Recently in Car Accidents Category

The Past, Present, and Future of Protecting Privates in Personal Injury Cases

January 15, 2015

One of a personal injury attorney's most important tasks is to protect clients. Two major parts of that involve ensuring clients have the best case possible under the law and protecting their privacy. Our last blog was about how injury attorneys can fortify a case with information from vehicle event data recorders. We linked to the New York law about the disclosure of the information recorded by event data records, such as speed, location, and brake performance. That type of activity recording raises privacy concerns, but that comes with the injury case territory.

Another privacy issue arises from a similar recording device, the license plate recorder. License plate recorders are cameras that may be mounted on things like police cars, tow trucks, traffic signs, and bridges and they have the potential to track each and every location an individual has driven. The ACLU has called for more legal restriction on the information obtained by these devices based on rights contained in the Fourth Amendment, in part because private companies are disclosing information with little to no oversight. Some states have already passed laws on the retention of the information collected from these cameras.

New recording devices raise new issues; as technology evolves, so does the law. But personal injury attorneys have been dealing with countless privacy issues since the start. Most commonly we deal with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA law. The law says injury attorneys have to turn over certain medical records and authorizations releasing medical records directly from healthcare providers to the attorneys whose job is to defend the case. A proper HIPAA authorization is always required to release medical records, but generally speaking only records related to the body parts injured in the accident need to be turned over. In Gumbs v. Flushing Town Center III, L.P., 1114 A.D.3d 573, 981 N.Y.S.2d 394 (1st Dept. 2014), the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Honorable Laura Douglas to protect the plaintiff from providing authorizations to the defendants relating to some of his own medical records. His case was related to injuries sustained to his shoulder and ankle. The defendants were seeking records from his cardiologist and primary care physician. The defendants claimed the records were related to the plaintiff's ability to work and his life expectancy.

New HIPAA-related issues were created by electronic filing. Although putting bulky legal files into electronic form has its benefits, it also allows anyone who is capable of setting up an account to have easy access to a complete stranger's medical records. The state court rules and the federal court rules both require redaction of the month and date of an individual's date of birth and all but four digits of a social security number, among other things.

Another privacy issue, though one which has been litigated in relative detail at this stage, is disclosure of family members' records in toxic tort cases, such as those involving lead paint. Some common demands made by defense counsel when faced with claims of an infant who was exposed to lead paint in their apartment are for the mother's medical, pharmaceutical, and academic records. Another common demand is for the medical records of the siblings. In Vazquez v. New York City Hous. Auth., 79 A.D.3d 623, 914 N.Y.S.2d 127 (1st Dept. 2010), a young individual was exposed to a lead paint condition which exacerbated his pervasive developmental disorder. The defendant wanted to see the medical and academic records of the siblings, who were not involved in the lawsuit. The courts found that there was nothing more than speculation to support the notion that the siblings' mental condition had any bearing on the plaintiff's condition and denied the request.

The common thread among these issues is that privacy, confidentiality, and privilege are still being protected while technology is helping us do what we need to do in a different way. It will be interesting to see how, as technology evolves, the law draws a line to balance competing interests.


The Legal Examiner, Is Privacy Jeopardized by LPRs? by Steven J. Klearman, 01.08.15

ACLU, You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used To Record Americans' Movements


January 8, 2015

You get a new case call to your office. The prospective client tells you that they were traveling on a road with the right of way when a car traveling in the opposite direction seemed to speed up and then made a sudden left turn in front of them. Prior to turning the other car seemed so far away. You get the police report and the offending vehicle says it was fully stopped and when safe to enter began its turn when the collision occurred. Sure the turning car should yield to your client. But you want the smoking gun, the evidence to prove they are being less than truthful.

That time has come.

In 2012 Congress passed Senate Bill 1813, Section 31406 which mandates that all cars sold in the United States starting in 2015 be equipped with Event Data Recorders.
The EDR as it is called will capable of recording vehicle speed, engine speed (RPM). Better yet they record data for usually 5 seconds prior to an event.

Such evidence if properly preserved and studied can prove with certainty that the offending car turning left had not stopped as they claimed but rather had tried to speed up and rush through the turn prior to the light changing and failing to yield the right of way to your client. This can help you get your client the full and complete damages that they are entitled to.

The firm of Leav & Steinberg, LLP has been representing car accident victims who suffer serious injuries. Just last year Daniel T. Leav went to trial on a matter of a young woman who was seriously injured in an accident involving the same facts as above. Through our investigation and use of technology we were able to obtain a $750,000.00 award for the client.

See also:
New York Vehicle and Traffic Code § 416-b

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."


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.

Photo Credit: Kıvanç Niş via Compfight cc

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

Being Chauffeured by Rosie the Robot

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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Being Chauffeured by Rosie the Robot

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

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

Accidents Under the No Fault Law

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.

Related Links:

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

Do You Know What To Do If You're Injured?

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

May 20, 2013

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.

Related Links:

Ferry Crash Injures More Than Eighty-Five

New Jersey - Manhattan Ferry Crash Update

Accidents Under the No Fault Law

April 21, 2013

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?

Are you Injured Enough?

April 5, 2013

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.

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Do You Know What To Do If You're Injured?
Wrongful Death Following Car Accidents

Are School Buses At Serious Risk for Traffic Accidents?

March 24, 2013

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.

See Related Blog Posts:
Two Bus Crash Near Lincoln Tunnel Injures Twenty
Do You Know What to Do If You're Injured?

Wrongful Death Following Car Accidents

March 5, 2013

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.

See Related Blog Posts:

Motor Vehicle Accident Statistics Now Public

Brain Injury Figures Likely Higher Than Reported

The Dangers of Drowsy Driving

February 24, 2013

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.

More Data
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."

Legal Help
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.

Brain Injury Figures Likely Higher Than Reported

February 8, 2013

Few personal injuries are as far reaching as those affecting the brain. Because it acts as the nerve center of virtually all human functioning, there are essentially an unlimited numbers of consequences when one suffers a brain injury. One of the more complex aspects of the harm is that because serious damage may result without obvious outward physical harm, many victims never know the true extent of the damage. On a statewide and national scale, that also means that total brain injury statistics might not be all that reliable.

Drastic Underreporting
For example, one study released late last year found that reported brain injuries may be as much as six times lower than the actual number. Unlike previous efforts, this examination attempt to include more "mild" causes of traumatic brain injury. "Mild," of course, is a relative term, as any damage the one's brain is a serious matter requiring medical attention.

To reach the result, the academics analyzed a range of records, from autopsy reports and medical records to MRI reports. All told they determined that the published rate of TBIs are likely far too low, particularly when mild TBIs (like concussions) are included. Concussions often do not result in a trip to the hospital, and so they were under-included in previous efforts. Concussions are often brushed off as getting "knocked up" or having one's "clock rung." In many sporting events, for example, they are ignored. But the truth is that these injuries can have many more far-reaching effects than once suspected.

The particular study referred here was reported in the international medical journal known as "The Lancet." Broken down by type of injury, the study found that the vast majority of TBIs were "mild," accounting for nearly 1,400 examples in the study.
The actual most common single cause of TBIs, per the study, are falls. They accounted for about 38% of the injuries documented in the study. However, the prevalence of falls was not even throughout the population. As might be expected, older individuals, including senior citizens, were more likely to have a fall-related TBI. The younger subjects were more likely to develop the injury in sports or other forms of play.

When it comes to more serious forms of TBI, automobile accidents are the single biggest cause, accounting for about 40% of all injuries. The force that is often felt by those caught in a car accident are far stronger than those felt in a fall or other household accident. As a result, the ultimate harm may be very great.

Missing Detection
Somewhat disturbingly, only about 64% of the brain injuries were actually detected in hospitals. This suggests that many who suffer these harms are not getting the help they need in a timely fashion. That problem is likely influenced by the fact that many do not take bumps and knocks on the head as serious as they should. But the problem runs deeper than that because even in moderate and severe TBI cases, nearly two out of ten were not identified by the hospital. This is somewhat head-scratching, as it is hard to image medical professionals not identifying or treating these more severe injuries which likely had outwardly obvious physical manifestations.

Sometimes Legal Rights Are Violated
Not all TBIs are caused by the misconduct of another. However, in far too many cases, particularly when serious brain injuries develop, negligence is a root cause. This is most obvious in automobile accidents. In most cases, a car accident is caused by some form of driver error which usually leads to legal liability. If you or someone you know is in this situation, please get in touch with our office to see if our NYC accident lawyers can help.

An Employer's Liability for an Employee's Actions

January 20, 2013

In many situations, if you have been injured due to a company's employee, that employee may not be the only one liable for your injuries. Under New York law, an employer is many times liable for their employee's actions and any injuries that result from those actions, even when the employer had no direct role in any injury sustained or even any intention to cause you injury. The law holds employers responsible, because not only does an employer direct the behavior of its employees but an employer is also better suited to be able to compensate you for any injuries you sustain.

If an employee, in the course of his or her employment, causes you an injury through negligent actions or even a failure to act, then the employer may be held responsible. Generally, an act is considered in the course of employment if the employer has authorized the employee to act or the act is closely related to an act authorized by the employer. On the other hand, the employer will typically not be responsible for an employee's actions in the event that the employee is going to buy groceries or doing some other personal business on company time.

For example, a number of different employers allow their employees to use a company vehicle, even when not on strict company business. If an employee takes the company car to a bar and gets into a car accident, the employer will generally not be liable because the employee was visiting the bar on his or her own personal time. On the other hand, if the employee takes a client to the bar with the employer's permission and gets into a car accident, the employer will be responsible, because they were acting with their employer's authorization. The issue is not always simple though with the issue becoming markedly more complex if the employee is intoxicated, because it is questionable whether or not the employer should have expected the employee to become intoxicated when taking a client to a bar.

If you are injured by an employee, the employer could also be held liable for negligent hiring or negligent retention. Negligent hiring or negligent retention actually involves employee actions that are performed outside the employee's scope of employment. In most cases with negligent hiring or negligent retention, the employer is held liable for the employee's criminal conduct. In short, the employer is held responsible for carelessly hiring or retaining a criminal for a job that the employer should have expected would expose others to harm.

For example, a nursing home would likely be held liable for hiring an employee who was previously convicted of fraud and identity theft, if the employee then steals the identity of patients. In this case, it would not be difficult to argue that the nursing home should have known that it was likely the employee would act in this way. Similarly, if the nursing home hires an employee who is charged with identity theft after being hired, the nursing home may be held liable for negligent retention if the employee steals patients' identities, because there was a significant likelihood that he would do so.