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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

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

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

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.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

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.

Contact Our Office

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.

Cheap Gas Prices Will Likely Lead to More Traffic Accidents

As Gas Prices Plummet, Accidents Rise

On a recent cross-country trip, a New Yorker was thrilled to find that he never paid more than $2 a gallon for gas. He said that, as long as prices remained low, he planned to drive more and fly less, even if the drive took all day. And he’s not alone. As gas prices hit their lowest point in nearly six years, more and more Americans are taking to the highways. The unfortunate downside—more drivers leads to more traffic accidents and more traffic fatalities.

Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have long known that there’s a direct correlation between the price of gas and accident statistics. The last time the average price of gas in the United States was below $2—2009—was also the last high point in traffic fatalities nationally. It’s a simple equation—lower gas prices provide a greater incentive to travel by automobile. The more people on the road, the greater the number of collisions.

The research shows that the news is even worse for younger drivers, particularly motorists in their teens. Most adults who drive do so in significant part for work or family needs. But most younger drivers do so for leisure or for something to do. And older drivers tend to have more disposable income. So when gas prices go up or down, most older drivers don’t see a significant change in their driving habits. They drive because they have to, and are better able to afford higher gas prices. Younger drivers, with less discretionary income, simply don’t have the resources to pay for gas at higher prices, so opt for other activities that don’t involve driving.

According to Guangqing Chi, a sociologist at South Dakota State University, a $2 drop in the price of gas could lead to an additional 9,000 deaths in the United States over a one year period. Chi has been studying the impact of gas prices on driving habits since 2008, when he noticed that his personal driving time went down when prices skyrocketed. He conducted one study in Minnesota that showed that a 20 cent decrease in gas prices led to an additional 15 traffic fatalities.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

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.

Negligence of Oregon Hospital Led to Wrongful Death of Patient

All it takes is one small mistake for a disaster to occur. No matter how much research is done when choosing a hospital, it is impossible to predict a situation such as one that occurred last month in Oregon. Loretta Macpherson, a patient at a Bend, Oregon hospital, died after being administered wrongful medication. Ms. Macpherson, 65, had arrived at the hospital to receive an anti-seizure medication, fosphenytoin, following her brain surgery. Rather than being given the correct medication, Ms. Macpherson was administered a paralyzing agent, rocuronium—often reserved for surgical procedures.

Soon after Macpherson was given the wrong treatment, her breathing stopped and she soon fell into cardiac arrest. Macpherson had suffered permanent brain damage and was placed on life support. A few days later, she passed away.

There is no shortage of cautionary tales stemming from the negligence of hospital staff. The role of hospitals in our society is unique, in that it is one of the rare instances where a person gives their full trust and confidence of their lives to complete strangers. Fortunately, the law provides victims of medical malpractice and their families the right to seek remedies in courts. Because of the high stakes that is ancillary to the medical profession, medical staff must adhere to extremely high standards of professionalism and responsibility. When these standards are not met, hospitals may be held accountable for their negligence.

The three hospital staff members that were present during the incident have been placed on paid leave by the hospital while the investigation is still ongoing. The chief clinical officer for St. Charles Health System, is part of an investigation team that will determine the exact order of events that led to Ms. Macpherson’s unfortunate passing. The officer stated that was the first time the hospital has dealt with a situation like this. However, he went on to say, “[w]e do know there was a medication error. We acknowledge that. It’s our mistake.”

This Oregon hospital incident is an unfortunate example where a hospital successfully treated a medical issue for their patient but the ancillary treatment was provided negligently. The three staff members failed to provide care that fully met the high standards demanded by the medical profession and, as a result, the family of Ms. Macpherson have spent this past holiday season without their loved one.

The attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP will fight to protect your rights. If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury (or worse) as a result of medical negligence that occurred in a New York hospital, you should promptly consult with a New York medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your hospital malpractice claim.

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 medical malpractice attorneys.

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Steps You Can Take to Minimize the Risk of Injury on the Roads during the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are routinely among the deadliest of days when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. On average, the number of fatalities nationwide can go up fourfold or five-fold on those days. Here are some ways that you can minimize the risk of serious injury or death on the highways this holiday season.

Don’t Drive

If you’re not on the road, you won’t be at risk to be in an accident. Statistics show that the large percentage of motor vehicle accidents occur during short trips from home. Instead of making a number of ventures to the malls amongst the holiday traffic, shop online. And instead of traveling on Christmas day or New Years Eve, celebrate the holiday with family the weekend before or after the day, when traffic is much lighter.

If the weather conditions are bad, accept that it’s probably not a good idea to battle the elements to get to Aunt Martha’s house. Call Aunt Martha, tell her how much you love her and that, because you love her, you don’t want to put your family at risk by traveling in bad weather.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Experts say four out of ten accidents at the holidays involve drivers who are legally intoxicated. You can’t keep the other guy from drinking and driving, but you can take responsibility for yourself. A serious motor vehicle accident can turn holiday cheer to grief and sadness in an instant.

Just Drive—Stay Off Your Device

The number of accidents involving drivers talking on cell phones or sending/receiving e-mails or text messages continues to escalate. Many experts believe that distracted driving is rapidly becoming more of a hazard than drunk driving. A number of states have enacted laws prohibiting the use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel.

Get Your Eyes Checked

According to one study, more than 10 million motorists on the country’s roadways have uncorrected vision problems.

Contact Our Office

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.

Motor Vehicle Accidents on the Rise during the Holidays

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On average, about 100 people die every day in the United States in motor vehicle accidents. But those numbers go up during the holiday season and peak on holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Thanksgiving is routinely the day every year with the highest number of traffic fatalities—approximately five times as many as on an average day. Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Memorial Day are not far behind, and Christmas and New Years see more than 400 deaths on average.

Experts attribute the rise in part to the increased number of people on the roads; statistics show there can be a 50% increase in the number of motorists traveling on the holidays. Furthermore, people tend to drive further during the holidays, particularly if Christmas or New Years falls on a regular or extended weekend.

Alcohol consumption also tends to be higher on holidays, accounting for approximately 40 percent of holiday auto accidents. The NHTSA study found that drivers between 21 and30 were most likely to be involved in alcohol-related accidents.

The potentially adverse weather conditions that come with Christmas and New Years also factor in to the increased number of traffic accidents and fatalities. Drivers are more likely to go out in snowy or icy conditions to participate in holiday festivities.

Experts warn, though, that the increased risk is not limited to Christmas day or New Years day. Studies show that the number of people on the road can increase 10-15% on average between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the numbers rising slightly in the days just before Christmas. And with gas prices dramatically down from last year, most authorities anticipate increased traffic and more traffic accidents.

Contact Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP

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.

Electrical Shock and Electrocution Injuries on Construction Sites in NY

To comply with the requirements of New York labor laws, owners and general contractors must take measures to prevent workers from working in proximity to open sources of electricity, and must adequately warn workers of any unguarded power lines or sources. Any defective insulation must be replaced, and all electrical tools, including portable generators, must be properly grounded. Owners and general contractors must ensure that the supply of power to the site is adequate to handle all work being done, that circuits are not being overloaded, and that the construction site is not a tangled web of extension cords that can easily be cut by power tools.

Under New York law, owners and general contractors on construction projects have a duty to take certain precautions to minimize the risk of injury due to electrical shock or exposure to electrical current. §200 of the New York state labor laws mandates that owners and general contractors provide a safe environment for construction workers and visitors, and imposes liability for any injuries sustained because of failure to meet this obligation. The statute imposes absolute liability for any injuries suffered, which means that, as the injured party, you don’t need to show negligence or carelessness, only that the standards established by the law were not met.

Burns are the most frequent type of injury associated with exposure to an electrical charge. The degree of the burn will generally depend on how many volts of electricity you were exposed to. The burns that you suffer from an electrical injury can be internal, as well as external. These types of burns can lead to excruciating pain that lasts months or years.

With offices throughout the New York City area, the personal injury attorneys at Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP have been assisting accident victims since Harvey Sackstein started his practice in 1952.