Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Much is Pain and Suffering Worth in New Mexico Auto Accident?

One of the most common questions I'm asked by clients is, "How much is my pain and suffering worth under New Mexico law?" 

By:  Mark Caruso, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney (Albuquerque, NM)

My response is always that I quantify pain and suffering using the facts of each case. I have been an attorney for 33 years.  During that time I have only handled personal injury and wrongful death claims.  I worked as an insurance company attorney for part of that time.  So, I will give you my own analysis.

The purpose of  pain and suffering is to compensate you for what you have been thru because of the accident that caused your injuries. 

This not only includes the physical pain, but also includes the psychological effects, the stress, the time at the physician's office, the effect on your lifestyle and hobbies, and basically how the accident has affected you as a person.

New Mexico law allows for compensation for pain and suffering in all personal injury cases where there is evidence of pain and suffering.  We will talk about the evidence and documentation to prove pain and suffering below.

Pain and suffering is in addition to medical bills, lost earnings and permanent injury.

Many people believe that the amount of medical bills dictates the amount of pain and suffering.

 The amount of the medical bills does not always dictate the amount of pain and suffering. 

Clearly, victims with broken ribs or bones have less medical bills but have much higher pain and suffering than soft tissue cases.  Soft tissue cases usually have higher medical bills, because treatment is more intensive, while broken bones can usually be casted and left without a lot of follow up care. Also, not much can be done to treat broken ribs.

Based on my experience of 33 years of handling personal injury cases, I believe as a general rule that the pain and suffering for soft tissue cases are worth about 3 times the reasonable and necessary medical bills.   I believe as a general rule that broken bone cases are worth about 8 times the medical bills. There should be additional compensation for  lost earnings,  future medicals and permanent impairment.

So here are some examples:

EXAMPLE 1:    John suffered a whiplash and back injury after an auto accident that was not his fault.  He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, had a follow up with his primary doctor and then began treatment with a chiropractor.  His medical bills were $10,000  He had no lost earnings and no permanent impairment.  He felt fine after his treatment was concluded.

Using the formula of 3 times the medical bills, John's case should be valued at $30,000

EXAMPLE 2:   Carol suffered a broken arm after an auto accident that was not her fault.  She was taken by ambulance to the emergency room where her arm was casted.  She had two follow up appointments with her doctor who removed the cast 60 days later.  Her medical bills were $5,000.  She had no lost earnings and no permanent impairment.  She felt fine after her treatment was concluded.

Using the formula of 8 times  the medical bills, Carol's case should be valued at $40,000

Court Appointed Arbitrators in Albuquerque have been typically awarding 3 times the medical bills in court mandated arbitrations in Bernalillo County.  Juries are much more less predictable.

 It is extremely important that injured patients communicate to their health care providers all of their pain and  suffering and carefully describe how the injuries have affected them.  If they don't communicate pain and suffering to their health care providers, they will have a much more difficult time getting 3 times the reasonable and necessary medical bills.

The insurance company adjuster, judge, arbitrator or juror will carefully review the notes written by your health care provider. They will look at your reported pain levels and symptoms associated with the injury as reported by you to your health care provider.

Health care providers won't fabricate complaints and symptoms of pain and suffering, so if there are no complaints by the injured patient they will have nothing to document.   Picture it this way.  You need to give the doctor the ammunition for your gun.  They need you to feed them the information so they can document your complaints accurately and completely.

It is more difficult for men to communicate pain and suffering to their doctor.

The reason is that most men find it more difficult to complain about their pain.  Men are macho, and it may be considered a sign of weakness to complain of pain to their health care provider.

Nevertheless, men must report the pain to their doctor to get full value for their pain and suffering.
Again, please remember......Insurance company adjusters, judges, arbitrators and jurors will carefully read the medical records written by the health care provider.  If no pain and suffering is mentioned, don't expect a large amount of  pain and suffering.

A personal diary of how the injuries have affected you is also helpful. 

The diary can track specific instances an dates of pain and suffering.  The diary should include names of people who witnessed the discomfort and the degree of discomfort.  You can include events that occurred through the day that caused increased pain or discomfort.  The diary can also be read by the decision maker in determining how the injuries affected your daily life.

The most important advice I can give you in this blog is to document your pain and suffering.

Document your pain and suffering with your health care providers.

Document your pain and suffering with your employer.

Document your pain and suffering in a pain diary.

 Attorney Mark Caruso is a former insurance company attorney who now represents injured clients in their personal injury and wrongful death claims.    Caruso Law Offices has two locations in Albuquerque to serve its clients--Northeast Heights and Westside. Mr. Caruso will also meet you at your home, work or hospital on weekends and after-hours.

For a FREE consultation you can contact Mark Caruso at the Northeast Heights Office (Montgomery & Carlisle) at 505-883-5000 or his Westside Office (Coors NW and I-40) at 505-369-1361. You can also contact Mark Caruso directly at mark@carusolaw.com

Your consultation will be with Mark Caruso, not a legal assistant or paralegal.  He will give you a confidential and honest evaluation of your claim, discuss medical treatment and explain Caruso Law Offices'    discounted 29% contingency attorney fee on all personal injury and wrongful death claims.

Drunk Driving Is More Than A Mistake--Victims Deserve Justice Under New Mexico Law!

Drunk Driving Is More Than a Mistake — Victims Deserve Justice Under New Mexico Law!

By: Mark Caruso, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney (Albuquerque, NM)

Despite public education and strict laws against drunk driving, there were still thousands of drunk driving accidents in New Mexico in 2015.  Many of these collisions resulted in death.

Over the years there have been new laws introduced in the NM Legislature for stronger DWI laws, but there seems to always be  opposition by lobbyists associated with the liquor industry lobbyists and politicians to defeat tougher DWI laws.

As politicians continue to debate, the collisions caused by drunk drivers continues...year after year.  If you are like most New Mexicans you are sick and tired of hearing about injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers.

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers of NM (MADD-NM) publicly supports safe driving and consoles families of those killed by drunk drivers.  But they have a limited budget to do what they do best.

We sympathize with the outrage of drunk driving victims and their families

At Caruso Law Offices  we have worked with many families whose lives have been forever changed by drunk driving accidents. We are also frustrated with these senseless accidents. Many of us at the firm have had friends or relatives killed by drunk drivers.

Our job as drunk driving accident attorneys is to make sure that those responsible pay the consequences, and that their victims are compensated to the fullest extent permitted by law. That's why we use every legal and negotiation skill at our disposal to obtain justice as well as financial compensation after serious drunk driving accidents.

Mark Caruso is a member of the Attorney Advisory Board for New Mexico Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD).  He has handled many wrongful death cases and hundreds of injury cases resulting from drunk drivers.

Punishing Drunk Drivers in Civil Court

Drunk drivers must answer for their actions in civil court or through insurance claims against them.  These civil claims are where we come in.

Insurance claims involving drunk driving accidents are different from other types of motor vehicle accidents because the injury victims or surviving families may be entitled to punitive damages in addition to compensation for the economic, personal, and other losses suffered.

Punitive damages are allowed by NM law where a drunk driver caused injury or death to others. The purpose of punitive damages is punishment to the drunk driver... to hurt the drunk driver financially and to enforce the seriousness of their actions. The idea is that if the drunk driver has to pay punitive damages, then he/she will not drive drunk again.

Punitive damages are available in drunk driving accidents in New Mexico because drunk driving is more than a mistake. It’s close to an intentional act like assault. A person who has had too much to drink and who gets behind the wheel of a car knows there’s a good chance of an accident.

Depending upon the circumstances, punitive damages may  exceed the financial damages suffered in an accident. Because of this possibility, we must carefully examine all of the factors regarding the accident, such as whether the driver had a history of driving drunk.

In addition to punitive damages, victims of drunk drivers are entitled to payment for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings and wages and partial permanent injury and impairment.

Advocating for Families in the Criminal DUI Case

DUI and DWI accidents that cause serious personal injury or wrongful death will be prosecuted in New Mexico's criminal courts, where drunk drivers face possible criminal,  fines, driver’s license suspension, vehicle confiscation, breath analyzers (blow machines in personal vehicles) and jail time.

Drunk driving victims and their families may need advocacy in the criminal proceedings against the drunk driver who caused the accident.  We strongly support MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) which is especially adapted to assist victims.

Because one of our associates at Caruso Law Offices used to be a prosecuting attorney handling many DWI cases, we are keenly aware of how the criminal system works.  We help explain the criminal process to our  clients  as clearly and plainly as possible. We also can assist our clients in the criminal proceedings against the drunk driver. We present the victims’ view of events to the prosecuting attorneys and can help prepare victims to testify at trials about the effect of the DWI accident on their lives and families.

Drunk Driving Victims and Their Families May Also Be Entitled to Compensation in Criminal Proceedings

Under New Mexico law, drunk driving victims may have the right to compensation through the criminal process for any costs associated with the accident that are not covered by insurance. This is called victim restitution.

Through both the civil litigation to recover damages and the criminal process and victim restitution, we assist our drunk driving accident victims and their families every step of the way to see that justice is done and that they are compensated to the maximum extent permitted by law.

Discuss Your Questions With Experienced Drunk Driving Accident Lawyers

Drunk driving cases are serious — often resulting in life-changing injury such as brain injury, spinal cord injury or wrongful death. Each case deserves serious attention from knowledgeable drunk driving accident lawyers. Mark Caruso has 33 years legal experience in personal injury. As a former insurance company attorney who now works for victims, he knows the ins and outs of the insurance claims practice to get clients the most money possible.

If you were seriously hurt or a family member was killed in a fatal accident, contact our Albuquerque law firm for an immediate and confidential consultation about your legal rights. Our drunk driving accident lawyers can help you or your family get the financial compensation to which you are entitled.

Our drunk driving accident attorneys meticulously examine all of the facts and circumstances surrounding every accident, including the actions of the responsible drunk driver and factors such as the road conditions and whether the driver was served alcohol when he or she was visibly intoxicated.

We will also explore the circumstances causing the driver to become intoxicated.  Often times the store, restaurant or bar where the liquor was purchased is liable under New Mexico's Dram Shop Law.

To schedule a free and private consultation with Mark Caruso or one of the attorneys at Caruso Law Offices, call 505-883-5000, or contact us at mark@carusolaw.com  Please also see our website at www.carusolaw.com

We will meet with you and provide a free evaluation of your case. You’ll be able to meet our entire team that will represent your interests and be there with your every step of the way.

Call us. We can help.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

FedEx Christmas Delivery Delays Are Signs of Larger Management Problems at Nation's Second Largest Trucking Company

By Mark Caruso, Albuquerque Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

Delays in the delivery of Christmas presents by FedEx are signs of larger management problems at the nation's second largest trucking company.

FedEx management blamed the weather for its failure to deliver millions of Christmas presents by promised deadlines.  

But it doesn't take a meteorology degree to conclude that FedEx was not telling the truth.  The weather around the county was clear the week before Christmas.  Were the delays a sign of continued management problems at FedEx Ground?

The FedEx business model is profit oriented like most other businesses.

But FedEx Ground cuts corners wherever possible, to the detriment of its customers.

FedEx Ground contracts with independent contractor trucking companies to deliver its products across America.  On the other hand, UPS, the nation's largest trucking company, relies on its union employees to do the same job.

By negotiating with independent trucking companies, FedEx Ground is able to derive higher profits per mile than UPS. However, the quality and safety of the delivery process for FedEx suffers accordingly.  There were no known delays in Christmas deliveries by UPS this year. 

But more important than delivery delays is the safety of the public on the highways. 

FedEx Ground has an extremely high number of trucking accidents involving injury and death.  Trucking accidents by UPS are far less than FedEx.

Caruso Law Offices, PC
Our firm was recently involved in litigation in New Mexico where a father was awarded $165 million against FedEx for the death of his wife and child and the injury of a second child. The jury found that FedEx failed to provide safety training to the FedEx driver.  This lack of training was the cause of the deadly rear-end collision.

I submit that UPS union employees have a different perspective of their job as truck drivers than the independent contractor truck drivers employed by FedEx Ground.  UPS truck drivers take pride in their employment as actual employees of UPS.  They are paid a fair wage and have decent working conditions negotiated by their union representatives. 

Continued safety training of its truck drivers is a priority at UPS.

A  FedEx Ground official recently admitted in a deposition I took that FedEx Ground does not provide safety training to its drivers.

Safety training of truck drivers is expensive, and FedEx cuts company expenses by failing to provide safety training of its truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act provides safety rules for all trucking companies.

It's time that these rules get tougher on those trucking companies like FedEx Ground who use independent contractor trucking companies to deliver their products across our country.  Trucking companies should not commit to timely delivery of their products when they know that they cannot deliver.  And they must assure the public that the truck drivers operating semi-trucks with the FedEx Ground logo have received regular safety training.

Mark Caruso is a personal injury and wrongful death attorney based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and can be contacted at 505-883-5000 or at mark@carusolaw.com   or our website at www.carusolaw.com

Dangerous Road Conditions Cause Dozens of Auto Accidents in Albuquerque

By Mark Caruso, Albuquerque Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

With dozens of auto accidents in Albuquerque because of dangerous road conditions, it is important that you understand how to handle the situation with the other driver.  

Ice and snow covered roads are inherently dangerous!  

The best way to avoid an accident is to drive slowly and safely.

But what should you do when the other driver slides on ice into your lane of traffic?

First, call the police!

With so many accidents from the iced roads, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) may argue to you that they will not respond unless there are injuries.  Because you are not a medical expert, you are not in a position to diagnose whether or not you have an injury.  You may have an injury that shows up an hour after the collision.

You must have APD respond.  Don't settle on 911 telling you to just exchange information with the other driver or file a station report the next day.

The reason why you must have the police respond is to document in writing what happened in the collision. The APD officer will document it on a police report that is signed by him/her.
Caruso Law Offices, PC

It is urgent that the APD officer write down that the other vehicle slid into your vehicle while you safely operated your vehicle in your lane of traffic. The APD officer will state on the report what each driver told him and make his/her  conclusions as to the cause of the collision.

The explanation as to how the collision occurred will change after the other driver gets home and talks to others or their own insurance company.  The other driver and their insurance company may argue that the accident was your fault because you entered their driver's lane of traffic.

Also, remember that the APD officer's lapel cam will be running from the moment he/she exits the vehicle up until they re-enter their vehicle.  Everything you and the other driver say will be recorded by the officer.

Because of the recording, please remember that you are being recorded.  Be respectful, don't use cuss words, and just give a concise explanation of exactly what happened.

Our law firm always requests a copy of the APD officer lapel cam, and it is amazing what people say to the officer following the accident. Remember, you are on camera!!!!

Second, use your cell phone to photograph the scene and make a recording of the other driver stating that the accident was their fault.

Photograph the damage to the vehicles, the roadway, the ice on the roadway, the direction of the slide, etc.  You can't take too many photos.

Video or voice record the other driver stating that the accident was their fault or that they are sorry for what happened. Generally, people are more honest immediately after the accident when their adreneline is flowing.

Their story may change when they leave the accident scene and try to find an excuse as to why the accident happened.

It is very important that you consult with an attorney following an accident on ice and snow.... LIABILITY WILL BE QUESTIONED 

The liability claim (who is at fault) is much more complicated in accidents occurring on ice or snow. Insurance companies usually try to argue that an accident on ice and snow is 50-50 split. Half their driver's fault and half your fault.  Expect the insurance adjuster to claim that you slid as well and that you failed to stay in your lane of traffic.

Don't fall for this argument. Don't agree to a 50-50 split. This means that you were half at fault for the accident that you really didn't cause.  Talk to an attorney before you agree to any such division of liability.

These cases become even more complicated if you slide after putting on your brakes because the other driver is sliding into you or if the impact forces you to slide into another vehicle.

Caruso Law Offices exclusively handles motor vehicle accidents.  It's all we do, and we are good at it.  Please see our testimonials published on our web site www.carusolaw.com

My name is Mark Caruso.  I have 33 years of legal experience.  I was an insurance company attorney before I began helping people being ripped off by insurance companies.  Now my staff of attorneys and I exclusively represents the victims of auto accidents.  We know the ins and outs of the insurance claims practice.

Please call me at 505-883-5000 or contact me personally at mark@carusolaw.com to arrange for an in person or telephonic appointment with me, not a paralegal, to discuss your car accident.  Again, it is urgent that you speak with an attorney before talking with the other person's insurance company.

Remember, we handle cases on a contingency fee basis.  That means we are only paid if we win money for you.  It costs you nothing up front to talk with me.  We are paid at the end of the case only if you are successful.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Act Quickly After Your New Mexico Car Accident

By Mark J. Caruso, Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorney

I must stress again the importance of acting quickly after your car or truck accident claim.  If there is any question as to the fault for the accident, you need to get evidence quickly to prove that you are not at fault.
After 32 years of handling personal injury and wrongful death claims, I have seen evidence disappear on many occasions.  It's usually a defendant who does whatever they can do to keep from paying money.  Oftentimes it is an insurance company and trucking company.

I was recently hired to represent a very nice family whose husband and father was killed in an crash with a tractor-trailer.  The family hired me two weeks after the crash to represent them on a wrongful death claim against the trucking company and its driver. I immediately notified the tractor-trailer company and its attorney that the evidence on the tractor-trailer should be secured for inspection by my trucking experts. The company moved the vehicle and most all of the evidence lost just 3 days after the crash, when they moved the tractor-trailer over 150 miles away.

Spoliation of evidence is the legal term for altering or destroying physical evidence that can be used at trial.  Claims adjusters often alter or destroy evidence to favor their client. To do so is wrong and in violation of New Mexico law.

Unfortunately, the only way to beat the spoliation of evidence by claims adjusters is to quickly hire an attorney who can quickly write a letter to the adjuster demanding that the evidence be preserved.  In the case above, even though the family hired our firm two weeks after the crash and my letter was on the attorney's desk two weeks after the crash, the evidence was gone.
That's why you need to hire a personal injury or wrongful death attorney quickly after your car or truck accident claim. It's important to hire an attorney who only handles these types of claims--day in and day out.  The attorney will know what kind of evidence needs to be safeguarded and how to safeguard it quickly.
Mark Caruso has been named one of the 10 top personal injury and wrongful death attorneys in the state of New Mexico. I have trained our staff and experts to handle this evidence safely and quickly. My attitude is to cross every "t"  and dot every "i" now, because you won't be able to do it later on.  What that means is that you need to take every action immediately because it may be too late later.

I encourage you to immediately contact me or one of the attorneys at Caruso Law Offices if you have any question as to the fault in the collision.  We have an excellent group of experts that we can send to the evidence as soon as we are hired to gather the evidence to use to show that you are not at fault for the collision.

Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 505-883-5000 to discuss your personal injury or wrongful death claim with one of our award winning attorneys.

We have two locations in Albuquerque to serve you--Montgomery and Carlisle (Main Office) and Coors and Interstate 40 (Satellite Office).  We travel the throughout the state and represent clients in almost every county and pueblo.  We can meet you after hours and on Saturday and Sunday, and we do home, hospital and work visits.

Please see our main web site at www.carusolaw.com if you have other questions about our firm.

We look forward to hearing from you.