Northeastern Cities Have the Most Car Accidents

Posted in Injury Law, Motor Vehicle Accidents

A recent story in USA Today by Dovie Rice concluded that it should not come as a surprise to Americans that the most hazardous and potentially deadly thing you do every day is to drive your car. Mr. Rice compiled statistics and information from a number of sources to substantiate his conclusion.

The bad news is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that there is almost one motor vehicle accident every 10 seconds in the United States. The good news is that only about 25% of these collisions result in injury, and only about 1% resulted in death. While that statistic may seem comforting, if you do the math you realize that approximately 30,000 deaths occur on our nation’s highways every year, and motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for young adults. It is certainly no surprise that the US cities where residents were most likely to have car accidents were the crowded, traffic-choked Northeastern cities, including Washington, D. C., Baltimore, Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, Newark, Hartford, New Haven, Springfield and Worcester, Massachusetts. Midwesterners and Westerners were largely spared this risk – especially the cities with the fewest accidents per capita such as Fort Collins, Colorado, Brownsville, Texas and Boise, Iowa – although San Francisco was one Western city that was found to be especially hazardous. Mr. Rice concluded that the high populations and congested roads, which are often under construction in these Northeastern hubs, were the likely causes of this statistic. Equally unsurprising was his conclusion that male teenage drivers are the most dangerous drivers on the road.

The main reason for car accidents is distracted drivers. “The research tells us that somewhere between 25 – 50% of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause,” said Mark Edwards, director of traffic safety at the American Automobile Association, in a conversation with Sixwise, an online newsletter. Driver fatigue, drunken driving, speeding, aggressive driving and weather are other top causes for motor vehicle accidents. In fact, more than 7000 Americans die in weather-related wrecks every year our nation’s highways each year. According to the Federal Highway Administration, which defines “weather-related crashes” as those that occur in adverse weather such as rain, sleet, snow or fall, or on slick pavement.

Mr. Rice’s excellent article reminds us that motor vehicle operation is a very serious endeavor which requires powerful concentration, attention and focus. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of someone’s negligent driving, you should contact your attorney immediately.

Stark & Stark Attorney Obtains $2.3 Million in Two Construction Accident Settlements

Posted in Stark News

Stark & Stark attorney, Bryan M. Roberts, obtained a $1.3 Million settlement for a surveyor who was injured in a roadway construction site on Interstate 287 in Somerset County when she was struck by a utility vehicle travelling in reverse. As a result of this traumatic event, the plaintiff suffered permanent brain and orthopedic injuries. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the driver of the utility truck, Crisdel Group, Inc., the employer of the driver and the general contractor on the project, and the State of New Jersey, the owner of the project.

Most recently, Mr. Roberts obtained a $1 Million settlement for a union worker that was injured on a roadway construction site in Hudson County where he was crushed in a trench collapse. As a result of this incident, the plaintiff suffered permanent orthopedic and urologic injuries. The plaintiff filed a complaint against Tarheel Enterprises, Inc., the general contractor, Applegate Associates, LLC, a safety contractor, and the State of New Jersey, the owner of the project.

Motorcycles and Potholes – The Hidden Danger

Posted in Motorcycle Injury

Another brutal winter has resulted in minefields of potholes on our roadways. As the weather warms and we unplug our battery tenders to take to the highways, there are serious dangers lurking for the unwary. Riders always ride with a level of concentration greater than those operating cars – and we must. One of the challenges with potholes is that they can be difficult to spot until it’s too late. Obviously the greatest danger is at night when they are the most difficult to see. Even when using the utmost caution during the daytime, sunlight, shading and traffic can obscure the danger.

Pothole accidents can and do cause serious injury. What makes those accidents even worse is the difficulty riders have in getting fairly compensated for their property damage and bodily injury. As motorcycle attorneys, we have in the past and currently have these types of cases in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Both states have Tort Claim immunities that effect a riders right of recovery against the State to be compensated. One of the most urgent issues involved in these cases is proper notice to the state after an accident known as a Tort Claim Notice. If these notices are not timely filed, a rider can lose all rights to make a claim. In addition, early investigation to document the condition of the roadway that caused the accident is vitally important in protecting the rights of an injured rider. If you or someone you know was injured in an accident caused by a defective roadway, don’t hesitate to call us at 855-BIKELAW for a free consultation.

Disturbing Statistics Regarding Bicycle Fatalities

Posted in Bicycle Injuries, Legal Updates

A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association points out some very disturbing statistics regarding fatal bicycle accidents. The GHSA represents state transportation safety agencies and this report, authored by Allan Williams, is a cause for concern among its member agencies. The most disturbing fact was the news that the number of US bicyclist killed in traffic accidents actually increased in 2011 and 2012. Fortunately, there is an overall decline in cycling fatalities stretching back into the 1970s. The report noted that 722 American cyclists died in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, an increase of 42 deaths over the 2011 statistics, and an increase of 101 over the 2010 reported cyclist deaths. This is an increase of 16% over those two years, and during that same time period, motor vehicle deaths increased by 1%.

The report found that most of the cyclist deaths considered  in the three-year period  of the study occurred in California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois and Michigan. The author concluded that the states are high population states with many urban areas, and the statistics likely reflect a high level of bicycle exposure and interaction with motor vehicles. The report supported this conclusion, finding that 69% of 2012 deaths occurred in urban areas, and more than one in three occurred at intersections.

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What Happens if you Sustain Emotional Trauma from a Robbery or Attack at Work in New Jersey?

Posted in Injury Law, Workers' Compensation

Are you still covered by New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits? The answer in New Jersey is generally “YES.” The workers’ compensation law in New Jersey is much more lenient on these types of issues than in our neighboring state of Pennsylvania. In a recently publicized workers’ compensation case in Pennsylvania, a manager of a liquor store was robbed by a masked man who put a gun to his head and duct taped him to a chair during a robbery. The worker experienced post traumatic stress disorder as a result of this robbery, but was originally denied workers’ compensation benefits by Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court because his employer’s workers’ compensation carrier argued that robberies are a “normal working condition” that do not require the carrier to pay benefits. The carrier argued that there were 99 robberies at State Liquor stores in the Philadelphia area from 2002 to 2007, and that responding to a robbery is a normal part of a liquor store manager’s job. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately overturned the lower court’s decision denying benefits and ordered the court to reconsider this case stating that the courts should pay attention to specific circumstances of each claim before applying the “normal working condition” exclusion. The result was that the court ultimately found in the worker’s favor because experiencing the kind of trauma at work that this man experienced was not “normal working conditions.”

The law in New Jersey is different from Pennsylvania in this area. We do not have this exclusion for “normal working conditions” in New Jersey for this type of situation. If a worker here sustained emotional trauma because of a robbery that took place on the job there is no question that they would be eligible for the same types of benefits that a person who sustained a physical injury would get. I have handled several New Jersey workers’ compensation cases over the years where the person has sustained emotional trauma because of a robbery or attack at work, and my experience has been that workers’ compensation carriers may delay benefits, but ultimately they do the right thing. This type of situation in New Jersey would be considered objectively stressful and peculiar to a particular workplace, and would be compensable as long as the work experience had a material impact on the worker’s psychological condition. If you feel you have been unfairly denied a workers’ compensation claim, we recommend you consult with experienced legal counsel to discuss your options.

Is a Petitioner in a Workers’ Compensation Claim Able to Obtain Copies of His or Her Authorized Treating Records?

Posted in Workers' Compensation

Many people who have filed a Worker’s Compensation claim in New Jersey ask whether they are entitled to copies of their treating  medical records from the health providers authorized by their employer’s insurance carrier. The answer is yes. Under the Worker’s Compensation Act, specifically NJSA 34:15-128.4, it is unlawful for an employer, insurance carrier or treating physician to withhold medical information requested by the petitioner. In addition, the rules of the New Jersey Medical Society require the release of such medical records. The records from a physician directly must be supplied at a cost specified by the Board of Medical Examiners. However, as a practical matter, when a petitioner has a formal claim pending his or her attorney requests the treating records from the attorneys for the employer or insurance carrier, which are supplied at no cost.

There is a distinction, however, between the records of a physician or other health provider who actually treated the petitioner, and what is known as an independent medical examination (IME). With respect to the treating providers, a physician/patient relationship exists. With an IME, however, this is a one-time examination scheduled by the employer or insurance carrier to give an opinion as to the need for further treatment, disability or perhaps other issues. An IME does not create a physician/patient relationship, and therefore the reports are sent to the party requesting the IME. At the appropriate time the petitioner’s attorney will be supplied with the report. If you are having difficulty obtaining your authorized treating records, you should contact your attorney immediately.

Florida Jury Awards $2 Million Verdict in Tobacco-Related Wrongful Death Suit

Posted in Injury Law, Legal Updates, Stark News, Wrongful Death

On March 27, 2015 a team of Stark & Stark attorneys led by Shareholder Stephen A. Corr, Esq. obtained a $2 million verdict from an Indian River County, Florida jury in a wrongful death suit against Philip Morris USA Inc. and R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.  The verdict was a victory for widower Robert Gore, whose wife , Gloria, was a smoker for over four decades and suffered from carotid artery stenosis and later died of lung cancer.

In awarding the verdict, the jury asserted that Gloria Gore was 54-percent responsible for causing the illness that killed, while also asserting the balance of responsibility split evenly between R.J. Reynolds and Phillip Morris.  The jury did not award any punitive damages, a reversal from an August 2014 mistrial after a jury verdict in this same case found the tobacco companies liable for punitive damages by awarded no compensatory damages.

This case was one of thousands that came from a 1994 class action law suit decertifying Engle v. Liggett Group Inc., which concluded that tobacco companies sold an addictive and dangerous product.  Although the defense claimed that the deceased made the choice to smoke, Attorney, Stephen Corr explained, “Gloria wanted to stop. She tried to stop. She chose to stop, but her addiction wouldn’t let her.”

Stephen A. Corr is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury and Mass Tort Groups. He is an experienced trial lawyer with over twenty years of experience.  Mr. Corr practices in personal injury and commercial litigation, with an emphasis on complex contractual matters and mass tort litigation.

Why my New Jersey Workers ’ Compensation is Paid in Weekly Increments Rather Than a Lump Sum and is There Any Way to Receive it Now?

Posted in Workers' Compensation

Permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits in New Jersey are considered to be wage replacement benefits, so they are paid in the same manner as wages, which is weekly.  These benefits accrue from the date of the last payment of temporary disability benefits.  In many cases, the entire award has not accrued at the time of the settlement hearing and the injured worker will receive payments weekly until the award has been paid in full.  Once the award has been entered, the benefits are due and payable to the injured worker or his dependents should he die during the period of the payout.

In certain rare circumstances, an injured worker may petition the court requesting that all or some of the award be paid in a lump sum.  This process is called a “commutation”.  If the commutation is approved, the benefits are subject to a 5% discount.  It is uncommon for this type of request to be granted.  The standard for granting such a request is if it is in the best interest of the injured worker.

In a recent Appellate Division decision, Jenkins v. LA Fitness, Docket No. A-3570-12T2 (February 4, 2015), such a request was denied.  In that case, the injured worker wanted to expand a food service business.  However, after a hearing, the judge of compensation determined that an acceleration of payments was not in his best interest and denied his request.  The Appellate court affirmed that the commutations are only allowed when it clearly appears that an unusual circumstance warrants a departure from the normal manner of payment.   It is strictly prohibited that a payment would be made to satisfy a debt, or to make payment to physicians, lawyers or others.

If you have concerns about your workers’ compensation benefits, our experienced attorneys and legal staff will be happy to answer your questions.  Please call us today for your free, confidential consultation.

Stark & Stark Attorney Elected to the Board of Directors of One Simple Wish

Posted in Community

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Stark & Stark is proud to announce that Bryan M. Roberts, Esq. has been elected to the Board of Directors of One Simple Wish.

“To me, there is nothing greater than giving an innocent child hope, help and happiness.” Mr. Roberts said of his appointment. “One Simple Wish is an extraordinary organization that has given hope, help and happiness to the most vulnerable members of our local, state and national communities. I am very proud to join One Simple Wish and further their mission.” The not-for-profit is active in 48 states and provides small wishes to children who are in foster care or have been abused and neglected.

Stark & Stark is a presenting sponsor of the Mercer County Park’s Spring Food Truck Fiesta on April 18, 2015. Benefits from this event will go to One Simple Wish.

Tractor Trailer Trucks Safety Issues

Posted in Legal Updates, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Trucking Accidents

Drive on any highway in America, and the chances are good that you will see at least one tractor trailer driving on the same stretch of highway.  They are as ubiquitous as road signs.  They may be called different things: big rigs, trucks, semis, tractor-trailers, but they all serve the same purpose: American commerce and industry.  Without them, society would not be able to function properly.  Fuel, freight, food, clothing, textiles, raw materials, parcels, and packages are just a few of the many items that depend on the trucking industry to get to and from various places across the country.

Most truck drivers operate their rigs safely and efficiently.  Likewise, most truck owners keep their vehicles in top-notch condition, allowing them to travel many thousands of miles without a problem.  There are exceptions, and sometimes an owner fails to inspect, maintain, and service his truck.  When that happens, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Recently, a man was riding in a pickup truck on the highway when a drive shaft broke off from beneath a tractor-trailer in the oncoming lane.  The 20pound metal shaft bounced off the road and crashed through the windshield of the pickup truck, striking the victim’s face and neck.  He lost consciousness, and three hours later, he was dead.  The victim’s estate and his survivors sued the owner of the tractor-trailer, alleging the failure to adequately inspect, maintain, and service the vehicle.  The plaintiffs in the lawsuit presented evidence that the U-joint holding the drive shaft in place had melted because of insufficient lubrication, permitting the drive shaft to rip out of its yoke.  The lawsuit alleged that the U-joint component had not been lubricated for at least four to six months before the incident.  The lawsuit also alleged that the company’s fleet manager established an inadequate maintenance policy calling for the U-joint cross piece to be lubricated every 10,000 miles or two months–whichever was longer–even though the U-joint manufacturer recommended a lubrication interval of every 5,000 miles.  At a deposition and at trial, the fleet manager testified that he had no expertise or special qualifications that would have enabled him to determine the proper lubrication interval and that he did no research to determine the manufacturer’s guidelines.  The plaintiff’s contended that the president of the company that owned the truck knew that the fleet manager lacked the necessary qualifications but allowed him to proceed anyway.  The plaintiffs offered evidence that during the year before the incident, a mechanic at the company knew about as many as 20 other U-joints in the fleet’s trucks that had failed because of inadequate lubrication.  The plaintiffs contended that although the mechanic  reported this to his supervisor, and the mechanic’s supervisor confirmed that the lubrication was inadequate, the company failed to conduct a general inspection of the entire fleet or establish an adequate lubrication policy.

The jury awarded $281 million, including $100 million in punitive damages.  The plaintiffs voluntarily requested and received remittitur, also known as a reduction, in the amount of the punitive damages award to $4.5 million, which was the maximum allowed under Texas law, which is where the trial occurred.  It is possible that the defense may ask the court to issue a new trial, or further lower the verdict, or grant judgment in the defendant’s favor. This case shows how something as simple as adequate lubrication of one part on a truck can cause major safety issues if it is not done properly.

At Stark & Stark, we represent people every day who have been injured in truck accidents and car accidents.  We know what it takes to make sure your rights are protected, regardless of whether the defendant who caused the crash is a small local company or a multi-million-dollar corporation.  I only represent injured people.  I do not defend or represent insurance companies or defendants.