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The Attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC provide effective, aggressive representation to individuals injured in the New York area. Our priority is to maximize the recovery of our clients injured due to the neglect of others.

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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School zone cameras have returned to New York City schools. After the program lapsed over the summer, the school camera program is now planning to expand its operations. Under the law just signed by Gov. Cuomo, the number of cameras in school zones will sharply increase from 140 to 750 schools across the city. In all, approximately 2,250 speed cameras will be installed in school zones across the five boroughs. The Department of Transportation says the program will roll-out over a three-year period. The Democratic Governor says school zones with the worst traffic accidents will be given priority.

The expanded program will largely operate under the same parameters – any driver going more than 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit will receive a $50 summons. The bill did stipulate two small changes to the program. First, the school zone cameras will now be “active” all day – from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Previously, the school zone cameras only operated from one hour before school starts to one hour after school ends. Second, signage must be posted alerting the driver of the school zone and warning the driver of the traffic cameras.

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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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In 2012, a Long Island man, Daniel Sajewski, rammed his father’s red Mercedes-Benz through a Huntington house, narrowly missing the two elderly sisters that lived in the residence. Sajewski was, perhaps predictably, intoxicated – blowing an off-the-chart 0.30 on a breathalyzer, far exceeding New York’s 0.08 limit. In addition to losing their belongings (including a wedding band that could not be located in the rubble), the car accident left the two 90-year-old sisters homeless for several months. In 2013, the judge sentenced Sajewski to one-and-a-half years to three years in prison.

More recently, State Farm, who insured the house that was destroyed, has decided to pursue legal action against Sajewski’s father, the owner of the vehicle. State Farm is seeking $180,000 from the father to reimburse it for the money spent on repairing the home. State Farm is able to pursue this claim because, under New York law, the owner of a vehicle is liable for the damages caused by its drivers – so long as the driver has the owner’s permission to operate the vehicle.  According to the statute, the permission can be expressly stated or implied.

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White Plains Center for Nursing Care received 51 citations for violations of public health laws between 2015 and 2019, according to New York State Department of Health records accessed on November 4, 2019. The White Plains nursing home’s citations, which include 19 more than the statewide average, resulted from five inspections by the state inspectors. The violations described in these citations include the following:

1. The nursing home failed to ensure that residents’ drug regimens were free from unnecessary drugs. Section 483.45 of the Federal Code requires that nursing homes keep “each resident’s drug regimen… free from unnecessary drugs,” defining as unnecessary any drug that is used in an excessive dose, for an excessive duration, without proper monitoring or indications, and/or in the presence of adverse consequences. A March 2019 citation found that White Plains Center for Nursing Care did not ensure that one of five residents reviewed was properly monitored for pain and the effectiveness of pain medication he was receiving. An inspector specifically found that the resident “was receiving Opioid medication on 5 out of 7 days during the assessment period,” but that there was no evidence the resident’s pain level was evaluated before medication was provided. A review of records by the Department of Health found further that the records did not prompt medical staff to document residents’ pain levels.

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An estimated 161,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical errors, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University. The study, which was published by Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit which ranks hospital safety, shows that fatalities by preventable medical errors are trending downward. Three years ago, the number of preventable deaths stood at 206,000.

“We are cautiously optimistic we are going to see real change and that is good news from this report,” Leah Binder, President and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, told Modern Healthcare. “But 161,000 is still a lot of people it’s a terrible problem. We have a long way to go.” Binder continued to explain that the number of preventable deaths is likely an underestimate since the study only looked at 16 safety categories and the “subset of each safety issue” in each category. According to Leapfrog Group, 15 of the 16 measures used to judge patient safety are the same used by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to judge nursing home quality.

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