July 2012 Archives

July 31, 2012

Sandoval County Fire Chief Killed in Accident on I-25 Near Bernalillo

994487_fireman_hat%20sxchu%20username%20harper07.jpgLast week, the Sandoval County Fire Chief was killed in a motor vehicle crash on Interstate 25 near Bernalillo while on his way to work. 59-year-old John Tibbetts was on duty and driving a county-issued sport utility vehicle (SUV) in a northbound lane of the roadway when the accident occurred. According to New Mexico State Police, a Cadillac SUV driven by 22-year-old Armando Saenz struck the median in front of Tibbetts and careened back into traffic. The Cadillac reportedly then hit the SUV Tibbetts was traveling in. Tibbetts’ SUV proceeded to flip over the concrete median and came to a stop in one of the southbound lanes of the Interstate. Despite that he was wearing a seat-belt at the time of the crash, the Fire Chief was pronounced dead at the scene. Saenz was reportedly transported by emergency responders to Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque for treatment of undisclosed injuries.

A Sandoval County Fire Department ambulance was reportedly the first to respond to the unfortunate accident. Although the cause of the crash is currently under investigation, it is unclear what caused Saenz to strike the median. According to State Police spokesperson Lt. Robert McDonald, alcohol was not a suspected factor in the collision.

Unfortunately, many people are killed in auto accidents on New Mexico roadways every year. Motor vehicle crashes can be caused by many factors such as driver intoxication or inattention, reckless driving, hazardous road conditions, and automobile defects. Individuals who are injured by a reckless, negligent, or careless driver in a New Mexico automobile collision may be eligible to receive compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, and any temporary or permanent disability caused by the crash. Those who have lost a family member in a tragic car accident may also be able to recover for loss of support and funeral expenses. Because the amount of time you have to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim is limited, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible following any accident or a loved one's unexpected death.

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July 30, 2012

Pedestrian in Critical Condition After Santa Fe Crash

1375248_untitled%20sxchu.jpgLast week, a pedestrian was left with allegedly disabling injuries after she was struck by an automobile in a crosswalk at the intersection of Cerrillos Road and St. Michael’s Drive in Santa Fe. According to Santa Fe Police Sgt. Andrea Dobyns, 49-year-old Candice O’Dell was hit by a car after she stepped off of the curb and into the crosswalk. Despite that two signs warn drivers to yield to pedestrians, Dobyns stated the 27-year-old driver involved in the crash likely did not have enough time to come to a stop when O’Dell entered the dedicated turn lane.

According to accident witnesses, O’Dell stepped out in front of the car that hit her without first looking for traffic. During the crash, O’Dell’s head reportedly struck and partially shattered the passenger windshield of the vehicle. Immediately following the accident, O’Dell was taken to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center where she reportedly remains in critical condition. O’Dell allegedly suffered both a spinal injury and a head injury in the collision.

According to Dobyns, the cause of the accident remains under investigation. She stated the driver of the automobile that struck O’Dell was not ticketed and there was no reason to believe he was speeding at the time of the crash. The accident occurred at the same intersection where 46-year-old Nina Heman was killed last year in a similar incident. In July 2011, Heman was struck by a pick-up truck as she stepped into the crosswalk of the same dedicated turn lane. The driver of the truck that hit Heman also was not cited.

It is unclear why pedestrians continue to be injured or killed at this particular intersection. Sometimes, in addition to careless, negligent, or reckless drivers, poorly designed roadways can contribute to an increase in injury accidents. Unfortunately, whenever a pedestrian is hit by an automobile, the resulting injuries are often traumatic or fatal. Depending on the situation, pedestrian accident victims may be eligible to receive damages for their medical costs, suffering and pain, lost benefits and wages, and any resulting disability. Additionally, the family members of someone killed in a pedestrian accident may be able to recover funeral expenses and other damages. If you or a loved one were a victim in a New Mexico pedestrian accident, you only have up to three years to file your case. This is why it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you can after an accident.

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July 18, 2012

Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Hospital Physicians Not Always Subject to New Mexico Medical Board Review

1219484_caduceus%20sxchu%20username%20kikashi.jpgA doctor whose license to practice medicine was temporarily suspended in another state is reportedly working at an Albuquerque hospital. Dr. Frank Allen Zimba was hired by the local Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital last summer despite that disciplinary proceedings were ongoing against him in the State of Oklahoma. The 57-year-old board certified neurological surgeon was accused of operating on the wrong side of an Oklahoma patient’s spine prior to joining the VA hospital staff. He was also accused of committing the same error on two different patients several years previously in New York. As a result of the alleged botched operation, Dr. Zimba’s license to practice medicine was suspended in Oklahoma for six months.

Although it is unknown whether Dr. Zimba has made similar errors at the VA hospital, the New Mexico Medical Board cannot investigate his performance. Under federal law, because Dr. Zimba works at a VA hospital he is only required to hold a medical license in one of the nation’s 50 states. He is currently licensed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and New York. Consequently, although most of the 7,500 doctors in New Mexico are subject to state review, Dr. Zimba was able to practice medicine in Albuquerque throughout his suspension.

According to New Mexico Medical Board spokesperson J.J. Walker, any malpractice complaints regarding a VA doctor would need to be filed in a state where the physician is licensed. Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Libby Scott stated the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision would likely refuse to investigate a complaint made by a resident of another state because the Board was created to protect the health and safety of state residents. If the same is true for other states, such a system could potentially leave some injured VA hospital patients feeling as if they fell through the cracks.

The Albuquerque VA hospital spokesperson, Sonja Brown, stated hospital supervisors are tasked with investigating and reporting any substantiated patient complaints. Additionally, she said federal law requires the hospital to report any doctor who significantly fails to provide an acceptable level of patient care to the medical board of any state in which the physician is licensed. According to Walker, no one at the New Mexico Medical Board can recall ever receiving such a complaint from any VA hospital.

Following two of his three alleged surgery mistakes, Dr. Zimba reportedly failed to notify the patients regarding the errors. The other patient is currently suing Dr. Zimba for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of the physician’s purported negligence. The physician’s Oklahoma license is up for renewal this fall.

Medical malpractice may occur any time a health care provider fails to adhere to a reasonable standard of care and injury to a patient results. In New Mexico, medical malpractice cases can be difficult to prove. Additionally, whether your health care provider is a member of the New Mexico Patient Compensation Fund can affect your ability to file a claim. If you were hurt by a physician, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, or someone else tasked with your care, you need a skilled attorney on your side.

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July 10, 2012

New Mexico State University Professor Examines Brain Trauma in Rodeo Participants

837790_rodeo_bull%20sxchu%20username%20data9090.jpgSafety concerns and lawsuits over brain trauma in football players of all ages have recently made headlines. Because of this, New Mexico State University (NMSU) began collecting information regarding football player concussions three years ago. Now, a professor from the university’s Department of Human Performance, Dance and Recreation is collecting similar data on rodeo athletes. According to Mikaela Boham, Director of NMSU’s Athletic Training Education Program, rodeo participants in rough stock events such as bull, saddle bronco, and bareback riding are vulnerable to brain injury and trauma. She believes the extreme whipping motion endured by rodeo athletes as they ride animals during rough stock events is traumatic on the body and increases a participant’s risk of concussion.

Boham reportedly began collecting impact data on NMSU rodeo participants in 2011 after she realized no previous long-term rodeo safety studies existed. Since then, she has used cognitive tests to collect baseline impact information on 75 rodeo athletes at NMSU. According to Boham, about 75 percent of the riders examined have described symptoms associated with a concussion such as mental fogginess and difficulty sleeping. She said baseline measures are necessary in order to fully assess the impact rodeo participation may have on an individual’s cognitive skills. Although at this time Bohman’s research is only designed to track the cognitive function of rodeo athletes for a period of four years, she hopes to have the ability to follow some participants for 10 to 15 years.

Professor Boham believes her NMSU rodeo athlete study is important because rodeo participants at the school normally major in a wide variety of programs. She believes it is essential to ensure students do not suffer from long-term cognitive impairment as a result of their rodeo participation and are able to follow any career path they may choose. Unfortunately, a traumatic brain injury often makes many aspects of life more difficult. In the future, Bohman hopes her research will be used to create better safety equipment such as helmets and neck rolls for rodeo participants.

Any brain injury can be devastating and should always be taken seriously. In addition to sports such as rodeo events or football games, traumatic brain injuries are often caused by bicycle, motorcycle, pedestrian, or car accidents. Brain trauma can cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, double vision, and mood swings. Serious head injuries may result in seizures, slurred speech, a loss of smell and taste, poor coordination, and difficulty managing finances. The victim of a traumatic brain injury caused by someone else may be able to recover compensation for pain, suffering, disability, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, and other damages. If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is a good idea to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options.

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