I Can’t Drive My Car. Now What?

Getting into an automobile accident can leave you with debilitating injuries. It’s easy to focus on receiving compensation for lost wages and your pain and suffering since they are immediate needs. Don’t forget about recouping the loss of your vehicle.

It may be weeks or even months before you can drive again, so the condition of your vehicle (and whether it’s a complete loss or can be repaired) may be the furthest thing from your mind. Waiting to act can leave you stranded without transportation.

Property damage liability for car accidents

Automobile insurance providers require property damage liability coverage. It pays for any damages to another person’s property when you’re involved in an accident. Other vehicles, homes, fences, and any personal property inside the vehicle at the time of the accident are included under property damage liability insurance.

Sometimes the insurance payout doesn’t adequately cover all damage costs. When that happens, you can sue for the balance.

rear-end car crash with two cars on the highway
When the at-fault party’s property damage liability coverage falls short of covering your damages, a property damage liability claim can help recoup the balance.

Property damage liability vs. collision coverage

There’s a difference between property damage liability and collision coverage for automobiles. Property damage liability pays for repairs when you destroy someone else’s property. Collison coverage pays to repair your vehicle (after the deductible) if you’re the at-fault party or the other driver doesn’t have insurance coverage.

Auto insurance requirements in New Mexico dictate that all drivers must carry insurance coverage while behind the wheel. New Mexico has minimum auto liability insurance amounts:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person. 
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons. 
  • $10,000 for property damage in any one accident. 

Additional coverage for physical damage is available and advisable if you have a newer vehicle. Insurance agents can best advise on how much coverage is needed. Keep in mind that just because you’re well-insured doesn’t mean the at-fault driver in the crash carries the same coverage. That’s when it’s time to consult an attorney skilled in property damage liability cases.

Property damage claims vs. personal injury claims

Some accident victims mistakenly assume that a personal injury claim covers the loss of their vehicle. Not true. The only commonality between personal injury and property damage claims is that they often come from the same incident. However, they require very different courses of legal action to recoup your losses.

Personal injury claims address things like medical treatment for your injuries and any ongoing care required to fully recover. They also can seek reimbursement for lost wages and fair compensation for your pain and suffering.

Property damage claims strictly cover damage to your property, including your vehicle and any personal effects inside that were destroyed during the accident.

Not all attorneys handle property damage claims. At Cameron & Russell, our attorneys are skilled in both personal injury and property damage lawsuits. We can ensure you’re fully covered on both fronts if a lawsuit becomes necessary.

Finding a replacement vehicle can be a nightmare in today’s market. Used cars are going for 40% more than just two years ago.

Property damage claims: four factors

If you’ve decided to consult with an attorney about recouping the difference between the damage amount and what the insurance pays, there are four factors your attorney considers when preparing your car accident property damage claim.

Your vehicle’s diminished value

When you’re involved in an accident – even when someone else is at fault – your vehicle loses value. All accidents reported to insurance companies and police departments are added to your CARFAX history report. Your vehicle is worth less at resale or trade-in time thanks to someone else’s carelessness. You can recoup those costs as part of a property damage claim.  

Your loss of use costs

Losing the use of your vehicle might be the furthest thing from your mind after an accident, especially if you have serious injuries. You’re unlikely to think about it until you need reliable transportation and don’t have it. Some families only have one vehicle, so loss of use can be devastating.

A competent property damage attorney can include loss of use costs into a claim against the at-fault driver. The sooner action is taken, the better the outcome.

Your total repair costs

If the insurance company doesn’t deem your vehicle a total loss, it may offer a settlement amount for making repairs. Oftentimes, the sum they suggest doesn’t cover the cost of all repairs. The last thing you need is to pay the balance when someone else was at fault for the damages.

Never pay out of pocket when this happens. Experienced property damage liability attorneys know how to go after the responsible party for the difference.

Your total loss value

One of the worst things that can happen is to have a vehicle end up a total loss after an accident. Then, you’re stuck trying to find a replacement. Insurance companies may not pay for the full value of your car. Even if they do, it still may not be enough to find a suitable replacement in today’s marketplace,  where the value of used cars has jumped more than 40 percent.

Filing a car accident property damage claim is your best recourse. Your attorney can negotiate a higher settlement to ensure you don’t have to pay out of pocket to replace your damaged property.

Rely on the personal injury experts

Not many personal injury law attorneys bother with advising their clients about the importance of addressing the damage to their vehicles during case consultations. Some don’t see it as worth their effort because it’s not a money-making service.

Bill Russell cares about his clients and wants to ensure they have all the help they need following a car accident.

Tis the Season for Slip and Falls

Ho, ho, ho and a merry slipmas to you! Slips and falls can be a hazard any time of the year. Extra diligence is required during the month of December in Albuquerque, with declining temperatures that can dip near the freezing mark during the overnights and early mornings. Wet surfaces that already were slippery become even more dangerous in colder temperatures. Streets, sidewalks, and exterior stairways can become covered in ice or snow, making even the shortest trip a potential disaster for pedestrians.

Why do so many people slip and fall in the winter?

Cold, ice, and snow are the trifecta of wintry slip-and-falls. Unintentional falling is the leading cause of nonfatal injury in the U.S. among all age groups except those aged 10-24, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The cold weather does not just make surfaces more slippery than usual. It encourages people to move more quickly to get in out of the cold weather. Walking briskly (or even breaking into a light jog) is not the best approach to winter weather in Albuquerque. Moving faster might get you nothing but flat on your back on a sidewalk or the bottom of the stairs during the winter months.

Lastly, people do not always dress appropriately for the slicker surfaces. Wearing dress shoes for the office can be a big mistake on snowy or colder days when wet surfaces might freeze.

Bone fractures are a common slip-and-fall injury in the wintertime.

What types of injuries can happen from winter slips and falls?

Slips and falls are dangerous no matter the time of year they occur. Injuries can range between mild and severe, with some requiring an immediate trip to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Here are some of the most common types of injuries that can happen from wintertime slips and falls.

  1. Concussions
    Hitting your head is always a risk anytime you fall. Concussions – a type of brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head – are among the most serious injuries you can get from a slip and fall accident. Some of the warning signs you have suffered a head injury that caused a concussion include balance issues, confusion, dizziness, double or blurry vision, forgetfulness, headache or head pressure, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  2. Fractures
    A partial or complete break in the bone is called a fracture. Wrists and ankles are common victims of wintertime slips and falls. Some of the common signs of a bone fracture include bruising, pain around the affected area, and swelling. Other tell-tale warnings being unable to move the injured area or put weight on it.
  3. Sprains and strains
    When a part of a ligament is torn or stretched, it causes a sprain. Twisting your ankle while walking too quickly on an icy surface can cause a sprain. Strains happen when muscles near the band of tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone becomes injured. Some signs of a strain or sprain include bruising, limited movement in the affected area, pain, and swelling.

Fatal slip and falls can happen under the right circumstances. Slipping on an icy sidewalk and falling into moving traffic or hitting your head can increase your chances of dying from a wintertime slip or fall.

Tips to prevent wintertime slips and falls for property owners

Property owners are liable for any injuries that occur on their premises. This includes slips and falls on icy or snowy sidewalks, stairs, and other surfaces. One of the most important steps property owners can take is to have a snow and ice removal plan in place for sidewalks, stairways, parking areas, and around any other public exterior spaces.

Other steps property owners can take:

  • Check gutters and downspouts to ensure they do not empty onto walkways or parking areas. Puddles can easily freeze in the right temperatures, creating a slipping hazard.
  • Maintain adequate lighting in exterior areas to help visitors more easily identify problem spots. Commercial LED lighting is the best bet for providing ample illumination without running up your electric bill.
  • Quickly clean up exterior spills. Just like dripping water from downspouts and gutters can create an icy mess, so can other liquid spills that are left unattended.

Slip avoidance tips for individuals

The onus to stay slip-and-fall free during the winter months is not only on property owners. You have a duty to ensure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself while out and about. Here are some things you can do to stay steady on your feet out there.

  • Avoid obvious slippery surfaces, including ice and snow-covered sidewalks and stairways.
  • Beware of changes in walking surfaces and proceed with caution during inclement weather.
  • Clean your shoes upon entering a building because caked snow can create slippery, wet floors for you and others.
  • Use handrails on stairways and walkways when provided.
  • Wear appropriate, slip-resistant footwear (boots with ridged or textured soles work best).
  • Walk slowly and as flat-footed as possible.

Seeking compensation for slip and fall injuries

New Mexico leads the nation in deaths and unintentional injuries suffered during slip and fall accidents. The Law Offices of Cameron & Russell help victims pursue fair compensation for slip-and-fall injuries that happen during the winter months or any time of the year. Schedule a free consultation with our skilled team of personal injury lawyers by calling 505-218-7844 or contacting us online.

How Defective Tires Lead to Product Liability Claims

Defective tires cause roughly 11,000 automobile accidents each year on our nation’s roadways. Tire blowouts happen more frequently than you may think. When they do, they can cause serious injury and even death. With Americans gearing up for a busy summer of holiday travel, it is important to focus on tire safety measures to protect their loved ones.

What is a defective tire?

Tires that have a design or manufacturing defect are neither safe nor reliable. Defective tires can and do fail. When that happens, they lose air pressure without warning, which can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. If you are traveling at a high enough rate of speed when your tires fail, your chances of having a rollover accident increase.

Some of the most common tire defects include:

  • Damage during the mounting process. When you have new tires put on your vehicle, or they are put on at the car at the assembly line, they are balanced and mounted. This process ensures the tires operate safely by distributing the weight of the tires evenly. Failure to do this process properly will make your tires wear more quickly and cause your vehicle to vibrate at speeds higher than 45 mph.
  • Improper puncture repair. If you took your vehicle to a repair shop for a tire patch and the technicians failed to repair it properly or tried to patch it when it should have been replaced, that can make your tire defective.
  • Retread failure. Retreading a tire involves reusing casing from worn tires to produce new tread. While they can save you money, retreaded tires have a 3 percent failure rate.
  • Tread and steel belt separation. This is the most common type of tire failure. With this design, tire manufacturers wrap two steel belts around the tire. The tire tread is intended to adhere to the belts. The entire assembly is then bonded to the sidewalls of the tire. If this process is done incorrectly, your tread will separate from your steel belt while you are operating the vehicle. This can lead to a loss of control of your steering.

How do you know if your tires are defective?

There often are warning signs that the tires on your vehicle are not safe. Vehicle owners should visually inspect their tires regularly, as well as have them professionally inspected at least once annually. Some of the warning signs your tires are unsafe include:

  • Bulging or blistering on the sidewall signals tire weakness.
  • Cracking or cuts in the sidewalls.
  • Excessive vibration is a sign of wheel misalignment, unbalancing, or a bent rim.
  • Even tread wear can mean your tires are improperly inflated, your wheels are out of alignment, or there is a problem with your suspension.

These are only a few of the warning signs your tires may be an accident waiting to happen. Having your vehicle routinely inspected by a professional is the best way to ensure its safety. If you suspect anything is amiss, do not wait. Take it to a mechanic immediately for evaluation.

Injuries from defective tires and tire blowouts

Tire failure creates a dangerous situation on the roadways. When the tire that is failing is on a big rig, that increases the likelihood of injury and death. Traffic on major roadways travels at high rates of speed. Rollovers can happen, making injuries suffered more severe. Here are some of the common injuries experienced due to defective tires:

  • Broken bones
  • Loss of limbs
  • Paralysis and other spinal cord injuries
  • Punctured organs
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Vision loss

These types of injuries can leave you with staggering medical bills and permanent disability that affects your ability to live independently or earn a living. You have a right to pursue legal action against responsible parties to recover present and future financial losses plus pain and suffering.

Who is liable for accidents caused by defective tires?

Tires shops and the entire supply chain in the tire manufacturing and distribution process are liable if defective tires are placed on a consumer’s vehicle. Design flaws or other manufacturing mistakes can make tires unsafe for the vehicle’s operator and everyone else on the roadways with them.

If you suspect the tires on your motor vehicle are poorly designed or have other manufacturing defects, report it to the vehicle or tire manufacturer immediately. Allow them to rectify the situation. If they fail to do so, and you are injured in a vehicle accident caused by defective tires, you have legal recourse. Defective tires fall under product liability law, meaning you are entitled to fair compensation for injuries suffered because of poor product design or repair. If a loved one is killed in an accident because of faulty tires, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Reach out to the experienced personal injury lawyers at The Law Offices of Cameron & Russell. We can evaluate your case to determine the best course of action. Call us at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation.

white-collar crime, criminal defense

Charged with a White-Collar Crime: Now What?

White-collar crime cases are serious and should be given the weight they deserve. Oftentimes, people joke that those accused and convicted of white-collar crimes are sentenced to resort-style “prisons” to serve out their terms in style. This is not an accurate depiction of what can happen if you are charged with a white-collar crime. Most white-collar crimes are federal offenses with the potential for hefty fines and prison sentences (in real prisons) as just two of the consequences. Protecting yourself against a charge of white-collar crime requires the guidance and expertise of a criminal attorney who specializes in white-collar criminal defense.

So, what happens if you are accused of committing a white-collar crime? Taking the right steps from the moment you learn you are under suspicion can make all the difference in the outcome.

money laundering, white-collar crime

What are some white-collar crime examples?

White-collar crime often is confused with corporate crime. While both are non-violent crimes related to financial activity, that is where the similarity ends. The key differences come down to two factors: who benefits from the crime and who pays for it.

With white-collar crimes, it is usually an individual who both benefits from the crime and who will be held criminally liable for its commission if caught. We will use the example of an accountant who decides to start skimming a little bit off the top from his clients to line his pockets. This is called embezzling. The only person profiting from the crime is the accountant. If he chooses to give some of the stolen funds to other people, prosecutors must prove the recipients knew the money was obtained illegally before they could be held accountable. In the end, if the accountant is caught, he will bear the full brunt of responsibility.

Corporate crime is quite different. While it also takes place in a business setting, the perpetrators of the crime and who pays for it may be two different entities. Let’s take the case of insider trading, which involves buying or selling stocks based on company information not known to the public. An employee with the knowledge that a product their company produces is about to be recalled could sell off their stock before prices plummet, preventing personal financial disaster. In this instance, the employee is both benefiting from the crime and paying for it if caught. Another example would be a chemical company accidentally releasing toxic gas near a populated city, then actively taking steps to cover up their crime. In this case, the company and any company executives or officials involved with the decision to hide these details is culpable.

How is white-collar crime investigated?

As previously mentioned, most white-collar crimes fall under federal jurisdiction. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handles any cases the fall under the descriptor. This can include (but is not limited to) public corruption, money laundering, corporate fraud, securities and commodities fraud, mortgage fraud, financial institution fraud, bank fraud and embezzlement, and fraud against the government.

Once a case is turned over to the FBI, there is a process it follows to fully investigate if a crime has occurred. With other criminal cases, an investigation usually begins after an arrest is made. This is not protocol for white-collar crime cases. What usually starts the ball rolling is an accusation of misconduct.  Before an arrest, the FBI may take the following steps to build a case:

  • Subpoenaing bank or other financial records.
  • Executing search warrants at a suspect’s home or place of business.
  • Monitoring devices, including landline phones, mobile phones, and other digital modes of communicating.
  • Interviewing alleged victims.
  • Coordinating with other agencies (IRS, FDA, DHS) to compile and review documentation related to the alleged crime.

Once the FBI has enough evidence to support charges, an arrest will follow. Charges typically are filed within the federal court system, with U.S. prosecutors in charge of the case. As a rule, prosecutors must prove there was an agreement to perform an illegal act and that the act was performed.

What is the most common defense against white-collar crime charges?

There is not a cookie-cutter defense strategy that works for every white-collar crime defense. Intent plays a huge role in how your criminal defense attorney approaches your case. For instance, a person who makes a significant mistake on their tax filing – albeit unintentional – is likely to have a better angle for defense than someone who knowingly committed tax fraud.

Entrapment is an effective method for defending against some white-collar criminal charges. This goes back to what was mentioned earlier about an investigation occurring before an arrest with white-collar crime cases. This can backfire on law enforcement if they rely on any kind of sting operation to try to catch the suspect “in the act.” If anyone involved with a sting operation compels the target of the investigation to act criminally, that is entrapment.

What is the most common punishment for white-collar crime?

Punishment depends on the severity of the crime and the number of victims. While white-collar crime does not involve physical harm to victims, it does cause significant financial harm to victims. Juries and courts weigh the extent of the financial (and emotional) damage to victims when handing down a sentence. Some of the most common punishments include:

  • Federal prison
  • Probation and supervised release
  • House arrest/electronic monitoring
  • Fines
  • Restitution

Regardless of which sentence you receive if convicted of a white-collar crime, there are lasting consequences. Felony convictions can ban you from ever doing business with a government entity in the future. You also will lose your right to vote and cannot legally own firearms. It also precludes you from ever holding a federal office or receiving federal benefits. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is why it is important to choose legal representation by a high-skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.

Choosing a white-collar crime attorney

If you are accused of committing a white-collar crime, it goes without saying you will need a top-notch attorney with experience in handling such charges. Marcus Cameron has the knowledge and experience necessary to obtain the best possible outcome for clients accused of white-collar crimes. Call 505-218-7844 or send us a request online to schedule a no-obligation consultation with Marcus today.

Workplace injuries

Top 7 Workers’ Compensation Questions

Whether you are an employee or an employer in Albuquerque, it is important to understand how workers’ compensation laws work in New Mexico. For employers, workers’ compensation helps protect your business in the event employees are hurt while on the job. This can include injuries sustained from operating equipment required for their daily tasks, or involvement in an accident while making deliveries for your company. Here are 7 of the most frequently asked workers’ compensation insurance questions and what you can do if you are hurt on the job and having difficulty securing benefits.

  1. What is workers’ compensation?
    Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance employers can secure to protect their businesses and their employees. It protects against financial loss for both employer and employee should an employee get hurt on the job or become ill due to a work-related cause. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, work-related injuries are up by 2 percent. The total number of employer-reported injury and illness rate was 2.8 cases per 100 employees in the most recent data from BLS. Having adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage is a must.
  2. What does worker’s compensation cover?
    When an employee is injured on the job or suffers a work-related illness, workers’ compensation can cover the costs of medical expenses, lost wages, and any costs associated with ongoing care and recovery. In the event an employee is killed on the job, workers’ compensation covers funeral expenses and may cover any damages from a lawsuit if the employees’ surviving family members pursue legal action.
  3. What is not covered by workers’ compensation insurance?
    Some situations would not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance and vary by state. Injuries sustained from a fight that was instigated by the employee are not covered by most workers’ compensation insurance plans. If an employee is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs while on the job, any injuries they suffer due to their altered state are not included in workers’ compensation coverage.
  4. Who pays for workers’ compensation benefits?
    In New Mexico, every employer with three or more employees must provide workers’ compensation coverage to employees. There are some exemptions:

    – Workers with employers licensed under the New Mexico Construction Industries Licensing Act.
    – Household workers
    – Real estate agents
    – Agricultural laborers

    Workers’ compensation insurance coverage costs depend on the unique risks of each business. The size of the business, the type of work employees performs, and state laws all factor into the total cost of workers’ compensation insurance. Employees are not responsible for paying for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer must cover all costs associated with workers’ compensation.
  5. What should employees do if they are hurt on the job?
    The first thing an employee should do if they are hurt on the job or suffer a work-related illness is to notify their supervisor as soon as possible. The report should include the date, time, and description of how the injury happened. New Mexico law requires employees who are injured on the job or who suffer a work-related illness to notify their employer within 15 days. If circumstances prevent notification within that period, it may be extended to 60 days. An example would be if an injury is serious enough to hospitalize the employee with injuries that prevented communication with their employer.
  6. How do you file a workers’ compensation claim?
    Employers have a responsibility to file a workers’ compensation claim with their insurance provider as soon as an employee reports a work-related illness or injury. Depending on the type of injury, the employee may require immediate medical attention, which can include calling an ambulance or providing them with transportation to a hospital or medical provider. If an injury or illness requires time off from work, an employer will need to approve it as paid time off. Employers must gather certain information necessary for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It can include (but is not limited to) details of the incident and personal information about the employee who was injured.
  7. What if workers’ compensation does not cover all the costs associated with the illness or injury?
    Sometimes workers’ compensation insurance coverage is inadequate or limited. Other times, the ongoing treatment required for recovery exceeds the coverage. For workers who suffer a permanent disability that prevents them from returning to work, additional compensation may be necessary. When the workers’ compensation insurance coverage is insufficient, workers have the option of filing a third-party negligence lawsuit to recover the additional costs associated with their illness or injury.  Consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable in workers’ compensation insurance law is the best course of action. Bill Russell has extensive experience in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases and can work with employees to ensure they get the compensation they deserve. Reach out to him today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

Truck Driving, Truck Crash

The Harsh Truth About Truck Crashes
(And why commercial drivers are held to higher standards)

The statistics on truck crashes in New Mexico are alarming. According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s annual crash report, heavy trucks were involved in 2,939 crashes. Of those, 56 involved fatalities. In fact, the state is number three in the nation for dangerous driving, with approximately 52 deadly crashes per 100,000 drivers. New Mexico is surpassed in the number of reckless drivers only by Texas and Mississippi. That is not a point of distinction in which most residents take pride.

New Mexico is home to some of the busiest highways in the nation. Interstates 25 and 40 are among the quickest and most direct routes from New Mexico to California. Where these two roadways intersect is known by locals as the “Big I,” which is not a positive connotation. This crossroads is notorious for having some of the most frequent and severe crashes in the state. These roadways are dangerous enough without adding in distracted or speeding drivers, or those under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Contributing factors in truck crashes

Most commercial truck drivers who must travel to California do so by way of New Mexico. The familiarity with the state does not decrease the odds of being involved in a traffic crash while traveling on its roadways. On I-25 and I-40, there are many long and lonely miles with very few rest stops for truckers. Add in these contributing factors, and it can spell disaster:

  • Distracted drivers are responsible for crashes that cause serious injuries deaths each year. The latest figures available for New Mexico attribute 167 fatalities to distracted driving and more than 21,000 crashes. Distracted driving is not just about texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel. It can include setting your navigation system, finding a radio station, and eating food or drinking beverages.
  • Fatigue is another issue that can plague truck drivers when they are behind the wheel. Federal regulations, known as Hours of Service, dictate when commercial drivers must rest and take breaks.
  • Unfamiliar roadways can complicate driving a big rig. Even drivers who are using a GPS system to help them navigate can become confused. GPS systems also can lead to distracted driving.
  • Speeding is a contributing factor in many vehicle accidents in New Mexico, and not just the ones involving trucks. The state is unique in that it does not force a lower speed limit for tractor-trailers on roadways. The heavier the truck, the more difficult it is to stop quickly when traveling at high speeds.
  • Weather changes frequently in New Mexico. One minute it can be hot with the sun glaring through your windshield, and the next it can be stormy with flash flooding.

Higher standards, harsher penalties

Commercial drivers are held to higher standards when it comes to safety on the roadways. Additional skills and expertise are needed to operate big rigs. Truck drivers are expected to strictly adhere to federal safety regulations dictating when they must take breaks from driving. If they are caught violating federal safety standards, the penalties are severe. It is not just the drivers who are accountable when crashes occur. Drivers (and their trucks) can be placed on lockdown and they may face fines from local and state law enforcement. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also can levy civil penalties on a driver or carrier from $1,000 to $11,000, depending on the severity of the incident. Trucking companies and shippers who have hired independent owner-operator truck drivers to move their freight are financially and legally responsible as well, especially if failure to follow guidelines causes an accident.

There are some rules truck drivers must follow regardless of whether the state they are traveling through has similar laws on the books. For example, the FMCSA does not permit commercial drivers to use a cell phone while driving. Only wireless Bluetooth earpieces can be used while a truck is in operation. Some commercial trucking companies go so far as to require drivers to submit to regular alcohol and drug screenings.

Truck drivers are not always at fault in an accident. However, they are scrutinized more closely due to federal regulations. In addition to losing their commercial license for infractions, they also can be personally liable for any injuries or property damage caused due to negligence or failure to follow federal safety guidelines.

How is fault determined in a truck crash?

Whether you are a commercial driver involved in an accident or an injured party, determining fault is crucial if legal action is pursued. Commercial trucking companies can leverage a multitude of resources to defend against personal injury lawsuits involving their drivers. Independent owner-operators may not have that advantage.

Police reports and any citations issued at the scene of an accident carry the most weight when assigning fault in a truck crash. On-scene police investigators conduct an official investigation which can include talking to witnesses and all parties involved. Sometimes blame is obvious and due to factors like excessive speed or driving under the influence. Reports from insurance adjusters also are factored into the decision.

Choosing the right representation

Choosing the right representation can make all the difference in your truck crash case in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whether you are a driver who needs to defend against charges after an accident, or a victim who was injured, Cameron & Russell can help. We have extensive experience in both criminal defense and personal injury. Give us a call at 505-218-7844 or drop us a line and a member of our team can schedule your no-obligation consultation.

Zoom meeting

Zoom Lawyering 101: Avoiding the (Cat Face) Pitfalls

It was the meow heard round the world. By now, we have all heard about the unfortunate incident involving a Texas lawyer who showed up for court via Zoom looking like a cat. Unbeknownst to the attorney, the laptop he borrowed for his Zoom court appearance had a filter turned on that morphed him into a cat. He had no clue how to make it stop, forcing him to make his formal announcement on a case in the 394th looking like a kitty.

At least the judge presiding over the case had a sense of humor about the situation. He tried talking the attorney through the process of removing the filter that was making him look like a fluffy, cuddly kitty to no avail. When that was unsuccessful, the judge tweeted about the incident, advising lawyers how to make sure they put their best face forward in the Zoom courtroom.

Zoom and other video conferencing tools have boomed since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to conduct business differently. The technology is a great resource for helping with due process, but it is not without pitfalls. While some in-person court appearances have begun resuming, others still are conducted via video conferencing as the need arises. Knowing how to conduct yourself online – and where the “filter off” button is – can save you from making an embarrassing gaffe during your next virtual court appearance. Here are some guidelines that can help.

Mute that microphone

Unmuting is the new “reply all” of video conferencing. It is one of the quickest ways to embarrass yourself if you are unaware you have a hot mic. Most video conferencing tools allow participants to turn off their microphones. Some even make it the default, forcing you to manually turn it on when you are ready to speak to others on the call. Going one step further and turning off the video also is an option. If you are presenting in virtual court and the judge requires the video to be on, then you can turn it on when it is your turn to speak. If you are unsure how to adjust these settings, here are some quick tips on how to do it.

Zoom makes it easy to control your camera and microphone. Once you are logged in to your account, go to Settings > Audio > Mute Microphone and Settings > Video > Turn Off Camera when joining the meeting. Once you are in the meeting, you will see a microphone and video icon at the bottom of your screen that allows you to easily turn them on or off as needed during the live video conference.

Zoom meeting, cat zoom filter
Judge Roy Ferguson had a little fun with the “cat-faced lawyer” on Twitter following the filter gaffe.

Select a virtual background

With more people conducting business from their homes these days, there is always a question about what is showing up in your background while on camera. If you wish to protect your privacy – or just hide your messy workspace – Zoom has a great feature called Virtual Background. Zoom provides a few pre-loaded options to use. You also can upload your photos. Using a free photo service like Pixabay or Pexels can help you locate appropriate background photos for uploading. We recommend sticking with photos that are not “too busy” to cut down on pixilation issues. You want the background to look natural without going overboard.

To access the virtual background feature, go to Settings > Virtual Background and then choose a pre-set background or upload your own. Then you click on the background you prefer and – voila! – your personal space is instantly transformed into however you want it to look to others on the call.

Using filters the right way

It is important to note that the unfortunate cat lawyer look was not due to a filter within Zoom. It was a separate filter installed on the laptop the attorney had borrowed. That is why when the judge was trying to walk the attorney through the process of turning off filters within Zoom, it was not resolving the issue.

Zoom offers filters if you wish to use them. They can come in handy if you are not confident with your appearance on camera for any reason. If you would like to give Zoom’s filter feature a go, here is how to access it. When you are in a live meeting, you will see an up arrow next to the “Start Video” option on your screen. Click the up arrow, and then select Video Settings. Under My Video, you will see a box that says, “Touch Up My Appearance.” Check that box and Zoom will automatically adjust the way you appear on the screen.

Zoom Screen Share
Zoom allows you to share your screen with other participants.

Sharing your screen

This is a helpful feature that allows Zoom participants to show others on the call what is displaying on their computer screens. In a virtual court scenario, it could be used to present documentary evidence. It makes it much easier for all participants if they can view the documentation as displayed on your screen.

Sharing your screen is easy in Zoom. At the bottom of your display, you will see a green button with an up arrow that says, “Share Screen.” Once you click on the button, you will be given the choice to share your entire monitor or just one open window or program. Select whichever option is most appropriate. If you will be going back and forth between different documents, it is recommended to share your monitor for ease of use for all participants.

Once you are finished sharing your screen, be sure to click the same button again at the bottom of your screen. This time, it will say, “Stop Sharing.” Be advised that if you fail to stop sharing, your screen will continue to be visible to all participants, which opens its risks of embarrassment in front of your legal peers.

Recording the session

Zoom allows participants to record the session for use later. You can record it and download it directly to your computer or the cloud. There are some limitations to this feature. Recording only works on a desktop or laptop, not mobile devices like cell phones. Recording to the cloud is only available to premium Zoom customers.

Another limitation with this feature is the meeting host can restrict the ability of other participants to record without first asking for permission. If you try to record the meeting and the host has restricted it, you will see a pop-up notice saying you must “click here” to request permission from the meeting host to record. Keep in mind the host can deny your request to record.

A final word on legal Zooming

These are just a few tips those in the legal profession will find helpful during Zoom hearings and proceedings. It is never a bad idea to sign up for a Zoom 101 webinar or another online course to learn more ins and outs of the video conferencing platform. Even as the legal profession returns to some semblance of normalcy, virtual hearings and other proceedings are not going to simply stop. There will be times when they are appropriate, so it is best to sharpen your virtual court skills so yours is not the next meow going viral on social media.

Workplace Injury

When do I need a personal injury attorney in New Mexico?

We have all seen the commercials on TV, advising us that if we were hurt in an accident in New Mexico, we should call a personal injury attorney. While they may seem corny, the advice is right on target. Any time you are a victim of someone else’s negligence, it is always a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer. Even if you are unsure you want to sue, a personal injury lawyer can help protect your rights. None of us is immune from making poor choices in life. When those decisions lead to the pain and suffering of others, we need to be held accountable. A personal injury lawyer can help.

What is a personal injury in Albuquerque?

Several kinds of personal injuries may require the representation of a skilled personal injury attorney in New Mexico.

  1. Motor vehicle accidents
    Most personal injury claims in Albuquerque involve motor vehicle accidents. New Mexico is ranked one of the top three worst states for traffic accidents. Many of these accidents caused personal injury, temporary or permanent disability, and death. If you are the victim of another driver’s negligence or a surviving family member of a victim, you have the right to sue the liable party for compensation and other damages.
  2. Medical malpractice
    Medical professionals are sometimes negligent in the care of their patients. When healthcare practitioners make poor choices, it can leave their patients temporarily or permanently disabled. Medical malpractice is complicated and requires the skill and experience of the best personal injury attorney in New Mexico. Bill Russell is one of the top lawyers in Albuquerque, specializing in personal injury law. He understands the ins and outs of medical malpractice and can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your medical malpractice case.
  3. Workplace accidents
    Getting hurt on the job is one of the biggest fears of most people. If you are the primary wage earner in your family, it can be frightening to think about how you would pay the bills if you could not work. Most workers who are injured on the job qualify for worker’s compensation. Sometimes worker’s compensation is not adequate for covering monthly living expenses, plus any medical bills you have incurred from the injury. When this happens, it is appropriate to consult with a personal injury attorney in Albuquerque to find out if you can recover any additional damages.
  4. Product liability
    Most of us do not think about our favorite product causing us the kind of injury that can leave us temporary or permanently disabled. Unfortunately, it can and does happen. Design defects, manufacturing defects, and failure-to-warn defects are three types of product liability claims under New Mexico law. Design defects cover a flaw in a product’s design that leads to injury during normal use. Manufacturing defects involve an error in the product that makes it dangerous for normal use by a consumer. Failure-to-warn defects are the most serious kind of product liability and presume a company was aware of a defect and sold it to consumers anyway.
  5. Premises liability
    When a property owner fails in their duty to keep their property reasonably safe for visitors, they can be held liable for any injuries or deaths that occur. New Mexico law places sole responsibility on property owners to either ensure the safety of their property or to provide visitors with a warning of unsafe conditions.
  6. Nursing home abuse and neglect
    It is difficult to think of our elderly loved ones not receiving the care they need and deserve. Some nursing homes and other facilities providing similar services do not provide a safe and caring environment for their residents. When someone in their care is injured or killed due to negligence, a personal injury attorney can help gather the evidence needed to file a lawsuit or settle your case out of court.
Patient in hospital bed, hospital, patient, injury

Does New Mexico have a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim?

New Mexico has strict timelines for personal injury claims known as a statute of limitations. Victims have three years from the date the injury occurred to file a personal injury lawsuit. That time frame is reduced to two years if the negligent party is a government entity. If you are the surviving family member of a victim, you have three years from the date of the person’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. For accidents that caused property damage, victims have four years from the date of the accident to file their claim.

These strict timelines are why it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney the minute you are injured due to someone else’s carelessness. Even if you are unsure you will file a lawsuit, it is a good idea to have a personal injury attorney. You can be certain the negligent party – especially businesses and large corporations – will have an entire legal team behind them. We can make sure you are not pressured into accepting a settlement for your injuries. We also can gather supporting evidence should future legal action be needed.

How to hire the best personal injury lawyer in New Mexico

Bill Russell is one of the best personal injury lawyers in New Mexico. When you hire him to represent you in a personal injury case, you can rest assured he will fight hard for you. As a deeply dedicated father who values family time, Bill Russell knows that all it takes is one poor choice by another person to impact an entire family.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer in Albuquerque can feel intimidating. Bill Russell and his legal team go the extra mile to help you feel comfortable and clearly explain your rights. We examine the facts of each case before determining the best course of action. It is always preferable to settle a personal injury case out of court. According to data from the U.S. Department of Justice, only 5 percent of all personal injury cases in the United States find their way into the courtroom. The rest are settled pre-trial. All options for your case are clearly explained during a personal consultation with Bill Russell and his team.

To schedule a no-obligation consultation with Bill Russell and his team, give us a call at 505-218-7844 or contact us online

Criminal Defense Attorney Judge's Gavel

Top 6 Tips for Finding the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Albuquerque New Mexico

Finding the best criminal defense lawyer is a must when you are facing a criminal charge in Albuquerque. Not all criminal defense attorneys have the same level of experience and reputation. Choosing the right criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between the best defense possible and someone who just shows up in the courtroom to stand next to you.

Being charged with a criminal offense is scary. Rushing to find legal representation is never the right approach, especially if you are facing a serious criminal charge like possession of a controlled substance or homicide. You want to find a criminal defense attorney who knows criminal defense law inside and out and can represent you in the best possible light during all legal proceedings. Choosing a criminal defense attorney should never be an afterthought. It is without a doubt the most important step you can take in defending yourself against any criminal charge.

While finding the best fit can seem daunting, following these six steps will help you find the best criminal defense lawyer to represent you in Albuquerque or anywhere else in New Mexico.

  1. Choose a criminal defense lawyer that is responsive
    When you are facing a criminal charge, the last thing you need is an attorney who is missing in action. Time is of the essence when mounting a defense. Lawyers who drag their feet risk losing your case. You need a criminal defense lawyer who is able and willing to get right to work on your case. When you or someone else contacts an attorney on your behalf, that attorney should respond quickly. It is not unreasonable to expect an initial consultation with the attorney and his or her legal team within 24 hours. First impressions mean a lot. A criminal defense attorney that is quick to respond to your initial inquiry will likely be responsive for the duration of your case.
  2. Choose a criminal defense lawyer that is experienced
    The best criminal defense attorneys know their way in and around the local courts. Local connections and relationships can make a difference when fighting a criminal charge. Having a familiarity with local judges and prosecutors increases your criminal defense attorney’s ability to navigate your case successfully. They will use that knowledge to help create a winning strategy for your case. In addition to making sure your criminal defense attorney knows the ins and outs of the Albuquerque legal scene, they must specialize in criminal law. While it is true that all lawyers receive some training in criminal law during law school, you want to hire an attorney who exclusively practices criminal law. Attorneys who specialize in criminal law are the most up-to-date on practices and procedures and more capable of mounting a solid defense on your behalf. 
  3. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who is reputable
    When you have been arrested or charged with a criminal offense, there is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction to find a lawyer quickly. This is a mistake that can come back to haunt you later. Taking your time to find a reputable criminal defense attorney is one of the most important strategies of your defense. Be sure to check the State Bar of New Mexico when choosing your attorney. The state bar has a feature for helping you locate criminal defense attorneys near you. Their website also allows consumers to research whether an attorney has any formal discipline on their record or if they have ever lost their license to practice. When you have an attorney in mind, ask him or her for at least three solid references.  Another solid tactic is to seek recommendations from lawyers who do not practice criminal defense. Chances are, if you know an attorney who practices in any aspect of the law, they can recommend a colleague they consider reputable and dependable who can handle your criminal case. Looking at online review sites also can provide a glimpse into the experience other clients have had with an attorney you are considering.
  4. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who is transparent
    The last thing you need when you are facing a criminal charge is to have an attorney who dodges your questions. This includes clarity on their fee structure and what you can expect to pay upfront and at the conclusion of your case. Some criminal lawyers require a retainer, which is a fee that clients must pay in advance of the attorney beginning any work on the case. An attorney who works on retainer will deduct all fees and expenses for working on your case from the balance of the retainer first. If there is any amount of the retainer left over after your case is concluded, an attorney is required to return the balance to you.
  5. Choose a criminal defense lawyer with a winning attitude
    Confidence and enthusiasm go a long way in successfully defending a client against criminal charges. The willingness to conduct a thorough investigation is paramount to a solid criminal defense. You want an attorney who does their homework before encouraging a client to accept a plea bargain when that may not be in their best interest. Having confidence in the courtroom also is important. Criminal court proceedings can move quickly. You need an attorney who is quick on his or her feet and able to respond to any unexpected situation that may arise during court proceedings. An attorney with a winning attitude who is well-spoken is a solid asset to any criminal defense.
  6. Choose a criminal defense lawyer who respects your input
    When it comes right down to it, you are the one facing the consequences of a criminal charge. That means you need to find a criminal defense attorney who not only seeks your input on your defense but who also is willing to allow you some control over specific methods of mounting your defense. This does not mean you should try to direct every part of your defense. After all, you are not a criminal defense attorney. What it does mean is you should have the final say on some of the biggest decisions, like whether you should accept a plea deal or go to trial. An attorney who fails to take your wishes into account is not a good criminal defense lawyer.

How do I find the best criminal defense attorney near me?

Marcus Cameron is one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Albuquerque. He has an impressive record. Marcus has participated in over 2,500 administrative and legal hearings. He has defended clients in 47 criminal cases, eight of which were for first-degree murder charges. One of his cases set precedent in the State of New Mexico.

Before becoming a criminal defense attorney, Marcus Cameron served as a Judge Advocate General with the U.S. Army for eight years. He also has worked as a public defender for two years handling felonies, homicides, and violent crimes cases.  His experience on both sides of the criminal law fence makes him an asset to anyone facing a criminal charge.

Facing a criminal charge can be difficult and concerning. Arm yourself with the best criminal defense attorney in New Mexico. Call Marcus Cameron and his legal team at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.

drunk driving, DUI, DWI

Do You Need a Drunk Driving Attorney if You Get a DUI in Albuquerque?

Driving under the influence. Driving while intoxicated. It does not matter which acronym you use to describe it. When an individual decides to get behind the wheel while impaired, the consequences are serious. Driving under the influence of legal or illegal substances is a crime in every state. In New Mexico, if you drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, you are considered DUI.

Is there a difference between DUI and DWI in New Mexico?

Under New Mexico law, a DUI and a DWI are indistinguishable. DUI is an abbreviation for driving under the influence while DWI is short for driving while intoxicated. Both DUI and DWI are charges defendants may face if their driving is affected by a legal or illegal substance or prescribed medication. It does not matter if a substance is legal. If any legal or illegal substance impairs your driving and you are caught behind the wheel while using it, you may find yourself facing a DUI or DWI charge. In New Mexico, most driving under the influence charges are filed as DWIs.

How do the police determine if you are DUI?

It can be a scary experience to find yourself pulled over by the local or state police under suspicion of DUI/DWI. How you handle the situation from the moment you are suspected of impairment behind the wheel can make all the difference in the outcome. Sometimes the local or state police will conduct what is known as a DUI checkpoint. When this happens, officers are randomly selecting drivers to check for impairment. In New Mexico, DUI checkpoints are legal, but there is a list of pre-set guidelines officers must follow when conducting one. If they fail to follow the rules, any drivers they arrest and any evidence they collect as part of the checkpoint may be ruled inadmissible in court.

Other signs police officers look for when determining if a driver should be pulled over for suspected DUI/DWI include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the speed limit
  • Erratic driving
  • Aggressive driving
  • Improper lane usage
  • Driving without headlines on

What should I do if I am pulled over for DUI/DWI?

Staying calm and remaining polite during a suspected DUI/DWI stop is highly recommended. Since all police officers in New Mexico are required to wear body cameras, it is likely the encounter is being recorded by the officer. There are some other things you can and should do once the officer approaches your vehicle.

  • Be sure to provide your name, license, and vehicle registration when prompted by the officer. This is the minimum you are required to do under New Mexico law.
  • Never admit to drinking (even if you were). Once you open that door, the officer can ask follow-up questions such as how much you had to drink and what kind of alcohol you consumed. An officer also might ask if you are under the influence of any substances. Again, you do not have to answer those types of questions. Doing so is considered self-incrimination and you are not obligated to help an officer build a DUI/DWI case against you.
  • Decline a field sobriety test. Officers can ask, but you are within your rights in Albuquerque to refuse to comply. While officers can ask you to step out of your vehicle, they cannot force you to take a field sobriety test under New Mexico law. Field sobriety tests are admissible in court. The problem with field sobriety tests for DUI/DWI is they test your balance. There are other reasons besides alcohol or substance use that can affect a person’s balance.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test or DUI blood test?

This is a question that individuals charged with DUI/DWI ask frequently. New Mexico and all U.S. states have what is known as an Implied Consent Law. That means drivers must agree to take a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test when an officer makes the request. Breathalyzer tests are performed at the scene. If an officer requests a blood or urine test, you will be transported to the nearest hospital to conduct the testing.

If you refuse any of these tests, your driver’s license can be seized. You will be issued a temporary permit by the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles, which is valid for 20 days. You must request a hearing to have your permanent driver’s license reinstated within 10 days from the date of your arrest. It can take up to 90 days to schedule a hearing. Your charges also may be upgraded to aggravated DUI/DWI, which carries more serious penalties.

Another question we are asked often is whether you can ask to consult an attorney before agreeing to a field sobriety test, a breathalyzer, or a blood or urine test. Unfortunately, the answer is no.

What is the best way to deal with a DUI/DWI charge in Albuquerque?

Even if this is the first offense, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney about the best way to handle your DUI/DWI charges. Criminal defense attorneys who are experienced in handling DUI/DWI cases are the best chance you have of saving yourself from a driver’s license suspension. They also can use their extensive knowledge of New Mexico case law to get a DUI/DWI charge reduced or dismissed. Sometimes defendants insist on handling their own DUI/DWI cases and are pressured to accept plea deals that are not in their best interest.

What are the penalties for a DUI/DWI in New Mexico?

When individuals violate New Mexico’s DWI laws, the penalties they face depend on whether it is a first offense, or they are a repeat offender.

First-time offenders can expect any combination of the following if they are convicted of DUI/DWI:

  • An ignition interlock license and device for every vehicle for one year.
  • Up to 90 days in jail (with 48 hours of jail time mandatory).
  • Up to a $500 fine.
  • Up to one year of probation.

Mandatory penalties for first-time offenders include 24 hours of community service, DWI school, and Victim Impact Panel. They also can expect to be required to complete a substance abuse screening and submit to any recommended treatment.

Repeat offenders have many of the same consequences, with increased durations and fines. They also face the possibility of losing their driver’s license permanently.

Can I beat a DUI without a criminal defense attorney?

Sure, you might get lucky. You also might end up agreeing to a plea bargain you later regret. Why take the chance? Marcus Cameron is one of the best DUI attorneys in New Mexico. He has over 23 years of legal experience that includes 2,500 administrative and legal hearings and 47 trials.

Marcus Cameron and his legal team understand the ins and outs of New Mexico DUI/DWI laws. They can advise you on the best course of action to ensure you are treated fairly. This includes determining if accepting a plea bargain is in your best interests, or if a dismissal or downgrading of charges is warranted. Whatever the solution, we will work hard for you. Give us a call at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your DUI/DWI consultation.

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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. 

Contact Us

  • 500 Marquette Ave NW Suite 1200
    Albuquerque, NM 87102

  • P: 505-218-7844
    505-268-5304
    F: 505-672-5128

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