Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

While most states have laws banning “texting while driving,” states are increasingly strengthening enforcement and penalties for so-called “distracted driving.” In 2016, auto accidents and fatalities increased by 9 percent. As a consequence, in 2017, states have taken varying approaches to solve the problem of distracted driving – which often results in accidents.

The states of Iowa and Washington have enacted the strictest laws against “distracted driving” in the country. Now, a violation (texting or calling – without a hands-free device) will move from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement. This means that police officers will not have to witness a secondary violation (such as speeding, failure to signal, etc.) before pulling a car over and issuing an additional ticket for texting or calling while driving. Instead, if a police officer witnesses a driver texting or placing a phone call, they will have the right to pull that driver over immediately and issue a ticket.

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Police Officer Jason Behar has the impressive distinction of issuing the most DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) in the State of New York. The Port Chester Officer had issued 128 DUI arrests in the last year. Behar says that he is motivated to locate drunk or otherwise intoxicated drivers because of the “numerous accidents, some involving deaths.” The Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway said, “We’re really proud of him, it was a great individual effort.”

When describing how Behar locates so many drivers under the influence, he states there are several “tip-offs” – driving with no lights on, hugging the line, and swerving back and forth. To avoid a DUI, Behar suggests to basically just “Don’t do it.” Adding that taking a cab, an Uber, or not drinking above the legal limit. Behar also has advice for sober drivers – “…. pull over the side of the road and stay away from erratic drivers. There’s an element of danger just being around a drunk driver.”

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The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that the number of traffic deaths has increased by 6 percent in the last five years. Even more alarmingly, the number of pedestrian fatalities has increased by 25 percent over the same period of time. Pedestrian fatalities now account for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities – up from 11 percent in 2011. The State of New York currently ranks 25th in pedestrian fatalities. New York City, as the largest city in the country and most pedestrian-friendly, unsurprisingly has the most pedestrian fatalities. New York City had 131 pedestrian fatalities in 2015, the second-highest city for pedestrian fatalities was Los Angeles which had only 85 in the same year.

The GHSA Report states that the increase in pedestrian fatalities is most likely due to more people choosing to walk or bike. Spurred by the health, environmental and economic benefits – walking and biking have become more popular in recent years. According to the Government Accountability Office, almost one million more people are choosing to walk or bike to work compared to 2005.

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On August 3, 2009, Narie Balkaran drowned at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island after being caught in a rip tide that pulled him into the ocean. Because Jones Beach State Park is a public park, Balkaran’s family sued the State of New York – stating that the State of New York should be held responsible for the death of Balkaran for two reasons – first, because it failed to warn the beachgoers of the rip tide and alternatively, because it failed to close down the beach during the rip tide. The Court dismissed these arguments, stating that the State of New York only had a duty to beachgoers of “general supervision” and that the State was not responsible for warning swimmers of threats “arising from the existence of natural, transitory conditions of the ocean floor” when the lifeguards did not actually know of the rip tide existence at the time of Balkaran’s death.

The Court agreed with Balkaran’s family that State of New York has some responsibility for beachgoers on a public beach. The Court said that the State must act “as a reasonable person” in maintaining its property and keeping it safe for the public. According to the Court, this includes both general maintenance of public beach and general supervision of the beach. The Court then found that the State of New York satisfied this obligation by having a sufficient number of lifeguards (who were both “experienced and competent”), and that the lifeguards reacted to the situation by following proper procedures.

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Two NYC construction workers were killed when a 6,500 pound steel beam came crashing down from the fourth floor or a building after a crane wire snapped. Department of Buildings Commissioner (DBC), Rick Chandler, believes the rigging rope failed which caused the beam to fall. The city will conduct an investigation to find out whether the wind was a factor in the accident; winds were gusting at almost 40 mph.

The equipment is owned by Cranes Express Inc. and was being used to build a residential building in Briarwood, Queens.  Last January, the company received a $3,500 fine from the federal Occupational Satefy and Health Administration for a “serious” violation at a construction site in Brooklyn. A source from DBC said the equipment passed inspection in June and an employee from the company did not have a comment or information at the time. Continue reading

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released their new hospital grading system in July, called the Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating. The system rates hospitals in a way similar to movie theater ratings prompting criticism from a group representing care centers in New York.

The first report was released in July after a three month delay due to hospitals and other medical groups questioning of the methodology used. The new system focuses on rating areas that were not previously available to the public, such as hospital safety and mortality ratings. The ratings will be published quarterly and will include new measures and remove retired measures. Continue reading

Coney Island Hospital (CIH) received a one-star rating on The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s (CMS) new rating system, after city officials boldly defended the facilities quality of care. The CMS released their first report card in July 2016 on the 3,600 hospitals in the country, after a three month delay due to criticism. The system grades hospitals on a one-to-five star scale, based on the following seven categories: mortality, safety of care, readmissions, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care, uses of medical imaging and patient experience.

CIH is a one of 11 city-run public hospitals, which all received low ratings on the grading system; eight of the hospitals received a rating of one-star while the remaining three received two-stars. Over the past year, there have been several articles published on the less than favorable care the hospital provided, including the death of a patient due to misdiagnosis in the emergency-room. Dr. Ramanathan Raju, President and CEO of NYC’s municipal-hospital system, fought against these accusations by saying he has used CIH himself for 15 years and sends his children there. In May 2016, Raju told hospital staff not to be “distracted by misguided attempts to tear down the essential work of the public-hospital system.” Continue reading

According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report, the United States (U.S.) has the highest vehicle crash death rate of 19 high-income nations, such as Belgium, Slovenia, Spain and France. In 2000, each of those countries had a death rate of 14 per every 100,000 people. The U.S.  rate decreased 31%, however this paled in comparison to the 59% decrease of other comparable countries. The greatest reduction was seen in Spain with a decrease of 75% from 2000 to 2013; Slovenia also reduced their rate by 62%.

limo-accident-1439099In 2013, the U.S. had the highest death rate, remaining in the double digits at 10.3 per 100,000 while other nations significantly reduced their rates. Belgium remained at second highest, however their rate significantly lower at 6.5 per 100,000. The year 2013 also saw the loss of 33,000 U.S. lives year due to motor vehicle related crashes.  The nearly 33,000 people who died in car crashes in 2013 is almost 10,000 more than all of the vehicle-related deaths in all comparable 19 countries, while the U.S. population does not amount to the total population of those countries.  If the U.S. was able to maintain the same death rate as Belgium, approximately 12,000 lives would have been saved that year and $140 million in medical expenses avoided.

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In 2011, a researcher from the Triple AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published a report on the death rate in pedestrian-car accidents based on federal study of car crashes from 1994-1998; the study found the faster a car was going or the older the pedestrian, the deadlier the outcome of the accident. Lena Groeger, the author of the cited article, created an interactive chart based on the Triple AAA data, showing the correlation of speed and the age of a person, which is available on the link below. The interactive chart shows a 30 year old hit by a car going 45 mph has about a 50% chance of being killed, while a 70 year has a 50% chance of dying when hit by a car going 35 mph. Although these percentages are not exact, they show that age makes a significant difference.  In addition to age playing a role, the chart shows that cars going over 20 mph rapidly become more deadly.

According to the Triple AAA data, a person is 70% more likely to be killed when struck by a car going 30 mph versus 25 mph. In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio decreased the speed imageNew York City (NYC) speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. NYC saw the fewest traffic accidents in 2015 since 1910; there were a total of 231 deaths with 134 of them being pedestrian.  Many saw the decrease in the speed limit as unnecessary and annoying but it makes a difference in the survival rate of those who are hit. Tobias Niebuhr, a statistician at the University of Hamburg who studies pedestrian risk recently published a study showing oldespeed imager people are more likely to seriously injured or killed at all collision speeds. Continue reading

A pediatrician recently recounted his experience at Coney Island Hospital as a resident to the New York Post.  The MD reportedly witnessed terrible patient care, especially for children. The physician wished to remain anonymous as he discussed the negligence, substandard care and poor supervision he observed at the hospital during his three years of residency. The physician was warned by colleagues about how unsafe the hospital was and it was not long before he realized that it was especially dangerous for children.

A fellow physician was working his usual shift when a frantic father ran into the pediatric clinic holding his son five year old son.  The boy appeared almost gray, was not breathing and had a dangerously low pulse. The father was not able to explain what happened because he did not speak English and a translator was not available. After a few moments, the child’s pulse stopped. The doctor began CPR immediately and ordered the nurse to get an IV and an adrenaline shot from the crash cart. The nurses looked at the doctor with a blank stare because they did not know what he needed or where to find it; and the supervising doctor was nowhere to be found. Continue reading

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