New York State Imposes Stricter Rules For Teen Drivers

February 27, 2010 by Mark Siesel

This week New York State changed its rules regarding teenage drivers to improve safety on the roadways. Effective immediately, teenage drivers with a learner's permit obtained at age 16 will be required to wait six months to take their road test to obtain a license. Second, the new law increases from 20 to 50 the amount of hours that the teenage driver must complete, as verified by a parent (15 of those hours during night time) before he or she can get a license. Third, drivers with learner's permits or a junior license are now limited to one non-family passenger under the age of 21 in the car unless there is an adult in the vehicle as well.

The new rules have been established due to significant statistics reflecting the percentages of teen and young adult drivers in New York car crashes. According to the National Safety Council, motorists aged 16 to 24 comprised 16% of all drivers in New York, but accounted for approximately 26 % of all injuries and New York wrongful death fatalities in 2008. In 2001, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the amount of car crashes almost doubled for each additional teenage passenger in a vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2008 that 16 year old drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a car accident than 17 year olds, and a whopping 5 times more likely to be in crashes than 18 year old drivers!

For those of us with teenage children and impending young drivers in the near future, the new law is a very sensible and proactive approach to improving young driver safety, and I applaud the legislators behind this new legislation.

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Toyota Reeling In The Wake Of Recalls And Congressional Investigation

February 26, 2010 by Mark Siesel

Toyota is in the midst of an absolute legal and public relations disaster as the result of its delay in responding to deadly defects in its cars and trucks which have apparently led to at least 34 deaths in the last decade. The problem is sudden acceleration, which has been blamed on floor mat interference and sticky gas pedals, but which many safety experts are attributing to the electronic systems in these vehicles. Toyota has recalled approximately 8.5 million cars, and supposedly repaired about 800,000 to date, but the company has run into two huge public relations and credibility nightmares. First, despite initially claiming that it first learned of the sudden acceleration problem last October, it is now known that a year earlier, in October of 2008, there was an issue with sticky pedals in Europe, particularly in Britain and Ireland. Toyota's CEO for North America, Yoshimi Inaba, claimed that the company "Did not hide [the problem]...but it was not properly shared...with the United States to see if there was any danger to American consumers." Sure seems like hiding the problem to this writer.

Second, the Congressional oversight committee found that Toyota had given a presentation that stated "Toyota safety wins", noting that they had been able to save $100 million by convincing the government initially to allow them to recall floor mats on 55,000 Toyota Camry and Lexus ES 350 sedans rather than recalling the vehicles themselves. This past Tuesday, in testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, James E. Lentz, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., informed the committee that the ongoing repairs might "not totally" solve the sudden acceleration problem--certainly not exactly comforting words for Toyota owners nationwide.

To attempt to quell the growing swirl of controversy and anger at the delayed and insufficient response to their defective vehicles, Toyota has announced that they will commence at home pickups of vehicles, reimbursement of consumer's transportation expenses and free rental cars while cars are being repaired. New York State's Attorney General has started a website- to provide information about this program. Toyota has also announced that new models will allow brakes to override gas pedals in an added effort to solve the sudden acceleration issue.

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Diabetes Drug Avandia Blamed For Heart Problems

February 22, 2010 by Mark Siesel

In a front page story in the February 20, 2010 edition of the New York Times, Gardiner Harris reported on confidential FDA reports which have recommended that the diabetes drug Avandia be removed from the market. Apparently, FDA studies have determined that if diabetes sufferers had taken another drug, Actos, approximately 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure could have been avoided. Avandia, also known by its clinical name Rosiglitazone, is prescribed to patients with Type 2 diabetes. This apparently dangerous drug was linked to a shocking 304 deaths worldwide in the third quarter of 2009, according to a study by the Institute for Safe Medication Practice, a drug safety group

Two FDA researchers, Dr. David Graham and Dr. Kate Gelperin, concluded that "Rosiglitazone should be removed from the market." There is a significant conflict over what should be done with Avandia. Naturally, the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, is claiming that the reports of cardiac problems as a result of Avandia use are not scientifically definitive and require further study. Senators Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, and Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, who have overseen the FDA study, are sharply critical of GlaxoSmithKline, stating that the company should have alerted patients many years ago of the potential cardiovascular risks of Avandia, thus offering patients the opportunity to take a less dangerous drug for their diabetes. But as early as 2003, according to the Senate investigation, GlaxoSmithKline and the FDA were aware of a GlaxoSmithKline study in which diabetics who used Avandia had substantially more heart problems than those given placebos!

Several years back, Avandia was one of the top selling drugs in the world, but after a 2007 study by a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist suggested cardiac risks from Avandia, the FDA got involved, and sales of the drug took a dive. Mr. Harris also reports that GlaxoSmithKline executives attempted intimidation tactics to prevent independent physicians from notifying patients or other doctors that Avandia posed serious heart risks to diabetics, who die from heart problems 66% of the time. In one egregious example, in 1999, University of North Carolina professor John Buse gave presentations at scientific meetings suggesting that Avandia caused heart problems. As a result, GlaxoSmithKline executives complained to his supervisor and warned of potential legal action against Dr. Buse in an effort to keep him quiet. Dr. Buse ended up signing a document prepared by GlaxoSmithKline agreeing not to publicly discuss his concerns about Avandia. The report mentions another similar incident of intimidation of University of Pennsylvania investigators.

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New York Slip And Fall-Preserving Evidence Key To Successful Outcome

February 1, 2010 by Mark Siesel

If you are injured in a New York slip and fall accident or accident involving dangerous premises, it is vital that you get as much evidence as possible while in the store to win in Court or obtain a good settlement. Some examples:

1. Insist on providing a written report to the manager or supervisor of the store or establishment, which you review before signing, and get a copy of that report;

2. When reporting an accident, do not allow the store representative to put words in your mouth (which they love to do) such as that you were looking at the shelves, not the floor, or you were distracted by a child or a cellphone;

3. If you slipped on a substance and there is an open bottle, write down the name of the product. If you slipped or tripped on an item sold in the store, secure this item as it will be of critical importance if your case reaches trial;

4. Take photographs of the accident scene on a cellphone or better yet, a digital camera if you are fortunate enough to have one with you;

5. Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of any witnesses to the accident;

6. Don't refuse medical attention if you are injured--take them up on their offer to call an ambulance for you. We have many cases in our office in which the client refused medical attention initially, which is a frequent defense of the insurance carriers for these owners of dangerous premises;

7. Take photographs of any visible injuries such as bruising, swelling, and bleeding;

8. Preserve intact any clothing which has been damaged, torn or has blood stains or stains from a spilled substance;

9. Maintain a diary of how the accident has affected your life, documenting pain, loss of range of motion, inability to perform activities of daily living, doctor's appointments, and the loss of enjoyment of hobbies and sports that you would normally engage in.

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