July 20, 2014

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office Cracking Down on Illegal Weekend Drag Racing

Residents of Bernalillo County may have noticed an increase in the amount and frequency of illegal drag racing that has been occurring in northeast Albuquerque during the summer of 2014, and the Bernalillo County Sherriff's Office is starting to take action. According to a report by Albuquerque CBS partner KRQE, the Sheriff's office has began to stake out the popular drag racing spots during the peak times for racing, and arrested 10 people for drag racing last weekend alone.

pro-street-169731-m.jpgThe Dangers of Illegal Racing on Public Roads

Car racing is an inherently dangerous activity, and people who choose to race usually make a conscious choice to put themselves at risk when they decide to participate in a race. Unfortunately, there are often passengers or bystanders that have no choice but to suffer the tragic consequences of a driver's choice to race; a resident interviewed for the article knew a person who was recently killed as a result of speeding on Montgomery road, one of the most popular drag racing spots. In last week's stakeout, sheriff's officers arrested one racer who had children in the car with him, and he was charged with child abuse. It is clear that the drag-racing trend endangers more than just the drivers who choose to race.

Legal Liability for Injuries Sustained in a Race-Related Accident

If someone is injured or killed in a car accident that is caused or worsened by drag racing, holding the responsible parties accountable can be difficult. There may be multiple parties at fault, and all of the insurance companies involved will be trying to divert liability from themselves and their clients. Because the racing (and the speeding that goes along with it) is illegal, making a case against a driver who is racing and causes an accident resulting in injury or death may not be difficult in every case. If the injury victim was involved or complicit in the decision to race, the case can be more complicated though the drivers may still be held accountable. Because of the various factors affecting potential liability for damages, when someone is injured or killed in an accident related to drag racing it is important for a complete and thorough investigation to be done at the scene of the accident and afterwards. It is best for anyone affected by a race-related accident to consult with legal counsel as soon as possible after any injury occurs.

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July 13, 2014

New Mexico Enacts Statewide Ban on Texting While Driving

The New Mexico State Legislature has passed a law that now prohibits drivers from texting or checking emails on phones or tablets, even if they are stopped in traffic or at a stop light. According to an article by the Daily Times, the ban went into effect on July 1 of this year. Some New Mexico cities and counties had already enacted similar bans, but with this law, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Susana Martinez, the ban is now statewide. Drivers that are caught in the act of texting or surfing the web on their phone while driving will be fined $25 for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. Drivers are still permitted to use GPS devices while driving, and texting is allowed in emergency situations.

mobile-in-hand-704926-m.jpgThe Dangers of Texting While Driving

Although the distraction caused by looking at and using a phone while behind the wheel seems obvious, many New Mexico drivers do not care to stop the practice. According to the article, it appears that cell phone use while driving has contributed to a noticeable increase in collisions in which vehicles are rear-ended. Texting while driving presents a danger that is comparable to drunk driving. According to a study noted in the article, the police receive "a lot" of complaints from concerned drivers that another driver is drunk, but when they pull over the suspected DUI, it turns out the driver was sober, and "messing with their phone."

The New Law's Effect on Accident Lawsuits

This new law will likely make it easier for plaintiffs in New Mexico accident lawsuits to prove that the defendant driver was at fault, if it can be shown that that driver was texting at or before the time of the accident. It is possible to access phone and internet records to determine if a defendant was online at the time the accident occurred. If a defendant driver admits, is witnessed, or can be shown to have been texting at the time of an accident, it is now easier for a plaintiff to make a case that the driver was negligent, and that such negligence was the cause of the accident and any damage or injuries.

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July 7, 2014

New Mexico State Police Officer Injured by Drunk Driver Late Last Month

A New Mexico State Police officer may feel lucky to be alive after being involved in a violent collision in Hobbes, New Mexico on June 29. The officer was in his vehicle on the side of Highway 62, performing a routine traffic stop just before 6:15 P.M., when a drunk driver smashed into the back of the officer's patrol car. According to one report, the car was nearly destroyed, and the officer was airlifted to a nearby hospital and admitted in critical condition. The vehicle that had been stopped by the police officer was also hit in the accident. The driver of that vehicle luckily only suffered minor injuries.

New Mexico drunk driving accidents cause hundreds of injuries and deaths every year. In addition, Driving Under the Influence arrests are a leading cause of arrest in the state. In New Mexico, a driver is considered intoxicated if the concentration of alcohol in their bloodstream, or blood alcohol content (BAC), is .08% or higher. Drivers caught driving at or above this amount can be prosecuted for DUI. When a drunk driver causes an accident that results in property damage, injury, or death, he or she can face additional criminal charges, as well as civil liability for the damage caused.

Civil Liability for Drunk Driving Accidents

Victims of drunk driving accidents and their families often face significant expenses in the aftermath of an serious or fatal New Mexico drunk driving accident. Hospital expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages, and permanent injuries can financially cripple a victim, and drunk drivers can be held responsible for the damage that they cause. An accident victim or the affected family can file a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver that caused the accident, and they may be able to recover damages in addition to any compensation offered by the insurance companies. The New Mexico legal system is designed to protect the victims of others' wrongdoing, and drunk drivers need to be held responsible for the damage that their dangerous conduct causes.

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June 26, 2014

New Mexico Jail Guard Resigns after Causing a Fatal Crash While Allegedly Driving Drunk

A detention officer at the Rio Arriba County Jail has resigned after he was involved in a crash that killed two New Mexico men last week. The jail employee, a 26-year-old man from El Rito, New Mexico, told witnesses and police that he had consumed between five and 12 beers in the hours leading up to the accident. The man was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide and has been released to house-arrest on a bond.

cerveja-1191066-m.jpgThe Accident

According to a report from Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT News, the man was driving on the wrong side of the road on U.S. 84 north of Espanola, New Mexico last Thursday when the crash occurred. Evidently, the corrections officer was off duty at the time of the crash and had not worked that day. After the collision that killed the occupants of the other car, two men aged 45 and 23, the jail employee admitted to police that he had had five beers before the accident occurred. Other witnesses report that, immediately after the accident, the man said that he had drunk 12 beers. Even after admitting to police that he had consumed alcohol, the man resisted a blood draw by authorities and was additionally charged with resisting an officer.

The Dangers of Driving While Intoxicated

It appears that this man's alcohol consumption played a large role in the cause of this tragic crash. In New Mexico, if a driver is found operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over .08%, he or she is considered to be driving under the influence and is subject to criminal charges. When a driver is involved in an accident and his or her intoxication appears to have played a role in the cause of the crash, the driver can be held criminally liable for any damage, injury, or deaths that occur from the accident. If someone is found guilty in a New Mexico drunk driving accident, they can be subject to severe criminal penalties and may find themselves behind bars for most, if not all, of their remaining years.

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June 19, 2014

Naked Man "Surfing" atop Pickup Truck Falls onto Road, Causes Multi-Vehicle Accident

A New Mexico man was charged with indecent exposure, leaving the scene of an accident, and failure to wear a seatbelt after an accident that occurred when he fell off a Ford pickup truck near Taos, New Mexico earlier this month. The man was completely naked and standing on top of the truck as it travelled on State Road 522 on June 6. The man apparently fell off the truck, and a motorcycle behind him stopped quickly to avoid running him over. A woman who was in a car behind the motorcyclist was unable to stop in time and rear-ended the motorcycle. Witnesses helped the man into the pickup truck he was riding on, and the driver sped off. Police pulled over the pickup truck a few minutes later and booked both the man who fell and the driver of the truck on various charges. The man was moderately injured and hospitalized, but he was released the following day.

yelling-for-joy-1076678-m.jpgThe Laws against "Naked Truck-Surfing"

Not surprisingly, New Mexico does not have a specific criminal provision that forbids someone from riding naked on top of a truck on the highway. The police were still able to charge the man with indecent exposure and failure to wear a seat belt, but his behavior appears too strange to fit cleanly within the criminal code. Any injuries or damage suffered by the other drivers involved will most likely not be addressed by the criminal proceedings against the man, and if the other drivers want to be paid back for the damage that the man's behavior caused, they will most likely need to file a New Mexico auto accident lawsuit. If the injured victims can show that the man was acting negligently when he decided to ride naked on top of the truck, a civil court will have the ability to order the man to pay the victims to compensate them for their injury.

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June 11, 2014

Three Teens and Pilot Killed in Unfortunate New Mexico Plane Crash

A plane crash in New Mexico killed three students from a charter school in Silver City, devastating the community and the students' families. The three students were eco-monitors for the school, and they were on a flight to witness the damage caused by a nearby wildfire. According to an article by the Silver City Sun-News, it was May 23, and the plane was flying near the Whiskey Creek Airport outside the city when a resident of a mobile home park witnessed the plane flying upside-down directly toward the trailer homes. The plane turned away from the mobile home park at the last minute and crashed into a field. All four occupants of the plane were killed in the tragic accident, the exact cause of which remains unknown.

landing-1443370-m.jpgIt is unclear whether the students were simply taking the flight together, or if they were on a school-sponsored trip, which would affect the legal implications of this accident. When a plane crashes, it is safe to say that something went wrong. It is not always easy to tell if the problem was caused by somebody's intentional or negligent behavior, or just the result of an accident. In this case, the mobile home park resident's statement that the plane was flying upside-down before the crash occurred raises the specter of negligence or human error, and it appears that someone may be legally responsible for the students' deaths.

A New Mexico wrongful death claim is a way for the families of those killed by the conduct of another person to seek compensation. It was not known at the time the article was published whether the pilot, who was killed, was the owner of the plane that crashed. If the pilot was at fault for the accident and was killed, there may still be parties that could be held responsible for the teenagers' deaths. The plane likely carried liability insurance, which could help to compensate the victims' families for their loss. The owner of the plane, if he was not the pilot, could also be legally responsible in some way. If the students were on a trip that was somehow sponsored or supported by their school, the school could be held responsible. Since the school that the students were attending was a charter school, a civil claim for damages may succeed more easily than if the claim was against a regular public school.

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June 5, 2014

Distracted Driver Causes Crash on Interstate 25 That Leaves One Dead

A heartbreaking accident occurred on I-25 neat Los Lunas, New Mexico last Wednesday when a 97 year old man was killed in a crash that caused his car to roll several times. According to a report and article by Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT, the man's car was clipped by another vehicle. After investigating, local authorities stated that the driver of the other vehicle could face criminal charges, as she may have been distracted at the time and at fault for the accident as well as the death. It appears the authorities suspect the woman may have been texting when she caused the crash, as police from Belen, New Mexico obtained a search warrant for the woman's phone records.

cell-phone-437046-m.jpgThe Dangers of Texting and Driving

Today more than ever, many drivers have access to cell phones or smart phones while driving. Although phones in the car make it easier to get directions and communicate while away from home, it is dangerous for the driver of a car to use a phone while driving. It is difficult for a driver to keep his or her eyes on the road when using a cell phone, and texting while driving is even more dangerous than making a call. If someone causes an accident while texting, they are subject to criminal prosecution under New Mexico law, and can possibly be found guilty of manslaughter.

Civil Liability for Accidents Caused by Texting Drivers

When a driver is distracted by texting and causes an accident, they can be subject to civil liability as well. A victim can file a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for their injury. In New Mexico, it is necessary to prove that a driver negligently caused an accident that led to injury for a plaintiff to collect damages. Negligence can be difficult to prove, but if it can be shown that a driver was texting and distracted at the time of the accident, it is easier for a good New Mexico accident attorney to show that the driver was negligent. When a driver is issued a ticket or criminal charges are sought against them because of texting, the case for damages can become even stronger.

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May 26, 2014

General Motors Recalls Nearly 2.5 Million Cars, Bringing The Total to 13.6 Million Vehicles Recalled in 2014.

General Motors announced the recall of 2.42 million vehicles last week. This represents the latest in an unrelenting stream of vehicles that General Motors has needed to recall this year. The latest recalls are for four separate issues, affecting the Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac Escalade ESV, Chevy Silverado, and GMC Sierra HD. According to a General Motors press release, the recent recalls were made to address problems with the seat belts separating and air bag deployment.

mountain-drive-1442174-m.jpgWhile these latest recalls address serious safety concerns with General Motors vehicles, the car maker's largest worries are related to a separate series of recalls caused by a fault in the ignition switch located behind the steering wheel. According to an NPR article, the ignition on some GM vehicles would turn from the "On" position to the "Accessory" position for no apparent reason. This would lock the steering wheel and prevent the airbags from deploying in the event of a collision.

In February 2014, General Motors acknowledged the problem and issued a public apology to the families of at least 14 people who have been killed and more than 17 who were injured from the faulty ignition switch. Additionally, a recall has been expanded to include 1.6 million more vehicles. Vehicles that may have the faulty ignition include 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstices, and the 2007 Saturn Sky. Any of these vehicles could be extremely dangerous and lead to a deadly New Mexico auto accident..

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May 20, 2014

New Mexico Supreme Court Finds That Lack of Foreseeability Does Not Prevent a Premises Liability Claim from Going to Trial

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that may significantly impact the ability of plaintiffs who are injured on another's property to have their claims heard by a jury. In the case of Rodriguez vs. Del Sol Shopping Center Associates LLC, NM 2014(Docket Nos. 33,896 , 33,949) the Court reversed a lower court's judgment that threw out the plaintiffs' suit and instead sent the case back down to go to trial.

slip-hazard-1429630-m.jpgThe Facts

In March of 2006, a woman who had previously been diagnosed with epilepsy had a seizure while driving her car in the parking lot of the defendant's shopping center. The woman lost control of her vehicle and crashed through the window of a medical clinic, killing three people and seriously injuring several others. The injured parties and families of the deceased filed a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit against the shopping center, alleging that they failed to properly protect the patrons from the danger of a vehicle driving through the windows and that the failure resulted in the injuries and deaths.

A New Mexico Premises Liability Lawsuit

To be successful in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must first show that the defendant owed them a duty. Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached that duty, and third, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's breach of that duty was the cause of an injury or damages. Generally, business owners owe their customers, or "invitees," what is called a duty of ordinary care under the circumstances. The breadth of this duty varies with the facts of each case.

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May 13, 2014

Tragic Motorcycle Accident in Colfax County Last Week Kills Two

Two New Mexico residents were killed last Friday when the motorcycle they were riding on collided with a guard rail around 11:00 PM, and they were ejected from the motorcycle. According to a report by the Taos News, a 56-year-old man from Moreno Valley was driving, and a 32-year-old woman was riding on the back when the bike hit a guard rail near mile marker 27 on New Mexico Highway 434 near Black Lake. Neither rider was wearing a helmet when the accident occurred, and the riders were thrown from the bike at high speed, killing both of them at the scene.

ace-caf-bikes-8-282630-m.jpgThe Increased Danger of Motorcycles

New Mexico motorcycle accidents are often more severe than other types of road accidents. When a motorcycle is involved in a collision with another vehicle, the bike and riders are generally not in a safe position compared to passengers in the other vehicle. Single-bike accidents, like that which occurred last week, are also more likely to cause severe injury or death because riders are often ejected at high speeds. Additionally, motorcycles can lose control more easily when confronted with poor road conditions, and if a rider is not wearing a helmet, the risk of serious injury or death increases even more.

Motorcyclists Need the Best Insurance Coverage that They Can Afford

New Mexico roads are not always safe for motorcyclists, and bikers should have the best insurance coverage available. Motorcyclists should purchase coverage not only for liability and personal injury but also for collisions with uninsured and underinsured drivers. Collision and comprehensive coverage are also available, and obtaining such coverage puts New Mexico motorcyclists in a better position in the event of an accident.

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May 6, 2014

New Mexico Court of Appeals Allows Faulty Crosswalk Case to Proceed

A recent decision by the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed a prior judgment, allowing a woman's product liability and negligence lawsuit against the manufacturer of a crosswalk lighting system and the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico to proceed toward trial.

The Accident

On October 9, 2008 the plaintiff was crossing at a marked crosswalk in Las Cruces, New Mexico, when she was struck by a car and seriously injured. The woman claimed that she pushed the button at the crosswalk, but the flashing lights did not function properly to alert the driver of the car that ultimately hit her. The woman filed suit against the manufacturer of the lighting system and the city of Las Cruces, alleging that the company supplied a defective product, which was negligently employed by the city and caused her to be injured.

The Lower Court's Ruling

The Defendants argued that the woman's claim was invalid based on her own testimony taken in a deposition. The woman said that she would have crossed the street regardless of whether the warning lights were flashing. Based on the fact that the woman suggested the defective lights were not a cause of the accident, the New Mexico district Court ruled that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence for a jury to decide that the city nor the manufacturers were liable for her injuries.

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April 19, 2014

New Mexico Personal Injury Plaintiff has Suit Dismissed for Failure to Meet Witness Deadline

A plaintiff whose foot was allegedly broken by a repo-man will not be able to take her personal injury case to trial because her legal team did not designate an expert witness for trial before a scheduling deadline that was set by the Court. In the case of Duke v. Garcia, U.S. Dist. Ct. D. New Mexico, 2014 (Docket No. 11-CV-784-BRB/RHS), a New Mexico federal court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment, ruling that the plaintiff's failure to designate an expert witness on the issue of medical causation before an April 17, 2013 deadline required that the case be thrown out. This will cost the plaintiff her opportunity for relief.

clock-13-45-1424094-m.jpgThe Incident

On April 15, 2011, the defendant repossession company was repossessing the plaintiff's car in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The plaintiff alleged that an employee of the defendant pushed her during the repossession and broke her foot. According to the complaint, the injury prevented the plaintiff from serving in the military, caused her to endure medical expenses, pain and suffering, among other things. After suffering the injuries, the plaintiff sued the defendant in federal district court.

The Lawsuit

Making a New Mexico personal injury claim can be extremely complicated. The plaintiff must prove not only that she was injured, but also that the injury was caused by the defendant's wrongful act. To ensure that cases run smoothly, deadlines are set in the preliminary stages of the suit for the submission of witnesses and exhibits. In this case, the Court set an April 17, 2013 deadline for the plaintiff's disclosure of expert witnesses. For one reason or another, the plaintiff did not submit any expert witnesses that would testify on her behalf by that deadline.

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April 19, 2014

Colorado Man Caught in New Mexico for Driving While Intoxicated for the Seventh Time

Earlier this week, a Colorado man was arrested in New Mexico for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to a report by KRQE, a police officer found an elk carcass in the road which aroused his suspicions. A few miles down the road, he found the man who they believe struck the animal. Police noticed that the man's breath smelled of alcohol and it was "very clear" that he was the one who had hit the animal.

night-life-2-1438557-2-m.jpgPolice arrested the man for driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving with a suspended license. Apparently this was the man's seventh drinking and driving offense.

Drinking and Driving is Taken Very Seriously in New Mexico

The above story is clearly an unusual circumstance, rarely do we see a driver with seven drinking while driving offenses. However, it is not rare to see a person with one or two of the offenses on their record. The State of New Mexico takes these offenses very seriously. In fact, even for a first time offender, a driver may face up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a year-long license suspension. For subsequent convictions, the jail time, fine, and duration of suspension increase dramatically. In some cases involving multiple offenses or serious bodily injury, jail sentences can be decades long.

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April 13, 2014

New Mexico Man Killed by Collision with Sleeping Driver's Truck

A man from Odessa, New Mexico was killed while travelling in a vehicle that was struck by Ford pickup truck in Lea County earlier this month. According to a report, it was around 11:45 PM on Sunday, April 6 when a 2012 Ford pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic on State Road 128 and crashed head on into another truck, killing a passenger in the second truck and seriously injuring the driver. The driver of the 2012 Ford, who had reportedly fallen asleep while driving, suffered only minor cuts and bruises.

yawn-1077072-m.jpgThe Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Police reported that they did not believe alcohol was a factor in the crash, and the driver of the truck had simply fallen asleep behind the wheel. On roads and highways away from cities, especially at night, it can be more difficult to see and worse yet, easier to fall asleep. Some drivers try to listen to loud music or drink caffeinated beverages to stay awake, but once a driver thinks to get a coffee they are usually already too drowsy to safely be driving on the road. Unlike drunk or impaired driving, there is no test for drowsiness, and when someone falls asleep and causes an accident, the authorities will not know they were sleeping unless the driver volunteers that information. Because of this, drowsy driving probably causes even more accidents and injuries than are reported each year.

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April 5, 2014

New Mexico Federal Court Rejects Defendant's Attempt to Disqualify Plaintiff's Witness in Slip-and-Fall Case

In a recently released ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the Court rejected a defendant's motion to prevent an expert witness from testifying for the plaintiff in a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. In Coll v. BNSF Railway Company, the Court agreed with the arguments made by the plaintiff that the testimony of an expert in floor safety would be relevant in the slip-and-fall accident lawsuit that they had filed.

attention-521304-m.jpgThe Accident

On March 18, 2009, an employee of the Defendant Railroad Company slipped and fell down the steps of a locomotive and severely injured his elbow and shoulder. The employee was unable to continue working after the injury. By September of 2009, he had recovered and was able to return to work. When he requested compensation from the company, they offered him only $800 and he refused. The Plaintiff in this case was the appointed trustee of the injured employee, and pursued a personal injury claim against the Railroad Company.

The Lawsuit

As the case made its way toward trial, the Plaintiff proposed to present the testimony of an expert on floor safety. He would testify that the Railroad Company had not constructed or maintained the steps on the locomotive up to the relevant standard of care, and were therefore responsible for the employee's injuries. The Defendant argued that because the proposed expert testimony was from an expert on floor safety, and not train safety, that his testimony would not be relevant or helpful to the fact finder.

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