Articles Tagged with Automobile accident lawyer New York

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In 2013, a New York Police Officer was responding to a motor vehicle accident in the Bronx.  While standing by her patrol car gathering documents to complete, an uninvolved van stopped uphill just ahead of the accident began rolling backwards.  Plaintiff, a single mother, working for the Police Department for over 10 years tried to move out of the way but was pinned between the patrol car as she was struck by the van’s sideview mirror.

She was taken to the scene by ambulance and treated for a right (dominant hand) wrist injury.  X-rays were initially negative, but within a week, the swelling had subsided and a radius fracture was diagnosed along with a nerve injury to her hand.

Leav & Steinberg, LLP had represented several members of her family before and been successful for them.  However, she was also aware that our firm’s reputation for successfully litigating cases against The New York Police Department for negligence. Wanting a firm that would fight for justice for anyone seriously injured,  she contacted partner Edward Steinberg, who came to her home and spent time understanding the details of the case, and limits the injury was going to cause on her career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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