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June 25, 2013

General Motors Recall Expanded to Include Unsafe SUVs in New Mexico and Throughout Nation

800px-Chevrolet_TrailBlazer_--_06-05-2010 By IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.jpgGeneral Motors has issued a safety recall for nearly 200,000 model year 2005 through 2007 sport utility vehicles. The recall was issued as a result of alleged fire hazards that may result from problems with the electrical system in a number of vehicles manufactured by the company. In 2012, a similar recall was issued for almost 300,000 vehicles in select states where often corrosive road salt is used. The expanded recall now includes affected Buick Rainier, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT, GMC Envoy, GMC Envoy XL, Isuzu Ascender, and Saab 9-7x models in New Mexico and across the nation.

The additional recall was reportedly issued at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Previously, the automobile manufacturer stated water could become trapped inside of the vehicle door and cause power windows and locks to short circuit. According to General Motors spokesperson Alan Adler, 58 fires and 11 injuries have resulted from the vehicle defects. He added that General Motors was only notified of six fires and one minor injury in states not included in the original recall. Adler said the problem appeared to be more prevalent in areas where water and slush may enter a vehicle door during the winter.

Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director for The Center for Auto Safety said the additional recall proves that regional recalls like the one issued by General Motors last year are inadequate. He reportedly believes the cost saving measure does not reach all unsafe vehicles. Ditlow stated the safety recall should have been issued across the entire nation in the first place. It is unclear why General Motors was allowed to issue a regional recall since the NHTSA required Honda to issue a nationwide recall for a similar issue related to nearly half a million vehicles in 2012.

Some traffic wrecks are caused by a defective product such as a tire or automobile. Unfortunately, such accidents can result in catastrophic injury or death for a motorist or passenger. A defective product is one that is negligently manufactured, designed, or tested, and someone is hurt as a result. In addition, a design defect may cause a person to become injured by a product even where it was manufactured according to specifications. If you or a close relative was harmed by an unsafe product, you may have the right to collect financial compensation for your injuries from the manufacturer or the distributor.

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December 23, 2012

New Mexico Again Ranks Number One in Per Capita Accidental Deaths

1401236_stairs%20sxchu%20username%20linder6580.jpgYet again, the State of New Mexico reportedly ranked number one in the nation for per capita accidental deaths. This means New Mexico has more unintentional and other injury deaths based on the number of residents than any other state in the country. State of New Mexico Epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Landen, said any death labeled an accident by the State Office of the Medical Investigator is included in the annual statistic. According to Dr. Landen, about 500 people throughout the state die from an accidental drug overdose every year. In addition, about 300 are killed in car accidents and falls. Last year, the state office reportedly investigated at least 1500 deaths.

Dr. Landen believes the high accidental death rate in New Mexico is caused in large part by widespread poverty and substance abuse. He also said an estimated 400 people killed throughout the state last year had alcohol in their system. Dr. Landen stated the number of drug overdose and fall deaths must be addressed before any progress can be made with regard to New Mexico's overall accidental death rate. Still, Dr. Landen claims some of the deadly accidents that occurred last year were entirely unexpected. For instance, one New Mexico resident died after being kicked in the head by a buffalo. Another individual lost his life after his wheelchair landed in a refrigerator. In addition, at least one person was killed when a tree fell on him and another passed away following an explosion in a mine.

In New Mexico, serious accidents often occur unexpectedly. Unfortunately, many accidents result in catastrophic injury or death. Fatal injury accidents may be caused by defective products as well as the intentional or careless act of another person. If you were hurt as a result of the negligent actions of someone else, you may be eligible to receive compensatory damages. Such damages include the cost of your medical expenses, physical therapy, pain, suffering, lost wages, and more.

If your loved one was killed due to another person’s negligent act, you may be entitled to recover for loss of support and funeral expenses. In specific circumstances, you may also be eligible to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are normally awarded in order to punish especially egregious behavior or to discourage similar behavior in the future. The amount of time during which you may file a New Mexico personal injury or wrongful death claim is limited. Contact a quality personal injury lawyer to discuss your right to recovery in more detail.

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May 24, 2012

New Mexico Has the Highest Rate of Injury Deaths in the Nation

185442_with_a_church_and_buses_2%20sxchu.jpgA new report published by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that New Mexico has the highest death rate from injuries in the United States. According to the report, The Facts Hurt: A State-by-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, accidental injuries are the third leading cause of death in the nation and the number one cause for Americans between the ages of one and 44. Men reportedly account for over two-thirds of all injury-related deaths throughout the country. An estimated 50 million Americans are treated by health care professionals for a wide variety of injuries every year. Additionally, more than 2.8 million people are hospitalized and approximately 12,000 children die as a result of serious injuries each year.

According to the research report, which focused on state laws and policies designed to reduce injuries, thousands of injury deaths every year are completely preventable. Common causes of injury such as texting and driving, concussions, falls, drowning, car accidents, and others were examined in the report. According to Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director at the Trust for America's Health, the report is focused on scientifically supported steps that can potentially increase safety for millions of families in the U.S.

The report ranked each state on a scale of 1 to 10 using specified criteria related to safety laws such as seat belt and helmet use. Although about half of states scored five or lower, New York and California tied for top honors with a 9 out of 10 ranking. Ohio and Montana secured the lowest score of only 2 out of 10 and New Mexico’s injury prevention policies reportedly scored 7 out of 10. Despite the state’s better than average injury prevention ranking, the report found the number of injury-related deaths in New Mexico between 2007 and 2009 was 97.8 per 100,000 residents, the highest of any state. The national average was 57.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, New Jersey was the safest state with only 36.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. It is important to note, however, the injuries analyzed in the report included both accidental and intentional deaths from violence or suicide.

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October 27, 2011

How Will Federal Gun Policy Impact New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Policy

In September, the federal government sent letters to gun dealers nationwide informing them that medical marijuana card holders in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana fell within the category of "unlawful drug users"/"addicts", to whom it was illegal to sell a gun. Outrage ensued, and what appears to be the first lawsuit challenging the federal policy was filed law week by a woman whose local gun dealer refused to sell to her because he knew her to be a medical marijuana user. The medical marijuana community has taken solace in the fact that, unless a gun dealer has personal knowledge that an individual is a medical marijuana cardholder, the only apparent way to be identified as such is through self-disclosure. At present, there do not appear to be any mechanisms or requirements for a gun dealer to determine whether the name of a would-be purchaser appears on a list of state medical marijuana card-holders. Thus, if a gun license applicant does not check the "unlawful drug user/addict" box on the gun license application, he or she may be able to purchase the gun notwithstanding his or her use of medical marijuana.

One big question that remains unanswered, however, is how, if at all, the federal government will choose to prosecute the possession of a gun by a medical marijuana cardholder or producer. The unlawful possession of a firearm is one of the more aggressively prosecuted federal offenses, particularly when that possession arises in connection with controlled substances. And while the federal disruption of medical marijuana programs has thus far been sporadic, the federal government seems less likely to exercise similar restraint in prosecuting unlawful possession of a firearm. New Mexico's medical marijuana program, which attempts to disperse licensed marijuana cultivation among non-profit producers and users alike, appears to be especially exposed to the chilling effect of the federal medical marijuana/gun policy since federal penalties for possessing a gun while distributing controlled substances are exponentially higher than those for the simple illegal possession of a gun. It seems likely that we will soon see a high profile federal prosecution of a medical marijuana user and/or producer who was found in possession of a firearm.

June 22, 2011

Drug Companies Liable For Fatal DWI Crash

A drunk driver caused a New Mexico car accident on Interstate 25.  A child died.  The child’s mother filed dramshop claims for wrongful death and personal injuries against three liquor establishments.  She also filed wrongful death and personal injury claims against three drug companies.  Drug company employees had treated the drunk driver to eight hours of free drinks. 

In the early evening of April 29, 2005. a mother was driving southbound on Interstate 25 in Albuquerque with her three young children.  An SUV was speeding southbound at a speed in excess of ninety miles per hour.  The SUV collided with the rear of the mother’s vehicle.  Her seven year old child suffered fatal injuries.  The mother and two other children suffered serious injuries. 

The SUV driver was arrested after leaving the scene of the accident.  A test for alcohol showed that she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .21.  That was more than two and a half times greater than the DWI level of .08.  The driver was later convicted of aggravated DWI, leaving the scene, and fatal child abuse.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction for fatal child abuse.  The court noted that the driver could have been prosecuted for vehicular homicide.

The driver had spent the afternoon drinking alcohol in a restaurant and two bars in the Northeast Heights.  Pharmaceutical company employees had invited the employees of an Albuquerque doctor’s office to lunch.  The lunch included alcohol.  After lunch, the hosts and the driver spent the rest of the afternoon drinking in two bars in Uptown.  When the driver left the second bar, she was “thoroughly intoxicated.” 

The mother made claims for wrongful death and personal injuries against the restaurant and the two bars where the driver had spent the afternoon drinking.  The mother also made claims against the pharmaceutical companies and their employees who had sponsored the lunch and the drinking.  The trial court dismissed the claims against the pharmaceutical companies and their employees under the Liquor Liability Act.  The trial court held that the companies and the employees were not liable as “social hosts” under the Act. 

The mother appealed the dismissals to the New Mexico Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court held that the drug companies and their employees had been properly sued as “social hosts” under the Liquor Liability Act.  The mother’s claims for wrongful death and New Mexico personal injury damages against the drug companies, the drug company employees, and the three liquor establishments will now be adjudicated in the trial court.

May 6, 2011

Is Santa Fe Responsible for Bus Driver's Conduct?

Local news is reporting a Santa Fe bus driver is behind bars following reports that he molested, or at least inappriately touched, his young passengers.  The story began to unravel when one especially shrewd passenger managed to record the Santa Fe bus driver's horrendous conduct on her camera phone.  After the recording was shared with Santa Fe authorities, the bus driver was called in for questioning. 

According you reports, the bus driver quickly confessed to having contact with not only the student who recorded his assault, but also other victims including an 8-year-old. Admittedly, no possible financial recovery could reverse the impact that the bus driver had on each of his victims however, the question nonetheless remains, who could be held responsible for the driver's conduct. Typically, such matters are goverened by New Mexico personal injury theories of agency. Agency liability claims are premised on the theory that an employer can be responsible for the actions or conduct of an employee. Although all New Mexico injury cases must be evaluated separately, common themes that arise are whether or not the employee: was in the course and scope of his employment, was acting under the direction of any supervisor, had a pattern of behavior or record that suggested such conduct was likely to occur, or even if the employee appeared to be an agent of the employer.

 

Although the bus drivers currently incarcerated and facing significant criminal charges, this does not preclude victims from pursuing civil lawsuits that seek money damages. Although the story is still developing, it is clear that the girl who managed to record the attack not only saved herself future encounters, but also saved countless others a similar fate.

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 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.

December 30, 2010

Vehicle Equipment Preventing Accidents

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given its top safety rating to 66 vehicles for the 2001 model year. Last year, it gave 27 vehicles its top rating.

Some safety equipment, intended to avoid or mitigate car and truck accidents, is now standard on 2011 models. Electronic stability control and side-curtain airbags are standard equipment on over 90 percent of 2011 cars and SUVs. These standard safety features more then double the vehicle receiving the top safety rating in 2011.

To the extent the safety features are standard equipment on 2011 models, New Mexico drivers are now driving safer vehicles. Safety has come a long way in the last 40 years. Current models are unlike the vehicle described by Ralph Nader in his classic; Unsafe at any speed. New Mexico drivers and passengers are now safer at all speeds. Hopefully such safety measures will result in a decrease of New Mexico car accident cases.

December 13, 2010

New Mexico Personal Injury Cases and the Economy

To what extent does the economy effect New Mexico personal injury claims? One theory is that injuries are related to economic activity—the more economic activity, the more injuries will occur. This is because economic growth produces construction, the use of roads, increased shopping, eating out, etc., which increases the numbers of accidents.

Personal Injury lawyers are in disagreement about the effects of an economic downturn. A large number of personal injury cases arise from automobile use, and past recessions have shown that American's driving habits are somewhat “inelastic,” meaning that people drive about the same amount, regardless of the overall economic situation. So, in economic hard times, people are on the road about the same amount as in good times.

Another factor complicating how to judge the relationship between economic growth and personal injury litigation is the lag between the injury, itself, and when lawyers become involved. After an injury, the first priority is undergoing medical treatment. Often, a New Mexico personal injury claimant will need to finish medical treatment before being able to evaluate his/her case. A period of negotiation may then follow, so that lawyers may not become involved for some time after the initial accident.

December 8, 2010

Raton Pedestrian Injured in Parade

A recent holiday parade in Raton, New Mexico brought anything but joy when it was released that a man injured during the festivities passed away from his injuries. Police have indicated that the 78 year old man was hit by an SUV driven by a 17 year old female. Although no charges have been filed to date, police a continuing to investigate the New Mexico wrongful death accident.

Such an accident injury is too similar to another accident case previously discussed in which a Rio Rancho motorcycle rally resulted in numerous New Mexico motorcycle accidents and injuries. Such organized events are resulting in more and more injuries throughout New Mexico. While driver error may play a part in these accidents and injuries, it is also important to make sure that the injuries could not have been prevented with a better organized traffic plan or safety measure.

Common examples of such safety measure that protect participants and such rallies or parades includes a revised traffic plan, extra law enforcement, and pedestrian crowd. Although it is not possible to determine if such factors, or lack thereof contributed to these injuries, it is nonetheless an alarming trend.

November 28, 2010

Albuquerque Employee Sexual Assault - When is the Employer Responsible

Recently an Albuquerque city employee was charged with sexual assault against a neighbor. According to the story, the city worker, while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, attempted to rape his neighbor. While this garbage employee is making headlines, this is certainly not the first time an employee has caused a New Mexico personal injury or New Mexico accident.

From a New Mexico personal injury lawyer's perspective, this sexual assault story raises the issue or respondeat superior or vicarious liability. This is when somebody, such as an employer, can be held accountable for the conduct of someone else, such as an employee. Often times for such New Mexico injury and accident cases, the question comes does to whether the employee was working under the scope and corse of his or her employment, or whether it was forceable such a person such a incident could occur. For example, the new story on this incident suggests that the driver had to submit to regular drug tests. In the event he failed any such tests and nothing was done, then the City of Albuquerque could be responsible for allowing such an individual to remain on the streets.

In addition to helping hold employers responsible for sloppy employee management, hiring, training, and retention, New Mexico personal injury claims against an employer often allow the injury victim to recover substantially more than claims limited to the employee.

November 19, 2010

Airborn Hospital Infections - Change is in the Air

New Mexico hospitals are where you want to be when injured or sick, however, they are also capable not of helping heal you, but rather causing an infection. Many infections, are called a risk-of-the-procedure, meaning there may be no legal basis to pursue a case. However, some hospital infections are different an entirely preventable.

Considering such hospital infections are a top 10 cause of death in America, preventing future infections is a true development in medicine. By the same token, it means that infections should no longer be the risks they used to be and that hospital infections should no longer benefit for legal loopholes as they have in the past.

The New Mexico Health Department has recently joined a movement to track infections with a goal of minimizing patient risks. Simultaneously, a recent advisory committee is recommending New Mexico Hospitals be required to report infection rates. Local hospitals that have expressed a level of participation in the movement include: University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, as well as Lovelace in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

November 17, 2010

Autism Child Abuse

Prior beginning a career in New Mexico personal injury law, I spent some time handling criminal cases. While there is certainly an assortment of sad stories and gruesome crimes, perhaps none were as difficult to stomach as child abuse. When it comes to New Mexico child abuse cases, a recent story is perhaps more disturbing than most any other.

The incident occurred at Camelot of New Mexico when a staff member began kneeing an autistic child in the head repeatedly. The facility was built to care for and protect such special needs children, and what occurred reflects a gross disregard for the safety of patients.

Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Supposedly the mother of the victim released a statement indicating she was “happy” with her son's medical care. When questioned on her statement the mother indicated that somebody hired by Camelot made it seem as though she had prepared statement.

When asked to comment on this claim the director of the facility claimed that although she hired a public relations firm, she could not comment on whether the mother's claim was true.

Although the abuse of the autistic child is not necessarily the most violent, the fact that it occurred at a facility that is paid to protect children, and then perhaps tried to cover up wrongdoing is what makes this incident so troubling.