The Long Island Rail Road train crash in Brooklyn this week injured over 100 passengers, many with neck and back injuries as well as injured arms and legs.  Governor Cuomo has described this as a “minor” crash.  Scores of people may be left with debilitating conditions.  Although government officials try to downplay the effects of this negligence by the Long Island Railroad, a governmental subsidiary, nevertheless neck and back injuries can result in lifelong disability, pain, surgeries and therapy with significant loss of earnings and enjoyment of life.

In our experience helping victims of serious accidents we know that neck, back and limb injuries are not always so “minor.”  For example, one of our clients was in a MetroNorth train crash and had to have back surgery and has been left permanently disabled even though no bones were broken. We understand that the government would like to minimize people’s suffering with words like “minor” because ultimately the MTA and Long Island Railroad will be called upon to compensate these innocent victims.

It is important for injured people to know that any one injured in this train crash must file a claim promptly because there is a short statute of limitations for lawsuits against government agencies.  And these agencies will defend themselves by seeking to minimize any payments they will have to make to victims.

It is also very important for any injured victim of this train crash to obtain legal counsel, sooner rather than later, so that his or her rights may be fully protected.  The government has an interest in reducing any potential claims to avoid paying money to innocent victims.  We at Tomkiel & Tomkiel have many years of experience handling injury claims for these kinds of injuries, and stand ready to help innocent injury victims obtain full, fair and just monetary compensation.

crane on bridgeThe crane collapse on the Tappan Zee Bridge construction project highlights the dangers of construction work, both for the construction workers as well as members of the public passing by, in this case motorists. Thankfully it seems that no one was killed, but several injuries were reported. Governor Cuomo was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying that “sometimes accidents happen.” This sounds like a defense lawyer talking to a jury, and we suppose that the Governor is worried about having to pay money compensation to the injured workers and travelers if it turns out that the State or its contractors were negligent in causing the crane to fall onto the bridge.

We see this kind of defensive strategy employed regularly by insurance companies and their hired attorneys seeking to minimize, or even avoid altogether, their accountability to the injured victims of negligent companies. Yes, “sometimes accidents happen,” but they always happen for a reason, and when a construction crane falls onto a bridge roadway, injuring workers and motorists alike, we can confidently say that this didn’t just happen by some odd chance, but that there was negligence involved. The State and the contractors responsible were obviously not careful enough when dealing with tons of steel high in the air above a roadway. Some accidents shouldn’t “just happen. “ When they do, the negligent parties should fully compensate the injured victims for their losses.

Congratulations to Hon. Janet DiFiore! She was just invested as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. Judge DiFiore is a life-long Westchester resident who has a long history of public legal service including serving as Westchester County District Attorney and as a Westchester County Court Judge as well as a Justice of the New York Supreme Court. At her investiture to the highest judicial position in New York in Albany on Feb. 8th, she announced an Excellance Initiative to improve all aspects of the court system. Her remarks are available here:

We wish Judge DiFiore great success in her new position and we are sure that she will serve the judicial system with integrity, distinction and honor.

News12 reports that a crane has collapsed killing one person and seriously injuring two others in Manhattan Friday, according to the FDNY. The cause of the accident is currently unknown. Unfortunate construction accidents are all too common in New York. Our sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of those injured and killed. <br/><br/>Source: <br/><br/><br/>

In the first two weeks of January, 12 pedestrian died after being struck in car accidents. In one of the accidents, a 9-year-old boy died, and his uncle noted that police informed the family that alcohol was not involved in the collision. Yes, drunk driving remains a significant problem across the U.S. and thousands die every year as a result of drunk drivers.

But drunk driving is not the only problem on the nation’s streets and highways. The pedestrian accident that killed the 9-year-old occurred when the driver of a taxi made a turn and did not see the boy walking with his 6-foot-3 father. They were crossing the street at a marked crosswalk with a green “walk” light.

They may have had the right of way, but that will not relieve the agony of grieving parents, family and friends. The distraction, whatever the cause, which resulted in his death, distracts from the destruction caused.

People become too comfortable in a vehicle, and allow their minds to wander to the radio, their cellphone or eating a sandwich. Would penalties akin to those faced by drunk drivers, help to make drivers improve their driving habits?

It worked with drunk driving, which was once considered “normal,” and fatal accidents were seen as just something that “happened.” The death toll was considered acceptable, because everybody had a few drinks and then drove home. They even had one for the road. It, of course, may have been their last one ever.

If public perception can be changed, with reckless or distracted driving caused by cellphone use or any other reason, is recognized as being as destructive as drinking and driving with a 0.18 BAC, then maybe we can prevent the next 9-year-old from being killed while crossing a street.

Source: New York Times, “Treat Reckless Driving Like Drunk Driving,” Barron H Lerner, January 24, 2014

Construction accidents should not be described as a “trend.” Sadly, in Brazil there seems to be a trend developing for fatal construction accidents in connection with the building of soccer stadiums for the upcoming World Cup.

While official pronouncements express sadness and regrets at the most recent death, that of a construction worker killed by a piece of falling iron from a crane, it appears that inadequate safety conditions remain at the construction site.

Workers had gone on strike after the previous death in December of last year, demanding safer working conditions. With this death, it would appear that safety concerns have not been fully addressed.

The most recent fatal construction accident occurred in the Arena da Amazonia being built in Manaus, deep in the rainforest. He died as a crane that has been used for construction of the roof of the stadium was being disassembled.

According to CNN, six workers have died during the construction of the 12 stadiums that will be used for the World Cup games. This is the third death at the Manaus Stadium.

Given that work on the stadiums is behind schedule, the potential for safety matters to be sacrificed in order to save time appears to be a possibility.

It is unclear what, if any, conclusions have been made from the previous fatal accidents. The CNN story does not describe whether there is a Brazilian equivalent of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but it would appear that closer supervision of construction sites and equipment would be warranted.

One deadly accident may be an accident; six deaths is a tragic trend.

Source: CNN, “Manaus World Cup stadium suffers third death,” Feb. 7, 2014

It is always somewhat shocking when the apparent victim of medical malpractice is a doctor, nurse or other health care professional. We should not be surprised that they are human too, fall ill and can be subjected to negligence in their treatment. It becomes even more egregious when the doctor who dies is young.

A case from Pennsylvania presents a truly tragic set of circumstances, with a young doctor, full of great promise, dying in a hospital room within weeks of finishing medical school.

The woman graduated from medical school on May 11, 2013. Shortly thereafter, she was experiencing “nagging headaches” and “unexplained bruising.”

On May 26, she was admitted to the local hospital and by May 28, her condition had begun to rapidly fail. By the morning of May 29, she was removed from life support and died. Her parents are now suing the hospital for wrongful death because of her negligent treatment.

The medical malpractice suit alleges that her misdiagnosis occurred because she entered the hospital over Memorial Day weekend, and the hospital may have been under staffed.

They alleged that the cerebral hemorrhaging, stroke and irreversible brain damage occurred because the hospital failed to detect a blood clot and properly treat it. The lawsuit claims she “languished” for days because of the holiday weekend, and that the horrific outcome was “wholly preventable.”

The hospital claims her death was due to an untreatable pre-existing condition.

Few incidents of medical malpractice are more heartbreaking for the surviving family members than a misdiagnosis, where a condition is missed by incompetence or inadvertence and leads to the unnecessary death of their loved one.

Source: The Citizens’ Voice, “Geisinger defends treatment of late doctor,” Bob Kalinowski, Feb. 4, 2014

A construction worker died last week during construction of a new football stadium and pedestrian bridge for Baylor University in Texas. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began their investigation to determine the cause of the fatal construction accident.

Two workers were working in a lift basket of a “cherry picker” and were welding with acetylene torches on beams for the pedestrian footbridge that is being constructed near the new football stadium at the time of the construction accident. The lift rolled or slid off the barge and the two workers were tossed into the cold water of the Brazos River.

The deceased worker’s body was found in about 16 feet of water still tether to the safety harness and wearing his flotation equipment. The cause of death was determined to be drowning, suggesting he was not killed on impact.

The other worker was able to escape the lift basket and was treated for hypothermia and released from the hospital.

Construction workers face numerous risks when on any job and bridge work, like the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge here in New York, is even more dangerous than an ordinary construction site.

Workers are at constant risk of injury or death from falls and or drowning, in addition to the typical construction site accidents.

We will have to await the OSHA investigation to find out what went wrong. Was there a failure of the brakes of the lift? Should it have been secured to the barge by chains or did someone forget to properly chock the wheels?

The responsibility for the accident will determine if the family can only obtain workers’ compensation death benefits, or if they will have a wrongful death claim against an entity other than the man’s employer.

Source:, “Construction worker killed in accident at Baylor stadium site,” Tommy Witherspoon, January 31, 2014

The crash of a cement truck into a home in University Heights left the driver dead and injured four people who were in the building at the time. The cement truck apparently went out of control and struck the building with such force that it moved the building off its foundation.

The fact that only the driver was killed was remarkable, given that children were present and playing in the home at the time of the truck accident. The truck hit six cars after it left the Major Deegan at a high rate of speed. The truck, which from the video of the accident appeared to be a concrete pumper that is used to deliver concrete to construction sites via a long boom arm

Eyewitnesses claimed the truck driver was honking his horn and waving his arms as the truck careened off the road, sideswiped cars, crashed over the curb and smashed into the home. One witness noted that at first she felt the vibration before she heard the crash.

A woman was trapped in the home after the crash and was helped out a rear window. The FDNY used dogs to check for additional persons who may have been in the debris. The woman and children who were in the house were later described as being safe, but in shock and traumatized.

There was no word yet on the cause of the crash of the truck, but given the behavior of the driver, it could have been due to some type of mechanical failure on the truck, such as a brake failure. This could implicit the company that owns the truck and open the question whether the truck received proper maintenance.

The accident is under investigation.

Source: WABC-TV New York, “Cement truck slams into Bronx house, driver killed,” Jim Dolan, January 20, 2014

The headline touts the damage award, describing it as “wins $16 million,” as if it were a lottery ticket. Woe unto anyone who is lucky enough to “win” anything in this manner. Don’t get us wrong, we hope for the best, and while it is technically a win, and better than the alternative, no one ever wants to find themselves in the position of this Bronx grandmother.

Slip-and-fall accidents are often looked upon as not being “real” accidents. We all have fallen from time to time, and perhaps because of that, may look less charitably on those who suffer genuine injuries from these types of accidents.

But we assure you, these are very real injuries: people suffer traumatic brain injuries, break their necks and are paralyzed and some die as a result of the injuries sustained in these falls.

This woman stepped into a “gouge” in the platform near the stairs of the Graham Ave. L subway station in Williamsburg, which she didn’t see due to darkness. She fell down the stairs, breaking her hip and suffering a head injury that caused bleeding on her brain.

She suffered seizures, destroying her ability to talk, confining her to a wheelchair and preventing her from returning to work. She now requires around the clock care. Her brain damage is irreversible and degenerative; she will only get worse. According to her attorney, she has moments of lucidity, where she recognizes what has happened and she cries.

The family states they will provide care, as a long-term care facility will only provide for her basic needs, whereas they can provide love. We hope they have a great deal of love, because there are few jobs more demanding than 24-hour nursing care.

Source: New York Daily News, “Bronx grandmother wins $16 million in lawsuit against MTA for subway slip,” Dareh Gregorian, February 4, 2014