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Lawsuits

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Can You Sue City Hall?


Can You Sue City Hall?

Many individuals mistakenly believe that they cannot sue city hall, but this is not the case. Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, town, city, county and state governments were once protected from most lawsuits. Today, those rules have been scaled back to some extent, and the government can be held responsible for personal injuries and property damage or unlawful conduct.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Get Hurt in the Gym? Sure you can Sue!

Weight Lifting Injuries at the Gym: Who Is Liable?

 

Working out at a gym is usually good for your health, but not always. Perhaps you lifted more weight than you could handle. Or a piece of strength training equipment malfunctioned. Or the gym staff failed to instruct or spot you properly. Can you hold the gym owners or others liable for damages?

 

There have been many cases in which plaintiffs have successfully sued gyms, sports clubs, Pilates studios and other exercise facilities for their injuries. Even if the gym owners were not aware of an unsafe condition, they may be liable if proper inspection would have uncovered it. Sometimes you may also be able to bring a product liability lawsuit against companies and individuals responsible for the design, manufacture, sale or distribution of a potentially dangerous exercise machine or its components.

 

Equipment malfunctions are not the only basis for gym liability. You may be able to sue a gym for poor instruction or supervision. If an unqualified staff member imposed excessive demands, provided improper instruction or did not warn of potential risks, the gym itself could be liable for muscle injuries or other harm.

 

One hurdle to overcome is the liability waiver that most gym members must sign when they join, promising not to sue if they are injured at the gym.  Fortunately, in New York, these waivers are unenforceable in many instances. New York General Obligations Law Section 5-326 makes waivers of liability for gym related injuries void if three conditions are met:

1) The gym membership agreement is entered into between you and the owner or operator of the gym; and

2) The liability waiver in question attempts to exempt the owner and operator from liability for their own negligence (or that of their agents or employees); and
3) The owner and operator of the gym receives a fee in connection with your use of the facilities (i.e. membership or use fees).

If these three conditions are met, your gym, be it New York Sports, Equinox, Crunch, or any other gym of which you are a paying member, cannot avoid liability if you are injured as a result of their negligence.  These waivers are included in the membership agreements the gym has you sign, even though the gym knows full well the waiver is likely not enforceable, in hopes that you will refrain from suing believing that the waiver is valid.

 

 If you are injured, you should immediately report the incident to the gym and ask for a copy of any report prepared by the gym staff. You can show that document, along with any photographs you may have of any equipment involved, to a lawyer. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide if you have a case to pursue.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bicycle Accidents

Each year, thousands of Americans take to the roads on bicycles. This mode of transportation is touted as being more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly than motor vehicles but when it comes to safety, cycling can come with a much greater risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 39,000 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012. That same year, 724 cyclists lost their lives following accidents on the roads.

In addition to the dangers of moving vehicles, cyclists often suffer injury from being “doored”; this occurs when a driver, or passenger, of a stopped vehicle, suddenly opens the door into a cyclist’s path of travel. Injury can also occur from street defects, such as large pot holes or uneven manhole covers that can cause the cyclist to lose control. If you’ve suffered an injury while riding your bike, it’s important that you consult a personal injury attorney who has experience representing cyclists. Unlike other accidents, cycling accidents have a number of unique considerations; these include:

Insurance Coverage May Be Different for Cycling Accidents
Many attorneys have litigated car accident cases and may assume that the insurance process works the same way for cycling incidents, but this is rarely the case. In fact, many states have unique rules regarding the minimum coverage and payouts when a cyclist collides with a motor vehicle, even when the driver of the vehicle isn’t found to have been negligent.

The Laws of the Road Differ for Cyclists
In determining fault, your attorney must understand the roles and duties of all parties involved. When it comes to cycling accidents, few are intimately familiar with the laws that apply to cyclists but such knowledge is imperative for case success.

The Injuries Are Different
Injuries sustained when riding a bike are vastly different from those sustained when driving, or riding in, a car.An attorney who has represented injured cyclists will likely have a much better idea of how much money will be required for immediate and long-term treatment.

As experienced personal injury attorneys, our firm can help you through the complex litigation process following  a cycling injury and help you receive the compensation you need to recover, and get back on that bike as soon as possible.

 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SUM - The most Important Insurance you DO NOT Have

We have a new client who was out for a walk when he was hit by a car, suffering multiple fractures to his legs, wrist and hand. From the address in Brooklyn of the offending driver on the police report, and the fact that he was driving a 14 year old Chevrolet, I had a pretty good hunch that he had a minimal $25,000 insurance policy. I asked my new client if he had a car and he said he did. I asked him about his insurance coverage and he said he had the most wonderful insurance brokers who have been handling his family's business for decades and that I should call them and that they would send over the declarations page. He did know that he had a two million dollar umbrella policy, which I knew could not be issued unless he had several hundred thousand dollars in liability coverage. "Thank goodness" I thought, since this poor man would not be limited to the $25,000 of the offending driver's insurance coverage. Surely his own policy had Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage matching his own high liability limits, and therefore he could likely collect several hundred thousand dollars as compensation for his terrible injures.

I returned to the office and called his "most wonderful brokers" and they happily took my call and promptly emailed his declarations page to me. I looked at his coverage and I felt like I had been punched in the gut. His "most wonderful brokers" had in fact obtained liability coverage for him of $300,000 with a two million dollar umbrella; ample coverage if he ran someone over and they sued him. They had also gotten him $100,000 extra no-fault coverage to pay his medical bills, and he had full collision and comprehensive. This was not an inexpensive policy written by some no-name insurance company, but rather a fairly expensive policy issued by one of the largest and most well known insurance companies.

What his "most wonderful brokers" did not get for him however was Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage of more than the minimum $25,000 required by law in New York. As a result, this poor man with two young children who was hit by a 19 year old kid driving a 14 year old car he bought used two weeks earlier for $900, could only collect $25,000 for his injures. I called his brokers and asked them to explain why my client was sold every high premium, high limit coverage available, but was not advised to purchase SUM coverage matching his $300,000 liability limits. I knew why, but I wanted to hear them say it. Instead they said they couldn't speak to me anymore and hung up.

PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU or your loved ones. For those of you who don't work with auto insurance everyday, Supplementary uninsured/underinsured (SUM) coverage is a type of insurance coverage on every auto policy in New York which provides you with coverage to collect against on your own policy if you are injured by another vehicle that has lower liability coverage than you have on your vehicle. The amount of coverage available to you is automatically set at the required minimum of $25,000, even if your liability coverage is much higher, but you have the option of purchasing additional coverage up to the limits of your own liability coverage.

In the case of my client, he could have purchased up to $300,000 SUM coverage and collected $25,000 from the policy of the person that hit him and $275,000 more from his own SUM coverage IF he had had it. But he didn't have it and here is why; New York State insurance regulations limit the amount of money an insurance company can charge for SUM coverage. While the premium on $300,000 liability coverage may cost more than a thousand dollars, insurance carriers can only charge about $45 for $300,000 SUM coverage. Because the amount the insurance company can charge is so small, the insurance companies, and their brokers, would actually prefer you not buy the SUM coverage because if you make a claim against it, it throws off the premium collected to claims paid out ratio ("claims loss ratio") used to determine broker bonus compensation and insurance company profits. Making a claim against your own SUM coverage also does not effect your own rates, because there is no finding of fault involved.

New York State Courts have held that a broker is NOT required to advise you to buy extra SUM coverage, and that they have no liability for failing to obtain extra SUM coverage for you unless you specifically request that coverage. The Courts have held that statements such as "give me the best insurance" or "give me full coverage" or "give me high limits" is not a specific request for SUM coverage. You must say "make my SUM coverage limits match my liability coverage limits" or "give me $300,000 (or more if your liability coverage is higher) SUM coverage" for the broker to be required to get it for you.

I want each one of you to take out the declarations page of your car insurance and check to see what your SUM coverage is. If it does not match your liability limits, your broker or insurance company has done you a tremendous disservice. Call them up and ask them why they did not advise you to get SUM coverage matching your liability coverage, and anything they say other than "because I don't make any money from it" is a complete and utter lie. Tell them to they are fired for putting you and your family at risk, and find a new broker or carrier who has your best interests at heart. For those of you who do not know me, I do not sell insurance. I am just the personal injury lawyer who has to break the bad news to you after it's too late to fix it.

Please share this with everyone you know and help them help themselves.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Good Samaritan Laws: Should I help a stranger in need of medical attention?

Sometimes, individuals are in need of urgent medical attention. There aren’t always trained professionals around to help. Ordinary citizens who see someone in distress could be afraid to help, for fear that they may be held liable for doing something wrong. Good Samaritan laws originated to avoid that scenario.

As a result, many states have enacted “Good Samaritan” laws that protect people who come to the assistance of others from legal responsibility.  Good Samaritan laws in general provide that a person who sees another person in imminent danger, and tries to rescue the injured party, can’t be charged with negligence if the rescue attempt does not go well.

Good Samaritan laws are intended to encourage people to assist others by removing the fear of legal responsibility for damage done by the rescue attempt. For example, a Good Samaritan may see an overturned car beside the road, and discover the driver is trapped. If the Good Samaritan pulls the trapped driver out of the car, he or she may exacerbate the driver’s injuries. If the driver suffers a spinal injury while being pulled out of the car, he or she cannot later sue the Good Samaritan for negligence under the Good Samaritan law of his or her state.

In general, in order to use the Good Samaritan law as a defense to negligence, there are four elements that must be met. First, any assistance provided must be given as a result of an emergency. Second, the emergency that necessitated the care can’t be caused by the Good Samaritan. Third, the emergency services provided by the Good Samaritan can’t be given in a grossly negligent manner. Finally, if it’s possible to obtain permission from the accident victim, the victim must have given permission for the rescue. This may involve calming the person down before asking if he or she needs assistance. One extra requirement in some states is that the aid rendered must be free – if a doctor renders aid and sends a victim a bill later, the doctor could lose protection under the Good Samaritan law.

Currently, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have some form of Good Samaritan law. There are many variations on the laws from state to state. Some states have different standards for emergency first responders, and some Good Samaritan laws limit who can provide medical assistance to someone in need. Also, most states providing Good Samaritan protections require that the medical care take place outside a hospital or other medical facility – so if a person goes into distress inside a hospital, and a professional renders aid, that person can be held liable if the aid is rendered negligently.

Another type of Good Samaritan law actually requires people to call 911 in some situations - usually if you cause an accident and someone is hurt, or if you happen upon an accident. For example, Vermont has a law that says if an individual sees someone who needs help, that person must call 911 or could face prosecution. This type of Good Samaritan law is not as common, but it’s important to be aware of your state’s requirements for mandatory assistance.
 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Deciding Who to Sue: How Do I Know Who to Name as Defendants?

When you decide to start a lawsuit, it can be confusing to identify the responsible parties. Sometimes there are a lot of people involved in your injury; maybe you're suing a business, and you're not sure about its official name or who the owners are. Factual investigation is often a crucial part of starting a personal injury lawsuit.

You can select more than one defendant to sue if that person or company is somehow connected to the harm you suffered. There are "necessary" defendants -- people without whom a court will not be able to evaluate all the facts of your case or reach a conclusion. "Permissive" defendants are not essential to the case, but if your dispute with them involves the same facts and issues as your dispute with the necessary defendants, you can usually include them in your lawsuit.

You may also want to expand your lawsuit to parties not directly involved but still liable. For example, if you are suing someone who harmed you in the course of performing a job, his or her employer may be liable. If a poorly designed or malfunctioning product is involved, you may be able to sue the companies and individuals involved in the product's design, manufacture, distribution or sale.

Suing individual owners of corporations, or a corporate parent of a subsidiary, can be difficult. The corporate structure limits liability, but there are exceptions. A court will "pierce the corporate veil" when fraud is involved or when justice demands it.

Before filing your lawsuit, you need to consider all those who have a connection to your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you evaluate the facts of your case and determine who to sue.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Role of Distracted Driving in Personal Injury Cases

Distracted driving has emerged as a disturbing trend that poses a serious threat not only to preoccupied drivers, but to other motorists on the roadways. Accidents caused by this unsafe practice have seen a major uptick in recent years due to the widespread use of smart phones to text and post to social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, while driving. Although drivers of all ages may be guilty of driving while distracted, studies have found that teenage drivers are especially tempted to use their phone to snap photos or text from the driver's seat.

Personal injury lawsuits on the basis of distracted driving are becoming more prevalent. A wrongful-death suit against taxi-alternative company Uber cites distracted driving as the cause of a collision that killed a 6-year-old girl and injured her mother and brother while they were crossing the street on New Year's Eve in California. Allegedly, the Uber driver was logged into the company's smart phone app, waiting to receive and accept a ride request, when his SUV collided with the girl and her family. Although this case doesn't involve a teenage driver, it demonstrates how (alleged) smart phone use while driving can have horrifying consequences.

More than 3,300 fatalities occur each year as a result of distracted driving, according to the Department of Transportation and Distraction.gov, the official US website dedicated to distracted driving. Drivers are twice as likely to crash if they're texting while driving than if they were paying attention.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, with cell phone use being reported in 18 percent of all distraction-related fatalities in America. These scary statistics have led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to create an campaign against distracted driving aimed at young adults.

If you have teenage children or you just happen to be up on current trends, you'll know that many young people use their cell phones to take "selfies", a nickname for self-portraits. It's come to the attention of law enforcement and safety advocates that teens are taking selfies and posting to social media while behind the wheel, some of them even use the hashtag #Ihopeidontcrash with their photos. Expressing that fear, even though it's disguised with a supposedly amusing hashtag, shows that these young drivers have an inkling as to how dangerous this practice could be.

On average, texting takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Distraction.gov says that at 55 mph, 4.6 seconds with your eyes on your cell phone is like driving an entire football field blindfolded.

Distracted driving falls into three main categories:

  • manual: taking your hands off of the wheel
  • visual: taking your eyes on the road
  • or cognitive: not being mentally present while driving.

Distracted driving laws vary by state, but many have a law in place that bans drivers from using handheld phones. In addition, most states ban bus drivers and beginner drivers from all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free), and enforce a ban on texting for all drivers.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

If circumstances have required you to get involved in litigation, you may find the process of selecting an attorney to be overwhelming.  There are, however, some steps you can take to make the selection process a bit easier.

First, you should consider hiring someone who specializes in your type of case. If you had an automobile accident, consider hiring an attorney who exclusively practices personal injury law and preferably one with a track record of success in car accident cases. If you were wrongfully fired, hire a litigator with experience in employment rights.

Since you and the attorney you choose will be working very closely together, it’s important to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable.   How long has the attorney been practicing law? Has the attorney ever handled a case like yours before? What was the outcome? How much are fees and how are they paid? Does the attorney seem like he or she is concerned about your case? Does the attorney seem knowledgeable about the area of law?   Does the attorney articulate himself clearly and effectively?  Does he have a credible and trustworthy demeanor?  Remember, a judge or jury may be making the same assessments down the line.   

With respect to fees, most attorneys will take a personal injury case on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay if they succeed, typically about one-third of the judgment or settlement amount.  You may be able to negotiate the percentage, especially if your damages are significant and your case against the potential defendant strong.  In addition to contingency fee structure, you should also be aware that many attorneys will bill for “out of pocket expenses” such as $0.25 per page for photocopies, $1.00 per page for faxes and cost of hiring experts and consultants.  Again, depending on the strength of your case, you may be able to negotiate these terms.  If you’re involved in a commercial or contract dispute, most such cases are billed on an hourly basis.  If you’re a plaintiff, a hybrid fee structure whereby you would pay a lower hourly fee but provide the lawyer with a percentage of the settlement may be an interesting option.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long the attorney believes the case will take. Obviously, many factors are beyond your attorney’s control, but you should be able to determine a general timeline and what type of resources the attorney will commit to your case.   It’s also important to know how you will be kept updated throughout the proceeding. It can be very frustrating if your attorney does not keep you informed on the status of your case. Ask the attorney how he or she plans to communicate with you and how often you can expect a status report.

Choosing an attorney is a big decision. Before you decide to choose one based on the number of television commercials he or she runs, or the size of the yellow pages ad the firm maintains, it’s important to sit down with the attorney to make sure the relationship is the right fit for your case.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Few Steps to Follow When You Are Injured or in an Accident

The legal process involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit may deter some people from seeking damages regardless of the severity of their injury, but, having an idea of what you can expect at each stage of the process can help you determine if legal action is the appropriate route to take in your particular situation. An experienced personal injury attorney can counsel you as your case develops, and fight for your rights in the courtroom if necessary in order to achieve the outcome that's most favorable to you.

Regardless of how you were injured, there are certain steps that everyone who is in an accident or has been injured in some other way should take if they think they may have a personal injury lawsuit. The tips below provide an outline of what to keep in mind in the days, weeks and even months following your injury to ensure your potential personal injury claim is on solid legal ground.

A variety of situations can lead to injury, such as a slip/trip and fall, a car accident, a defective product, or a dog bite, among many others things. Following the suggestions below can help protect your right to file a claim for your injury in the near future, and will likely allow the filing process to run more smoothly than if you do not take these early preparations.

Put everything in writing.

Take notes on all the details of your injury. These don't have to be formal statements, just jotting down everything you can remember about the circumstances immediately before, during and after your injury can be a big help when it comes to filing your claim and jogging your memory. This sort of anticipatory preparation could mean the difference between your claim being invalid and you collecting all of the benefits to which you are entitled. It's even important to write down the conversations you had with others who may have been involved in the accident or injury claim, even if they were just a witness. Make sure that your physician or the hospital you visit for your injury notes the circumstances surrounding your injury in their records.

Take photographs.

If possible, take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the accident as soon as you can following an accident or injury. Focus on any visible cuts, bruises, burns, swelling or other marks on your body. Don't just take one picture, make sure you capture the injury and the scene from a variety of angles. This approach will hopefully result in some detailed pictures you can later present to the insurance company as evidence supporting your claim.

Obtain copies of your medical records.

Medical records can be an integral part of your claim, and have the power to make or break your case. Whether your medical records just serve to help you seek medical treatment from a specialist or if you need them to support your claim that your injuries were in fact caused by this accident and not a pre-existing condition, it is important to contact your physician and get copies of all records that may be pertinent to your case.

Ensure that you meet your deadlines.

Anyone who wishes to commence a civil lawsuit against New York State, your local government
(county, city, town, village) or most government agencies for damages because of certain alleged conduct or negligence must first file with the State or municipal government agency a document known as a Notice of Claim and must do so within a fixed deadline after the accident or event. This is vital. Failure to file on time may result in dismissal of the case. It is imperative that you contact a seasoned personal injury attorney who can help you to better understand what deadlines you have to meet.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Serious and Catastrophic Injuries: Is Your Attorney Up to the Job?

It’s not at all unusual for personal injury attorneys to handle cases involving a wide spectrum of injuries resulting from dog bites, car accidents, poorly maintained sidewalks or defective products. Generally, these injuries are relatively minor-cuts, bruises, broken bones and whiplash. Fewer attorneys, however, have extensive experience with catastrophic injury cases such as those involving dismemberment, brain injury and severe burns. It’s difficult, for instance, to convince insurers that the loss of a limb is worth the full limits of an insurance policy. It also requires a special ability to convince a jury that a brain injury has caused subtle but important changes in personality, memory and the ability to perform specific tasks related to an occupation. 


In addition to a successful track record of obtaining outstanding compensation for individuals with similar injuries, your attorney should have a network of medical professionals who can provide insight into your claim, as well as expert testimony in trial. Only a physician can prove that hard-to-detect memory issues affect a person’s ability to perform the activities of daily living. A life care planner can accurately estimate the long-term costs of necessary at-home medical care. And a mental health professional can effectively identify, document and demonstrate hard-to-detect personality changes following a traumatic brain injury. When meeting with a personal injury attorney, ensure that he or she has a network of medical consultants that can be called on at key points in your case. 

By working with an attorney who can demonstrate the knowledge and experience needed to effectively handle your serious injury case, you can take a step towards ensuring you will receive the financial compensation you need and deserve. 


Monday, March 30, 2015

“We Don’t Get Paid Unless We Win” – What does it all mean?

Each day, thousands of advertisements for personal injury lawyers can be found in local newspapers, on television stations and even on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Most of these ads explain that the firm does not collect any fees unless they win. Of course, there is usually a catch with this statement and it centers around what the advertising firm means by “fees” and what other costs you might be expected to pay regardless of whether or not you win your case.

Attorney fees usually involve the time and labor of the attorneys and their staff. These fees do not include the out-of-pocket case costs that are inevitable in any court proceeding. So while you may not be required to pay any attorney fees upfront or at all (unless you win), you may be required to pay all related case costs. Case costs are usually expenses charged by third parties for work on your case. These may include court filing fees, expert witness fees, cost of obtaining medical records, court reporter fees, etc. Depending on the scope of your case and the duration of these proceedings, these fees can easily be thousands of dollars.

While some firms will require you to pay case costs as they are incurred, others won’t require upfront payment (especially, if you have a very strong case) and will instead deduct these expenses from the final settlement. Combined with legal fees, these costs may add up to 50% or even more of the settlement. In selecting an attorney for your personal injury matter, it’s important that you take time to understand what expenses, in addition to attorney fees, you will incur.


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  The New York City (NYC) personal injury law firm, Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green P.C., represents clients in Manhattan and New York County, Brooklyn and Kings County, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, as well as serving Nassau County and Long Island, Suffolk County, Rockland County, Westchester County, Harlem and throughout the State of New York.



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