The Role of Distracted Driving in Personal Injury Cases

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. Automobile Accident

Accident with a Distracted Driver?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.

Choosing a Litigation Attorney

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. Personal Injury Lawsuits

New York Litigation AttorneyIf 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.

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

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. Slip And Fall Injuries

Slip and Fall AccidentThe 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.

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

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. Personal Injury Lawsuits

Catastrophic Injury LawyerIt’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.

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

Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green, P.C. Personal Injury Lawsuits

No Fee if We don't Win Your CaseEach 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.