Articles Posted in Personal Injury News

An ongoing investigation into the deadliest hot air balloon accident in United States history has revealed that the pilot of the balloon had seven different potentially mind-altering drugs in his system at the time of the crash. According to a National Transit Safety Board press release noted in a recently published national news article, several drugs were found in the blood of the balloon operator after he died, along with all 15 passengers on board the craft, when it struck high-voltage power lines during a descent, caught fire, and ultimately crashed into a field near Lockhart, Texas. Although authorities have not determined the exact cause of the tragic event, it appears that drug intoxication may have played a role in the deadly accident.

Hot Air BalloonsA Dangerous Combination of Psychoactive Substances Was Present in the Pilot’s Blood

According to the report, the substances found in the man’s system included drugs used to treat anxiety, severe pain, depression, muscle spasms, attention deficit disorder, and insomnia, among other ailments. Even though the report states that the pilot was legally prescribed the drugs found in his system, several of the substances he had consumed would prevent an airplane or helicopter pilot from legally operating an aircraft, although hot air balloon operators are not subject to the same regulations as other pilots. Taken individually, these types of drugs could impair a pilot’s ability to safely control a hot air balloon, but when several different psychoactive drugs are taken together, the effects can multiply, and a dangerous level of impairment becomes even more likely.

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Throughout someone’s life, it is very likely that they will be prescribed medication to treat a condition or illness. When a medication is prescribed, it is important that doctors explain the risks and course of treatment to the patient. In many situations, however, doctors do not fully disclose risks and assume that patients will read the lengthy warnings prepared by the pharmaceutical companies that often come attached to their prescriptions.

warning-1191935When an individual has been injured or killed because of a medication side-effect, they will often attribute negligence to the prescribing physician. Treating physicians are often thought to have the primary duty to warn patients of the risks of ingesting certain drugs. In some circumstances, physicians will try to shift responsibility onto the prescription manufacturer.

Many states follow the “learned intermediary” doctrine. This doctrine explains that the prescribing physician acts as the intermediary between the manufacturer and the patient. This means that the manufacturer is supposed to advise the physician of the risks and the physicians should convey these to the patient prior to prescribing them medication. Some steps physicians should take to make sure their patient is aware of all of the risks involve reading the FDA guidelines, reviewing the patient’s medical history to determine any risks, and advising patients of available alternatives.

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According to a recent report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced new back-up camera technology designed to prevent accidents. The NHTSA is a safety branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation that was designed to implement safety programs. The NHTSA is charged with studying accident statistics and determining ways to reduce economic losses, deaths, and injuries related to motor vehicle accidents. The agency does this by examining the most common causes of accidents.

top-gear-1457113Recently, the NHTSA released information that indicated that over 200 deaths and 15,000 injuries are a result of “backing-up accidents.” Tragically, many of the fatalities in these cases occur to children under the age of five. In light of these startling statistics, the NHTSA will be implementing a new rule that will mandate that all new cars must have backing-up technology. The Administration explains that cars must have this technology even if the cameras are installed as an aftermarket addition.

One owner of a backup-camera manufacturer explained that this feature is not only a safety feature but one of convenience. It can serve as a peace of mind for drivers who otherwise will not have a clear picture of what is behind them. The NHTSA will require this technology in all new cars by spring 2018.

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Earlier this month, New Mexico State Senator Udall attempted to reintroduce a bill that was originally designed to prevent drunk driving. Back in 2008, several vehicle manufacturers and the federal government implemented the Driver Alcohol Detention System. This program was intended to enable researchers to develop a system that could prevent drunken individuals from starting their automobiles. After several years of research, it has been determined that there is a strong possibility that this idea will become a reality.

moralization---1-125242-m.jpgAccording to news reports, the project developers released a press release that they have begun producing prototypes of this device. They are currently in the stage of ensuring that the devices abide by all government regulations. The Senator, along with other representatives from various agencies, recently met to see the new technology. The Senator is in the process of reintroducing the bill to ensure that it has the appropriate amount of funding, approximately 12 million dollars over five years, to produce these devices.

Evidently, the device will be able to detect alcohol content on an individual’s breath. Unlike other devices, which usually require the driver to breathe into tubes, this device will detect the breath in the car. It should be able to differentiate between the breath of a driver and that of a passenger. Alternatively, the device may be able to detect driver alcohol content by infrared light underneath the driver’s fingertips.
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After a series of recalls in March, Ford has announced an additional set of vehicles that will be subject to various recalls. According to a Consumer Reports article, Ford has issued over 600,000 vehicle recalls related to faulty steering, pumps, lights, and safety latches. Back in March of this year, the vehicle manufacturer recalled over 200,000 2011-2013 Ford Explorers. The recall was focused on malfunctioning door latches that presented the dangerous possibility of the latches springing open during an accident.

cars-1100643-m.jpgAfter the recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted an investigation into the safety of Ford vehicles. As a result of the investigation, Ford subsequently recalled 2012-2014 Ford Fiestas, 2013-2014 Fusions, 2013-2014 Lincoln MKZs, and Ford Edges. The automaker concedes that it is possible that these models are built with certain attachments that may break because of corrosion that would result in a loss of power. This dangerous lack of power can make the vehicle difficult to control, which could result in a crash. Additionally, some other concerns surround issues with the fuel pump, which could cause a vehicle to stall or not start while it is in use. Lastly, some of the vehicles were built without heat shields on the parking lights, which can result in a fire or explosion.

Ford has stated that these recalls are extremely serious, and owners can take their cars in to certified dealerships for repairs at no cost.
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Late last week, a crash occurred on U.S. 550 that resulted in the deaths of two individuals. A local New Mexican station reported that the crash occurred around 6:45 p.m. on December 19. Apparently, Sandoval County police noticed a car driving north on U.S. 550 without its light on. The police officers attempted to stop the car, but the driver continued to keep driving.

crashed-car-1148745-m.jpgInstead of stopping, the car started swerving and veering across the northbound lanes. The car was weaving dangerously in and out of traffic. Eventually, a deputy began pursuing the driver, but even then the car continued on. The police stopped pursuing the car while the deputy was following the driver. Shortly after that pursuit, that car and another driver ended up in a head-on collision. The driver and her passenger were killed. The driver in the car was air-lifted and remains in critical condition as of the most recent reports.

Head-On Collisions in New Mexico
All car accidents have the potential to result in serious injuries, but head-on collisions can often be catastrophic. The above situation is a prime example of how head-on collisions often occur. Generally, one car will swerve across lanes and hit the front of another car.
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There have been updates on the death of a New Mexico student that a previous blog entry addressed. Earlier this year, a New Mexico student was fatally injured in her high school’s parking lot. According to a new report, apparently there were some dangerous conditions in the school’s parking lot that led to the student falling out of a moving vehicle. The student hit her head as she fell and was flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock. Unfortunately, she passed away at the hospital.

parking-lot-1092981-m.jpgThe student’s family is bringing a suit based on premises liability. The family is alleging that the school knew about the dangerous conditions in the parking lot but failed to remedy them. Additionally, other reports stated that the school did not have any sort of security in its parking lot. The family is currently asking for damages in the amount of $2.5 million or more.

Premises Liability in New Mexico
In New Mexico, there are two major types of premises liability claims. Choosing the appropriate kind is dependent upon whether the accident occurred on private or commercial property. In New Mexico, if the owner of the property was a business owner, it should ensure that the property is safe for those that will be on its property. Laws concerning private owners vary depending on the jurisdiction.
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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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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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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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