January 2011 Archives

January 28, 2011

Carlsbad Semi Truck Tanker Accident

A recent Carlsbad semi truck accident seems to belong in Hollywood rather than the streets of New Mexico. The tanker truck accident occurred on State Road 128 (Jal Highway) when two semi trucks collided head on. Both trucks were tanker trucks and believed to be carrying full loads. The head-on accident has claimed the life of one Carlsbad resident, and resulted in critical injuries to an El Paso man.

As is true with all New Mexico semi truck accidents, one of the most common problems that arrise is the need to preserve crucial evidence such as black boxes and data records before they are wiped clean. Sadly, many accident victims and their mourning families overlook these pressing needs and occasionally experience a weaker case as a result.

January 27, 2011

Personal Injury Lessons: Acountability

The recent shooting tragedy in Tucson, Arizona has sparked a national dialogue on how political discourse is conducted in the United States. Some thought that the murder of a federal judge and attempted assassination of a moderate Democratic congresswoman might be linked to some right-wing anti-government sentiment. Others pointed out that we should not jump to conclusions without really knowing anything of the motivations of the alleged shooter. Mr. Loughner, it now seems, was simply insane. He was anti-government to be sure, but his bizarre, disconnected ideas cannot be fairly attributed to, say, Sarah Palin's infamous cross-hairs.

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January 24, 2011

Toyota Sued for "Runaway" Damages

Allstate insurance, Fireman’s Fund, and six other automobile insurance companies have filed lawsuits against Toyota. The insurance companies are asking to be reimbursed for losses paid because of crashes caused by “runaway” Toyotas.

The insurers claim that there is a “product defect” in Toyota vehicles that causes sudden, unintended acceleration. When unintended acceleration occurs, the driver looses control. The brakes are unable to override the acceleration.

The lack of brake-override system in older model Toyotas is another product defect. Over 80% of its new vehicles now on sale are equipped with the “brake-override” control feature. Toyota intends to be the first carmaker to offer the safety technology in all of its models. The safety software is intended to ensure that, when the car experiences unintended acceleration, pressure on the break will cause the engine to reduce thrust and return to “idle” mode.

The victims of “runaway” Toyotas have filed numerous lawsuits for personal injuries and wrongful deaths. It is estimated that Toyota may be liable for more than $10 billion.

Reports of “runaway” Toyotas began in 2000. Toyota has always maintained that the unintended acceleration was due to driver error, improper floor mats, or sticky accelerator peddles. Toyota has always denied that there is an electronic flaw in its vehicles. Government studies have found no evidence of a glitch in Toyotas electronics.

In wrongful death and personal injury litigation, Toyota may well prevail on its claim that there is no glitch in its electronics. Toyota’s liability might rest on the absence of a fail-safe override system. A fail-safe override system was not introduced until 2010.

New Mexico personal injury lawyers can sue Toyota for damages cause by Toyota’s defective vehicles. Toyota’s liability for wrongful death and bodily injury damages will not make the plaintiffs “whole.” It will, however, lessen the burden of losses caused by a decade of “runaway” Toyotas.

January 12, 2011

Santa Fe Rollover Accident Wrongful Death

Another New Mexico wrongful death accident involving a mother and child is making headlines. This one, occurred on I-25 near Santa Fe. According to initial reports, the New Mexico rollover wrongful death accident began when a woman was traveling on interstate 25 when she collided with another car.

This Santa Fe car accident resulted in the Las Vegas woman’s vehicle rolling several times at which point her three-year-old child was ejected. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the New Mexico accident and the various factors that contributed to the child’s death.

No matter what happens, this type of accident is a tragedy. It sends a profound shock wave through not only the family involved, but also their friends and community. From a New Mexico personal injury lawyer’s perspective, it is always difficult handling such cases. However, it is nonetheless important to recognize that while a financial recovery, of whatever amount, may not be enough to compensate accident victims, it can be used to bring some good to those involved.

In a case such as this there are various possible claims that may arise. There are at least two separate vehicle insurance policies that may provide coverage as well as other possible theories to review. These theories include a New Mexico product defect case as well as a possible government liability case.

January 6, 2011

Seatbelts: A Negligent Parent's Best Friend

On December 28, 2010, a mother was driving north on 1-25 with her daughter. The daughter, 13, was riding in the front seat. She was not using her seat belt.

This vehicle moved into the left lane, hitting another vehicle. The New Mexico car accident put the vehicle into a spin. The vehicle slammed into the guardrail. The daughter was ejected from the front seat. She died during surgery. The driver was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Not much earlier, on November 21, 2010, another mother was driving south on a Highway 217 with her 14 year old daughter.

Again, the daughter was riding in the front seat. She was not wearing a seatbelt. Two younger children were buckled up in the back seat.

When the driver attempted to pass another car, she lost control and the vehicle rolled. The daughter was ejected from the front seat. She died at the scene. The driver and the two young children sustained minor injuries.

The use of a seatbelt can make the difference between life and death on New Mexico highways. A parent who allows a child to ride unbuckled is endangering the child’s life. The parent is allowing the child to walk a tightrope without a net.

A parent who allows a child to ride unbuckled can face a lifetime guilt and regret. Depending on circumstances, the parent can also face criminal charges of child abuse resulting in death.

All New Mexico wrongful deaths are tragic. Sometimes wrongful death litigations can mitigate part of the loss. Sometimes, even in these situations where a family member may cause the accident, New Mexico law may allow for a recovery. However, no New Mexico personal injury lawyer, nor verdict can ever replace the promise and dream of a healthy, eager, vibrant teenager.

January 3, 2011

Toyota Settlement of $10,000,000 - More to come?

On August 20, 2009, a runaway Lexus crashed and burned. The four occupants of the vehicle were killed. Before the crash, a passenger made a frantic 911 call from the vehicle. The passenger told the 911 operator that the driver could not control the vehicle, the accelerator was stuck, and that the breaks were not working.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Toyota, the manufacturer of the Lexus, and against the Lexus dealership, which installed an over-sized floor mat in the vehicle.

In September 2010, Toyota paid 10 million dollars to settle the wrongful death claims against it. The action for damages against the dealership continues.

The runaway Lexus was “loaner” from the local Lexus dealer. The dealer had installed a floor mat designed for a larger vehicle. Sheriff’s investigators concluded that the gas petal became stuck under the over-sized floor mat.

Another customer drove the “loaner” Lexus a few day earlier. He reported that the Lexus raced out of control and the gas pedal became stuck on the floor mat. He was able to regain control after he put the gear shift into neutral. He said he reported the problem to the Lexus dealer.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit says that the plaintiffs regard the dealer as the party responsible for the deadly crash. The attorney said the plaintiffs will ask that the wrongful death damages assessed against the Lexus dealer be in an amount in excess of the 10 million dollars paid by Toyota.

New Mexico’s wrongful death law is similar to California's. If the deadly crash had happened in New Mexico and the wrongful death claims were filed in a New Mexico court, the outcome would be the same as in the California case. After the jury determines the total amount of the wrongful death damages, the jury would be asked to asses the percentage of the total damage that was due to the negligence of the Lexus dealer. The dealer would be liable for the share of the damages caused by it’s negligence.