Common back injuries from auto accidents

The spine is an important part of the nervous system that houses the spinal cord. An auto accident in New Jersey can disrupt the functioning of the spine and cause several types of injuries.

Herniated discs

A herniated disc is a common personal injury after an auto accident, which damages the cushions in between vertebrae. The cushions act as shock absorbers, but the impact may cause them to push through the spine.

Some common symptoms of a herniated disc include weakness around infected nerves, tingling or numbness, and leg or arm pain. Studies show that about 90% of patients may experience no symptoms or delayed symptoms, and most cases heal with treatment.

Spinal fractures

A compression fracture causes the front of the spine to collapse while the back remains in place. Compression fractures commonly cause a loss of height, arm or leg numbness, and pain in legs, arms or back.

A more severe spinal fracture is a burst fracture, which breaks the vertebra in multiple places. A burst fracture often worsens pain when moving and causes muscle weakness, numbness and tingling and bowel or bladder issues. A flexion fracture occurs when the upper body is forcibly moved forward, but the bottom remains uninjured.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis does not always directly occur from vehicle accidents, but it can aggravate pre-existing symptoms. This condition causes the spaces in the spine to constrict, most commonly in the lower back and neck.

The narrowing of spaces in the neck is called cervical stenosis, and it’s called lumbar stenosis in the lower back. The extra pressure on the nerve roots could cause sciatica, shooting pain or radiating pain.

Injured parties should seek medical care immediately, even if they don’t feel injured. Delaying treatment may make the injury seem less serious to the at-fault party’s insurance. Injured car crash victims also have limited time to file a claim under the statutes of limitation, so it’s important to get a doctor’s opinion right away.

What not to do after a crash

If you have been involved in a car accident in New Jersey, you may experience a variety of injuries. As a general rule, the person who causes the crash to occur is liable for paying any medical bills that you have incurred. However, there are several mistakes that you could make that might hinder your ability to obtain a favorable outcome.

Don’t downplay the severity of your injuries

It’s almost never in your best interest to say that you are not hurt in the immediate aftermath of a crash. This is partially because you don’t really know if this is true or not. However, downplaying the severity of your injuries may provide the defendant with an opening to get a personal injury lawsuit dismissed. At a minimum, it may make it harder to prove that the crash was the proximate cause of a concussion, muscle strain or internal bleed.

Don’t wait too long to take action

You have a time limit from the date of your accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, you’ll have more time to file depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you didn’t immediately realize that you were hurt in the crash, the statute of limitation may be extended by several weeks. It’s also important that you seek medical care in a timely manner to make it easier to prove that you were hurt because of a defendant’s reckless actions.

If you are a motor vehicle accident victim, it’s important to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. It’s also important to speak with your insurance company no more than 24 hours after the accident.

Supreme Court Finds That Employer May Be Liable Under The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination For Subordinate Non-Decisionmaker’s Gender Bias

In the recent decision of Meade v. Township of Livingston (A-52-20, 085176 decided on December 30, 2021), the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an employer may be liable for gender discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) due to its decision to terminate an employee based on the perceived discriminatory bias and attitude of a subordinate non-decision making employee.

Plaintiff Michele Meade was the Township Manager for Livingston Township. In that capacity, Ms. Meade supervised Police Chief Craig Handschuch. In April 2013, pre-school teachers at the Livingston Community Center observed a man in camouflage carrying a rifle bag in their parking lot. The classes subsequently went into lockdown and patrol cars were dispatched. In response, Chief Handschuch and Sergeant Kenneth Hanna alerted the responders that the alleged incident was an officer training exercise. In her capacity as Township Manager, Ms. Meade disciplined the officers for their failure to notify the Community Center. Sergeant Hanna subsequently filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Meade, alleging that she used “unreasonably loud and offensive coarse or abusive language” in addressing him. Sergeant Hanna filed a second complaint against Ms. Meade, alleging that she had “purposely com[e] into physical contact with officers and civilians in an attempt to obstruct and stop an authorized ESU [Emergency Services Unit] exercise.” Ms. Meade was subsequently acquitted of all charges.

Between the filing of Sergeant Hanna’s second complaint and Ms. Meade’s acquittal, Ms. Meade issued a disciplinary memo to Chief Handschuch for “delinquent work” and “unresolved work issues.” Chief Handschuch acknowledged the memo but did not respond to it.

During an Executive Committee meeting shortly thereafter, Councilman Michael Silverman stated “Michele [Meade] would not have this problem if her name was Michael.” Ms. Meade subsequently informed the Township Council about her concerns regarding Chief Handschuch’s job performance, and the Township’s labor attorney concluded that discipline was appropriate but not termination of employment. The labor attorney further advised that Ms. Meade should “try to strengthen a termination case” with an independent, outside investigation. However, Ms. Meade testified that the Council did not authorize the hiring of an investigator. In addition, Ms. Meade certified that “Councilman Al Anthony . . . suggested to me that maybe Chief Handschuch did not like reporting to a woman and should report to him as the Mayor instead.”

The Township Council subsequently passed a resolution removing Ms. Meade for alleged performance-related issues. Ms. Meade subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination under the LAD, alleging that the Council terminated her and replaced her with a male Manager “to appease the sexist male Police Chief.” The trial court dismissed the lawsuit by granting the Township’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Ms. Meade was terminated for poor performance and that there was no record of gender discrimination. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision. The Supreme Court, however, reversed the decision and remanded the matter to the trial court. In so doing, the Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence “for a reasonable jury to find that what Livingston Township Councilmembers perceived to be Police Chief Handschuch’s discriminatory attitude toward Township Manager Meade influenced the Council’s decision to terminate her, in violation of the LAD.”  Specifically, the Supreme Court held that “a reasonable jury could conclude – in the combined light of Meade’s evidence challenging the legitimacy of the other areas of dissatisfaction and the Council’s focus on the difficulties with Handschuch – that Meade’s gender played a role in the termination.”

This opinion reiterates that employers may be held liable for the alleged discriminatory actions of non-decisionmakers. If you have any questions about this decision and/or need any assistance with employment law issues, please contact [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″].

*Frank A. Custode is a Partner of [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] and the Chair of the firm’s Employment Practice.

How the business litigation process works in New Jersey

If you are a business owner in New Jersey, you may need to go to court at some point. The business litigation process can be complex and confusing, especially if you have never been through it before. Here’s a quick overview of how the process works and what to expect if your business is involved in a lawsuit.

The type of lawsuit you could face

The litigation process you will go through will depend on the type of lawsuit you are facing. Generally, there are two types of suits: civil and criminal. Civil lawsuits involve two or more parties in dispute over a legal issue, like violating a copyright or company trademark. On the other hand, criminal business lawsuits involve allegations of illegal activity, such as if your company fails to follow New Jersey’s regulatory requirements for hazardous waste storage or disposal.

The process of business litigation

The process of small business litigation begins with filing a complaint with the court. This document lays out the facts of the case and asks the court to take action. The defendant will then have an opportunity to respond to the complaint, usually by filing an answer within 35 days.

The court will then begin to rule on the various motions filed. These motions can include requests for discovery, which is a process where both sides can request information from each other in order to build their case. The court may also schedule a hearing to take testimony from witnesses or to consider the evidence.

In the hearing, the jury will listen to the plaintiff’s and defendant’s arguments and then decide. If the final verdict finds you guilty, the court will ask you to make the necessary adjustments for the other party, and you could also face significant financial damages. If you’re ruled innocent, you may be able to counter sue for malicious prosecution or abuse of process.

Business litigation can be costly and time-consuming, but these matters are essential in ensuring justice. You can also consider alternative dispute resolution methods if the issue is rather small.

Congress Bans Arbitration Provisions Covering Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Claims

Litigants alleging sexual harassment and/or sexual assault in the workplace want to have their day in court and have their cases decided by jury trials. However, in an attempt to keep such disputes out of the public eye, employers frequently require their employees to sign arbitration agreements, so the claims at issue are decided by a private arbitrator (rather than decided in court). That appears to be changing in matters involving claims alleging sexual harassment or assault. Indeed, on February 7, 2022, and February 10, 2022, respectively, both the Senate and House of Representatives passed H.R. 4445, which is known as the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021.” President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.

The proposed legislation provides, in relevant part, that: “at the election of the person alleging conduct constituting a sexual harassment dispute or sexual assault dispute, or the named representative of a class or in a collective action alleging such conduct, no predispute arbitration agreement or predispute joint-action waiver shall be valid or enforceable with respect to a case which is filed under Federal, Tribal, or State law and relates to the sexual assault dispute or the sexual harassment dispute.” (Emphasis added). In addition, the proposed legislation provides that, if there is a dispute regarding whether the legislation applies to an arbitration agreement, such dispute will be determined by a court, rather than an arbitrator. Notably, the “Act and the amendments made by this Act, shall apply with respect to any dispute or claim that arises or accrues on or after the enactment of this act.” Therefore, it appears as though the Act applies prospectively but can apply retroactively to signed agreements prior to the enactment of the Act.

Without question, this bill is an important victory for employees who are subject to sexual harassment or sexual assault in the workplace. First and foremost, it provides express statutory authority to keep their claims in court. In addition, it puts more pressure and scrutiny on employers since these claims will be litigated in a public forum.

If you have any questions about this Act and/or believe you have been subject to workplace harassment, please contact [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″].

*Frank A. Custode, Esq., is a Partner of [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] and the Chair of the firm’s Employment Practice.

What are liquidated damages in construction contracts?

Are you planning a major new construction project in New Jersey? There are a great many details that will need to be worked out in advance. One of them will be the potential issue of liquidated damages. These are the funds that cover the cost of continuing the project past the deadline that both parties have agreed on.

How can you qualify for liquidated damages?

The issue of liquidated damages is one that will fall under the heading of construction litigation. There are several factors that need to be in play before you can consider filing for them. You cannot use the threat of filing for these damages as a ploy to speed up the project. In addition, the amount of the damages must be agreed on by both parties in advance.

The rule of thumb for when liquidated damages apply will normally be until the point of substantial completion. This is defined as the date when the project is finished far enough to be put into use. The potential to receive damages runs out because further additions don’t prevent the property from being utilized.

The best way to prevent any misunderstandings is to work out every single detail of your construction contract in advance. This will help you to ease any issues that may arise as a result of miscommunication or unavoidable delays. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can safely begin.

When can you file for liquidated damages?

Is the project you paid for still sitting there half-finished with no sign of progress? You are entitled to take action to collect liquidated damages once the deadline both parties agreed on passes. This condition will apply if the construction project in question has not yet reached the point of substantial completion.

If this is the case, you can file a claim for liquidated damages. These will apply if you have the ability to prove your side of the story. It’s a good idea to document every stage of the project as it develops. This will give you the evidence you need to make your case.

Can signs of cancer be mistaken as menopause in New Jersey?

One thing that can make it difficult to diagnose cancer is that its symptoms can resemble those of other illnesses, such as menopause. Take a look at some of the signs of cancer that can be mistaken for menopause symptoms.

Common cancer signs that can be mistaken

One of the most common signs of cancer that can be mistaken for menopause symptoms is a sudden change in appetite. Many women going through menopause experience changes in their appetite because as estrogen reduces, ghrelin levels seem to rise. People with cancer often lose appetite because their bodies aren’t using carbohydrates, proteins and fats as they should.

Fatigue, hot flashes, weight loss and night sweats are also common symptoms of menopause, so it can be tricky to tell it apart from cancer. While these signs can also occur in people with cancer, they are not always present.

Working with a doctor

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and are unsure if they could indicate cancer or not, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away. However, there are times when a doctor can also misdiagnose you and not catch your cancer in time for the most effective treatment. If this happens, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim to get the help or recompense you need.

It’s helpful to be aware of the signs of cancer so that if you experience any of them, you can get checked out sooner rather than later. While the two conditions can share some common symptoms, they have vastly different long-term effects on the body, so it’s important to know the difference and get proper treatment.

Improper cargo loading can cause truck accidents

Few people would state that driving a tractor-trailer is easy. However, some may believe that loading cargo onto an 18-wheeler doesn’t involve much strategy, only a lot of heavy lifting.

In reality, proper care and attention to safety should go into any cargo loading. Safety failures with the cargo can lead to accidents on New Jersey roads.

Cargo safety and semi trucks

Cargo loading and transport require numerous safety steps. Overlooking any actions could lead to a catastrophe, as poorly secured cargo might come loose. With open-carry loads, items could fall off the truck and cause fatal injuries. Not inspecting the loads before departure may lead to a disaster.

Another point worth mentioning is that cargo enclosed inside the trailer could move around and shift the weight. A truck driver might have a difficult time handling the vehicle. Considering the size and weight of a semi truck, the vehicle may inflict significant harm if the driver loses control.

Negligence and loading problems

Other loading mishaps could lead to a big rig accident. Overloading may be among the most common, as a truck can only handle so much weight. Putting too much cargo onto the trailer may strain the engine, resulting in operational problems. For example, the truck could gain additional speed going downhill due to the weight or struggle when going uphill. Serious accidents could happen under these circumstances.

Any negligence that contributes to cargo problems could leave the responsible party open to a lawsuit. Sadly, some accidents involve severe bodily injury or death. With proper cargo loading, those terrible incidents may have been avoidable.

Why is proving causation so crucial for medical malpractice claims?

Medical malpractice or medical negligence is defined as medical care that causes harm to a patient. A New Jersey plaintiff in such a lawsuit has to show that the medical facility or practitioner provided poor care and that it led to harm.

Proving the medical provider’s treatment was below the standard of care is the easiest question to answer. Causation is the second part and is much harder to prove.

Proving medical malpractice

The standard of care for medical malpractice lawsuits require other medical experts to examine the details of the claim. Medical experts can see if the medical care was on par with the requisite standard of care. The standard of care depends on the resources available and the seriousness of the issue. The experts then check the provider’s care against the standards of care. Once the experts determine whether the provider’s care was below the standard, the next question is causation. A patient needs to prove the provider’s care was factually a cause of their harm with a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

Situations with medical malpractice

All surgeries can produce complications. The patient accepts the risks of surgery before the procedure begins. It’s hard to prove a surgeon’s neglect caused a negative outcome from the surgery. Along the same lines, it’s hard to prove a doctor caused cancer. A delay in a cancer diagnosis can be deadly, but most cancers need in-depth and extended medical treatments. In court, the patient would need to prove their condition worsened after prognosis and treatment.

Orthopedic injuries are complex as well. Sometimes fractures don’t heal properly and give patients issues or limitations. Situations like this can happen even if the doctor does everything correctly for the patient. The medical malpractice lawsuit could involve an unset bone, refusing surgery or refusing hardware. Proving the causation of an injury in court is hard.

Medical malpractice is complex and requires understanding the risks of the provider’s care. A court requires the patient to prove medical malpractice. Other experts can help a patient confirm a low quality of care, but causation is harder to prove.

Does bullying constitute workplace retaliation?

Bullying occurs in many areas and at various stages of life. However, when it happens in New Jersey workplaces, it’s not only intolerable but illegal. It’s worth knowing if workplace bullying constitutes retaliation.

What is workplace bullying?

There are many ways that workplace bullying can occur. If the manager, supervisor or boss of an employee continuously harasses them, it makes for an uncomfortable, hostile working environment. Intimidation and threats may be used. The employee may constantly be on the receiving end of verbal abuse.

Employees often face bullying as a part of workplace retaliation. That retaliation might be due to the employee making a complaint for any number of issues such as harassment, unethical practices or more.

What types of behavior are included in workplace retaliation?

Retaliation against an employee can take place in a variety of ways. The person might be worthy of a promotion or raise and be passed over for it due to unfair treatment. Another example is that a female employee could suffer constant harassment by male employees or supervisors.

Anything that is continuous and that makes a person feel singled out and uncomfortable in the workplace can be considered workplace retaliation.

What is the impact of workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying can cause the victim to suffer serious psychological trauma and other mental health issues. Stress, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are common. It can even lead to physical symptoms like high blood pressure and sleep problems.

People who are the target of workplace retaliation can also have issues finding new employment if they leave their current jobs. There may be a lack of trust in people in the workplace as a result of their experience. The place of employment could also suffer if it gets a bad reputation for those actions.