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Binghamton Law Blog: Covering Topics from Personal Injury to Estate Planning Law

Premises liability: Whom can you sue for a shopping cart injury?

Choosing peak shopping hours to visit a busy New York supermarket could be hazardous. Along with the potential threats of wet spills and random objects in the aisles that could cause slips, trips and falls, consumers have to look out for the hazards posed by shopping carts -- especially if negligent shoppers are navigating them. Would injuries caused by shopping carts fall under premises liability laws?

If such injuries happen on the property of the store owner, and negligence by employees of the store or another shopper can be established, the victim might have grounds to pursue a claim for financial relief. Filing a lawsuit against another person would require proof that he or she had a duty to navigate the cart in a reasonably safe manner and that the individual's negligence breached that duty. The plaintiff must also show that a breach of that duty caused his or her injuries and that this led to financial damages.

Do you avoid thoughts and conversations about death and wills?

Having conversations with adult children about financial and other family matters is as important as having those "birds and bees" talks with young children or adolescents. Avoiding it is much easier, and authorities in the estate-planning field say a significant percentage of people nationwide, including New York, neglect to draft wills. Many of them only have these talks after medical emergencies -- but that might be too late.

An example is a man in his seventies who was scheduled for a surgical procedure. He told his children to find a note containing everything they needed to know in the drawer of his desk. They laughed it off, thinking he would home within a few days, but that did not happen. Unanticipated complications developed, and he went into a coma before he passed away in the hospital.

Trips to amusement parks can lead to premises liability claims

New York parents who take trips to amusements parks on summer break with their children might not be aware of the hazards posed by different rides. Scores of premises liability lawsuits are filed against negligent amusement park operators and owners each year. However, there are steps that parents can take that might significantly improve their chances of returning home uninjured.

Parents can observe a ride before letting their children get on. Anything that they see or hear that seems wrong can be reported to the operator or park management. All rides must undergo safety inspections by the state's safety authorities, and parents can look for the sticker that indicates the date of the most recent inspection. Parents can also check that their children are adequately secured before the ride starts.

Will Aretha Franklin's 3 handwritten wills resolve questions?

When a celebrity dies, New Yorkers are often curious to know whether the deceased person's estate planning was up to date, what is the size of the estate and who will inherit what. With the passing of Aretha Franklin last August, it was at first reported that she died without a will. However, it has since been noted that three separate wills, with different dates, were discovered among the belongings of the "Queen of Soul." Now, the question is, which of those wills, if any, will be deemed valid under the laws of the state in which she resided.

Of the three wills, two were dated in 2010 and discovered where they were locked away in a cabinet. The third will has a 2014 date, and it was found in the singer's lounge, underneath the cushions of a couch. Reportedly, deciphering the wills will be challenging, and Franklin's niece, who represents the estate, has asked the court to determine whether any of the wills are valid. She says the legal counsel for two of Franklin's sons have already indicated that they intend to contest the wills.

New York car accidents causing pedestrian deaths at record highs

The concern about the high number of pedestrian fatalities in New York has led to lawmakers proposing a bill to prohibit pedestrians from using electronic devices while they cross streets. According to estimations by the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 6,700 pedestrians died in car accidents in New York last year. It is not uncommon for pedestrians to be oblivious to their surroundings when they are focused on their smartphones.

Following the introduction of the bill in the New York Assembly in 2018, a version of it was recently introduced in the Senate. If those efforts are successful, the law will also have to be approved by both the Assembly and Senate transportation committees before it can be presented for a full vote. The bill would prohibit texting, internet browsing, checking emails and other activities on electronic devices by pedestrians who cross the road -- except in emergencies.

Car-door crash might lead to wrongful death claim

Traffic laws in New York apply to all vehicle operators, including cyclists. However, bicycle riders are significantly more vulnerable than occupants of vehicles. For this reason, auto drivers are often urged to look out for cyclists, not only while driving but also when exiting their cars after parking. Not doing so might lead to wrongful death lawsuits.

When car occupants open doors to get out of vehicles without checking for oncoming cyclists, they put the lives of bicycle riders on the line. The danger was underscored by a recent tragic accident that claimed the life of a bicyclist who was just 16 years old. According to a police report, the incident occurred on a recent Wednesday at approximately 5:40 p.m.

Never events that can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits

Anyone in New York dealing with health issues would naturally expect medical care and the treatment environment to be safe. Many medical malpractice lawsuits follow adverse and serious reportable incidents that are also known as never events. According to the National Quality Forum, the list of serious reportable events includes drug errors, device and surgical errors, environmental and care errors, and even criminal events. These are all errors that put patients in medical facilities at risk of harm that could also be fatal.

Patient safety can be compromised in any health care settings such as hospitals, doctor's offices, pathology labs, long-term care facilities and surgical centers. Infections like Clostridium difficile or MRSA can be suffered by hospital patients with surgery or injury-related open wounds or those needing catheters for drug administration or drainage. Older patients are most vulnerable to develop infections.

Estate planning involves more than wills and trusts

Not everyone in New York understands the importance of estate planning. It involves more than just wills and trusts, and many people are misled by the myths that exist about this process, the first of which is that only those who are wealthy need to concern themselves with this process. Anyone with investments, a bank account, a car, a home or other assets can protect their own interests and the interests of loved ones by proper estate planning.

The second myth about estate planning is that it is all about distributing assets after the death of the testator. The truth is that estate planning involves both legacy planning and incapacity planning, which can ensure proper care and management of the individual's financial affairs in the event of a debilitating accident or illness. It can also serve to name a guardian to care for minor children in the event of the parents' deaths, and it can include gifting strategies and charitable goals.

Call for safety steps to stop car accidents after child's death

A New York family has to deal with the trauma of the death of their child who was struck by a car. This tragedy led to a call by elected officials for improved safety that might prevent car accidents at the specific intersection. Reportedly, the accident happened at approximately 12:45 p.m. on a recent Thursday.

According to an accident report, a mother and two children were in the crosswalk at an intersection when the incident occurred. Further information came from video surveillance that shows the 3-year-old boy on a scooter with his mother following closely with an infant. Reportedly, a 61-year-old driver of a van struck the child on the scooter.

Cyclist runs red light, causing pedestrian to suffer brain injury

The New York Police Department reported that it is taking action against bicyclists who disregard red lights and ride against the flow of traffic. This followed an accident in an intersection that left a pedestrian with a severe brain injury. Reportedly, the incident happened in Midtown at about 1:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday.

An accident report by NYPD indicates that a 67-year-old pedestrian left her place of work to get lunch when the bicycle struck her. Police say the cyclist was a 40-year-old food deliveryman who ran the red light. Both the cyclist and the pedestrian fell on impact. The pedestrian was rushed to a hospital for treatment of severe traumatic brain injuries.

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