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Slight Drop in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in 2013

Officials Still Concerned about High Number of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

4,381 people died in motorcycle accidents across the United States in 2013, a slight drop from the year before (4.695), but still significantly higher than 1997, when only 2,056 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that as the total number of fatal traffic accidents has dropped dramatically, from over 42,000 in 1997 to less than 33,000 in 2013, the number of motorcycle-related deaths has gone up and remains high. In 1997, motorcyclists were involved in only 5% of all fatal traffic accidents. Over the last six years, bikers have accounted for approximately one in eight fatal crashes.

The study found that just over four of every ten fatal motorcycle accidents involved only the motorcyclist, a statistic that researchers say is essentially unchanged over the last 30 years. The average age of those killed in motorcycle accidents has steadily risen over the same time period, though. Between 1975 and 1985, nearly 80 percent of all motorcycle fatalities involved riders under the age of 30, and about three percent involved riders over the age of 50. During the last five years, the percentage of motorcycle deaths involving riders over the age of 50 has actually surpassed the percentage of deaths involving riders under the age of 30. In 2013, 34% of all motorcycle accident fatalities involved riders over the age of 50, and only 27% involved bikers under the age of 30.

Fatal motorcycle accidents overwhelming take the lives of men. In 2013, less than 10% of the deaths reported from motorcycle crashes were of women. Furthermore, statistics show that 61% of the women who died in motorcycle wrecks were passengers.

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Study Shows Graduated License Law Reduces Teen Traffic Fatalities

National Study Indicates Graduated License Law Saves Lives

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), teenagers have the most significant risk of being involved in an accident. Researchers cite the lack of experience, leading young drivers to improperly gauge both their skills behind the wheel and the dangers they face. In a recent IIHS study, officials found that instituting a graduated licensing system led to nearly a 30% reduction in teen traffic accidents in some jurisdictions.

Every state currently has some form of graduated drivers license (GDL) program for teen drivers. Typically, it involves limited driving after dark, restrictions on how many other teens may be in a car driven by a teen, and minimum requirements of adult-supervised driving. Some jurisdictions set a higher age for young drivers to get learner permits or full driving privileges. Officials say that, though teens may express frustration at not getting full driving privileges, the statistics show that everyone benefits when teens have the opportunity to build their skills in safer conditions. They note that those states with the strongest laws have experienced the most significant reductions in teen motor vehicle accidents.

In its study, the IIHS looked at statistics from all 50 states, and categorized each state’s GDP system as good, fair, marginal or poor, based on five criteria:

  • The age at which a teen may obtain a learner’s permit
  • The number of supervised practice hours required
  • The age at which a teen obtains full driving privileges
  • The existence and time of the nightly curfew for teen drivers
  • Whether the state law allowed a teen to have any teen passengers

GDL laws rated as good produced, on average, a 30% reduction in accidents involving 15-17-year-old drivers. GDL laws listed as fair were tied to about a 10% reduction.

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To set up an appointment with an experienced New York motor vehicle accident injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.

‘Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up’

The percentage of child passengers who die while riding unrestrained generally increases with age and is most pronounced among 13- and 14-year-olds regardless of seating position.

“Kids will always test the limits with their parents or caregivers, but there is no room for compromise when it comes to wearing a seat belt,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “Sounding like a broken record can save your child’s life. Kids need constant reminders and this is one that can’t be skipped.”

The facts about Seat Belt safety among Teens don’t talk, they shout:

  • Out of any driving demographic, teen drivers are the least likely to buckle up. This despite having the highest accident rate out of any other driving demographic per 100,000 drivers.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds in the United States. The majority of these deaths involve unbuckled teens, drivers, and passengers.
  • Use of a seat belt is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents.
  • When employed, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45%.

Yet, despite these alarming statistics, teens continue to ignore the grim facts after they get a driver’s license or driver’s permit. According to a research poll taken by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teens cited seat belts as being “potentially harmful” as their main reason not wearing them.

A recent series of NHTSA focus groups found seat belt use can fall by the wayside when shuttling kids to and from school and activities, when running short errands, or when parents are a bit worn down by the daily grind, which makes this campaign urgently important. It is important for Kids to be trained to Buckle Up at an early age . As parents, we need to lead by example and reinforce the message to make sure it sticks,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This campaign urges parents to never give up until their kids buckle up.”

New York Child Car Seat Laws

  1. Any child younger than four must ride in a federally approved child safety seat that’s properly secured by a safety belt or a universal child restraint anchorage system.
  2. All children younger than 8 years old must be secured in a child safety seat restraint system. This includes safety seats, harness vests and booster seats attached via safety belts.
  3. Any child younger than 4, but who weighs more than 40 pounds, may be secured in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.
  4. If all safety seats are occupied, a child who would normally require a booster seat should instead be secured by a lap belt
  5. Every rider younger than 16 must use a seat belt.

Many kids already understand the seat belt safety laws . “Everybody’s parents teach them as children; first they do it for them, then the children pick it up and do it themselves.” said a 14 year old Dallas boy.

Seat belt laws prove effective. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) teens who reside in states with primary seat belt laws are 12% more likely to buckle up when driving, and 15% more likely when riding as passengers.

Please contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP online or call us on our toll-free line at 516-248-2234 to be connected with one of our attorneys.

Study Dispels Myth of “Defensive Medicine”

In a study published in a recent copy of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that laws enacted to shield emergency room doctors from liability had no meaningful impact on the tests and procedures ordered or the types of services provided.

Insurance industry lobbyists have long argued that “tort reform,” i.e., laws limiting the ability of private individuals to sue for medical negligence, or setting recovery ceilings for medical malpractice, would reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care. A principal, recurring premise advanced by insurance providers was that doctors who feared being sued practiced “defensive medicine,” worrying more about potential legal action than the needs and health of the patient. This increased costs, they argued, because doctors ordered more tests and procedures to make certain they couldn’t be accused of negligence or malpractice.

In the study conducted by NEJM, researchers looked at emergency room data at nearly 1,200 hospitals between 1996 and 2012, including those in Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, where legislative enactments had dramatically restricted lawsuits against ER medical professionals. The statistics they gathered showed that doctors in those states behaved exactly as doctors in other states. They found no appreciable difference in the number of MRIs or CAT scans ordered in tort reform and non-tort reform states. Accordingly, the actual costs to insurance companies in tort reform states were indistinguishable from the costs in other states.

The NEJM study is, insurance industry critics say, just another indication that tort reform is an illusion. They allege, with factual support, that the real motive behind “tort reform” is a desire by insurance companies to improve their bottom line. They point to concrete evidence refuting a key assumption by insurance companies—that juries will, as a matter of course, award higher verdicts in personal injury cases. A Department of Justice study, however, found that the median jury award in a medical malpractice claim is $400,000, whereas the median award in a non-jury medical malpractice trial–$631,000.

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How Does Weather Affect Traffic Accidents?

It’s been a rough winter, weather-wise, in the northeast—snow, snow and more snow. Every night, there seems to be another report of a major pileup on a snowy highway.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are nearly six million traffic accidents in the United States every year. About one in five—over 1.3 million—are caused in part or in full by adverse weather conditions. The weather condition most likely to lead to a traffic accident—precipitation, either in the form of snow, ice or rain—accounts for three out of every four weather-related traffic accidents. But other weather conditions also play a significant part. Here’s an overview.

On average, 74% of weather-impacted motor vehicle accidents occur on wet pavement. About half happen when it’s raining and only 31% during snowy conditions (17% happen on icy roads). That’s a little misleading, say authorities, because most parts of the country only have snowy conditions for two to three months of the year, at most.

One of the surprising statistics—researchers found that traffic accidents were less likely to be fatal in adverse weather conditions. Though weather contributed to 23% of all crashes, it was a factor in only 17% of fatal accidents. NHTSA personnel say that adverse weather conditions necessary lead to reduced speeds, especially on freeways and highways. As a result, when an accident occurs, the impact is not as great, reducing the risk of death or serious injury.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

To set up an appointment with one of our experienced New York motor vehicle accident injury lawyers, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.

Apple’s Self-Driving Car and How It Will Affect Personal Injury Law

How Will Self Driving Cars Affect Personal Injury Law?

Imagine driving on the road, rushing to your job to make it to an important last-minute meeting. You have barely taken a few sips of your coffee, shifting all of your focus to making it to the office. At the four-way intersection a few blocks from your destination, you breathe easily knowing you have finally made it. At the red light, you are waiting patiently, calmly sipping the coffee that has already gone from hot to lukewarm. The light stays red, as you look ahead with a clear sight of the building of your office. Then-all of sudden-CRASH.

After a few minutes of shock, your body adjusts to the fact you were just involved in a rear-end accident. As you open the car door and step out to inspect the damage, you walk over to the offending vehicle to collect information. As you approach the other vehicle you realize no one is driving the car.

For a moment you begin to wonder if maybe the driver fled. Slowly, you notice that the car does not have any pedals, no emergency brake handle, not even a steering wheel. You walk to the front of the car and you recognize a familiar little Apple logo on the hood of the car that you’ve seen in many other places. It finally dawns on you: you have just been rear-ended by Apple’s new consumer product, on its way to pick up the owner.

So, who’s at fault?

The mad geniuses at Apple have been hard at work this year on an Apple-branded self-driving car. Dominating most of the mobile devices and computer industries, Apple’s next target is the automobile. Leading this venture for Apple is former Ford engineer Steve Zadesky, who brought in former Mercedes Benz Chief R&D Engineer Johann Jungwirth. This past year, Apple began its secret “Project Titan” initiative, which is widely believed by many industry analysts to be Apple’s automobile project. Per Breitbart.com, Apple has recruited at least 60 former Tesla employees by offering $250,000 starting bonuses and 60% pay raises to join the company. It’s full-steam ahead for the Cupertino-based company, as they compete with Google’s own rumored self-driving automobile project.

As the industry prepares for these two tech giants to shift their attention to cars, many are speculating how the dynamics of liability laws will change around these driverless-machines. The question of who will accept liability in an accident will become far more complicated. One thought is that Apple and Google are banking that their autonomous, self-driving ultra-safe vehicles will minimize accidents, allowing the companies to accept all liability. Google has been testing one of their autonomous cars in Mountain View, California, where one vehicle has already logged 10,000 miles. “We have not cited any Google self-driving cars,” said Sergeant Saul Jaeger, the press information officer at the Mountain View Police Department, to The Atlantic. Google representatives have already made statements regarding liability. “What we’ve been saying to the folks in the DMV, even in public session, for unmanned vehicles, we think the ticket should go to the company,” said Ron Medford, safety director for Google’s self-driving car program, and the former deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

However, just how far are these companies willing to go when accepting liability? If Google or Apple were to sell 100,000 cars, should they really be legally responsible for every ticket or accident those vehicles are involved in? What company would ever take on that level of legal liability? Because these vehicles will automatically adhere to all traffic laws, including obeying speed limits and not crossing passing lines, the companies expect the number of accidents and lawsuits are likely to diminish. Companies believe that robots make for better drivers than humans, with ninety percent of today’s automobile accidents involving human error (per R&D Magazine). A potential downside to this route are costs. Bryant Walker Smith, professor of law and engineering at the Univ. of South Carolina in Columbia, said that as the burden of liability shifts more to manufacturers than consumers, “the manufacturers will have to pass those costs on to consumers.”

No matter what the pending regulations say, the laws will clear up as incidents begin to be heard in court. If there’s an accident that’s bad enough, no matter what the regulations say, it will wind up in court. This fascinating new area of law is still years away from becoming an issue, but the attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP will be here to protect you. We look forward to pioneering into this new realm of personal injury law in the coming decades.

The attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP will fight to protect your rights. To learn more about our firm, please contact us online or call us on our toll-free line at 516-248-2234 to be connected with one of our attorneys.

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Sackstein Firm Appointed by Court in 1980s to Handle Raffa Estate

Sackstein Firm Assisted Former Governor Cuomo’s Family with Estate Issue in 1980s

The State of New York has lost one of its most beloved leaders with the death of former governor Mario Cuomo of heart failure in January at the age of 82. Cuomo served as New York’s chief executive from 1983 until 1994, and was often considered a potential candidate for President of the United States, though he never sought the nomination. He retired from politics after a failed bid for a fourth term as governor.

In the 1980s, though, during the height of his governorship, he and his family were embroiled in a legal battle that garnered substantial media attention. Cuomo’s father-in-law, Charles Raffa, a wealthy business owner in New York, was severely beaten in a mysterious attack, and left incapable of managing his own affairs. Members of his family sought to have a conservator assigned to manage his affairs, as they could not agree on how the affairs should be handled.

Supreme Court Justice Sebastian Leone in Brooklyn appointed Harvey A. Sackstein, Esquire, the late founding partner of Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, to evaluate the situation. After a full investigation and assessment of the matter, Mr. Sackstein reported to the court that Mr. Raffa lacked capacity to manage his own affairs, and Mr. Sackstein recommended that a conservator be appointed for Mr. Raffa. Attached is an article that provides a detailed account of the protracted battles that ensued: Mario Cuomo’s All-Star Family Feud Source: NYMAG.com

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The Dangers of a Hazardous Workplace Should Never Be Overlooked

Tragedies can occur when one least expects it, as is the case for an unfortunate elevator serviceman a few weeks ago. On Friday, January 9th, 2015, a 30-year-old mechanic began work in an elevator shaft at 75 West End Avenue at or around 11:30 A.M. Two mechanics were scheduled to work on the elevators in the rental complex, West End Towers, which was developed in 1994 by developers The Brodsky Organization. At some point during maintenance, the elevator shaft above the mechanic had fallen three floors and pinned him underneath. He was reported dead on the scene. An investigation is currently underway as to the exact details of what had occurred.

The FDNY had arrived on the scene to investigate that evening. “There was some movement in the elevator between the first floor and the basement,” FDNY deputy assistant chief Roger Sakowich said, “[t]he elevator that crushed the man had been three floors above when it moved.”

The fatal accident seems to have been years in the making. Around an hour after the incident occurred, emergency vehicles began to collect outside of the building. An NBC reporter spoke to a few tenants who remarked on the poor maintenance of the elevators. Ryan Sher, a tenant of West End Towers, stated that the elevators in the buildings “have been a mess for years.” Further investigation of building records show that 12 elevator citations have been issued dating back to 2003.

The Brodsky Organization issued this statement: “The Brodsky Organization is deeply saddened by the tragic accident and we extend our sincere condolences, thoughts and prayers to his family, friend and co-workers at this time.” The company did not offer further statements regarding the situation.

Unfortunately these sorts of accidents are not as rare of an occurrence as one might think. The attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP are dedicated to fight for the rights of our clients who might fall victim to hazardous worksite accidents. The story of this tragedy is one of many, but worth sharing for the lesson that anything can happen in the blink of an eye. If you find yourself or a family member as a victim, know that you are not alone.

The attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP will fight to protect your rights. To learn more about our firm, please contact us online or call us on our toll-free line at 516-248-2234 to be connected with one of our attorneys.

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Marijuana and Motor Vehicle Accidents

Woman on the phone after an auto accident

Study Shows Similar Accident Rate to Drunk Driving

In a national study involving more than 9,000 drivers, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) found that one in four persons driving under the influence of marijuana was more likely to have a motor vehicle accident than persons not driving while stoned.

However, the statistics were significantly different from those for drinking and driving. Studies generally show that a person with a .08 blood alcohol content or higher (the legal limit in most states) is four times as likely to be in a car accident as someone who is sober. According to the NHTSA, the likelihood of a crash rises almost exponentially as the BAC goes up. For example, persons with a .15 blood alcohol content or higher have a 12-fold likelihood of a motor vehicle collision.

Researchers acknowledge that there are specific challenges to determining whether a person is technically “driving under the influence” of marijuana. For purposes of the study, researchers concluded that a driver “tested positive” for driving under the influence of marijuana if there was any THC (tetrahydroconnabinal) in the driver’s system at the time of the accident. This can be misleading, as THC tends to linger in fatty tissue long after a person has used marijuana, and long after the high is gone.

Researchers say that, because of this challenge, there may have been many who technically tested positive, but who were not under the influence of marijuana at the time. If those people are removed from the study, the percentages who were involved in crashes goes much higher.

Officials warn, though, that this is not reliable evidence that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol. They cite extensive research that indicates that consumption of marijuana slows down reflex time, impairs judgment and impacts awareness.

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To set up an appointment with an experienced New York motor vehicle accident injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.

Distracted Driving Still a Problem on American Roads

Statistics Show Distracted Drivers Still Major Cause of Traffic Accidents

According to the federal government, distracted driving accounts for about one in every 10 traffic fatalities. Though that number of fatalities in 2012 decreased slightly—from 3,360 to 3,328—the number of accidents involving distracted drivers went up dramatically, increasing by more than 30,000.

As defined on the government’s website (www.distraction.gov), distracted driving includes any act that draws a driver’s attention away from his or her primary task—safely operating a vehicle on the road. The use of a handheld device continues to be one of the most significant concerns. Researchers report that nearly 700,000 people are simultaneously driving and texting/talking at any given moment. They note that the average time that a person will divert attention from the road to send or receive an e-mail or text message, or to look at weather, directions or other information on a handheld device, is about five seconds—the length of time it would take to drive the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour.

The use of a device, however, is not the only significant cause of distracted driving. Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted driving covered a broad range of activities, from grooming behind the wheel to reading a book or map, from eating and drinking to having a conversation with passengers in the back seat, from adjusting an in-dash stereo to watching a video.

According to statistics, younger drivers are more likely to drive while distracted. More than 25% of the distracted drivers involved in traffic fatalities were in their 20s. One in 10 of drivers in fatal accidents were between the ages of 16 and 19. One out of every four drivers under the age of 20 said they regularly send or respond to text messages while driving, and one in five say they frequently have multi-message text conversations while behind the wheel.

Interestingly, the research showed that using a hands-free device, such as a headset or Bluetooth, did not significantly diminish the risk of an accident.

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To set up an appointment with an experienced New York motor vehicle accident injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.