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Personal Injury

Friday, November 1, 2019

Pedestrian InuriesWhile Walking Outside the Crosswalk

“Pedestrians always have the right of way.” This is an often-repeated phrase, and one that is likely best to follow, but is it legally correct? If you’re driving down the street and someone walks into the road and is struck by your car, are you responsible? The answer is murky.

Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked. If within a crosswalk, any injuries sustained will likely be the fault of the driver. However, even when outside of the crosswalk, drivers may still be at fault. Most states apply a standard of “reasonable care” to both drivers and pedestrians. This means that a driver must always exercise reasonable care and pedestrians must do the same.

Certain activities are frequently found to violate the pedestrian’s standard of reasonable care. Jaywalking, or crossing outside of the crosswalk, is often found to violate the duty of care. Thus, if a pedestrian were hit outside of a crosswalk, it is likely that the pedestrian would be found to have contributed to the accident. Whether a pedestrian is at fault is paramount to any personal injury suits that the pedestrian may bring.


Read more . . .


Friday, October 18, 2019

Legal Options After Being Hit by a Drunk Driver

In 2010, more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population self-identifies as having driven while impaired by alcohol each year. The risk that impaired drivers place others in is often understated. When driving impaired, a driver’s reflexes are slowed and his or her judgment is compromised. As a result, states are taking a tougher stance against drunk driving. Recently, the State of Utah reduced it’s per se BAC limit from 0.08 to 0.05. This means that if your BAC is 0.05 or higher, you are deemed to be driving while intoxicated regardless of any challenge you may bring regarding your capacity. If you’ve been the victim of a drunk driver, then you know all too well the threat that drunk driving poses to others on the road. However, you may not be aware of your legal options after being hit by a drunk driver. 

If you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover for damages suffered as a result of the wreck. However, you cannot bring a criminal action against a drunk driver. Criminal prosecution is a power reserved by the state. Thus, while the prosecutor may consult with you regarding the drunk driving case, the prosecutor is not bound to honor your wishes or act in a certain way as directed by you. As a civilian, your legal options reside fully within the civil courts.

When bringing a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover a variety of damages resulting from your injury. Damages seek to compensate you for your injury. While damages cannot turn back the clock, they can help you with expenses and life-changing circumstances. Some claimable damages include:

  • Out of pocket medical expenses – Any expenses that you incurred as a result of the wreck may be claimed as damages.
  • Future medical expenses – Any expenses which you will be required to incur as a result of your injuries may be claimed as damages. For individuals suffering substantial injury, future medical expenses may be the most important damages to recover. 
  • Personal property damage – any personal property that was damaged in the wreck may be claimed as damages. This includes your car and smaller items, such as a phone which may have been destroyed.
  • Lost wages – Any foregone earnings as a result of the wreck may be claimed as damages. For example, if you were unable to go to work for two weeks following the wreck and had to forego $2,000 in pay, then you may be able to claim that $2,000 as damages.

Proving damages is a complex legal process that requires a skilled personal injury attorney. If you have been injured by a drunk driver, consult an experienced personal injury attorney near you to discuss your legal options.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Spinal Cord Injuries Overview

The spinal cord is a long “cord” of nervous tissue that extends from the brainstem to the lower portion of the back. The spinal cord is the communication highway for the human body. It facilitates the communication between your brain and the rest of your body. When the spinal cord is damaged, the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body is often impaired. 

How serious is a spinal cord injury?

Exceptionally. Because the spinal cord allows for communication within your body, the inability to communicate can result in the loss of feeling or control of body parts that can no longer communicate with the brain. This can cause numbness in limbs and paralysis in more severe cases. In the most extreme cases, a spinal cord injury is deadly.

How are spinal cord injuries diagnosed?

If you believe that you may have suffered a spinal cord injury, you should consult a doctor immediately. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose a spinal cord injury. In diagnosing spinal cord injuries, doctors will employ X-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate whether the spinal cord has been damaged. Additionally, the doctor may employ tests such as sensitivity and muscle strength tests to determine whether there is a communication issue between the brain and the rest of the body. 

Can a spinal cord injury heal on its own?

Rarely. Due to the specific make-up of nervous tissue and the scar tissue that forms around the injured nervous tissue, the spinal cord is generally unable to heal itself. For those who have suffered a spinal cord injury, the effects are likely to be permanent without proper treatment. 

What treatments are available for spinal cord injuries?

At the moment, no known treatment exists to effectively reverse spinal cord damage. Unfortunately, damage to the spinal cord is most often permanent. However, this does not mean that there aren’t treatments and other remedies available to help individuals recover, regain mobility, and return to their normal lifestyles.

Currently, prostheses and medications are used to help patients cope with spinal cord injuries. New treatments are constantly under research, but at the moment, there is no federally approved treatment that can help the spinal cord heal. However, a recent study by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases found that the cancer drug epothilone reduced the formation of scar tissue surrounding spinal cord injuries and stimulated growth in damaged cells in animals. This treatment is still far from involving human patients, but it presents significant progress in the search for spinal cord injury treatment. 

Spinal cord injuries are life-changing and can result in exorbitant medical expenses. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine what actions may be available to you.


Friday, September 6, 2019

How the IRS Treats Personal Injury Awards

You've reached the end of your personal injury lawsuit and finally have the award you deserve. Court costs, attorney's fees, medical costs, and other expenses will need to be paid. But what about the IRS?

Most personal injury awards are not subject to federal taxes. The tax treatment of your award will be the same, whether it was reached through trial or settlement. However, personal injury awards are complex and contain both taxable and non-taxable parts.

Non-taxable

The portion of your award that compensates you for physical injuries is generally not taxable. Medical bills are perhaps the most significant portion of your award that falls under this category. 

Pain, suffering, and emotional distress damages are also not usually taxable. But these must be directly related to your physical injuries. Property damage is another type of award that typically does not get taxed. The IRS views all of these as reimbursement to the victim and so excludes them from federal taxes.

Taxable

On the other hand, lost wages are taxed. This is an award intended to compensate someone for work that was missed due to an injury. However, had the person not been injured and had earned that money, it would have been taxed. The IRS therefore will tax any portion of damages covering lost wages. Some plaintiffs also deduct out-of-pocket medical costs on previous tax returns. If you wrote off these sorts of eligible expenses in a previous tax year, the compensation you receive for them will likely be taxed.

In some personal injury cases, the court awards punitive damages. These are designed to punish particularly offensive behavior on the part of the defendant. The IRS considers these awards to be in addition to the actual losses incurred by the plaintiff, and so they will be subject to tax.

It's important to understand how exactly your personal injury award is divided up among all of the different types of damages. Failing to make this distinction could subject the entire amount to taxes. Talk to your personal injury attorney so you understand exactly what you have been awarded.

One way to manage personal injury taxes is to use what are called structured settlements. These pay the plaintiff over time instead of all at once, which could lighten the tax burden. 

When you've received news of your award or settlement, have your attorney categorize each part. Talk with a tax professional who can provide assistance specific to your situation, and who can also advise as to any tax consequences from your state taxing authority. Tax laws and regulations change every year, so be sure to get the most updated advice from an expert.


Friday, August 16, 2019

How to Prove Mental and Emotional Distress After an Automobile Accident

Car accident victims often suffer more than just physical injuries. The effects of mental and emotional distress can compound trauma long after the injuries have healed. A victim can be compensated for these types of injuries. Because mental and emotional damages are not always as obvious as physical ones, however, they are typically more difficult to prove.

What is emotional distress?

Evidence of distress includes anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, apprehension, and confusion. Some accident victims lose interest in things they once enjoyed, or experience dramatic shifts in their attitudes and temperaments. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, take note of these and other changes you observe.

There are various types of evidence that may substantiate a claim of distress, not the least topf which is therapeutic, psychiatric, and prescription records. In addition, witness testimony from family, friends, co-workers, and other individuals can attest to changes in someone's disposition after an accident. At times, video or photographic evidence can provide some of the strongest proof that a victim's demeanor has been altered.

As with any accident case, you will need to establish liability to claim distress.  This means proving the other driver was negligent in his or her actions, and that the negligence caused the accident.

However, not everyone affected by an accident can assert mental or emotional distress. The law is narrow enough to prevent individuals from claiming distress simply over hurt feelings or the shock of witnessing something. For example, random, unrelated bystanders to an accident cannot claim distress. If that were the case, the number of claimants could be astronomical. 

A victim who sustains a physical injury, which in turn causes mental or emotional anguish, can claim distress. But there are also cases of non-injury distress resulting from an accident.  An example of this is loss of consortium. This refers to the deprivation of a family relationship because of an accident, such as the death of a spouse or parent.  

In court, it will be your lawyer's job to attempt to quantify the degree of mental or emotional distress. Numerous factors will be taken into account, including the intensity of suffering. The duration and underlying causes of the distress are also relevant, along with the physical injuries (if any) associated with it. Finally, psychological symptoms can demonstrate the degree of the victim's suffering.

The Takeaway

In the final analysis, mental and emotional distress is a complex blend of science and law.  Accident cases usually require expert witnesses and extensive medical records. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash, make sure you get the treatment you need. Follow all advice from your physicians, therapists, and other mental and emotional health professionals.  Lastly, speak with an accident attorney about your rights.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Why You Should Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer Before Agreeing to a Settlement

A car accident can cause major disruption to your life. Not only do you want your injuries to heal, you just want things to get back to normal. Insurance companies know this, so they act quickly to make a settlement offer. While that dollar figure may be enticing, there are several reasons you should check with an attorney before accepting.

Don’t Settle for Less

Settlement offers tend to be way lower than they should be. Remember, insurance companies are businesses. Their goal is to minimize damage – dollar payouts – as fast as possible. So the sooner your case goes away, the easier it is for them. If you speak with an insurance adjuster, which you should never do before talking to a lawyer, that person may come across as sympathetic. But at the end of the day, you're a dollar figure to the insurance company.

In addition, many injuries worsen over time. Still others do not reveal themselves until months or even years later. Insurance companies aren't thinking about later, and they're counting on you not to, either. A proper settlement will account not only for current medical bills, but future ones.  Having an experienced automobile accident attorney in your corner will help evaluate whether the offer is a fair one. 

A good settlement will not only account for medical expenses. It will take into consideration pain and suffering, lost wages, decreased earning capacity, and numerous other things. If you're thinking about an offer, have you calculated all of these (and other) damages? An accident attorney can help evaluate your case and determine whether the offered amount is truly comprehensive.

Bear in mind, also, that settlement agreements tend to be complex works of legal writing put together by insurance company lawyers. They're not drafting these documents with your interests in mind. They have experience doing hundreds and thousands of these agreements, and they know which legal terms and clauses to use that will protect their bottom line. Once you accept a settlement offer and sign the agreement, there is no redo. You cannot renegotiate. And you certainly cannot take your case to court. There may also be restrictive terms such as non-disclosure agreements built in. With so much at risk, it just makes sense to have a lawyer review an offer before you sign.

The Bottom Line

A settlement offer can be a good thing. At the right amount, it can get you the payments you deserve without the time, stress, and delay of going through the court system. But don't be fooled into believing the insurance company and its lawyers are working for you. Have an experienced automobile accident attorney review the terms of settlement before you sign onto a costly mistake.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

What Does Joint & Several Liability Mean?


Joint and several liability is a concept applicable in many areas of law, including contract, debtor/creditor, partnership, insurance/indemnity law, real estate and personal injury law.  

In the context of personal injury (otherwise known as Tort Law), a key concept is negligence.  In order to prove negligence, there must be a duty of reasonable care, a breach of that duty, causation and damages.  A plaintiff in a personal injury case must prove there are actual losses caused by the defendant’s breach of the duty of care.  A plaintiff who is damaged by a defendant’s negligence will want the court to make the plaintiff whole again with compensation for such past, present and future losses, such as medical expenses, pain and suffering/impairment (mental and physical) and loss of earning capacity.
Read more . . .


Friday, June 14, 2019

Children and School Injuries: What are Your Legal Rights?

Roughly 10 to 25 percent of accidental injuries for children occur while they are at school. An estimated 2.2 million students will suffer an injury at school each year throughout the country. If  your child was injured at school or on school grounds, you may be able to obtain compensation for the harm he or she endured. The legal remedies vary depending on the cause of the injury, however.

Teachers and support staff have a significant responsibility when it comes to caring for your child. There are times when their  failure to supervise or react appropriately to certain situations can create legal liability for the school. In other circumstances, poor maintenance or inattention can also create a legal obligation.

Premises Liability at School

Keeping students safe while on the school property is extremely important. When the school property is not well maintained, students are at a higher risk of being injured.

All  property owners have a duty or maintain  their property and provide a safe environment to visitors. Because schools are used by young children, however, schools have a more significant responsibility when it comes to upkeep and ensuring that the location is safe.

Parents of children who have been injured at school because of poor  maintenance or negligent supervision can bring a legal claim against the school. These situations include slips, trips and falls or if school employees fail to  provide aid to your child if he or she is harmed in an accident on school grounds.

Bullying in Schools

Bullying is a big issue today. It occurs in schools across the country, and it can make children unsafe while attending school. When a school fails to take action to stop bullying behaviors, it can be legally liable for any injuries that your child endures. This action may include things like suspending or expelling the bullying student. It is vital that the school utilize its own code of conduct to address poor student behavior.

Bullying instances can also create liability for the parent of the bully as well. That is, the bully’s parents may be liable for any harm that the bully causes your child.

School-Related Product Safety

Children handle a wide range of unique products at school, including toys, lunch boxes, and school supplies. Some of these products can pose risks and have been subject to recalls. For example, BPA-lined plastic containers were recently recalled because of the unsafe chemicals.

When your child is harmed by a product, you may have a legal claim against the manufacturer, even though it was the school that exposed your child to the product. In some situations, the school may also be liable, particularly if they  had reason to know that the product was dangerous or defective.

Getting Legal Help

If your child has been harmed at school, you may have legal options. It is a good idea to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine how to  help your child after an injury at school.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Common Injuries in Rear-End Collisions

Rear end collisions are extremely common, often resulting in serious injuries. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that there are roughly 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the United States every year. Even small fender vendors end up costing drivers millions of dollars every year. Because these collisions are so common, they often result in very similar injuries and damages. The most common injuries are described below.

Back Injuries

Back injuries resulting from rear-end collisions vary widely in seriousness. They can be minor and last just days or weeks, or affect you for the rest of your life. The force of the impact of this type of collision can compress your spine, which may harm your vertebrae and discs. Disc herniation is common after a rear-end collision.

Spinal cord injuries are also relatively common. If your spine presses on the nerves in your spinal cord, it can result in pain, numbness, and even the inability to move other parts of your body.

Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when your neck is stretched to its capacity and then quickly contracted frontward and backward or from side to side. It is r the most commonly cited injury resulting  from rear-end collisions. Roughly 20 percent of the individuals involved in a rear-end collision will suffer from whiplash injury. Whiplash injuries can damage ligaments and tendons in your neck. Pain can last just a few weeks or even more than a year in severe cases.

Wrist, Finger, Hand, and Arm Injuries

Your mind and body will instinctively  try to protect you in a rear end collision. This often means  you may try to stop yourself from moving forward by placing your hands on the dashboard or seat in front of you. The force is usually too much for your body to handle, which leads to broken bones, sprains, and other injuries.

Head Injuries

In some situations, the force of the impact may lead you to hit your head on the steering wheel, dashboard, or chair in front of you. Even if the airbags deployed, you may still end up striking your head on something that can cause serious damage. A head injury often results in loss of consciousness, concussions, lacerations, bruising, and swelling. Head injuries should always be taken seriously, and you should seek medical attention as soon as you can after the accident.

Seat Belt Injuries

You should always wear your seatbelt every time you get into the vehicle, but the nature of rear-end collisions make seatbelts somewhat dangerous. The most common injuries associated with belts are bruising and lacerations, but seatbelts have been known to cause internal injuries as well.

The Takeaway

Regardless of the seriousness of your rear-end collision, it is a good idea to seek medical attention after an accident. It is not only important  for your health and safety, but it may also help your personal injury case.


Friday, May 31, 2019

Dealing with an Uninsured Driver After a Car Accident

Car insurance is not only beneficial,  it is also legally required in every state in the U.S. However, t some drivers fail to  obtain insurance coverage or are underinsured, which poses unique challenges. In these situations,  recovering damages is quite different than in the typical car accident case.

Involving Your Own Insurance Company

In many situations, you can turn to your own insurance company if the at-fault driver does not have insurance coverage. However, you can only do this if you have specific additional forms of insurance coverage.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Some states require a certain level of Uninsurer Motorist Coverage (UIM) while others do not. Most states that do not require it force insurance companies to offer it, however, so you may have this type of coverage and not realize it. Nonetheless, you might have had to purchase this extra form of coverage separately for it to apply. Check your insurance policy language to determine if you have UIM insurance.

Generally,  UIM coverage does not exceed  your standard liability coverage. In other word,  if you have $100,000 in total liability coverage per accident, that will be your UIM limit as well.

Collision Coverage

Another option that involves your own insurance company is collision coverage. This type of insurance covers  repairs to your vehicle that are caused by an accident. It will usually apply if you are in a crash with an uninsured driver or were the victim of a hit-and-run. While this type of coverage is helpful for property damage, it does not cover injuries sustained during or after the collision.

Coverage in No-Fault States

If you live in a no-fault state, whether the other driver has insurance may not affect you as much as if you lived in a fault state. This is because drivers in no-fault states will look to their own insurance for coverage first. The other driver’s insurance only matters if the injuries are severe enough to go above your policy’s limits.

Your Other Options After an Accident

In most situations, you have the option to file a lawsuit against the other driver, regardless of whether he or she has insurance. This is true if you have a severe injury in no-fault states as well. However, while you certainly have this option, it may not be a practical solution in many situations.

People often do not carry car insurance because they cannot afford the regular payments. If someone cannot afford to pay car insurance, they likely cannot afford to pay for a judgment against them to cover your injuries either. While you certainly can take steps to acquire the funds through other means after you obtain a  judgment (e.g., a garnishment or levy), such efforts often cost more in fees and time than you stand to gain.

If you have been involved in an accident with a driver  driver who does not have insurance or is underinsured, an adept personal injury attorney to can help you explore all of your options.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Hurricane Insurance and Why You Need It

Hurricanes are the mightiest natural events on Earth. In size, they can exceed the entire state of Texas. In energy, they contain hundreds of times more energy than even the largest tornado. Unfortunately, these natural events readily turn into natural disasters. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Florida and the Gulf Coast with a storm surge of nearly thirty feet and more rain than the area could handle. Much of New Orleans was underwater and took years to recover. All in, Hurricane Katrina caused approximately $110 billion in damage.

Similarly, Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas in 2017. As a category 4 hurricane, Harvey brought more than forty inches of rain causing many areas of Houston to flood and displace tens of thousands of residents. All in, Hurricane Harvey caused approximately $125 billion in damage. While these are two of the costliest hurricanes in United States recorded history, smaller hurricanes threaten the southern and eastern parts of the United States every year. The United States Congressional Budget Office estimates that on average, hurricanes cause $28 billion in damage each year.

For many homeowners affected by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey, their only option was to walk away from the property because the cost of repairing the house was simply too great without hurricane insurance. Many planned to use their homeowners insurance to pay for any damage caused by a hurricane. While homeowners insurance policies will cover hurricanes, they have special deductibles that can make an insurance claim for a hurricane damage extremely costly, such as requiring a certain percentage of the insured property’s value to be paid as a deductible. Additionally, most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. In New Orleans and Houston, flooding was the major cause of damage which left many homeowners without any coverage for the damage. To protect against hurricanes and the unique risks that come with them such as flooding, you need a specific bundle of insurance commonly referred to as hurricane insurance.

Hurricane insurance is not an actual policy – it is the combination of two underlying policies. The first policy is the homeowners insurance policy which covers direct damage from the hurricane such as wind damage. However, as noted, homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, thus creating a coverage gap if a hurricane hits. The resolve this gap, flood insurance should be added to the bundle to protect against the flooding that comes along with hurricanes. By combining homeowners insurance with flood insurance, the homeowner is protected from direct hurricane damage such as windstorms and indirect hurricane damage such as flooding.

As a result, when considering hurricane insurance make sure to analyze the deductible for windstorms and hurricane damage as these can significantly change between policies, and be sure to get flood insurance to complement your homeowners insurance protections. Finally, if you’re looking at purchasing a property in hurricane affected areas, make sure to consider the cost of homeowners insurance and flood insurance as these can be very expensive in areas that are high-risk for hurricane damage and flooding.

 


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Lawrence M. Gordon, Attorney at Law, P.C. has offices in Garden City, NY and assists clients throughout Long Island, including: the north shore of Long Island, The Town Of Oyster Bay, The Town Of North Hempstead, The Town Of Hempstead, The Town Of Huntington, Nassau & Suffolk Counties & throughout the Five Boroughs of The City Of New York.



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