Celebrate with Care!

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by many, whether of Irish descent or not. We here at Cooper Levenson want all of our clients, friends and family to celebrate with care.

On average, over 50 people are killed in traffic accidents over the St. Patty’s Day holiday. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day holiday approximately 40% of all motor vehicle accidents resulting in fatalities involved drinking and driving.

Senseless carnage on the highway, resulting in death or serious bodily injury, can easily be avoided by following some very simple guidelines:

  • Always designate a sober and reliable driver in your party to get you home safely.
  • If you drink at all, and do not have a designated driver, use a taxi, Uber, Lyft or similar car service. The cost of a car service pales in comparison to the cost of having a serious motor vehicle accident or DWI arrest.
  • There are apps available to help you get home safely. The NHTSA has a SaferRide app. Go to https://one.nhtsa.gov/link/saferride/. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend and identifies the user’s location so they can be picked up.

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun and enjoyable holiday where we get to enjoy time with our friends. Please be sure to keep it safe for yourself, your friends and family and all of your neighbors with whom you will be sharing the highway. In this manner, all of your St. Patty’s Day holiday memories will be fond memories!

Photo provided by the NHTSA

Brain injury after a car accident

You are at risk for a car accident in New Jersey every time you get in your vehicle. While any injury you may sustain during a collision could cause serious damage, one of the most potentially debilitating is trauma to the head. Here at Cooper Levenson Attorneys at Law, we understand the devastating effects that brain injuries can have on car accident victims, and we seek fair compensation for the trauma they endure. It is important to understand the signs of brain injury, as well as your treatment options, so that you can respond correctly.

According to the Mayfield Clinic, traumatic brain injury occurs when your brain jolts against the skull, causing bruising or swelling. One common cause of this type of injury is car accidents. In more severe cases, the impact could cause a breaking of internal nerves, which may cause you to lose consciousness for an extended period of time. TBI can also develop more severe physical issues after the initial impact. The swelling that occurs afterward puts additional pressure on your brain and the surrounding nerves. While this swelling may dissipate on its own, you may require surgical intervention to relieve the pressure.

Depending on the extent of the brain injury, you may experience dizziness, nausea and brief memory loss. Mild cases may require a visit to the doctor, but most severe injuries could require in-patient care at the hospital for constant monitoring. If you suffer severe TBI, you may have life-long effects, and possibly even an altered personality. When a major brain injury occurs, rehabilitation is often necessary to relearn simple everyday tasks, and to help you adjust to your altered lifestyle. More information about car accidents is available on our web page.

How Do I Stay Alert While Driving?

Most people in New Jersey probably understand the dangers associated with drowsy driving to an certain extent. However, according to UCLA Health, driving while tired may be as dangerous as drunk driving. It has the same effect on your mind and body’s ability to respond to the surroundings in a timely manner. In fact, an estimated 100,000 accidents occur annually as a result of fatigue behind the wheel. If you are planning a long road trip in the near future, or if you sense a regular sluggishness behind the wheel, you should be aware of the causes of drowsy driving and the steps to take to prevent it.

Drowsiness while driving may affect you for several reasons. If you are driving at a time during which you are normally asleep, your body will be programmed to rest at that time, and it may be difficult to stay awake. Most people’s bodies’ circadian rhythms expect nighttime sleep. Therefore, taking a road trip throughout the night presents a higher risk than daytime driving. Additionally, most adults admit that they do not get sufficient sleep. You need at least seven hours of sleep on a regular basis in order to give your body the rest it needs.

It is important to plan ahead for a long road trip, or alter your lifestyle if you find yourself fighting fatigue behind the wheel. Ask a companion to join you on your trip to help keep you awake, and relieve you of your driving responsibilities if necessary. You may also benefit from intake of caffeine periodically to give you boosts of energy. Most importantly, allow your body to rest. Get a full night’s sleep before driving, and stop for breaks when needed.

The Costs of a Car Accident

The United States does not have a healthy track record when it comes to car accidents. In fact, according to CNN, when analyzed in a group of 20 affluent countries, the U.S. had the highest traffic-related death rate. The study found that an average of 19 car accident deaths occurred every day in the United States in 2013. While deaths are the most serious consequence of an accident, there are other ramifications that affect drivers and their passengers as well. Therefore, it is important for drivers in New Jersey to know about the peripheral expenses that may arise after an accident.

CheatSheet estimates that the average person will file an accident insurance claim about four times throughout his or her driving years. While some experience more accidents, and some experience fewer, everyone should prepared for an accident at some point. One of the most obvious expenses is vehicle repair. This may vary dramatically depending on the type of insurance coverage the driver has. Another related expense is renting a vehicle while the damaged one is being fixed. Some insurance plans may not cover a rental, so it may come as a surprise out-of-pocket expense.

Perhaps the most costly expense after a more severe accident is medical bills. While the at-fault driver may be required to cover the costs, their payment may not take place immediately. In the meantime, the victim may have to pay the medical bills and wait for a reimbursement. Injuries may also result in lost work time and income. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a little bit of savings to cover the unexpected costs of a potential car accident.

Effect of sleeping pills on drivers

There are many factors which may affect drivers’ performance on the road in New Jersey. Driving under the influence of alcohol or while distracted by mobile devices has led to many accidents and deaths. However, there is another potential source of impairment for people behind the wheel: sleeping pills. ABC News reported an experiment that was conducted in a driving simulator. The subject took a sleeping pill containing zolpidem, the most common ingredient found in these products.

The effects of the drug 30 and 90 minutes after taking the pill were dramatic, severely altering reaction time and awareness of surrounding vehicles. However, the potential danger persists even after several hours. The medication recommends seven to eight hours of sleep before operating a vehicle. In fact, it may actually take 12 hours for the drug to leave the system completely, but many people do not allow that much time to lapse before getting behind the wheel. As more people seek prescriptions for sleeping medications, more negative effects have been discovered and added to the label as disclaimers. Ultimately, users of sleeping pills should understand the potential side effects and make careful decisions about driving after use.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, an added issue is the use of extended-release pills. Releasing zolpidem into the system over a longer period of time prolongs the effects and may impact drivers more severely the next day. The FDA recommends taking a lower dose in order to minimize these effects. This warning applies especially to women, who tend to retain the drug in their system for a longer period of time, but men are also encouraged to take a lower dosage.



Beware of “Ice Missiles”

By Randolph C. Lafferty

With the winter weather upon us, those of us who live in one of the cold-weather states will be dealing with snow and ice on motor vehicles. Everyone has probably observed, if not experienced, a vehicle covered in snow and ice driving on a highway. Then, without warning, some of the snow and ice break free and hurdle towards the motorists that are behind. Each year thousands of accidents are caused by these snow or ice “missiles.”

The problem has become so pervasive that many state legislatures have enacted laws to address the issue. In 2006, Pennsylvania adopted a law requiring the clearing of snow and ice from vehicles. New Jersey adopted a similar law in 2010 and Connecticut followed suit in 2014.

The New Jersey statute is N.J.S.A. 39:4-77.1 and requires that snow and ice must be removed by the operator from all surfaces before the vehicle is operated on the highway. Although the statute imposes a fine for simply operating a vehicle in this condition, if snow and/or ice should become dislodged from a moving vehicle and strike another vehicle or pedestrian causing injury or property damage, more severe penalties can be imposed. In this case, if the offending vehicle is a non-commercial motor vehicle the operator is subject to a minimum fine of $200 and maximum fine of $1000. If the offending vehicle is a commercial vehicle, then the operator, owner, lessee or bailee is subject to a minimum fine of $500 and maximum fine of $1500. Even aside from motor vehicle fines, if snow or ice thrown from your vehicle causes someone to suffer personal injury or property damage, you could also be subject to civil liability and responsibility as well.

So, the simple rule is to “clear the snow before you go”. You will be able to not only avoid fines and penalties, but also potential civil liability. If, however, you, a family member or friend are injured as a result of snow or ice that is carelessly propelled from another vehicle, please reach out to us at the Cooper Levenson Personal Injury Practice Group and let us help you secure fair and just compensation for your injuries.

When Accidents Happen

In my years of practice, I have addressed the issue of when accidents – whether due to car accidents, strokes, or other debilitating illnesses – happen unexpectedly. I have seen firsthand what difficulties this causes families.

While many people do prepare for end of life planning – i.e. a Last Will and Testament – often times people do not consider whether an accident or illness could occur and render them incapable of making decisions on their own behalf. Just like one should consider and prepare for what they want to occur upon passing, people should prepare themselves for when the unexpected happens. In this respect, a document known as a Power of Attorney is an extremely useful tool in providing another person with the ability to act on your behalf. This ensures your family’s operations will continue to run smoothly even in the face of injury or illness.

A Power of Attorney can be drafted narrowly or more broadly. This means that individual has the ability to provide broad authority or narrow authority to their “attorney in fact” to act on their behalf. Thus, when an accident or illness occurs, dependent upon what the Power of Attorney actually says, your affairs can continue seamlessly. While you may not be able to act on your own behalf, another person can.

In the event that a Power of Attorney is not in place at the time of injury or illness and you do not have the capacity to make decisions on your own behalf, your loved ones will need to institute formal guardianship proceedings to act on your behalf – a process which can be time consuming, expensive and avoidable.

Psychological effects for car accident victims

For the victims of car accidents in New Jersey, particularly pedestrians, the psychological damages may last much longer than physical injuries. The New York Times recounts the experiences of several of its own employees who werepedestrians struck by vehicles. These victims explain how their lives have been forever changed by that one event, including the loss of confidence and security as they go about their daily lives. Oftentimes this type of event leads to increased phobia, or even post-traumatic stress disorder.

The article reports that for more than half of the pedestrian accidents over a five-year span, the pedestrians were acting legally. In other words, they were crossing at a designated spot at the appropriate time. That statistic highlights the potential danger pedestrians face around motor vehicles, even when exercising caution themselves.

Mental health professionals have the enormous task of helping their patients cope with the psychological effects of a car accident. According to Psychology Today, one of the challenges that must often be overcome is developing an accurate picture of the client’s needs before providing treatment. For example, some victims suffer from multiple health issues as a result of their accident, a condition known as polytrauma. Some may even have suffered traumatic brain injury, in which case they should be referred to another specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Others may have chronic pain or PTDS. Whatever the exact psychological effect, victims of car accidents often need help to cope with their traumatizing experience in order to return to everyday life with confidence.

How to respond to a hit-and-run accident

Any car accident can be a traumatizing experience. The unexpected jolt and crunch of metal causes immediate stress in many. However, this experience can become even worse if the person at fault leaves the scene. The state of New Jersey takes hit-and-run offenses very seriously. The state’s driver manual says that a hit-and-run resulting in death or injury will result in a one-year suspension of license for the driver at fault. Furthermore, the driver may incur up to six months in jail and a fine up to $5,000. If a person is involved in a hit-and-run for the second time, his or her license will be revoked permanently.

For victims in a hit-and-run situation, it is very important to stay calm and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of people and property involved. MSN lays out specific actions to take. The most important step is to move to a safe location. If the accident took place in the middle of the road, immediately pulling off to the side or a parking lot is best. Attempting to follow the perpetrator is not advised, because it may result in further collisions. The accident should also be reported to the victim’s auto insurance company as soon as possible.

If it is safe to do so, it may be helpful to seek witnesses. Gathering the contact information of those who saw the accident take place may be beneficial for insurance claims, and possibly future court appearances. It is also necessary to document the state of the vehicle that was hit with as much detail as possible. Photos and an immediate written account will capture the scene more accurately than trying to recall details at a later time. Although most victims of a hit-and-run may not have had the opportunity to memorize the driver’s license plate number, recalling as many details about the offender’s vehicle as possible may prove beneficial in the search for the driver.



Teens and distracted driving: Statistics and safety measures

Distracted driving is a serious problem in New Jersey and around the country. In fact, it has become such an issue that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an initiative to alert the public about its effects and to offer solutions. According to NHTSA, driver distractions lead to fatalities that may exceed 3,000 per year.

Not surprisingly, young drivers are more susceptible to the temptations of distractions such as electronic devices. Use of these devices is particularly harmful because it takes not only drivers’ eyes, but also their mental attention, off the road. In one survey, participants indicated that they believe it is extremely dangerous for drivers to send and read texts, and statistics show that this is correct. However, responders in the 16 through 24 age group admitted to the activity at a much higher rate than adults over 25 years old. Perhaps this is one cause for the higher number of collisions experienced by younger drivers.

Despite the grim statistics, parents of teen drivers may take active steps to help their children make wise choices. The National Safety Council’s Drive It Home program outlines several recommendations for parents. Communication is key for parents of young drivers. An important step is to discuss clearly which behaviors are acceptable behind the wheel and which are not. Talking about safety is not enough, though. Because actions speak louder than words, parents also need to model good driving behaviors. Even when teens know what to do, it may not come naturally. Parents can facilitate good habits by riding along, paying attention, and offering pointers to their inexperienced drivers.