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Sidewalk
When Lt. Brendan Connolly a New York City Firefighter was responding to a local emergency, the dangers of being a firefighter were always in the back of his mind.  Smoke, trapped locations, innocent victims needing help.

However, the roads of New York City are often so dilipadated and filled with potholes and ruts that when his fire truck hit a recurring defect in a city street of Cypress Hills, Queens his life would change forever.

As reported here in the New York Post, Lt. Connolly fractured his spine and has been rendered disabled from working because of a sinkhole that has been recurring.  Neighbors report that this problem has been recurring for years.  Yet, the ability to legally recover against the City of New York for this defect is fraught with many hurdles.  Some nearly impossible to overcome.

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summer camp
As the summer is winding down, I was thankful that my three kids will be returning home from sleep away camp this weekend.  Seven weeks of organized fun, controlled environment with loving and caring counselors and directors to make sure that my kids and others are safe.  As a personal injury lawyer, I am always concerned about the safety of individuals and was thinking of some of the recent camp cases my firm has handled.

When you sign up to send your child to camp, you are entrusting them with the duty to provide your child with a safe and reasonable environment.  Camp activities include, sports, waterfront activities, art, music, as well as many intercamp Olympics and color war.  Some of the greatest memories kids have are those made during these summers.

Yet, many camps fail to provide the most basic when it comes to reasonable care for the safety of its children.  Recently, I represented a young boy who was at a camp.  They had a banana boat ride.  Many of you may know that this is the ride where 4-5 kids sit on a banana shaped tube and a motor boat pulls the kids.  The goal was usually a fun ride along the lake.  Of course, the counselors and probably the kids, in an effort to make it more “exciting”, have the motor boat drive in a way to cause the banana boat to twist and turn in the wake and knock the kids into the lake.  Seems harmless.  Well it would be if you provided the kids with safety rules and guidelines.  What if the child sitting in the front of the boat, closest to the rope, is not given any hand signals in which to convey that they are not feeling safe or feel like they may fall forward into the rope towards the engine of the boat pulling the banana float.  The sound of the engine and the noise from the movement is such that you cant verbally communicate.  Such was the case and my client suffered a severe laceration (over 100 sutures) from his shoulder around his arm onto his forearm.  This left a lasting scar and permanent residual problems.  Leav & Steinberg, LLP was able to prove that the activity was being performed in a dangerous way with inadequate supervision and training of the counselors and a lack of communication with the campers.   Though the camp felt this was not a case, we were successful in proving otherwise and resulted in a significant award for the child and a recovery of his medical bills.

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Tesla Logo
As an attorney representing car accident victims quite often, the recent news of two Tesla vehicles that crashed while in self-driving or autonomous driving mode raised a lot of questions.  From the attorney perspective, we are taught to evaluate an accident applying two major elements.  The first element is negligence, a two prong question.  First, d id the operator of a motor vehicle, operate his or her car in a way that was unreasonable under the circumstances.  The failure to operate your car in a reasonable manner is the first element of negligence.  The second element is proving that that failure, was a substantial factor or proximate cause of the accident.  The lines are blurred when we consider modern technology.  We must now consider whether the vehicle itself was negligent.

Tesla advises all of its owners that it’s autopilot feature DOES NOT mean that the vehicle is operating itself.  However, all marketing and news stories are describing the benefits of placing the car in autopilot mode and allowing the car and its sensors to sense the road and vehicles and obstructions around it.  Given this dichotomy, one must ask if the warning given is sufficient to free Tesla of any responsibility.

Joshua Brown’s death was the first reported death while operating a vehicle in autopilot mode.  This month, his vehicle collided with an 18 wheeler when the autopilot feature and the surrounding sun glare did not allow the vehicle’s autopilot features to react in a reasonable and timely manner.  The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating this accident with a focus on fault of the vehicle’s autopilot features.

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Earlier today, a crane collapsed across the span of the Tappan Zee Bridge resulting in injuries to at least three people as they swerved to avoid fallen debris. The crane collapse has caused a shutdown of the outdated and structurally insufficient bridge wreaking havoc on traffic in the area. The bridge is closed indefinitely.

The crane was being used in the construction efforts of a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The construction project, a $4 billion endeavor, has already seen several other major incidents resulting in deaths. In March, a 90-foot tugboat sank after it hit a construction barge near the bridge site, killing three crew members. In 2013, a powerboat plowed into a construction barge at the bridge, killing a bride-to-be and her fiancé’s best man.

There has been no shortage in crane accidents in the recent past, and despite the high stakes of these construction projects and the obvious need for safety, these accidents continue to happen. The engineers and contractors who are responsible for the placement, operation, management, inspection and control of these cranes must uphold their duty to ensure that these types of accidents don’t occur.

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Worker
At Leav & Steinberg, LLP we are often retained by construction workers who are injured during the course of construction, demolition or excavation work.  Under various sections of the Labor Law of New York, a worker in injured has  many legal rights and remedies to pursue to recover for pain and suffering as well as past and future loss wages.  In addition, as many times the injuries are life altering and permanent; often requiring future medical care.   For these select cases, our firm seeks to recover damages for the future medical cost the client will need.  In our ongoing effort to maximize a client’s recover, establishing a Life Care Plan for their future medical costs will allow us to negotiate a successful settlement and at trial to present competent evidence of these expenses so a jury can award both fair and adequately compensation.

The recovery of future medical expenses may seem both obvious and not necessary. Some lawyers might tell their client, not to worry they have Workers’ Compensation benefits and will or can use that for future medical care.  Others might say that the client’s private health insurance will cover them after the case is settled.  Lastly, as many client’s with permanent injuries apply for Social Security Disability which comes with both a monthly economic payment as well as Medicare, the attorney or firm will lead client to believe he or she can use Medicare and have no worries.   All the above are incorrect and without proper planning, presentation and obtaining the requisite proof a client can be without proper medial coverage for his or her accident related injuries.

The reason the options just mentioned are wrong and would lead the client to a false sense of security is because there are various laws, both State and Federal that state how a client, in a construction accident, can and should prepare and protect for future medical care.  Under present law in New York, when a client settles his or her third party lawsuit (that is a suit against someone other than their employer) while injured on the job, their Workers’ Compensation benefits usually end.  The reason is that under Section 29 of the Workers Compensation Law, a compensation carrier, is allowed to take a credit for the net award the client/employee receives from the third party case.  This credit creates a “holiday” in which the compensation carrier is not obligated to make payments.  For example: if an injured party settles a third-party case and nets after attorney fees, expenses and liens, $300,000.00, workers compensation will not have to pay this client any compensation benefits until he has used up that $300,000.00.  So if he was getting $30,000.00 a year in benefits at the time of settlement, he will not get compensation benefits for 10 years.  At that point the client can apply for benefits to continue but often has reached a certain age, passed away or is no longer entitled to benefits.   So advising a client that he can keep getting compensation benefits for medical is not going to be correct.

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On July 18, 2016 at 7:35 A.M., two NJ Transit Buses crashed causing injuries to no less than 15 people. The accident occurred in the Manhattan-bound tube of the Lincoln Tunnel. Both buses were filled with commuters bound for the New York Port Authority.

Commuters were incensed with NJ Transit and took to social media to voice their outrage as the avoidable accident injured many people and caused long residual delays.

Attorneys from Leav & Steinberg specialize in litigating claims following accidents that were caused by the negligence of others. In the past we successfully resolved a case that involved a multiple bus accident that occurred in the Lincoln Tunnel. The plaintiff in that action was a bus passenger who suffered a laceration to his chin and injuries to his jaw.

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Court Image
The Second Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals held that General Motors failed to properly disclose its knowledge of ignition switch defects and accordingly it will now have to face many lawsuits for injuries and other damages, that were once dismissed as part of its bankruptcy filing.

In 2009 General Motors declared bankruptcy.  In doing so, it sought to take any of its viable assets and in an organized sale, transfer them to a new entity now known as “new GM”.  When a company files for bankruptcy they must disclose claims known or likely to be known.  The reason is that when bankruptcy is granted, all debts known or likely to be known are wiped out and the company gets to move forward as a new “reorganized” entity.

Though GM was near financial collapse and the Court did want to maintain a company with thousands of employees, they are not above the law.  The safety of many was at risk and many injuries and deaths had occurred due to defective ignition switches which had caused movement stalls and air-bag non-deployment.  The cause was simple: the poorly improperly designed  ignition switch could slip from the run position and therefore cause many features to fail while in operation.

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Eddie Fernandez
As I read the recent stories across the county of police officers using excessive force and taking the life of two men; I was reminded of the events of August 12th, 2012 right here in the Bronx.  28 year old, Eddie Fernandez, enjoying a day in his neighborhood was run down by a NYPD Police officer who decided to use his vehicle as a dangerous weapon and take the life of this young man.

Whether it was the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or the killing of Philandro Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, the ongoing debate rages around the country.  When should or can a police officer use a level of force they know will or likely to cause serious injury.   Under the general definition an officer may use deadly force when he or she is threatened with the same force or the perpetrator is acting in a way that causes a likelihood of serious injury to others.

When my firm was retained by Eusebia Ramirez to represent her on behalf of her son, Eddie Fernandez for the unlawful and excessive force used, I immediately hoped that some video would exist that would show what happened that day.  Luckily, video surveillance does exist and the story it tells, rivals those recently shown around the country in the recent shootings.

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  • Bed sore

When one is admitted to the hospital, it is always due to a medical condition; either emergent or developing. Whether serious or just for monitoring the hospital and its staff must always remember, the safety of the patient is paramount.  Unfortunately, what often happens with those who are laid up is that their body begins to breakdown and develop what is knows as pressure ulcers or “bed sores”.

Bed sores develop when the body is caused to rest in one particular position for too long.  As many who are in the hospital have injuries or ailments that restrict movement, hospitals have protocol in place for observing the patient, monitoring any development of bed sores and of course, when seen, enacting a protocal ranging from rotation, to dressing application to adjusting the patient so that part of the body can heal.  The development of bed sores is not at all uncommon but with proper medical care and supervision can be avoided.  At the very least, any initial sign of a bed sore, can then be treated so as not to cause the spread or further deterioration of the skin.  Such bed sores are extremely painful and debilitating.

In pursuing a recent medical malpractice case on behalf of a patient who was in the hospital for unusual abdominal pain, Leav & Steinberg, LLP was asked to investigate how the patient could have developed not just stage 1 bed sores but sores that progressed all the way to a stage 4. Sadly our client passed away only a few months after developing the bed sores, but the family was distraught that he could have endured such a horrific and painful ending to his life, despite being under the constant care and supervision of what was supposed to be trained nurses and doctors.

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Office

As the Court system continues to slow down due to budget cuts, a focus on the criminal cases and an overall delay in getting to trial; plaintiff’s and defendants have been using the private mediation and arbitration process more frequently with great success.

By way of background, an automobile or premises accident in New York can take approximately 4-5 years to get from inception to a trial.  In fact when all sides agree that the legal discovery is complete and request a trial, most counties schedule the trial for 18 months out and often 24 to 36 months is not uncommon.  Furthermore, while on the trial calendar, a pre-trial conference can be so limited as the court calendar is full and each side might get 3-5 minutes to discuss the case.

The result in this delay of justice really hurts the plaintiff, the injured party, because the defendant or insurance company, can know that their ultimate obligation to pay fair and reasonable damages will not be upon them for years to come.  This results in low ball offers, and a general lack of concern for resolving claims amicably.

However, when a Plaintiff can both move the case through the court system efficiently, and also provide the defense with a clear picture of how the case will turn out; the defendant and their insurance company can and will turn to mediation or arbitration to resolve disputes.  In New York there are many services and the two primary companies are National Arbitration and Mediation (NAM) and Judicial Arbitration and Mediations Services (JAMS).

Mediation is a non-binding process where the parties mutually agree to hire a retired Judge, Court Attorney, or private attorney with an expertise in the field and reserve at least 2 hours of their time to present the case.  The mediator will receive submissions from both sides and can have a full understanding of what the case is about.  With all parties participating and attending, the mediation can often result in a settlement. If not, the parties often learn of the weaknesses in their case and can then reconsider settlement options or prepare for the trial in a different format.  As I have experienced in handling over 200 mediations, you can never waste your time as you will always gain some advantage for your client; whether an offer or more insight as to the defense position.

Should the parties feel that full resolution can be placed in the hands of the mediator, the parties can mutually agree to go to binding Aribtration in the same format.  The major difference is that here the private mediator/arbitrator will decide all issues including liability (fault) as well as the damages (value of the injury and ecomonic damages).  Such finding is binding on all parties.  Privately and without the Arbitrator knowing the parties can enter into a high-low agreement whereby they agree to a low award, a high award.  Any award between is paid and an award outside the parameters of the high low is paid at the high or low respectively.  This can give each side further confirmation of how the outcome will be.

At Leav & Steinberg, LLP we prepare each case as though it’s going to trial and often use the mediation process as a stepping stone towards future resolution.  When in the best interest of our client, we will consider binding arbitration and this has resulted in many successful outcomes for our clients without the additional delay and uncertainty of the Court system.

In just the last six months my firm has successfully mediated cases and obtained results in excess of 5 million dollars.   See our results page. 

In addition in just the last month we have arbitrated matters that have resulted in fair and reasonable awards where the case was still at least 2 years or more from trial.

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