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New York City Settles Police Brutality Claim for $4.1 Million

Police brutality

The City of New York will pay $4.1 million after the shooting death of an unarmed Brooklyn man by a police officer. The family of Akai Gurley will start receiving payments when Gurley’s 4-year-old daughter, Akaila, reaches the age of 18. The settlement also requires that a college fund be set up for Akaila.

According to witnesses, Gurley, then 28, was killed on November 20, 2014, by a bullet from the gun of New York City police officer Peter Liang. Liang and a partner testified that they were patrolling stairwells in the city’s Louis H. Pink Houses, when they entered an unlit stairwell at the seventh floor. Liang and his partner were both rookie officers and were conducting routine vertical sweeps, going to every floor of a housing project to see if a crime is in progress. Authorities say that Liang had been instructed by his commander not to conduct vertical patrols.

Evidence showed that Gurley entered the stairwell after leaving his girlfriend’s apartment, and was about 14 steps below Liang. Witnesses say that no words were exchanged, but that Liang drew his weapon and a flashlight. As he opened a door, his gun accidentally discharged, ricocheting off a wall and hitting Gurley in the chest. Witnesses say Gurley initially ran after the shot was fired, but stopped on the fifth floor, when he discovered he was bleeding. He died at the scene.

Court documents indicate that Liang will pay $25,000 of the settlement, the New York City Housing Authority will pay $400,000 and the city of New York will pay the rest of the settlement.

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

New York Court Says Third Party Liability Payments Not an Offset

Car wreck

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.

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.

New York Court of Appeals Says Health Insurer Can’t Seek Reimbursement

In an opinion that is expected to have far-reaching consequences, a New York appellate court has denied the claim of a health insurance provider that it is entitled to reimbursement of costs incurred when its insured was in a motor vehicle accident.

In Aetna Health Plans v. Hanover Insurance Company, Aetna sought reimbursement of medical expenses it paid for Luz Herrera, who also had a no-fault automobile insurance policy with Hanover. According to court documents, Herrera was insured in an automobile accident and sought treatment. The bills were sent to Aetna and Aetna paid them, but subsequently sought reimbursement from Hanover, arguing that the medical coverage provisions of the auto insurance policy were primary, since the insured was injured in a motor vehicle accident.

Typically, when a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident and has a valid policy of no-fault insurance, the injured party assigns any right of reimbursement from the insurance company to a health care provider, so that medical bills get paid directly to the health care provider. Aetna argued that, in essence, Herrera had assigned any right to reimbursement from Hanover to Aetna, since Aetna paid the bill. The court disagreed, for two reasons.

First, the court concluded, Herrera could not assign any no-fault rights to Aetna because those rights had already been assigned to the health care provider. That’s the only way the health care provider was able to bill Aetna and receive direct payment. In addition, the New York no-fault regulations are clear that an injured party may only assign no-fault benefits to a health care provider, never to an insurance company.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment with an experienced New York motorcycle accident injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll free at 201-457-9400. Your first consultation is free of charge.

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.

Contact Our Office

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.