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

What happens when New York residents die without wills?

Some people think estate planning is something to consider when they are older. However, they may not understand what will happen if they should die suddenly with no wills in place. The assets of any New York person who dies without a Last Will and Testament will be subject to the intestacy succession laws of the state.

If there are surviving spouses and descendants such as children and grandchildren, a specific portion of the deceased person's probate estate will go to the surviving spouse. The balance will be divided between the surviving spouse and the descendants of the deceased spouse, per stirpes. If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will go to the descendants, and if there is only a surviving spouse, he or she will inherit the whole probate estate.

Car accidents: 2 critically injured in alleged DUI crash

The bravery of police officers saved the lives of two people who were trapped in a burning car in New York on a recent Thursday morning. This was one of those car accidents in which an alleged drunk driver put the lives of passengers on the line. A 22-year-old man was arrested after he received treatment for injuries that were reported to be non-life threatening.

An accident report indicates that the driver lost control of his vehicle in a bend and smashed into the stone wall of a West Islip home. The crash caused the car to burst into flames, and only the driver managed to get out. When law enforcement arrived, they realized that there were two passengers still inside the vehicle.

Car accidents: How is pain and suffering damages determined?

Any person in New York who has suffered injuries that were caused by the negligence of another person is entitled to pursue recovery of damages. Victims of car accidents may file personal injury claims in a civil court and seek monetary judgments to cover medical expenses, lost wages, property damage and other economic losses. However, certain circumstances also allow victims to claim compensation for pain and suffering.

Each case is unique, and instead of a set of determining standards to quantify the value of an award for pain and suffering, the jury is typically ordered to consider specific factors. The first consideration will be the severity and the manner in which the injury will affect the victim in the future. Those injuries that are expected to cause chronic pain or debilitation may justify compensation for pain and suffering.

Revocable living trusts can be modified at any time

Life changes, and when it comes to estate planning, modifications may be necessary from time to time. Changing revocable living trusts can be done in different ways. Although a complete revocation can cancel the trust, this can be an expensive and time-consuming process. New York residents have other less-complicated options available by which the necessary changes can be made.

A trust amendment can be done to keep up with life events such as getting married or divorced, adding or removing beneficiaries because of births and deaths, and other such revisions. There is no need to revoke the entire trust and create a new one. However, in cases where the trust has undergone multiple adjustments over the years, the many documents associated with those changes may pose too much of a challenge for the person who must manage the trust after the trustor's death.

Medical malpractice: Who to sue for errors by robotic surgeons

Research and testing of utilizing artificial intelligence in various medical fields are moving at a rapid pace. Researchers and scientists want to reassure those who fear a takeover by robots, saying that the goal is to expand the abilities of a physician rather than to replace humans with machines. However, these developments may leave some New York residents with questions about errors and medical malpractice.

Surgical robots have been used for about two decades, and although research and development are ongoing, records now exist of cases in which errors occurred. FDA data analysis revealed that 1391 injuries and 144 deaths of patients were recorded in the first decade of using surgical robots -- mostly due to device malfunctions and technical difficulties. It was determined that the most serious errors occurred during the most complicated surgical cases such as cardiothoracic surgery, rather than in general surgical procedures and gynecology.

Wrongful death suit might follow fatal bicycle vs. tanker crash

Under any circumstances, the death of a child in a car accident is horrifying. Even the knowledge that the person who caused the fatality will face multiple  criminal charges would likely not ease the devastation. A recent report out of New York involved the death of a bicyclist and may constitute grounds for a a wrongful death lawsuit.

According to an accident report, a 13-year-old bicyclist and a 28-year-old oil tanker-truck driver were heading in the same direction on a Brooklyn street on a recent Saturday morning.  Reportedly, the accident occurred at an intersection when the truck driver turned right and struck the boy on the bicycle. Authorities say this happened at about 5:30 p.m.

Wrongful death lawsuits require proof of these four elements

Even though death is a subject most people prefer to avoid, circumstances may require them to deal with it. Unfortunately, not all deaths occur naturally, and in cases in which a loved one's death follows another party's reckless, careless or negligent actions, financial relief may be pursued. A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed in a New York civil court, and after proving specific elements, the judge might enter a monetary judgment.

According to the definitions of the law, the surviving family members of the deceased individual -- or their legal counsel -- must establish negligence in the actions or non-actions of the defendant. However, it will also be necessary to prove that the defendant owed a duty to the victim and that he or she breached that duty. An example is a car accident in which the defendant owed the duty to obey the rules of the road to avoid endangering the life of the deceased victim.

Trusts still serve a purpose even after new estate tax laws

When it comes to estate planning, New York residents might have questions about the need for some of their carefully laid out plans now that the new tax laws that almost doubles the estate tax limit came into effect. Having trusts and the need to update them might be questioned. However, it is now more important than ever to do an overall review of estate plans to make adjustments to accommodate the new tax laws.

Trusts serve as protection, and avoiding estate taxes was never the sole purpose of establishing trusts. They allow people to keep control of their assets -- even after death. A trust can ensure that a person's children receive their inheritances in specific ways at predetermined times. It gives a person an option to jump one generation, and the deceased can exclude individuals that he or she does not want to share in the assets.

Car accidents: Pickup truck strikes elderly New York pedestrian

When elderly pedestrians are injured by vehicles, their injuries are typically more severe than those suffered by younger victims. One of the New York car accidents that caused injuries to older pedestrians happened in the New York town of DeWitt. It led to the hospitalization of a 77-year-old woman.

According to an accident report, both the New York State Police and officers of DeWitt responded to the incident. Reportedly, the pickup truck struck the woman on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The woman was apparently walking toward the entrance of a store shortly after 4 p.m. when the vehicle knocked her down.

Premises liability: When is snow and ice accumulation unnatural?

New York is experiencing an exceptionally fierce winter, and slippery parking lots and frozen sidewalks will likely give rise to countless legal battles in the civil courts of the state. However, premises liability lawsuits are not something to tackle without skilled legal counsel. The most challenging part of weather-related claims for injuries is establishing negligence.

To determine whether a property owner neglected a duty to clear hazardous snow or ice, a distinction is made between a natural and unnatural accumulation. A natural accumulation is one attributed to normal phenomena, such as a snowstorm or freezing rain. An unnatural accumulation typically occurs when snow and/or ice contribute to the creation of a dangerous condition, such as dripping icicles causing a sidewalk to be slippery.

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