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J. Robert Bratman is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark's Accident & Personal Injury Group.

Tractor-trailer bus collisions are among the worst that occur on busy American highways.  Because of the relative size of the two vehicles in such a collision, the injuries are catastrophic, often with deadly consequences.

It is essential for anyone injured in such a devastating collision to seek competent legal counsel immediately to protect his or her rights and the rights of their entire family.   Too often, people wait to retain counsel, believing that the owners of the bus and tractor-trailer companies will do the right thing.  But in many cases, the transportation companies and their insurance carriers are at the scene looking for any loophole to escape responsibility.  This is why it is essential that victims of these horrific crashes hire the most experienced crash/collision personal injury lawyers to handle their case, attorneys with proven records of accomplishment.

At Stark & Stark, many of our partners have dedicated their lives to representing victims of injury, including bus and tractor-trailer crashes.  Most recently, my Stark & Stark colleague Michael Donahue and I co-counseled with New York personal injury attorneys Shana De Caro and Michael Kaplen, and in collaboration represented an Indian family in the United States for a summer vacation when their tour bus was involved in a violent crash on its way to Niagara Falls. The bus left the roadway, rolled over and proceeded into the woods.  When the tour bus came to a stop, one member of the family was dead and two were seriously injured.

In this instance, we quickly filed suit and brought our combined knowledge and experience in this area of litigation to bear in hiring the leading experts in the field of bus and tractor-trailer crashes.  Even though these clients lived thousands of miles from the site of the crash and the location of the lawsuit, they were informed at all stages of the legal battle fought on their behalf in the American Courts.  Almost two years from the date of this tragic collision, justice was achieved for the Indian family in the form of a multi-million dollar settlement. The perseverance of the attorneys at Stark & Stark and De Caro & Kaplen, LLP combined as a matchless legal team.

Recent events involving tour bus crashes emphasize the need to retain competent legal counsel without delay.  Bus accident victims and their families have a right to seek personal injury and wrongful death damages against errant bus drivers and their companies. Any such lawsuit may well involve more than one state’s law or court system, and numerous complex choices and decisions may have to be made to effective navigate the litigation process and help maximize the recovery. Don’t wait until it’s too late.



Damaged gas lines are often the cause of explosions that harm life and property. Accidents involving dig-ins to underground facilities occur every year. To protect the citizenry,  New Jersey’s legislature has enacted laws that require all operators of underground facilities to participate in a One-Call Damage Prevention System and to require all excavators to notify the One-Call Damage Prevention System prior to excavation or demolition (see New Jersey Statute 48:2-74).

Pursuant to New Jersey law anytime any person or company intends on digging or working in the vicinity of buried, underground utilities, they must first contact New Jersey One Call System and notify that company of the location and scope of their intended work. It is then incumbent on New Jersey One-Call to notify all companies that may have buried utilities in the location of the proposed work site so that those companies may visit the site and perform a mark out of their underground lines. The companies then report back to New Jersey One-Call that the site has been marked out.  New Jersey One-Call then notifies the excavator that they may commence their work. Unfortunately, often times due to human error, utilities are not properly located or identified and when digging begins damage is done to a utility. In the case of a buried electric cable, the result may be injury or death due to electrocution. In the case of a buried gas line the outcome may be a gas leak or an explosion that destroys property, causes injury or even death.

At Stark & Stark, we have experience handling cases against PSE&G and other utility companies for our clients who have been injured or killed due to the utility company’s failure to perform its legal duty. If you would like to know more about this topic, please contact us immediatly at (609) 896-9060.

My lawyer does not return my phone calls. Sadly I hear this all too often from potential clients who have retained another lawyer to represent them in their pending personal injury case. These disgruntled victims have already been injured by the carelessness of a defendant`and now they find themselves in an information blackout because the attorney who they have trusted to champion their cause will not even return a phone call. This behavior on the part of the lawyer is inexcusable.  When accident victims call me in desperation because their lawyer will not call them back, I provide the following advice. Call the offending attorney’s office and schedule an appointment to meet with that lawyer. At the meeting be polite but direct and inform the attorney that when you call you expect a return call within 24 hours. Let the lawyer know that if he or she is unable to meet your expectation you will terminate their service and retain new counsel.  However, before firing your current lawyer make sure that you have new counsel ready, willing and able to take your case.  At Stark and Stark, it is our privilege to represent you in your personal injury case.

J. Robert Bratman is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law.  For more information, please contact Mr. Bratman.

I was recently interviewed by Garden State CLE about dog bite laws in New Jersey. Here, you’ll see highlights of the interview where I discuss victims’ rights, settlements for victims, what is reasonable (and unreasonable) to expect out of a penalty or settlement, and protections for dog owners.

I hope you all find the interview informative, and should you have any additional questions on dog bite law, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Even after tens of thousands of slip and fall injuries nationwide, some commercial property owners insist on using concrete parking bumpers (or wheel stops) in their parking lots. While these devices are intended to block the forward motion of vehicles in parking spaces and prevent accidents, they are a serious danger to pedestrians and serve as the source of countless serious orthopedic and neurologic injuries.

Both the Traffic Engineering Handbook and The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) recognize the danger posed to pedestrians by wheel stops. The Traffic Engineering Handbook states, “ parking lots should be designed to avoid the use of wheel stops.” Where they are used they should not be placed in ”foreseeable pedestrian paths.” The American Society for Testing Materials publishes guidelines for the safe design and construction of parking lots. The Society warns that parking bumpers in the interior of a lot have disadvantages “for they may interfere with and present a hazard to people walking between cars….”

Both organizations tout the use of bollard posts in place of wheel stops. A bollard post is nothing more than a concrete cylinder that rises four to five feet above a parking lot surface. It too impedes the forward movement of vehicles. However, unlike parking bumpers, bollard posts can be seen more readily by pedestrians in parking lots. They are raised and are visible and therefore prevent tripping injuries that are common in parking lots that use wheel stops.

Tractor Trailers are among the most dangerous vehicles on the road today. They may weigh up to 80,000 pounds fully loaded and often times they are operated by people who do not have the knowledge nor the experience to drive such large and dangerous vehicles. 

What makes matters worse is when a tractor-trailer collides with an average car weighing approximately 4,000 pounds. In these instances, the damage caused to the car and its occupants is usually catastrophic. Even when a tractor-trailer “taps” the rear bumper of a car, the kinetic energy transferred to the car and driver is enough to cause severe spinal injuries. 

Rear end collisions caused by fully loaded trucks are common because tractor-trailers require 40% more time to stop then average passenger vehicles. While there are a number of federal regulations and state laws that impose stringent safety requirements on trucking companies, these rules are often disregarded in favor of higher profits. 

Any experienced injury attorney who represents victims of trucking accidents has come across falsified driver’s logs, which allow drivers to operate their vehicles without sufficient rest beyond mandated time limits. It is not uncommon to discover vehicle inspections or driver’s medical records that have been fraudulently prepared all in the name of boosting profits over public safety. 

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in a trucking accident, be sure that the lawyer you choose is a certified civil trial attorney who has experience representing victims of tractor-trailer accidents. It is without a doubt one of the most important decision you will make following a collision with an 18-wheeler. If you would like to meet with me here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your case and your possible course of action in more detail.

If you are among the thousands of persons injured in a motor vehicle collision in New Jersey each year, chances are that any settlement or jury verdict you receive will be satisfied by the liability insurance company that insured the person who caused the collision. In New Jersey the smallest amount of liability insurance allowed by law is a 15/30 policy. This means that any one person injured in a car accident caused by a driver with 15/30 policy limits can receive up to $15,000, depending on the seriousness of their injury. If more than one person is injured then any individual can receive up to 15,000 but no more than 30,000 will be paid by the insurance company. So, if two people are hurt and their injuries are of sufficient value  each person can receive up to $15,000. If three people are hurt then one person can receive $15,000 and two people can divide the other 15,000. The amount someone gets paid  is dependent on the seriousness of their injury. It is possible for a person to receive less than $15,000, even where the policy limit is 15/30 and the injured party is the only person hurt in the accident.  The value of the person’s claim is dependent upon how badly they are hurt.

Of course insurance companies offer higher limits then a 15/30 policy limit. In New Jersey insurance companies typically offer policies with the following limits: 25/50, 50/100, 100/300, 250/500 and combined single limit policies in the amounts of 50, 100, 250, 300 and 500. This list is by no means exhaustive.

A combined single limit policy (CSL) is one where the entire liability policy limit is expressed as a single number. For instance, a $50,000.00 CSL policy is one which provides a lump sum of $50,000.00 to compensate any person(s) injured by the fault of the policy owner. If a driver insured with a $50,000.00 CSL policy negligently injures two persons and the injuries are of sufficient value then the injured parties may apportion the $50,000.00 policy such that the sum of what both parties receive equals $50,000.00.

In addition to liability insurance which provides insurance coverage to protect your assets in the event that you are sued, companies also offer Uninsured/Underinsured insurance  (also known as UM/UIM coverage) to protect you when you are injured in a motor vehicle collision casued by the fault of someone who either does not have insurance or whose insurance is not sufficient to pay for the damages they cause. This insurance is aptly named Uninsured and Underinsured coverage. It is insurance coverage that you as an owner and operator of a car may purchase from your own insurance company. It protects you in the event that the person who causes the collision does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to compensate you for the injuries you sustain.

A few important points about Uninsured/Underinsured insurance coverage. First, it can never be higher than your own liability insurance. This means that if you have a $100/300 liability limit, the most Uninsured/Underinsured insurance you may purchase is 100/300. Likewise if you have a $500,000.00 CSL liability policy the most Uninsured/Underinsured coverage you may purchase is $500,000.00. Next Uninsured/Underinsured coverage is by far less expensive to purchase than liability coverage. Therefore if you buy liability limits of $500,000.00 make sure that you have purchased Uninsured/Underinsured limits in the same amount. Not to do so would be foolish.

By law anyone who owns a car in the tri-state area must also own car insurance. While car insurance issues may seem complicated, as a consumer it is important that you understand what you are buying. A thoughtful decision today will ensure that you and your family members are properly protected if they are involved in a motor vehicle collision.  At Stark and Stark we are always available for an individual insurance review, free of charge.

If you are like many people you dread receiving a notice for jury duty. In our stressful, “too little time to do to many things” world, the last thing people have time for is to sit on a jury and decide a case that does not affect their lives. However, next time you receive a jury notice remember that as an American citizen you are given so much and asked so little of in terms of public service. Jury duty is one way in which you can give back to a country that provides the blanket of freedom and liberty we all so enjoy. Studies show that the majority of people who serve on a jury enjoy their experience and would do it again if given a chance. Next time you are asked to serve do so willingly with the knowledge that you are making a difference and with the understanding that it may be you who needs the services of your fellow citizen to decide an important dispute in the future.

If you are like many other people you enjoy the occasional bicycle ride. Bicycles are not only a great form of exercise but as many people are learning they are a clean, healthy and low cost way of commuting to and from work. If you operate a bicycle on a roadway you are granted all of the rights and subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle. Continue Reading Rights, and Responsibilities, for Bicycle Riders