Construction Workers Injured When Building Collapses

March 12, 2014

On February 26, 2014 eight construction workers were injured in a construction accident when the three story building, located at 1916 Prospect Place in Brooklyn, collapsed. The workers were inside the building, on the third floor, when it collapsed, causing them to plummet to the first floor.

These construction workers were sent inside the building, despite numerous open violations with the New York City Department of Buildings, which indicated the hazardous condition of the building. At the time of the accident, according to the records of the New York City Department of Buildings, the property located at 1916 Prospect Place had sixteen open violations issued by the Department of Buildings, as well as over $80,000 in unpaid fines issued as a result of these violations. Of these sixteen open violations eight were listed with a class - 1 severity, indicating that the violation was immediately hazardous.

In New York, a property owner can be held liable for injuries caused by an allegedly defective condition, if the owner either creates the defective condition, or has actual or constructive notice of the condition. This means a property owner can be held liable for injuries caused by defective conditions which the owner either knew about, or should have known about.

As a construction worker, you are entitled to a safe working environment. 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.

Colossal Explosion in Manhattan's East Harlem Kills Two and Leaves Many Seriously Injured

March 12, 2014

An explosion today in Manhattan's East Harlem caused a piano store and an evangelical church to crumble to pieces, leaving a grim scene behind. The buildings, which were located near 116th Street and Park Avenue, also contained fifteen residential units. The incident was reported to be deafeningly loud, like a bomb. One witness described the feeling in his room nearby in the Taft Houses as similar to experiencing an earthquake and a car crash at once. The force of the explosion caused debris to spew onto elevated Metro North train tracks across the street, resulting in temporary suspension of service. Residential and commercial building windows nearby were shattered to pieces. People ran into the streets and gathered there in crowds. Smoke and flames poured out of the wreckage while first responders dug into the bricks, looking for survivors.

Two fatalities and twenty-eight injuries have been documented. The injuries range from minor to severe. One individual reported hearing loss and another individual seems to have suffered a brain injury. Almost two dozen of the injured are being treated at Mount Sinai Hospital. A handful are being treated at Harlem Hospital. Other hospitals with patients with injuries from this incident include NY Presbyterian, Weill Cornell, and Metropolitan Hospital. Numerous people remain missing at this time.

The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined. However, a Park Avenue resident notified Con Edison of a gas leak at 1652 Park Avenue at 9:13 A.M., approximately fifteen minutes prior to the explosion. The caller specified that the odor may have been coming from the exterior of the building. Con Ed's work truck did not arrive at the scene until after the explosion. An eight inch low pressure gas main services this area; its condition is presently unknown.

Sources

CNN, Two buildings collapse, at least 2 dead after Manhattan explosion, Ray Sanchez, 03.12.2014

abc News, Two Dead, at least 28 Injured, Several Missing in NYC Building Explosion, Liz Fields, Aaron Katersky, Josh Margolin, 03.12.2014

The Metro-North Train Derailment in Bronx Should Not Have Happened - What Can Be Done to Prevent Future Harm?

December 2, 2013

On the morning of Sunday, December 1, 2013, a Metro North train derailed while it was traversing a severely curved portion of the track in the Bronx near the Spuyten Duyvil station. All of the train cars veered off of the track. The locomotive and cars in the front deviated the most, nearly toppling into the water and ending up close to the edge of the shore. There were approximately one hundred to one hundred and fifty passengers on the train at the time. There were four fatalities and sixty-three injuries. Three of the four people who passed away were thrown thrown from the train after the windows blew out.

The cause of the derailment is under an ongoing investigation. The scene of the accident was promptly reviewed and secured by authorities who braced the cars which came to rest at an angle. Busted out windows laid on the ground nearby. The interior of the cars were ripped apart and passengers' belongings were strewn about.

Engineer William Rockefeller has over a decade of experience with the Metro-North and survived with minor injuries. When he gave preliminary statements, he told first responders that he hit the brakes. There were three conductors on the train. Another official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claims a last resort emergency brake technique was used.

This severe curve of track has existed for a long time and is traveled frequently. The speed limit in the area where the incident occurred is drastically lower than that of straighter areas of nearby rail. Though the speed limit is seventy miles per hour in the area just before the curve, it is thirty miles per hour in the area where the train derailed. The train's black box data was recovered and is expected to reveal the speed of the train and whether the brakes were depressed but failed before the train went awry. The initial investigation is expected to take approximately ten days, though the final results may not be complete for a year.

This is not the first major problem Metro-North has had as of late. The Metro-North had other issues in May when two commuter trains smashed into each other during the evening rush hour in Connecticut. Also in May, a Metro-North foreman was hit by a train and killed when a track was inadvertently opened. In July, a freight train carrying trash derailed about a couple of hundred feet from where Sunday's incident occurred. Ten of the twenty-four cars went off the track. After that derailment, Metro-North's chief engineer reported that the railroad is behind in maintenance in several areas. In September, power was lost on the New Haven line for about twelve days after a feeder cable failed in Mount Vernon.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended railroads install technology that can stop derailing for reasons like excessive speed. This technology is geared towards preventing human error, which is responsible for approximately forty percent of adverse train incidents. Railroad companies are attempting to push back the deadline set for implementation, which is currently the end of 2015. Metro-North is in the process of installation, though it already has a system which will automatically apply the brakes if an engineer fails to respond to an alert indicating that speed is excessive. The system would hinder train speed but would not bring it to a complete stop.

It is not clear how long service will be disrupted, but Governor Andrew Cuomo says he expects service to be functioning towards the end of the week. The locomotive was re-rerailed this morning and two cranes have been readied to lift the remaining cars in place. Shuttle buses are being provided by the MTA from the stops to the Harlem line.

We wrote in May about the Connecticut train crash and wrote generally about what to do if you are involved in an accident. Cases involving a municipality like Metro-North have special deadlines and prerequisites, some of which are so strict and inflexible that if they are not met, a claim may be forfeited forever. It is critical to seek legal counsel early on to protect a potential claim.

Sources

The New York Times, Focus Turns to Investigation in Fatal Bronx Train Crash, James Barron and J. David Goodman, 12.01.2013

NBC News, Black box data recovered, eyed after deadly Metro-North derailment in New York, Tom Costello, 12.01.2013

CBS New York, Feds Seek Cause of Deadly Metro-North Crash, NTSB: 2nd Data Recorder Found At Derailment Site, 12.02.2013

Daily News, Metro-North crash latest in a spate of accidents involving the railroad, Pete Donohue and Erin Durkin, 12.01.2013

The Weather Channel, Metro-North Train Crash: MTA identifies 4 People Killed, 12.01.2013

Abusive Workers Caring for Disabled Still On State Payroll

August 9, 2013

When a person has mental or physical disabilities too severe for family members to care for them, it may be necessary to seek out professional help and place that person into a group home. Placing a family member into a group home is an agonizing decision and families may spend a lot of time to find the best place with the money they can afford. There is an expectation that workers will care for the family member, but the New York Times has discovered that abusive workers are not being disciplined or fired when necessary.

New York Times 2011 Article

More than 2 years ago, the New York Times ran an investigative piece about abuses against disabled individuals in state-run group homes. It found many cases of abuse, but not many of those cases were referred to law enforcement. Out of the cases referred for termination proceedings, a miniscule number actually ended in the employee being fired.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pledged in 2011 to change the low dismissal rate in order to rid the system of abusive employees and give better care to disabled individuals in state-run or state-permitted group homes. "The Cuomo administration announced a framework agreement with the union to create a table of mandatory punishments for various offenses, which would take many decisions out of arbitrators' hands."

New York Times 2013 Article

Fast-forward to 2013 and the Times revisited the group home situation. The Times found that the number of employees fired for abuse was still quite low. "The state had made no discernible progress in firing abusive and derelict workers. Not counting workers ultimately cleared of all disciplinary charges, the state still manages to fire only about a quarter of those recommended for job termination, a rate that has not budged."

Mr. Cuomo's agreement with the union, announced in 2011, has still not been finalized, which means that arbitrators still have wide latitude in employee discipline. Then there is a new state agency created by Mr. Cuomo called the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs that "will oversee and improve enforcement of crimes against vulnerable populations. ... The Justice Center has modestly increased the number of state investigators, adding 40 more agents dedicated to overseeing a vulnerable population that numbers in the hundreds of thousands."

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Yet there are many advocates who find that the Cuomo administration is not doing enough. Advocates argue "that abuse reports [should be] made directly to the police."

"Caring for people with developmental or mental disabilities is a difficult job -- residents can range from fragile and incapacitated to unruly and potentially aggressive." But this does not mean that employees have carte blanche to abuse these disabled individuals.

If you have a family member who has been abused in a group home, New York law requires the parent or legal guardian to be alerted within 24 hours. If a family member was abused, whether the parent or legal guardian was properly notified, that abuse should be compensated for. Contact our personal injury attorney to assess your situation today.

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Balcony Railing Failed Its Purpose to Protect From Falling

August 3, 2013

New York is known for its high-rise apartment buildings. Whether the building has apartments or condominiums, tenants expect plumping, heating, cooling, and other parts of the building to be kept in good repair. One part of an apartment that dwellers expect to be solid is their balcony. On Thursday August 1, 2013, a woman fell to her death from her 17th-floor balcony. The railing surrounding her balcony gave way and she lost her life.

Balcony railing gives way

The woman was on a date and went onto her balcony to smoke a cigarette. She perched on the wide metal railing along the edge of her balcony. The metal railing the woman sat on gave way. Then "she fell 140 feet to the construction scaffolding a the base of the building, at 400 East 57th Street, and died from the impact." "A photo of the corner balcony of the apartment where [the woman] lived shows the top who metal railings bent down in a V-shape."

The police department investigated, but determined that the railing failed while the woman was sitting on it and that caused her to fall to her death.

"The Department of Buildings immediately issued an order barring all other residents of the building from going onto their balconies, which it characterized as 'imminently perilous to life.'" The department took samples of the balcony railing for testing to determine how the railing could have given way. The department is also going to inspect all other balconies in the building for structural soundness. The building in question was building the 1930's, prior to World War II.

The New York Times noted that the building owner had recently purchased this building and "is doing extensive renovations, primarily on the inside of the building." The Department of Buildings records showed that the building owner had filed a balcony inspection report in February 2013, several months late.

The Department of Buildings ran "an extensive round of safety reviews [in 2010] and found that hundreds of building owners had failed to file required inspection reports on their balconies." Whether this incident will incite another round of inspections is not yet known.

How to protect oneself and one's family

While a balcony railing collapse is rare, it makes one stop to wonder, how do I protect myself and my family?

Check with the Department of Buildings to see if the building owner has filed the required balcony inspection report. If your apartment has a balcony, give the railing a shake, without leaning on it, to see if it is loose in any place. Get on hands and knees to closely check the concrete joint to the building to see if the concrete is cracked or crumbling in any way. If you see or suspect any problems, contact your building supervisor to request a formal inspection.

If you are not satisfied with the inspection, contact our experienced attorneys to help protect your rights and your safety.

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Tappan Zee Bridge Accident

July 26, 2013

Bridges are ubiquitous in New York City. To get from Manhattan Island, Staten Island, or Long Island to each other or the main continent requires a bridge or a tunnel. And most of those bridges are for car travel. And cars get into accidents. Recently the Tappan Zee Bridge was the sight of a major accident that resulted in a death.

The Accident

On July 23, 2013, an S.U.V. caused an accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge. The S.U.V. was traveling south in the northbound lane just before 9 p.m. The S.U.V. crashed into a Nissan, which rolled over multiple times. A third vehicle avoided the S.U.V. and the Nissan, but was hit from behind by a fourth vehicle. A fifth vehicle sideswiped the S.U.V. before the traffic was brought to a standstill. The passenger in the Nissan was pronounced dead on the scene. Four others were injured and taken to local hospitals. Traffic was snarled for hours.

The New York Times reported "onlookers stunned by the sight of a car traveling the wrong way on the busy crossing immediately took to Twitter to describe both the crash and the resulting traffic jam." Some witnesses, who encountered the S.U.V. before the crash, pulled off the road and called 911. Witnesses said the S.U.V. was speeding up the ramp and onto the bridge. One witness said, "he had his lights on and he was beeping at me and I could not believe what I was seeing."

Bridge.jpg

Police are still investigating exactly what happened to lead up to the crash. The day after the crash, state police released a statement that the driver of the S.U.V. had medical issues and had an anxiety attack just prior to heading onto the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Safety Features

While automobile safety measures have come leaps and bounds since the first Model A rolled off Henry Ford's assembly line, accidents happen. Some common safety features on all cars are seatbelts, airbags, laminated windshields, crumple zones, and side impact protection beams.

Seatbelts prevent people from being ejected from their car in an accident. Air bags inflate in a crash to cushion the occupant during impact. Most cars have airbags in the steering column and the dashboard of the front passenger seat. There are car models with side airbags as well. Laminated windshields shatter, but remain in one piece. "Crumple zones absorb and dissipate the force of a collision, displacing and diverting it away from the passenger compartment." Side impact protection beams absorb crash energy to protect passengers when a car is hit side-on.

Even with all of these safety measures, a driver must still be aware of what is going on around them at all times. Injuries can be more severe if a car's safety measure do not deploy properly. With more technology, there are more distractions on the road today. Phone conversations and texting while driving are common causes of car accidents these days.

If you are in a car accident, whether it is the fault of someone else or due to a defect in your car, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to assure that your rights are protected.

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Bombs to Battle Bugs Cause Building Collapse

July 19, 2013

Creepy crawlies belong outside, not in houses. People try many different methods to discourage bugs from entering their homes, whether it be a house or an apartment. There are many products one can use to kill bugs and keep them out of the home. But these products contain a lot of chemicals and can harm humans as much as bugs. And one needs to be cautious because these chemicals are highly flammable, as was shown in the fogger explosion in Chinatown recently.

Exploding Bug Bombs

A woman had a problem with bugs infesting her apartment. She purchased foggers, also known as bug bombs, to deal with the problem. Foggers release a fine mist of chemicals into the air that filter into walls and small places to kill bugs. "A single six-ounce can is enough to treat 6,000 cubic feet of space, which translates roughly to an 800-square-foot apartment with a seven-foot ceiling."

The woman used about 20 foggers in the bedroom of her two-room apartment on one day. The next day she used another 20 foggers in her main room. "However, she failed to turn off her oven's pilot light, and the meeting of the flame and the highly flammable contents set off a powerful explosion, fire officials said." The explosion blew out the back wall of the building and collapsed part of the building.

Pest Control

Pesticide chemicals are highly poisonous and volatile. The Environmental Protection Agency published a Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. The guide details how pesticides should be handled and applied. It also goes through precautions to prevent child poisoning.

Bug Spray.jpg

There are a number of different types of pesticides. They tend to be grouped according to either the targeted pest or the chemical families they derive from. They can be solid form where the targeted insect eats the insecticide. There are sticky tapes used to physically trap insects, and there are liquid forms in spray cans and foggers.

Government statistics state that "every year there are about 500 fires or explosions linked to [foggers] across the country." Foggers may appear easy to use, for a person can pull the tab and leave the residence, but many people are not using them correctly. Foggers do not work against bedbugs and are not the most effective defense against cockroaches. And once a person has set off a fogger, they must wait a number of hours before re-entering the residence and opening windows for proper ventilation. Without following these requirements, many people end up being poisoned.

Pesticides Can Lead to Legal Liability

While the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is a good axiom to follow when dealing with pest control, things can still go wrong. Just because you followed the instructions on the product doesn't mean you can't get poisoned and become ill. If you decide to go the professional route, you could still become ill. If you have been injured by use of pesticides and used them according to all instructions, there is a possibility the pesticide was not properly labeled. If you become ill after a professional treatment, the pesticide company may not have been following proper protocol or given proper instructions on what to do after the treatment was completed. If you have questions, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to assess your situation.

Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfight cc

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Bombs to Battle Bugs Cause Building Collapse

July 17, 2013

Creepy crawlies belong outside, not in houses. People try many different methods to discourage bugs from entering their homes, whether it be a house or an apartment. There are many products one can use to kill bugs and keep them out of the home. But these products contain a lot of chemicals and can harm humans as much as bugs. And one needs to be cautious because these chemicals are highly flammable, as was shown in the fogger explosion in Chinatown recently.

Exploding Bug Bombs

A woman had a problem with bugs infesting her apartment. She purchased foggers, also known as bug bombs, to deal with the problem. Foggers release a fine mist of chemicals into the air that will filter into walls and small places to kill bugs. "A single six-ounce can is enough to treat 6,000 cubic feet of space, which translates roughly to an 800-square-foot apartment with a seven-foot ceiling."

The woman used about 20 foggers in the bedroom of her two-room apartment on one day. The next day she used another 20 foggers in her main room. "However, she failed to turn off her oven's pilot light, and the meeting of the flame and the highly flammable contents set off a powerful explosion, fire officials said." The explosion blew out the back wall of the building and collapsed part of the building.

Pest Control

Pesticide chemicals are highly poisonous and volatile. The Environmental Protection Agency published a Citizen's Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. The guide details how pesticides should be handled and applied. It also goes through precautions to prevent child poisoning.

There are a number of different types of pesticides. They tend to be grouped according to either the targeted pest or the chemical families they derive from. They can be solid form where the targeted insect eats the insecticide. There are sticky tapes used to physically trap insects. And there are liquid forms in spray cans and foggers.

Government statistics state that "every year there are about 500 fires or explosions linked to [foggers] across the country." Foggers may appear easy to use, pull the tab and leave the residence, but many people are not using them correctly. Foggers do not work against bedbugs and are not the most effective defense against cockroaches. And once a person has set off a fogger, they must wait a number of hours before reentering the residence and opening windows for proper ventilation. Without following these requirements, many people end up poisoned.

Pesticides Can Lead to Legal Liability

While the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is a good axiom to follow when dealing with pest control, things can still go wrong. Just because you followed the instructions on the product doesn't mean you can't get poisoned and become ill. If you decide to go the professional route, you could still become ill. If you have been injured by use of pesticides and used them according to all instructions, there is a possibility the pesticide was not properly labeled. If you get ill after a professional treatment, the pesticide company may not have been following proper protocol or given proper instructions on what to do after the treatment is complete. If you have questions, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to assess your situation.

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Expert Testimony Necessary in Medical Malpractice Cases

July 12, 2013

Surgery of any kind is fraught with perils for the patient. There is nervousness over being in a hospital and dealing with anesthesia. What kind of scar they might have afterwards. How long it will take to recover after the surgery. But having a sponge or a medical instrument left inside your body is not what a patient wants to hear from their surgeon. So the patient sues for medical malpractice, but not every medical instrument left inside a patient's body will be considered medical malpractice.

The Guide Wire

In 2004, a woman had a biopsy of her lung. The surgeon inserted a guide wire for to make sure he was focused on the correct area of the lung. During the biopsy, the guide wire dislodged. The surgeon spent 20 minutes searching for the guide wire, but was unsuccessful. He left the guide wire inside the patient and ended the surgical procedure because he thought it was in the patient's best interest. The surgeon informed the woman about the guide wire and explained why he had left it in.

The woman returned to the surgeon complaining about pain that interfered with her work. About two months after the original surgery, the surgeon performed a second operation and used a special x-ray machine to locate and remove the guide wire.

The Lawsuit

The woman sued the surgeon for medical malpractice arguing that the surgeon's actions in leaving the guide wire inside her body was negligence. The surgeon moved to dismiss the case because the evidence the woman submitted at trial was not sufficient to prove medical malpractice. The surgeon "argued that the plaintiff failed to show a deviation from accepted standards of medical practice, and also that such deviation was the" actual cause of the woman's injury.

The woman objected to the surgeon's motion saying that because the surgeon left the wire inside her it would be readily apparent to any juror that there was negligence because "there was no medical reason to leave the wire" inside the woman. Further, the surgeon could have requested the special x-ray machine during the first operation to locate and remove the guide wire and he did not, which would lead a reasonable person to conclude he was negligent.

The trial court dismissed the case in favor of the surgeon. The woman appealed, but lost at the Appellate Division level. She then appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the woman's arguments and determined that in order to prove her case she needed expert testimony. Because there was no expert testimony introduced at trial, the Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal.

It is necessary for attorneys to cover all bases in any lawsuit they file. By not bringing in an expert witness to testify to the necessary standard of care, there was a fatal flaw in the woman's case. Our attorneys cover all bases and assure that our clients' rights are protected. If you have a complaint against a doctor for the medical care you received, contact our attorneys to fight for your rights.

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Not Following Doctor's Orders Is Not Medical Malpractice

July 8, 2013

Medical Malpractice is "the improper or poor performance of a physician, ... and other medical professionals." Malpractice can be intentional or negligent due to an error or omission on the part of the doctor. If a person does not follow a doctor's instructions or checks themselves out of a hospital, it is not the doctor's or hospital's fault for anything that happens to that person.

The Situation

A man went to a hospital because he felt suicidal. The hospital had personnel watch over him and put him on medication to stabilize him. He improved and checked out of the hospital.

A month later, the man's friend brought him into the emergency room intoxicated. "He showed signs of severe intoxication, including red eyes, garbled speech and a strong smell of alcohol. His blood-alcohol content was extremely high: .369%." The man asked to enter the hospital's detoxification facility. After waiting four hours to be transferred to the detox facility, the man removed his IV and told the nurse he was leaving by taxi. The nurse told the man to call a friend instead and then went to find his treating physician. By the time the nurse and doctor returned, the man had left.

Neither the nurse nor the doctor called the police to alert them about the man and his condition. The doctor did inform hospital security about the situation, but did nothing further.

About two hours later, the man was hit by a vehicle and injured. He sued the doctor, the doctor's professional corporation, and the hospital for medical malpractice. The defendants moved for summary judgment that the man's lawsuit should be dismissed. The trial court denied the motions. The defendants' appealed.

Appeals

The appellate division granted the motions for summary judgment and the man appealed to the New York State Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals noted that we live in a free society and people cannot be detained except within narrow parameters. The law only permits "restraint of people whose mental state might make them a danger to themselves or others only in extreme circumstances." Since the man voluntarily came to the hospital and voluntarily sought to enter the detox facility, the Court of Appeals stated that state law made no provisions for involuntarily detaining the man because he showed no signs of being a danger to himself or others.

The man argued that since he had been admitted to the hospital the month before for suicidal thoughts, the hospital should have known he would be injured. The court disagreed with this argument and affirmed the appellate division's decision granting summary judgment.

Hospital Hallway.jpg

What Does This Mean?

If a person checks themselves out of a hospital facility and something happens to them, it is not the hospital's fault. A person has the right to seek treatment and to not follow a treatment recommendation. But, if a person does not follow a treatment recommendation, they cannot sue the doctor, hospital, or other medical facility for malpractice. Yet if a doctor or hospital does not follow the proper procedure or best practices and you are injured, it would be in your best interest to seek assistance from our knowledgeable attorneys to protect your rights.

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Blue Bikes Offer New Transportation Mode, But Dangers Still Abound

June 27, 2013

Blue bicycles emblazoned with "citi bike" are becoming ubiquitous around New York City. On May 27, 2013, the Citi Bike program opened to Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. The program started with 6,000 bicycles at more than 300 stations. The "city has added more than 350 miles of bike lanes in recent years" in order to accommodate the Citi Bike program. While biking is healthy and doesn't add to air pollution, a biker must be cautious and aware to prevent injury.

Injuries While Biking

"About 800 deaths and more than half a million emergency room visits related to bicycling occur in the United States each year. Head injuries account for about two-thirds of hospitalizations and three-fourths of deaths. ... Helmets would prevent about 85 percent of head injuries."

A common cause of injuries is "dooring" where a driver opens their car door in front of a bicyclist creating an obstacle. Incidents of dooring, "along with drivers' failure to give bikers the right of way, account for nearly half of all bicycle-vehicle accidents." It is recommended that bicyclists "heed the 'door zone,' biking roughly four feet to the left of parked cars."

Bikers also need to take responsibility for their actions while on the road. It is important to avoid distractions, maintain safe speeds and obey traffic signals. "A recent study in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention found that bicyclists who text or talk on the phone or with a fellow bicyclist are more than twice as likely to engage in unsafe biking behaviors."

Bicycle Safety

There are a number of actions a bicyclist can take to protect themselves while riding. First off, as mentioned above, wearing a helmet can prevent major head injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a website devoted to bicycle information. NHTSA has a brochure to properly fit a bike helmet. The brochure says to measure your head, position the helmet low on the forehead, adjust the side straps to form a "v" shape under the ears, and center the left buckle under the chin. When buckling the chinstrap, it should be snug, but allow two fingers to fit under it.

Having lights in addition to reflectors on both the front and the back of a bicycle will increase visibility at night. Also, wearing "reflective tape or markings on equipment or clothing" helps too.

It is important to remember that "bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators, including obeying traffic signs, signals, and lane markings. When cycling in the street, cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic."

Always signal all turns. "Point your left arm out to move left, and point your right arm out to move right. Before signaling left, be sure to check your mirror or look behind you before signaling (since a car passing too closely can take your arm out)."

Even if a cyclist takes all possible precautions of using a helmet and wearing reflective tape, accidents do happen. If you have been injured while riding a bike or by a bicyclist, contact our knowledgeable attorneys to protect your rights.

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Exploding Gas Tanks Leads to Major Vehicle Recall

June 20, 2013

Exploding cars are de rigueur in action movies. But in real life, it is pretty scary. Think about the Ford Pinto and one pictures exploding gas tanks. This was used to great comic effect in the movie "Top Secret," a parody of WWII spy movies. But there have been "32 rear-impact collisions that caused fatal fires resulting in 44 deaths in Grand Cherokees, and five accidents that resulted in seven deaths in Jeep Libertys" according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The Investigation

On August 23, 2010, NHTSA opened an investigation into possible fuel tank explosions during rear-end collision and impacts. This investigation covered Jeep Grand Cherokees for model years 1993 to 2004, Jeep Cherokees for model years 1993 to 2001, and Jeep Libertys for model years 2002 to 2007. This investigation started as a safety defect investigation, but was upgraded to an engineering analysis to determine if the "vehicles contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety." NHTSA said the design of the vehicle with "the location of the gas tanks behind the rear axle of the Jeeps could make them more vulnerable to being ruptured in an accident."

By the end of this investigation, NHTSA recommended that Chrysler issue the recall and listed the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty as defective vehicles.

But Chrysler refused to issue the recall on June 4, 2013. "Chrysler said it did not agree that the vehicles, among its most profitable models, were unsafe, adding that fire-related accidents involving the vehicles were rare and not related to a defective design."

After discussions between Chrysler's chief executive and the head of NHTSA, Chrysler agreed to the voluntary recall. Chrysler agreed to "put trailer hitches on some older-model Jeeps to protect them in the event of rear-end accidents." This was in exchange for NHTSA to stop describing these models as defective.

Will this recall affect Chrysler's bottom line?

As noted, the fix here is adding a trailer hitch, which puts more space between an impacting car and the gas tank. These parts do not have to be specifically manufactured. The parts can be pulled from a bin and "installed for a little more than $150 per vehicle retail, with labor." Automotive News commentator Larry P. Vellequette figures that "Chrysler's total exposure is maybe $120 million to $150 million." While this is not an insignificant amount of money, it is still less than a year's worth of profits for Chrysler.

Does a mandatory versus voluntary recall make a difference in safety?

According to NHTSA, over the past decade there has been, on average, 600 vehicle recalls, 20 tire recalls, and 8 child restraint recalls per year. In 2011, the most recent data available, that amounted to 15.5 million individual recalls. That is a lot of recall notices, so much so that a citizen can subscribe to receive email notifications from HNTSA for their make and model year of car. Registered owners of the Jeep models included in this recall should receive a notice about the recall and what to do to have repairs done.

If you have been injured as a result of a defective automobile, contact our personal injury attorney to help protect your rights.

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First Responders Delayed By Human Error

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First Responders Delayed By Human Error

June 11, 2013

9-1-1. It is commonly the first phone number parents teach their children. It "is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan." And with this dedicated number, we have expectations of extremely rapid service when we call 911. But sometimes human error can delay first responders.

History of 911

The push for the development of a nationwide American emergency telephone number came "in 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used for reporting fires." This became the national emergency number in 1968 for callers to access police, fire and ambulance services. While 911 may have been established in 1968, it was not until well into 1980s that most municipalities established 911 service.

The 911 system has an address database that connects an incoming phone number to the assigned address. This allows emergency personnel to locate emergencies when the caller is unable to give a street address.

911 Problems

Even with this established emergency phone number to contact help quickly, problems can occur. As noted, the 911 system was not established in most municipalities until the late 1980s. This meant that individual communities had different standard seven-digit emergency numbers, as opposed to the simple three-digit 911. If you were visiting an area without 911 service, it would be necessary to know the specific seven-digit emergency number.

With the advent of cell phones, which are designed to be mobile, finding a person's location was only possible if the person calling could tell the emergency operator where they were. There is an FCC rule that requires all phones to be GPS-capable to aid first responders in pinpointing accident locations. And updated systems are being put into place, like in New York City.

New York City 911

There have been a few glitches in the new NYC 911 system. "In recent weeks, just as the new $88 million dispatch relay system is coming online, emergency operators in New York City have been forced on multiple occasions to resort to using pen and paper to record 911 calls and dispatch emergency workers after their computer system went dark."

Human Error

Even with these computer glitches, first responders got to their destinations quickly. The latest problem however is being blamed on human error. A young girl was struck by a sport utility vehicle (SUV) while on the sidewalk. An unlicensed teenager was driving the SUV, trying to flee from police. The young girl suffered extensive injuries. The emergency call was answered and forwarded to emergency medical workers, but then no one saw the call for four minutes. "Someone else noticed it and sent an ambulance that arrived four minutes after that. The usual response time is about 90 seconds faster."

The young girl was alive when emergency medical personnel arrived. When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the young girl was pronounced dead.

While this tragedy is heart-rending, hundreds of calls are answered by 911 operators and immediate assistance is sent. When you are in an accident and have an emergency, call 911 for assistance. Once your situation is stable, call our NY personal injury attorneys to help protect your rights.

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Walking Through New York

Being Chauffeured by Rosie the Robot

June 4, 2013

Would a car accident involving a driverless car be covered by New York's no-fault insurance law? (N.Y. ISC Law § 5103) What if a car could drive itself? You could read the New York Times or Wall Street Journal from the driver's seat or work on your personal computer while HAL drives you to work. (2001: A Space Odyssey) Think about removing human error to reduce the 93 percent of accidents that occur due to human error, a total of 34,000 traffic deaths.

The current journey

Back in 2008, General Motors announced the establishment of the Collaborative Research lab between GM and Carnegie Mellon University to work together to develop a driverless vehicle. Carnegie Mellon faculty from the School of Computer Science and College of Engineering work with GM Research and Development to work "on technologies that will accelerate the emerging field of autonomous driving - a family of electronics and software technologies that could influence the way drivers and their vehicles interact in the future."

In August 2012, Marketplace from American Public Media reported that Google had a fleet of driverless cars that had just "completed 300,000 miles of driving without having an accident of any kind." The article pointed out that, "There have, of course been some accidents that involved Google's self-driving cars in the past. All of these, however, happened while humans were in control of the cars."

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January this year, there were varying self-driving technologies on display from Audi to Toyota.

Driverless Cars Ready for the Production Line?

A recent Freakonomics Radio article on American Public Media's Marketplace looked at the current status of Carnegie Mellon's innovations. Carnegie Mellon used a Cadillac SUV that looks like it came off the showroom floor. They want to "build a driverless car that (A) doesn't look like a robot and (B) is relatively affordable. So all the cameras, and sensors, and radars are embedded in the bumpers and elsewhere. It looks pretty much like a stock car unless you open up the spare tire compartment, that's where all the computers are. And then there is also a big red kill button on the dashboard."

Driverless cars and personal injury in New York?

So how would accidents caused by driverless cars be affected by New York's no-fault insurance law? A car's owner is responsible for any injuries caused by the car, even if someone else was driving. As of now, driverless cars have kill switches, which would allow a human to take control. Driverless cars would likely not change New York's no-fault insurance law in the immediate future, but they may reduce the number of accidents caused by human error. For now, human error will remain and car accidents will happen. If you have been injured by an automobile, driven by a human or a computer, contact our personal injury attorney to assess your situation today.

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Walking Through New York

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Walking Through New York

May 30, 2013

Subways and taxis are common ways to get around New York City. But an ever more common and older method of transportation is walking. There are sidewalks throughout Manhattan and the boroughs. And on these sidewalks are many pedestrians walking to various destinations.

The City of New York Parks & Recreation department has a program called Walk NYC. It "is a free program that encourages New Yorkers of all ages to get fit while enjoying the outdoors. With funding provided by Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, Parks will staff locations throughout the city with trained walking instructors to lead one-hour walks." Walk NYC has locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. There are many parks around New York within which to take a stroll. Central Park, Battery Park, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach are all great parks to take walks through.

Sidewalk Walking

But why drive to a park when you can use the sidewalk right out front and walk around your neighborhood. As noted, there are lots of sidewalks and there are crosswalks at every corner. After Hurricane Sandy took trains out of service due to flooding, a major part of the city's mass transit system, even more people were walking through New York.

This is a good thing right? In New York, walking is a mixed blessing. With all of the cars, trucks and taxis crowding New York streets, pedestrians and bikers must be highly alert to avoid accidents. The New York State Health department states the yearly state average of motor vehicle traffic-related pedestrian deaths is 312. On average 3,446 pedestrians are hospitalized due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries. And the total yearly emergency room visits due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries is 12,104 pedestrians.

Bicyclists are also prone to motor vehicle traffic-related fatalities and injuries as well. On average there are 31 deaths, 635 hospitalizations, and 3,209 emergency room visits per year.

Focus: New York City

A team of surgeons, physicians, and researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center tracked admissions at the Bellevue Hospital Center from December 2008 to June 2011. They saw 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists after being in a collision at this one hospital. When they looked at hospital admissions city-wide, they totaled 11,000 pedestrians and 3,500 bicyclists were injured by motor vehicles in 2010. Most of these injuries "occurred in Manhattan and western Brooklyn, stretching along the busiest corridors of a city where street safety and traffic engineering have been trumpeted as defining legacies of May Michael R. Bloomberg's tenure." .

Interesting Results

Some interesting results from this study include:

*About 8 percent of both pedestrians and cyclists said they were injured while using an electronic device, including cellphone or music player. For victims ages 7 to 17, the numbers climbed to more than 10 percent of pedestrians and nearly 30 percent of cyclists.

*About 40 percent of injured [bicycle] riders were bit by taxis, compared with 25 percent of pedestrians.

*More than 80 percent of cyclists rode with traffic flow, but less than a third wore helmets.

*On weekdays, about 60 percent of pedestrians were struck between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with injuries occurring consistently over what are typically the highest-traffic hours of the day.

(Information taken from New York Times article Crosswalks in New York Are Not Havens, Study Finds)

In addition, 44 percent of injuries occurred when pedestrians used the crosswalk with the signal. And while we like to think sidewalks are safe, about 6 percent of pedestrian injuries by motor vehicle occurred on those very sidewalks.

Walking with your eyes and ears open is great for your health and our environment. But an individual must still be aware. If you have been injured walking on a sidewalk or crossing the street, contact our personal injury attorney to review your rights.

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Train Crash Highlights Rail Dangers, But Also Improvements in Rail Safety

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