airbag.jpgIf you haven’t heard about the massive airbag recall, you probably don’t need to worry about it because you are living under a rock. As long as you stay down there, and don’t jump into a car, you’re fine.

But for the rest of our readers, we’ve got some news you can use: You may want to switch out your airbags for new ones. The airbags may have the dangerous shrapnel-shooting parts from Japanese manufacturerTakata.

By the way, recent evidence shows that Takata “saw and hid risk in airbags in 2004“. Sound familiar? (hint: think tobacco).

Thumbnail image for ebola.jpgI blogged yesterday about who can, and can’t, sue a Hospital for Ebola malpractice in New York. By “Ebola malpractice” I mean a hospital’s failure to timely diagnose and treat the disease, and to take precautions to avoid its spreading.

I determined that in New York the patient and the sickened family of the patient probably could successfully sue.

But in Texas – where an Ebola malpractice lawsuit should be brought — Ebola malpractice suits will almost certainly fail. That’s because Texas is a “tort reform” State. Back in 2003 the Lone Star State passed a Republican-led tort deform reform law that just about annihilated medical malpractice claims. Among other things, the law requires emergency room patients to prove not just negligence but “willful and wanton” negligence on the part of the hospital staff. That standard is tough to prove, but even if you can prove it, you face another tort-reform barrier: Damages caps. In Texas, your pain and suffering damages are “capped” at $250,000 for the hospital and $250,000 for the doctor.

ebola.jpgLet’s say you just got back from a holiday in Liberia, where, unbeknownst to you, you caught Ebola. You turn yourself into your local hospital with stomach pain and a fever. You even mention that you just got back from Liberia. Let’s say the hospital ER folks – unsuspecting of Ebola — prescribe painkillers and antibiotics and send you on your way. Let’s say you end up dying a horrendous death, and that, if the Ebola had been properly and timely treated, you probably would have survived. Let’s also say that you contaminated your entire family, and some friends and associates, who either died or survived the harrowing illness. Oh, and let’s also say the hospital failed to provide the nurses who treated you with proper Ebola protective outfits, and they got Ebola, too.

Who can sue the hospital? The answers might surprise you.

THE NURSES: In New York, the nurses can’t sue because they are barred by workers’ compensation law from suing their employer. All they get is workers’ compensation benefits. That’s 60% of lost wages. In the case of death, their family gets a measly $50,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. No compensation for pain, suffering, grief.

fishing (2).jpgWhen I started writing this blog a few years ago, I’ll admit I was fishing for new cases. I figured that since the internet was where more and more potential clients were looking for New York injury lawyers, blogging about New York injury cases would bring those surfers to my portal. They would then pick up the phone, call me, and – voila – a new case!

Well, I was wrong. I have not gotten a substantial number of direct new cases from this blog. Every once in a while, yes, I do get a case from my blog posts. But that’s not a significant part of my intake. I still get most of my cases from my traditional sources: referrals from prior clients, word of mouth, and from a network of very loyal referring attorneys who love our work product.

So why do I keep blogging? Good question. Let me think about that. Hmm. Ok, I have the answer: I have actually come to enjoy it, at least when I’m not too busy with my cases. And I do get a lot of emails about my posts, sometimes from prospective clients, sometimes from other lawyers. I enjoy discussing the issues raised in my blogs with these folks.

car crash.jpgScenario 1: You’re a passenger in your mother’s car when she crashes and injuries you (her fault). A year later, you’re still not back to your construction job. Should you sue her? But wait, she’s your MOM!

Scenario 2: Your best friend’s dog bites and mauls you, leaving you with a permanent facial scar resembling a map of Indonesia. Should you sue him? But wait, he’s your FRIEND!

There are two problems with suing a close relative or friend for personal injuries: (1) How your relative or friend might react and (2) how the jury might react.

There has been much ado recently about a Nascar incident in my neck of the woods (Ontario County, New York State) in which Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. (See video of the incident above). An Ontario County Grand Jury recently declined to indict Steward. The Grand Jury determined that there was simply no probable cause to believe that Stewart intentionally or even recklessly killed Ward. Ontario County District Attorney Tantillo also announced for the first time that Kevin Ward had marijuana in his blood at a level that would have “impaired judgment”.

So Stewart has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing. But can Ward’s family nevertheless sue him for damages for wrongful death? Such a lawsuit might be in the works. Ward’s mother was recently quoted as saying that Stewart “intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car towards him” and that she was considering “other remedies” since no criminal charges will be filed.

photo.JPGI just finished trying a case in Federal Court in Syracuse. It was an unusual case for me. I normally try only New York personal injury cases. But in this trial I represented a fellow lawyer who got fired from her job as Cayuga County Assistant Attorney. We claimed she was fired in retaliation for taking time off under the Family & Medical Leave Act, which would be illegal. Her employer claimed she was fired for job performance issues. I won’t have a result for several months; the judge reserved decision.

As with any trial, I put everything I had into it. I took this photo after I had delivered my “blizzard” of exhibits to the Courtroom tables. I had to put together and manage about 125 exhibits. I called about 10 witnesses to the stand — several of them fellow Cayuga County attorneys — and cross-examined almost as many. It was a busy trial!

Whatever the result, I am proud of the job I did. My client was pleased with my courtroom performance, as was my “second chair”, retired Cayuga County Judge Peter Corning. Judge Corning had handled the case through discovery, and then asked me, with the client’s consent, to try it for him.

scared driver.jpgI sometimes tell people that safe driving would drive me out of business. As a New York car accident lawyer, someone’s negligent driving puts bread on my table. Now isn’t that just sick?

Sure it is, which is why I am perfectly prepared to move into another line of work should motor vehicle accidents ever become a thing of the past. I’m tired of seeing good people get crushed and mangled, or worse, in avoidable accidents. I am tired of seeing my clients pay the price of someone else’s negligence.

And, believe it or not, car accidents most likely WILL become a thing of the past someday soon. By the end of the decade, the typical American vehicle will be navigating as part of a network, constantly sharing information as it travels via transmitters. Your car will have a brain, and one that doesn’t get distracted like human brains. Your car’s brain will monitor your blind spots and warn you when you start to veer out of your lane. Sophisticated sensors, lasers and cameras will scan the road like electronic eyes.

crosswalk.jpgI came upon some surprising statistics recently: Just as motor vehicle travel is getting safer (for those inside the vehicles), walking is getting more dangerous because motor vehicles are striking and killing more and more pedestrians.

Just look at the statistics: 22 percent fewer traffic fatalities from 2003 to 2012, while pedestrian fatalities have been climbing steadily since 2010. In 2012 alone, the pedestrian fatalities were up 6 percent from the year before. A motor vehicle kills a pedestrian every two hours and injures one every seven minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). Fourteen percent of all road fatalities are pedestrians. There are 4,000 to 5,000 pedestrian fatalities per year in the U.S.

Why are pedestrian fatalities up while motor vehicle fatalities are down? No clear answer out there. But I have a theory (are you listening NHTSA?)

money.jpgA first offer from an insurance adjuster is like the first kiss on a date: It usually leads to something more substantial. At least that’s my experience (recently in law, and a long time ago in dating). Yes, I have plenty of recent experience (more than 20 years) in New York personal injury law.

When you are hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you are likely to get a call from an insurance adjuster fairly soon. He or she will offer you money to settle. It probably won’t be enough. My advice? Think of it as a first date. If you simply take that offer, and sign a “release”, and say goodbye, you’ll never find out what would have happened on the second date.

As Nancy Reagan used to say, “just say no”! Don’t worry about the offer evaporating. As a New York personal injury lawyer with many years’ experience, I have never seen that first offer “disappear”. I have never even seen and insurance adjuster LOWER an offer, much less take it off the table. And I have seen many, many times, indeed most times, insurance adjusters INCREASE their offer.

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