Articles Posted in Personal Injury Law

A new law signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requires all motor vehicle passengers older than 16 to wear a seat belt. It replaces previous legislation that only mandated seatbelts for people aged 16 and up when they were in the vehicle’s front passenger seat.

In a statement released about the legislation, Governor Cuomo said: “We’ve known for decades that seat belts save lives and with this measure we are further strengthening our laws and helping to prevent needless tragedies… It was under my father’s leadership that New York became the first state in the country to pass a seat belt law, and the nation followed his lead. Now we are building upon this legacy and helping to create a safer and stronger Empire State for all.”

A press release by the Cuomo Administration states that New York was “the first state to pass a mandatory seat belt law” in 1984, under the administration of Cuomo’s father, Governor Mario Cuomo. In that same year, according to the press release, roughly 16% of people in the state wore seatbelts, a number that rose to 98% by 2008. The state’s Traffic Safety Committee estimated that 30% of highway fatalities in the state were not wearing seatbelts. According to the release, experts think that increased use of backseat backseat seatbelts may mitigate more than 66% of vehicular fatalities and other injuries.

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In 2019, New York state legislators passed a law that would allow New York City to use congestion pricing, in which cars driving into Manhattan’s Central Business District would receive a daily toll of approximately $11 to $14, per a recent report by City & State. The law is expected to bring in an addition $1 billion in revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which will likely suffer a “$16 billion shortfall through 2024” in addition to other needs the congestion pricing revenue would fund. Congestion pricing already exists in cities like Stockholm and London, according to the report, where it has both “raised revenue and increased traffic.” In New York, however, the law’s implementation has been stalled by federal authorities, in what some experts and officials “believe is political punishment for a blue state from the Trump Administration.”

According to City & State, New York can implement congestion pricing as earlier as January 1, 2021. The state is currently eyeing a start in early 2022, however, due to the holdup. As the report explains, the law requires an environmental impact study of the program: “Because some of the roads that will be tolled have received federal funding, the Federal Highway Administration – a division of the federal Department of Transportation – can require an environmental review be conducted by the state before the policy can be implemented.” While the federal government is responsible for determining “what level of environmental review is necessary,” if any, it hasn’t provided any guidance to the state, “despite having the materials it requested” in January of this year. As the MTA chairman told city and state: “It’s paradoxical to me that congestion pricing, central business district tolling, which is a huge environmental, social good, reduces traffic/congestion, funds mass transit and reduces emissions is being held up… All we want from USDOT, and all we’ve ever wanted from the beginning, is for them to follow their own required process and tell us what the environmental process is so we can pursue it.”

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New York City officials have announced plans to reduce the speed limit on eight city streets to 25 miles per hour. The announcement follows a wave of drag racing, speeding, and reckless driving in the city’s biggest thoroughfares, leading to speeding tickets and deaths. According to a recent New York Times report, authorities anticipated that because the surge in speeding was the result of the coronavirus pandemic reducing the number of cars on the streets, it would get back to normal as cars returned to the streets. “But as restrictions lifted this summer and traffic crept back toward pre-pandemic levels, the spate of speeding — and fatal collisions — did not end,” the Times reports.

The streets affected by the new regulation include segments of Manhattan’s Riverside Drive, Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, Queens’ Northern Boulevard, the Bronx’s Bruckner Boulevard, Brooklyn’s Shore Parkway Service Road and Dahlgren Place, Staten Island’s Targee Street, and the Bronx’s Webster Avenue, per the Times, which notes that Queens’ Rockaway Boulevard will see a speed limit reduction from 40mph to 35mph.

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A recent report by Niagara Frontier Publications says that data collected by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College shows that “as of Aug. 15, deaths from motorcycle crashes are up more than 17% compared to the same period in 2019.” As a result of the increase in motorcycle deaths New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced increased enforcement of impaired driving laws over Labor Day weekend earlier this month. “Danger does not take a holiday and, with increased traffic on the road this Labor Day weekend, we all have a responsibility to exercise good judgment and caution,” he said in early September. “New York state will continue to crack down on dangerous driving behavior because the safety of all drivers and passengers will always be a top priority for us.”

Figures released by the University of Albany show a stark increase in motorcycle crash-involved fatalities over the last year. In April 2019 there were six crashes compared to 14 in April 2020; in June 2019 there were 20 compared to 24 in June 2020; and overall there were 73 fatalities in 2019 compared to 86 in 2020.

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A recent study found that 81 of the top 100 companies in America have clauses in their customer agreements that force legal claims to air their legal grievances in arbitration – and typically only after signing a non-disclosure agreement and waiving their right to appeal. In May 2019, JPMorgan Chase joined the consumer-unfriendly trend when it informed all of its credit card customers that they could no longer sue the company in court. The bank previously mandated arbitration for its bank account and insurance customers. Imre Szalai, a professor of social justice at Loyola University, said the move by JPMorgan Chase is part of a larger trend denying consumers the right to litigate their legal claims in court. “The ability to access the courthouse is disappearing for American consumers, Szalai said, citing his own research on the subject of mandatory arbitration clauses.

Mandatory arbitration clauses are often included in the “Terms of Service” that many consumers blindly sign when signing up with a company. This can harm the consumer because arbitration severely limits the rights of consumers. Typically, arbitration allows more limited evidence to be presented, can cap the amount of damages a person is awarded, and usually requires both parties to sign non-disclosure agreements and give up their right to appeal any decision. Therefore, companies with mandatory arbitration clauses benefit from not only having their legal matters resolved quicker but they can also avoid any public relations fiasco by keeping customer’s complaints quiet.

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In response to a tragic limousine accident that left 20 dead in October, the legislature is proposing a slew of measures meant to regulate the industry and protect New Yorkers. According to The New York Post, the state Senate passed several proposals in the hopes of preventing another fatal limo accident in the state. As previously reported, federal regulations barely touch on the limousine industry – despite its heavy hand in the broader automobile industry. Therefore, according to New York Democrats in Albany, the burden falls on the state to prevent the kinds of tragedies that occurred in October.

Last October, a stretch limo with faulty brakes ran through several red lights and stop signs before eventually hitting a parked vehicle. All 18 passengers in the limo, all family members, and two pedestrians were killed. Just two weeks prior, the limo was taken off the roads for safety violations. Despite being “cleared” to operate again, the limo was clearly still unsafe.

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As the legislative session draws to a close, politicians are making last-minute efforts to pass their bills into law. One bill introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice would create a new criminal law for intoxicated drivers who get behind the wheel with a child in their vehicle. The Prevent Impaired Driving Child Endangerment Act would nationalize ‘Leandra’s Law’ which made driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol a felony crime punishable by four years in prison. Drivers convicted under Leandra’s Law must also attend substance abuse treatment and install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle. If passed into law, states would be required to enact Leandra’s Law or lose federal highway funding beginning in 2021. New York already passed a version of Leandra’s Law.

Rep. Rice also introduced a second piece of legislation aimed at automobile safety. Introduced last month by the New York Democrat, The End Drunk Driving Act would require automobile manufacturers to introduce technology that could detect if a driver is impaired or under the influence. Newsday said that two technologies have emerged that could detect an impaired driver and disable their ability to start a vehicle. One system uses an infrared fingerprint scanner to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content before allowing the vehicle to start. The other system passively measures the breath of the person in the driver’s seat. Traffic safety advocates say the fingerprint method is more precise but the air monitoring system is less intrusive and could monitor the driver’s impairment level during the drive. Unfortunately, the technology is currently inaccurate and prone to misjudgments. Perhaps more problematic, neither option can determine whether the driver is impaired from any other substance. With rates of opioid and marijuana use rising across the country, testing exclusively for alcohol-impaired drivers seems shortsighted.

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Almost 15 million Americans admit they drive while under the influence of marijuana, according to a new study by AAA. The alarming news does not end with the sky-high number of impaired drivers, either. Millennials (25 to 39 years old) were most likely to get high before driving, followed closely by Generation Z (under 24 years old). While unsurprising given their age, AAA correctly notes that the majority of stoned drivers are also the most inexperienced – a dangerous combination. The survey also showed that drug-impaired drivers appear unconvinced of its danger and unconcerned with its harsh legal consequences. In fact, Americans surveyed by AAA said that texting and driving posed a greater hazard on the road than pot-impaired drivers.

Despite evidence to the contrary, stoned drivers say that pot does not lead to unsafe driving. The study also reported that a full 13 percent of stoned drivers describe their illegal habit as only ‘slightly dangerous’ or ‘not dangerous’ at all. Despite the perception of their cognitive abilities, evidenced-backed research shows significant impairments in a driver’s ability while under the influence of cannabis. Marijuana impairs motor coordination, reaction time, and personal judgment. Unsurprisingly, an impaired driver is a dangerous one. Stoned drivers are almost twice as likely to be in a car accident than their sober counterparts.

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Tarrytown Hall Care Center in Tarrytown, New York has received 26 citations for violations of public health law between 2015 and 2019, according to records provided by the New York State Department of Health and accessed on November 4, 2019. The citations resulted from six inspections by the Department, the public entity responsible for enforcing safety and health standards in New York nursing home facilities. The violations described in these citations include the following:

1. The nursing home failed to ensure its residents’ freedom from abuse and neglect. Nursing home facilities are required by Section 483.12 of the Federal Code to respect their residents’ right “to be free from abuse, neglect, misappropriation of personal property, and exploitation.” A January 2019 citation described Tarrytown Hall Care Center’s failure to ensure one resident’s right to be free from abuse in a situation where, after that resident struck a Certified Nursing Assistant, that assistant “responded by tossing liquid from a cup he was holding in his hand directly towards [the resident’s] upper body and face area,” then pushing that resident’s wheelchair into a hallway, where another assistant had to intervene to stop the rolling wheelchair. The citation notes that the resident in question was “severely cognitively impaired” and dependent on a wheelchair for mobility and personal assistance to move around the facility. 

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An astonishing one-third of New York City bicyclists text while commuting around the city, according to a recent study by Hunter College. To perform the study, the local college observed 46 intersections in the busier parts of Manhattan (between 14th Street and 86th Street) this April. Researchers gathered observational data on cell phone use, helmets, and traffic safety. When it comes to cell phone use, Manhattan bikers appear unconcerned with the distraction – 30.2 percent of cyclists used their cell phones, according to researcher’s observations. This number is significantly higher compared to six years when Hunter College conducted the same study. In 2013, researchers observed only 10 percent of bicyclists using their phones.

According to the study’s researchers, the increase in “texting while cycling” could be caused by increased safety initiatives taken by the city, which include dedicated bike plans. On the whole, researchers say it is most likely just part of a larger trend. Peter Tuckel, Hunter sociologist and author of the study, told The New York Post, “There’s been an enormous upsurge in the number of people in general who use electronic devices – whether it be pedestrians, drivers, or cyclists.”

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