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Memorial Day Weekend Fatal Crashes in NJ

South Brunswick–South Brunswick police have identified the two people killed in the Memorial Day crash, which occurred Monday morning on Rt. 130 near Wheeling Road.

Michael Santana, 24, of Staten Island and Zarine Arshakyan, 55, of Lawrenceville, were identified as the two people who died in the crash. They were driving in two different cars. The crash was reported at 7:37 a.m. Monday and shut down Rt. 130 in both directions for eight hours on the holiday.

According to South Brunswick police, the crash occurred when Santana, driving a 2016 Nissan headed northbound on Rt. 130, lost control of his vehicle, spun out, crossed the median, and slammed head-on into Arshakyan’s car as it traveled south. Both cars came to rest in the southbound side of the highway. Arshakyan’s vehicle was then sideswiped by a 2013 Honda driven by Astra Witty, 40, of Scotch Plains. Witty was not injured in the crash.

Traffic investigators say speed was a factor in the initial crash. The crash continued to cause a chain reaction: A separate two-car crash took place near the scene as other drivers tried to avoid the initial fatal crash.

North Brunswick– A 19-year-old Jamesburg young woman was killed in a fatal Rt. 1 car crash in North Brunswick early Sunday morning.

The young woman has been identified as Felicity Eden, 19, from Jamesburg, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office.

The crash involved three cars and occurred at approximately 4:11 a.m. on Rt. 1 south in the area of the North Brunswick Walmart, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor. According to her obituary, she worked as a dietary aide with Care One in East Brunswick.

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Fatal Crash During Coronavirus Kills Three, Including Infant

Perth Amboy, NJ: It is often during times of crisis that the worst of people becomes evident—this incident is no exception.

On March 28, 2020, Patrick Monahan, 38, of Staten Island, was driving a 2018 Ram 1500 pick-up and was driving aggressively, cutting in and out of traffic, said police. He was also recorded driving 40 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit just seconds before striking a Ford minivan on Convery Boulevard, said Perth Amboy police.

The minivan’s passengers, Maria De Lourdes Aguerra, 47, and Maria Garcia, 44, both of Elizabeth, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. An 8-month-old infant in the minivan was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, but died Saturday.

The Staten Island man who told police he was “out visiting friends” killed three people Friday night. A search of his pick-up truck also revealed suspected controlled dangerous substances, said police, who did not specify what the drugs were.

Monahan was charged with aggravated manslaughter in the first degree, three counts of vehicular homicide in the second degree and one count of aggravated assault in the third degree. In addition, after he told police he was out visiting friends, he was also charged with three counts of Violation of Law Intended to Protect Public Health and Safety and Recklessly Causing Death in the second degree, one count of Violation of Law Intended to Protect Public Health and Safety and Recklessly Causing Bodily Injury in the fourth degree, and one count of Violation of an Emergency Order.

Monahan violated Governor Murphy’s March 21 order that restricts non-essential activities in the state of New Jersey, said police.

He is currently being held at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center.

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ON Saturday March 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Murphy ordered all “non-essential” retail businesses to close. In compliance, we have closed our offices to the public.

Regardless we are doing our best to be here for the citizens of New Jersey.

The lawyers and staff at The Law Offices of Gregg A. Williams are still here to serve you. We are available by email, phone, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or other means to answer your personal injury questions, needs and protect your rights.

We will continue to be available for your needs both in the office and remotely as best as we are able.

As to cases that we already represent you, your calls, emails and correspondence will be answered in a timely and professional manner as much as possible. We want to continue to deliver the same quality of service our clients have come to expect from our office.

Should you have any issue or concerns, please do not hesitate to call or email us. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy as we navigate this new normal together.

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New Truck Accident Study by FMCSA—Hopefully Reducing Crashes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced plans to conduct a new truck crash causation study for the first time in over 15 years. The study is designed to provide new information about the causes of truck accidents, taking into account shifts in technology and driver behavior. In particular, the FMCSA wants to see how cell phone use has impacted truck crashes.

The FMCSA is currently “seeking information on how best to design and conduct a study to identify factors contributing to all FMCSA-reportable crashes involved in tow-away, injury, and fatal accidents.” FMCSA plans to employ a methodology that addresses “the use of on-board electronic systems which can generate information about speeding, lane departure, and hard braking,” but it will also seek to identify other behaviors, activities, and conditions that play a role in truck accidents.

In recent years, large truck accident rates have risen. Between 2009 and 2018, deadly trucking collisions rose by 52.6%. Back in 2003 when the FMCSA completed its initial truck crash causation study, it determined that driver error was the major cause of collisions. It will be looking to see whether that fact remains true in recent years and, in particular, whether a truck driver’s negligence is the primary reason for crashes in an era of increased technology.

The following facts and figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) help to show the severity of truck accidents:

  • 4,136 people were killed in truck accidents in 2018;
  • 67% of those killed in trucking collisions are occupants of passenger vehicles;
  • 16% of people who suffer fatal injuries in large truck collisions are large truck occupants;
  • 15% of people killed in large truck crashes are pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists;
  • Truck accident deaths have risen significantly between 2009-2018 (truck accident rates were at their lowest in 2009); and
  • Rate of truck occupant deaths has increased particularly significantly since 2009.

If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries in a truck crash, contact the Law Offices of Gregg A. Williams today!

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NJ MVA: Diminished Value Fact vs. Fiction

  • FICTION: If your car is expertly repaired there will be no diminished value of your vehicle.
  • FACT: This is what the insurance companies would like you to believe. Even if your car has been expertly repaired, it can and will never be considered “original” or “undamaged” again and this will certainly have an impact on its resale value. A nationwide MMI survey confirmed that an accident repair history would prevent the majority (65%) of our respondents from purchasing that vehicle. This means that if you are selling a car privately, many consumers will no longer be interested upon learning your car has an accident history. Many dealers will either not want a car with an accident history on trade-in or will provide a very low offer, as most of these cars cannot be re-sold as a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, but rather would need to be wholesaled for auction. For the small majority of consumers that would consider the purchase of a vehicle with an accident history, a large discount off of the sale price would be expected.
  • FICTION: If in an accident, you are only entitled to recover the cost of repairs for your vehicle, not for its diminished value.
  • FACT: If you are not at fault, you have the right to make a diminished value claim and recover your vehicle’s loss in value in addition to the full cost of repairs from the at fault party’s insurer. Insurance companies are very reluctant to pay settlements related to diminished value, but NJ court cases have successfully lead to 3rd party diminished value settlements.
  • FICTION: The at fault party’s insurance company will assist you with a diminished value claim.
  • FACT: Again, no insurance company will approach you about the possibility of a diminished value claim. As diminished value is a secret all insurance companies want to keep under wraps, neither your insurance company nor the at fault party’s insurer will assist you in filing a diminished value claim. You must take the initiative to file this claim with the at fault’s insurance company to obtain a settlement. As the insurance company will want to minimize loses, having an expert such as MMI on your side to provide a diminished value appraisal will level the playing field.
  • FICTION: There is a standard formula for determining diminished value.
  • FACT: While insurance companies may try and provide an unacceptable low assessment of your vehicle’s diminished value, and possibly tell you there is a standard formula that is approved for use called 17C or a derivative of this, do not accept it. As every vehicle loses value differently there is no accepted formula. The vehicle’s age, make, model, mileage and condition as well as the extent of damage suffered all play a part in determining the diminished value of a damaged vehicle. Having an evaluation by an independent, unbiased expert such as MMI is strongly recommended to determine and document the extent of your loss to the insurer.
  • FICTION: Your car had an accident history and was traded-in or sold privately, so you can no longer make a claim for diminished value.
  • FACT: Statute of limitation varies by state. In the State of New Jersey, the statute of limitations for lawsuit filing related to property damage is 6 years from the date your claim arises (date of loss), which means any legal action must be taken within that time period. Even if your car was traded-in or sold privately you can still file a claim/take legal action for diminished value in NJ within the statute of limitations. The repair records as well as documentation of the resale price of the vehicle will be needed to properly assess the diminished value. It is recommended though that a DV claim be filed as soon as possible after your accident.
  • FICTION: My vehicle must be repaired in order for me to file a diminished value claim.
  • FACT: MMI customers have been successful in recovering diminished value on vehicles that have been sold prior to being repaired. We are willing to think “outside of the box”, always looking for ways to assist our customers.
  • FICTION: My insurance rates will go up if I file a diminished value claim
  • FACT: Your insurance rates will not be affected if you file a diminished value claim as you will be filing this claim with the at fault party’s insurance company.
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Teens & Car Accidents: Recent Study Discusses the Risks

If you have a teenager at home who recently got a driver’s license, or even if you have a teen driver who has a year or two of experience behind the wheel, it is important to know that car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. each year.

According to a recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported by ABC News, “car accidents are the number one cause of death for teens.”

What are the two most common reasons that teen car crashes happen? According to the report, inexperience behind the wheel and willingness to engage in risk-taking behaviors are the two most prominent causes of teen motor vehicle collisions. Even when teens understand the rules of the road and agree to follow them, certain driving tendencies tend to show up when a driver is inexperienced. For example, teen drivers frequently follow too closely behind other cars, or do not brake quickly enough. Inexperienced drivers also have more difficulty anticipating behaviors of other drivers on the road, which can result in collisions that a more experienced driver might have avoided.

Yet inexperience is not the only reason that teen drivers are at high risk for a crash. Teenagers who are behind the wheel are also more likely to engage in risky and dangerous driving behaviors. For instance, texting while driving, or using a smartphone to talk or surf the internet, are common behaviors among teens. Any distractions behind the wheel can be dangerous, and smartphone usage can be particularly hazardous. As NHTSA emphasizes, sending a single text message takes an average of five seconds, and taking your eyes off the road for five seconds to send a text is the equivalent of “driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

How can we take steps to prevent teen accidents? Parents and guardians should understand the risks and should encourage safe driving behaviors.

Tips for Safer Teen Driving

Teen car accidents do not have to happen, and many collisions are preventable.

The following are safety tips for teenage drivers from the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles: 

•           Always go the speed limit so that you will have time to react in an unexpected event;

•           Do not follow others too closely in case they come to a sudden stop;

•           Do not use your cell phone while driving;

•           Avoid eating or drinking while driving;

•           Never drink alcohol and then drive;

•           Plan ahead: look up directions before you start driving and familiarize yourself with your route ahead of time;

•           Leave early so you will have plenty of time to get to your destination and will not be tempted to speed; and

•           Use turn signals so that other drivers know what your next course of action is while driving

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Mom of the Year Award

Mother Drunk Driving with Kids in the Car, Crashes into Building

 Newark, NJ—Drinking and driving is bad. A mother drinking and driving with her children in the car is horrifying. Sonya Harrison, 43, of Newark was driving drunk with two children in her car when she crashed into a building early February 28, 2020. seriously injuring herself and her young daughter. Harrison suffered facial fractures in the crash and her 8-year-old daughter’s legs and pelvis were fractured. Both were hospitalized in serious condition.

Harrison’s 13-year-old son was treated at the hospital for a wrist injury and was later released.

Harrison was charged with child endangerment and drunken driving.

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A Win for Injured Workers

On January 21, 2020 Governor Phil Murphy signed The New Jersey Collection Practices Bill. This bill will provide important protection for workers’ compensation claimants by prohibiting health care providers from reporting certain workers’ compensation medical charges and past due medical bills to collection and credit agencies.

The Collection Practices Bill is a critical improvement to the state’s workers’ compensation system, and one which protects injured workers and their families from facing additional financial strains if they have a pending workers’ compensation cases – a time when they are most likely to experience hardships created by limited income, mounting expenses, and uncertainty about their futures.

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A “High” Achievement for Injured Workers

Companies in New Jersey have to pay for the medical marijuana of employees receiving worker’s compensation, state judges said in January 2020.

Worker’s compensation judges in recent years have sided with medical marijuana patients, including a 2018 decision ruling that Freehold Township had to reimburse an injured employee’s marijuana prescription. But a Superior Court decision released Monday should put to rest employers’ arguments that medical marijuana reimbursements violate federal law.

“To deprive petitioner of the only relief from the constant pain he has experienced for almost 20 years would eviscerate the principles and goals of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act,” Superior Court Judge Heidi Willis Currier wrote in the three-judge panel’s precedent-setting decision backing Vincent Hager, who was injured in 2001 when a dump truck dropped concrete on him.

The judges also rejected M&K Construction’s arguments that it should be treated like private health insurers, which are not required to reimburse for medical marijuana, and that marijuana is not a reasonable or necessary pain remedy.

Since his injury at age 28, Hager spent years getting a series of lumbar surgeries that were unsuccessful at relieving his pain. He also was prescribed numerous addictive opioid pain medications, including Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Valium and Lyrica.

In 2016, his doctor prescribed marijuana, which Hager said relieved some of his pain and allowed him to get off opioids.

Even with the marijuana, Hager — who cannot work and lives with his parents — can only bear to stand half an hour or an hour at a time.

The court opinion noted that he is prescribed 2 ounces a month at a cost of $616.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that federal law considers it one of the worst drugs with no legitimate medical purpose. But that is not true: 33 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have medical marijuana programs. New Jersey’s 2010 medical marijuana law cites copious research backing marijuana’s medicinal benefits.

A medical expert who testified for the company argued that Hager should be able to deal with the pain, saying: “Unfortunately, sometimes people have pain.”

The worker’s comp judge in 2018 found that “unacceptable as inhumane and contrary to the law.”

“This court concludes that, if the only choice […] is between opioids and marijuana, then marijuana is the clearly indicated option,” the worker’s comp judge said.

The judge in the Freehold Township case had a more forceful argument for marijuana, saying that opioids were “killing people.”

Currier’s opinion this week said that that the state’s medical marijuana act was not in conflict with federal law because the state law does not prevent federal authorities from prosecuting marijuana crimes. The decision also noted that M&K Construction’s fears about being prosecuted were unfounded because Congress has prevented the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana programs.

The decision also pointed out that reimbursing a medical marijuana patient does not require a company to break federal law by possessing, manufacturing or distributing marijuana.

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February 2020: A Month of Highway and Train Accidents

NEW JERSEY TRANSIT- A Newark-bound NJ Transit train crashed into a tractor-trailer in a crossing that has long been deemed dangerous by some. The incident took place in Middlesex. and impacted the Raritan Valley train line. Though the collision left a trail of debris, the truck driver and the 340 passengers on board the train were uninjured.

WOODBRIDGE – A New Jersey man died in a weekend Garden State Parkway crash involving a car and a tractor-trailer. Emmanuel Emeana, 36 of Piscataway died earlier this month after crashing into the back of the truck. Emeana was exiting off Exit 129 in Woodbridge and merging onto Route 9 southbound when his Lexus ES hit the truck. Emeana later died.

EAGLESWOOD – A 37-year-old Barnegat man has been identified as the victim of a fatal car crash on Forge Road near Tanglewood Drive, according to the New Jersey State Police. There were no other occupants in the car and no other vehicles involved in the crash. The incident happened about 5:55 p.m. on Saturday February 22, 2020 as the Chevrolet Geo was going west on Forge Road. The vehicle left the right side of the county highway and overturned, which resulted in the occupant being ejected from the car.