The first week of February has proven to be a deadly week, with a number of tragic car accidents in the Bronx.  Our New York City wrongful death and car accident lawyers know all to well how dramatically a car accident can affect someone’s life.

An off-duty New York City Police Officer suffered an unfortunate wrongful death in a car accident in the Bronx this week. The passenger in the vehicle,who was a housing officer,  also suffered serious personal injuries.  The officer’s car flipped over and then caught fire in a traffic circle in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx.  While, the  NYPD’s highway investigation unit is investigating to determine if the car was speeding, that is usually the most common cause of a vehicle flipping over, although the design of the vehicle itself may be a contributing factor. There have been a number of successful products liability lawsuits against car manufacturer’s for negligent design where the car is prone to tip over at foreseeable speeds. Usually, if the vehicle is too top heavy or is tall, but not wide, the design can contribute to a roll over type of accident during a turning maneuver.

In another motor vehicle accident, a two-car crash at occurred at the intersection of Colgate and Westchester avenues, in the Bronx, which caused one of the vehicles to collide with and get stuck under the side of a school bus. Thankfully  all of the children are reported to have not suffered any injuries.

The federal government’s Occupational  Safety and Health Administration is fining the Tappan Zee Constructors more than $12,000 for last July’s crane collapse. In particular OSHA found that the contractors failed to keep a safe work site, and exposed employees to the risk of injury caused by the falling crane.  The incident occurred when a crane, which was  driving piles for the new Tappan Zee Bridge’s Westchester-bound bridge collapsed across all lanes of the current bridge. While cranes collapses in Manhattan have become somewhat of an epidemic. there are only a few Westchester maritime construction accidents, who are familiar with the interplay of maritime law and New York construction law.   The findings of the inspectors were that the vibratory hammers, which the construction crews were using to extract and pre-position a partially driven pile came loose unexpectedly and that the capacity of the crane was lower than required. Obviously, had inspections been diligently carried out during the work, this accident would not have happened and the fast pace, which the workers on the Tappan Zee Bridge are being required to work at no doubt was a contributing cause of the crane collapse.

While thankfully, there were no fatalities or major injuries in this accident, all commuters and construction workers on this site need to remember that if an injury occurs on this work site, a notice of claim needs to be filed within 90 days, and also a Notice of Intent to make claim should be filed with the Attorney General’s office, as the Court of Claims is designated as the proper venue for the site owner, but not for the contractors. Indeed any claim involving an accident on the bridge is a complex network  of litigation. From our White Plains law office, our construction accident lawyers are a short drive from the Tappan Zee project.

Also, most of the work place accidents on the bridge, involve a mix of Federal and State Law. For example, most workers are likely covered under the Federal Longshore Habor Workers Compensation Act, and not the New York State system, but can sue for violations of New York’s Labor Laws for personal injuries or fatalities sustained. Likewise, those who work on supply ships that deliver materials are Jones Act seaman and have Federal remedies such as claims for unseaworthiness, claims for negligence under the Jones Act and maintenance and cure. These federal remedies allow for living expenses, medical care, lost wages and compensatory damages for pain and suffering, as well as future damages for lost earning potential.  For an analysis of the various laws that apply to a given work injury, an injured worker should consult with an experienced maritime construction accident, since the remedies  that a given worker is entitled to, depends on their employee status, the type of work they were performing, their exposure to the water and time spent aboard vessels.  While maritime accidents are not frequent in Westchester, with this bridge project, they are becoming more frequent and our lawyers experience in handling maritime accidents in New York City is proving to be valuable.

Our New  York City police brutality lawyers have handled numerous cases for inmates who were mistreated at Rikers Islands and suffered injuries, both by guards and other inmates. While cover ups and fabricated stories to justify guards behaviors are common place, Court papers this week exposed a new low.City investigators who were investigating an inmate’s sexual assault allegations on Rikers Island lost track of key biological evidence for four days before it surfaced with signs of tampering.

The inmate claims a Rikers correction officer sexually abused her in May 2013 by forcing her to perform oral sex on him and says that she put his semen on her pants after performing the sex actand then turned it over to city investigators as evidence.  While a Department of Correction investigator collected the woman’s pants, the employee who ultimately took custody of the pants could not account for the garment’s whereabouts until for four days when the New York City Police Department received the clothing, After the pants went missing, the city Medical Examiner tested the pants after the NYPD received them and didn’t find any semen. Of course the lack of semen was the reason that the police and prosecutors declined to prosecute the officer.  However, when the victims personal injury lawyers had the pants tested by an independent laboratory, the independent lab found  results which revealed the presence of male DNA, on the left, right and crotch areas of the pants, which was consistent with the pants being washed before being tested. Our New York City inmate assault attorneys often retain independent experts in these types of cases and the results can be shocking.

While sexual relationships between inmates and guards are not a new phenomena, it must be remembered that under New York law, an inmate cannot legally consent to sexual activity, so any sexual act between a guard and an inmate is rape. The fundamental underlying rationale is the inherently coercive environment that a jail is and no one is really free to refuse. Despite the clear law that is intended to protect inmates, the practice of investigating criminal behavior by guards and abuses in general at prisons, especially at Rikers is far from ideal. But in this case, evidence tampering to presumably protect the guard from criminal prosecution is a new low. In this case, the guard has not been criminally charges and in fact, even though another  woman is suing him for sexual abuse, he is still employed as a corrections officer at Rikers Island.  This of course begs the question, how many times does a corrections officer have to break the law before he will be charged and how many more women need to be raped before he is prosecuted, or at least removed from his post.

One of the most common question that comes up in New York sporting accident cases is whether a defendant can be held liable for a dangerous condition or other negligence in a sporting activity or was the injury caused by  a danger that is inherent in the game.  Under New York law, there is a  duty to exercise reasonable care which requires  owner sand operators of recreational areas, to protect the public from foreseeable risks of harm. But the law in New York is equally clear and observes the maxim that landowners ,are not  insurer of the safety of those using their property for recreational purposes, and the mere happening of an accident does not render a landowner liable.

The first concept that often comes up in sporting or recreational activity injuries is the assumption of risk doctrine. Under the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, a person who voluntarily participates in a sporting activity generally consents, by his or her participation, to those injury-causing events, conditions, and risks which are inherent in the activity. In other words, tisks inherent in a sporting activity are those which are known, apparent, natural, or reasonably foreseeable consequences of the participation, like physical contact in football or being hit by a ball in baseball.  In these cases there is no obligation to warn of hazards associated with activities, which are obvious. When a person assumes the risk of participating in a sporting event, the landowner is relieved of legal duty to the participants; and cannot be charged with negligence. As long as the other person’s conduct does not unreasonably increase the risks assumed by the plaintiff, the landowner will be shielded by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.  The doctrine also has been extended to the condition of the playing surface. If an athlete is injured as a result of a defect in, or feature of, the field, court, track, or course upon which the sport is being played, the owner of the premises will be protected by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk as long as risk presented by the condition is inherent in the sport.  In other words, If the playing surface is as safe as it appears to be, and the condition in question is not concealed such that it unreasonably increases risk assumed by the players, the doctrine of assumption of risk applies.

But this doctrine does have  limits.  The Courts have held that it is not sufficient for a defendant to show that the plaintiff was engaged in some form of leisure activity at the time of the accident. If such a showing were sufficient, the doctrine of primary assumption of risk could be applied to individuals who, for example, are out for a sightseeing drive in an automobile or on a motorcycle, or are jogging, walking, or inline roller skating for exercise, and would absolve municipalities, landowners, drivers, and other potential defendants of all liability for negligently creating risks that might be considered inherent in such leisure activities.  In one case the  Court held that the plaintiffs, who were injured while riding their bicycles on paved pathways in public parks, ” ‘cannot be said as a matter of law to have assumed the risk of being injured as a result of a defective condition on a paved pathway merely because they participated in the activity of bicycling  In another case the Court held that the assumption of risk did not apply to a plaintiff who was injured when his bicycle struck a raised concrete mound on a public roadway, even though the plaintiff, like the plaintiff in the instant case, was “an avid bicyclist” and was participating in “a noncompetitive, recreational bicycle ride with about eight or nine other riders”

There is no question that the relationship between the community and police has deteriorated as a result of recent use of force cases.  Our New York police brutality lawyers know that whether the use of deadly force is deemed justified or unjustified, the gap between police and public seems to grow. Too often cases which are rules justified, really did cross the line and the failure to punish heavy handed officers sends the message that they are above the law and will not be punished, which in turn leads to more excessive force.  In Chicago, multiple excessive force complaints, coupled with public outcry and protest, have lead to an extensive investigation into the city’s police department and the circumstances surrounding different use of force cases.
A year-long investigation into the Chicago Police Department revealed “systematic” violations of the civil rights of Chicago citizens. The investigation uncovered multiple deadly force cases in which the individual posed no threat to police, copious amounts of evidence suggesting the unlawful use of less than lethal force, and racially discriminatory behavior.
In one use of deadly force case, a video captured a man shot in the back after a foot pursuit. The man was determined to not have been a threat yet the officer fired sixteen rounds at the man, killing him. A dashboard camera captured the same officer standing over the man and firing off three rounds into the man’s back. The officer fabricated his report claiming that the man “charged with an apparent firearm,” which was quickly disputed by the video evidence. Our New York lawyers have long fought against fabricated cases which officers use contrived evidence to justify their behavior.

In a recent case, our White Plains Lawyer, Michael Joseph won a summary judgment motion for a client who backed out of a parking spot and was hit by another vehicle. Summary judgment is used to expedite a case when there is no dispute as to the important facts of the case. When there are no issues of fact, it can be determined which party is entitled to judgment without having to proceed to trial. Michael Joseph is considered to be one of the most experienced car accident lawyers in Westchester and has won numerous summary judgment decisions in favor of those injured in car and truck accidents.  Summary judgment is a vehicle by which  our personal injury attorneys cut through the red tape and delay tactics that the insurance company lawyers use to try and deny justice to our clients. It is an expedited way for an accident victim to get a decision as to who is at fault and puts the insurance companies on their heels.
Our client and the Defendant were in a store parking lot and parked in spaces directly across from each other. Our client backed out, and then came to a complete stop to switch his car from reverse to drive. While our client was putting his car into gear the Defendant backed out of her spot and hit his car. The Defendant, in her affidavit, stated that she checked her mirrors and did not see any cars so she backed up until she felt the impact of her car hitting our client’s.
It could be argued that what the Defendant stated in her affidavit made her seem as though she is a cautious driver, however, this was not the prevailing argument and it was picked apart when Attorney Joseph exploited what the Defendant failed to do. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1211(a) provides that a driver “shall not back [a vehicle] unless such movement can be made safely.” To reverse a vehicle safely a driver must continually look in their mirrors while backing. Since the defendant failed to state that they were looking as they were reversing, they failed to overcome the Plaintiff’s proof that she was at fault.

Our New York City car accident attorneys stay up on the current events to which the law applies and which involve the application of personal injury law in New York.

This week a driver who caused a multi car accident on the major deegan in the Bronx, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. The driver who was driving with a suspended license. Our car accident lawyers know all too well that when irresponsible drivers get behind the wheel, it can seriously affect the lives of others. In this case, five people were hospitalized following the accident.

Drinking among police officers who then drive home has been a problem which has reached epidemic levels. Recently an Eaastchester Sergeant who committed suicide was discovered to have been involved in a hit and run accident after a night out drinking at a notorious cop bar. The accident left an elderly woman with injuries that required surgery and extensive hospitalization. This week it was determined that Yonkers Detective Frank Fernandez who was involved in a car accident with a fire engine, was highly intoxicated at the time. More specifically the detective, who crossed into on coming traffic and crashed into the fire truck, had a blood alcohol level of . 22, which is almost three times the legal limit. The officer also suffered a fatality and was killed in the crash. Apparently, the officer was at a local Yonkers bar. In a case such as this, the bar would be liable to those injured and even the officer’s family, could sue the bar for serving an already intoxicated individual under New York’s dram shop act. Serving an already intoxicated person is a violation of New York’s alcohol beverage and control law. Our Westchester drunk driving accident lawyers have successfully prosecuted these dram shop cases in drunk driving accidents.

Our New York City construction accident lawyers have handled a lot of different types of construction accidents New York’s Labor Laws, which protect construction workers protect a wide variety of circumstances. While Labor Law 240, which is commonly referred to as the ladder law or the scaffold law protects against broken or collapsing ladders, planks and scaffolds, a lot of people do not know that it also covers falling object cases, when the objects are being hoisted or lifted. In other words, Labor Law § 240 protects against two categories of elevation related risks. such as where the elevation at which materials or loads are positioned or secured. The law also protects workers against the dangers associated with the difference between the level where a construction worker is stationed and a higher level of the materials or loads being hoisted or secured. A landowner or general contractor is responsible for falling objects because the law applies to any materials or loads positioned at an elevation and being lowered from an elevation that requires securing to prevent them from falling.

Some of the results from cases where the New York Courts have analyzed the application of Labor Law 240 to object cases are as follows. In one case, the Court held that Unloading material from a flatbed truck does not pose an elevation related hazard because the flatbed’s height above the ground. Therefore, where an injured worker fell from a truck, the case was not covered by Labor Law 240 because the injury did not result from an elevation related risk. However where a New York construction worker was injured by a falling bundle of materials, such as wood or concrete, the law requires that the fall have been prevented by a hoist, sling or other device to prevent the load from falling and injuring the worker. In these cases, the Courts have held that the lack of a forklift or other hoisting device, or adequate securing devices, such as stays, blocks, braces, irons, or ropes for the unloading of the load was a violation of law. However the Court has also recognized that where the bundles of wood were strapped into the truck bed for transport shows that they presented a foreseeable risk of tumbling over the edge of the truck bed when unstrapped and then disturbed during unloading. Therefore, where a bundles of wood above him on the flatbed required securing to prevent them from falling onto the workers as they were unloading the wood, the Labor Law applies. Although the Courts have held that a load which swings sideways is not covered under Labor Law 240, a fall of even a foot is sufficient to bring the injury within the coverage of Labor Law 240. However, a side or lateral swing is protected under the provisions of New York’s Labor Law 241(6) and the Code of Industrial Regulations, including regulations which apply to the necessity of using taglines to move loads. From our Manhattan office, our New York construction accident attorneys have extensive experience in representing victims of construction accidents in New York City.

Our personal injury attorneys have handled construction accident cases in Westchester County, as well as New York City and Rockland.

Elevator accidents in New York are more frequent than people think. One minute you are riding in an elevator and the next, the elevator makes a sudden and unexpected motion that causes you to stumble and fall.

Elevators are complex machines with thousands of interdependent parts and proper preventative maintenance is essential to the proper operation of an elevator. Our experienced New York personal injury lawyers who handle elevator accident cases know all too well how serious an elevator accident can be. Our firm is one of the few Westchester lawyers who handle elevator accident cases.

In recognition of the fact that most elevator accidents occur because of inadequate maintenance, the law in New York has recognized that the theory of res ipsa loquitur applies to these cases, in addition to negligence theories of recovery. Res Ipsa is an old latin term, which means the thing speaks for itself. So since an elevator malfunctioned, it means that there was inadequate maintenance.  In addition to the theory of Res Ipsa, a case of negligence is often asserted and to establish negligence often it must be proven that the building owner or elevator company caused a dangerous condition in the elevator or had notice of a dangerous condition which it failed to repair, including a defective or misaligned component.

Severe injuries can result when a person trips over a trap door, or falls into open cellar doors which are left open. Often people are walking on the street or exiting a restaurant and without any warning find themselves falling down a cellar. The experience is horrific and can often lead to serious personal injuries. Too often, these accidents are the results of design defects where the configuration is the equivalent of a structural defect which causes a trap for the unweary. Our Manhattan personal injury lawyers have handled thousands of premises liability cases and sustained substantial settlements and verdicts in these types of cases.

Frequently people are unaware of all the parties or entities that can be held liable for an accident involving a trap door or open cellar doors. Obviously the business who left the doors open can be held liable, but often they have inadequate insurance or go out of business. Therefore, the owners of the property, except for one to three family residential building owners, can also be held liable. Under New York City’s Administrative Code 7-210, the law imposes liability on property owners for failing to maintain sidewalks immediately outside of their premises in a reasonably safe condition. The law imposes a duty upon the owner of real property abutting any sidewalk to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. The New York Courts have recognized that this duty extends to dangerous configurations of property, which causes innocent passerbys or patrons of a restaurant or bar to fall into a cellar, where the doors were left open and the configuration is such that it obscures the open cellar doors. The New York Courts have recognized that it is a matter of simple logic that a door swinging over steps near an open cellar door may create a “hazardous and unsafe” condition and that determination should be for the finder of fact. In some cases, the door swing is insufficient which also violates New York City Administrative Code § 27-371 (h), which requires that the floor on both sides of all exit and corridor doors shall be at least equal to the width of the door leaf swing of the door. Many of these out of possession landlord cases also turn on the contents of the lease between the owner and tenant, which we obtain during discovery. A landlord who retained right to re-enter property in the lease and make repairs at tenants expense, is obligated to make repairs, and can be held liable for his failure to do so, when he has notice, constructive or actual, of said defect.

However, the Courts have also recognized that out of possession landlords can not be held liable for injuries to plaintiff who falls in open trap door where there was no evidence that the door was negligently constructed but rather was only unsafe due to being left in the open position. In such cases, liability can only be imposed upon those who negligently leave the door open and fail to provide adequate warnings in the form of cones to alert people that the doors are open.