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Stankowitz & RichardsonProtecting The Injured
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New Jersey crash results in deaths of 2 teens

A community is in shock, and high school students are receiving emergency grief counseling, after a head-on collision that claimed the lives of two teenagers in Ringwood, New Jersey. The two teenage boys lived in nearby Wanaque, where they formerly attended the regional high school and were still known to the students there. The driver was 19 and his passenger was 17. Authorities pronounced each dead at the scene.

The accident occurred last Wednesday afternoon on the Greenwood Lake Turnpike. The section of road where the collision took place is relatively straight and sees few accidents despite the turnpike's reputation for curves. For reasons that are still unclear, the 19-year-old driver of the southbound vehicle clipped a guardrail after veering onto the shoulder. The vehicle then spun into the opposite lane, where a van driving in the other direction hit the vehicle head-on. Responders transported the sole occupant of the van, a 64-year-old man, to a hospital in Paterson, New Jersey, for treatment of minor injuries. The current condition of the van driver is unknown. 

Study: Cognitive distraction and hands-free cellphones

Millions of people across the country are guilty of using their cellphones while navigating the busy roadways. Sadly, approximately 391,000 people were injured and 3,450 were killed in catastrophic car accidents in the United States during a one-year period. As a result, many states, including New Jersey, prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. Some drivers have started using hands free cellphones as a way to use their cellular devices while staying in compliance with the law. Studies show, however, that even hands-free cellphones pose a risk to drivers and other people who are sharing the road.

A study published by AAA found that hands free cellphones still generate a significant amount of cognitive distraction, which could lead to car accidents. Researchers asked participants to engage in several distractive tasks while operating a simulator vehicle, as well as an actual vehicle equipped with monitoring devices. The tasks included:

  •          Talking to a passenger in the vehicle
  •          Maintaining a conversation using a hand-held cellphone
  •          Using a hands-free cellular device
  •          Listening to the radio
  •          Listening to an audio book
  •          Composing an email using voice activated technology

The top causes of house fires

Almost nothing can be more terrifying than the thought of being trapped in a house fire. Unfortunately for many residents of New Jersey and elsewhere, this fear becomes a reality, especially in the winter months. This month, according to U.S. News & World Report, a 72-year-old woman from Edison died in the hospital two days after being rescued from a fire in her home. Authorities said she suffered from smoke inhalation, but they had not yet released a cause for the fire.

It is possible that one of five main causes of house fires resulted in the fire that tragically took this woman’s life. The National Fire Protection Association has listed these factors for the public’s safety and awareness. They include the following:

  • Candles, with New Year’s Day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve being the top three days house fires are started by candles in the United States
  • Cooking, especially with a gas stove or barbeque
  • Electrical fires, particularly those started by faulty or outdated wiring
  • Heating equipment, such as space heaters or fireplaces
  • Smoking, such as when someone falls asleep with a lit cigarette or fails to properly put out a cigarette butt

With workers’ comp, it’s about location, location, location

One of the overriding factors about workers’ compensation in New Jersey is where the accident happened. Unless very specific circumstances are met, if you are injured on the work premises you can argue for workers’ comp and if you are even one foot off the work premises when you are injured, arguments for workers’ comp will fall flat.

It’s called the premises rule and it means simply that where you are when you are injured makes a big difference.

Electronic logging devices for truckers

The issue of truck driver fatigue is one that has plagued the commercial trucking industry for a long time. Residents in New Jersey know that truckers are often behind the wheel for many long and lonely hours at a time. In addition, drivers are frequently on the road during the dark when the inclination to be tired may be even greater than in the daylight. This puts other motorists or people on the road at risk when a trucker does not take adequate breaks to stay alert when driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a total of 295 lives were lost in New Jersey between 2013 and 2017 in motor vehicle accidents involving large commercial trucks. This number of fatalities highlights the ongoing problem of truck safety on area roads and highways.

Pedestrian and motorcyclist fatalities in New Jersey

If you or someone in your family rides a motorcycle in New Jersey, you have good reason to be concerned about the actions of drivers in other vehicles. The same holds true for pedestrians and the reality is that anyone can be a pedestrian at different times, not just those who walk or jog for exercise. Even walking across a parking lot makes one a pedestrian at that moment and makes them vulnerable to serious injuries if hit by a car, truck or sport utility vehicle.

According to records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed in accidents in New Jersey jumped dramatically from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, 163 pedestrians died after being hit by motor vehicles. The following year, that number jumped by 20 to 183. Motorcyclists experienced two consecutive years where the number of bikers hit and killed rose. In 2015, 50 motorcyclist fatalities were recorded. The following two years, there were 71 and then 83 biker deaths on New Jersey roads.

Understanding negligent entrustment

For those in Toms River that have been involved in motor vehicle accidents, perhaps nothing is more disheartening to learn that their insurance payout will not be enough to cover their accident expenses. In such cases, people may feel as though they have little choice but to take legal action against the drivers that caused their collisions in order to earn compensation. However, in those instances where a crash was caused by a blatantly negligent, reckless or incompetent driver, the odds of such a driver having adequate insurance coverage themselves may be slim. So what are accident victims to do at this point? 

The legal philosophy of negligent entrustment allows car accident victims to assign vicarious liability to parties who may have loaned their vehicles to poor drivers. The logic behind this concept of shared liability is that the vehicle owners had to have known (or should have known) that the people they were borrowing their cars to were either irresponsible or incompetent behind the wheel. Even with this knowledge, however, they loaned out their vehicles anyway, thus inadvertently putting others at risk. Indeed, New Jersey state courts had recognized for years in the their rulings that entrusting a vehicle to one who lacks legal authority or competence to operate is considered to be negligence. 

The attractive nuisance doctrine

Parents in Toms River send their kids out to play each day with the hope that they will exercise sound judgment in all their actions. Depending on the age of a child, however, that expectation may be unrealistic. Young kids, in particular, can be especially curious, often only learning through experience. The trouble with this is that their curiosity may lead them into dangerous situations (whose risks they do not fully appreciate). 

The law has attempted to make up for this lack of understanding by creating the attractive nuisance doctrine. Per the Cornell Law School, this establishes the threat of liability for property owners whose lands contain potentially dangerous attractions if those property owners do not take adequate steps to protect kids from said attractions. This standard often holds true even in cases where a child may have come on to a property to investigate an attractive nuisance without permission. 

How you can protect yourself against road rage

For some people, when a football game does not go their team’s way or when frustrations from work are just too much, they may end up taking their anger out while out of the road. Driving angry, which can easily slip into road rage, is an all too common fact in our lives and it can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities.

Road rage has become so prevalent, it is likely that most people don’t need to get into the car already in a bad mood to have it happen to them. Dealing with normal traffic situations seem to be enough of a trigger. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released information stating that 78 percent of respondents to a survey reported that they had engaged in at least one act of aggression towards another driver in the past year.

What does prevention through design mean for you?

At your job in New Jersey, you probably learned about the risks that are an inherent part of your responsibilities when you went through the hiring process. Your employer may have provided training designed to help you learn about how to use specific equipment or machinery safely, as well as how to mitigate certain risks to protect your safety and wellbeing at work. 

Something else that your employer may use is a technique called Prevention through Design. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this method of creating processes at work encourages your employer to prevent risks by working them out before a process is put into use by you and your cohorts. Anything from facilities to machinery that you can tangibly touch to how a process is created and organized should be thoughtfully analyzed to eliminate any danger. In some cases, this may require your employer to redesign or modify certain things to meet adequate standards to protect you and the other workers who use whatever is being analyzed. 

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Rosenberg, Kirby, Cahill, Stankowitz & Richardson
29 Main Street
Toms River, NJ 08753

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