Going Up: Traffic Fatalities

In May, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) published early projections of motor vehicle fatality rates for 2012. For the first time since 2005, fatality figures went up and, while reasons are not entirely clear, there are some good guesses.

According to NHTSA, a fatality is included in their data if a collision occurred that involved the death of a vehicle occupant within 30 days of the accident. For 2012, that means a 5.3 percent increase in fatalities from 2012.

Keeping yourself and your family safe from harm on any roadway is not always easy. Consider these tips:

  • Do not drive distracted and be aware of those who do. Next time you are out, take note of drivers talking on cell phones or texting (even though it is against the law). They are driving distracted and could make a fatal error at an intersection near you.
  • Impaired driving is more than just drunk driving. Like distraction, fatigue affects driving in ways similar to drinking alcohol. When you are tired, reaction time, decision making and physical coordination is impaired. Business trips and jet lag add to the problem.
  • Remember the rules of the road. Rules of the road standardize the flow of traffic. Those who drive outside those rules, like those who drive recklessly or speed, kill almost 10,000 people annually. Observe the speed limit and drive more slowly in inclement conditions. If you notice someone speeding, fall back and stay out of the way.

It seems simple — buckle up and arrive alive — but staying safe on the road is not easy. If involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, speak to an experienced New York injury lawyer.

There’s An App For That — Defective Products and Recalls

Anything you might want to know about recalled products is now available online with each of the federal agencies having its own website.

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has jurisdiction over some 15,000 categories of products such as appliances, clothing, electronics, furniture, household and children’s items, lighting, outdoor and sports equipment. In addition to reporting all recalls, the website includes a reporting form so that consumers can report potentially dangerous products.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does the recalling on cars and trucks. To keep informed, you can even sign up for an email alert specific to your make and model of automobile.
  • FoodSafety.gov is the website for food recalls and alerts. The listing of food recalls is quite frightening. This website is jointly operated by a consortium of federal agencies: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Information on safe handling of food is alongside the official recalls of contaminated food products. To stay informed, there is a widget download available.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration maintains its website for notices of drug approvals, new standards for treatment, cosmetics and of course, drug recalls. You can follow the FDA with Twitter or email alerts. With the flu season in full swing, the site includes the various vaccines available this year.

Although keeping up with product recalls has come into the twenty-first century, even an informed consumer might be injured by a faulty product or contaminant. If you’re hurt by a defective product ¾ get skilled legal help today.

Careless Driving Resulting in Death

We recently posed the question of whether revised hours of service (HOS) regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) would reduce the number of people killed by big rig trucks in the United States. If one tragic accident can be representative, the answer is no.

Joe Bell was the father of Jadin Bell, a 15-year old student from La Grande, Oregon who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. Jadin Bell died in February of this year and after a period of soul searching, Mr. Bell set out across America to tell the story of his son and somehow deal with his grief along the way.

On April 20, Mr. Bell set out on foot with a pushcart and a backpack, bound for New York City, where his son had hoped one day to work in fashion or photography. Mr. Bell thought his walk might take two years. Chronicling his journey for thousands on social media and in newspapers as he passed through towns, Mr. Bell spoke where he could about his son, about tolerance and about his grief.

Hobbled by blisters and the ache of rebuilt knees, Mr. Bell made it to about 20 miles north of Kit Carson, Colorado. While walking down the side of a rural road on October 9, Mr. Bell was struck and killed by the driver of a tractor-trailer who had reportedly fallen asleep at the wheel. The driver was uninjured and cited for careless driving resulting in death.

Mr. Bell no longer walks for the change his son needed, nor does he struggle further with grief. Maybe we should.

News You Can Use: Safest Car in America Burns — Safely

With a sticker price of more than $70,000, Tesla cars are pricey. If the advertising is to be believed, they are billed as the safest car in America. A Tesla driver got the chance to find out after driving over road debris in Washington State.

In early October, Tesla Model S owner Robert Carlson was driving his vehicle on a highway in Kent, Washington. After running over debris dropped from a semi-truck, Mr. Carlson was informed by his car to exit the vehicle. Pulling to the off-ramp, Mr. Carlson left the car, which caught on fire, catching the eye of a passing motorist whose video of the scene went viral.

Promoted as a uniquely safe vehicle, the Tesla battery design has come into question. With a lithium-ion battery pack running almost the length of the undercarriage, a vehicle could run over debris that would hit the pack. In this case, the debris punched through a quarter-inch steel shield and shorted the battery, causing fire that engulfed the front end of the car.

After being doused, the fire flamed up again, requiring firefighters to turn the vehicle on its side, cut holes in the shield and the battery and put the fire to rest.

Responding to concern about the design of the car and the potential hazard of lithium-ion batteries in general, Tesla CEO Elon Musk notes the following:

  • Sensors in the car responded and informed Mr. Carlson to exit the vehicle
  • Mr. Carlson was not injured and the fire did not penetrate the passenger compartment
  • Had the vehicle been gas-powered, the fire could have been worse and involved the passenger cab

Is the car more or less prone to accident? Time will tell. If you are injured in a vehicle accident, work with a reputable Long Island personal injury law firm.

Handling Matters of Catastrophic Injury

The shock of a serious injury can bring a life and a family to a halt. Whether in a car wreck, a fall or other accident, understanding a new normal is devastating for the patient and family alike.

Severe personal injury can be disabling and end the ability to earn a livelihood. A catastrophic injury is one that changes the course of life, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI). While you may get right up after a fall, or walk away from a car accident, neurological damage may only become apparent in weeks to come.

When a medical condition is stable, good legal help may be required to pursue compensation for care needed over a period of recovery or a lifetime. As experienced New York injury lawyers, we analyze the cause and effect of an accident and what you might realistically recover for injury caused by the negligence of others.

In the case of a brain, spinal or other serious injury, legal counsel works to secure appropriate compensation through settlement or litigation to address the following financial needs:

  • Lost present and future wages and salary
  • Present and future medical expenses, including potential emergency procedures, rehabilitation and counseling services
  • Medical supplies, remodeling, specialized equipment and vehicles
  • Personal care and assistance in the case of incapacitation

Dealing with a life-altering injury requires superb medical, psychological and legal service. If you or a loved one suffers catastrophic injury, seek experienced legal advice.

Ski Law in New York

Ski injuries are common. New York has a ski statute that requires that both the skier and the operator of the ski area act responsibly when engaging in the sport or providing the ability to engage in the sport. The law details the obligations of both parties.

Under the law, skiers must abide by a code of conduct that includes:

  • Using the tramway in the proper manner
  • Not skiing in undesignated areas
  • Staying in control of speed
  • Taking care to avoid collisions
  • Yielding to other skiers when entering a trail or starting to go downhill
  • Wearing retention straps on skis
  • Reporting personal injury before leaving

Ski operators must do a number of things including the following:

  • Equip trail maintenance vehicles with flashing or rotating lights or flags as outlined in the law.
  • Hold employee training sessions
  • Mark the location of man-made structures
  • Inspect each open ski slope or trail at least twice a day and record the results in a log
  • Pad lift towers
  • Develop and maintain a written policy for situations involving the reckless conduct of skiers
  • Report within 24 hours any fatality or injury resulting in a fatality at the ski area
  • Conspicuously post and maintain warning signs about the dangers of skiing and risk of personal injury.

If a skier suffers an injury while skiing, whether the injured party will be able to collect damages or will be found to have assumed the risk of injury, must be examined on a case by case basis.

Will New Truck Safety Regulations Prevent Drowsy Driving Accidents?

Trucks accidents are some of the most devastating on the road, in large part due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicle. In 2011, more than 3,700 people were killed in large truck crashes, while 88,000 were injured, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

To improve truck safety, the federal government has been gradually strengthening its oversight over the industry. In July, new hours-of-service regulations took effect. The new rules restrict the average workweek for truck drivers to 70 hours and require divers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. The goal is to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest before hitting the road.

While truck accidents can have a range of causes — from speeding to equipment failure — drowsy driving continues to be a top concern. It can slow reaction time, make drivers less attentive and impair decision-making, all of which are critical to safely operating an 18-wheeler or other large truck.

Research shows that truck drivers who work long shifts are particularly susceptible to drowsy driving crashes. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that the new hours-of-service requirements will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

To ensure compliance, the new rule requires trucking company to keep detailed and accurate logbooks. Truck carriers that allow drivers to exceed the hours-of-service requirements by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

In addition to improving road safety, the new rules will also be helpful truck accident victims that suspect drowsy driving may be to blame for their injuries. However, to make sure logbooks and other evidence is preserved, it is imperative to speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Do You Travel One of New York’s Most Deadly Roads for Pedestrian Accidents?

While other traffic fatalities are declining, deadly pedestrian crashes increased in 2011. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Administration.

The risk of a pedestrian accident varies by location and other factors. Urban environments, non-intersections and nighttime conditions pose the greatest threats. In New York, certain stretches of roadway are also more inherently dangerous than others.

According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Nassau County’s SR-24 (Hempstead Turnpike) is the most dangerous road for pedestrians in Connecticut, New Jersey and downstate New York. The report analyzed pedestrian fatalities from 2009 to 2011. Other roads in New York with high rates of pedestrian accidents included:

  • Broadway in New York County (Manhattan)
  • State Route 25 (Jericho Turnpike) in Suffolk County
  • State Route 27 (Sunrise Highway) in Nassau County
  • State Route 110 (New York Avenue, Broadhollow Road and Broadway) in Suffolk County
  • State Route 27 (Sunrise Highway, Montauk Point State Highway and County Route 39) in Suffolk County

The report highlights that road design plays a part in the accident rates on these roads. Almost 60 percent of the pedestrian fatalities in the region occurred on arterial roads, which often have at least two lanes in each direction and allow for vehicle speeds of 40 miles per hour or more. Outside of urban areas, these roads often lack pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks, pedestrian countdown clocks, pedestrian islands or clearly marked crosswalks.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a pedestrian accident, the New York injury attorneys of Michael Sepe, LLC can investigate the cause of the crash and pursue compensation on your behalf from all of the responsible parties.

Whiplash and Neck Injury

Last year New York Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez sustained a whiplash injury and concussion when he dove for a ball. He returned to play ball a little over a week later.

Luckily for Chavez, the injury he suffered was not severe and he was able to heal fast.

Whiplash is frequently misunderstood. While it can resolve after a few days, such as in the case of Chavez, it can also develop into a serious injury that leaves the victim in severe pain for many years. Whiplash frequently occurs in automobile or other vehicle accidents.

When a car is rear-ended, the abrupt backward and forward jerking of the neck can result in serious injury. While strain and pain in the neck may be immediately evident, over the course of the next few days or months other symptoms may appear.

Symptoms can include the following:

  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Numbness in hand or arm
  • Dizzy spells
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Irritation
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Injuries to soft tissues

In the past, victims of whiplash often wore a cervical collar. However, current thinking is that movement is better than immobilization. A victim of whiplash may be unable to attend work, and may have a need for long-term therapy.

When whiplash arises out of a car, truck, bus, or other vehicular accident caused by negligence, the victim has the right to seek fair compensation for damages. An experienced attorney can help.

Understanding How the New York Statutes of Limitation Apply to Your Personal Injury

When you suffer a serious injury due to the negligence of another person or entity, it is important to realize that there is a clock ticking on how much time you have to file a legal claim for your injury. This ticking clock is the legally defined statute of limitations that applies to your particular situation.

The statutes of limitations vary for different claims, and also vary depending in which state you received your injury. Governor Cuomo recently issued an executive order that temporarily suspended certain statutes of limitations due to the disaster emergency of Superstorm Sandy.

In New York, most personal injury cases such as those arising out of a car accident, or a slip and fall at the mall, have a three-year statute of limitations. After the three years run out, you may be barred from bringing an action to recover compensation for the damages you incurred.

Other statutes of limitation in New York for injury include the following:

  • Medical malpractice:  Your claim must be filed within two years and six months after the date of the act that caused the injury. Actions based on insertion of a foreign object have a one year statute of limitations.
  • Legal malpractice: Three years
  • Libel or Slander: One year
  • Property damage: Three years
  • Trespass: Three years
  • Wrongful death: Two years from date of death
  • Intentional torts (such as assault and battery): One year
  • Product liability: If you are injured by a product, generally you have three years from the date of injury to file a claim.