Friday, March 26, 2010
In an attempt to satisfy her burden, plaintiff, injured in a motor vehicle accident, proffered the affidavit of her treating physician, Dr. Bennett. Bennett did not, however, opine that plaintiff's loss of use was total, but instead concluded only that she "has a permanent moderate loss of use of her lumbar spine." In his affidavit, Bennett opined that the force of the accident caused plaintiff's preexisting degenerative disease of the lumbar spine to become symptomatic, requiring surgery and leaving plaintiff with a permanent moderate loss of function of the lumbar spine. Bennett did not explain how the accident aggravated plaintiff's condition nor did he set forth any qualitative or quantitative evidence of a limitation in plaintiff's range of motion.
In as much as plaintiff failedto submit any objective evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact regarding the existence of a serious injury pursuant to Insurance Law Section 5102(d), the court concluded that the complaint was properly dismissed.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) research shows that drivers who send and receive test messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. A report released on January 12, 2010, from the National Safety Council reported that 28 percent of traffic accidents are caused by people talking on cell phones or sending text messages.
Distracted driving is a serious, life-treatening practice and interstate truck and bus drivers who text while driving may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. For further information, please visit http://www.dot.gov/.
New York Law
Effective November 1, 2009, New York became the 18th state to initiate the law against texting while driving. Previously, New York only banned talking on cell phones while driving. This new law forbids the use of mobile devices for reading, typing and sending text messages while driving and imposes a fine of up to $150. However, ther ban on portable electronics is considered a secondary offense, which means that it can only be levied if a driver is pulled over for another violation.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
When a motorcycle is in a crash, the driver can face very serious injuries. There is little to no protection for motorcycle riders. According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 80 percent of motorcycle wrecks result in injury or death, compared to 20 percent for automobiles. Other NHTSA data shows that the motorcycle fatality rate is more than five times that of passenger vehicles (73 per 100,000 registered motorcycles versus 14 per 100,000 registered motor vehicles).
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Some of the most serious injuries involve head, chest and spine. Head injuries are often seen in victims of these accidents, even those wearing helmets. A typical head injury would be bleeding in the brain (cerebral hematoma).
Chest injuries may include damage to the lung or rib fractures. Spinal injuries often involve damage to the cervical spine, or neck.
Abdominal injuries may also be severe and may include damage to the spleen or liver. Lower extremity injuries, including pelvic injuries and broken legs or arms are frequently found. Abrasions, or “road rash,” are often caused by scraping on the pavement.
The costs and recovery from accidents involving head and spinal injuries can be extensive and expensive. In many cases, the initial hospital stay may be just the beginning of a long road to recovery including a lengthy rehabilitation.
Dangers on the Roadways
One of the challenges faced by motorcyclists is lack of conspicuity, not being seen by other cars. This is one of the main factors in the following motorcycle accident scenarios:
- An oncoming automobile takes a left hand turn in front of a motorcycle
- Another vehicle on the road violates the motorcycle’s right of way in a lane or an intersection
Another challenge is that objects on the road, ridges in the pavement or potholes that a car or truck could easily drive over can create added risk for a motorcyclist. Similarly, driving on the shoulder or off the road to avoid an obstacle can lead to more damage or injuries for a motorcyclist.
Some recommendations from NHTSA to increase motorcycle safety include:
- Improving the motorcycle braking system by utilizing anti-lock braking technology
- Making motorcycles and motorcyclists more visible with enhanced lighting
- Increasing the use of helmets
- Eliminating drinking and driving
- Requiring rider training classes for new drivers and refreshers for experienced drivers
- Making other drivers more aware of sharing the road safely with motorcycles
New York has already adopted some of NHTSA’s recommendations. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets and to have front and rear lights on at all times to help with visibility.
All drivers have a duty to use due care, a failure to exercise this care may be considered legal negligence. Motorcycle drivers have the same rights and duties as other drivers. Automobile drivers have a duty to use reasonable care to avoid a collision with a motorcyclist.
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, it is important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in these types of matters who is familiar with New York law. A lawyer will be able to answer any questions you have and help you determine the right course of action for you, based on your circumstances.
Monday, March 1, 2010
On the morning of December 10, 2009, two seventeen-year-olds were walking to school in Brooklyn when they were struck by an intoxicated driver operating his vehicle with a suspended license. One of the teens was critically injured when the driver ran a red light and drove straight into the crosswalk. In the aftermath of the accident, many witnesses and local residents complained about the lack of a crossing guard at the intersection. Recent trends in pedestrian injury by drivers operating vehicles with suspended licenses however, suggest that a crossing guard would likely not have deterred the intoxicated driver.
The Recent Rise in Pedestrian Accidents Caused by Unlicensed Drivers
The December 10 accident occurred just days after three pedestrians were killed in two separate hit-and-runs by drivers operating with suspended licenses in New York. A 26-year-old with at least 29 license suspensions on his record, since 2006, hit and killed an elderly pedestrian couple as they walked to Thanksgiving mass. 48 hours later, a woman was struck and killed in the Bronx, while walking with her fiancée, by a driver with four prior license suspensions on his record. These casualties are only the latest in a trend cited by the Department of Motor Vehicles which has noted that ten percent of drivers currently causing traffic accidents in New York City are operating with suspended licenses at the time of their accidents.
A Call for Action
Recently, the pro-pedestrian, bicycle and public transit group “Transportation Alternatives” organized an outcry for legal reform concerning drivers who operate vehicles with suspended licenses. Generally, the group has called for impounding the vehicles of drivers whose licenses are suspended, charging any driver who commits two or more dangerous moving violations within an eighteen month period with a felony and creating an Office of Road Safety at New York City Hall to draw attention to the problem.
The recent passage of “Leandra’s Law,” which makes driving while intoxicated with a minor in the car a felony, has drawn national attention to New York’s driving laws. Under Leandra’s Law, if an intoxicated driver seriously injures or kills a minor while they are passengers inside the car, the driver will face imprisonment of up to 15 or 25 years. However, the intoxicated driver who struck two minors while they were in a crosswalk currently only faces the penalties that accompany a driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) offense and the offense of Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Vehicle, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine up to $5,000.00 and up to four years in prison. The citizens of New York must now ask themselves whether it is logical to impose such disproportionate sentences for the essentially the same offense, regardless of whether the minor was present inside the car or walking in front of it.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seventy-five percent of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive. The virtual lack of consequences for driving with a suspended license in New York no doubt adds to this crisis. Even the 26-year-old who recently killed the elderly pedestrian couple, with 29 previous license suspensions on his record, is free to drive again. He has only been charged with leaving the scene and unlicensed operation of a vehicle. If the ten percent of New York City crashes that are caused by drivers operating without a license is to be reduced, stricter punishments for violations of license suspension are likely necessary.
For Further Reference
If you, or a loved one, have been injured by an unlicensed driver, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options. To show support for more meaningful penalties against drivers operating with a suspended license, contact your legislature.