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The textalyzer: valuable deterrent or invasion of privacy?

You undoubtedly know what a Breathalyzer is – an electronic device that law-enforcement agencies use to measure blood-alcohol content.

But have you heard about the textalyzer? It’s a new technology that determines how and when a person has been using his or her smartphone. A company called Cellebrite is developing the technology.

The textalyzer is a tablet-sized device that plugs in to your phone. The textalyzer’s developers say it can reveal how a person was using his or her phone, including taps, swipes and the use of apps. The textalyzer is a tool that law enforcement could use to discover if drivers have been texting while driving.

In July, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to research the textalyzer and come back with recommendations for its use. Cuomo also asked the committee to examine any privacy issues that the device could raise.

Legislation is in progress

Cuomo’s request isn’t the first government action that’s been taken in New York regarding the textalyzer.

In 2016, a bill was introduced in the New York legislature that would force drivers involved in accidents to have their phones tested by a textalyzer. The testing would determine if drivers were using their phones before a crash.

The bill has been called “Evan’s Law,” in memory of Evan Lieberman, a 19-year-old who was killed in New York by a distracted driver. The bill has remained in committee, according to the New York State Senate’s website.

Is the textalyzer a good thing?  

The textalyzer is creating debate: is the device an invaluable deterrent, an invasion of privacy or both?

Privacy advocates, like the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that police should need a warrant to test a phone; they say there’s no guarantee that police could not extract any or all the information on your phone.

What happens next?

With the governor’s committee studying the textalyzer, it seems likely that a positive recommendation could help “Evan’s Law” make progress toward becoming a real law.

Lawmakers in New Jersey, Tennessee and Chicago also are trying to make it legal for police to use the textalyzer. Texting and driving is banned in every state, except for Arizona and Montana. There’s a partial ban in Missouri.

I’ve been injured: What should I do now?

Suffering a personal injury is difficult not only because of physical pain, but because of the often-complicated legal process that may follow. The moments immediately following a personal injury are often full of adrenaline, pain and confusion. The days, weeks and months following the injury may be spent navigating a complex legal system in order to receive compensation for your injury.

If you have sustained a personal injury, you may be wondering what you should do next. What follows is a summary of the most important steps to take after a personal injury.

Seek medical attention

Your immediate concern should be your health. Following a personal injury, see a doctor immediately. Sometimes the symptoms of an injury are not immediately apparent. Even if this is the case, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Gather evidence

Gather as much evidence of the accident as you can. Suffering an injury can be jarring, but try to remain clear-headed and document the scene by writing down everything that happened and taking pictures of the area.

Get information

Get the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. These witnesses could be crucial to your case. If applicable, get the contact information of the property owner, as well.

File your suit

There is no time limit to filing a lawsuit against a private individual, but there may be a time limit on whether you can collect compensation for your injury. If you are filing a suit against a government entity, there is usually a statute of limitations on how soon you may file a claim. Therefore, you should file your suit as quickly as possible. Consult a personal injury lawyer who can assist you in collecting compensation for a personal injury.

5 tips for working out child custody agreements

When parents work together to come up with a child custody agreement, they consider the child’s desires and needs. One way that parents come to the terms of the agreement is through child custody mediation. This process lets the parents work with a third-party mediator to come up with an agreement. The court must approve the agreement after the parents sign it. Consider these tips when you are going through child custody mediation.

#1: Keep your child first

Your child must be at the heart of the negotiations. You must think about what your child needs and wants. This includes coming up with a schedule that enables your child to see both parents on a regular basis. If you and your ex can’t work together, you can always have the court step in to decide what is best.

#2: Don’t bring other matters into the negotiations

Don’t use child custody mediation as a time to get back at your ex for things that happened during the marriage or divorce. Instead, the child custody mediation must focus strictly on your child and providing the opportunity to create and maintain meaningful relationships with both parents.

#3: Be willing to think outside of the box

Part of the reason child custody mediation works is because of negotiations. You should be willing to go through some give and take during the process. Make a list of points you are willing to remain flexible on and those that you won’t negotiate at all. This is a starting point for the process, and you can refer to the list during the negotiations.

#4: Plan for vacations and holidays

Vacations and holidays often require a unique schedule. Be sure that you cover these terms in the child custody negotiations. This can save you time and effort later when you need to figure out who is going to spend holidays with your child or where your child will spend summer vacation.

#5: Decide who will make decisions

Decision making power is another area that you have to consider. Typically, you need to decide if you, your ex or both parents are going to make decisions about health care, education and religious matters. Each category can have a different arrangement. Be sure to include how emergency decisions should be handled. For example, if you have decision-making power for health care, you may need to note that if an emergency occurs, your ex can make the decision.

Family Law Archives Divorce and the family home

If you are a Buffalo resident who is contemplating a divorce, one of the biggest issues after custody arrangements of any minor children are resolved is what will happen to the marital home.

Determining which spouse will get the home or whether it needs to be sold outright is usually a decision that is fraught with emotion. No matter how acrimonious the divorce may be, it can be very hard for divorcing spouses to walk away from the home where a lifetime of memories was made.

Minor children and the family home

Some family court judges award the use of the marital home to the parent who has primary custody of the minor children. This is done to preserve continuity in the kids’ lives and reduce the number of disruptions they will endure resulting from the divorce.

Later, once the children have grown up, the courts can rule that the property will then be sold and the proceeds from the sale split between the former spouses.

Gray divorces and the house dilemma

When no minor children are involved and the divorcing spouses are middle-aged or older, different factors come into play regarding the family home. It’s important not to let emotions overrule sound thinking, as holding onto the home can be impractical and a financial liability.

Below are some important factors which must be considered.

  • Can either of the spouses afford the mortgage, property taxes and maintenance costs of the upkeep of the home on a single salary?
  • Are either or both physically able to handle the tasks of a homeowner by themselves. Buffalo winters are brutal, with plenty of snow that needs to be shoveled and storm windows to install and remove twice a year.
  • Is the house a money pit? Will all your discretionary funds be devoted to patching the roof and fixing plumbing leaks?

Facing the future post-divorce

Both parties have to be realistic about what they can physically and financially manage after the divorce. Be frank with your family law attorney about your concerns moving forward after the divorce is finalized. Have him or her explore all of the options you have available to you, such as giving up your share of the family home in exchange for a larger share of the retirement accounts.

Keep an eye on the housing markets

In recent years there has been a great deal of fluctuation in the housing market across the nation. If the two of you decide to sell the house and split the proceeds, make sure the timing is right. Don’t list the property when it’s clearly a buyer’s market. That might mean sprucing it up to rent for awhile until the time is right to sell.

Whatever your final decision is, make sure that your attorney has fully explained the pros and cons of all your options so that you are able to make the best decision for your particular situation.

Employers should work to prevent injuries among older workers

By 2024, older workers will make up a full quarter of the labor market, according to government estimates. In 2015, workers 55 and older were involved in 35 percent of all fatal workplace accidents. Are the two facts related?

After all, even normal aging is associated with a variety of physical issues, including changes in balance and response time. Accumulated damage over time can reduce hearing and vision. Aging is often associated with osteoporosis, or brittle bones. These changes “could potentially make a workplace injury into a much more serious injury or a potentially fatal injury,” noted one public health epidemiologist.

Older workers might be more prone to injury. Or, they may be more likely to suffer more serious injuries than younger workers in similar accidents. Whatever the reason for the high rate of accidents among older workers, they make up a large — and increasing — sector of the workforce. There needs to be a greater focus on our aging workforce when it comes to injury prevention.

“That’s what’s driving the change right now,” says the co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. “Changes are needed. These workers are staying in their jobs.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, is the federal agency responsible for researching work-related injuries and illnesses and their prevention. The agency has several recommendations for helping older workers avoid acute, repetitive-stress, and other types of injuries on the job:

  • Reduce or eliminate noise hazards and other environmental issues in the workplace, such as slip- and trip-hazards.
  • Ensure that the workplace is ergonomically sound by providing appropriate workstations, chairs, lighting and floor coverings.
  • Organize work so that workers stand and move around regularly rather than remain seated all day. Examples include providing standing desks or organizing regular on-site physical activities.
  • Offer flexible schedules, work locations and tasks.
  • Train all workers in team lifting and other techniques where teams work together to reduce the risk of injury during potentially dangerous activities.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles and strive to make reasonable accommodations for medical self-care at work and for medical appointments.

“Our emphasis is productive aging,” said the co-director of NIOSH’s National Center for Productive Aging and Work.

Whatever role you play in the workplace, make safety for all employees your emphasis. That includes making simple changes to working conditions that support older workers.

NY workers’ comp reform plan may reduce benefits to workers

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has just released a new proposal on how permanent impairments will be evaluated. According to the board’s chair, the proposal “will incorporate advances in medicine that result in better healing and outcomes for injured workers to use in evaluations and determinations for schedule loss of use awards.”

Unfortunately, it’s not clear how advances in medicine will be accounted for in schedule loss of use awards, which are payments for permanent impairments.

As the chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance pointed out, advances in medicine are already taken into account because they improve outcomes for injured workers. “For example,” he said, “if the modern approach to a surgery leaves the patient with greater mobility and strength than the way it was done 20 years ago, then they would correspondingly get a lower ‘schedule loss’ rating today than they did then.”

Citing a lack of transparency in the board’s process, the Workers’ Compensation Alliance released the results of a survey indicating that many workers feel their schedule loss benefits are already too low. The Workers’ Compensation Alliance is a coalition of workers’ comp attorneys and injured workers in New York.

Some 1,500 injured workers, a little over half of whom had a schedule loss award, responded to the online survey. 69 percent said their schedule loss evaluation was already too low under the current guidelines. 75 percent felt their overall award was inadequate to compensate them for their injury.

One weakness of the survey was that it’s not clear how many respondents were members of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance. That said, the organization does not lobby for attorney fees but only to preserve due process rights and benefits for workers, according to its chairman.

The chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance also pointed out that New York workers’ comp premiums have been cut by 4.5 percent recently. This resulted in about a half billion dollars in savings for employers. This may indicate successful lobbying efforts by employers, as may another change. The Workers’ Compensation Board is currently working on releasing a new formulary for what prescription medications will be covered under workers’ compensation in New York. That is expected to save employers another $100 million or more.

“Given that picture, it is difficult to comprehend the argument that employer costs are skyrocketing and that worker benefits must be slashed,” said the chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Alliance.

Scary: OSHA releases 2017’s Top 10 workplace safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has analyzed its files and determined what dangerous conditions were most prevalent at work in fiscal year 2017. As is often the case, many (but not all) of the violations were focused in the construction and industrial fields.

Here are the Top 10 most common workplace safety violations this year, based on the number of citations:

10. Faulty electrical wiring, including the improper use of extension cords. 1,405 violations (down from 1,937 last year).

9. Lack of appropriate fall protection training. 1,523 violations. The gear won’t save you if you don’t know how to use it properly.

8. Machine guards disabled or removed. 1,933 violations (down from 2,448 in 2016). Common industrial and construction machines require guards to protect workers from sparks, nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and more. These are often intentionally removed to promote efficiency and ease of use.

7. Forklift use and training violations. 2,162 violations (down from 2,855 in 2016). Every three years, drivers of powered industrial trucks must receive training, certification and reevaluation.

6. Improper use of ladders. 2,241 violations (down from 2,625 last year). This can include using ladders of insufficient height, failure to set them up properly or even stacking ladders on objects.

5. Lack of training and inspections in lockout/tagout procedures. 2,877 violations (down from 3,406 last year). When machinery can start up unexpectedly or release hazardous energy during maintenance, lockout or tagout procedures are put in place to protect workers.

4. Respiratory protection violations. 3,097 violations (down from 3,573 in 2016). Respirators are masks meant to protect workers from airborne particles and hazards. The violations included failure to have a written plan for respiratory protection and failure to conduct regular medical examinations on workers who use respirators in their work.

3. Scaffolding violations. 3,288 violations (down from 3,900 in 2016). Typical violations include improper setup and construction of scaffolding, lack of guardrails, and unsafe access points to scaffolding surfaces.

2. Poor hazard communication. 4,176 violations (down from 5,665 last year). Whenever a company uses hazardous chemicals, it must have a written hazard communication plan. Additionally, they must ensure that all containers are labeled, train employees on their proper use, and provide material safety data sheets to workers.

1. Fall protection violations. 6,072 violations (down from 6,906 in 2016). Typical violations include failure to provide guards for open sides and edges, which keep workers from falling.

The great news is that violations were down in all areas that were on the Top 10 list last year. The not-so-great news is that there are still hundreds or thousands of violations in these basic areas every year — which can cause serious injury to workers.

Workers’ Compensation Archives Reasons why workers’ compensation claims are denied

Being injured at work is bad enough – being denied workers compensation benefits makes it even worse.

Many workers’ comp claims are denied on the first application. Often, the denial has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the claim, and a significant percentage of individuals receive benefits after being denied on the first application.

Why are claims denied?

So what can go wrong with a workers’ comp application? Here is a list of some of the common reasons why applications are denied.

  • The injury was not reported to the employer in a timely manner. Many states, including New York, have deadlines for reporting work-related injuries. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board says employees should report injuries to a supervisor immediately. Then, within 30 days of the accident, employees must inform employers of the accident, in writing.
  • The application was not filed in time. Applications in New York must be filed within two years of the accident.
  • Your employer is disputing the claim. Employers dispute claims for many reasons, but here’s one example: there were no witnesses and the employer does not believe the injury occurred at work.
  • Your injuries are not eligible for benefits.
  • You have not sought medical treatment yet for your injuries.
  • The insurance company determines that you were working as a contractor and you were not an employee.

Sometimes the denial could be the result of clerical error or a simple misunderstanding of the facts of your case.

What is the next step?

If or when you are denied benefits, it is crucial to think logically and make good decisions regarding how to proceed.

The denial letter will tell you why your claim was refused. After an application is denied, the next step is to appeal. At this point, it is very important to not make any mistakes – your financial and physical health could hinge on making a well-reasoned objection to the benefits denial. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will fight for your interests typically is a wise move.

Be proactive in your high-asset divorce

If you have made the decision to split from your spouse then you have a lot on your mind. You worry about the children. You question what the future will bring. You sit in your room and look around. The life that you’ve built will be dismantled and then reassembled. Pieces of your life will be packed into boxes. You start to think about everything you own. Perhaps you consider what you will keep and what he will take.

You can’t help but wonder how the divorce will impact you financially. Will he try to take something that you think is yours? What about child support and alimony?

You might want to create a statement of net worth. This document outlines your finances and expenses. It can help with determining how assets are divided and any support obligations.

In order to complete the statement you will need:

  • Any financial statements-investments, loans, etc.
  • A list of household expenses-utilities, insurance, etc.
  • Tax returns-from the past three years
  • Expenses that your children require-extracurricular activities, care costs, etc.
  • A list of personal assets-jewelry, antiques, etc.

You will want to prepare yourself for the divorce. You will want to make sure you know as much as possible about your finances. If you think that your spouse may try to hide any assets, you should be vigilant.

As you delve into your finances, you can watch for these red flags:

  • Your spouse becomes secretive and wants total control over money
  • Financial statements no longer arrive at home, but are forwarded elsewhere
  • Your spouse opens a PO box
  • Your spouse opens new accounts and doesn’t tell you
  • Your spouse changes spending habits
  • Financial documents start to get stored and filed in a new way

These behaviors don’t necessarily mean your spouse is hiding assets. You should try to communicate with your spouse. Ask questions regarding these items. If you do suspect that your spouse is hiding assets you should seek professional assistance. Do your best to adequately prepare yourself for the divorce. Keep your children and their emotions in mind as you take action to build a new future.

6 key car accident statistics

You know how common car accidents are, but you still get on the road every day to drive to work. As a young professional, just 25 years old and starting your career, you don’t usually worry about it. You’ve never been in a serious accident, and, even though you see the news reports every day, you don’t think it will happen to you.

The reality, though, is that accidents don’t discriminate. Safe driving can help you avoid them, but nothing can eliminate your risk entirely. Below are six key stats that you should know:

  1. A full 10 percent of deadly accidents stem from distracted driving.

This statistic comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, while looking at the numbers for 2013. Distracted driving, which includes texting and driving, took 3,154 lives. A total of 424,000 people were hurt, meaning that distracted driving accounted for 18 percent of all accidents involving injuries.

  1. More than a third of all drivers fall asleep while driving.

The AAA Traffic Safety Foundation did a study that claimed a full 37 percent of people have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving at least once. They claim that tired drivers are involved in 13 percent of serious injury accidents and 21 percent of deadly crashes. Even drivers who don’t fall asleep could have slower reaction times when they are tired.

  1. Over 10 million accidents aren’t even reported.

It does stand to reason that many unreported accidents don’t involve injuries, but it’s still interesting to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes at least 10 million wrecks never get called in. This indicates that the odds of an accident could be far higher than stats suggest.

  1. Just under a third of all accidents involve speeding.

Speed limits vary from road to road, but drivers always like to push those boundaries. In 29 percent of deadly crashes, speeding was a factor. That stat comes from 2013. It’s higher for younger drivers. For instance, for men from 15 to 24 years old, about 35 percent of deadly accidents involved a speeding driver.

  1. Alcohol is involved in about 31 percent of deadly accidents.

That stat also is from 2013, when 10,076 people lost their lives. It was trending down at the time, compared to 2012, but was still a significant factor — and remains one today.

  1. Almost 2,000 injuries happen after one driver runs a red light.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also said that over 900 people are killed annually in these accidents. Roughly 50 percent of those who are killed are pedestrians and those in the cars that are hit, while the other 50 percent are the drivers who run red lights.

As you can see by reading these statistics, many accidents take place in such a way that you can’t do anything to prevent them. Another driver can be drunk or distracted, run a red light, and hit you on the way to or from work, even when you’ve made no mistakes. Regardless of age or your driving record, it’s important to know about your legal rights to compensation if you’re injured in a crash.

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