragic loss or long-term disability, but a legal action may accomplish more than closure. It may also bring about an awareness of safety issues that could prevent additional deaths and serious injuries.