Connecticut Train Crash Highlights Rail Dangers, But Also Improvements in Rail Safety
Back in the 1980's there was a radio commercial encouraging people to "take the train to the plane." If you think about it even a little bit, the tune will come to you. New York City is well known for its subway trains and trains leading to other parts of the country. The Metro-North Railroad line runs between New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. This rail line transports around 30,000 people every day. While trains are relatively safe, derailments and collisions are possible and happen from time to time.
On May 17, 2013, two passenger trains collided on the Metro-North line near Fairfield, Connecticut. The eastbound train jumped the track and collided with a westbound train on an adjacent track. More than 70 people were injured and rushed to area hospitals. The two trains were transporting about 700 passengers between them. The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has investigators on site to try to determine the cause of the derailment and collision. As the investigation has progressed, train cars have been removed from the site. But Metro-North has informed commuters that about 2,000 feet of track and overhead wires will need to be replaced prior to the line reopening.
The cars involved in the collision were heavily damaged. Doors were ripped off some cars and deep gashes were easily seen where cars sideswiped each other. But none of the cars flipped over during the collision. News outlets have noted that the cars involved in this collision are newer cars installed in 2011 that were built to new code standards. The rail company is reviewing not just the damage to the cars, but also how the new safety features helped lessen the number of total injuries.
NTSB investigators are examining the tracks across the accident scene and found a section of track fractured at a rail joint. The NTSB does not know whether this fracture was the cause of the accident or resulted from the accident. Considering that the track had been repaired over the previous month, the NTSB will be examining the stretch of track closely.
While this train collision happened in Connecticut, it is still important for us New Yorkers to be vigilant considering all of the trains that service our large metro area. Unlike the January ferry crash where there had been a recent previous accident and there were questions about the captain following proper procedures, the last major accident on the Metro-North line occurred in 1988. But there are questions about the physical track the eastbound train was traveling on. As we stated with the ferry accident, trains are "common carriers" and must take greater care when transporting passengers.
If you have been injured while riding the subway or other trains in New York, contact our personal injury attorney about your rights and your options.
Ferry Crash Injures More Than Eighty-Five
New Jersey - Manhattan Ferry Crash Update
Connecticut Train Crash Highlights Rail Dangers, But Also Improvements in Rail Safety
Under the lip of the kitchen sink. In the corners of the shower. Around the base of the bathroom sink faucet. Then there are always the science experiments in the back of the refrigerator. These are common areas of mold growth. Mold can be a good thing, like penicillium that produces the antibiotic penicillin. But too much penicillium, or aspergillum, or cladosporium can result in black mold that can endanger a person's health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that mold exposure can cause "allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints."
Mold in New York
Molds are prevalent in moist areas. If there are leaks in pipes or a roof, that can be enough create the right conditions for mold growth. Richard Fields saw mold in his apartment in August 2003. He went to the hospital in September 2003 for headaches and nosebleeds. He told the doctor he had mold in his apartment and the doctor said the mold could cause his symptoms. Fields filed suit in January 2006 for mold exposure against the Lambert Houses Redevelopment Corp, the owner and manager of Fields' apartment building. Fields amended his complaint to add estimated medical expenses.
At his deposition, Fields testified he saw mold in his apartment in January 2003 and sought treatment for exposure in February 2003. Lambert Houses Redevelopment Corp. moved for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint claiming Fields' claims were time-barred. Fields opposed the summary judgment motion, submitting his hospital records showing he had visited the hospital in February 2003, but had not sought treatment for mold exposure until September 2003. The court denied the motion for summary judgment stating that it was an issue of fact about whether Fields had timely filed his suit.
Lambert Houses Redevelopment Corp. filed an appeal to the Appellate Division, First Department. The Appellate Court upheld the Supreme Court, Bronx County decision that the timely filing of suit was an issue of fact to be decided at trial.
What to Do About Mold
If there is a leak, the EPA recommends cleaning and drying damp areas within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth. Hard surfaces can be cleaned with water and detergent and dried completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles may need to be replaced. The EPA recommends keeping relative indoor humidity to between 30 and 60% and venting moisture-build-up areas such as kitchens and bathrooms to the outdoors.
For individuals sensitive to molds, exposure can cause nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritations. More serious reactions can include fever and shortness or breath. For individuals "with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, [they] may develop mold infections in their lungs."
The New York State Department of Health gives information on molds on their website. The website gives some basic instructions on getting rid of mold. The information was gathered and assessed by the New York State Toxic Mold Task Force set up in 2010. The Task Force recommended improving building codes to prevent and minimize potential water problems in new buildings as well as existing buildings.
If you have found mold in your residence or workplace and have not had a positive response from your landlord or employer to remedy the problem, seek advice from our NYC personal injury attorney to protect yours and your family's health.
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Food Poisoning and Possible Legal Recompense
Balmy spring days call for relaxing. Enjoying the sun in a hammock in your backyard. Gently rocking with the wind as you doze. And then your day is ruined as your hammock stand's wood beams collapse bringing you down like the baby in the treetop.
Upon inspecting the wood, it appears to have rotted out from the inside and exposed the metal brackets. This is what happened with wooden hammock stands sold by Pottery Barn between 2003 and 2008. The stands cost about $300 apiece and about 30,000 were sold. Pottery Barn "received 12 reports of injuries requiring medical attention, including lacerations, neck and back pain, bruising, and one incident involving fractured ribs." There were another 50 reports of the stand breaking. Pottery Barn issued the recall October 1, 2008 in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Pottery Barn instructed consumers to "remove the two top side brackets of the hammock stand and dispose of the remaining portions." They also offered to pick up the brackets for free and give a Pottery Barn credit for the amount paid for the stand.
Pottery Barn is a wholly owned subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Even though Pottery Barn issued a recall in October 2008, Williams-Sonoma knew of the possible product defect as early as November 2004. By October 2006, Williams-Sonoma had eight incident reports involving this hammock stand and was required to inform the CPSC of the defect and that it created a risk of serious injury or death. Williams-Sonoma did not inform the CPSC of the product defect until two years later. By that time there were 45 incidents of product failure.
The CPSC charged Williams-Sonoma with not following the law and informing the CPSC of the defect in a timely manner. The CPSC sought civil penalties for these charges. William-Sonoma did not admit to the CPSC's charges, but agreed to settle the complaint for $987,500. William-Sonoma has also agreed "implement and maintain a compliance program to ensure compliance with CPSC laws and regulation, as well as an internal system of controls and procedures" to inform the CPSC of any problems with any other products in the future.
It took 4 years before William-Sonoma alerted the CPSC with a possible defect. It was another 2 years before a voluntary recall was issued on this product. Then it took 4-and-a-half years before William-Sonoma agreed to a settlement with the CPSC over lack of proper reporting standards regarding defects. This is a total of 10 plus years to resolve a product defect case. This is illustrative of what happens with some product liability cases. Things are not always immediately resolved. It can take years to resolve a problem you have with something you purchased.
So, what is the take home message if you are not a hammock owner? It is important to understand your range of rights if you are injured as a result of a defect in a product you purchase. Part of that understanding is an appreciation of the length of time you may have to pursue an injury claim. In one sense, it is unfortunate that it may take 10 years from a product problem to a resolution in court. In another sense, it is a good thing that you do not have to pursue personal injury representation for a defective product injury claim within days of purchase.
If you have experienced a problem as a recipient of a defective product it is important that you understand what are your options in pursuing compensation. Consultation with our NY personal injury attorney is an important option you should consider.
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There is a reunion or a wedding reception or another party at a hotel ballroom. The room is resplendent in opulence and old friends are renewing acquaintances. Dinner is announced and everyone sits down for a feast. After a wonderful evening, the attendees return home with wonderful memories. But after a day or two, the attendees start to have symptoms of abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever. The doctor diagnoses it as norovirus.
Currently around the country norovirus is making people ill. Norovirus is highly contagious and commonly acquired through contaminated food or water. But it can also be "acquire[d] through close contact with an infected person." Larger norovirus outbreaks are traced back to food preparation. Food poisoning is always a possibility whenever one goes out to dine. On May 1, 2013, Newsday reported that a hotel in Westchester County is being industrially cleaned top to bottom, overseen by the local health department, after 300 people complained of illnesses after attending events there. Norovisus is the confirmed cause of all the illnesses. How the virus came to be in the hotel has not been determined. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report in January that a new strain of norovirus called GII.4 Sydney is causing most of the current outbreaks and is highly contagious.
Getting sick is always a pain, but losing workdays and paying out for doctor's visits can cost. While norovirus symptoms will last for a few days, some people may become severely dehydrated and need medical attention. So now lost revenues from missing workdays, doctors visit copayments, and hospital costs add up. Is there a way to recoup your loses?
It is possible to file a lawsuit for food poisoning. Suing over a few days of living in one's bathroom would not be worth the cost. But hospital costs are another expense all together. Proving that a particular food or place caused an illness can be difficult. In the hotel scenario, it would be easy to track the illness back to the hotel because of the number of people infected. Professional food preparers are required to serve untainted food.
Now you have proof of the specific virus, but whom do you sue? The hotel? What if the hotel hired caterers? Your attorney will make this decision. And if others were made ill in the same incident, then it may be more prudent to file a class action lawsuit with the other attendees. Your attorney will review current cases to see if one has already been filed.
How do you protect yourself and prevent the further spread of nonovirus? The CDC recommends washing hands with plain or antiseptic soap and scrub not only the palms, but also the backs, between fingers and under nails. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. The CDC recommends humming Happy Birthday twice while scrubbing and rinsing under running water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used after hand washing, but they are not recommended to be used alone.
If you have contracted norovirus or other contagious illness from a professional food preparer and lost significant work days and amassed high medical bills, you might want to consult our NYC personal injury attorney about possibly recouping your loses.
New York State Crime Victim Board's Eligibility for Surviving Spouses May Soon Include Domestic Partners
Regardless of where one sits on the issue of rights to domestic partners, there have been some current legislative activities in the New York state legislature that people should give some attention. The New York State Assembly Bill # A04024 is a bill intended to amend the executive law, "in relation to eligibility of domestic partners for compensation from the crime victims' board, introduced in January 2014."
This bill allows for domestic partners to be eligible to receive awards under the crime victims compensation allocation. On April 24, 2013, this bill passed the New York State Assembly and was delivered to the New York State Senate for consideration.
The New York State Office of Victim Services is the state entity involved with providing legal recourse and compensation for victims. There is a laundry list of eligibility requirements as well as a list of what a victim may be entitled to. That list includes:
"The victim must be an innocent victim of the crime
• Victims of crime who were physically injured as a result of the crime
• Victims of crime who are under 18, 60 and over, or disabled, who were not physically injured
• Certain relatives and dependents, including surviving spouse, child, parent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, stepparent or person primarily dependent on the victim for support
• Those who paid for or incurred burial costs for an innocent crime victim
• Child victims, a child who witnesses a crime, and the child's parent, stepparent, grandparent, guardian, brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister
• Certain victims of unlawful imprisonment or kidnapping
• Certain stalking victims
• Certain victims of labor trafficking or sex
• Victims of terrorist acts outside of the US
who are a resident of New York State
• Victims of frivolous lawsuits brought by a person who committed a crime against the victim"
The current New York State legislature bill would expand eligibility (the third bullet above) to include a domestic partner.
The rest of this bill would mirror the current legal requirements to obtain eligibility for compensation. That involves filing an application with the Office of Victim Services. That application involves a number of requirements outlined as part of the application process.
Among other things, an applicant will need to provide information about:
- the victim;
- the crime;
- the suspect;
- your expenses;
- the personal property that needs replacement;
- limited details if the victim was injured or killed;
- the victim's dependents;
- any counseling sought by survivors;
- the victim's employment;
- the victim's insurance status; and
- financial status
While this list may appear complex, you should understand that this list is fairly straightforward and logical. To consider whether you may have a claim with the New York State Crime Victim's Board, consult an injury attorney experienced in NY personal injury law.
Cars are the most convenient mode of transportation across the United States. Accidents happen everyday, however, figuring out how to deal with the consequences can be difficult and time consuming. When car accident occur, not only do you have to figure out your injuries, but also those of anyone else who was involved in the accident. Figuring out who is at fault may not be an easy question to answer in the beginning, but that is only the beginning. Even when one party admits to being at fault, compensation for the other person's injuries may not be easily received.
Take for example the case of Soriano v. Martin. Jesus Soriano (Soriano) was a driving instructor and he got into an accident with William Martin (Martin) while Soriano was working. In the first case, Martin admitted it was his fault and Soriano testified at trial that he did not receive any compensation from any source, including workers' compensation, for his lost earnings. The jury awarded twenty thousand in damages for pain and suffering and a separate five thousand for lost wages Soriano incur while unable to work due to injuries suffered from the car accident.
The issue in the second case is whether the jury award of five thousand dollars for lost wages is valid. Under New York Insurance law, there is a No Fault Law which denies recovery for basic economic injuries under fifty thousand dollars from defendants. When you have an accident under a no-fault system, your insurer automatically pays for your damages, regardless of fault. In exchange for this guaranteed payment, you must give up some of your rights to sue the other driver involved in the accident. Basic economic injuries includes medical bills and lost wages due to the accident. The purpose of this law is to protect the defendants. In No Fault states, like New York, the first fifty thousand in economic injuries is covered by the insurance companies.
This case is slightly tricky because Soriano was injured while at work. If the injury had not occurred on the job, his sole avenue for recovering for his lost earnings would have been through no-fault and he would not have been able to recover five thousand dollars in a tort action against Williams. The court found that the fact that plaintiff's injury occurred on the job, thereby making him eligible for workers' compensation benefits, does not take him outside the No-Fault Law and entitle him to recover for basic economic loss in this action. To hold otherwise would allow plaintiff a benefit not contemplated by the statutory scheme.
Having an experienced can save you time and money. In Soliano's case, he should be able to to get his economic injuries covered, however, it will take him at least a month to get it sorted out with his insurance company. While it is better than not being covered, he could have been paid much sooner. An experienced accident attorney can help you figure out your options and being your best case forward. If you have been injured in an accident, please contact one of our experienced attorneys.
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Are you Injured Enough?
Are School Buses At Serious Risk for Traffic Accidents?
Construction jobs are naturally dangerous. Construction sites are intentionally underdeveloped, with exposed wiring and pipes with purpose of being fixed by the employees. This means that there are different safety duties and expectations for both the employees and the the employer.
Take for example the case of Capuano v. Tishman Construction Corporation. In this case Philip and Danielle Capuano sued Philip's employer, Tishman Construction Corporation (Tishman), for injuries he received while at work. Philip Capuano (Philip) tripped over a piece of pipe on the floor in his work area, that was left there by other workers. He claims that the area did not have adequate lighting, and the lack of light caused him to not notice the pipe and therefore trip over it.
In this case, labor laws and rules of the Industrial Code apply. Philip is suing his employer for violating two sections of the Industrial Code. The first section requires that the work area be kept free from accumulations of dirt and debris and from scattered tools and materials. Philip claims this rule was violated by the piece of pipe, which was used by someone else and left on the the floor for an unknown period of time, which he later tripped over. There is an exception to this rule for the instances where the items that caused the injury are necessary tools for the employee's current task. For example, if Philip's task had been to hammer nails and he later hurt himself by tripping over his hammer, there would be no violation. In this case, however, Philip claims he was working on installing abuse boards which did not involve piping.
The second section under which Philip is suing, requires sufficient lighting in a work area. Philip claims this rule was broken because part of the reason he tripped was because he could not see the pipe on the floor. The area in which Philip was working did not have windows and the only light available, according to Philip, was about twenty feet behind his work area and was not bright enough for him to see the area.
On the first issue, witnesses for Tishman claimed that the site was reviewed by a group of subcontractors throughout the day with the specific job of cleaning up the site as the day goes on. Regarding the second issue, Tishman did not address whether or not enough light was provided on the day of the accident. The witnesses, however, were not on the scene when the accident occurred or within a reasonable amount of time after the accident. Therefore no one could definitely claim the piece of pipe was not on the floor or give any information regarding the lights at the time of the accident. Without plausible, contradictory evidence on behalf of Tishman, the court found that there was a violation of both rules, and the Capuanos won the case.
Litigation is complicated and knowing where to start with a claim may not be obvious. An accident attorney can be a great resource when deciding whether to bring a claim. If you have been injured, you should contact an experienced accident attorney to discuss your options.
Cars have become a necessary part of the lives of many people. Public transportation is limited or even nonexistent in many parts of the country. Even if public transportation is an option the schedule may not work for your needs or the amount of time to get to your final destination may be unreasonable for you. Therefore cars are popular even in cities like Washing DC, Boston and New York even though they are known for their public transportation systems. But with the increase of the use of cars, comes the increase of accidents. When accidents occur, getting compensated by whoever is at fault can be difficult.
Take for example, the New York case of Womack v. Wilhelm. Sharon Womack ("Womack) and Benjamin Wilhelm ("Wilhelm") got into an accident, in which Womack sustained injuries. She believes she should be compensated for those injuries. The main issue in the case is whether Womack suffered a "serious injury". Under New York laws, it is not enough to have been injured in an accident; there must be a significant injury as opposed to a mild or slight injury in order to receive damages. Under Insurance Law, part of proving that you have a significant injury is showing that you, the injured person, were prevented from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute your usual and customary daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days immediately following the accident.
In this case, because Wilhelm was trying to end the case early, without going to trial, it was his responsibility to show that Womack was not seriously injured and was not prevented from doing her daily activities. In this case, Wilhelm used Womack's own doctor reports to prove his side of the case. In accident cases where your injuries are a factor of the case, the plaintiff is required to both seek her own medical attention as well as allow any defendants to have their own, or court chosen, physician review her and/or the other doctors' notes. In this instance, Womack went to the emergency room within a week after the accident and later followed up with her own doctor. Wilhelm had Joseph Elfenbein ("Elfenbein"), an orthopedic surgeon review Womack's medical records and perform an independent medical examination of her for the case. Elfenbein found that while Womack was injured, there was nothing in her previous doctors' files or his own check up of her, which gave him reason to believe that there was significant damage.
When given the chance to defend her version of events, Womack was unable to give sufficient evidence. Her medical reports showed that she was injured but not the degree of injury. Because this case required Womack to have a significantly limiting injury to go forward, the lack evidence specifically stating the severity of her injury meant that the court had to assume it was not severe. Womack also testified that her injuries limited her daily activities for a couple of months, but did not claim that she was actually unable to perform her work duties at any point in time.
Bringing a strong case to court requires a lot of information. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help. Someone who knows the specific facts you need to prove can help you ask the right questions and get the evidence you need. If you have been injured, you should contact an experienced attorney today.
Accidents happen everyday and are a part of life. However, some are more serious than others. If you get injured, it can cost time and money to get you back to where you were before the injury. When the injury is not your fault, the consequences of the injury should not fall on you alone.
Take for example, the recent New York case of Gale v. St. John's University. Lisa Gale was hired by a third party company to replace stained ceiling tiles in various campus buildings. She regularly worked on St. John's University ("St. John's") doing general janitorial work which often included changing tiles after it rained in the area. Ms. Gale was working at St. John's when she was hit with a piece of metal from the ceiling grid in the bathroom of the university's Campus Center, which caused her to fall while she was changing the ceiling tiles. She sued St. John's for her resulting injuries because the school failed to keep the area safe.
In New York, a property owner cannot be held liable for injuries caused by an allegedly defective condition unless the plaintiff, Ms. Gale, establishes that the owner either created or had actual or constructive notice of the condition. Constructive notice happens when the defect is visible and obvious, and it must exist long enough for the defendant, St. John's, to both find it and fix it. There is no constructive notice when the issue might not be detected with a reasonable inspection. Ms. Gale tried to claim that the repeated heavy leaking, in that bathroom, after most storms, should have been enough for the school to at least check the pipes. The court however disagreed. The judge found that a regular leak was not proof of the greater safety issue. Also, because the pipes were above the ceiling tiles, a reasonable inspection would not have the issue.
There was also a second reason Ms. Gale lost her case. Many claims require that in additional to being injured and showing it is the fault of the person you are suing, that you must also show the need for damages. Usually if there is an injury, there will be hospital costs, or days missed form work, or something similar that can easily show you require compensation. In this case, however, Ms. Gale could not show damages. In a previous hearing, which was part of this case, Ms. Gale was told to visit a court chosen doctor to review her injuries. This is common in personal injury cases because the court, and the opposition, want to make sure you are in fact injured. Ms. Gale failed to visit the doctor within a timely manner and due to a previous order of the court, was barred from testifying about damages. Without this evidence, Ms. Gale's case was incompletely and would not have been able to go forward even if St. John's had notice of the issue and failed to act.
Every case is different. One seemingly minor fact can mean the difference between winning and losing. Court cases are complicated and have a lot of steps that must be followed. You must do all that is asked of you by the court whether asked directly, such as during preliminary hearings, or through the court rules. Everyday cases are decided due to procedural issues, which, if that is not enough to completely end the case, will cost time and money fix. No one can guarantee a win but having an attorney with experience handling personal injuries can help you stay on top of all requirements and put your best case forward. If you have been injured, you should contact an experienced attorney today.
Leav & Steinberg, LLP recently took on a new matter involving a dirt bike incident which occurred in the Bronx at the intersection of Randall Avenue and Coster Street on August 11, 2012. A police officer slammed the front of his vehicle into the rear of a dirt bike while in pursuit of the driver, Adalberto Gonzalez, for insignificant charges. The driver was thrown from his bike and onto the sidewalk from the impact. The police vehicle then made a u-turn, accelerated, and slammed into the rear of a second dirt bike. Though the first driver survived with serious injuries, the second, Eddie Fernandez, was fatally injured from the hit. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. NBC covered the incident.
Surveillance video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows an NYPD patrol car slamming into two men on a dirt bike in the Bronx last August, killing the passenger.
The passenger of the dirt bike, Adam Gonzalez, is expected to appear before a judge on Monday to face several charges stemming from the accident. In the meantime, his attorney has filed a [...] claim to bring a civil suit to trial, saying Gonzalez has suffered psychologically from the crash.
Last August, Gonzalez was riding a dirt bike without a license plate or helmet on Randall Avenue in Hunts Point when police officers in a patrol car spotted him and swerved toward him, police said. The video shows the car appearing to hit the bike and knock Gonzalez onto the sidewalk.
Unhurt, Gonzalez fled on foot, and then jumped onto the back of a bike owned by his friend Eddie Fernandez, which was also unregistered. The police squad car turned to pursue that bike and as it chased after the men, slammed into the back of the bike.
"The police officer barrels into them like a scud missile," said Gonzalez's attorney Peter Ronai. "They were dead ducks. They had no chance. Their only crime was riding a dirt bike. They paid with their lives."
Fernandez died at the hospital. Gonzalez suffered a broken leg and was charged with reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.
Fernandez's brother, John Fernandez, said of the video: "It looks like he didn't even look back. He didn't know what was behind him."
Ronai said his client is "psychologically, he's ruined. Watching his best friend die was not easy."
Ronai said Gonzalez has no criminal history aside from his August arrest.
The NYPD has not responded to requests for information on the status of the officers involved in the crash.
Before his passing at just twenty-eight years old, Eddie Fernandez was a superintendent at an apartment building. He helped his disabled mother and they attended church together. As a part of our representation, we have fought to obtain copies of all of the relevant video, audio, and police files. Although the incident happened over six months ago and no officer was charged with wrongdoing, our investigation has been significantly delayed due to the ongoing criminal prosecution of Gonzalez.
Although we don't like to think about it, school bus accidents may be more common than one might imagine. According to the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, over 22 million children ride school buses every day in America, and a surprising number of transportation accidents occur. Just last month, a school bus crashed into a Subaru in Bushwick, according to a report from CBS New York. It left 14 people injured, including 11 children. This story has been a hot topic in New York news because the school bus driver involved in the accident was actually part of a non-union company brought in to run the buses while the union drivers were on strike.
The Recent Crash in Bushwick
In the accident that resulted in the hospitalization of 11 schoolchildren, critics argued that the use of non-union drivers led to the crash. The Local 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union shop steward gave a statement for a press release and argued, "Union drivers are safe. Non-union drivers are not safe."
The crash occurred on the same day that mayor Bloomberg "opened up bids to pick up the most competitive bus companies." The drivers had planned to strike until Bloomberg and New York City agreed to include a security clause in their contracts--the drivers wanted assurance that job security provisions would be part of any competitive bidding process, but "the city insisted that any such move would be illegal."
The strike ended soon after, but no school bus safety issues came to light, and according to a New York Times article, the striking workers' efforts "bore no immediate fruit."
How Frequent are School Bus Accidents?
The crash in Bushwick is just one example of accidents involving school buses in our region. A similar crash made news last September when a school bus collided with two motor vehicles on Staten Island, causing at least four persons to be seriously injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that these accidents may occur more frequently than we know.
The NHTSA categorizes these accidents as "school transportation-related crashes," and it defines them as crashes that "involve, either directly or indirectly, a school bus body vehicle, or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities." In short, the definition includes any school bus that transports children to and from school, or school-related activities.
Between 1998 and 2008, the NHTSA identified more than 414,000 fatal motor vehicle accidents, and approximately 1,400 of these involved school buses. In fact, these statistics showed that an average of 19 schoolchildren die each year in a school transportation-related accident, and nearly half of these kids are between the ages of 5 and 7.
The NHTSA updated this study in 2010 and found slightly improved results: approximately 34 percent of all motor vehicle accidents are school transportation-related crashes, and an average of 18 schoolchildren were killed in these accidents between 2001 and 2010.
While the number of school bus crashes is much lower than the national average for motor vehicle accidents, it's still upsetting to read news about these incidents. And who is at fault? Often, the weather can lead to poor visibility and other harmful road conditions. But more often, it seems, a driver's negligence leads to the accident. Recent reports across the country cite school bus drivers running red lights, failing to signal, and speeding just before an accident occurs.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a school transportation-related accident, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.
According to a recent article in Business 2 Community, a person in this country is killed in a car accident every twelve minutes. In 2011, 32,000 people died on our roads. The social and economic costs (including medical, lost wages and earnings, property damage, and pain and suffering) can total as much as $300 billion per year. Two recent horrific incidents, one in New York City, remind us of the dangers of vehicles and the toll car accidents can take on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
In the early morning hours of March 3, 2013, Raizy and Nathan Glauber of Brooklyn were tragically killed when a vehicle broadsided the hired car in which they were traveling. At the time of the accident, Mrs. Gauber was 24 weeks pregnant. Doctors delivered her baby boy alive, but he died several hours later. According to The New York Times, it is not clear which driver was at fault, as authorities are still investigating. The newspaper also reported that the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission had not yet approved for use, the car carrying the Glaubers.
In another recent, and similarly tragic car accident, a taxi cab passenger and her driver were killed when the driver of a second vehicle, an aspiring music artist, who had been shot by the driver of a third vehicle, lost control of his car, triggering a fiery crash.
These two incidents are particularly horrific and will most certainly lead to criminal charges. They also highlight the dangers of motor vehicles and the need for safer driving laws. According to the previously mentioned article in Business 2 Community, distracted driving is one of the most common causes of fatal car accidents. Texting while driving, which increases your chance of being involved in an accident by a whopping 2300%, is today one of the most common distractions. So what are states doing about distracted drivers? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, texting while driving is banned in thirty-nine (39) states, including New York, and talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in ten (10) states, including New York. While these laws represent positive change in the effort to decrease fatal and non-fatal car accidents, tragic events will unfortunately still strike. When they occur, they can result in severe personal injuries, including traumatic brain injury and other life-altering injuries, and oftentimes death.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, or if a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle accident, contact the experienced attorneys at Leav & Steinberg to see how we can help. You or a loved one may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, permanent disability, lost wages, pain and suffering, or wrongful death. Let us evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process.
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Over the past year, jobsite injuries have been regularly making the news. According to the New York Daily News, it turns out that workplace accidents actually increased in New York by 31 percent from 2011 to 2012, while the New York Buildings Department cut its number of worksite inspections by nearly 40 percent in the past three years. An article in PR Web echoed these figures, calling for more oversight in the construction industry. What do these numbers mean for you? If you or someone you know works in the construction industry, it turns out that jobsites may not be as safe as we'd like to think.
What Sparked the Investigation into Jobsite Accidents?
The New York Daily News introduced concerns about jobsite-accident increases by summarizing some of the newsworthy injuries over the past year.
For example, last spring, a steel beam at a warehouse in Harlem had a crack that was in "plain view," as it was "visibly sagging, in danger of collapse." Breeze Demolition, the contractor, continued to work despite having knowledge of the decaying beam, and the buildings department received no report concerning the potential danger at the construction site. The following morning, Juan Vincente Ruiz, a 69-year-old laborer, arrived to work in the building's basement. While he chipped away at a brick wall with a sledgehammer, the floor overhead gave way due to the decaying steel beam. The accident was fatal. Ruiz died of "massive head trauma."
More recently, USA Today reported the injury of seven construction workers when a crane collapsed in Queens. The crane was 35 stories high. Although there were no fatalities, dozens of workers had been at the site when the crane fell, and three of the injuries were serious. New York Crane and Equipment Company, the owner of the crane, was involved in a 2008 accident where a crane collapsed and killed two workers on the Upper East Side. James Lomma, the company's owner, was charged with criminally negligent homicide and later acquitted.
According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2011, construction fatalities jumped from 28 to 40 in the New York Metro area alone. And since the buildings department is conducting fewer worksite inspections--the number of inspections dropped from 244,000 in 2009 to only 141,000 in 2012--there is less accountability for wrongdoing. In fact, "notices of violations dropped by 6,600 from 2011 to 2012."
More Inspections Needed to Prevent Injuries and Deaths
The New York Buildings Department has been relying on contractors to police themselves, but the statistics show that this isn't working. Tony Sclafani, a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, indicated that his agency has encouraged workers and employers to "take proper safety precautions at all times." Yet, worksite accidents and injuries have noticeably increased in the city.
Statistics show that when contractors are tasked with being the "eyes and ears" of jobsite safety, the "end result is injury and even death." The involvement of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has resulted in significant investigations in the aftermath of some of these accidents, but that involvement isn't preventative. In fact, OSHA has issued fines at numerous construction sites in the city, but it doesn't seem to have had a deterrent effect on current contractors who are often "blind and deaf" to the safety hazards at their construction areas.
While an increase in inspections seems to be the only solution, it's important to keep in mind that construction companies, site owners, developers, and other related parties bear the responsibility for worker safety. If you have been injured at a construction site or in a workplace accident, contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.
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An Employer's Liability for an Employee's Actions
Do You Know What to Do If You're Injured?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that at least 100,000 crashes might be related to "drowsy driving" or fatigue annually. These are shocking numbers that indicate just has serious the problem has become. Of that 100,000 total about 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries result. In dollar terms, this is about $12.5 billion in monetary losses each and every years. In other words, it is critical that all of us take this seriously.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control--in their "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" -- nearly 4.2 percent of drivers admitted having fallen asleep while behind the wheel in the last month alone.
It should go without saying that driving when not fully alert is incredibly harmful and should always be avoided--the risks are far too high to do otherwise. You can envision virtually any scenario where fatigue may cause trouble. From drifting across a lane and failing to slow in a timely manner to failing to identify road debris quickly, countless errors an be exacerbated by drowsiness. In many ways fatigue is similar to intoxication--reaction time is slowed on overall driving ability is greatly deteriorated. According to the CDC report, which analyzed driver data from police reports, a staggering nine in ten officers report pulling over a driver under suspicion of drunk driving only to find that the driver was drowsy.
Who It Affects
No one is immune from drowsy driving. However the CDC report offers some suggestions about who may be more likely to drive while not fully alert. Most notably, those who stay up late, minimize sleep, and drive at night are particularly prone. Younger drivers fit that bill more than others. It should therefore not be surprising that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that young drivers are more than four times as likely to fall victim to a drowsy driving accident. Other in unique work patterns may also be at risk. If your shift forces you to stay up late and drive at night, then the potential is higher. Similarly, if combine that will too little sleep or use of medications or alcohol, the potential damage is even higher.
What can be done to protect yourself? The CDC report authors write: ""Drivers should ensure that they get enough sleep (7-9 hours), seek treatment for sleep disorders, and refrain from alcohol use before driving."
Never forget: driving while drowsy and causing an accident is an example of negligence and may result in legal accountability. If you are harmed by another and suspect issue like fatigue may have played a role, please get in touch with our NYC injury attorneys to see how we can help.
Animal bites are far more common that most consider at first blush. That is particularly true in large cities, because more people (and their pets) are often crowded into small spaces. There are many opportunities for interaction between the animals and strangers, and bites occasionally occur at those times. It is important for local residents to understand their rights as it relates to these accidents. More specifically, if you live in New York and were bitten by another's dog, you may be able to recover for your loses--medical expenses, lost wages, and more.
How Does the Law Apply in these Situations?
There is a lot of misunderstandings about these cases, and it is easy to get confused. As an initial matter, it is important to understand that liability rules vary depending on the state. Some states apply "strict liability" which mean that, in virtually all cases, an owner is responsible for the consequences of their animal's bites. Other's apply a "first bite free" approach where there may not be liability IF the dog was not known to be dangerous (i.e. had not bitten anyone in the past).
How does New York law work?
Per state statute, we are known as a "mixed" state in this regard, meaning there are some aspects of both strict liability and "one bite free" included. More specifically, owners are strictly liable for medical bills and veterinary costs. In other words, in virtually all circumstances the owner will have to pay those costs--even if it was the first time that their animal bite anyone or showed aggression. However, for all other forms of damages--perhaps things like lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.--the plaintiff must show that the dog was known to be dangerous. That usually requires showing that the animal had bitten someone before or something similar.
Does the Dog Owners Have Any Defenses?
To best understand one's options after a bite it is helpful to have a genera idea of possible defense that might be asserted by a dog owner. Perhaps most notably, if the owners warn of the animal's propensity and took steps to keep the animal away form people, then that might be an appropriate defense. That would be even more likely to shield liability if the plaintiff takes some obvious steps which disregard those warnings (like jumping over a private fence). Similarly, if the person who is bitten is shown to have provoked the animal, then that may supersede other rules and preclude liability. Making threatening movements or egging an animal on inappropriately may limit recovery.
It is important to consider that all of these defenses and possible exceptions to general rules will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Specific characteristics about the dog, owner, environment, injured party, and other situational details will affect the possible outcome. For example, if the person bitten is a six year old child, then the rules might be applied differently. In other words, a six year old who is bitten after reaching a hand into a fence might not be held to have assumed the risk like a thirty five year old adult might.
NYC Dog Bite Lawyer
There are many other possible complications in these cases, and so it is critical to have the aid of an experienced NYC bite lawyer to explain how things might apply in your case. While dog bites may seem like a trivial event or small inconvenience, our legal team understands that these events often have serious costs for those affected. That is why we work hard to ensure that the full value of your losses is taken into consideration if compensation is appropriate.