Motor Vehicle Accidents

Snow Removal Law

Now that the temperatures outside have started to dip and the winter driving season is upon us, it is time to remind you of New Jersey’s ice and snow removal law. Remember to remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before driving, especially from the hood, windows, and roof. Motorists who fail to obey this law face fines of $25 to $75 for each offense, regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle. If flying ice or snow causes property damage or injury to others, motorists face fines of $200 to $1,000 for each offense.

Also keep in mind that flying ice or snow can cause a car accident, resulting in injury or death to anyone on the roadway. If you cause an accident and injure or kill someone, you could be sued and your assets could be at risk. So be safe and remove all ice and snow off of your car every single time before you drive. It could be the difference between causing an accident and getting home safely. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident as a result of snow or ice that became dislodged from a vehicle on the roadway, see legal counsel immediately.

Winter Driving Tips

The State’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety offers some winter driving tips, which are worth repeating here. Read them over, and always remember to drive safely and follow all motor vehicle laws. The State’s winter driving tips are:

  • Drive slow (at or below the posted speed limit) and adjust your speed for the changing road conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights, using low beams when traveling in snow.
  • Increase your following distance. In winter weather, travel at least eight to 10 seconds behind the car in front of you.
  • Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, take extreme caution in doing so. Remember, a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see him, but they don’t always see you.
  • If you skid, don’t brake or accelerate. Remove your foot from the gas, and gently steer your car in the direction of the skid (the direction the rear of your vehicle is sliding.) When your car starts heading in the desired direction, carefully straighten the wheel.
  • Slow down before exiting the highway. Exit ramps often have icy patches, sharp curves and stalled or stopped vehicles.
  • Have a personal safety kit easily accessible in your vehicle that includes: an ice scraper/brush; shovel; jumper cables or battery starter; blanket; sand, salt or kitty litter for traction; lock de-icer; flashlight and new batteries; extra windshield wiper fluid; safety flares/warning device; cell phone with spare battery; water and non-perishable food (i.e., granola or protein bars); and paper towels or a cloth.
  • If your vehicle does become disabled, pull off the road as far as possible and turn on your emergency flashers. Remain with your vehicle until help arrives. If you can’t get your vehicle off the road and are uncertain about your safety, do not stay in your vehicle or stand behind it. Proceed carefully to a safe location away from traffic.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident caused by someone who wasn’t paying attention, you should contact legal counsel immediately. Stark & Stark is dedicated to helping injured people and we can make sure that your rights are represented. The insurance companies have people working hard on their side, and so should you.

I learned recently that bicycling has increased by 60% over the past 15 years. Once considered an activity associated mainly with exercise or with leisurely rides on summer vacations, biking has become a commonplace mode of primary transportation for many people in cities and suburbs across the country. With this increase in usage, there has also been a marked increase in the number of serious collisions that have occurred involving bikes and motor vehicles as well as collisions that have occurred with bikes and pedestrians.

In this blog, I will focus on a recent case where a cyclist collided with a truck that was parked on a roadway.

Continue Reading Bicycle Accidents with Vehicles and Pedetrians

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

Truck accidents often can result in serious or even fatal injuries. An example of such an accident is one that many people read about last summer: the accident where a Wal-Mart truck and a limo van collided. The accident severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and two other occupants and killed fellow comedian James McNair.

Another example of a serious truck accident occurred recently involving a grain truck and a car. In that accident, a 32-year old woman was driving her car through an intersection when a farm truck driver, who was hauling grain for his employer, pulled out from a stop sign and into the woman’s path. Her car struck the side of the truck, resulting in serious orthopedic injuries. The woman suffered fractures to her right ankle and her femur at the knee. She underwent multiple ankle surgeries, including a fusion and surgery to repair the fracture to the femur. Her past medical expenses totaled $276,000. Her lost earnings totaled about $69,000. Since the accident, the fused ankle has made it difficult for her to participate in activities requiring prolonged standing or walking.

The injured woman sued the truck driver and the small farm that employed the truck driver. The plaintiff alleged that the truck driver failed to yield the right-of-way. She alleged that the farm was liable for the truck driver’s negligence. The truck driver argued that the plaintiff had failed to keep a proper lookout.

After depositions were conducted in the case, the parties settled the lawsuit for $900,000, which was paid by the farm’s insurance company.

These two accidents illustrate just how seriously someone can be injured or harmed when a truck collides with another vehicle. Accidents happen, and so you must always be careful when you are on the road, whether as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or driver. Truckers have important jobs and the vast majority of them are safe, conscientious drivers. However, sometimes they cause collisions, and when that happens, the consequences are serious.

At Stark & Stark, we have represented many people who have been injured in truck accidents. We have the skills, resources, and experience to understand and address the unique challenges that injured people face when going up against a trucking company in a personal injury claim. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, car accident or some other type of accident as a result of some else’s negligence, it is recommended that you consult with experienced legal counsel immediately.

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.

 

 

As most riders know, wearing a helmet is mandatory in New Jersey. Not so in Pennsylvania where anyone 21 years of age or older and has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for not less than two full calendar years OR has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation can ride without one. Beyond the arguments for or against mandatory helmet laws is the reality of the dangers associated with riding without one.  A few years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article on the Pennsylvania law that permits riders to forgo a helmet and State Representative Dan Frankel’s effort to reinstate a mandatory helmet law.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute, in New Jersey for the year 2007, there were 85 motorcycle related fatalities of which 82 % were wearing helmets. The National Highway Safety Institute estimated that 42 people’s lives were saved by wearing helmets and that 6 fatalities would have been prevented with 100% use of helmets. In 2008, 82 fatalities with 87% wearing helmets and NHTSA estimates another 42 lives saved because of helmets and 4 fatalities would have been prevented with 100% use of helmets.
In Pennsylvania in 2007 there were 225 motorcycle related fatalities. 46 % were wearing helmets and another 61 people’s lives were saved by wearing helmets. In 2008, 239 fatalities with 49% wearing helmets and another 70 lives saved because of helmets. The NHTSA also estimated that in 2007 45 lives would have been saved and in 2008 45 lives would have been saved if they were wearing helmets.

Across the US there were over 5000 fatalities in both 2007 and 2008 from motorcycle accidents with only 58% wearing helmets.  NHTSA estimated that in those two years there were 3615 lives saved by the use of a helmet and another 1627 lives would have been saved if they were wearing helmets. More recently, in 2012, NHTSA  estimates helmets saved the lives of 1,699 motorcyclists and that an additional 781 lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. In states without universal helmet laws, 62% of the motorcyclists  killed in 2012 were not wearing helmets compared to 9% in the states with universal helmet laws. Think about that for a minute.

In addition, NHTSA sponsored a study in 1996 to assess the effect of wearing a helmet upon the ability of motorcycle riders to: (1) visually detect the presence of vehicles in adjacent lanes before changing lanes and (2) to detect traffic sounds when operating at normal speed.  The results indicate that wearing helmets does not restrict the ability to hear auditory signals or the likelihood of seeing a vehicle in an adjacent lane prior to changing lanes.

I have no reason to doubt these figures.  A few years ago while traveling to Court in rush hour traffic on I 95 towards Philadelphia I saw a rider go flying over his handle bars onto the roadway. It was shocking to say the least.  I thought he was unconscious. I pulled over the side of the road and watched as he got up. Another motorist an I assisted the rider to the side of the road. He had a full face helmet and a motorcycle leather jacket and blue jeans. He was disoriented and almost lost consciousness a few times.  His knees were scraped through his jeans and bleeding. His jacket showed the signs of a serious incident. His helmet showed damage that would have caused a serious injury to a rider without one. Despite his protective gear, I was sure that he had suffered serious injuries.  I am happy to report that he called me the next day to tell me that but for his bruised/scraped knees, he was fine. It is clear to me that his helmet and jacket had adequately protected him from more serious harm.  As a rider I routinely see other riders in Pennsylvania riding without helmets. In both states it is common to see riders in shorts, sneakers and T shirts. I rode for many years in jeans and a T shirt but always with a helmet. It is great to ride on a warm summer day without the bulk of protective clothing. It’s also dangerous.  At many of the rally’s I attend I am often engaged by visitors about their right to ride without a helmet. It’s a debate worth having. What is often overlooked are the true consequences of that action. As indicated above, helmets save lives. That’s indisputable.

What is missing from those statistics are the consequences of sustaining an injury as a result of not wearing a helmet and surviving.  NHTSA estimates on a national level we would have saved 2.7 billion dollars in 2007 and 2.9 billion dollars in 2008 if there was 100% helmet use. This of course fails to consider the impact to the rider and their families. Many head injuries are quite serious and have long term consequences, job loss, medical bills and other financial strains. Many of the more serious head injuries lead to long term disability and regular care. We see this regularly when representing injured riders.  As many of us in the motorcycle community know, motorcycle insurance provides in most cases no medical benefit and in others, very little coverage. Riders without insurance who suffer serious head injuries become dependent on Federal programs such as SSI and Medicaid. Even people with insurance don’t have enough coverage for a lifetime of care.

I urge anyone reading this to reconsider riding without a helmet. I’m sure the families of those who lost loved ones or who are now watching someone suffer because they were not wearing a helmet would join in my request. Every motorcycle rider understands that there is some danger associate with riding but that doesn’t mean that you should not be prudent and take precautions to minimize your risk.

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.

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.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2000 and 2009, 130 school-age pedestrians (younger than 19) died in school transportation-related crashes. Over two-thirds (67%) were struck by school buses, 6 percent by vehicles functioning as school buses, and 27 percent by other vehicles involved in the crashes. There were 56 (43%) school-age pedestrians killed in school transportation-related crashes between the ages of 5 and 7.

Although drivers of all vehicles are required to stop for a school bus when it is stopped to load or unload passengers, many people do not stop.  It is reported that distracted drivers and/or inexperienced drivers simply do not realize that a bus has stopped or that its lights are illuminated.  The reason the bus is not seen does not matter.  Children simply cannot rely on drivers to stop for them pass safely.

Although we would expect our schools to train children safe loading and unloading procedures and schools are actually required to provide such training, many schools do not.  In order to reduce risk to our children, The National Safety Council encourages parents to take it upon themselves to teach their children rules for getting on and off the school bus.  (A copy of School Bus Safey Rules available for parents can be found here.

Even with teaching children about proper loading and unloading procedures, children are injured too frequently.  If your child is injured loading or unloading from a school bus, contact us for a free consultation.

 

A recent article in Insurance Journal lists the top 10 causes of workplace injuries based on 2012 Liberty Mutual claims data for injuries lasting six or more days.

The ranking is based on total workers’ compensation costs but it is interesting to note the leading causes of injuries in this study. If I were to rank the types of injuries/causes of injuries I see most frequently in my own practice, I would have a very similar list. Particularly in the Winter months we see an increase in slip and fall injuries and motor vehicle accidents, but we also see a consistent number of cases where the injuries are based on overexertion. The article points out that the leading cause of injury on the list, overexertion, was typically related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing. Other exertions, which came in at number five, includes injuries due to bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing or walking.

10 Leading Causes of Workplace Injuries in 2012:

  1. Overexertion
  2. Falls on same level
  3. Struck by object or equipment
  4. Falls to lower level
  5. Other exertions or bodily reactions
  6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle
  7. Slip or trip without fall
  8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects
  9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks
  10. Struck against object or equipment

At Stark & Stark, our Workers’ Compensation lawyers dedicate their practice to representing injured workers. If you or someone you know is hurt at work, please call our experienced attorneys today for a complimentary, no obligation consultation.