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Tragic Metro North Accident In Valhalla

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Shortly before 6:00 p.m., a Metro North Railroad train which was heading northbound train from Grand Central struck a Jeep Cherokee In the Westchester County town of Valhalla, New York. The incident is being called a mass tragedy with at least six fatalities and many more people were injured. The driver of the jeep was killed as were five of the train’s passenger’s. Upon impact, there was an explosion which ignited both the car and the train. Victims of the tragedy were brought to the nearby Westchester Medical Center, which is a trauma 1 facility, with a renowned burn unit. Less seriously injured passengers were taken to a temporary triage site, which was set up at Cliffs, a nearby sporting facility

Initial reports indicate that the gates came down on top of the vehicle which trapped it and kept it in the train’s path. So far it is unclear whether the driver tried to beat the gates which were closing or whether the gates closed prematurely. However, there are some reports that five hours before the crash, there was a warning that the gates were not working properly, which certainly indicates that the MTA was negligent in the maintenance and repair of its equipment. Time will tell as the investigation is sure to reveal more facts about this tragedy. Either way, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority most likely will have liability because the conductor should have seen that there was an obstruction on the track ahead and slowed down immediately.

The first question that any family member affected by this tragedy will ask is “What should I do”. Anyone who was injured in this accident and the family members of those who were killed should consult with a qualified Westchester wrongful death attorney immediately.because the MTA is a public authority and New York Public Authority law requires that a notice of claim be filed within 90 days of the occurrence.If a notice of claim is not filed within 90 days, then an application must be made to the Court for permission to file a late notice of claim. This law is incredibly unfair because it forces families who are grieving to worry about protecting their legal rights, when they should be in mourning. Likewise this law forces often seriously injured people to worry about protecting their legal rights when they should be focusing their energy on healing.

Also, any cause of action for wrongful death must be brought in the name of the deceased’s estate. Many inexperienced lawyers get their cases dismissed because they simply file the lawsuit in the name of the next of kin. Therefore, prior to commencing a lawsuit, the next of kin,must apply for letters of administration in the Surrogates Court, prior to filing a lawsuit. Our White Plains lawyers have successfully handled many wrongful death case and know the ins and outs of handling these cases. We now how to fight these big companies and make sure our clients receive what they are entitled to.

Likewise, the crew of the train also can bring lawsuits against the MTA, unlike most employees who are barred by the New York State Workers Compensation Law. Under the Federal Employers Liability Act, an employee of a railroad can sue their employer for negligence which causes any injury or death.Railway workers are also entitled to Railroad disability benefits.

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Drinking to excess has been a firefighter tradition for decades, with many turning a blind eye to the problem. Unfortunately today an off duty White Plains firefighter who was driving while he was so drunk that his blood alcohol level was over double the legal limit, caused a fatal crash. This off duty White Plains firefighter caused a crash which resulted in the wrongful death of a young woman who had her whole life in front of her. The couple who were in the car that the fire fighter crashed into, was up early and working delivering papers, when the incident occurred.

According to reports, the White Plains fire fighter was driving his vehicle the wrong way on South Lexington Avenue, when he crashed into another car at Martine Avenue. Interestingly, this intersection, which is walking distance from our downtown White Plains law office, is right next to the White Plains Police Station and the White Plains criminal court.

The off duty firefighter was charged with criminally negligent homicide, which is a class E felony. Reportedly, the driver’s blood alcohol was .145, but it was only .035 away from being at the level likely to charge him with a higher level, class C felony of Vehicular Manslaughter. The prosecution certainly has a strong case, in light of the fact that the vehicle was traveling in the wrong direction on a one way street. Additionally, the New York Penal Law creates a rebuttable presumption that the intoxication was the cause of the accident.

Likewise, the family of the deceased and the other individual who was injured have a strong case on liability, as always, with high value cases, the issue will be how much insurance is available. In situations where the guilty tortfeasor does not have adequate insurance creative Westchester car accident lawyers have to look to other avenues for coverage. For example, in many cases where the injured party has better insurance than the tortfeasor, they can pursue a supplemental under insured motorist claim against their own insurance company.

In addition to the fire fighter, the bar where he was drinking also has potential civil liability, to the victim’s family. Under New York’s dram shop law, a bar that serves an intoxicated person is jointly and severally liable for the damages which the intoxicated person causes. Our White Plains wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience in handling wrongful death cases involving motor vehicle accidents in New York. While there is a strong public sentiment that the police let the firefighters get away with drinking and driving and generally look the other way, it is a difficult thing to prove. Under the Second Circuit’s decision in the Pena case, where municipal employees create an environment where an employee is allowed to drink and drive routinely without consequence, this can create a Constitutional violation, however to prove this type of case, specific evidence and not just sentiment is required. It is the difference between what can be proven and what many people know to be true intuitively.

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Our White Plains civil rights lawyers keep on top of developments in the law concerning lawsuits against the government. The killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., occurred on November 19, 2011, in White Plains, New York. He was a 68-year-old African American, a former Marine and a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections. After his Life Aid medical alert necklace was inadvertently triggered, White Plains police officers arrived at his home and demanded to be let in. Chamberlain, who wore the necklace for his chronic heart problem, tried to explain that he did not need help, and he refused to open the door. The police proceeded to break down Chamberlain’s door. They tasered him before shooting him dead.

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. was fatally shot on the night of November 19, 2011 in his apartment by officers with the White Plains, NY police department. That evening, police officers responded to an accidental activation of Chamberlain’s medical alert device. When the police arrived on scene the 68-year-old former U.S. Marine Corps officer and 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections, told the officers that there was no need for assistance and that he was fine. The police officers forced entry into the home nonetheless and then tasered him upon entry. According to the complaint, the taser was improperly deployed, after which one of the officers began firing bean bag bullets from a shotgun. Shortly thereafter, an officer fired two shots that killed Mr. Chamberlain. He died several hours later in a local hospital.

In 2012, a Westchester County grand jury found no crime had been committed in the Nov. 19 killing. District Attorney Janet DiFiore called the killing “a tragedy on many levels” but said the grand jury found no reasonable cause for an indictment. The victim’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., moved forward with lawsuit naming the City of White Plains, the White Plains Housing Authority, and eight members of the White Plains Police Department as defendants.

On September 17, 2014, during the deposition of Police Chief James Bradley, the two parties came to odds over the issue of evidentiary privilege. When something is privileged, the holder of the privilege may refuse to provide evidence about a certain subject or to bar such evidence from being disclosed or used in a judicial or other proceeding. One well known privilege is the attorney-client privilege, protecting confidential communications between a client and his or her legal adviser for the dominant purpose of legal advice. The rationale is that clients ought to be able to communicate freely with their lawyers, in order to facilitate the proper functioning of the legal system.

Here, Chief Bradley’s deposition testimony showed that the White Plains Police Department had performed and internal investigation (an “After Action Report”). The Report had not been produced during discovery in response to Plaintiff’s requests for production. The Defense attorneys indicated that they would instruct Chief Bradley not to answer questions about the content of the Report on the basis of the “self-critical analysis privilege,” a lesser known, and somewhat dubious, privilege. The self-critical analysis privilege applies to those materials created for candid self-assessments and self-evaluations, such as After-Action Reports, which are fairly commonplace in organizations such as the military and law enforcement. The privilege was created for the public policy reason that it is more important for organizations to confidentially evaluate their legal and regulatory compliance than it is for an opposing party to be allowed to use those evaluations in their discovery process. The privilege thus allows organizations and people to self-monitor and improve without fear that these evaluations will become admissible evidence used against them by an opposing party.

Since it originated in 1970, however, most courts have refused to apply the self-critical analysis privilege beyond the peer-review medical context. It is not universally accepted, either. Courts that do choose to apply the privilege will use a balancing test. Unfortunately, this test has not been consistently applied by trial courts, and the results have been conflicting decisions and wildly inconsistent applications of the privilege. Generally speaking, however, Courts that do allow the privilege will first require four criteria before being willing to apply it: (1) The information must result from self-critical analysis performed by the party claiming the privilege; (2) The free flow of this type of information must advance a strong public interest; (3) The information sought must result from the type of analysis that would be curtailed if discovery were allowed; and (4) The document sought to be protected was prepared with the expectation that it would be kept confidential, and in fact has remained so.

In ruling against the Police Department’s right to invoke the privilege, Federal Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York, did not explicitly reject the entire privilege, but held that “if it exists, [it] does not apply in this circumstance” for a few reasons. While skeptical on the privilege’s existence within the Circuit’s jurisdiction, the Court was more skeptical of the Defendants’ assertion that discovery of the material would have a chilling effect on the free flow of information necessary to effectively undertake the analysis in question. The Court found them to have failed to demonstrate that the department would be less likely to undertake this type of internal investigation in the future if the resulting after-action reports were discoverable in litigation.

In ordering the report to go forward and be disclosed to the Plaintiff, it seems abundantly clear that the self-critical analysis privilege remains an elusive and tricky privilege, and certainly not something that litigants should rely on when seeking to prevent disclosures in pretrial discovery.

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New York has a highly vibrant and diverse community with a high population of foreign nationals, illegal or undocumented aliens and tourists. Unfortunately all to often, these immigrants and foreign nationals are involved in accidents which cause personal injury or death.

Our New York personal injury lawyers have represented numerous foreign nationals and undocumented aliens in accidents including car accidents, construction accidents and even wrongful death cases. Wrongful death cases are becoming more common for undocumented aliens in New York’s construction industry.

There are several unique issues in representing foreign nationals and undocumented aliens in wrongful death cases. First, in New York, only the estate representative can commence a lawsuit for wrongful death. So the first question is whether there is anyone who resides in New York that can serve as estate representative. Unfortunately, the Courts will not allow an undocumented alien to serve as an estate representative and all to often a tourist or alien working in the U.S., does not have any family locally, who can act as the estate administrator. In these cases our New York injury attorneys contact the public administrator’s office and get them appointed as an estate representative, so that a wrongful death lawsuit can be commenced for the decedent and their families. Often the families think that they do not have any rights because they do not reside in the United States or are not here legally. This is incorrect, and while a foreign national or illegal alien cannot serve as an estate administrator in the State of New York, the New York Courts have expressly recognized the rights of foreign tourists, illegal aliens and foreign nationals have full access to the New York Courts and have the same right to file a lawsuit and recover monetary damages as a U.S. citizen.

Our New York wrongful death attorneys speak Spanish and have extensive experience in representing the large undocumented population and their families in the New York Metropolitan area. New York’s construction industry and food industries continue to draw immigrant labor from South American especially, Mexico, Columbia, Equador, El Salvador, Honduras and Peru. These dangerous jobs draw poor immigrants from South America, who regularly send money home to their families. When the working member of the family here is killed, it is often both a human and financial tragedy and devastation to the foreign family members. Our New York lawyers fight hard to make sure that the families of foreign nationals who die in New York are treated fairly by the New York Courts and receive the justice they deserve.

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In general, whoever caused the accident is responsible. If it was the employer or a co-employee who caused the accident, you are usually barred by workers compensation laws from suing them because you’re getting comp you can’t bring a lawsuit. However, if the employer did not have workers compensation, you can sue the employer directly and the owners personally for failing to securing payment of compensation. Additionally, who’s liable often depends on how the accident happened. In general, under the labor laws, the work site owner or the owner of the construction site and the general contractor are always liable… Read More

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