On April 5th, the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee pushed forward Senate Bill S-1766, legislation which would expand the state’s wrongful death statute to allow for recovery of damages from “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society and loss of companionship.” Currently, the survivors who lost a loved one cannot be compensated for such emotional loss.

Continue Reading Wrongful Death Legislative Expansion Proposed in New Jersey Senate

Studies have shown that approximately 20 million Americans use, or have used, an e-cigarette. This particular worldwide industry is estimated to be worth over $3 billion annually, and some estimates project that the industry will be worth over $10 billion by 2017. Furthermore, the e-cigarette industry advertises their product as a “safe” alternative to actual cigarettes, and many consumers see it as a new method to quit smoking or a way to feed a nicotine habit through safe delivery.

In addition to targeting lifetime smokers, the industry is also capturing a new consumer, more specifically young adults who had never previously smoked traditional cigarettes. As a result, these non-cigarette smokers have since developed a dependence on nicotine due to the e-cigarette industry.

The e-cigarette industry marketing campaigns lead consumers to believe that their products are safe, and unfortunately young adults are buying into it. A recent survey in New York indicated that 10.5% of high school students use e-cigarettes, and 12.7% of individuals between the ages of 18-24 use them. This is almost double the rate (6.5%) of users over the age of 25.

There is no dispute that the e-cigarette industry remains largely unregulated, and the industry is growing fast. We know that e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, and we already know that nicotine is highly addictive and unhealthy, particularly for minors.  In a Health Policy Forum on e-cigarettes, a panel from the School of Medicine all agreed that anyone under the age of 21 should not use any devices that deliver nicotine into the body.

Besides being addictive, nicotine is also known to stunt cognitive growth in youth. This, of course, makes all the e-cigarette industry’s claims that its product is somehow still the “safe” alternative highly suspect.  The fact is, e-cigarettes are not safe, they’re just the better of two bad options.

If you are injured as a result of an E-Cigarette, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention and experienced legal counsel.

If you’re from the Philadelphia area and you’re a major soccer fan, it’s possible you’ve heard of Daniel “Danny” Califf.  Mr. Califf is the former captain of the Philadelphia Union team in Major League Soccer.  However, you probably have not heard of Mr. Califf’s injuries, which he suffered as a result of an exploding E-Cigarette.

Unfortunately, Mr. Califf was in the process of using an E-Cigarette when it exploded in his face, which caused first and second degree burns, a concussion, and a fractured cheek bone.  Mr. Califf filed a lawsuit against in the state of California as a result of injuries he suffered as a result of an E-Cigarette.  And he’s not the only one.   In two other lawsuits, one individual injured by an exploding E-Cigarette lost a finger, and another received burns so severe that a skin graft was required.

After the E-Cigarette exploded, 23-year-old Vincent Garza’s tongue was burned so severely that it necessitated 2 surgeries and left him with a permanent lisp.  He also required surgery for his index finger, which was eventually amputated at the knuckle.  There was no warning that something might be remiss with the E-Cigarette, as Mr. Garza simply went to use it, pressed a button, and the device exploded.

This was unlike another, separate E-Cigarette lawsuit, filed by Jennifer Ries.  She won this recent case after an E-Cigarette battery exploded in her car after it began to leak a liquid.  Mr. Garza received no such “warning” that there would be a problem with the device.

Meanwhile, yet another E-Cigarette user, Gregory Phillips, suffered injuries in yet another way.  Mr. Phillips’ E-cigarette exploded, not while he was in the process of using it, but while it lay in his pocket as he was walking down the street.  Phillips suffered burn injuries to his left leg and subsequently required a skin graft.

Mr. Califf, Mr. Garza, and Mr. Phillips all were using a “safe” E-cigarette and subsequently suffered serious and unpredictable injuries.  Despite this, the E-cigarette industry remains unregulated and can be described as nothing short of dangerous.

As it is becoming very clear, E-Cigarettes are not safe, yet money is still poured into this budding billion dollar industry anyway.  I personally have yet to see any E-Cigarette marketing materials that warn of potential harm, including fractured cheek bones, skin grafts, concussions, or the loss of a finger.  As the examples above show us, these injuries can be very significant and should not be ignored.  Here at Stark & Stark, we recognize the dangers associated with E-Cigarettes.

If you are injured as a result of an E-Cigarette, it is recommended that you seek experienced legal counsel immediately.

The answer is short: no.

At some point in every smoker’s life, we are told that smoking cigarettes are not safe and they will damage our health over time. We are told that cigarettes will damage our teeth, our lungs, and cause cancer. We are even told that the cigarettes will kill us. I myself am told this quite frequently. And to be fair, the individuals telling us this are not incorrect.

When you hear these statements from a well-being friend or relative, there is often an instinct to stop and consider the possibility of quitting. I, too, have considered quitting on many occasions, but I’m never sure where or how to begin. Quitting cold turkey isn’t an option, because that’s too difficult. However, on those occasions when I stop by the local convenience store to pick up cigarettes, I’ll inevitably walk by the E-Cigarette section.

There’s a certain lure involved with the E-cigarettes. I have tried them, and at the time I justified the purchase by reasoning that it was not an actual cigarette, and therefore must be safer. You shouldn’t believe this “safer” reasoning, however—that’s what the E-Cigarette companies want you to believe, but new evidence suggests otherwise.

In fact, the safety of an E-Cigarette was recently questioned in a civil lawsuit in California. While headed to the airport with her husband, Mrs. Jennifer Ries made the decision to charge her E-Cigrette via the USB port in her vehicle. While it was charging, Mrs. Ries observed a liquid dripping from the battery, and stated that it smelled like nail polish remover. She claimed that, without further warning, the E-cigarette battery exploded, and caused chemicals from the battery to land on her skin. As a result, she suffered from second degree burns to her legs, buttocks, and hands. These burns also resulted in permanent scars to her body.

During the trial, evidence was presented which showed that the E-Cigarettes failed to warn consumers that plugging into a USB port with too much voltage could cause the chemicals in a lithium ion battery to explode. The jury returned a $1.9 million verdict on behalf of the Ries family.

Unfortunately, what happened to Mrs. Ries can happen to any of us. The E-cigarette industry has only been around since 2007, and still remains largely unregulated. These E-Cigarette manufacturers want us to buy into their logic: it’s not a cigarette, so it must be safe. The Ries’ case is the perfect example to prove that this is false logic.

If you are injured as a result of an E-Cigarette, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention and experienced legal counsel.

Effective September 1, 2015, new child passenger safety laws will go into effect in New Jersey.  These new laws were designed with enhanced safety in mind – specifically on improving protections for young children riding in cars.  So what are these new rules?

  1. Every child under 2 years old and weighing less than 30 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness.
  2. Every child under 4 years old and weighing under 40 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness until the child grows larger than the height and weight standards set by the manufacturer.
  3. After a child outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight standards, the child may begin sitting in a front facing child seat with a five-point harness.
  4. Every child under 8 years old and less than 57 inches in height must be secured in a rear-facing or forward-facing child seat with a five-point harness or a belt-positioning booster seat.
  5. Any child older than 8 years old or taller than 57 inches in height must be properly secured by a regular adult seat belt.

Continue Reading New Jersey’s New Child Passenger Safety Laws: What Parents Need to Know

Grocery stores and other large retailers generally have plans, policies and procedures designed to keep their customers safe. Unfortunately, far too often store employees either do not know or do not follow corporate safety policies. This is why thousands and thousands of people are injured in grocery stores here in New Jersey every year.

Many people feel an intense loyalty to “their” grocery store and spend large portions of the family budget on groceries. Stores like ShopRite expect to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from each of their customers over the course of a lifetime. Is it too much to ask for customers to actually be kept safe while they shop? Sadly, for many grocery stores and other large retailers, the answer is yes. In my experience, corporate profit is frequently more important than customer safety.

Grocery store owners know there are “problem areas” in every grocery store. These include the produce department, floral department, frozen food aisles, checkout areas, entrances and exits, to name a few. These are high traffic areas where there is often water or slippery produce on the floor.

Grocery store owners and operators have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care for the safety of their customers. Store owners must take steps to correct or give warning of dangerous conditions (like water on the ground), so long as the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Furthermore, the grocery store owner must make inspections of the store to try to find dangerous conditions. Store employees are typically required to conduct “floor sweeps” to check for dangerous conditions, like spills or tripping hazards. This is where most grocery stores fail their customers because employees do not perform regular “floor sweeps” or follow any inspection schedule. This means that dangerous conditions frequently go unnoticed, and that is why thousands of people are injured in grocery stores each year. Of course, this is not the only area where grocery stores fail to keep their customers safe from harm. Other causes of customer injuries will be explored in some of my upcoming posts.

Continue Reading What Should You Do If You’ve Been Injured At a Grocery Store?

Veterans service-connected disability benefits are often denied or awarded at the incorrect rating or date of disability. If you find yourself in this position, you have the right to an appeal and you increase your chances of winning if you are represented by an attorney.

You can find a list of VA accredited attorneys here. An accredited attorney has been screened by the VA for character and fitness, has been trained to represent disabled veterans, and is required to engage in additional training to maintain accreditation every two years. Because appeals can take 3 ½ to 4 ½ years to process, attorneys fees are based upon benefits they obtain on your behalf and paid out of your past due benefits.

Continue Reading How Do I Appeal the Denial of Military Service Connected Disability Benefits and Do I Need an Attorney?

Now that summer is almost here, it is time to remind everyone of an important topic: trampoline accidents. Although they can be fun, trampolines also can be very dangerous, especially if multiple people are using one at the same time. Trampoline accidents have resulted in life-changing injuries to adults and children alike. Such accidents can cause spinal cord injuries, fractures, and in some cases even death.

In one recent case, a 10-year old child sustained serious injuries while playing on a backyard trampoline with a friend. The girls were playing a game called “popcorn” in which the victim sat on the trampoline and her friend jumped on it, propelling the victim into the air. During the game, the victim landed awkwardly on her left leg, fracturing it. She was diagnosed with a fracture to the growth plate of the left distal femur and underwent surgical external fixation with a pin. Approximately three years later, when she experienced a growth spurt, the growth plate in the left leg failed to grow. This resulted in the knee being bowed and the left leg being about two inches shorter than the right leg. Unfortunately, additional surgeries to lengthen her left leg and stop the growth in her right leg did not resolve the issue. Her medical expenses were approximately $60,000, and she may undergo a second procedure to lengthen her leg, at a cost of about $90,300. Future costs for pain management, counseling, and physical and occupational therapy are estimated at nearly $225,000.

The injured girl’s mother sued the homeowner who owned the trampoline, alleging that he was negligent in failing to supervise the girls. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant homeowner lost track of the girls after they entered his home and that he later saw them on the trampoline but failed to tell them to stop using it. The girls testified that the defendant saw them on the trampoline but said nothing. The defendant argued that he did not know the girls were on the trampoline. He failed a cross-complaint against the girls’ mothers, alleging that they were negligent for failing to supervise them. The parties settled before trial for $750,000, which was paid by the defendant homeowner’s insurance policy.

At Stark & Stark, we have represented people who have been injured in accidents on trampolines, amusement parks, roller skating rinks, and in other recreational activities. If you or someone you know has been hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence in one of these types of activities, contact legal counsel immediately to determine your rights.

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.