Archive for February, 2013

Where Does New York Stand When it Comes to Safety Rules?

25
Feb 2013
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Every year, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety publishes a summary of safety laws across the fifty states. The purpose of the summary is to see where states stand, what types of regulations they have passed to try to make their roads safer, and what regulations the state is still missing.

Our Buffalo, NY injury attorneys urge every driver to pay attention to this summary of safety laws. Not only can you learn where our state stands as far as driver safety, but you can also learn what types of laws and regulations are recommended by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. This way, you can follow the guidelines and suggested safety rules even if New York does not yet have a law in place regarding a specific dangerous driving behavior.

Where Does New York Stand on Safety?

New York was given a green rating by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. This means the state has passed many of the key driving safety laws that are recommended. Although it is lacking in a few areas, New York has done a lot to keep its roads safe.

Some of the different laws that New York has passed and some of the areas where it is lacking include the following:

  • The state allows police to pull over drivers just for not wearing a seat belt, even if the driver isn’t doing anything else wrong. This type of law – a primary seat belt law – helps to ensure all drivers wear their belts.
  • New York got full credit for requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets and for having a booster seat law in place.
  • New York gets full credit for its laws requiring a minimum age of 16 for a learner’s permit, for its six-month holding period, for its rules on supervised driving and for restricting both night time driving and the number of passengers that can drive with a teen driver.
  • While New York imposes a restriction on teen cell phone use when driving, the state does not get credit for its law on this issue since the law is not comprehensive enough.
  • New York does not get credit on the issue of making drivers wait until they are 18 until they are awarded a full license.
  • New York does get credit for all its DUI laws. These laws include mandates requiring all offenders to use an ignition interlock device; child endangement laws; mandatory BAC test laws; and open container laws.
  • New York gets credit for its law imposing a restriction on texting messaging for all drivers.

In looking at the survey of the important safety laws identified by the Advocate’s report, it is clear that New York does very well in protecting its citizens from hazards on the road. In fact, the state has 13 of the 15 recommended laws. The remaining laws on limiting cell phone use for teens and on requiring drivers to wait until they are 18 to get a full license can be addressed by parents who may wish to set tough guidelines to keep their teen drivers safe.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today at 800-477-9044.

Rollover Accidents Present a Special Risk for Buffalo Drivers

19
Feb 2013
By:

According to WGRZ Channel 2, a multi-vehicle accident occurred on Grand Island Bridge on Friday morning, backing up traffic for all cars headed north to Niagara Falls. Only minor injuries reportedly occurred in the crash, but the accident involved a rollover vehicle, which normally makes accidents much more dangerous.

Our Buffalo, NY accident attorneys were very glad to hear that no one suffered serious injuries in this auto accident, which was believed to have been caused in part by reduced visibility and slick snow-build up that are so common in Buffalo winters. Unfortunately, the accident serves not just as a reminder that winter weather can be dangerous but also as a reminder of the risk of rollover crashes.

Rollover Accidents Put All Drivers at Risk

A rollover accident occurs in any crash situation where one or more of the vehicles rolls over at least once and generally ends up in an upside-down orientation. Rollover accidents can occur with any types of vehicles but they are most common when:

  • A driver is driving a sport utility vehicle (SUV)
  • A driver is operating a mini-van
  • A driver is operating a truck
  • A driver is operating a tractor trailer

In general, any vehicle with a high center of gravity can become unstable, especially in the event that the vehicle is going too fast on slippery pavement or around sharp turns. SUVs and trucks both have a high center of gravity, especially if they are packed with a heavy load. This makes them more prone to rolling over and endangering their passengers.

The Dangers of Rollover Accidents

Rollover accidents are far too common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, there are more than 280,000 crashes each year in which one or more vehicles rolls over. These rollover incidents cause more than 10,000 deaths every year.

In many cases, it is the passenger who rolled over who is killed in the crash. For instance, most fatal rollovers in four-wheel drive vehicles involve just a single vehicle. The car goes around a turn too fast or otherwise makes a dangerous maneuver, the driver loses control, the stability of the vehicle is affected and the car flips. Alcohol is often, but not always, involved in these single vehicle crashes, and many of the accidents involve male drivers ages 25 and under.

When passengers are in a rollover accident, they are in danger of being ejected from the vehicle. This can cause serious injury or death. Typically, those who are ejected from the car in a rollover accident are not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. This can also put these drivers in danger of traumatic head injury from banging their head as the car rolls over.

Rollover accidents are not only risky to passengers but can also be deadly to anyone else on the road. When a large truck flips, for example, the truck can crush other vehicles and is likely to result in death.

This recent rollover accident, therefore, while it fortunately only caused minor injuries, is an important reminder of the risks presented by top heavy cars and should serve as a caution to all drivers to be careful and in control this winter.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today at 800-477-9044.

Hypothermia a Real Possibility for Workers During Cold Buffalo Winters

It should come as no surprise to anyone that winters are cold in Buffalo, Rochester and the rest of upstate New York. Cold winter creates a lot of risks for people, but those in the greatest danger of being harmed by very cold temperatures are workers who spend the bulk of their day working outside in inclement weather. This includes people who work construction, who work in snow removal or tree trimming after storms, or any other worker who routinely spends large blocks of time outdoors.

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers are safe and to provide a safe work environment. This includes making certain that workers are properly prepared for the cold and that they do not suffer from hypothermia. Our Buffalo, NY injury attorneys urge workers to pay careful attention to the OSHA information on cold stress and hypothermia and to heed the tips provided by OSHA in order to make sure that workers stay safe.

OSHA Information for Employers About Winter Safety

According to OSHA, there are a number of factors that can affect when a worker will develop hypothermia. The wind chill outside is one important factor, as is whether the worker is on medication, has certain health problems or is wearing damp clothing. Because so many things can affect when a worker develops hypothermia, it is important to realize that the problem is not limited to when it is below freezing outside.

Workers, therefore, must be properly trained to recognize signs of hypothermia any time they are performing outdoor work. Employers must be aware of the dangers that their workers face and take precautions. Some of the precautions that OSHA suggests include:

  • Advising workers of the signs of hypothermia. Signs include hardness of the skin, numbness and the skin becoming pale. The extremities, including the hands, feet, nose and ears, are most likely to develop hypothermia.
  • Ensuring that workers take frequent breaks to get warm. Hypothermia develops when the body is not able to warm itself back to a normal temperature. Prolonged exposure to freezing weather can cause serious and permanent injury or even death.
  • Provide warm beverages to workers. This can help them to maintain their body temperature as they are working outside in the cold. The beverages should not contain caffeine, so caffeinated coffees and teas should be avoided.
  • Try to schedule work for warm times. When possible, schedule outdoor work to occur on days that are above freezing. You should also always make a point to schedule outdoor work on the warmest part of the day.
  • Ensure that workers have proper clothing to keep warm. Layering can be very beneficial to workers in fighting off hypothermia.

These are just a few of the key tips that OSHA provides in order to help employers to make sure to keep their employees safe. During this long cold winter season, it is very important for all employers to protect their employees who are working outdoors and who are at risk.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today at 800-477-9044.

Buffalo Injury Victims Should Know What’s at Stake When Politicians Talk “Tort Reform”

7
Feb 2013
By:

On November 13, 2012, the American Association for Justice announced a new grassroots campaign called Take Justice Back. The purpose of the campaign is to educate the public on corporate efforts to limit the effectiveness of the civil justice system and to encourage activism.

The civil justice system gives power to people who are injured and forces corporations, employers, dangerous drivers, doctors and other negligent or careless individuals to obey the law and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Our Buffalo accident attorneys applaud the efforts of “Take Justice Back” to draw attention to the corporate pressure for tort reform that limits the effectiveness of civil justice.

What is Take Justice Back?

Take Justice Back is a campaign to fight for the rights of accident victims, employees and customers and to stand up against corporations that want to limit those rights. Corporations and special interest spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to limit their exposure to liability and Take Justice Back is working to help consumers understand what impact these corporations are having and to fight back.

Specifically, Take Justice Back is intended to help educate consumers on what tort reform is, what tort reform really means, and why the corporate line on tort reform doesn’t represent the whole story.

Understanding Tort Reform

Tort reform is a method of changing the civil justice system or limiting access to it. One method of doing this is by putting damage caps on the amount that a victim can recover in a lawsuit. New York currently has no cap on damages in malpractice lawsuits or other personal injury cases, although the Daily Health Report indicates that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo attempted to impose a $250,000 limit on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of efforts to restructure Medicaid. Currently, almost 30 states have such caps in place.

Those who argue for damage caps indicate that they are necessary to keep medical costs down. The reality, however, is that there is no evidence that damage caps lower the cost of insurance premiums or lower health care costs. In fact, according to WNYC.org, after Texas passed damage limits in 2003, health insurance premiums still went up 46 percent for individuals and 52 percent for families by 2010.

Most importantly, damage caps take away one measure of accountability for healthcare providers and leave innocent victims without full compensation for injuries they suffer at the hands of negligent doctors. If a patient suffers more than $250,000 in non-economic damages- which is certainly likely if a doctor causes egregious harm, or even injures or kills someone- the patient will be left uncompensated while the healthcare provider and his insurer walk away without every paying for the full consequences of a careless mistake.

The American Association for Justice reports that an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) study showed that approximately 98,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. With so many injured, there may be a lot of patients who do not get the compensation they deserve.

Other Tort Reform Efforts

While medical malpractice is often a prime focus of tort reform, there are also other tort reform efforts in place as well.  For example, forced arbitration in contracts is one big issue. More and more companies are putting arbitration clauses in contracts mandating that customers and employees address their complaints in arbitration instead of in the courtroom.

A 2011 case called AT&T v. Mobility even gave corporations the right to effectively prevent class action lawsuits by requiring arbitration instead. PayPal is one company that has taken advantage of this new rule and included a clause in its contract that took effect on November 1. The clause requires that all disputes be handled in arbitration.

When a company commits a small wrong against many, class actions are often the only way to take action in a manner that is economically feasible and worthwhile as far as the time investment. Without the ability to form class actions and go to court, companies are essentially immune from being held responsible for small injustices.

The Efforts of Take Justice Back

Take Justice Back aims to educate the public on both the myths and misconceptions about tort reform. Take Justice back will also be sharing personal stories from plaintiffs who have been denied justice as a result of tort reform efforts. On their website, they also offer important news on the issue of tort reform and limitations that big corporations are attempting to impose on the rights of public.

Their grass roots efforts are an important step in telling the public the real truth about tort reform and in helping the public to fight against the large corporations and special interests who want to avoid legal accountability for their actions.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 800-477-9044.

Additional Resources

Valuing Your Case, Personal Injury Law Blog, August 7, 2012