Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

Amid widespread noncompliance and mounting accidents in New York’s most dangerous industry, City Council ‘tweaked’ its construction safety laws last month. The law originally passed in 2017 in the aftermath of several serious and preventable construction accidents has failed to put a dent in the number of construction worker deaths, which continue to increase each year. The law requires all construction workers in the city to receive at least 30 hours of safety training by Dec. 1 2019, according to City & State New York. By Sept. 1, 2010, the number of training hours required increases to 40 hours. 

The bold and controversial law has largely languished since it passed, according to the newspaper. The Department of Buildings has pushed back the deadline for worker training several times after failing to implement the standards and programs required by the training courses. The government agency says that the City Council has made the problem worse by continually revising the law since 2017. Allegations of widespread fraud have been reported in the news, describing a black market for safety training certificates and online courses that lack adequate identity verification policies. 

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The Department of Buildings (DOB) is suing to revoke the license of a contractor allegedly responsible for the death of a construction worker earlier this year in Turtle Bay. According to The New York Daily News, Nelson Salinas was working on scaffolding halfway up a 14-story residential building when a coping stone was knocked loose by rigging used to support the scaffolding. The stone hit Salinas in the head and he was rushed to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center where he died from the injuries

After a full investigation, the DOB says the fault lies with Wlodzimierz Tomczak and is now attempting to revoke his special rigger license over the incident. According to the DOB, Tomczak “did not take proper precautions” and could not produce “multiple inspection records… related to the scaffold setup.” 

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A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that “driver-assistance” technology provides substantial and widespread benefits. The study, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, studied the effect of vehicles with three types of safety technology – blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning. Vehicles with these safety options are typically equipped with cameras or radars, which can alert drivers to dangerous conditions.

After extrapolating the data on the effect of these advanced safety technologies, the researchers concluded that if every vehicle in the United States came with these safety features installed then the effects would be enormous. There would be 1.6 million fewer crashes each year and 7,200 fewer fatalities caused by car accidents. The boost in safety is not the only benefit, though. Fewer accidents would lead to less money spent on repairing vehicles and healing injuries, saving drivers money. The study estimated that American drivers would save $20 billion each year if every vehicle on the road were equipped with these safety features.

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Every year, hospitals across the United States are graded on their record for patient safety by the federal government and a nonprofit organization, Leapfrog Group. The federal government uses a “star-based” rating system where hospitals receive a grade between one and five stars, with a one-star rating representing a hospital with serious and widespread safety problems. According to LoHud.com, New York had 48 one-star facilities in the state. Six of these unsafe hospitals were in the Hudson Valley.
Leapfrog Group focuses on more “preventable safety issues”, according to the local newspaper. The metrics used in Leapfrog’s calculations focus on the rate of “infections and medical mistakes, like sponges or tools left in bodies” or “complications such as collapsed lungs.” The nonprofit group assigns a letter grade to each major hospital in the country, which range from an “A” to an “F.” The researchers at Leapfrog point to a study by Johns Hopkins University that found 160,000 deaths each year are caused by “hospital-acquired” conditions – such as infections. Of the 30 hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade in New York, two are located in the Hudson Valley. According to Leapfrog, only 12 percent of hospitals nationwide receive a letter grade below “C”.

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The number of pedestrians injured by bicyclists in New York City increased 12 this year, according to the NYPD. In a summer with bicycle accidents dominating headlines, public safety advocates are now sounding the alarm bells for pedestrians. In a recent opinion-editorial published by The New York Post, the author argues that the two problems are both related to each other and caused by, among other factors, a bicycle culture that disregards traffic laws and safety.

According to the newspaper, Mayor Bill de Blasio has built more than 100 miles of protected bicycle lanes since coming into office. Studies consistently show that bicycle lanes create safer conditions for travelers of all kinds – pedestrians, bicyclists and car drivers. In addition to the expansion of infrastructure dedicated to bicycles, the city has also retrofitted intersections and lowered speed limits as part of its ‘Vision Zero’ initiative. Given the safety improvements, bicycling should have become safer in the city. In the first few years data show a sharp drop in accidents but this year the NYPD reports 127 pedestrian injuries, up from 113 recorded this time last year. Continue reading

Citi Bike removed its electric bikes from New York City’s streets after a slew of bicyclists reported braking problems. The popular bike sharing service made the announcement after The New York Daily News reported a “stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel” resulted in launching the bicyclists over their handlebars. The tabloid magazine said Lyft, the owner of Citi Bike, confirmed that six people sought medical treatment from injuries caused by faulty electric bicyclists. According to Bicycling.com, at least one rider broke his hip and dozens of other electric bike riders reported “close calls, scrapes, and other minor injuries.”

Electric bicycles provide an extra “boost” when a bicyclist pedals and can reach up to 18 miles-per-hour, according to Citi Bike. Consequently, a faulty braking mechanism possesses the potential to cause serious harm to the bicyclist. Commenting on the removal of electric bicycles in New York (and two other cities where Lyft operates bike-sharing programs), spokesperson Julie Wood said, “After a small number of reports and out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively pausing our electric bikes from service. Safety always comes first.”

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The de Blasio administration continued implementing the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” program last week with a slew of initiatives meant to reduce the likelihood of pedestrian accidents in New York City. According to ABC 7 New York, the Mayor’s plan, which aims to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths to zero each year, has been fairly successful. The number of pedestrian accidents in the city is the lowest ever recorded, according to The New York Times. The city has seen its rate of pedestrian accidents decline each year of Vision Zero’s implementation, which initially focused on installing more bike lanes, reducing speed limits, and creating more pedestrian plazas.

Now that those policies have been fully implemented, Mayor de Blasio’s administration is moving forward with a different set of policy initiatives meant to lower the pedestrian accident rate even lower. According to ABC News, these new initiatives will include:

  • Congestion Pricing. New York became the first city in the United States to pass congestion pricing this year. Beginning in 2020, drivers entering Manhattan’s congested areas will be subjected to a hefty fee – which has not been disclosed but is expected to settle between $15 and $20. The Mayor expects congestion pricing to substantially reduce the congestion in the city and, consequently, reduce the number of car accidents. Judging by the success of congestion pricing in other cities across the world, the Mayor’s prediction appears likely to come true.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a program to study injuries caused by electric scooters. Dockless, electronic scooter companies have invaded cities across the country hoping to further revolutionize the transport in America. According to a report by CNBC, companies such as Lime and Bird now operate in over 100 cities in the country. Despite their rapid expansion, there is little data on the safety of providing electric scooters to anyone over the age of 18. Riders of electronic scooters are known to drive on sidewalks, streets, or any other surface available and many of their scooters can reach speeds up to 15 mph.

Federal agencies appear to have finally woken up to the potential threat to public safety, which one emergency room doctor described as a “disruptive technology” to CNBC. The new study will be limited to the city of Austin and the CDC says it plans to “identify the risk factors for those who get injured, how severe their injuries are and why they’re getting hurt.” While still in the preliminary stages, data provided by Austin-area emergency rooms has already provided some answers. According to the CDC, 98 percent of emergency room visitors with injuries caused by an electronic scooter were not wearing their helmet. Further, a little more than half of the injured were under the influence of alcohol or another drug. The majority of electronic scooter injuries were caused by falls. Perhaps surprisingly, injuries caused by electronic scooters do not increase during the nighttime hours.

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New York’s only-one-in-the-country scaffold law is under scrutiny, again. Council Speaker Corey Johnson is hoping to reform the heavily criticized law while overhauling the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the pseudo-independent government agency responsible for the subway and bridges around New York City. According to The New York Post, the scaffold law assigns 100 percent of the liability to owners and contractors for any injury occurring on a construction site, regardless of whether the worker was at fault or not. Proponents of the law describe the dangerous conditions that New York construction workers must operate and say the law incentivizes contractors and companies to create a safe workplace.

Opponents of the law say the law is unnecessarily expensive, driving up the cost of much-needed infrastructure projects across the state. Across the country, construction liability insurance typically averages between 2 to 3 percent of a construction project. In New York, that number is between 7 and 10 percent, according to Lawsuit Reform Alliance Coalition of New York. Johnson said the law eventually makes a construction project 10 times more expensive to insure in New York. Johnson used the MTA’s East Side Access Project, which links the LIRR to Grand Central, as an example. In 2002, liability insurance on the project cost $93 million. The same liability insurance policy now costs taxpayers $584 million each year. Johnson says the Scaffold Law is a major contributor to the increased costs.

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Carbon monoxide poisoning injured nine workers at a construction site in Midtown Manhattan last month. According to ABC 7 New York, the FDNY responded to a call at a high-rise residential development in Flatiron when several workers complained of feeling dizzy. When the firefighters arrived, the level of carbon monoxide at the construction site tested around 750 parts-per-a-million. According to the news agency, carbon monoxide is “dangerous” at 10 parts-per-a-million. The entire site was quickly evacuated.

All workers at the site immediately sought medical care and nine were admitted into the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. According to the FDNY, workers were pouring the foundation in a 60 square-foot-area. “It is very difficult to ventilate because there’s only a very small area to enter into the confined space. While the names and injuries suffered by the workers have not been released, witnesses at the scene reported seeing multiple construction workers carried off in stretchers. “We were able to begin IV treatment, cardiac monitoring while our peers on the fire side did all the heavy lifting of pulling them out,” EMS Deputy Chief Kathleen Knuth told ABC’s local affiliate.

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