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New York Changes Law Related to Water Contamination Injuries

Closeup shot of a man pouring a glass of fresh water from a kitchen faucet

In the aftermath of revelations of contamination of drinking water in Hoosick Falls, New York and Flint, Michigan, the New York state legislature has amended the statute of limitations governing lawsuits for injuries caused by federally designated “Superfund” sites. The statute of limitations identifies the time period within which a person must file a lawsuit to prevent it from being barred. The change allows people who were unaware of the causal link between the contamination and personal injury more time to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), enacted in 1980, Congress set up a fund, knows as Superfund, to be used to compensate individuals who have suffered personal injury from any federally designated toxic/hazardous waste facilities. In addition to federally designated Superfund sites, there can also be state-designated sites.

Until the New York legislature acted on July 21, anyone with a potential claim for damages or loss from a Superfund site had to file suit within three years of the time an injury either was, or reasonably should have been, discovered, whichever date was earlier. The amended law changes the timetable, so that it’s the later, rather than the earlier, date. In addition, the amended law applies the extended period regardless of whether the sites pose a significant threat to public health or the environment, and regardless of whether the sites have been properly closed and require no further action.

Legal authorities say that, because of the broad application of the changes, some people who were previously denied relief may have another chance for recovery.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims, including people hurt in bicycle accidents. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Older Drivers Are Safe Drivers

Older Drivers Are Safe Drivers

In 2008, there were more than 32 million drivers age 65 and older in the United States. It is estimated that by 2020, that number will rise to more than 40 million licensed older drivers.

In New York State, there are more than 2 million licensed drivers age 65 or older. These older adults continue to drive so they can work, shop, keep appointments, enjoy life and stay independent.

Unfortunately, every year in New York State, more than 4,800 drivers over age 65 are seen in emergency departments, and more than 1,000 are injured severely enough to require hospitalization as a result of motor vehicle crashes. In addition, an average of 69 older drivers are killed in car crashes every year in New York State.

Many older drivers are very safe drivers. Older drivers are more likely than younger drivers to use a seat belt regularly and follow the rules of the road. Their years of experience in handling different road and traffic conditions are invaluable.

But there are ways that mature drivers can be even safer. Being careful about your health and taking simple precautions plays a big part in staying safe when driving.

A Healthy Body = A Safer Driver

As we age, changes in our physical and mental health can affect our ability to drive safely. Health conditions that affect vision or hearing, the use of hands and feet, and cognitive abilities may interfere with safe driving. These changes do not always mean it is time to stop driving. However, it is important to recognize the warning signs, compensate for them when possible and plan for the time when it is unsafe to continue driving.

Older drivers should follow a simple checklist to evaluate their health to make sure they are in the best condition for driving. Here are some things to consider before getting behind the wheel:

  • Vision
    Regular eye exams are important, especially if you have certain medical conditions like diabetes. Eye exams can detect vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, glare sensitivity or need for a new glasses prescription. Wear your glasses if needed for driving and make sure they fit properly.
  • Medication
    Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to see if your medications can affect your driving ability by causing you to become drowsy, dizzy, distracted or confused. Sometimes changing the time of day a medication is taken can make driving safer. Never stop taking medication without talking to your doctor.
  • Hearing
    Have routine hearing tests to make sure you can hear important traffic noises such as sirens and horns. If you use a hearing aid, always wear it when driving. Some medications can cause ringing in the ears, so talk to your doctor if you have any problems hearing.
  • Fitness
    Activities like walking, dancing, gardening, golfing, or yoga can help you stay in shape to meet the physical demands of driving by keeping muscles strong and enhancing flexibility and coordination.
  • Cognition
    Keep your mind sharp to help you make quick decisions while driving. Tell your doctor or a close family member if you become confused or anxious while driving.

Important Driving Tips for Older Drivers

Older drivers can follow these tips to improve their safety on the road:

  • Take a driver safety course. Many local agencies and national organizations offer classes for a small fee.
  • Plan your route before driving. Think about confusing intersections or other areas where you may find a difficult driving situation. Map out a route that makes you feel most comfortable.
  • Adjust your car to better fit your body. Raise the seat, tilt the steering wheel and/or adjust the mirrors to make driving more comfortable and less physically demanding. Look for programs that assist drivers with vehicle adjustments, or speak with a driver rehabilitation specialist.
  • Minimize distractions while driving. Turn off the radio or ask passengers to stay quiet.
  • Avoid stressful driving situations. Travel during the daytime, when the light is brightest. Stay off the roads during rush hour and when the weather is poor.
  • Make sure you are in the best physical condition for driving. Being in good physical shape can help to increase your range of motion. A driver needs to be able to turn their neck and shoulders to look out side and rear windows to see traffic that may be in their blind spot.

Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims, including people hurt in bicycle accidents. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Funded by the National Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.

NY Court Rules That Third Party Payments Don’t Offset Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Car rear ended by another car

A New York appeals court has ruled that a party injured in an accident involving an uninsured motorist may collect damages from an at-fault third party, and that those damages will not offset any amounts to which the injured party is entitled under an uninsured motorists provision in his or her auto insurance policy.

In New York, as in other states, a motorist may add a rider to his or her insurance policy, providing a certain level of coverage in the event of an accident where the at-fault party either has no insurance or has little insurance. This clause is known as UM/UIM clause. Typically, those riders include a clause stating that the UIM “shall not duplicate” payments the injured party/insured receives from other parties. Accordingly, the practice in New York has been to allow an insurance company to reduce its payout on a UIM claim dollar for dollar for any amounts received from any other source. That appears to have changed.

In a ruling issued by the New York Appellate Division in June, the court found that the non-duplication clause did not mean that an injured party cannot seek full compensation by combining partial recoveries from several liable parties. In effect, the only time payments received from another source will offset an insurer’s responsibility under a UIM policy is when the amounts received from other sources exceed the total amount of damages.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims, including people hurt in bicycle accidents. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Long Island Man Charged with DUI after Accident Kills Passenger

Broken car windshield

A Long Island man was arrested and charged with drinking and driving in the aftermath of a horrific accident that tore his car in half and left a passenger dead.

Police say that Police say that Shiva Sharma, a 32-year-old resident of Wyandanch, was driving in excess of the speed limit just before 4 am on Monday, May 30, traveling between W. 54th and W. 55th on Sixth Avenue, when he lost control of his Nissan Altima, went onto the sidewalk and hit a fire hydrant near the Warwick Hotel. The impact of the crash nearly split the vehicle in half, with the hydrant ending up in the middle of the car. Witnesses say that there were vehicle parts strewn for nearly half a block, and that there were personal items, such as tennis shoes, littered around the crash site.

A passenger in Sharma’s car, Juan Avila, a 33-year-old resident of Jackson Heights, died after being taken by ambulance to Mt. Sinai Roosevelt Hospital. Sharma was also taken to the hospital (Bellevue), where he was listed in serious, but stable, condition. Family members say that Avila, who worked for a company that sold pre-paid calling cards, left a four-year-old daughter behind.

According to police officers, Sharma was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash. He was charged with drinking and driving, and with vehicular manslaughter the day after the accident. Officials say that more charges may be pending, based on an ongoing investigation.

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

Two Killed in Accident on Long Island Expressway

A close up of skid marks on a road.

What started as a minor mishap became deadly on the Long Island Expressway on May 23, as two young people were killed nearly Old Westbury.

According to Nassau County police, 20-year-old Yousef Shaker, of Ridgewood in Queens, was driving a BMW between exits 39 and 40 around 11 pm, traveling westbound. Shaker apparently struck the right guardrail, causing him to shoot back across traffic, across the median and come to rest at a concrete divider. The four occupants of the BMW then got out to determine how much damage the vehicle had sustained. Shortly thereafter, Shaker and a passenger, 18-year-old Lauren Stepham, of Salem, New York, were hit by a GMC Yukon driven by an off-duty NYPD officer. Shaker was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and Stepham died at a local hospital. Two other passengers in the BMW, an 18-year-old female and a 19-year-old male, were treated for injuries at the hospital. The NYPD officer also sustained minor injuries.

Police say it was raining at the time of the accident, which may have initially caused Shaker to lose control of his vehicle. The NYPD officer submitted to a blood alcohol test, which authorities say was negative.

Police speculate that, when Shaker struck the guardrail, the lights on the BMW stopped working, so that the NYPD officer had little or no warning of the presence of the vehicle. Police have impounded both vehicles as part of an ongoing investigation.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims, including people hurt in bicycle accidents. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents

Person on bike injured

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 743 people were killed in 2013 in accidents involving bicycles, a decrease from the high of 772 in 2006, but a significant increase from just two years earlier, when the death toll stood at 682. The injury rate, which has hovered at or above 50,000 for most of the last decade, dropped to approximately 48,000 in 2013, as compared to an all-time high of 68,000 in 1993. Here are the most common causes of bicycle accidents.

Accidents Caused by Motorists

Studies consistently show that the vast majority of bicycle accidents are caused by motor vehicle operators. Here are the most frequent causes, in order of magnitude:

    A driver turns right into the path of a bicycle traveling in the same direction—This can happen for a couple reasons. The driver may forget or neglect to use a turn signal, or may be in a position where the turn signal is not visible to the cyclist. This is why you tend to see so many cyclists cross an intersection in the middle, rather than to the right of any cars that are present. In most jurisdictions, a car turning right must yield to a cyclist going straight through an intersection, just as you would yield to a pedestrian.

  • A driver turns left into the path of an oncoming cyclist—The most frequent explanation from the motorist is “I never saw the bike.” Drivers tend to look for vehicles and miss bicycles. Unfortunately, cyclists may have to simply drive defensively. However, the cyclist coming through the intersection has the right of way over a motorist turning left, unless there’s a green left-turn signal.
  • A driver rear-ends a cyclist—This is the most common cause of drunk-driving accidents involving bicycles.
  • A driver sideswipes or opens a door in front of a bicyclist—Again, this is mostly due to a simple failure to pay attention.

Other Types of Bicycle Accidents

Though less common, bicycle accidents can happen when:

  • A cyclist fails to pay attention to traffic signs, signals or rules
  • A cyclist fails to use appropriate speed, skill or technique on the road
  • A bike has manufacturing or design defects that cause it to crash

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims, including people hurt in bicycle accidents. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Budding Journalist Awarded $43 Million after Fall

Wheelechair

Alexander Tirpack, a former intern for Rolling Stone magazine, won a $43 million verdict from a New York jury for injuries that will leave him wheelchair-bound for life.

According to witnesses, Tirpack was at a party on North 10th Street in Williamsburg on September 25, 2010, when he needed to urinate. He asked the host to use the bathroom, but was told he could not, because the host’s wife was asleep in the apartment. Instead, Tirpack was given an empty Gatorade bottle and directed to a remote section of the building’s roof. At the edge of the roof, he attempted to climb onto a parapet just a little over three feet from the ground. Because it was dark, he couldn’t see that there was a 2 1/2 foot gap between the building he was on and the one next to it. He fell 70 feet, severing his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed.

Tirpack’s attorney argued that the building developers had violated city ordinances which require a 10 foot high wire fence around any roof used for recreation. They argued that the building owners had not erected the mandatory fence because they wanted to sell sections of another part of the roof as private “cabanas,” and the fence would have ruined the view.

Defense attorneys contended that the intent of the ordinance was to protect individuals engaged in active recreation, such as basketball or other sports, as opposed to passive recreation. They also argued that Tirback, who had been drinking all night, was entirely at fault. Sources say it will likely be a long time before Tirpack sees any money, as the verdict will certainly be appealed.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Megabus Riders Beware

It seemed too good to be true. The Megabus, with free Wifi, comfy seats and really cheap fares, promised to be an affordable and luxurious way to connect Chicago and more than 100 cities across the country. Some advertised fares were as low as a dollar!

But the behemoths have been involved in an astonishing number of accidents—at least 22 known collisions involving Megabuses have been reported since 2013. Just last month, one of the vehicles went up in flames just outside of the windy city—fortunately, no one was hurt.

The carrier’s safety woes have been well-documented for the better part of the last decade. A Megabus in New York hit a bridge in 2010, with four people dead. Another swerved off the road on I-95 in New York City in 2011, killing 15. Law enforcement officials say that the company’s drivers have been cited numerous times for violations of the law, from speeding to drunk driving. It’s also been reported that the company allows drivers back on the road without taking the time off required by state and federal regulations.

In light of the continued safety problems—the fire on the bus outside of Chicago was not the first of its kind on a Megabus—many are shocked that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has consistently given the Megabus a “satisfactory” rating. Under the law, Megabus is what is known as a “common carrier.” Common carriers are generally held to higher standards than other drivers, generally doing “all that human care, vigilance and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to passengers.”

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contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400. Your first consultation is free of charge.

State Pays $1.6 Million to Injured Cyclist

Riding A Bicycle

A retired Marine Corps officer has received $1.6 million from the state of New York to settle a personal injury claim arising out of a collision with a New York state trooper’s vehicle. According to court documents, Major Mary-Margaret Smith, a resident of Virginia, was on her bicycle at the intersection of Liberty and Collins Street in Whitney Point on the morning of July 5, 2010, when she was struck by the trooper. The impact of the collision threw her into the cruiser’s windshield, causing head and facial injuries.

Smith filed a lawsuit to recover for her injuries, but defense attorneys argued, based on a police report, that Smith had crossed into the intersection, entering into the path of the state trooper. However, evidence introduced at trial indicated that Smith never went into the intersection. The court concluded that the accident was caused solely by the negligence of the trooper, who has never been named. That evidence showed that the officer was making a left turn, but cut corner short, striking Smith, who was legally on the roadway.

The trial court found in Smith’s favor and that ruling was affirmed in 2014 by the state Appellate Division. Separate proceedings were scheduled for later this year to determine the amount of damages, but the state of New York opted to settle the claim.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we have more than 60 years of experience protecting the rights of personal injury victims. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

Understanding New York’s Dog Bite Statute

Dog Ready to Bite

If you have been the victim of an attack by someone else’s dog in New York, the legal standard for obtaining compensation for your losses will depend on the type of damages you are seeking. If you are pursuing compensation for medical and veterinary expenses, there’s a strict liability statute that governs your claim. For all other types of damages, though, there is greater protection for the dog’s owner.

Essentially, strict liability means that you don’t have to show that the dog’s owner was negligent in any way. You need only show who owned the dog, that the attack was not provoked, and that you were either in a public place or legally on the dog owner’s property. Under such circumstances, you can recover any amounts you must pay for medical expenses or vet bills.

However, for other types of losses, including emotional distress, lost wages or income or loss of consortium, you must show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity to be aggressive or to attack. In this respect, New York is what is commonly referred to as a “one bite state.” Unless you can show that the owner trained the dog to be aggressive toward humans or otherwise had reason to expect that the dog would bite you, the first bite does not impose any liability on the dog owner.

Under the statute, the court may consider “any evidence of a dangerous propensity.” New York courts have construed this fairly liberally, finding liability where a dog has been known to growl, snap or bare its teeth, or where the owner chose to restrain the dog.

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