March 2012 Archives

March 30, 2012

Albuquerque Man Killed by Suspected Drunk Driver in Tijeras Head-On Collision

145317_car_accidents_1%20sxchu.jpgLast week, an Albuquerque man was killed in a head-on collision with a man suspected of driving while intoxicated. 43-year-old Salvador Garcia died on New Mexico Highway 337 in Tijeras after a pick-up truck driven by 56-year-old Randy Curry reportedly crossed the center line into oncoming traffic. According to police, Curry, who was also injured in the collision, is expected to be charged with vehicular homicide in connection with the accident.

When the crash occurred, Garcia was returning to Albuquerque after taking his son to his ex-wife’s home. When the man did not return home for dinner, Garcia’s fiancée called his former spouse to inquire regarding his whereabouts. Both women then attempted to retrace Garcia’s path until they reached a roadblock near the scene of the fatal accident. Both women waited at the roadblock for more than four hours before learning Garcia was killed.

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury claims filed in the State of New Mexico each year. Motor vehicle crashes are often the result of inattentive, reckless, drunk, or otherwise impaired drivers. Additionally, automobile collisions may be caused by vehicle defects, dangerous street conditions, and a range of other factors. Although many car crashes will be minor, they can also result in tragic fatalities as was the case last week. Individuals who are hurt or the relatives of those killed by a drunk driver may be awarded compensation for their medical costs, suffering, pain, permanent or temporary disability, and punitive damages.

Unfortunately, drunk driving accidents are all too common. In New Mexico, drunk or impaired driving cases consist of a criminal phase where charges are brought against an intoxicated driver and a civil phase where a victim may seek compensation. Oftentimes, an impaired driver’s automobile insurance policy limits are insufficient to fully compensate an accident victim for his or her injuries. Where a driver’s liability or uninsured motorist insurance limits are insufficient, a victim may seek to file a claim against a restaurant or bar where the inebriated driver was served alcohol prior to an accident. This is referred to as a dram shop case. A qualified car accident lawyer can explain the claim process in more detail.

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March 22, 2012

Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputy Shoots Man Twice Inside His Home

1249009_glock_29_replica_5%20sxchu.jpgEarlier this month, a Los Lunas man who family members say suffers from bipolar disorder was shot twice in his living room by a Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputy. 26-year-old Nathan Felts was shot in the face and shoulder after he allegedly lunged toward the deputy in a threatening manner. Law enforcement officers who were on the scene claim Felts told police he had a shotgun and was bringing the weapon into the room immediately before he was shot. His family claims the man was instead holding a baseball bat.

According to Felts’ sister, Amber Ocana, Felts was suicidal at the time of the incident. Earlier in the day, he reportedly tried to hang himself from a tree. Valencia County Sheriff’s Deputies claim the man attempted to blow his home up by turning on a natural gas pipe inside the house. When officers arrived at Felts’ house, they smelled natural gas and had the gas meter turned off before entering the premises.

Ocana believes police acted improperly and used excessive force on Felts. She stated that although Felts needs medical assistance for his mental stability, the shooting was not warranted. Ocana also expressed concern that police did not attempt to use other, nonlethal means such as police-issued stun guns to control her brother. She believes Felts needs the assistance of doctors instead of being arrested and placed in a jail cell.

Following the shooting, Felts was treated at the University of New Mexico Hospital where he underwent surgery for his wounds. The Sheriff’s Deputy who shot Felts, David Hill, was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by state police to determine whether the shooting was justified. Investigators would not say whether Felts was in fact armed with a baseball bat as his family claims.

Law enforcement officers are expected to use force in certain circumstances. Because of this, police are granted qualified immunity when they are acting in good faith and engaged in their official duties. If a plaintiff can demonstrate an officer’s conduct was out of bounds, however, the presumption of qualified immunity may be overcome.

Here, Felts may have a claim against local law enforcement for violating of his constitutional rights. A federal civil rights law, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 allows United States citizens to sue officers of the law for violating the Fourth Amendment’s protection against the use of excessive force. Felts may also have a civil claim against the officer who shot him. If you believe a police officer used excessive force on you or a loved one, you should contact a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.

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March 22, 2012

New Mexico Law Enforcement Holds DWI Superblitz This Weekend

sheriff%20car%20sxchu%20website.jpgAccording to preliminary data, the number of New Mexico highway fatalities involving intoxicated or impaired drivers rose slightly last year. In 2011, 146 people died in alcohol-related crashes on New Mexico highways. This means alcohol-related traffic deaths accounted for approximately 41 percent of the 355 traffic fatalities that occurred on highways in the state.

This week, additional state police will be on the lookout for drunk and impaired drivers in an effort to reduce traffic fatalities. Officers will be cracking down on intoxicated drivers throughout the St. Patrick’s Day weekend as part of a state sponsored driving while intoxicated (DWI) superblitz. Police will also be monitoring drivers using a number of sobriety checkpoints. On Tuesday, Governor Susana Martinez helped kick off the DWI superblitz at a press conference near United States Highway 550 in Sandoval County. Over the past five years, 28 alcohol-related traffic deaths occurred on that stretch of road. The Governor was joined by Transportation Secretary Alvin Dominguez, Public Safety Secretary Gorden Eden, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, and representatives from a variety of organizations that seek to target drunk driving in the state and nationwide.

In addition to an increased law enforcement presence on highways in New Mexico, an advertisement campaign demonstrating the dangerous consequences of driving under the influence will also be a part of the DWI superblitz. According to Governor Martinez, the increased enforcement is designed to provide New Mexico drivers with an additional incentive to refrain from drinking and driving. In 2012, approximately $2.4 million in federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds will be used by 89 state law enforcement agencies to combat drunk driving throughout New Mexico. $75,000 of those funds will directly support police attempts to reduce the number of impaired drivers on Highway 550.

New Mexico residents spend a lot of time in their vehicles. Automobile collisions are one of the primary causes of personal injury claims filed nationwide each year. Car accidents frequently result from reckless, drunk, inattentive, or otherwise impaired drivers. Motor vehicle accidents can also be caused by automobile defects, hazardous road conditions, and a variety of other factors. Although many car accidents result in minor fender benders, they can also result in tragic fatalities. Individuals who are hurt by a drunk or negligent driver may be awarded money for their medical expenses, pain, suffering, permanent or temporary disability, and other damages. If you or a loved one was injured due to a driver’s negligence or impairment, it is a good idea to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident.

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March 21, 2012

Preliminary New Mexico State University Study Finds No Significant Benefit to Las Cruces Red Light Cameras

1078398_traffic_lights_in_the_evening%20sxchu.jpgA preliminary report prepared by researchers at New Mexico State University has found no statistically significant benefit to red light cameras in Las Cruces. New Mexico State University engineering professors Hansuk Sohn and Paola Bandini compared data supplied by the city for four red light camera intersections. This data was then compared with six intersections without the cameras in place. According to the researchers, there was little evidence the cameras provided a benefit to the community.

The City of Las Cruces began using red light cameras at a total of four intersections in 2009. Two of those intersections were later shut down by the State of New Mexico’s Department of Transportation. According to researchers, fewer accidents occurred at two of the four red light camera intersections, more accidents occurred at one intersection, and no change occurred at the other intersection. At the six intersections used for comparison, three had fewer accidents, two intersections had more accidents, and one was unchanged during the same time period. Although the researchers primarily focused on the red light camera intersection with the most favorable crash data, their preliminary report established no statistically significant change in overall crash rates at any of the intersections they examined.

City leaders commissioned the study at a cost of $30,000 in an effort to provide support for the use of the cameras in the community. In November 2010, the city council chose to continue the red light camera program despite initial data which suggested there may be an increased risk of accidents at intersections where red light cameras were installed. The cameras were expected to bring in approximately $5 million to the city in 2011. The researchers will present three additional safety reports to the Las Cruces City Council over the next two years.

You and your family spend a lot of time in your vehicle. Unfortunately, an unexpected accident may occur at any time. If you were hurt in a car accident, it is a good idea to contact a qualified car accident attorney as soon as you are able.

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