In The City That Never Sleeps, Construction Accidents Never Stop

Back in 1979, the death of a 17-year old college student at one of the country’s most prestigious universities shook the city. She was needlessly killed when a large piece of masonry fell from one of the school’s most neglected building facades. Now, 42 years later, the same prestigious university has been issued numerous safety citations over yet another one of their decaying structures.

Ultimately, the school was ordered to erect a scaffold and a sidewalk shed in order to avoid any other deadly accidents.

Last March, in Queens, a 35-year old construction worker who was riding on the back of a transport vehicle was killed when the driver of the vehicle failed to lower the forklift. The victim hit his head on a low ceiling, fell off, and was pinned by the vehicle.

This same construction property had been issued four stop-work orders last year, and had more than 50 active violations including working without a permit. Unfortunately, there were signs that a fatality was likely to happen. And last May, a security guard was killed and a 27-year old construction worker was hurt when an 8 X 14 foot panel of glass fell from one of Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers.

In all instances, the buildings/construction management had been inspected and warned to get their operations up to code. As is too often the case, many of these tragic accidents could have been avoided if building owners/construction site management simply obeyed the law.

You May Consider Your Dog Family; But NY Considers Him Property

If you are an animal lover, you are not alone. In the U.S., nearly 70 million households own dogs; and 74 million own cats. That is a lot of pets, and a good number of people consider their pets to be family.

In 2013, a New York judge agreed. He presided over a custody hearing for a miniature dachshund named Joey in what was New York’s first matrimonial pet-custody case. However, the law nationwide has not yet caught up to public opinion. And despite cases here and there of judges treating pets as “family,” under New York law, your cat or dog still is about as valuable as your toaster oven. Pets are considered property in New York.

Not only can that fact cause you emotional turmoil when arguing over the custody of a pet, it also can cause you emotional turmoil should someone harm your pet, intentionally or unintentionally. Because pets in NY are not considered sentient beings, the amount of financial compensation you can recover for emotional distress, for example, if your neighbor were to harm or kill your pet, is quite limited, and very much depends upon the judge in your case.

Since 2003, there has been a movement across the nation to change the status from pet owners to “pet guardians,” largely in the hopes that the change in language will assign more value to your cat or dog. Cities like San Francisco, for example, have adopted that terminology, as have Boulder, Colorado; Berkeley and West Hollywood in California; Sherwood, Arizona; Amherst, Massachusetts; Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin; and the entire state of Rhode Island. New York, though still regards Fido as a thing and not a being.

What Does That Mean?

That means that should someone harm your pet, you are entitled to sue for what the law considers “market value.” Determining that market value may be tricky unless you have a pet that is a pure-bred champion in the ring. Most people have mixed breeds, and determining their value often hinges upon emotional attachment.

Of course, you may be entitled to veterinary care compensation, so keep careful track of vet expenses and ask your veterinarian to do the same. Unfortunately, in New York, the amount you can recover should someone harm your beloved pet often depends upon which judge is hearing your case. Of course, for expert advice, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

A Lie By Any Other Name Would Still Be Against The Law

In the Law, we call lying perjury. Perjury in Court, in a deposition, or committed to legal documents is serious business.

When an individual appears in Court and takes an oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, then tells a lie, not only may that put a case at risk, it also may put that individual’s freedom at risk. In general, judges do not look too kindly upon witnesses who knowingly lie to the Court. The American legal system, although not perfect, depends heavily upon getting to the truth of the matter in order to achieve justice. Lying under oath (or perjuring one’s self) shakes the very foundation of our legal system, and in plain English, the system then cannot work properly.

In New York, as most everywhere in this country, there are “degrees” of perjury charges: First Degree, Second Degree, and Third Degree, with First Degree charges carrying the heaviest penalties. Of course, much depends upon the discretion of the judge, but perjury can mean from one to seven years in prison and/or from $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.

In considering the relative seriousness of perjury charges, generally the Court will weigh how relevant the perjury (or lie) is to the matter at hand. In other words, if a witness lies under oath about something not directly related to the case, it probably will not be dealt with as harshly as it would were he to lie about a fact that has a direct impact on the case. Nonetheless, any lie by any witness calls into question that witness’s credibility. Begging the question: should the judge and/or jury believe that individual since he lied about something else? The truth matters. The absence of the truth adversely affects peoples’ lives.

Because the truth is the basis of our legal system, generally New York perjury law, Penal Code article 210, does not allow for ignorance. In other words, if a witness lies but incorrectly believes that lie is immaterial to the case, the Court will not allow that defense. That determination is not up to the witness. Nor will the Court allow a lack of competence as a defense. Perhaps, the thinking is, if someone is competent enough to lie, demonstrating a certain amount of cunning, that person is competent enough to know the lie is wrong.

Although I have not often come across clients who will perjure themselves, I still always stress the paramount importance of being truthful in Court, in a deposition, and in legal documents. The repercussions of perjury are personally severe, and dishonesty can destroy even the best personal injury case.

When under oath, when being questioned by an officer of the Court, when signing legal documents, if you cannot remember the truth, do not know the truth, or even if the truth is something you would prefer not to know, perjury is not the answer. If you are unsure or don’t know the answer, say so.

If You’re In Litigation, Watch Your Tweets

Social media is a great way to connect with old friends and classmates, promote your business, or join networks with individuals who share common interests. However, social media sites also invite the public, at large, to “get to know you.” And if you are in the middle of a personal injury litigation, you need to be very careful about how much personal information you share online. Just like I’ve talked about many times before, people, especially insurance carriers, really are watching you.

Just think of a situation where an insurance carrier has captured you driving your car or unloading bags of groceries on videotape. In court, your attorney might be able to argue that the carrier has merely taped a single snapshot – just one moment in time where, despite the fact that you have multiple lumbar spinal herniations and should not be lifting anything over five pounds, no one else was around and you were forced to do something strenuous. That one instance of surveillance might not be that significant. However, if instead a carrier happens to read your FaceBook post where you are skiing in Aspen or doing a walk-a-thon for a cause, the carrier could argue that those activities are a part of your lifestyle – that you really are not that physically impaired. When you, as an injured client, describe these kinds of activities, a jury may be hard-pressed to find in your favor.

In addition to descriptive posts, any photographs you share on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram or the like, can be evidence for the defense. You might ask, what’s the difference between being surveilled on tape or posting photos of yourself on social media. Here’s the difference, if you are under surveillance, and the carrier captures you doing everyday activities, your attorney could make the case that you are doing what you need to do in order to take care of yourself or your family. But, if the carrier’s attorney presents photographs of you sky-diving, or Tweets of your adventure hiking on the Appalachian Trail, let’s just say that you probably should not expect a very good outcome.

Of course, if you let slip some ordinary activity on FaceBook such as vacuuming or lifting something heavy by yourself, your attorney could, again, argue that you were simply trying to persevere despite your disability. However, most (but certainly not all) people do not post ordinary, boring details of their lives online. What I am talking about here is the need to avoid giving ammunition to the other side. High octane activities like skiing, dancing, or running, even if your participation in them is minimal, could hurt your personal injury case. But, to err on the side of caution, while in the midst of a personal injury litigation, it is a good idea to avoid social media altogether.

Make no mistake, whatever you post online is considered public domain – you are not protected and have no expectation of privacy. Also, you can just assume that what you share online will stay there. Regardless of how much time goes by, if someone is conducting a search on you, they eventually will find posts, tweets or images you have posted. The internet, like love, sometimes, is forever.

The Loss Of A Loved One

Certainly, we all know and have experienced the loss of a loved one from old age or illness that takes him or her from us far too soon. Coping with
such a loss is overwhelming, and acceptance, no matter how old your loved one was, is never an easy process.

And although it is never easy to accept loss, it is even more difficult to accept the loss of a loved one that occurred because of negligence; because someone or some entity did something reckless or did not do something to avoid being reckless. When that act of recklessness causes the injury or death of an individual,
his or her family may indeed have cause to hold the appropriate person, people or organization accountable.

It is called “wrongful death.”

Beyond the tragic loss of the person you love, is the very real prospect of financial devastation, family disruption, and emotional turmoil that comes with the reality that your loved one’s death did not have to be. Rather, his or her death was the result of an action of lack thereof that could have prevented the tragedy.

Although never a replacement for the person you love, there well may be compensation available that is much-needed for funeral expenses, medical
bills before death, income, pension benefits, and future loss of wages – all things that the average family will likely face, particularly when the individual who died was a primary wage earner with dependent children.

Additionally, there may be compensation or “damages” available due to this wrongful death which includes pain and suffering, love, support, care, comfort or loss of enjoyment of life.

Again, no amount of money can ever really make up for the tragic loss of a loved one, but this type of compensation serves two purposes: first, it helps families and individuals left behind with the realities of life; and second, it is punitive towards the negligent party or parties, and perhaps serves as a serious lesson learned.

What Does A Wrongful Death Case Entail?

A wrongful death case often is quite complicated. Even after proving negligence, there are other pertinent issues that need to be addressed.
An experienced personal injury attorney will have in his or her circle highly qualified accountants, estate attorneys, and financial planners that can assist families as they try to put their lives back together.

The Noll Law Firm has significant experience
in this area of personal injury, and offers free
case assessments.

Showdown With A Semi

You don’t have to imagine, since we have all been there. It’s a rainy night, with low visibility, and suddenly (at least it seems that way) a multi-ton semi-trailer barrels up behind you. The road is narrow, and you have nowhere to go. Nor can you go any faster under the circumstances.

Just one short stop could spell trouble for you and your passengers. So, you trod on, maintaining a safe speed which apparently is not fast enough for the large vehicle behind you. But, what if you have to stop short? What if, in your desire to put some distance between your car and the tractor trailer tailgating you, you skid? What then?

Although operators of oversized vehicles have an obligation to obey the rules of the road, sometimes they act as if they own it, instead. And when it comes to “match-ups,” too often that sedan or minivan has little chance of sustaining an accident with a big rig. Unfortunately, that can mean devastating injury to the driver of the car – something I have seen many times in my practice.

I have had clients who have been in rehabilitation for many months; I have had clients with severe brain trauma or spinal cord injuries and are never the same; worse, though, I have had clients whose family members sustained fatal injuries. It is difficult enough coming to terms with the physical and emotional effects associated with these injuries. And often victims of this type of personal injury do not immediately consider the financial impact they will yet face.

However, if you’ve been injured in an accident with an oversized vehicle such as a big rig or semi trailer, you very well may be entitled to recover compensation for vast medical bills as well as lost wages – especially if you need intense rehabilitation that can last months or even years. Remember also that sometimes you may sustain injuries from a truck collision that causes permanent damage and renders you unemployable for years or forever.

When it comes to choosing a personal in
jury firm for such an accident, make sure to choose one with many years of experience. Additionally, try to insure that the law firm you select has intimate knowledge of the federal and state regulations governing the conduct of truckers.

Your personal injury attorney should make sure that the negligent trucker as well as the company he or she works for is held accountable for your personal injuries. While nothing can be done to assuage your pain, suffering, and financial difficulties, a personal injury lawsuit may help you gain a sense of closure or peace of mind.

Should you or someone you know become injured due to the negligence of a trucker, contact The Noll Law Firm for an assessment of your case.

What Is A Pain Management Specialist: And When Do You Need One?

We can have pain as a result of all kinds of problems including chronic illness or surgery. However, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on pain as a result of accident or injury.

All too frequently, after an accident or injury, and well after all physical wounds are healed, pain continues. Sometimes, pain eventually dissipates, but sometimes pain lingers for months or even years after the accident or injury occurred. When that happens and it is obvious that your neurologist or orthopedist cannot relieve the pain, it may be time to see a pain management specialist.

A pain management specialist has special training in assessing, diagnosing and, of course, treating pain. He or she also has knowledge of the latest and most effective treatment modalities such as epidural steroid injections, nerve block injections, pain medication, and physical rehabilitation; and has the expertise to oversee any physical therapy that may be necessary.

How To Choose A Doctor

First, discuss your chronic pain with the doctor you currently are treating with such as your orthopedist, neurologist, or primary care physician. Ask your treating doctor whether a pain management specialist might be a wise course of action. If so, then likely your doctor will provide you with a referral. However, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, make sure your pain management specialist is board certified. That is an important consideration not only for your own treatment, but also for any potential litigation you may pursue. The Courts tend to look more favorably on opinions offered by physicians who are board certified in their fields when considering the medical facts of the case.

Keep in mind that most pain management specialists have medical training in anesthesiology or physical medicine and rehabilitation. He or she will have had to become board certified in their primary specialty first. Then, they obtain a sub-specialty board certification in pain management.

After you’ve had the opportunity to check out credentials (visit: nydoctorprofile.com), you can have an initial evaluation performed and ask about the pain management physician’s treatment philosophy, i.e., does he or she support conservative or more invasive treatment methods, and what, exactly are those treatment methods?

Like all first-time doctor visits, your pain management specialist will want your full medical history, and likely will conduct a comprehensive interview to determine the severity of the pain, the location of the pain, and the frequency of the pain. This will help him or her to create a highly personalized treatment regimen for your specific impairment.

Be prepared to complete a lengthy impairment questionnaire which your pain management specialist will include as a part of your medical record. Relieving your pain can take some time. Your pain management doctor may try several different treatment options before finding one that is most appropriate for you. So, be a patient patient. Generally, it is well worth the wait.

It Happens Every Day: Nursing Home Abuse

“At 83 years old, unable to speak, unable to fight back, she was even more vulnerable than she was as a little girl fleeing her homeland. In fact, she was as vulnerable as an infant when she was raped. The dignity which she always displayed during her life, which was already being assaulted so unrelentingly by Alzheimer’s disease, was dealt a final devastating blow by this man. The horrific irony is not lost upon me … that the very thing she feared most as a young girl fleeing her homeland happened to her in the final, most vulnerable days of her life.”
– Mary Fischer, at the sentencing of the man who raped her mother.

Tragically, it happens every day across America: elderly patients suffer from abuse and neglect at the hands of their caretakers. In the above instance, 83-year old Sonja Fischer, suffering from Alzheimer’s, was raped by the man whose job it was to attend to her well-being. After an investigation, it was discovered that the abuser had been working for the facility for eight years, and his vile conduct had gone unnoticed. That is not surprising because many nursing home patients, like Sonja Fischer, are afflicted with Alzheimer’s or dementia, making them unable to communicate with their families.

However, even when a nursing home patient does have the ability to communicate, too often they are too fearful to do so. Instead, they suffer extreme loneliness and depression. That is why it is up to their families to be diligent and carefully monitor their loved ones.

How To Handle It

First, visit your family member often, not just during holidays or birthdays. He or she needs to continue to feel connected, and frequent visits are the only way to notice changes in behavior or even signs of physical neglect. And while visiting, do a little investigative work of your own. Ask your elderly relative questions. Inspect them for bruises, cuts, or bedsores. Look around the room to see whether it is clean. Make sure the food menu lines up with nutritional needs.

Also, ask your elderly relative whether someone responds when he or she calls for help, and how long it takes for that response. Ignoring repeated calls for help is often a sign of neglect.

Second, if you suspect abuse or neglect, immediately report it to the administrator, and make sure that report is documented in black and white. Your complaint then becomes a part of the record, should you need it.

Finally, stay on top of it! A nursing home should not be a warehouse; it should be a welcoming, comforting environment where your loved one is safe and cared for. The more you show up and show an interest, the less likely it is your mother, father, aunt or uncle will suffer abuse or neglect.

Suffering In Silence: When An Accident Messes With Your Head

We talk a lot about the physical manifestations of accidents from minor to serious injuries. However, never overlook the potential psychological effects that arise from accidents that can have even more long lasting consequences.

An accident, almost by definition, is an unexpected trauma. You wake up, get ready for work or school, or prepare to drop off the kids, and suddenly, without warning, your car is hit while you’re waiting for a light to change. Or, you’re walking to the bus stop and fall over a faulty piece of concrete. Either way, that unexpected event can change life as you’ve always known it.

If you suffer serious injury, that accident can put you in the emergency room; or, it can prompt you to hire a personal injury attorney and begin a lengthy litigation. But it also, sometimes unknowingly, can make you scared to death of having another accident. In fact, I have had clients that have developed phobias around driving cars or even leaving their houses. Aside from any physical damage they may have suffered, the lingering psychological effects can ruin their lives.

How To Know You Have A Problem

This may very well be the problem. During the trauma you and nearly everyone else is solely focused on your physical well-being. Is anything broken? Do you have full control over your senses? Do you have headaches? Those are the questions that arise first.

Somewhat like traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma may go undetected. If you have ever had the tragic experience of losing a loved one, this phenomenon is similar. In the beginning, you are consumed with stress. You may make funeral arrangements, and greet friends and family in the process. Then, days or even weeks later, the grief sets in. In other words, that very loss keeps your brain focused on what you have to do until you no longer have to do it. Then, you are left just with the grief and the psychological damage that results from that loss.

So, you may have a serious accident, get through the physical stress of hospitals, doctors, diagnostic tests. Then, you are left with the traumatic memories of how your life changed in an instant.

What To Do

Be aware of how you feel. Are you more anxious? Are you depressed? Can you bounce back into your routine of work or school? If not; if you find yourself more and more isolated; more and more disinterested in leaving the house, or terrified of getting in the car, it is time to seek psychiatric help. Just like physical injuries, psychological injuries only get worse when they go untreated.

When A Pedestrian Is Injured

Much like motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents give little to no cover to the pedestrian to prevent serious injury. Despite stricter traffic laws in recent years including slower speed limits and increased pedestrian walk-ways, people continue to get hit by motor vehicles simply by walking down the street, and those injuries can be anywhere from serious to deadly.

Distracted Driving

Even at low speed, a driver can be distracted. And today, there are more sources of distraction than ever before. Just glance around at a traffic light to see how many of your fellow drivers are answering cell phones, or worse – texting. That split second when you check your messages or call a friend can sometimes mean the difference between being aware of the road and the people on it, and running someone over. And, according to the law, there is little doubt that should you drive distracted, you are culpable when, not if, someone gets seriously hurt.

In A Hurry

In today’s fast-paced world, everyone is in a hurry: in a hurry to get to work; in a hurry to get to a doctor’s appointment; in a hurry to pick up the kids; or, in a hurry to meet friends for dinner. Therefore, the temptation to drive fast and above the speed limit is more than tempting – it sometimes becomes an imperative. However, that three to five minutes you may save getting to your destination, may very well be some innocent person’s loss if you cannot stop in time. And again, the law mostly looks upon speeding, then hitting a pedestrian as your fault.

What Happens?

It is wise to think for a moment about what can happen to an individual if he is struck by a car, truck, or motorcycle. Optimistically, he may just be pushed out of the way and sustain few if any injuries. However, in too many instances, that is not the case, and the impact of even a vehicle as small as a Smart Car, can be devastating – that is, on average, about 1,000 pounds of moving metal against an average 150 pound human being. Simply no contest. That man or woman may sustain broken bones, multiple herniations, or worse, a head injury from which he or she may never recover. And not only will that injured individual suffer physical trauma, he or she may be out of work for a time, or forever, extending the impact of that accident to a family he or she may be responsible for. His personal life and his professional life may be forever changed.

We all should drive with care. And, should you be a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle, make sure to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.