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

Car accidents: UTV crash kills 1 teen, injures 2

Anyone in upstate New York could drive a utility terrain vehicle, regardless of age, and with no need for a driver's license, although there are some restrictions for drivers under the age of 16. Like in car accidents, the driver of a UTV may be financially responsible for damages of passengers who are injured or killed due to the driver's negligence. UTVs require advanced driving skills because of the terrain on which they are used. However, many UTV accidents involve drivers in their early teens who lack the necessary skills.

Such an accident recently claimed the life of a 17-year-old girl who was a passenger on a UTV, during a ride on a dirt trail. Reportedly, the incident occurred shortly before 5 p.m. on a recent Saturday in upstate New York. According to law enforcement,  a 13-year-old girl was operating the UTV. Along with the girl who lost her life, a 12-year-old was also a passenger on the vehicle.

Trusts can ensure funds to take care of minor children

Some New York residents put estate planning on the back burner for when they are middle-aged. However, anyone who earns an income and has children should seriously consider the need for wills and trusts. Lives can be lost in the blink of an eye, and wills and trusts can ensure that funds are available for the care of young children, should the parents die before the children reach adulthood. Parents do not usually want to stop and think of such a possibility, but having estate planning documents in place could provide peace of mind.

Although parents could bequeath their estates to children in their wills, considering trusts for that purpose might be a better option. Setting up a trust can guarantee the availability of funds for children through their years of dependency and adulthood. A trust can make funds available for school and college education, and beyond.

Dangerous conditions in public places pose brain injury risks

Public places like shopping malls in New York could pose slip-and-fall hazards to consumers. While most people spot fall hazards outdoors on sidewalks and in parking areas, slippery wet areas might be less evident inside malls. An accidental fall can happen in the blink of an eye, and a brain injury could result if the person's head strikes the floor or another hard object.

Typical slip hazards in malls include freshly mopped or waxed floors, which might look good and clean, shiny floors can pose significant fall hazards. Although cleaners may use warning signs while the mop or wax a floor, that area remains dangerous afterward when the cleaning is done and the signs removed. Moreover, many consumers who visit malls can spill beverages, and if it is not cleaned promptly, many passing feet will spread the wetness, increasing the size of the dangerous area and the fall risks.

Car accident: Pizza delivery ends in fatal crash

Police detectives launched an investigation into a fatal crash that occurred in New York State on a recent Wednesday. According to a crash report, two vehicles were involved in the car accident that happened at approximately 4:30 p.m. The person who died in this accident was a 49-year-old delivery driver of a pizza restaurant.

Reportedly, the delivery driver was on his way to deliver a pizza when an SUV traveling in the opposite direction drifted into his lane. The head-on collision that followed claimed the life of the delivery driver. When paramedics arrived at the scene, the driver had already succumbed to his injuries.

Pros and cons of including trusts in estate planning

Including a will in estate planning can ensure that assets are distributed as wished by the testator. However, many people in New York may also benefit from creating a trust, mainly those with larger estates. There are several different types of trusts that might serve their unique needs. However, it is advisable to learn more about the pros and cons of trusts before going that route.

An irrevocable trust can minimize estate taxes and provide protection from creditors because the assets will not be owned by the maker but by the trust, and not be at risk of being attached by creditors. Another option is a revocable trust, which is a more flexible option because its terms can be changed or even terminated by the trust maker during his or her lifetime. Both irrevocable and revocable trusts can avoid the expensive and lengthy probate process.

Brain injury: Foul balls striking baseball fans not uncommon

Baseball fans may not realize that Major League ballparks can be dangerous places. Being struck by a foul ball can be catastrophic, especially if it causes a brain injury. A woman who was struck in the face at a game between the Cubs and the New York Mets in 2018 recently filed a claim against Major League Baseball.

In this latest claim, the spectator was sitting in the sixth row at the ballpark when the ball struck her in the face. According to the complaint, the plaintiff suffered injuries that will affect her sense of taste, smell and eyesight permanently. Furthermore, her teeth were damaged, and recurring nose bleeds have become a part of her life.

Medical malpractice is among top 3 primary causes of death

The number of wrongful death lawsuits filed in New York and other states each year is reported to be significantly less than the number of medical errors that occur. Estimated numbers of deaths nationwide due to medical negligence or errors exceed 250,000, but the number of lawsuits claiming medical malpractice does not come near that amount. This might be because many victims of medical errors are unsure about the viability of their claims.

For a medical malpractice claim to be actionable, it must meet specific criteria to warrant compensation. The first aspect to show is that the medical practitioner or establishment had a duty to provide care of an acceptable standard. This includes the duty to refer a patient to another specialist if the condition falls outside of the doctor's field of expertise. The next requirement is to prove deviation from the duty to uphold the accepted standard.

DIY wills and trusts may not be the best option

Sometimes, in certain circumstances, people in New York who have not engaged in estate planning choose to go with low-cost do-it-yourself options. Digital estate plans are easily accessible and promise to save attorney's fees. However, none of those digital wills and other related documents are designed to meet the unique needs of every individual who chooses this option.

Although it might seem convenient and less costly, most people do not have the experience to draft estate plans that would bring solutions instead of problems. Many of the legal terms, such as "per capita," "heirs at law," and "per stirpes" are unfamiliar but essential, and disregarding them can lead to irreversible complications and damage. Misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the meanings and significance of legal terms can result in the estate owner leaving assets to other than the intended beneficiaries.

Who may file a wrongful death claim?

Driving is the most dangerous mode of transportation nationwide, including in New York. Despite all the awareness campaigns to underscore the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, texting while driving and other risky behaviors, thousands of people die in car accidents each year. Although no amount of money can replace a loved one lost in a crash, filing a wrongful death claim could relieve the unanticipated financial and emotional damage sustained by the surviving family members.

Negligence or recklessness of another party must be established to have a viable wrongful death claim. This could involve another driver who intentionally or negligently caused the accident that led to the loved one's death. It could also result from criminal activity or the automaker if the wreck were caused by a manufacturing defect, as well as a variety of other reasons.

Not all adverse medical outcomes constitute medical malpractice

Anybody in New York whose medical condition does not improve -- or worsens -- after treatment by medical professionals might have questions about his or her legal rights. However, medical malpractice is a complicated field of the law, and negligence does not cause all adverse outcomes. Medical malpractice happens when a doctor or medical facility is negligent in a way that causes harm to a patient.

If a complicated surgical procedure does not have the expected outcome, it would not necessarily constitute malpractice. There must be proof of negligence in diagnosis, medication errors or another act of negligence in which the medical professional or another defendant failed in his or her duty of care. However, before such failure can be proved, it must be shown that the defendant had a duty of care for the patient.

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