Personal Injuries: Be Careful, it’s Nice Out There

By Thomas R. Smith

April 20th, 2016

Finally, the cold dreary days of winter are behind us and spring is in the air. With the warmer, nicer weather, comes an increase in motor vehicle accidents, and personal injuries motorcyclists, bike riders and pedestrians.

Drivers and pedestrians have the right to use the roadways, and have mutual duties and obligations to do so in a safe manner, and to look out for each other. More people are out walking and using some portion of the roads during the nice weather, and longer days. Both drivers and pedestrians must use reasonable care to observe anyone crossing into their paths of travel.

Motorists are faced with new challenges as the weather changes. Conditons that block normal observations, such as sun glare, fog, rain and lightening can lead to accidents. Drivers are expected to act prudently, and take the proper precautions associated with the conditions they are presented with to reduce the risk of harming someone else using the roadway, such as a pedestrian. Sometimes, if the conditions are such to severely impede visibility, they should pull over to the side of the road until the condition improves.

Pedestrians, which include bicyclists, using the roadways have similar duties and obligations to look out for their own safety as well as others. Pedestrians may only cross a street at a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, and once in that walkway, an approaching driver has an obligation to stop its vehicle, as opposed to merely yielding to the crossing pedestrian. Any collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian who is within the crosswalk, it will be presumed the driver did not exercise due care. When sidewalks are available, it is unlawful for one to walk along the roadway.

Bicyclists must follow the rules of road to help avoid personal injuries from accidents with motor vehicles. Operators must ride as far to the right of the roadway as possible, but may move left to make left turns, avoid hazards, or to pass a slower moving vehicle. A bicycle being operated a night should have a lamp in the front and red light in the rear. Bicyclists under the age of 17 must wear helmets.

Motorcycle accidents also increase during the nicer weather as ridership increases. More people are out riding in the Spring and Summer then in the winter months. The major causes of accidents with motorcycles involve driver inattention, or the inability to notice motorcycles, and driver speed, usually a motorcycle driving too fast for the conditions. Operators must take extra caution to ensure are seen by other cars and trucks on the road and don’t drive at excessive speeds. So doing will cut down on the number of an extent of injuries involving motor cycles.

According a New Jersey State Police report, many more crashes and fatalities involving motor vehicles, motorcycles and pedestrians occur during the nicer spring and summer months. The majority occur during clear weather and on a Saturday or Sunday. Therefore, take extra caution when using the roads during the nice weather. If you have been injured by a motor vehicle, contact my office so I, as an experienced personal injury lawyer can advise of your rights to recover for you injuries, losses and any other ways you have been harmed.

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Car Accidents: Uber

By Thomas R. Smith

March 16th, 2016

With one tap of a smart phone app, Uber is forever changing the taxi business as well as the way people commute. The rise of Uber, and other ride-sharing services offer convenience and savings for riders while creating new work opportunities for drivers. However, these services are not problem-proof and with them come a number of legal questions and concerns – specifically liability for car accidents.

Uber and other ride-sharing companies make it clear that they aren’t in the transportation business but instead are technology services that simply connect riders and drivers. The drivers are independent third parties; therefore the rider accepts ALL risk, as clearly stated in the Uber terms and conditions:
“By using the services, you acknowledge that you may be exposed to situations involving third party providers that are potentially unsafe, offensive, harmful to minors, or otherwise objectionable,” Uber states, and “that using the services is at your own risk and judgment. Uber shall not have any liability …” The Uber contract also includes a forced arbitration clause, which greatly limits an individual’s right to take the company to court.

Additionally, Uber drivers typically don’t meet the same licensing and inspection requirements that apply to traditional taxi and limousine services.  According to the company’s safety page, Uber drivers are required to undergo rigorous background checks. The company also provides insurance for its drivers; although gray areas exist that raise serious concerns about whether or not Uber’s insurance would apply in certain situations.

Like many new and groundbreaking business models, Uber has clearly created great opportunities and challenges that previously didn’t exist. Uber car accidents can be particularly complicated. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a ride-share driver, or as a ride-share passenger, contact one of our personal injury attorneys at 800-432-LAWS (5297) to discuss your case.

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Pedestrian Car Accidents

By Michael Paragano

March 7th, 2016

New Jersey has some of the busiest roads in the country and car accidents are on the rise. Not only are the roads congested with cars, motorcycles and trucks, but many pedestrians use the roads as a cheaper, healthier way to get from point A to point B. Pedestrians have the same rights on highways as motor vehicles.

But what happens when these vehicles, which weigh thousands of pounds, collide with the human pedestrian? Disaster.

You see it in the news almost weekly. A pedestrian is struck by a motorist and seriously injured or killed. As a result, the pedestrian suffers personal injuries, medical expenses and possibly loss of income or the ability to work. These damages can be devastating. Much like a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle, pedestrians have the right to have their medical expenses paid by their car insurance company under their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy, even if they are not operating a vehicle at the time of the accident.

In addition, they may be entitled to both economic and non-economic compensation from the insurance company of the motorist who was negligent. Often times these cases can involve serious injuries due to the lack of protection from the crash and the sheer weight and speed of the offending vehicle.

It is absolutely crucial to speak to an injury attorney after such a tragedy that knows how to ensure that you are taken care of for the damages you suffer as a result of a pedestrian car accident.

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I Was In a Car Accident, Should I Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?

By Michael Paragano

December 21st, 2015

No.

If you get into a car accident, you should not speak to the other driver’s insurance company before consulting with an attorney. The reason for this is pretty simple. Insurance companies train their claims adjusters to take advantage of drivers and witnesses before they have the opportunity to seek legal counsel to explain their rights.

Once a company is given notice about an accident that involves one of their insured drivers, they are told to immediately begin investigating the accident. The reason they hit the ground running from day one is because they are thinking about how they can escape liability for the accident and avoid paying claims. They don’t really care whether you’re injured or not, they only really care about how your injury will affect their bottom line.

The typical situation arises following a car accident. The drivers exchange information and following the crash, both drivers alert their insurance company that they were involved in an accident. Shortly after that, you get a call from the other driver’s company asking for information about how the accident happened (from your perspective) and your injuries. Again, this is not because they care, but rather they are trying to build their defense and figure out how much they think your claim is potentially worth.

When they contact you, they may ask you for a recorded statement. This is typically taped by an adjuster who asks questions about the happening of the accident and any treatment you’ve had.

DO NOT under any circumstances give a recorded or written statement to the other driver’s insurance company. They are NOT mandatory regardless of what the insurance company tells you.

These statements can be very harmful to you and any potential claim you may have. They could be used against you years later at a trial. The best bet is to consult with an attorney soon after a car accident so they can properly advise you of your rights and obligations, including those owed to the other driver’s insurance company.

When in doubt, just say no.

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Holiday Parties: Homeowner Liability

By Michael Paragano

November 16th, 2015

Where did the summer go?  Thanksgiving and Christmas are now just around the corner and with those holidays comes the holiday parties.

Often many people wonder what their liability is if someone is injured at their home during a holiday party or if someone has a little too much to drink and gets into an accident. This can be an important and somewhat confusing topic of conversation around this time.

In New Jersey, a social guest who is invited to someone’s home has limited protections from dangerous conditions. The host has no obligation to make his or her home safer for party guests than for themselves. The host is also not required to inspect their property to discovery dangerous conditions that can lead to injuries. But that’s not the end of it.

Homeowners can still be liable for guest’s injuries. If the host knows or has reason to know of a dangerous condition on the property that could harm their guests and it is a condition that a guest could not reasonably discover, the host has a duty to make the condition safe or give warning to the guest. It may be easier to look at a quick example:

Martha wants to host a Christmas party at her home and plans to invite about twenty people. In the process of cleaning her house for the party, while dusting her hardwood floors, she notices that there is a sharp nail poking out of the floor. It’s the same color as the floor, but she happened to notice it because she was cleaning. Martha gets distracted and forgets about the nail. Later on all her guests arrive and she forgets to mention the nail to any of them. At the end of the night her guest Donald gets his pant leg caught on the nail and falls and breaks his ankle.

In this example Martha actually knew of a dangerous condition that could pose harm to her social guests. Rather then remedy the condition by nailing it down or removing it, she left it. She gave no warning to Donald and he was unable to discover the condition because the nail was small and blended in with the flooring. When Donald gets hurt Martha is liable to him for his injuries.

This is just one example of how a social host can be liable to guests this holiday season. Other common scenarios aren’t as cut and dry as Martha’s knowledge of the nail. Often times, the dangerous condition may be one that the homeowner does not discover but is one that they should have discovered. Let’s look at another Martha example:

Martha is again cleaning for her party, but this time she doesn’t actually discover any dangerous conditions. She walks through her house about a dozen times before her guests arrive, including her long wooden hallway. Throughout the day she walks the hallway about ten times but she’s so preoccupied with the party that she fails to see a large puddle of water on the floor. Later when Donald is walking through the hallway he slips and injures himself. It is quite possible that Martha will be liable even though she never saw the spill as she should have been aware of the spill and warned her social guests.
If these scenarios sound familiar, you may want to speak to an attorney who handles these matters and see what your options are.

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Volkswagen Emissions Scandal Rocks the Globe

By Michael Paragano

September 23rd, 2015

This week, automobile company Volkswagen admitted that they intentionally designed vehicles to evade environmental regulations. The news began last week when the EPA accused the company of installing software on nearly 500,000 U.S. vehicles to manipulate emissions tests. The software fools regulators into believing that a four-cylinder diesel car complies with emission standards. In reality, the cars were letting out harmful pollutants at alarming rates, which some say are over 40 times the required standards.

After the EPA called out Volkswagen, their CEO admitted to the deception. As a result of the gaft, the EPA can fine the company up to 18 billion dollars for their actions. Many are also predicting that this will trigger recalls of the affected vehicles as well as a bevy of consumer lawsuits.

The full ramifications of the manipulation are unclear at this time, but one thing is for sure, this is another clear example of a company putting profit before consumer safety. We’ve seen this script before. Such historical examples like the Ford Pinto of the 1970’s or the Ford Explorer of the 1990’s remind us that car companies don’t always get it right and often put greed ahead of safety.

Volkswagen’s stock has plummeted and their CEO is on his way out but the company may need the EPA to set a tone for this behavior and put other companies on notice that this behavior will not be tolerated. But, something tells me no matter what happens, this is just another business expense for Volkswagen and car companies like them.

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Backyard Fireworks: Still Illegal in New Jersey

By Michael Paragano

July 10th, 2015

July 4th has come and gone and like every year, there were a few guarantees for the holiday, grilling, American flags, and of course, fireworks. The latter has been a tradition on the 4th for years, especially in New Jersey. Another guarantee that went fulfilled this holiday season was firework injuries.

This past weekend a 22 year old from Maine was killed when he attempted to shoot fireworks from his head. Fireworks are legal in Maine. In an ever more publicized story, Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants was injured in Florida over the weekend when fireworks he purchased exploded in his hands. JPP lost an index finger in the accident and is still hospitalized for thumb fractures and other hand injuries. His career is in serious jeopardy.

These two glaring examples remind us what we already knew. Fireworks are extremely dangerous and should not be used by untrained citizens. In New Jersey, their use is flat out illegal.

Under N.J.S.A. 21:3-1, the possession and use of fireworks is banned as it has been found to be against the “public health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of New Jersey”. There are exceptions of course, such as obtaining the proper licensing and permits from the municipality where you intend to use the fireworks. But these are generally granted for firework displays.

There will be continued debate about whether or not this past weekend’s events are tragedies or whether they are actions by people who should know the dangers that fireworks possess. The mother of the Maine man who passed away called for stricter laws for fireworks. In New Jersey, we have no such issue. It is illegal to possess them in this state. Period.

As the summer continues, keep this in mind as there can be both penalties assessed due to their possession and their use can cause serious personal injuries or even death.

Be safe this summer.

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New Dog Legislation on The Way: Large Breed Dogs Beware

By Michael Paragano

June 15th, 2015

On May 11, 2015, two New Jersey lawmakers introduced “The Responsible Dog Ownership Act”. The legislation would ask the New Jersey Department of Health to establish new requirements for dog owners. Most notably, the legislation would require dog owners to have a fence on their property that was at least eight feet high.

The new dog legislation is in response two separate attacks that occurred in recent years, in which children were attacked and bitten by neighborhood dogs. The fence requirement would be for dog owners with “large breed dogs”. The difficulty will be establishing what size dog is a large breed dog. The lawmakers would ask the Department of Health to consult with experts in this field to determine what a large breed would be and what requirements should be placed on their owners.

Questions about whether the fencing requirement would be retroactive and apply to owners who already have large breed dogs are still up in the air. While the possible law is far from being put on the books, the outrage and debate is sure to come. The requirement for private citizens to spend large sums of money to build these fences may have some doubters believing their rights are being infringed upon.

And what happens to those dogs that are considered large breeds but have owners who cannot afford a fence? Are the dogs sent to overcrowded shelters or kennels? The topic will surely have much debate among New Jersey citizens as it makes its way though the new dog legislature. Balancing the safety of citizens against the requirement to spend what amounts to a tax will be a difficult task for lawmakers and whatever the result, there is sure to be dissenting opinions.

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Headed Down The New Jersey Shore: Not So Fast

By Michael Paragano

May 29th, 2015

With the unofficial start of summer upon us many people enjoying heading down the shore on the weekends for some sun and everything the great New Jersey beach towns have to offer.

This year, make sure you aren’t flying too fast down the shore on the parkway or turnpike. The New Jersey State Police unveiled a new crop of patrol cars today that are being labeled “ghost cars”. In reality, they are black Chevy Caprices with a frosted image of the State Police logo on the door.

The cars are being used as an effort to curb speeding on New Jersey’s major roadways, which in the summer, are heavily trafficked by beach goers. The key to the design is that they will be more difficult to spot in traffic and will blend in. When you get pulled over however, there will be no mistaking the car for a civilian’s when you are reprimanded.

If you’re issued a ticket this summer, you should know your rights under New Jersey’s motor vehicle statutes and you should consult with an experienced attorney who can explain those rights and what options you have

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Casino Falls: A Roll of the Dice when an Injury Occurs

By Michael Paragano

May 26th, 2015

Casinos have been a hot topic for sometime in New Jersey. Some are closing while some are opening and re-opening under new owners. Whatever the case, casinos have long been a favored pastime of the people of the state. Outside of Las Vegas, Atlantic City is one of the biggest cities in the country for casinos.

While trying your luck at casinos can be a ball, a day trip or weekend getaway can turn into a real nightmare in no time when a fall and injury occurs. Much like other commercial businesses, casinos are responsible for making sure that any patrons that come onto their property are granted a safe place to do so.

Casinos and their employees are required to inspect the casino floors on a regular basis and ensure that there are no hazards present that pose a threat to a customer’s safety. Year after year, many of these casinos fall short of their duty and people are injured when they fall on the casino floor. Some of the causes of the falls include liquid substances, shoddy flooring and casino chairs and even food.

Now we are talking about more than just Atlantic City, as casinos are branching out to areas of Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. If you or someone you know is injured at a casino as a result of the casino failing to provide a safe environment, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You should contact an attorney to determine your rights.

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