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.

As many drivers know, New Jersey’s red light traffic camera program proved to be a controversial topic of conversation.  Some people felt that the cameras saved lives by reducing the number of car accidents.  Others believed the cameras amounted to too much of a governmental intrusion into people’s private lives, almost like Big Brother watching over you.  Still others shared the view that the cameras did not enhance safety but instead made intersections more dangerous.  Well, as we sometimes say, “the jury is still out” on whether or not the cameras were effective at making the intersections safer.  A 2013 study by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) found that while the number of right-angle crashes (commonly known as “broadside” or “T-bone” collisions) went down at some intersections, rear-end crashes increased.  The report concluded that “it appears reasonable to concluded that RLR is a viable safety tool” at certain locations but that it was too early to draw conclusions on the program as a whole without more data.

There are 76 camera-equipped intersections in 25 New Jersey towns, including in the South Jersey communities of Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, Stratford, Glassboro, Deptford, and Monroe Township.  The cameras were installed in various municipalities across the state under the Red Light Running (RLR) Automated Enforcement Program, beginning with Newark in 2009.  Although one study showed a reduced number of crashes at intersections where the cameras had been in place at least two weeks, the traffic-camera program itself faced technical problems and lawsuits from the outset.  The DOT temporarily suspended dozens of cameras in 2012 over concerns that yellow light were not timed so that drivers had sufficient time to brake safely.  Since that time, a federal lawsuit settlement awarded partial refunds to nearly 500,000 violators, and this year a computer glitch voided more than 10,000 violations.

The five-year program ended on December 16th, meaning that 73 intersections in 24 towns have now become camera-free.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, of the 540 cities and towns across the US that were using red light cameras in 2012, more than 40 had dropped them as of this past November. This does not mean the cameras are necessarily gone for good.  The cameras are still recording violations so the state can collect data.  No tickets will be issued, but the cameras will remain in place.  The DOT is expected to issue a recommendation in 2015 about bringing back the cameras.

What are your thoughts on red light traffic cameras?  Do you feel they made the roadways safer or more dangerous? Have you or someone you know been injured in a car accident at an intersection because the other driver was not paying attention or was driving too fast for the traffic conditions?  If so, call me right away.  We can discuss your situation and determine what your options are.  At Stark & Stark we represent people every day who have been hurt in car accidents caused by someone else’s negligence.  We only represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases, so we know what it takes to make sure your rights are protected.

In 2009, the San Francisco based ride sharing app, “Uber,” was founded.  When the app was launched in 2010, it changed metropolitan travel.  As of December 16, 2014, Uber was available in 53 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide.  For anyone unfamiliar with Uber, it is a mobile app that allows users to submit a trip request which is sent to crowd-sourced taxi drivers.  Without a doubt, the rise of Uber marks an exciting alternative to the traditional yellow cab when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B in most major U.S. cities.  However, along with the many benefits to Uber come both real and potential problems for Uber customers and the public.

First, Uber has come under fire because of safety concerns associated with the manner in which Uber drivers are notified of fares.  When a customer submits a ride request from their mobile phone, Uber routes that request to drivers on the street.  The Uber driver then receives a message on their mobile phone, alerting them of the fare.  The driver then has 15 seconds in which to respond to accept the ride request.  Drivers may be temporarily suspended from Uber for ignoring these ride requests on their cell phones.  The obvious safety concern involves the distraction caused to the Uber driver by the company’s cell phone notification system, which presents a financial incentive to drivers to respond to cell phone requests while driving.

On New Year’s Eve in 2013, a six-year-old girl, Sophia Liu, and her mother were struck by an Uber driver in San Francisco.  Tragically, the young girl was killed.  The family filed suit against Uber asserting that Uber is responsible for the crash because its app is distracting to drivers and leads to inattention while driving.  Specifically, the suit alleges that Uber drivers “must respond quickly to a user request for service by physically interfacing with the app, thereby leading to distraction.”

You don’t need an expert to tell you that distracted driving is unsafe.  It is a major cause of car wrecks in the United States.  One of the questions that has arisen alongside crashes involving Uber drivers is whether Uber will take financial responsibility for the negligence of its drivers and provide compensation for injured victims of distracted driving.

There is currently concern that innocent people who are injured in car crashes caused by Uber drivers may be denied compensation when both the driver’s private insurance company and Uber’s insurance carrier deny or disclaim coverage.  The problem is that Uber does not operate like a traditional taxi cab company, which would be required to carry commercial auto insurance for its fleet of cabs.  Uber often hires private car owners to transport Uber customers.  These drivers may or may not have their own private auto insurance policies.  The risks associated with taking a ride from an uninsured driver are obvious.  However, even Uber drivers who have private auto insurance may not actually have insurance coverage for their customers because most private auto insurance policies contain exclusions for commercial use of the vehicle.

When that happens, the injured customer looks to Uber for coverage under its $1 million insurance policy.  Unfortunately, Uber’s insurance policy may be deemed “excess” coverage, which is only triggered once the Uber driver’s private insurance policy is exhausted.  Currently, there is dispute over whether an “excess” policy, such as Uber’s, would provide any coverage for an uninsured Uber driver or for an insured Uber driver whose private policy excludes coverage for commercial use of the vehicle.  This issue will surely be tested in courts across the country in the months and years to come, as it appears Uber isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The point to take away is that with all of the pros associated with Uber and other similar ride-share apps (e.g., Haxi, Lyft and Sidecar), there are some very real and other potential risks you should be aware of before hopping into the car.  Your safety is nothing to gamble with, so ask your Uber driver if his Uber app is open on his cell phone.  If it is, ask him if would mind not checking it while he is driving you to your destination.  Asking for safety and peace of mind is not an unreasonable request.  Also, you may want to ask if the driver has commercial liability insurance.  If the answer is no, at least you will be able to make an educated decision.  Do you want to take the ride and accept the risk that you would not be compensated for any injuries you sustain if there is a crash?  Or would you rather not risk it and hail a good, old fashioned yellow cab instead?  No matter what you choose, now you’re better prepared to do what you have to do to stay safe out there.

Now that school is back in session and children and parents alike have become accustomed to the daily routine of school, it’s no time to let down your guard for school bus safety.   Over 50% of the injuries that occur while getting on and off the school bus are to children 5 to 7 years old. According to the School Transportation News, about 16 children are fatally injured as pedestrians in the loading and unloading zone around school buses annually.  Although that is an improvement from the 75 fatalities in 1975, the only acceptable number is zero

In order to accomplish this goal it is incumbent upon school districts and school bus transportation providers to have an overall comprehensive approach to pupil transportation safety.  School administrators, transportation supervisors, teachers and bus drivers must be properly informed and trained to practice all bus safety procedures.  Students must be trained in all aspects of bus transportation safety. It’s so important that New Jersey law requires that District Boards of Education provide public school students with safety education programs.

Fortunately there are many great sources of information on student transportation that are easily accessible on the internet to all of us.  Some, to name a few are:

  1. The National Highway Safety Administration
  2. The National Safety Council
  3. The National Association For Pupil Transportation

As National School Bus Safety Week has come to an end, we need to make sure our children are safe throughout the year.  Learn and make sure that your district is following all the bus safety rules.

Although I am an Attorney at Stark &  Stark in the Personal Injury Department by day, I am also co-owner of a frozen custard store, The Meadows, which is located on Route 130 in Delran, New Jersey.  On Sunday, October 5, 2014, these two organizations, along with many others, are joining together to hold a fundraiser to honor a fallen local soldier, Staff Sergeant Michael Bruzgis.

As an attorney and business owner, I am fortunate enough to have an ability to give back.  Similarly, as a business owner, there are opportunities which come along that provide a chance to do something special for an individual or an organization.  This event is exactly the type of thing that I had hoped to be part of when I think of ways I can give back to the community.

Staff Sergeant Michael Bruzgis was a true American hero. He was the individual who provided people like me the ability to do what we do on a daily basis.  While I work on my career as an attorney or starting a business, it is people like Staff Sergeant Bruzgis who fight daily to protect our country and our freedom.  He served four (4) tours of duty, two (2) in Iraq and two (2) in Afghanistan.  Ironically, these were not consecutive.  Instead, after his first enlistment which included two (2) tours in Iraq, he separated from the military.  However, he soon realized that he was an American soldier through and through and he subsequently re-enlisted.  The second time he spent two (2) tours of duty in Afghanistan.  During his time in the military, he served as troop leader of his group.  In the four years he served, he never lost one of his fellow soldiers.  Unfortunately, during his fourth and final tour, an IED exploded causing him to suffer severe injuries which ultimately ended his military career and eventually his life.  He received a Bronze Star, and will be receiving both a Purple Heart and Silver Star posthumously.

This Sunday, Stark &  Stark, along with The Meadows, will be honoring Staff Sergeant Bruzgis with a flag dedication and ceremony presented by VFW Post 3020.  A 24” x 18” flag will be raised atop a 70” flag pole.  The event will be from 12:00-3:00 PM with the flag ceremony beginning at 1:30 PM. All proceeds raised from the event will then be donated directly to The Wounded Warrior Project, an organization which assisted Staff Sergeant Michael Bruzgis.  Following the flag ceremony, Throwbacks Bar & Grill, located a block away from The Meadows on Route 130, will be holding a “Wing Fling”, all you can eat wings and soft drinks, for two hours for $10, and the proceeds will be donated to The Wounded Warrior Project.

This will be a great opportunity for those of us who have not served in the armed forces to come out and show appreciation for those who have and specifically those that have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we all may live the lives we live.  In addition to the flag ceremony, there will be a live DJ on hand and a face painter for children.  I encourage everyone to come out to help raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and to honor Staff Sergeant Bruzgis.  I hope to see you there.

You may have heard about a controversial decal law for young drivers in New Jersey, known as Kyleigh’s Law, which requires intermediate driver’s to place a small red sticker on the front and back license plates of any vehicle they operate so that police can see that the driver lacks a full-privilege license.  Intermediate drivers are limited to one passenger unless accompanied by an adult.  In New Jersey, drivers can get a learner’s permit at age 16, an intermediate license at age 17 and full licensure at age 18.  A recent study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows that the decal law has reduced crash rates among teens by 9%.  The lead researcher of the study states that the law prevented more than 1,600 crashes in the year after the law was changed to reflect the decal requirement.

The law is named for Kyleigh D’Allesio and Tanner Birch, who were killed in 2006 by an intermediate driver carrying more than the allowed number of passengers.  Revisions that were made after the law’s passage also made the curfew 11:01 p.m. instead of midnight.  In the recent study, CHOP researchers reviewed the rate of police-reported crashes for teen drivers and noted the kind of license involved in each case.  They compared monthly crash rates for about two years before the law went into effect on May 1, 2010 to the 13 months afterward.  You may recall the controversy and debate surrounding the law when it went into effect.  Initially, many were concerned that the law might infringe upon residents’ privacy rights or, worse, put them in harm’s way.  Although the law’s purpose is to make the drivers more apparent to law enforcement, some have argued that the red decals stickers have an unintended but dangerous consequence: they might make the drivers more visible to criminals and predators.

In sum, supporters of the law argue that the law is aimed to protect young drivers and that there is no evidence that young drivers will be placed in danger by the decals, whereas critics say that the law dangerously targets young drivers.  Some doubt whether the law really prevented 1,600 teen deaths.   State Senator Jennifer Beck has doubted whether the decal really was as effective as the study indicated: “That a tiny little sticker could prevent 1,600 deaths — that just seemed too fantastic,” said the senator.  She, along, with state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, is sponsoring a bill to undo the decal requirement.  According to Sen. Beck, “It probably had a role, but I don’t think it was the sole factor.”

Stephen Di Stefano is an attorney in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Di Stefano.

You may have seen signs on the highway declaring Move Over.  It’s the Law.  What does that mean?  Do you know what the law requires you to do when you are driving and approach an authorized stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle?  If not, you should be aware that on January 27, 2009, then-Governor Jon S. Corzine signed into law a bill that requires drivers approaching stationary emergency vehicles, tow trucks and other highway safety vehicles displaying certain flashing lights to move over one lane or, if not safe to move over, then to slow down below the posted speed limit.  This is known as the New Jersey Move Over Law.  This traffic safety law was written to protect emergency personnel.  The law also aims to increase safety on the roadways and to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that can occur when you are approaching an emergency situation on the roadway.

The specific New Jersey Statute section is 39:4-92.2.  The actual statute reads as follows:

New Jersey Statute 39:4-92.2

Procedure for motorist approaching stationary authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle.

1. a. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle as defined in R.S.39:1-1 that is displaying a flashing, blinking or alternating red or blue light or, any configuration of lights containing one of these colors, shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

b. The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary tow truck as defined in section 1 of P.L.1999, c.396 (C.39:3-84.6) that is displaying a flashing amber light or a stationary highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle that is operated by the State, an authority or a county or municipality and displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a law enforcement officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the tow truck or highway maintenance or emergency service vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of subsection b. of this section would be impossible, prohibited by law or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

c. A violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.

So, the next time you are driving in New Jersey and see a stationary authorized emergency vehicle, tow truck, highway maintenance or emergency vehicle, you should make sure to follow this law.  Keep in mind that if you do not move over or slow down, you could be punished with a fine of $100 to $500.  In this economy, that’s a lot of money.  No points will be assessed for the offense, however, you also need to keep in mind that when the state refers to “points” it means points added to your New Jersey driving record.  It does not mean that your insurance company won’t assess points to your driving record with that insurance company.  This means that if you get a ticket for breaking this the Move Over Law, there is a chance that your insurance rates could go up.  The moral of the story is always drive safely and be sure to obey the New Jersey Move Over Law as well as all other laws.  If you have any questions about this law, or if you have been injured as a result of an accident or incident where someone violated this law, please contact me.

Stephen Di Stefano is an attorney in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Di Stefano.

With the winter months approaching and the holiday shopping season upon us, please be sure to take extra care when you are driving and when you are walking to and from your car.  As temperatures fall, ice can easily form on roadways, driveways, steps, parking lots, sidewalks, and walkways.  Think you can’t slip and fall on ice because there’s been no snowstorm?  Think again.  Oftentimes, people slip and fall on ice in areas where there has been no snowstorm at all or after the storm has long passed through the area.  Ice can form from the slightest amount of water or liquid on the ground.  What typically causes most slips and falls on ice is a dangerous melt and re-freeze scenario.  This occurs when ice or snow melts as temperatures rise, frequently in the daytime.  The snow or ice melts and begins to form puddles of water.  When temperatures begin to fall as the sun sets, the puddles frequently turn into patches of ice, thus putting pedestrians at risk for slips and falls and drivers at risk for skidding.  Many businesses put rock salt and sand down after a snow or ice storm, but once the storm passes they rarely remember to continue to look for patches of ice from melt/re-freeze situations.  This means that you now must be extra careful when walking or driving.   What might look like a harmless puddle of water could actually be black ice.  If you walk over it, you might slip and fall.  If you driver over it, you could lose control of your car and cause a crash.  Asphalt and concrete surfaces are extremely hard and can get extremely slippery from ice, so always pay extra attention when you are walking to and from your car.  If, unfortunately, you do slip and fall from ice on the ground, call me to discuss your situation.  I am here to help you.  The same is true if you get into a car crash from a patch of ice in a parking lot.  If you are injured as a result of ice on the ground, you may want to take photos of the area to help prove that there was ice on the ground.  Many times, people return to take photos of an area where they have fallen, only to discover that the ice has melted by the time they returned to the site of their injury.  If you see ice as you are walking, try to safely avoid the area.  Try to walk in well lit areas where it will be easier to see ice that has formed.  If at all possible, try to walk only in daylight when it will be easiest to see ice on the ground and ice will be more likely to have melted from sunlight and higher daytime temperatures.  We hope you and your families have a safe holiday season and don’t ever need to call an attorney.  But if you do unfortunately get injured or know someone who has been injured as a result of ice on the ground, call us to discuss the situation.  We are here to help you.

Stephen Di Stefano is an attorney in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Di Stefano.