New York Legal Blog

Parental Caution is Urged When Purchasing Children’s Toys for Christmas

Toys provide joy and entertainment for children. But many contain hidden life-threatening hazards for children and cause to far too many injuries. Even though toy safety has vastly improved, toys are still consistently high on the list of products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  In 2015 toys ranked third (behind clothing and nursery products); 17 toys were recalled – a total of over 370,000 units. According to the NPD Group, a market research company, the U.S. toy industry generates over $25 billion in annual sales. According to Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of the Toy Association, toys must pass more than 100 safety and standards tests before they can be sold in the U.S. Toys that should be avoided have one or more of the following features. Cords and strings pose a strangulation hazard for infants and young children. Toys with long strings, cords, loops, or ribbons should be avoided. Sharp toys with glass or metal edges should be avoided if purchased for children less than eight years of age. Older toys that break and expose sharp edges should be removed. Small Parts pose a choking hazard and are banned on toys for children less than three years old. This includes removable small eyes and noses on stuffed animals and dolls and small removable squeakers on squeeze toys. Pay attention to toy labels that warn of choking hazards for children under age three. Balloons are responsible for more chokings and suffocations in children than any other toy. Keep uninflated or broken balloons away from young children. And watch out for plastic film coverings on toys, which can also pose a choking hazard after they are removed. Propelled Objects such as arrows, darts, missiles, and other projectiles for children should not have sharp points. Keep hobby or sporting equipment intended for adults away from children as they could be inadvertently turned into weapons and may injure eyes. Projectiles for children should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups, or other protective tips that cannot cause injury. The Boston-based nonprofit called World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) releases a list of the most dangerous toys every fall. Here are “WATCH’s 10 Most Dangerous Toys of 2017,” with brief comments from the nonprofit: Itty bittys baby plush stacking toy by Hallmark– Detachable parts could cause choking. Pull Along Pony by Tolo Toys Limited – The toy’s 19-inch cord violates a federal law mandating that strings on playpen and crib toys be less than 12 inches in length. Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword by Mattel –The stiff plastic sword can cause facial damage or other injuries to children. Hand Fidgetz Spinners by Kipp Brothers – Detachable parts could cause choking. Spider-Man Spider-Drone – It uses rapidly spinning fan-blades to fly. The toy’s warning label says to keep moving parts away from fingers, hair, eyes and other body parts.... read more

After You File an Injury Claim with an Insurance Company, the Adjuster Goes to Work

Be careful that adjuster doesn’t end up working you over! Insurance companies seldom bend over backwards trying to be fair. When you seek compensation for a negligence-based injury, it’s virtually certain you must deal with some type of insurance company. If you’re hurt in a car wreck, your claim is with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you file a medical malpractice claim, the doctor’s medical malpractice insurer handles the matter. If you sue for premises liability, a homeowner or commercial liability insurer is the target. All too many insurance companies refuse to fairly settle personal injury claims, knowing full well that injured victims will have to hire an attorney to collect rightful damages. Why? For starters, in order to win your claim, you – the injured plaintiff – must prove who caused your injury. Plus, New York is a comparative negligence state. This means that even if you played a part in causing your accident, you can still recover damages. But the compensation amount is relative to the blame you share with the negligent policyholder. So, if you claim $100,000 in damages and it turns out you are 25 percent to blame for the accident, the maximum award is 75 percent of your claim ($75,000). Then there’s every insurance company’s business model since the dawn of time: “Take in maximum dollars in premiums and pay out as little as possible in claims.”  To that end, insurance companies have hundreds of actuaries who compute risk, accountants to watch every penny, lawyers to defend them whenever the company wishes, and adjusters who say they’re on your side but whose real job is keeping claim awards dreadfully low! However, the insurance adjusters’ ultimate goal is to avoid a lawsuit. If a case doesn’t settle, injured victims usually file a civil lawsuit. If the case goes to trial, the damage awards can be much higher than insurers hope for. And another risk they run surrounds legal fees and other costs associated with a trial on top of the money they must pay. Adjusters try to straddle a fine line between serving you – just enough to where you won’t take the insurance company to court – and “giving away the store.” So how do you deal with them without becoming a victim? Accept that the adjuster is not on your side – for reasons that should now be apparent. Don’t say anything that can come back to hurt you: Adjusters record all your telephone conversations in hopes that you’ll say things to compromise your claim. A question like “When did you first see the other vehicle?” is a trap, because it assumes you did see the other vehicle when you earlier said you didn’t. Don’t let them pester you with “new developments”: This usually happens when you reach some sort of impasse. They call... read more

Is Workers’ Comp Letting Down Injured Workers?

In the face of consistently diminishing coverage in many states, not long ago the U.S. Department of Labor called for “exploration” of federal oversight of state workers’ compensation laws and possibly establishing federal minimum workers’ comp benefits if such erosion continues. “Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the agency said in its October, 2016 report on changes in state workers’ comp laws. It continued by saying that the changes have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide injured workers with adequate benefits.” In the last 10 years, the report notes, states across the country have enacted new laws, policies and procedures which are “limiting benefits, reducing the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraging injured workers from applying for benefits.” The Labor Department report came after attention was called to the issue by prominent Democratic lawmakers who urged protection of injured workers in the wake of investigative media attention on changes in workers’ comp laws in 33 states. They featured injured workers who had lost their homes, were denied surgeries, and in some cases, even denied prosthetic devices which had been recommended by their doctors. This prompted the Labor Department to note that “the current situation warrants a significant change in approach in order to address the inadequacies of the system.” Thus its call for “exploration” of federal oversight over state workers’ comp programs and establishing minimum standards of service offerings and administration. The Labor Department suggested that Congress reestablish a 1972 Nixon administration commission that recommended minimum benefits. “In this critical area of the social safety net,” said former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez at the time the report was released, “the federal government has basically abdicated any responsibility.” Without minimum federal standards for workers’ comp benefits, he continued, “workers who are hurt on the job are being put on the pathway to poverty.” Before the report was released, employers, insurance companies and others involved in workers’ comp programs expressed deep concerns that if these trends don’t change, the federal government might intervene in some way – an unheard-of prospect in the 100+ years since workers’ comp was established. Since this report, many congressional and healthcare leaders warn that changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other social insurance programs by Congress and the Trump Administration will cause even more working Americans to lose healthcare benefits and further strain many states’ already overburdened workers’ comp programs. Establishing federal minimum benefits would require an act of Congress and presidential endorsement. But it could guarantee that injured workers throughout the U.S. would not need to fear further encroachment into their workers’ comp benefits in states that have dramatically cut workers’ comp costs for employers, which is the common avenue to reduction in benefits. “This is a system with no... read more

Recent Study Shows a Spike in U.S. Fatal, Opioid-Induced Car Crashes

The indicators of just how dangerous the U.S. opioid epidemic has grown are becoming clearer each day. A recently released report by the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City say there’s a sevenfold increase in the number of drivers killed in car crashes while under the influence of prescription painkillers.

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New Research Confirms the Perils of Drowsy Driving

Drowsy (or fatigued) driving is a serious problem in the U.S. One in 25 adults aged 18 and older say they have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past 30 days, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Those most at risk of drowsy driving are shift workers, commercial truck and bus drivers, people who have untreated sleep disorders or who take sleep medications, and anyone who just doesn’t get enough sleep. Experts agree that healthy adults need at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

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A Warning for All Seasons: Young Athletes and Concussions

According to the U.S. Safety Council, a child is treated for a sports-related concussion – or mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) – every three minutes. But this isn’t restricted to the obvious — young football-playing boys. In sports where girls and boys participate, the girls suffer a higher percentage of concussions; so says a 2013 Game Changers report by Safe Kids Worldwide.

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Halloween Safety for ALL Ghosts and Goblins

Halloween fun doesn’t need an accident to interrupt the revelry. But there are so many opportunities for an accident to happen amidst all the trick-or-treaters as they run from house to house or attend a festive party. As you plan for this special day, take some time to develop a plan to keep everyone safe.

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