Author: bkwritingsupport

How to Avoid a Thanksgiving Lawsuit

Turkey? Check! Stuffing? Check! Pumpkin pie? Check! Lawsuit? Say what, now? That is not on the menu.

No one ever thinks about getting sued when they are busy preparing a tasty turkey feast for their friends and family. Yet, the risk is very real for hosts when they invite other people into their homes. From drunken driving accidents to choking on turkey bones, there is a host of things that can go wrong at holiday celebrations. Not to rain on your Thanksgiving-day parade, but hosts must consider the following steps to protect themselves against personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits during the holiday.

Preparing food for others

Whether you prepare the food yourself or order your holiday feast from a restaurant or caterer, there always is a risk for food poisoning claims from guests. Make sure all food you plan to serve is neither contaminated nor spoiled. Turkey should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before it is safe to consume. If you prepare your turkey the day before, make sure you refrigerate it as soon as it cools to prevent spoiling. Follow proper food handling and storage protocol for all prepared foods. When in doubt about the safety of something, it is better to toss it out than risk making your guests ill.

Spoiled food is not the only mishap that can occur on Turkey Day. Choking always is a risk any time your guests consume foods, especially those like turkey that have bones. Be sure you or someone else in your home know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver just in case.

Avoiding cuts, scrapes, and burns

Speaking of the kitchen, Thanksgiving gatherings center around preparing and enjoying food together. Keeping your guests out of the kitchen is the best way to avoid the kinds of cuts, scrapes, and burns that come with preparing food. If it is not possible to do so, then here are a few things you can do to protect them from injury and you from the liability:

  • Avoid wearing long-sleeved or loose-fitting clothing while cooking to avoid getting caught on appliances and other meal-preparation tools.
  • Limit the number of people allowed in the kitchen at the same time.
  • Keep flammable items away from hot surfaces.
  • Never fry a turkey indoors. Only use a turkey fryer outside to avoid fires and burns.
  • Turn pot and pan handles inward on the stovetop when in use.

Make sure you have a first aid kit on hand and well stocked in case any of your guests get injured. Band aids, gauze, medical tape, and tourniquets are some of the items to include in the kit.

Alcohol-related accidents and incidents

Some holiday hosts avoid serving alcohol in their homes because they do not want to assume the responsibility that comes with making sure their guests do not drink and drive. According to one report, New Mexico has the third-highest number of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Driving while under the influence is not the only risk when serving alcohol at your Thanksgiving dinner. Guests who become drunk and belligerent may cause injury to others in your home. It is best to either limit the amount of alcohol served or forgo it entirely.

Slip-and-fall injuries

Slip-and-fall injuries are a concern for property owners any time of the year, but especially during the holidays, when more people may be visiting. Before your guests arrive, make sure to repair any uneven flooring or sidewalk surfaces and ensure there is adequate lighting for all spaces where guests might move about. Keep floors, sidewalks, and stairways dry and clear of debris to reduce slips and falls. Uncluttering is another excellent way to avoid someone getting injured while on your property. Make sure there is ample room to move in any spaces where guests will gather.

Know what to do if you suffer injuries

Thanksgiving hosts, it pays to know what you can be held liable for before you agree to bring guests into your home this holiday season. If you are a guest in someone’s home during the Thanksgiving holiday and you suffer a serious injury because of the host or another guest’s careless behavior, you have rights. Contact an attorney skilled in personal injury law to schedule a free consultation to review your case.

Stay safe, everyone, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

How to Protect Against Worker Retaliation

Worker retaliation can happen any time an employee files a legal claim against their employer. Maybe they were injured on the job and have made a worker’s compensation claim. Perhaps they were the victim of discrimination due to their race or religion. Whatever the reasoning, workers have rights when they pursue legal action or other claims against their employers. Most employers know the law and do not engage in behavior that can land them in hot water. Others may carefully skirt the law and push their luck, hoping workers do not know their rights. Workers who have dared to assert themselves on the job and end up on the receiving end of retaliatory behavior should contact an attorney immediately.

What is worker retaliation?

Punishing employees for asserting their rights in the workplace is called worker retaliation. Some of the common actions that can lead to an employer trying to get back at an employee include:

  • Complaints about workplace discrimination or harassment.
  • Filing for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Refusing to participate in illegal acts at the direction of an employer.
  • Requesting or taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Serving as a witness in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation or any other legal inquiry against an employer.
  • Whistleblowing against an employer to prevent fraudulent or illegal practices.

Employees who face undue consequences after engaging in any of these behaviors have legal grounds for a retaliation claim against their employers.

What is protected activity?

Protected activity is the legal term describing the activities that workers can engage in without fear of retribution from their employers. Most employers understand what constitutes protected activity, but that does not mean they cannot be tempted to retaliate if they think they will not get caught. Here are some examples of things that fall within the legal definition of protected activity:

  • Filing a discrimination complaintagainst a supervisor or other person in a position of authority in the workplace.
  • Organizing a union or other collective bargaining unit to improve employment terms and workplace conditions.
  • Providing information in an investigation against an employer for discrimination or harassment.

These are just a few of the most common examples of protected activity in the workplace. As a rule, any discriminatory behavior as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a protected activity. This includes punitive behavior for any discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, or sexual identity/orientation.

Recognizing the signs of worker retaliation

Sometimes the signs of worker retaliation are clear while other times than can be more subtle. Termination is one of the most obvious signs that an employer is striking out against an employee who dared to engaged in a protected activity. Here are some other ways places of employment can take castigatory actions against employees.

  • Demotion. Employees that previously were on the fast-track for advancement within an organization that suddenly lose status, responsibilities or seniority privileges likely are victims of worker retaliation.
  • Exclusion. Being disinvited to staff meetings, trainings, or other official workplace activities can be a form of workplace punishment from superiors.
  • Negative performance reviews. When a previous star employee suddenly is on the receiving end of poor performance reviews and disciplinary action placed in their employment files, it can be a surefire sign an employer is engaging in vengeful behavior.
  • Reassignment. Reassigning duties and work schedules in a way that causes the employee undue hardship is a form of worker punishment.
  • Salary reductions. Sometimes employers fail to give raises to employees who have angered them by engaging in protected behaviors. Other times they go so far as to reduce their salaries or scheduled hours to punish them financially.

Employment-at-will status worker retaliation

Some employers erroneously think they have protection when they engage in worker retaliation because New Mexico is an “employment-at-will” state. While employment-at-will states can fire employees at any time for any reason, there are limitations. Firing a worker who engaged in a protected activity is one of them. Taking this kind of retaliatory action is a violation of federal employment law. Not only can employers who do this end up with a lawsuit filed against them by the employee, but they also can face fines and other penal actions from the federal government.

How to prove worker retaliation in New Mexico

The burden of proof falls on the employee in worker retaliation cases in New Mexico. There must be clear-cut evidence that an employer engaged in this illegal behavior to win a worker retaliation civil lawsuit. Working with attorneys who understand worker rights in New Mexico is the best move employees can make if they suspect they are victims of worker retaliation. Reach out to Cameron and Russell to schedule your complimentary case review today.

Can I Sue for ADA Compliance?

One in every four adults in the United States lives with a disability. Individuals with physical disabilities can sometimes encounter challenges maneuvering safely in public spaces. The Americans with Disability Act mandates that public spaces provide accommodations to disabled guests. However, loopholes exist that can allow some businesses and other public spaces to sidestep the law. ADA violations may not be enough to prove negligence on their own.

What recourse do disabled persons have when they suffer injuries because businesses and other public spaces do not meet ADA compliance? A premises liability lawsuit may be the answer in most cases.

What is premises liability?

Premises liability laws protect individuals from unsafe or defective conditions on someone else’s property. For instance, if a person trips and falls on a cracked sidewalk in front of a business and breaks their leg, the business owners can be liable for their injuries. Property owners have a legal obligation to fix or provide notice of dangers or hazards that can lead to injury. Failure to do so opens them up to personal injury lawsuits from injured parties.

Premises liability cases require the injured party to prove the property owner was negligent in their duty of care to maintain their property. The only time premise liability laws do not apply in New Mexico is when someone is trespassing on another person’s property.

ADA lawsuit vs. premises liability lawsuit

ADA lawsuits and premises liability lawsuits provide different outcomes. Disabled persons who do not suffer injuries but wish to force a business to become ADA compliant should file an ADA lawsuit. Most ADA lawsuits do not include settlements or rulings that provide the complainant with financial compensation. The usual outcome involves the business or public space ordered to become ADA compliant.

Premises liability lawsuits work best for individuals injured by a business’s lack of ADA compliance who seek fair compensation for their injuries. ADA compliance issues like damaged flooring, lack of handrails in the bathroom, and entrances without ramps all can lead to serious injuries of disabled patrons. However, victims who file premises liability claims should not consider their cases a slam dunk. Business owners must be aware of the hazard the ADA violation posed to be liable for injuries. Hiring an attorney skilled in premises liability law can help improve your chances of success.

Photo courtesy ADA Accessibility Standards Guidelines.

Ramps and curbs: the source of most ADA violations

Failing to install and maintain ADA compliant sidewalks and curbs gets a lot of businesses in legal hot water. Broken sidewalks, crumbling stairs, and steep curbs can cause injuries to mobile persons. They also can spell disaster for disabled individuals trying to access a business or other public accommodation.

ADA Accessibility Standards spell out where ramps and curbs must be installed to meet ADA compliance. The standards include measurements for each component of the curb or ramp.

Ramps and Curb Ramps

Ramps and curb ramps are required along accessible routes with changes in level greater than half an inch. The ADA permits platform lifts and elevators to be used alternatively. Accessible routes with slopes steeper than 5 percent must follow the same guidelines for ramps.

Slope and Cross Slope

Providing the least possible slope offers the best usability for both disabled and non-disabled users, according to the U.S. Access Board. Slope is the proportion of vertical rise to horizontal length. The recommended ratio is 1:12, or 8.33 percent.

Clear Width

There must be a clear width of 36 inches minimum between the handrails on a ramp. Width requirements accommodate the average size of a wheelchair, which is between 30 and 32 inches. Individual health and safety codes may dictate clear width that extends beyond the minimum.

Rise

Run height is limited to 30 inches maximum, but ramps may have as many runs as needed. Longer ramps with numerous runs can be difficult for people using manual wheelchairs and should be avoided if possible.

Landings

Every run must have level landings at the bottom and top. The ADA does not permit changes in level greater than 1:48 for landings. They also must be designed in such a way that water does not accumulate there, which can pose significant hazards to people using wheelchairs.

Other Specifications

The standards also cover required specifications for:

  • Doorways at landings.
  • Handrails.
  • Edge protection.
  • Wet conditions.

Property owners should review and ensure compliance to avoid becoming liable for serious injuries by disabled visitors.

Using premises liability to pursue ADA violations

When property owners fail to meet required obligations for equal access, disabled persons can and do end up with serious injuries. Cameron & Russell recently recovered $600,000 as part of a premises liability lawsuit. Our client in the case suffered horrific injuries when he fell out of his wheelchair because a walkway was blocked by a tractor-trailer. This is just one example of how we can help recover damages for disabled persons injured because of a property owner’s negligence. Call 505-218-7844 or request an appointment online to schedule your free case consultation.

Manslaughter vs. Murder: What’s the Difference?

When a person’s actions cause someone else’s death, they may face criminal charges if there is enough evidence to indict. Homicide is the general legal term that refers to the killing of one human being by another. Manslaughter and murder are two classifications of homicide, distinguishable by whether the crime was committed with malice aforethought. If the person planned the act before committing it, they engaged in malice aforethought and can face murder charges. Without premeditation, it is considered manslaughter.

The seriousness of homicide offenses

Homicide is one of the most serious criminal offenses with which a person can be charged. New Mexico laws classifies homicide into the following types:

  • First-degree murder
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Second-degree murder
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Voluntary manslaughter

Someone who commits homicide may not face charges under certain circumstances. For instance, if a person loses control of their vehicle on an icy roadway and hits and kills a pedestrian, their actions may not be ruled a homicide. The key is determining whether the person was engaging in a legal activity and taking appropriate precautions at the time the homicide occurred. Even if someone is charged with vehicular homicide in this case, a judge or jury ultimately would decide if their actions rose to the level of homicide.  

According to New Mexico Statute Section 30-2-1, persons convicted of homicide face:

  • Up to nine years in prison for a second-degree felony.
  • Up to 18 years in prison for a first-degree felony.
  • Up to life imprisonment for a capital felony.  

Some states have the death penalty as an option for homicide. New Mexico abolished capital punishment in 2009. It was replaced with life imprisonment and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Manslaughter in New Mexico

New Mexico statutes define manslaughter as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” With the absence of deliberateness, the crime is considered less serious than murder. Two classifications of manslaughter exist in the state:

Involuntary manslaughter is defined in two ways:

  • A killing that happened during the commission of an unlawful act not classified as a felony under the law. For example, a person who is having an argument with another person and pushes them during the altercation. The victim falls and hits their head and later dies at the hospital. This would be involuntary manslaughter.
  • A killing that happened when someone is engaged in a legal but careless act. An example is a drug abuser who shares their needle with someone else and that person overdoses.

Involuntary manslaughter is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Voluntary manslaughter is a killing that happens during the heat of the moment. If two men get into an argument that escalates into a physical fight that causes the death of one of them, the other can face voluntary manslaughter charges. A third-degree felony, it is punishable by up to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Murder in New Mexico

Murder in New Mexico is the unlawful killing of one human being by another without lawful justification. There are two types of murder in the state.

First-degree murder is the most serious classification. To be charged with first-degree murder, a person must:

  • Kill someone through a deliberate, premeditated, and willful act.
  • Kill someone in the commission of a felony (robbing a bank, breaking and entering, etc.).
  • Kill someone while engaged in an act that exhibits reckless disregard for human life.

Defendants convicted of first-degree murder have committed a capital offense. Punishment includes life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Second-degree murder is the go-to charge for intentional killings that do not rise to the level of first-degree murder by prosecutorial standards. They also do not fit within the legal definition of voluntary manslaughter. Engaging in behavior a person knows is likely to cause another person’s death or serious bodily harm fits into this category. For example, a person who fires a gun into a crowd could face second-degree murder charges.

Defendants convicted of second-degree murder receive sentencing for a second-degree felony, which includes up to 15 years in prison and a $12,500 fine.

Contact an experienced Albuquerque criminal defense attorney

Persons facing homicide charges of any degree can count on the legal expertise of Marcus Cameron. Using a public defender may be free but it may not get defendants the adequate representation they deserve. Cameron and Russell have an excellent reputation for ensuring the rights of their clients. Contact Marcus today to schedule your free consultation.

When Your Doctor Makes an Honest Mistake

Unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.8 million people – roughly 869 deaths per 100,000 people – occur each year due to accidents. Medical errors made by physicians and other healthcare practitioners are included in those statistics. It can be unnerving to think that medical professionals who are supposed to help you could instead cause significant injury or even death.

Victims of medical errors or their surviving family members may wish to pursue medical malpractice claims against the healthcare providers responsible for their pain and suffering. Before seeking out the advice of a personal injury attorney that specializes in medical malpractice, learning the difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice can help determine if victims have a legitimate case.

Medical negligence vs. medical malpractice

Medical negligence is the legal term used to describe an “honest mistake” by a medical practitioner or healthcare team. Even the best and brightest medical professionals can make errors. While their medical misstep can cause injury or pain to the patient, it was not done with intent, so the legal system in New Mexico views it differently. Doctors and other healthcare professionals still can be held accountable for medical negligence.  

Medical malpractice is the term applied to the outcome of medical negligence. Sometimes doctors and other healthcare providers can make mistakes, but those errors do not cause pain or suffering to their patients. When a healthcare practitioner’s actions or inactions fail to meet the medical standard of care, and it causes significant injury or illness to their patient, it rises to the level of medical malpractice. Whether intentional or not, the physician or other medical provider is then liable for their actions. New Mexico law requires claims to meet the following criteria to be filed as medical malpractice:

  • The standard of care was violated. Patients have a right to expect medical care to be administered according to consistent medical standards.
  • The patient was injured due to medical negligence. Violating the standard of care is not enough to prove medical malpractice. Patients must also show they were injured or otherwise harmed by the negligent actions.
  • The patient must demonstrate significant damages. Medical malpractice litigation is expensive. Viable cases must show that a patient endured significant damages from injuries suffered from acts of medical negligence.

Examples of medical malpractice

When medical negligence rises to the level of malpractice, it usually involves one of the following situations.

  • A failure to diagnose properly. Misdiagnosing is a popular reason for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. When healthcare providers misread or overlook symptoms and fail to diagnose a serious illness or injury, their patients can hold them responsible for any additional suffering they endure because of their failure to provide a correct diagnosis.
  • A mistake with anesthesia. Patients undergoing certain medical procedures must be placed in an induced state of consciousness to prevent feeling pain. Anesthesiologists can sometimes fail to administer the correct dosage, leaving patients to feel every incision made and procedure performed, but unable to alert doctors and nurses to their pain.
  • An error with prescription medication. Sometimes doctors prescribe the wrong dosage of a medication, or the wrong medication entirely. Prescription mistakes are another leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Can you sue for medical negligence?

In most cases, victims of medical malpractice can sue and recover damages either through a settlement or court action. They can receive fair compensation for:

  • Loss of wages, including future earning capacity, if medical negligence caused a temporary or permanent disability.
  • Medical expenses, including doctor visits, therapy, prescription medications, and any anticipated future medical interventions.
  • Pain and suffering, including for both emotional and physical pain.

In New Mexico, claimants must file before the statute of limitations expires. New Mexico law states victims have three years from the date the medical negligence occurred to file for damages against doctors and other healthcare providers.

Next steps for victims of medical negligence

Victims may be reluctant to file a medical malpractice claim, especially if they feel their doctor or other healthcare practitioner made an honest mistake and did not mean to cause them harm. Discussing the circumstances of medical negligence can help victims decide whether to pursue legal action. Choosing an experienced personal injury lawyer experienced in medical malpractice can offer the best outcome. Bill Russell has represented injured people and their families successfully for years. Schedule a hassle-free consultation to discuss your case by calling 505-218-7844 or contact Bill online.

Slip and Fall? Follow These 5 Steps.

We would all like to think we are graceful and skilled enough to stay on our feet regardless of the conditions. The sad fact is, slips, trips, and falls account for the majority of injuries in the workplace and other public spaces.  Sometimes these unfortunate accidents are due to own carelessness. Other times, they happen thanks to the neglect of others who failed to keep publicly accessible areas well-maintained. From crumbling sidewalks to wet floors without posted warning signs, if someone else’s negligence contributed to your slip-and-fall accident, contacting a personal injury attorney is one of the first steps you must take to protect your rights.

How premises liability plays into slip-and-fall accidents

Premises liability dictates that buildings, homes, parking lots, walkways, and any other areas accessible to the public must be maintained to ensure safe travel. This means salting icing walkways and repairing uneven sidewalks or crumbling concrete stairs before someone falls on them. Property owners who fail to abide by premises liability laws in Albuquerque open themselves up to a personal injury lawsuit if someone slips, trips, or falls and suffers serious injuries. Victims of slip-and-fall accidents can seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It pays to make sure your property meets all safety standards to avoid this costly mistake.

If you are the victim of a slip-and-fall accident, you must take the following five steps to ensure the best possible outcome if you decide to file a personal injury claim against the property owner.

Slip-and-fall accidents can cause TBIs and other serious injuries.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment

Depending on the conditions that caused you to fall, you may have a simple wound like a sprained ankle or something more serious like a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Your priority is to receive medical care for your injuries before all else. In addition to receiving the proper medical treatment for your physical trauma, your medical provider also can document your injuries, which includes details about how they occurred. Your medical records play a vital part in a successful personal injury claim. Validating when – and how – the damage occurred is part of the evidence your personal injury attorney will need to file your claim.

Step 2: Call a Personal Injury Attorney

Once you are examined by a medical professional and your injuries are documented and treated, your next call should be to a personal injury attorney. Even if you are unsure yet whether you plan to sue, consulting a personal injury lawyer immediately as soon as possible is the best course of action. Personal injury attorneys experienced in premise liability can handle the complexities that come with proving your case. Bringing a skilled attorney on board early guarantees you the guidance needed to gather all documentation and information you will need to win damages in an out-of-court settlement or through a jury award if your case goes to court.

Step 3: Report Your Accident

It may seem like this should be the first step, but when you suffer injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, the most important thing is to receive prompt medical attention. Whether the incident happened while shopping at the grocery store or walking down a public sidewalk, you must alert the property owner about the incident. If the place where your slip-and-fall accident occurred is a public facility, ask the management for acknowledgment in writing that you reported your injuries to them and detailed how they happened.

Step 4: Gather Documentation

This is something your personal injury attorney can help you do. As a rule, you will want to gather the names, addresses, and contact information of all potential witnesses to your slip-and-fall accident. Another critical piece of evidence is photos of the scene of the accident. If you fell on a poorly maintained surface like an uneven sidewalk or crumbling staircase, taking photos of the area can help prove your case. Make sure you set aside the clothing and shoes you were wearing when you fell in case the property owner tries to claim that how you were dressed contributed to your accident. Write down as many details about what you were doing before you fell, including the date and time of your accident.

Step 5: Right to Remain Silent

The right to remain silent does not just apply to criminals. Victims of slip-and-fall accidents must decline to give any statements to the property owners or their representatives. Beyond notifying the property owner of your accident, victims are not obligated to speak to them further or provide any additional information. Unscrupulous property owners trying to cover their part in your slip-and-fall accident might try to trick you into taking on some of the blame. It is best to leave all official communication with the property owner to your personal injury attorney.

Working with an experienced slip-and-fall attorney

Working with a knowledgeable slip-and-fall lawyer offers the best outcome in your case. Bill Russell leverages his previous experience as an insurance agent specializing in property and casualty insurance to help victims of premises liability cases. Bill and his dedicated team can handle all the confusing paperwork, ensure filing deadlines are met and give victims the respect they deserve while handling their personal injury cases. Call 505-218-7844 or contact Bill online to schedule your free case revie

My Boss Fired Me After Getting Hurt

Getting hurt on the job is no laughing matter. One slip and fall or improperly functioning machine can leave you with debilitating injuries that affect your ability to work. Most states make it illegal to fire a worker who suffered a workplace injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. New Mexico is one of those states. Just because employers are not supposed to fire injured employees does not mean they cannot look for excuses to terminate. Workers who suspect they were fired because of pending litigation or workers’ compensation claims against their employer should contact an attorney skilled in workers’ compensation law immediately to ensure the protection of their rights.

What is employer retaliation?

Employers in New Mexico cannot retaliate against injured employees who seek benefits. Retaliation is defined by New Mexico rules and statutes as discharging, threatening to discharge, or engaging in other threatening or punitive behavior. Retaliation goes beyond termination in New Mexico. Other acts that fall into the realm of illegal discrimination when motivated by a worker engaging in their rights include:

  • Demoting employees to a less senior position within the company.
  • Issuing poor performance reviews.
  • Passing the employee over for promotions.
  • Reducing wages.
  • Undesirable reassignments, reclassifications, or transfers.
  • Unnecessary disciplinary action.
  • Unreasonable decrease or increase in assigned job duties.

Any acts of intimidation fall under the legal definition of employer retaliation. If you suspect you have become a target because of a pending workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit, reach out to your attorney immediately.

Why do employers retaliate?

Employers may be tempted to retaliate when employees file workers’ compensation claims because it impacts their bottom line. The more worker’s compensation claims filed the higher the employer’s insurance premiums rise. How do you know when an employer is striking back?

If an employee’s supervisors are angry over a workers’ compensation filing, they may take actions that seem punitive. That is one sign of retaliation. Another surefire indicator of retaliation is if an employer begins treating an employee differently after they file their claim. Lastly, the timing of changes in behavior toward an employee is the most telling hint of an employer hitting back.

How do you prove employer retaliation?

Some employers engage in retaliatory behavior because they know it can be difficult to prove. Very few employers who willfully violate the law readily admit to it because they know there are steep penalties when caught. When a company goes so far as to terminate an employee, a skilled workers’ compensation attorney must prove the following three things:

  1. The employee engaged in a protected activity (filing a workers’ compensation claim).
  2. The employee was fired after or during the same time the activity occurred.
  3. A causal link between the protected activity and the loss of the employee’s job.

Most courts rule in favor of employees when workers’ compensation claims and firings occur within the same time or with close temporal proximity.

Reporting workers’ compensation retaliation

When you report suspected retaliation for workers’ compensation claims to your attorney, he or she may suggest reporting the violation to the State of New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration. Your attorney may additionally suggest filing a lawsuit against your employer for violation of employment law, in addition to any personal injury claims resulting from the workplace incident. When employees can prove retaliatory behavior from employers, it increases the likelihood of punitive damages from the courts.

What to do next

If you suspect you were fired illegally, talk to the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Cameron and Russell. Attorney Bill Russell works hard to protect workers’ rights and has the experience and skills to successfully navigate a suspected retaliatory firing. To schedule your free consultation, call 505-218-7844 or contact us online.

I’ve been charged with harassment. Now what?

Knowingly annoying, alarming, or terrorizing another person regularly in a way that serves no lawful purpose is considered harassment under New Mexico law. Some people know exactly what they are doing when they act this way toward another person. It is their intent to upset the other individual or make them feel afraid. Other times, people may engage in harassment and not realize their actions rise to the level of criminal conduct until a police officer shows up on their doorsteps or they receive a summons in the mail.

What are the 3 types of harassment?

Harassment is classified into three categories. New Mexico law does not consider one type to be more serious than another. Harassing another person in any of these ways can earn you a visit from local law enforcement. Here are the three forms of harassment:

  • Verbal or written harassment is one of the most common forms. Some of these communications may fall within the legal definition of sexual harassment, especially if they are made while on the job. Emails with offensive jokes or graphic descriptions about race or religion and making derogatory comments about characteristics of individuals also is harassment. Repeated texts or phone calls demanding dates or sexual favors also fall into this category. Verbal or written threats to do bodily harm to someone also is harassment.  
  • Physical harassment can be more difficult to recognize since offenders engage in their behavior subtly as not to draw the attention of others. Lewd hand gestures, playing music with suggestive lyrics, unwanted touching, and following or standing too close to another person on purpose all fall into physical harassment territory. Physical harassment is not always sexual in nature. Hitting, pushing, and other aggressive behavior is classified as physical harassment regardless of the motive behind it.
  • Visual harassment can be even mor pervasive than physical harassment. It may include lewd or threatening hand gestures, showing someone pictures of a sexual or violent nature, or drawing derogatory or violent images.

When can you be charged with harassment?

Threatening physically harm another person or do damage to their property is enough to get a person investigated for harassment. If the victim has evidence that supports their harassment claim, the police may charge you. In New Mexico, harassment is a misdemeanor. Under some circumstances, harassment can be elevated to the level of a felony.

Sometimes offenders are not aware they have been charged with harassment until they receive a summons in the mail notifying them of the charges and a subsequent court date.

Are stalking and harassment the same thing?

No. In fact, the New Mexico legislature adopted a Harassment and Stalking Act (30-3A-2) in 2009 that differentiates between harassment and stalking. It is one of the few states that puts criminal harassment and stalking laws under separate statutes and penalties. Under the law, stalking is defined as knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct that is directed at a specific person and places them in reasonable fear of bodily harm, confinement, death, or sexual assault. Stalking is a misdemeanor for a first offense. Subsequent offenses or convictions are fourth degree felonies.

Harassment involves engaging in a pattern of conduct that annoys, alarms, or terrorizes another person without legal justification. To be considered harassment, the perpetrators actions must rise to the level of causing serious emotional distress to the victim.

It is quite possible to be charged with both harassment and stalking, depending on the nature of the allegations made against you.

Penalties for harassment convictions

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor count of harassment in New Mexico, you can face up to six months to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. When charged as a fourth-degree felony, harassment convictions carry the possibility of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Stiffer sentences are possible for perpetrators with criminal histories or a known pattern of engaging in harassing or stalking behaviors. Courts have the discretion of deferring prison sentences in favor of probation. A good criminal attorney can negotiate a plea agreement that includes probation instead of jail time.  

Respond quickly to harassment charges

Harassment is a serious crime. Not only can being charged with harassment impact a person legally, but it also can harm their personal and professional reputation. If you have been charged with harassment or even questioned by authorities about accusations of harassment, you should contact an attorney skilled in criminal law who can review your rights and responsibilities with you.

How to Spot Check Fraud

Schemes designed to defraud innocent people have become more elaborate in recent years. Technology advancements have made it easier for scammers to pretend to be from legitimate organizations – including government agencies – to win over the trust of consumers. Even when that number on your caller ID appears to be from the IRS, chances are, a con artist used technology to spoof the number and is eagerly waiting on the other end of the line to trick you out of your hard-earned money.

One of the oldest scams in the books is check fraud. They take many forms but check fraud schemes all have one goal in mind: to dupe unsuspecting victims into handing over their financial resources. The Federal Trade Commission received 2.2 million fraud reports from consumers in 2020. These consumers were tricked into giving up sensitive information like bank account numbers and passwords or cashing fake checks.

Trusting your gut is one of the best tools consumers have in protecting themselves against check fraud schemes. As a rule, if it seems too good to be true it probably is too good to be true. Here are some tips for spitting check fraud schemes before you fall victim to them, and what to do if you discover it is too late and you already were swindled.

Examples of common check fraud schemes

One of the most common check fraud schemes currently making the rounds involves advance payment or overpayment for products and services. A popular target for these scammers is businesses that sell products or services online. Let’s take an example of a social media consultant who receives a request for assistance from a prospective client. The person soliciting the request appears legitimate. They agree to sign a contract and begin work.

Since most consultants require an upfront deposit before work begins, the scammer offers to send it via check or money order overnight. The next day, the consultant receives a check for their services – only it is for double (or triple) the amount agreed upon with the client. When the consultant attempts to correct the mistake, the client asks them to go ahead and cash the check and just send them back a check for the difference, so they do not have to waste time and spend more money cutting you another check and paying to overnight it again.

Some people fall for this hook, line, and sinker. The check they were overnighted is fake. When they try to cash it, it will bounce. By then, it is probably too late since they already returned the “overpayment” to the customer.

Unsolicited check fraud is another version of this same scheme. You receive a check in the mail you were not expecting. It may resemble a rebate check or refund for overpayment. Signing a check like this could legally bind you to a contract with whoever sent the check. Scammers use this tactic to get unsuspecting consumers to authorize loans and memberships.

Check-cashing schemes are another form of check fraud. Scammers approach people and ask them to cash a check for them. They offer to sign it over to you, have you deposit it into your account, and then write them a check for the same amount from your account to them. The claim with this type of con is the person needs to cash the check but does not have an account at the bank.

Why do check fraud scams work?

There are several reasons why people fall victim to check fraud scams. One of the most common is thinking you are doing a kind deed for another person. This is how fraudsters pull off check-cashing schemes. They prey on the goodwill of others.

Another reason check fraud scams work is that businesses are eager to attract new customers. Small businesses are favorite targets of these kinds of scammers because many are looking to grow their brands and are willing to work with new people. Waving large checks in front of business owners who may be struggling to survive is tempting.

When check fraud schemers send cashier’s checks, victims are unlikely to question the validity. After all, the supposed benefit of cashier’s checks is they are guaranteed by a bank. Right? Wrong. Con artists have become quite skilled at imitating real cashier’s checks. They may look legitimate, but they are fake. It is a hard lesson victims learn when they try to cash it and hold the financial institution that supposedly issued it accountable when it ultimately bounces.

An example of an MICR line on a check.

How to detect a fake check

Fake checks are difficult to spot. Banks and other financial institutions process them regularly without spotting them. Scammers go to great lengths to pull off their heists. They often use the names and addresses of legitimate businesses and people – even other financial institutions – to trick people. In some instances, they may be real checks that belong to accounts of identity theft victims. It can, unfortunately, take banks and other financial institutions weeks to sort out check fraud. The money may immediately show as available in your bank account, but once financial institutions realize it is fake, they can withdraw it from your account, leaving you holding the bag.

There are some features on fake checks that can help give them away:

  • Bank addresses and logos. All legitimate financial institutions have street addresses. If the check you are holding has a P.O. box number, that is a huge red flag. If you are unsure, contact the supposed issuing bank to verify the information on the check is legitimate. Bank logos can be faked on checks, but when they are, they often appear faded or blurry from being copied from an online source.
  • Edges. Most legitimate checks have at least one perforated (rough) edge. When all edges of the check are smooth, that is a tell-tale sign it was printed from a home computer.
  • Check number. If the check is missing a number in the top right-hand corner, it is fake. Another sign of illegitimacy is if the number appearing in the top right-hand corner does not match the MICR line. The MICR line is the string of numbers across the bottom of the check. The last four digits should match the number at the top of the check.
  • Check amount. Checks that are less than $5,000 are popular among thieves because federal rules require deposits under that amount to be available within five days to the person depositing the check.
  • Routing numbers. At the bottom of every check in the MICR line is the issuing bank’s routing number. Legitimate routing numbers have nine digits. You can verify routing numbers on the Federal Reserve Financial Services website.

How to report a fake check

If you suspect you received a fake check or someone is trying to get you to cash a check you believe to be false, immediately contact your local authorities. You also can report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. If the check was sent via the U.S. Postal Service, inform the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 800-275-8777 or notify them online. Lastly, if the scammer contacted you online, file a complaint at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Check fraud is a serious crime. If you face charges for check fraud, reach out to the team at Cameron and Russell to schedule a free consultation.

How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

No one likes to think about what they would do if a loved one was taken from them because of another person’s reckless or negligent behavior. Wrongful death lawsuits exist to help families of victims recover fair compensation for damages. Survivors have the right to recover damages for:

  • Emotional suffering.
  • Funeral expenses.
  • Loss of companionship.
  • Lost wages and financial support.
  • Medical bills.

A wrongful death lawsuit cannot bring back your loved one, but it can ensure survivors are not left financially distressed because of someone else’s carelessness.

There are several steps involved in filing a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico. When followed, these steps help secure the deceased person’s estate and provide fair compensation to surviving family members. An experienced wrongful death attorney can lead you through each of these steps, settling out of court when possible, or fighting for your rights in a court of law if necessary.

Step 1: Determine whether negligence occurred

The first step any seasoned wrongful death lawsuit attorney will take is to determine whether negligence occurred. Your lawyer will review all aspects of the case, including collecting evidence from the scene of the accident and talking with witnesses. For accidents that included a police investigation, your attorney may request copies of all documents and reports related to the incident. Sometimes police investigators posit blame, especially if the death happened during a motor vehicle accident. If your attorney has enough evidence to determine negligence, he or she will then proceed to step 2, which is to gather evidence to support your case.

Step 2: Gather evidence

Gathering evidence to support a wrongful death lawsuit is critical to the success of the case. Experienced attorneys look for documents that can prove what happened, who was liable, and damages suffered by the victims. Here are some of the types of evidence your attorney will seek:

  • Death certificate. A certified record of the victim’s cause of death, this document can support claims about how your loved one died. The New Mexico Department of Health’s Vital Records office issues death certificates on request.
  • Medical records. A victim’s official health records can indicate their cause of death and treatment received for any injuries sustained because of someone else’s negligence. In cases of medical malpractice, a victim’s medical records are a step-by-step guide to their prior health, plus any treatments medical professionals used that may have contributed to their death. Medical records include, but are not limited to, consultation records, evaluations, healthcare team notes, prescription medication, and medical treatments.
  • Pay stubs and tax returns. Financial accounting is important for determining damages for surviving spouses and children. If the victim was the primary wage earner for the household, this documentation is evidence of the amount of compensation owed to survivors.
  • Physical evidence. Anything from the accident scene that supports a claim of negligence is considered physical evidence in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Police and autopsy reports. When police are called to an accident scene, they must produce an official report detailing their investigation. Their findings can support wrongful death claims by establishing negligence and providing a clear narrative of the events. Police reports also list witnesses. Your attorney can use that information to find potential witnesses for a lawsuit. An autopsy, like a death certificate, lists the victim’s official cause of death.
  • Witness statements. Witnesses help present a clear picture of the events leading up to the victim’s death. They also may be valuable in providing witness testimony in court should your case go to trial.

Step 3: File a summons ad service of process

Once your attorney has gathered all the evidence needed to support a wrongful death lawsuit claim, the next step is to file a summons. The purpose of a summons is to notify the defendant of your intent to sue for wrongful death. A summons also provides details about where and when the legal proceedings will be held.

After the summons is issued, a service of process happens next. This step essentially puts the defendant and their legal counsel on notice that you are preceding with a lawsuit against them.  

Step 4: Negotiate a settlement

When possible, wrongful death attorneys prefer to negotiate a settlement for their clients. Trials can be long and emotionally taxing for survivors of the victim. If your attorney has compiled a strong enough case against the defendant, it increases the chances of settling before court proceedings begin. It is in the best interest of the defendant to avoid a lengthy, public trial. In cases where the defendant is a company or other business entity, settlements appeal to their legal counsel to avoid dragging their clients’ names through the mud during a public hearing.

Even if you do not settle by your court date, it is not too late to reach an agreement. Sometimes defending parties wait until a trial starts to weigh their chances. If their legal counsel does not feel like the case is going in their favor, they may suggest a settlement before a jury or judge can rule on the case.

Choosing a wrongful death attorney

Bill Russell goes to bat for families of victims killed because of someone else’s negligence. He has represented injured people and their families for years throughout Mexico. He has the experience and the compassion necessary to help bring a successful outcome to any wrongful death lawsuit. Call 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

Call Cameron & Russell for a Free Case Evaluation

Bill Russell and Marcus Cameron are the faces behind Cameron & Russell. We go the extra mile for our clients to pursue personal injury claims and provide criminal defense. We approach every case with a fresh eye to detail and the determination to represent our clients to the fullest extent the law allows. We passionately defend clients facing criminal charges, and relentlessly seek out fair compensation for personal injury claims. No matter your situation, we promise to tirelessly represent your legal needs. 

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