V.22 No.10 | March 7 - 13, 2013
Annual Report 2013
Weekly Business Profile
Will Ferguson and Associates
Type of business:
Attorneys at Law
1720 Louisiana Boulevard NE #100
Albuquerque NM 87110
10090 Coors Blvd. NW #A
Albuquerque NM 87114
What kind of law does your firm practice?
We specialize in personal injury law, representing people in negligence claims. We’ve been doing it since 1983. With nine attorneys (soon to be 10) and four offices, we’re New Mexico’s largest personal injury law firm. I guess we’re doing something right.
What’s with the “rocket men” photo?
We were looking for a place to shoot a photo for a profile that ran recently in the Wall Street Journal. We saw those missiles at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History and thought that would be … symbolic … of something.
What’s your firm’s philosophy?
First, we know the jury system is America’s great equalizer. It gives the little guy at least a chance at a fair fight. Second, we believe that when corporate power co-opts the other two branches of government, the courts truly are American freedom’s last bastion. Corny, but true.
That sounds like something the ACLU would say.
Many of the cases that shape law in our country are, in fact, personal injury cases: workplace safety, bad drugs and products, insurance bad faith, police misconduct. We pursue those types of cases on behalf of regular folks who have been screwed over by a corporation’s malfeasance or a government agency run amok.
You mentioned “insurance bad faith.” What’s that?
Under New Mexico law, insurance companies are required to deal with their clients in good faith. Refusing to pay a valid claim, refusing to investigate a claim, delaying a valid claim—all are acts of bad faith that open the company to further damages. We handle larger bad-faith claims. One of our attorneys, Dave Houliston, a former defense guy, just lives for bad-faith insurance claims, for some reason.
In general, what should people know about personal injury claims?
First, an injured party has only a limited period to make a claim, possibly only two years. Second, they should document an incident via photos and witness names. Third, they should talk with an attorney as soon as possible, especially before they talk to the other side. And most importantly, they should know that consulting a personal injury lawyer costs nothing. Most of the cases we take are contingency cases—meaning there’s no cost to the client if there’s no recovery.
Don’t most cases settle out of court?
Most do, but the carriers know our attorneys are ready to take every case to trial, if necessary. They know we can afford the up-front cost of gathering evidence, locating witnesses, reconstructing accidents and retaining experts, which can be quite expensive. Sometimes, a sole practitioner or a smaller firm doesn’t have the resources that a complex case may require, and that can work against a case.
What should people know about your lawyers?
Our guys have been around. Robert Ortiz was a prosecutor in San Miguel County. Al Thiel is a Karate black belt. Bob Gutierrez is a former medical malpractice defense star. Jesse Quackenbush is a documentary filmmaker. Frank Balderrama played baseball with Cody Ross in Carlsbad. Jeffrey Trespel was an insurance claims supervisor before law school.
When they say a lawyer is “AV-rated,” what’s that mean?
It means that Martindale Hubbell, which publishes lawyer peer ratings, has rated the lawyer as “pre-eminent” in a specialty. We’re rated “AV” in personal injury law. It’s the highest rating you can get, and it’s fairly rare.
Those TV ads for personal injury lawyers—what do you think of them?
They serve a purpose, but that’s not our way. Actually, we get most of our cases as referrals from other attorneys. Rather than advertise widely, we’re pretty selective. We do things like underwrite “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” on New Mexico Public Radio. We also underwrite BBC World News America on PBS, the Ken Burns “Prohibition” series, stuff like that.
What do you say when corporate America refers to personal injury law as “jackpot justice?”
That it’s a construct, the big lie, so to speak, made up by special interests trying to boost profits by stripping away people’s rights. People sue to offset the harm from injuries, not to get rich. When a corporate executive decides it’s OK to run over the little guy, we stand up for the little guy. That’s what we do. Best job in the world.