aggressive-drivingAggressive driving takes on many forms. It can be exhibited by excessive speed, tailgating, failure to signal, unsafe lane changes, illegal passing, and other dangerous driving behaviors. Often aggressive driving starts out as a driver trying to make up time, but this behavior could very easily result in a motor vehicle accident. What’s more, aggressive driving could lead to road rage – a situation in which one driver overreacts and deliberately seeks retaliation on another.

According to statistics, a majority of New Jersey drivers view aggressive driving as a real threat to their safety and to the safety of their families. In an effort to cut down on this risk, Gov. Chris Christie recently signed a new law that would add the dangers of aggressive driving to New Jersey’s new driver training program. For details, read Mike Davis’ recent article, “N.J. law aggressive driving education is inspired by teen paralyzed in road rage crash.”

trampolinesTrampolines have long been a favorite form of fun and exercise for children and adults alike. Now with the warmer weather approaching and thoughts turning to outdoor activities, it might be tempting to add this activity to your own backyard. Before you do, however, you may want to consider the risk of injuries trampolines pose.

According to an article on www.parents.com titled “What E.R. Doctors Wish You Knew,” injuries from trampoline accidents account for more than 90,000 visits to the emergency room each year. But ER doctors and pediatricians aren’t the only ones who caution against trampoline use. Insurance companies classify them as “attractive nuisances,” ranking them right up there with such risky attractions as abandoned refrigerators, swimming pools and unattended tools. In her article, “Trampolines bounce up homeowner’s insurance claims,” Linda Melone points out that some insurers won’t even write a homeowner’s policy if there is a trampoline on the property. Others, she writes, may write the policy but exclude the trampoline. Read the full article for more information about the problems and liabilities homeowners face when installing a trampoline on their property.

dog-bite-vacationRecent economic conditions have opened the door to new opportunities designed to make money for the creative entrepreneur while at the same time offering significant savings to the consumer. Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are prime examples of this, as is Airbnb, which offers housing accommodations to travelers at rates far more attractive than those offered by more traditional hotels and inns. Airbnb has the added advantage of offering lodging accommodations in locations not necessarily serviced by traditional resorts, like rural areas or residential neighborhoods.

The idea of gaining a true local experience by renting a house, or even a room, from someone native to the area you are planning to visit can be enticing, especially now as people plan their summer vacations. Before booking your trip, however, understand that this new trend carries its own set of risks. What happens if you suffer an injury from a fall or a dog bite? Traditional hospitality companies are insured against unexpected accidents, which may not be the case with private individuals offering their homes or portions of their homes for rent to travelers. Consider the following story by New York Times reporter Ron Lieber, “Questions About Airbnb’s Responsibility After Attack by Dog.”

teen-distracted-drivingOne of the most nerve-wracking events for parents of teenagers is when their child first begins to drive – and with good reason. Statistics released recently by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety confirm that distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents among young drivers. Michael Green’s article, “Distractions and Teen Crashes: Even Worse than We Thought,” identifies the most common factors leading to teen driver distraction and illustrates just how serious the problem is.

New Jersey’s graduated driver license program attempts to combat this problem by limiting the hours new drivers are permitted to drive and the number of passengers permitted in their vehicles. It also bans the use of both hand-held and hands-free devices for new drivers. For more details on New Jersey’s teen license restrictions, see New Jersey Graduated Driver License Program.

pet-insurancePet ownership can be a very rewarding experience, but it carries tremendous responsibilities that extend beyond the proper care and feeding of the animal. In addition to food, vet visits, training, socialization, and grooming essentials, pet owners are liable for injuries or damage their pet may cause to another person or their property. This liability can be substantial, especially if the pet attacks someone.

When the injury or damage is severe, as can be the case with dog bites, the pet owner can be held liable and possibly sued for medical expenses and other damages that can amount hundreds of thousands of dollars. Homeowner’s insurance may cover a portion of this liability, depending on the type and amount of insurance the pet owner carries, as well as any restrictions their specific insurance company may have. To understand whether or not your insurance will cover such damages, read Chris Kissell’s article, “Will your insurance pay out for pet damage?”

car-accident-insuranceAlthough the law in New Jersey requires all motorists to carry automobile insurance, not every driver complies. In response to this, New Jersey requires Uninsured Motorist Insurance (UMI) be built into automobile insurance policies issued in the State. While UMI covers the policyholder in the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, the coverage is subject to strict limits. This was evident in a recent lawsuit in which a Middlesex County jury awarded a New Jersey woman in excess of $8 million dollars, but her actual compensation was capped at less than $500,000. Read “Woman awarded $8.4 million in suit against own insurer.”

Victor Rotolo, founder of The Rotolo Law Firm, has spoken out on this issue previously, noting that being seriously injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver was one of the worse scenarios you could be involved in. He urges drivers to protect themselves by acquiring as much coverage as possible. To read more about his comments on this matter, see “Attorney Victor A. Rotolo Explains What to Expect if You Are in an Accident with an Uninsured New Jersey Driver.”

fatal-accidentA total of 40 vehicles, including at least two tractor trailers, were involved in a fatal accident on the New Jersey Turnpike last Monday evening. Some attribute the day’s wintry storm, which dropped snow, sleet and freezing rain on the roads, with causing the collision. Others say the crash could have been avoided had the roadway been properly treated. For more on this accident, read nj.com’s “Icy, fatal Turnpike crash ‘should never have happened,’ road’s former engineer says.”(1)

  1. http://www.nj.com/middlesex/index.ssf/2015/02/icy_fatal_pileup_on_nj_turnpike_should_never_have.html

fire-codesThe seven-alarm fire that destroyed a luxury Edgewater, NJ apartment complex last month, leaving 1,000 residents without homes, has led to a class action lawsuit and a call from some State and local officials for a review of New Jersey’s current building codes.

The fire broke out in the late afternoon of January 21. Investigators believe it was accidental, caused by a blowtorch used by plumbers working on repairs to a first floor unit. The blaze, which spread quickly, destroyed about 240 of the complex’s 408 units, threatened nearby residences and, because it burned for so many hours, resulted in local roads and schools being closed the following day. Fortunately no deaths or serious injuries were reported.(1)

Fire officials have reportedly pointed to several factors as possibly contributing to the intensity and speed at which the fire spread.

  • Workers reportedly contacted their supervisor before dialing 9-1-1, resulting in a 15-minute delay in emergency personnel being notified of the fire.
  • The complex was built using a lightweight wood and roof truss frame construction method which, although it meets code, is more fire-prone than some other construction methods.
  • While interiors of the apartments were equipped with sprinkler systems, there was a lack of sprinklers between walls and under the roof rafters throughout the complex.(2)

Some of these factors led to the filing on January 26 of a class action lawsuit against the complex’s developer, AvalonBay. The lawsuit claims the fire was a direct result of negligence on the part of the developer since that company, along with any of its delegates, has the responsibility for constructing and maintaining the property in a safe manner designed to avoid injury and/or damage to property. The lawsuit further claims that the developer either knew or should have known that the type of construction used at the complex increased the risk of fire.(2) Continue reading

settlementA Somerset County woman received a settlement of more than $1.6 million for injuries she suffered when hit by a falling ceiling tile while at the TGI Friday’s restaurant in the Blue Star Shopping Center in Watchung, NJ.(1)

According to reports, when a ceiling tile in the restaurant’s bar area fell, it struck the woman on the head and right shoulder resulting in injuries that required several surgeries. The incident occurred in November of 2010 and, reports stated, the woman continues to suffer from discomfort and pain as a result of her injuries. The case was settled earlier this month in a settlement conference heard in Somerset County Superior Court.(1)

Accidents resulting in injuries can happen at any given time. Determining whether you have grounds to file a personal injury claim depends largely on whether or not the accident resulted from the careless or irresponsible action of another party and if the accident could have been avoided had the other party acted appropriately.(2)

Personal injury lawsuits are civil complaints filed by an injured party against another person or entity, including a business or government agency, claiming that the accident resulted from the actions of that person or entity. Such lawsuits are usually heard in the State courts in the county where the accident occurred. Exceptions include cases where “small” damages, typically between $2,000 and $5,000, are being sought; or in cases involving parties who live in different states and damages that exceed $75,000. The former cases usually are heard in the small claims division of a state court, while the latter cases can be filed in federal district court.(2)

The majority of personal injury cases are resolved through settlements before going to a jury. In settlements, like the case cited above, both sides agree to an amount to be awarded and forgo any additional action. Whether a personal injury case goes to trial or is resolved through settlement, preparation is the same.(2) Continue reading

dog-bitesAll too often people are drawn in by the cuteness of puppies and undertake the responsibilities of pet ownership without giving adequate thought to what that actually involves. This can be especially true around the holidays. And while that little ball of fluff initially may be met squeals of delight, pet ownership is a lifetime commitment that carries both responsibilities and liabilities.

Generally speaking, people do not set out to buy or adopt vicious dogs, but all dogs have the potential to bite under the right circumstances. There are roughly four-and-a-half million dog bites reported each year in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control, which added that one in every five of those dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention. About 65% of the victims who require emergency medical attention are between the ages of five and nine.(1) The individual responsible for injuries suffered from a dog bite depends in part on where the dog lives and the circumstances surrounding the attack.

New Jersey, like many other states, operates under a strict liability statute concerning dog bites, meaning the dog’s owner is liable for those injuries regardless of whether or not the owner took adequate measures to restrain the dog or warn or protect others of a potential danger. This “strict liability” statute applies only to injuries from dog bites. If a dog were to run into the street causing a person to fall or crash their car, the statute would not apply. The injured person seeking to recover damages would have to file a claim of negligence instead.(2)

When a person is injured by a dog bite in New Jersey, he or she has two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit. In order for a victim to seek damages, he or she does not need to prove negligence or carelessness on the part of the dog owner. Victims only need to show that they were bitten; that the person they are seeking damages from is, in fact, the owner of the dog; and that the attack took place while the victim was on public property or lawfully on private property, meaning they were on private property by invitation or in the course of carrying out official duties as allowed by law, such as delivering mail or reading utility meters.(2)

Some states with strict liability statutes allow a provocation defense which releases the dog owner of liability if it is proven that the victim provoked the dog through abuse or teasing.  New Jersey, however, does not have such a defense. Essentially, the only defense against liability for dog bite injuries is if the dog owner can prove the victim was illegally trespassing on the dog owner’s private property.(2) Continue reading