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

What Happens If You Were Partially At Fault for Your Injury?

An Injured Person
When you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s wrongful or careless act, one of your first thoughts is to seek compensation for lost wages or income, medical expenses and other damages. But what if the accident was partially your fault? Can you still recover a financial award to pay for the losses you’ve suffered?

For hundreds of years, the law of personal injury applied a concept known as the “contributory negligence” doctrine. Under the legal theory of contributory negligence, if you were negligent in any way and to any degree, and that negligence contributed to your injury, you could not recover damages from someone else for your losses. Because the doctrine seemed extremely harsh, and because defense attorneys would, often successfully, argue that a miniscule amount of negligence on the part of the injured party should absolve an egregiously negligent party from any liability, a new standard—comparative negligence—has become the law of the land in all 50 states.

Not surprisingly, though, there is no consensus on how comparative negligence should be applied. In the majority of states, the principle applied is what is known as “modified comparative negligence.” In those states, an injured party can only recover damages if his or her degree of liability falls below a statutorily determined level. Most states hold that level to be 51% (21 states) and all others adopting modified comparative negligence (another 12 states) find the level to be 50%.

New York, though, is one of only 13 states that apply what is known as “pure comparative negligence.” Under that legal theory, an injured party may still recover something, even if he or she is 99% liable. For example, if the total losses were $100,000, but the injured party was 90% responsible, he or she will still be entitled to $10,000 in 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. For a free initial consultation, contact our office online or call us toll free at 888-519-6400.

The So-Called “Trivial Defect” in Slip and Fall Cases in New York

Man slipping on a wet floor
Under New York law, the owner or manager of residential or commercial property has a duty to exercise reasonable care to minimize the risk of injury to persons legally on the property. It’s not uncommon, though, for defense attorneys to seek and obtain a dismissal of such a claim, based on the argument that the injury was caused by a trivial defect, even if the injury was substantial. Though the courts have long held that determining what constitutes “trivial” may be difficult, the matter was recently addressed again, in three separate cases.

In Hutchinson v. Sheridan Hill House Corporation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the defect was trivial, though the factors that made it trivial were not related to its size. Instead, the court found the defect trivial because it was in the middle of the sidewalk, in a location with adequate lighting, and there were no other factors, such as a crowd of people, that prevented the injured person from looking down as he walked.

In Adler v. QPI-VIII LLC, the injured party was hurt when she caught her foot on a “big clump” that had been painted over on interior stairs. The woman lived in the building, and acknowledged that there was adequate lighting and that there was no debris or dirt on the stairway. In this case, the court overturned an earlier ruling dismissing the case because of a purported “trivial defect,” saying that, because no measurements had been taken on the “clump,” it could not be determined if it was “trivial.”

In the third case, Zelichenko v. 301 Oriental Boulevard LLC, the plaintiff tripped on a chip in the front of a step that measured 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inches. The defendants sought to have the claim dismissed, arguing that it was a trivial defect. The plaintiff objected, saying the trivial defect defense should only apply to municipal liability. The court disagreed, but held in favor of the plaintiff, saying what really mattered was whether persons using the stairway would naturally avoid the chip while coming down the stairs.

The upshot of the three decisions? It’s still pretty unsettled as to what will or will not constitute a trivial defect in a premises liability case.

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Questions Arise after Woman Dies at Coney Island Hospital

Stethoscope

A Brooklyn woman is dead and family member says it’s because of negligence and malpractice at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn.

Grisel Soto, 47, was taken to the hospital on January 31, 2016, after experiencing head pain. Family members say she was unable to speak. When she arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, the triage nurse, whose job it is to make an initial assessment of possible medical problems, suspected that she was having a reaction to synthetic marijuana. Because she was screaming and thrashing on the bed, her hands and legs were restrained and she was injected with a tranquilizer. According to hospital reports, she went into cardiac arrest multiple times during the next 12 hours and died the next morning.

Soto’s husband, Jorge, said that the mistreatment of his wife started when paramedics arrived at their apartment. He says that five EMTs held her down and strapped her to the gurney. When told by the triage nurse that a reaction to synthetic marijuana was suspected, he told them that she was on antibiotics after having flu-like symptoms the week before. Soto insisted that, in more than 20 years of marriage, he’d never seen his wife use illegal drugs.

Sources say that hospital officials acknowledge that Grisel may have had some form of meningitis. The chief medical examiner’s office is conducting an investigation and indicated that, while meningitis may still be a likely cause, they have ruled out any type of contagious meningitis.

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.