Published On: Mon, Mar 19th, 2018

Albuquerque Public Schools Paid Over $300K in Personal Injury Settlements in 2017

Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico paid out more than $300,000 in 11 personal injury settlements in 2017, KRQE reports. The cases included a wide range of injuries resulting from slips and falls to bus crashes.

The largest of settlements from last year was $99,000, and that case was related to an incident that occurred at Volcano Vista High School over three years ago. According to court documents, a student was jumping hurdles in gym class, but the placement of the hurdles meant that the student landed in wet grass. The student slipped and broke his leg as a result.

gavel court scales justice ruling

photo via Pixabay user Succo

“The damages that can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit depend upon the severity of the actions of the negligent party,” says Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C..

The school system paid out $35,000 in another settlement after a student at Eldorado High School was doing box jumps and fell backwards onto weights. He broke his wrist as a result.

Scott Elder, Chief Operations Officer, says maintaining schools is a 24/7 job.

The city has more than 140 schools and over 80,000 students. The district manages over 400 buses each day and over 13-million square feet of classroom space.

The district is the second-largest in New Mexico.

Last year, the school system took care of more than 12,000 preventative maintenance tasks. This year, they are on track to complete double that amount.

Some of the personal injury suits in 2017 appeared to be more behavior-related rather than equipment-related.

The second-highest settlement of the year – $55,000 – involved a case where the bus driver was accused of punching a middle school student in 2013. The parents of the student said the driver was “enraged and violent” with the child.

According to court documents, “Several students were watching a video on the cell phone when the bus driver… blew his whistle, stopped the bus, got out of his seat and started yelling.”

The lawsuit then states that the bus driver raised his hand in a fist and punched the student in the face.

The school system also paid out $8,500 after accusing an APS police officer of standing on the sidelines during a possible kidnapping in 2014.

What some of the plaintiffs in these cases may not realize is that they may face higher taxes under the newly passed tax reform law. Some may be taxed for their full gross recoveries, with no deduction for attorney fees. Even if the lawyer takes 40% of the settlement, the plaintiff will still be taxed for the full settlement amount.

The new tax law should not affect qualified physical injury cases or in cases where claims are brought against employers.

But if the suit is not related to the plaintiff’s business or trade, most other claims will not allow for a write-off of legal costs or fees.

Cases involving emotional distress, malpractice, bad faith and even divorce-related would have their recoveries taxed, in most cases. Cases involving sexual harassment or abuse would also be taxed if there is a nondisclosure agreement, which is the norm with these types of cases.

The new law may mean that plaintiffs recover significantly less from their settlements due to higher tax payments.

Author: Dustin Montgomery

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