The past few months have seen New York take the initiative in enacting legislation to make the roads safer and reduce motor vehicle accidents. These pieces of legislation include increased fines for distracted driving violations that include texting-while-driving, using a cell phone while driving, and increasing the penalties for younger drivers engaging in these types of prohibited activities. New legislation also updates the current Leandra’s law to make it a felony to drive drunk on a conditional license. Finally, legislation was signed into law permitting New York City to establish a five-year demonstration program to monitor school speed zones in New York City with speed cameras and to allow evidence captured on camera to be used to impose liability for speeding. Mayor Bloomberg has declared speeding to be the number one cause of fatal accidents.
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Nothing to be proud of. Although moving up one notch from last year, New York’s state highway system ranked 45th in the nation, according to the 20th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems of Reason Foundation, an organization focused on policy research. The highways’ infrastructure is not impressive particularly when it comes to bridges, narrow lanes and the condition of both urban and rural roads. But there is good news when it comes to safety: the State’s fatality rate was the 7th best in the nation. New York has the 16th largest state-run highway system in the nation.
Walking While Texting, Like Driving While Texting, Puts Pedestrians at Risk of Accident, Injury or Death
Research shows that pedestrians, similar to drivers, experience reduced situation awareness, distracted attention and unsafe behavior when talking or texting on their mobile phones. Using data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on injuries in hospital emergency rooms from 2004 through 2010, the study found that injuries to pedestrians using mobile phones increased in numbers and as a percentage of total pedestrian injuries from 2004 to 2010. The study found that the number of injuries increased yearly during that time, to 1,506 in 2010 from 559 in 2004. In 2010, the number of pedestrian injuries exceeded those for drivers using cell phones.
Multiple Pedestrians Injured in East Village Accident Demonstrates Merit of Propsed Legislation Regarding Disclosure of Underinsurance Coverage
Just two days after eight people in New York City’s East Village on Wednesday morning were injured when a motor vehicle allegedly being driven by a drunk driver mounted a sidewalk and struck them, the New York State Senate failed to pass a bill that would have required disclosure to purchaser's of insurance of the availability of coverage that could have provided additional insurance to the victims. Called Supplementary Uninsured Motorist's ("SUM") coverage, this coverage can potentially provide compensation where the wrongdoer either has no insurance or has less insurance than the victim. In the recent accident it appears that the vehicle had insurance, but it is unclear how much. Whatever the amount, it will have to be shared by all of the injured, which may not leave enough money to adequately compensate all (or any) of them for their injuries, including their pain and suffering.
“Serious Injury” Threshold of No-Fault Law Held Not to Apply to Passenger Negligently Left Overnight Seat-Belted in School Bus
In Rivera v. Outstanding Transp., Inc., a handicapped person was, instead of being transported by bus to his home was, left in the bus as it was taken to a depot in Brooklyn where he remained overnight, unattended and unsupervised, in frigid temperatures. The driver subsequently pled guilty to Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person. Motions for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that the plaintiff did not sustain a “serious injury” as defined in the Motor Vehicle No-Fault Insurance Law were denied by Justice David I. Schmidt of Supreme Court, Kings County. The court reasoned that the bus was not the instrumentality that produced the injuries but instead the injuries were the result of the defendants' abandonment of the handicapped person and his exposure to cold temperatures for an extensive period. These injuries would have occurred if the passenger was left outside the vehicle.
NYC Comptroller's Office 2013 Claims Report Makes Recommendations to Reduce Motor Vehicle Accident Claims; Cites Increase in Claims Against Police
Earlier this week, the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which is responsible for settling and adjusting claims for and against the City, released its fiscal report for the year 2012. In FY 2012, the City paid out $485.9 million in personal injury and property damage tort settlements and judgments, 12 percent less than in FY 2011. In FY 2012, the costliest personal injury claims category was medical malpractice. The second costliest category was motor vehicle claims. Civil rights claim settlements and judgments were the third costliest. The fourth costliest category was police action claims. In FY 2012, medical malpractice settlements/judgments accounted for 34 of the 79 tort cases that settled for $1 million or more.The Comptroller's report also cited as cause for concern the growing number of tort claims filed against the NYPD, which reached an historical high of 9,570 claims filed, and cost the City 464.4 million, in 2012.
Go onto the U.S. Department of Labor’s website and you will find much to read about what OSHA is attempting to do to reduce the exposure of workers to chromium, and more particularly hexavalent chromium. It is estimated that 558,000 workers are potentially exposed to hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] in the United States. Job tasks that may expose workers to Cr(VI) include spray painting, sanding, grinding and abrasive blasting. Hexavalent chromium targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. It is known to cause lung cancer and nasal and sinus cancer. Other health effects of exposure include eye, nose and throat irritation , nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, gastritis, gastrointestinal ulcers, contact dermatitis, irritation, ulcers, and sensitization from skin contact.
A man who worked as a cashier at a diner housed in a trailer on property owned by The Long Island Rail Road can proceed with his claim against the LIRR that he got mesothelioma from being exposed to asbestos that railroad workers brought into the eatery on their clothes, even though he did not personally work with asbestos. The plaintiff worked at the Dashing Dan Diner on the grounds of the LIRR's now-defunct Morris Park maintenance facility in Queens from 1972 to 1979. Plaintiff testified that, while he worked at the diner, LIRR workers would come in covered in dust, which they would stomp off their boots and shake off their gloves and clothes. Frieder estimated that he served about 200 employees a day. By the end of the day, he said, there was "dust all over the place," requiring heavy sweeping. The evidence established that asbestos was routinely used at the Morris Park facility.
Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a national initiative designed to encourage drivers of all other kinds of vehicles and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)reminds motorists to safely "share the road" with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. The NHTSA also stresses the importance of riding sober. Statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. Motorcycle crashes are one of the most prevalent causes of death and injury on roads. Motorcyclists are about 30 times more likely to die in a crash than passenger vehicle occupants. Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 14 percent of total highway deaths for the year although motorcycle registrations represent only about 3 percent of all vehicles in the U.S.
Construction Industry Foiled in Its Attempt to Avoid Complying with New York City’s Regulations Governing Cranes, Derricks and Hoisting Equipment
In Steel Institute of New York v. City of New York, the City of New York's local statutes and regulations that govern the use of cranes, derricks, and other hoisting equipment in construction and demolition were challenged as being preempted by OSHA. The Steel Institute clearly sought to relieve the construction industry from having to comply with the City’s more stringent, and likely more costly, standards. If the City’s regulations were found to be directed towards workers’ safety, they would have been preempted and unenforceable. What saved the City’s regulations was the extraordinarily high density of people and property in the City such that in most cases construction worksites abut or spill over into adjoining lots and public streets. The District Court stated: “Cranes therefore pose a unique risk to public safety in New York City ....”