Frequently Asked Questions About Injury and Disability
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Are punitive damages possible after a New Mexico car crash?
If you are injured in a car accident in New Mexico, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain suffering from the negligent driver who caused your collision. Depending on his actions when causing the crash, you may be entitled to punitive damages as well.
What You Must Prove to Be Entitled to Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are not designed to compensate car accident victims. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish a negligent driver for especially egregious conduct and to deter him and others from engaging in that type of wrongful behavior.
It is not easy to establish that punitive damages should be awarded in a car accident claim. In New Mexico, it must be proven that the other driver engaged in one of these types of egregious conduct:
- Malicious conduct. Conduct can be malicious if it is an intentional wrongful act done, knowing that it is wrong.
- Willful conduct. A negligent driver can engage in willful conduct if he intentionally engages in an action that he knows could harm others.
- Reckless conduct. A motorist’s conduct may be considered reckless if he intentionally takes an action with utter indifference to the consequences.
- Wanton conduct. Conduct may be wanton if it is done with total indifference to or with a conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.
It is up to the jury to decide whether punitive damages should be awarded. The jury is permitted to consider the property and wealth of the negligent driving in making an award. The amount of punitive damages must be in proportion to the driver’s conduct and wrongdoing.
When Can You Sue for Punitive Damages in Car Accident Cases?
Punitive damages are not available in all auto collision claims. They are most commonly awarded in cases where a driver was driving while intoxicated (DWI) either due to alcohol or drug use. Other types of accidents where punitive damages may be justified are when the motorist was driving at an excessive speed above the speed limit or was engaged in road rage behaviors that caused a crash.
How Our Experienced Attorneys Can Assist You
Were you injured in a car accident? Was a family member killed? Let our experienced car accident lawyers help you hold the negligent driver and his insurance company accountable for fully compensating you for your injuries. We handle these cases on a contingency fee basis so you only owe us attorney fees when we settle your claim. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.
Why will a nexus letter from my doctor help my VA claim?
When you file an application for VA disability benefits, you must establish that you qualify for these benefits. One of the most difficult elements to prove is the nexus, or link, between your illness or disability and the in-service event that caused it. One of the best ways to establish this is to submit a strong nexus letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
What Is a Nexus Letter?
A nexus letter is a document prepared by a physician or other medical professional that explains how a Veteran’s medical illness or condition is directly related to his military service. While a nexus letter is not required when applying for VA disability benefits, it can make the difference between an application being approved or denied. A nexus letter can be submitted with an initial application, while the VA is evaluating whether the Veteran is eligible for benefits, or after an adverse C&P exam.
A nexus letter is especially crucial if no medical records were provided in support of the application and the C&P examiner does not find a link between the Veteran’s illness or disability and his military service. In this situation, the application will be denied unless a nexus letter is submitted.
How to Make a Nexus Letter Stronger
It is best to choose a doctor that is currently treating you to write a nexus letter on your behalf. You should select a doctor that is board-certified in the area of health that is at issue in your case.
The physician must use specific language, certain phrases, and the correct medical standard when writing the letter. Here are some tips on how he can ensure that the nexus letter strongly supports your claim:
- The letter should be brief, but thorough. It should focus on the facts and the doctor’s conclusions.
- The doctor should mention in the letter that he has reviewed your entire VA file and medical records. If he fails to do so, the VA may disregard his letter.
- The letter should mention that the doctor has recently examined you. The VA may find the physician’s conclusions more persuasive if this is true.
- The physician does not need to draw an absolute conclusion as to the nexus between your disability and your military service. It is sufficient if “it is at least as likely as not.”
Ask a VA Disability Lawyer If You Have Questions
If you are a Veteran applying for VA disability benefits, the experienced VA disability attorneys at The Injury & Disability Law Center can help you file your application and work with your doctor so that he understands what information should be included in your nexus letter. Start a live chat to schedule for your free consultation to learn more about your rights to benefits.
What can I do to stay afloat financially while I wait for my Social Security Disability benefits application to be approved?
It can be very stressful to be too disabled to work and have no income coming in while waiting for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application to be approved. It can take at least three months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make a decision on your application and months or longer to get your application approved if you must file an appeal. If you are like most people, you may not have the financial resources to pay your basic monthly bills while you are waiting to receive disability benefits.
Places to Go for Financial Help
You may need to seek financial assistance from outside sources while your application is pending. Fortunately, the SSA generally will not consider these funds in deciding whether you qualify for SSDI. Here are possible sources of help that you should explore:
- Public assistance. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for public assistance through the New Mexico Human Services Department. One of your first steps should be to apply for any benefits that you may be eligible for.
- Family and friends. It may not be pleasant to ask family and friends to help you out, but they may be a good source of financial assistance. They may be sympathetic to your temporary financial challenges and have the resources to assist you.
- Churches and religious organizations. If you are a member of a church or other religious group, you should contact them to see if they have any resources for members struggling financially. There may be other religious organizations in your community, such as the Salvation Army, that provides people in need with help for basic needs, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and clothes.
- Food bank. Many communities have food banks for residents going through challenging financial times. Going to a food bank for food can help you feed your family and free up some of your money to pay your other monthly expenses.
How to Speed Up the SSDI Application Process
One of the best ways that you can make the SSDI application process go faster is to retain an experienced disability attorney to help you complete your application properly and provide the SSA with the information they need to make a decision. A lawyer can also file a prompt appeal on your behalf if this is necessary. To find out how The Injury & Disability Law Center can assist you, start a live chat to schedule your free consultation.
Can I file a lawsuit if my loved one died in a New Mexico car crash?
It is never easy to lose a family member, but having a loved one killed in an auto accident can make the grief even more painful. Fortunately, you may be able to seek compensation from the negligent driver in a wrongful death action. While this will not lessen your pain, it can give you justice and help you move forward in your life.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico?
Under New Mexico law, a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file a wrongful death action again the at-fault motorist. If the deceased had an estate plan, such as a will, he would have appointed a personal representative or executor in this document. The personal representative is frequently a surviving spouse, adult child of the deceased, or adult sibling. The court can appoint a personal representative if the accident victim did not have an estate plan.
While the personal representative represents the deceased person in the car accident lawsuit, he does not decide how the settlement proceeds are distributed. The beneficiaries of the victim’s estate would be entitled to these funds.
Time Period to File a Wrongful Death Action in New Mexico
The statute of limitations is the deadline a person has to file a lawsuit and can be different depending on the type of legal claim being pursued. Under New Mexico law, the time period to file a wrongful death action is three years from the date of the deceased’s death. If a lawsuit is filed after this deadline has expired, the judge will most likely dismiss the complaint.
Damages Awarded in NM Wrongful Death Cases
If the other driver’s negligence in causing your loved one’s death is proven, the personal representative can seek damages on behalf of you and any other beneficiaries. The types of compensation that you may be awarded include:
- Medical expenses caused by the car accident
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the deceased’s companionship
- Mental anguish
- Any pain and suffering your family member suffered due to his injuries before his death
- Your loved one’s financial contribution to your household
- Loss of inheritance
- Punitive damages to punish the driver if his actions were grossly negligent
Our Experienced Attorneys Are Here to Help
If you have lost a loved one in an auto collision, our skilled and compassionate car accident lawyers are here to explain your legal options to you and take over the burden of filing your wrongful death claim so that you can focus on your grief. To schedule your free consultation, start a live chat or fill out our convenient online form.
How will the VA rate my disability?
After the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determines that you are a Veteran who suffers from a disability and are eligible for benefits, it will assign a disability rating to your disability. This rating will be crucial to the determination of the amount in monthly disability benefits you will receive. If your rating is set too low, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in monthly benefits.
What Is a Disability Rating?
A disability rating is an average detriment to your earning capacity resulting from your service-related illness or disability. The VA uses a Schedule for Rating Disabilities that contains over 500 diagnostic codes for physical and mental disabilities as part of its assessment. Once your disability is assigned a diagnostic code, the VA uses a rating scale of 0 to 100% in 10% increments to set your disability rating. Your disability may be rated at anywhere between 10 to 100%. The greater the percentage, the more severe your disability is considered, and you would receive a larger monthly disability payment.
If you are like many Veterans, you may suffer from more than one disability. The VA will not just add the percentages for each disability to establish your rating. Instead, they will use a different rating table and complicated formula to set it.
How Your Disability Rating Will Determine Your Monthly Benefits
The VA sets the disability rate of payment every year to take into account Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA). In 2019, as a single person, you could receive these monthly payments based on your disability rating:
- 10%: $140.05
- 20%: $276.84
- 30%: $428.83
- 40%: $617.73
- 50%: $839.76
- 60%: $1,113.86
- 70%: $1,403.71
- 80%: $1,631.69
- 90%: $1,833.62
- 100%: $3,057.13
If you are married or have dependent children or parents, you would receive additional monthly benefits based on your disability rating. For example, if you are married with one child, here is what you may receive depending on your percentage of disability:
- 30%: $516.83
- 40%: $735.73
- 50%: $1026.36
- 60%: $1,290.86
- 70%: $1,609.71
- 80%: $1,867.69
- 90%: $2,098.62
- 100%: $3,352.41
Discuss Your Disability Rating With a Roswell VA Disability Lawyer
As these examples show, it is crucial that your disability rating is set at the correct rate so that you receive the disability benefits that you are entitled to. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you ensure that the VA rates your disability properly. To learn more about your entitlement to benefits and how we can help, call our office to schedule your free consultation today.
How is my disability onset date determined?
When you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must establish the date that you were unable to work due to a medical condition or disability. This is known as your disability onset date. The date you pick is an important one and can have a significant impact on the amount of back benefits you will receive.
How Your Disability Onset Date May Be Determined
It can be easy to establish your disability onset date if you become disabled due to an accident. However, if your disability has been caused by a medical condition or illness, you may have become disabled over time. Determining your onset date can be complicated in this situation. Here are some of the factors that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider when determining this date:
- The date you list on your SSDI application
- The date that you stopped working, or only worked in a limited capacity, and did not earn substantial income
- Your physician’s determination of the date you became disabled
- Your medical records
Why Your Disability Onset Date Is Important
Your disability onset date determines the amount of back disability payments you will receive. When you apply for SSDI, there is a five-month waiting period before you are eligible for benefits. In addition, you are only entitled to a maximum of 12 months in back disability benefits from the date that you apply for benefits.
Here is an example of how your disability onset date will affect the amount of your back benefits if your application was approved by SSA on 12/1/2018 and you claimed your disability onset date was 9/1/2017:
- If the SSA agreed with your onset date of 9/1/2017, you would be entitled to back benefits from 2/1/2018, which is five months after your onset date, to 12/1/2018.
- If the SSA does not agree with your onset date and instead claims your disability began on 2/1/2018, you would only receive back benefits from 7/1/2018, which would be five months after 2/1/2018, until your approval date of 12/1/2018.
Get the Legal Assistance You Need When Applying for SSDI Benefits
Do you have questions about your disability onset date? Was your application for benefits denied? Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to explain your right to SSDI and ensure that you receive all the disability benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call our Roswell office today.
Who is responsible for a multi-vehicle crash?
If you suffer injuries in a multi-vehicle accident in New Mexico, you must prove which driver was at fault in causing your collision in order to receive the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. These cases can be much more complicated than crashes involving just two autos. You will need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney if you want to win your case.
Common Causes of Multi-Vehicle Accidents
There are many reasons that negligent drivers cause multi-car pile-ups, and more than one person may be partially to blame. Common causes of these accidents include:
- Tailgating another vehicle
- Drowsy driving
- Distracted driving, such as talking on a cell phone, texting, or fiddling with vehicle instrument controls
- Not driving for weather conditions
- Failing to follow traffic laws, such as failing to yield at an intersection, not using turn signals, or making an unsafe lane change
How to Identify the Negligent Drivers
An experienced lawyer will know how to conduct a thorough investigation of your collision to determine who was at fault in causing it. He may recommend retaining an accident reconstruction expert who can examine the evidence and create a reenactment of how your crash happened.
As part of his investigation, your attorney will collect and analyze evidence that will help him identify the negligent drivers. This can include the following:
- Pictures of the accident scene and damage to the vehicles
- Police report
- Witness statements
- Surveillance tapes from nearby businesses
- Traffic camera footage
- Statements of any drivers involved in the collision
- Cell phone records
Negotiating Your Settlement Can Be Complicated
Because more than one driver may have caused your accident, you may have to file claims for compensation with more than one insurance company. They may try to point the finger at each other in an effort to deny any liability or reduce the amount they have to pay in settlement of your claim. A lawyer will be able to conduct complex negotiations with multiple insurance companies simultaneously to ensure that you receive what you deserve in your settlement.
If you were injured in a multi-vehicle crash, our experienced car accident attorneys are here to provide you with the personalized legal assistance that you need. To learn more about your legal options and how we can help, call our Roswell office today to schedule your no-obligation consultation.
What is a service-connected disability?
If you are applying for disability benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a member of the armed forces, you must be eligible for these benefits. One of the first things that you will need to show is that your disability or illness is connected to your military service. This is also called showing that you have a service-connected disability.
Ways of Establishing a Service-Connected Disability
There are five basic ways to show that you have a service-related disability that entitles you to benefits. They include the following:
- Direct Service Connection. A direct service connection can be shown if there is a specific incident that is linked to an illness or disability. For example, if a Veteran becomes paralyzed as a result of gun shot or a helicopter crash while in combat, he can show the direct service connection between his disability and service in the military. Hearing loss due to repetitive exposure to extremely loud noises would fall under this category as well (see Tinnitus).
- Presumed service connection. Some illnesses and disabilities are presumed to be service-connected by the VA. The VA has a list of these conditions and the length of time a Veteran would be presumed to be disabled. Examples of presumed medical conditions include chronic illnesses, tropical illnesses, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis as long as the disability rating is 10 percent or more.
- Pre-existing injury. A pre-existing injury can be used to establish a service-connected disability if the Veteran had the medical condition prior to his service in the military and it was made worse by an event while he was serving. In most cases, the pre-existing injury or disability must be noted on the serviceman’s initial medical exam.
- Secondary service condition. A secondary service condition is one where one service-related disability causes another one. The second disability may not be connected to the veteran’s service, but would not have occurred if he did not have the first service-connected illness or disability. For example, if a serviceman contracted tuberculosis, which is presumed to be service-connected, and suffered hearing loss due to taking medication with this as a possible side effect, his hearing loss would be considered caused by the first service-related illness.
- Treatment by VA. If a Veteran suffers an injury due to his medical treatment by the VA, this would automatically be considered a service-related disability.
If you are a member of the armed forces and are disabled due to your service, our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you file your application and gather the evidence you need to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our convenient online form.
How can I pay a Social Security disability attorney if I am not working?
If you are unable to work due a medical condition or disability, the process of filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and fighting with the Social Security Administration (SSA) about your right to benefits can be complicated and lengthy. You may know that you need the assistance of an experienced Social Security disability attorney but fear that you will not be able to pay his attorney fees when you have no paycheck anymore. Fortunately, you can afford to retain a lawyer even if you have limited funds.
How Social Security Disability Attorneys Are Paid
Lawyers who represent clients filing for SSDI are paid on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not charge any attorney fees up front. In addition, the SSA has set limits on how much an attorney can charge for his services. Here is how a contingency fee agreement works:
- You only owe attorney fees if you win your case.
- If your claim is denied, you would not be charged any fees by your lawyer.
- Your lawyer will receive a percentage of your disability benefits as his attorney fees. Under SSA rules, an attorney can only receive 25 percent, but no more than $6,000, of your back disability benefits at the time your application is approved.
How Legal Fees Are Paid in SSDI Cases
When you hire your attorney, you will sign a contingency fee agreement. It gives the SSA permission to pay your lawyer for his services when your claim for benefits is approved. Your lawyer would file an application for his fees with the SSA rather than sending you a bill. Once approved, his attorney fees would be paid out of your past-due benefits.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses You May Owe
Your lawyer is permitted to charge you for out-of-pocket expenses as well as attorney fees for his services. These costs can include the fees for obtaining medical records, expert witness fees, and postage. You may owe these expenses whether or not you win your case. It is important to discuss these additional fees with your attorney before you hire him so you understand what they are and how their payment will be handled.
Let Us Help You File Your Claim for SSDI Benefits
Unfortunately, many SSDI applications are denied by the SSA even when the applicant qualifies for benefits. Our experienced Social Security disability attorneys are here to guide you through the process of filing your application and fight for the benefits you deserve. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.
How can I determine whether or not a drowsy driver caused my vehicle collision?
Too many motorists cause serious collisions because they are too sleepy to operate their vehicles properly. Drowsiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgement, and increases collision risks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving caused 795 fatalities during 2017.
Drowsy Driving Causes
Most drowsy driving collisions occur when drivers drift out of their lanes or leave the road, leading to head-on collisions, sideswipes, and side-impact accidents. Drowsy driving is often caused by:
- Shift work. Employees who routinely work the night shift or irregular hours may suffer from sleep deprivation, causing them to drive while they are exhausted.
- Alcohol. Alcohol consumption can increase a driver’s drowsiness.
- Sleep disorders. Drivers with undiagnosed sleep apnea or narcolepsy may fall asleep while they are on the road.
- Sedating medications. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can induce drowsiness in motorists.
Drowsy Driving Evidence
Unlike alcohol and drug testing, there are no tests to determine whether or not a motorist is guilty of drowsy driving. However, an experienced vehicle accident attorney can gather evidence to prove that the driver was drowsy, including:
- A lack of skid marks at the accident scene, indicating that the sleepy driver made no effort to stop the vehicle.
- Work or school attendance records, which may be used to show that the motorist was suffering from a lack of sleep.
- Prescription records for medications known to induce drowsiness.
- Cell phone records, social media posts, and credit card records proving that the drowsy driver had been awake for an extended period of time.
You Need the Representation of a Skilled Vehicle Accident Attorney
Fatigued driving can be just as risky as drunk driving, and victims of these accidents need representation by a skilled vehicle accident attorney. If you’ve been hurt by a drowsy driver, your attorney can gather evidence to establish the driver’s negligence, and help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the Injury & Disability Law Center by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.