New Jersey Leads the Fight Against Distracted Driving

Last year, the New Jersey Legislature passed what many are calling “the toughest hands-free cell phone law in the nation.” This year on July 1, 2014, the new bill ( P.L. 2003, c.310 ) went into effect, amending New Jersey’s Cell Phone Law ( N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 ), which results in enhanced penalties for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone.

The new graduated fines for cell phone use while driving are nearly on par with DUI penalties and at least one provision is the same as a DUI charge. Here are the new laws that you need to be aware of:

  • Handheld cell phone use is prohibited. Hands-free devices are permissible.
  • Any texting or smart phone activity (such as playing video games) while driving is prohibited.
  • Drivers 21 and under with only a learner’s permit may not use any electronic device, including hands-free cell phone devices and even iPods.

Penalties for violators are as follows:

  • $200 – $400 for a first offense
  • $400 – $600 for a second offense
  • Up to $800 for third and subsequent offenses including 3 points against license along with a possible 90-day license suspension

These new penalties now go hand-in-hand with New Jersey’s Kulesh, Kubert’s, and Bolis Law ( N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5 ).

This bill, which was amended two years ago, states that a driver could be charged with vehicular homicide if a death occurs due to a driver’s distracted cell phone use. Penalties would include a fine of up to $150,000 and prison time, similar to DUI manslaughter punishments.

One item the recent legislative session did not bring to the floor was the possible consequences of texting and driving while drunk. Statistically, the two activities combined make an extremely dangerous situation for both the driver and others on the road. Regardless if this measure is taken up in the future or not, New Jersey still remains a leader in protecting passengers and drivers on state roadways.

If you have any questions regarding the new NJ distracted driving laws that went into effect, contact our office at 973-325-7711.

Uninsured Motorist Laws In NJ: What They Mean For You

We have insurance to protect us from the unexpected. Getting in an accident with an uninsured driver is a risk we all take when driving. To protect people from that risk, the State of New Jersey used to require that all motorists carry uninsured motorist coverage. Unfortunately, in an effort to combat high insurance premiums, the State no longer protects all motorists. New Jersey insurance companies are now allowed to sell you “Special” and “Basic” polices that do not offer this very important protection.

On “Standard” policies only, New Jersey requires the following minimum uninsured motorist coverage, along with your regular car insurance:

· $15,000 to cover injuries suffered by a single person in an accident;
· $30,000 to cover injuries by everyone involved in the accident;
· $5,000 to cover property damage caused by the accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage is inexpensive and you should cover yourself in the amounts you would want in the event of an accident. You should purchase as much as you can, however, you can only purchase up to what is covered for others. For example, if you have a policy that has 100/300 bodily injury limits for others, you can buy that same amount for yourself. The minimums are merely the lowest amount required by law.

When does your uninsured coverage kick in?

Your uninsured motorist coverage is designed to cover you when the other party has no insurance. This coverage also applies when the car that hit you was a stolen vehicle or the driver that hit you took off right after the accident (Hit and Run). Included in the uninsured coverage is under insured coverage. This covers you if the other party has less insurance than you do and your injuries are worth more than the other party’s policy limits.

To collect on your claim, you will have to prove that the other driver was at fault in the accident. If you were partially at fault, your insurance company may reduce your claim by the percentage you were at fault in the accident. If the other driver is at fault and has insurance, then your initial claim must be to the other driver’s insurance first. Only the unpaid amount will be covered by your insurance. However, if their coverage is inadequate, your insurance carrier will have to authorize your settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.

Collecting from Your Insurance

Like any insurance claim, the insurance company will investigate and look for a reason to deny your request should you file an uninsured motorist claim. Even though it looks clear to you, they may see a problem and seek to deny your claim.

They may claim your injuries were insignificant or that the other driver’s coverage was adequate enough for your injuries. Regardless, many times people need to resort to retaining a personal injury attorney to obtain a fair amount from their insurance company.

More importantly, you will likely need a lawyer just to find out what coverages are in place — otherwise, you risk losing money because you did not realize you had more coverage available. You purchased this coverage to cover your injuries and you have a right to it. That’s why uninsured motorist coverage exists.

Can Social Media Content Be Used Against You In New Jersey?

With the popularity of social media sites skyrocketing in recent years, the courts in New Jersey as well as elsewhere have just begun to address how and when social media content can be used for or against parties in civil court cases. According to a recent New Jersey Law Journal article, the courts are now beginning to weigh in on the discoverability and admissibility of social media posts from sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

While the issue of access is still a bit unclear in the Garden State, neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania are beginning to set precedents that the New Jersey courts may end up following.

As an example, suppose a plaintiff has filed a lawsuit for a personal injury and is seeking compensation for damages. However, during the time the plaintiff claimed to be injured, he/she posts pictures from a recent gym class depicting strenuous activity and exercise. Despite these posts being “private” within Facebook, the courts are now beginning to determine the relevancy of such items and how they can be used as evidence.

Prior to the social media age, private investigators hired by insurance companies would typically be asked to acquire this type of evidence for the courts. However, with many individuals now sharing every intricate detail of their lives on Facebook and Twitter, the lines between invasion of privacy and relevancy are now being drawn in cyberspace.

As more courts begin to rule on this issue, it will be no surprise when it is determined that posts on social media, even if they are not intended for the general public, are admissible in NJ civil cases. In fact, Facebook’s own privacy policy states that the disclosure of a user’s information may be made “pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other civil or criminal requests.”

As a personal injury law firm that represents clients in all types of accident and injury cases, we always advise our clients to be truthful in everything they say or do following an accident and to stay off social media sites.

In light of recent rulings and the way things appear to be headed, it should always be assumed that whatever you share on social media could very well be used against you in your case. Always use good judgment and refrain from posting updates, videos or photos that you will have to explain down the road. The last thing you want is a seemingly innocent Facebook update being used to deny you your rights as an accident/injury victim.

For more information or if you have any questions on this matter, feel free to contact our law firm at 973-325-7711.

Greenberg Minasian Attorneys Nominated for Top 100 Trial Lawyers

West Orange Accident Attorney

Greenberg Minasian, LLC is proud to announce the nomination of William S. Greenberg Esq. and Lawrence D. Minasian Esq. to the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyers for Civil Plaintiff Attorneys. This prestigious organization recognizes the top trial lawyers in the United States based on their qualifications and skills. In addition, it offers the highest-quality education programs for trial attorneys, as well as a quality network of talent willing to interact and share ideas.

As an invitation-only organization, Top 100 Trial Lawyers Membership is extended to only the most qualified attorneys from each state. One of the goals of the organization is to support the importance and value of the trial setting. The following video from the National Trial Lawyers President explains this valuable concept:

The networking opportunities, advocacy training, and continuing education that the National Trial Lawyers makes available to its members becomes a great asset for the clients at Greenberg Minasian.

We are excited about the opportunity of this nomination and what it will offer to our firm and clients in our area.

Distracted Commercial Drivers

Distracted Commercial Drivers

Despite their reputation as the best drivers on the road, commercial motor vehicle operators could be the original distracted drivers. Long before cell phones, CB Radios kept truckers connected to each other—and distracted. Even though the CB had few buttons to push, it was hardly hands free. Additionally, since long-haul truckers live and conduct business in their cab, activities such as eating, drinking hot coffee, doing paperwork, and even checking out the sights while driving have long been problems. Then came the cell phone . . .

The Danger of Cell Phones

The advent of the cell phone meant that truckers didn’t have to stop to place a call to their dispatcher. Cell phones connected truckers to the rest of the world but also became another distraction. Texting became mainstream around the year 2000 and surpassed telephone calls as the dominant mode of communication in 2007. Texting while driving became the ultimate distraction.

In 2010, the Federal agency that regulates commercial trucking, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) passed a rule “limiting the use of wireless devices” and in 2014 announced “New texting and mobile phone restrictions for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.” The FMCSA seems proud of the announcement despite the lag time between acknowledging the problem and passing any meaningful regulations.

Unfair Fight

Trucks and cars travelling at 70 mph may appear most of the time to play well together but even a slight disagreement during a lane change would show how tenuous the truce is between these two vehicles. Their compatibility is an illusion. Truck – car accidents usually result in catastrophic injuries or death, with the car absorbing the worst of it.

Who Started it?

Even though truckers are anxious to blame these accidents on the car, they are like any other accident; negligence played a major role. As mentioned above, CMV operators are susceptible to distractions, the same as any driver. However, trucks don’t respond or maneuver as well as a car. A minor distraction, even a glance, is much more difficult to correct in a timely manner.

Also, trucks are more susceptible to mechanical failures that result in accidents. When trucks are inadequately maintained or if owners cut corners on tires and other, essential items, they create circumstances that even the best driver can’t overcome. Fleet owners that cut maintenance corners become liable for injuries caused by their negligence.

Dealing With the Aftermath

Everything involving a truck is bigger, including the legal aftermath of an accident.

When anyone has been in an accident involving a commercial truck, they will not only have to confront their injuries and property loss, they will be facing a cadre of attorneys representing the insurance companies of the driver, truck owner, and any maintenance companies. These attorneys go to work immediately after the accident in an attempt to absolve their clients of liability.

Victims of a truck accident may feel like their whole world has collapsed, but they do have an important benefit available to them. Because truck accident attorneys only collect fees from the settlement they win, truck accident victims are able to retain an experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled attorney to fight for their just compensation and legal rights. Since initial consultations are free, victims of truck accidents can relax and focus on their recovery.

Greenberg Minasian Wins $17 Million Verdict for Client

Angelique Baker wasn’t able to keep her appointment. She stepped off the New Jersey Transit bus with time to spare but her bag string got caught in the door that had closed before she was clear. The accident reconstruction expert hired by Ms. Baker’s attorney showed that the bus dragged her for over 25 feet before she broke loose and slipped under the rear wheels of the bus which drove over her mid-section.

Ms. Baker’s appointment was changed to the Emergency Room and later to Intensive Care as she struggled to survive her extensive injuries including severe hip, leg and arm injuries as well as head trauma.

A Dramatic Change of Plans

At 39 years of age, Angelique was five months into a successful battle against her past addictive behavior. She missed her appointment that fateful day in 2011; her efforts cut short by a door that closed too soon.

On February 21, after a six-week trial, it only took the jury a little over an hour to reject the defense and award  a $17 million verdict to Angelique. Her attorney, William Greenberg commented on behalf of himself and his law partner, Lawrence Minasian:

“We are very pleased with the verdict. The two of us lived with this case since the accident and saw firsthand how devastating the injuries were to Angelique. This verdict reinforces our belief that a person’s past history must not overshadow the devastating injuries and pain with which Angelique continues to suffer. These monies will allow her to get the proper medical care and home care she so desperately needs for the rest of her life.”

Your Share of This Verdict

There is no doubt that Angelique needs and deserves this verdict. If it were you, you would expect the same. However, there are other benefits we all share when a jury does the right thing.

Every transit company in the U.S. should be examining this case and adjusting training procedures to ensure that every driver is properly trained so that this type of accident never happens again.

William S. Greenberg Accepted as a Master Of Court By the Brennan-Vanderbilt Inn of Court

William S. Greenberg has been recently accepted as a Master of the Court by the Brennan-Vanderbilt Inn of Court.

The term, Inn of Court, is not well known in American legal culture, however, the appellation is well known in England where it originates. Inns of Court were English societies, unchartered and unincorporated, that were responsible for legal education dating back to the mid-13th Century.

American Inns of Court were formed in the 1980’s to emulate the English Courts in principle; becoming informal societies intended to improve ethics, skills, and professionalism in the U.S. legal system. Since then, several hundred Inns of Court have been founded. Members include judges, lawyers, law professors, and law students. Each court meets monthly to share a meal and hold discussions on topics related to the intent of each organization.

Inns of Court function as informal mentoring societies; where Masters and Barristers impart their experience and wisdom to other associates and law students.

The Brennan-Vanderbilt Inn of Court, based in Essex County, New Jersey, was formed by the 2007 merger of the William J. Brennan Inn of Court and the Arthur T. Vanderbilt Inn of Court. The Inn seeks to promote legal excellence in civil litigation and fidelity to the highest standards of professionalism.

The Inn offers its pupils the guidance of its Masters in monthly presentations on specific areas of practice, supplemented by the opportunity to practice their skills in smaller pupilage groups hosted by some of the pre-eminent firms in the area.

Masters and Barristers enjoy the opportunity to discuss issues in the law in an informal setting with their peers as well as members of the Essex County Judiciary.

The opportunity to discuss law in an informal setting with colleagues one might normally oppose in court is intellectually stimulating and expands an attorney’s perspective.

William Greenberg has been involved at all levels of the court. Each level offers important perspectives and training no matter how experienced the practitioner. As a newly appointed Master, Mr. Greenberg looks forward to the opportunities to share what he has learned with his younger colleagues, while honing his skills in the process.

As a New Jersey personal injury attorney, William Greenberg stays at the forefront of personal injury law. His position as Master exemplifies his commitment to ongoing innovation and improved skill in his field of expertise.

New Bill Would Require Drivers in Accidents to Submit to Sobriety Tests

The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would make it mandatory for any driver involved in a traffic accident where a fatality or a serious injury occurred to take a sobriety test. Currently, traffic officers cannot require a driver under such circumstances to submit to a blood or breath test unless the officer has a clear suspicion that the driver was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

From 2004 to 2008, 33 to 37 percent of all traffic fatalities in New Jersey were alcohol-related. During this period, 26 to 31 percent of those fatalities involved drivers who had blood alcohol levels of 0.8 percent or higher. In 2008, there were 590 fatal traffic accidents of which 154 involved at least one driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.8 percent or higher. A driver is considered to be impaired if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.8 percent or higher.

A driver cannot be forced to take a sobriety test, but a refusal to take either a breath or blood alcohol test can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a license suspension of up to two years. If the driver has had multiple drunk-driver offenses, the fines, license suspension and prison time increase as well.

Provisions of Proposed Law

The proposed law would enable New Jersey law enforcement to require drivers in serious or fatal auto accidents to submit to sobriety testing, regardless if the police officers have any clear suspicion or can point to any objective fact for believing the involved driver was impaired. This could result in more traffic accidents being determined as alcohol-related because more drivers will probably submit to testing, although it may encourage some drivers to refuse the test due to the gravity of the situation and the desire to avoid self-incrimination.

Also, an impaired driver’s conduct in a serious or fatal traffic accident can be considered egregious behavior subjecting the driver to punitive or exemplary damages that his or her auto insurance is not likely to cover if there is a punitive damages award in a civil matter.

Working With an Experienced Attorney

In any matter involving serious or fatal injuries, it is best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you of your legal options and basis for an injury claim.

Elder Abuse in New Jersey

We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients in every city and county in New Jersey including Essex, Hudson, Union and beyond. Our West Orange office is located in the heart of Essex County just off Route 280 and minutes from the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike. We are easily accessible from every major roadway in the state. Our Hudson County office is conveniently located in downtown Jersey City and public transportation stops right at our doorstep to either office. Schedule an appointment for your free consultation today.

When people consider elder abuse they often think of nameless strangers taking advantage of or physically harming or neglecting the elderly. However, it is becoming increasingly more common that the perpetrator of the abuse is a beloved family member of the abused.

The reasons for taking advantage of or neglecting an elderly relative are many, from wanting cash and preserving an inheritance to needing money for bills and expenses. However, it is not always those with nefarious motives that end up abusing or neglecting the elderly. Gwen Orlowski, director of the New Jersey Division of Elder Advocacy, notes that even relatives “with the best intentions” may end up “mistreating their loved ones unintentionally through frustration or exhaustion.”

Orlowski also noted that only a few cases are reported to New Jersey law enforcement because “many incidents don’t rise to the level of a crime.”

What can be done to protect the elderly from relatives who seek to take advantage of them or harm them? For one, New Jersey social service agencies can seek to have an offending relative’s power of attorney or guardianship rights removed.

In 2007, there were 2,249 cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly. In 2008, the number climbed to 2,492. David Ricci, the coordinator of New Jersey Adult Protective Services, expects the number to grow even further when the total number of cases for 2009 is counted. While these numbers may include more than strictly abuse by a relative, elder abuse appears to be a growing issue in New Jersey.

Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities

Elder abuse can take many forms and can generally be defined as doing or failing to do an act that results in the risk of harm or harm of an elderly person. Abuse can be sexual, emotional, physical, exploitation or neglect. While elder abuse and neglect happens at the hands of loved ones, abuse and neglect also occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

In New Jersey there is a difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities. New Jersey provides nursing home residents with a Bill of Rights to protect their safety and prevent abuses. Assisted living facilities are bound by a separate set of regulations, which are similar yet distinct from the statutes governing nursing homes.

Along with the statutory/regulatory difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there is a general, practical difference. Assisted living facilities generally provide less care than nursing homes. Thus, if a loved one is still independent and, for the most part, able to care for themselves, then an assisted living facility may be the appropriate setting. However, if a loved one is less independent and needs assistance on a more regular basis, a nursing home may be the best place for them.

Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights

To help protect the elderly and prevent abuse in nursing homes, the state of New Jersey has established the Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights.

According to the Resident’s Bill of Rights, nursing home residents have certain rights, including:

  • Right to manage own financial affairs, unless a guardian authorizes (in writing) the nursing home administrator to do so
  • Right to wear own clothing
  • Right to retain and use personal property, unless it would be demonstrably unsafe to do so
  • Right to receive unopened mail
  • Right to a private telephone at own expense
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to a safe and decent living environment
  • Right to reasonable opportunity for interaction with the opposite sex

According to the Resident’s Bill of Rights, nursing homes have certain responsibilities, including:

  • Maintaining a complete record of all funds, personal property and possessions of residents
  • Providing for the spiritual needs of residents by making arrangements, at resident’s expense, for attendance at religious services
  • Admitting only the number of residents that the nursing home believes it can safely and adequately provide care for
  • Ensuring that medications are not used for punishments or administered for the convenience of the staff

If a nursing home is found liable for violating a resident’s rights or failing to perform any affirmative duties, the resident is able to recover punitive and actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs.

Assisted Living Facilities

The rights of residents of assisted living facilities are established in the New Jersey Administrative Code. Though these rights are similar to those given in the Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights, there are differences. Specifically, assisted living facilities are exempt from the recourse available under the nursing home statutes. However, those who suffer abuse while at an assisted living facility have recourse through a negligence action.

Generally, to bring a successful negligence action against an assisted living facility the following elements will need to be met:

  • The assisted living facility had a duty of care
  • The assisted living facility breached the duty of care
  • The breach of the duty of care was the proximate cause of the injury
  • The elderly individual suffered an injury

Possible Signs of Abuse or Neglect

If you suspect that an elderly relative is suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of a relative, nursing home or assisted living facility, there are warning signs that you can look for.

Possible warning signs of abuse include:

  • Cuts, broken bones or bedsores
  • Abrupt behavioral changes
  • Missing possessions, including money from bank accounts
  • Unexplained changes to a will
  • Restricted or delayed visitation by the nursing home or assisted living facility

Possible warning signs of neglect include:

  • Foul odors in bed or clothing
  • Unclean hair or nails
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained changes in behavior

Suspect Elderly Abuse? Contact an Attorney.

If a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse at the hands of a relative, a nursing home or an assisted living facility, call an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss possible legal actions.

First Consultation Always Free – Never a Fee Unless We Win

The initial consultation is always free at the law offices of Greenberg Minasian, LLC, and you never pay attorney fees unless we recover compensation for you. Contactour West Orange and Newark, New Jersey, personal injury lawyers to discuss a personal injury or an accidental death that took the life of your loved one.