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Construction Worker Falls 30 Feet Down a Shaft When Wood Platform Collapses

When Profits Trump Safety

Construction work is by its very nature dangerous. Doing it in New York City is particularly difficult due to the volume of work, tight schedules  and nature of big city construction. These factors are why there are many safety rules and regulations as well as special legal protections for construction workers who perform their jobs from a height, i.e., while standing on scaffolds, ladders and raised platforms.

My client was an experienced union insulator worker during the construction phase of the new Staten Island Courthouse. He was working on the top floor assessing whether some wood planks over a ventilation shaft could be removed for use in another ventilation shaft. While standing on the wood plank platform, two of the boards suddenly wobbled and collapsed sending him down the open shaft. In a split second he was able to turn is body in a manner where he would fall 30 feet down onto an angle iron instead of falling the entire 100 feet depth of the shaft. He was very seriously injured, but survived.

He claimed that the area of shaft where he entered had no barricade. He also testified that he was looking for a place to tie off his safety lanyard but found no such tie off hooks or posts while standing on the planks. There were also no railings around the wood platform.

The lawsuit alleged numerous safety violations by the owners and contractors responsible for worksite safety. The parties sued claimed that they were not responsible and it was all the fault of my client.

After years of investigation, multiple depositions, exchange of hundreds of pages of documents and applications by the parties being sued to dismiss the case, the matter was ready for trial. Numerous settlement mediations failed within the year before trial. I fully prepared this complex case for trial against multiple defendants. With the trial clock ticking away, five days before jury selection the case settled for a very substantial sum of money.

The labor law is complicated despite certain special protections afforded to construction workers. What may sound like a simple set of facts, a 30 foot fall from a platform, was anything but simple. The parties disputed every one of my clients claims and produced their own employees who attempted to contradict his testimony and the testimony of his co-workers. There was no other road to take other than intense trial preparations to let the other side know we were ready for the upcoming jury trial. Justice is rarely found on a straight path. That’s why it’s called an adversarial system. The other side also fights tooth and nail. Never think the path to success in litigation is easy. That’s why an experienced trial attorney is so important when you bring a lawsuit. The other side needs to know you are willing to go to trial if necessary

To find out more information about construction site cases, please call me toll free at: (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988. Also you may request a copy of my special report entitled “If You Are Injured at a Construction Site in New York… 10 Things You Need to Know”.

After a Devastating Election Loss, DON’T WHINE, VOLUNTEER

After a Devastating Election Loss, DON'T WHINE, VOLUNTEER

Dear Friends:

I spent the  weekend before election day and election day outside polling sites in Broward County, Florida on behalf of the Clinton campaign in my role as a volunteer lawyer poll observer.  My job was to observe, resolve and report voting issues that could lead to disenfranchisement of voters (disproportionately, as always, African-American and Latino voters).  I’ll share more about my Florida experiences a bit later in this blog post.

We may share the same feelings of shock and devastation at the defeat of Hillary Clinton.  I feel both shame and disappointment for the country I love so much.  The majority of the electoral college vote (popular vote totals aside), whether out of frustration or anger, chose hate, fear, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, anti-immigrant fervor and bullying over our core values of equality, justice, fairness, diversity and generosity.  The seismic shock waves of this election will likely be felt for years to come by our fellow Americans and the world at large.

It is heartbreaking to imagine the nightmares that now may be realized by some of our most vulnerable neighbors.  Will the ignorant bullies at school feel even more emboldened to intimidate the little Muslim-American girl whose perceived threat to them is her different religion and culture?  Will the little Mexican-American boy whose parents are hard-working, undocumented immigrants lose sleep every night worrying that his parents will be taken away and deported?  Will the young African-American man continue to be the target of discriminatory profiling and violence both directly and systemically?  Will the vulnerable single mother lose her Obamacare and become a casualty of repeal without a plan?  Will the financially strapped blue collar worker become even more disheartened and disaffected if the promise of immediate  manufacturing and factory jobs turns out to be a hollow campaign promise?  Will the millennial entering the job market continue to drown under the debt of college loans?  Will the woman who now has choices have the clock turned back on Roe v. Wade and be denied the full services of Planned Parenthood?  Will respect for every woman be an ongoing casualty of the vile campaign run by the Republican President-elect?  Will our next generation’s environment be eviscerated by climate change deniers for the sake of fossil fuel energy company profits?

The frightening answers to these important questions and others do not only affect the above groups of Americans, but they affect every one of us who love freedom for all, justice for all, and equality for all.  In the words of the late civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer, “…NOBODY’S FREE UNTIL EVERYBODY’S FREE”.

My Florida poll observation experiences offer some insight into our challenges ahead.  On the bright side, my inside poll observer partner Liz and I were able to ensure that dozens of voters who were initially told by poll workers that they could not vote due to registration “technicalities” (a/k/a intentional or unintentional voter suppression) were eventually able to cast their votes after our interventions.

On the dark side, Liz and I observed numerous instances of systemic voter suppression created by laws established by Republican politicians and executed (intentionally or inadvertently) by  allegedly “nonpartisan” poll workers.  All of the suppression that we observed solely affected African-American and Latino voters.  Proving intent is always a high legal bar, but it is beyond my imagination to think the disparate impact upon minority voters was a mere coincidence.

Voter suppression is not a particularly sexy issue for most members of the media.  When Trump supporters allegedly blocked voters at a nearby poll on election day, the media gave it coverage because there were available pictures and a reported police response.  When systemic legal/technical issues happened at polls like mine, media attention was virtually non-existent because it is a far more nuanced story that cannot be described in a sound bite or captured in a photo or video.  The latter type of voter suppression is a much more prevalent, pernicious and systemic problem that can easily result in hundreds of thousands  or more votes not being cast nationwide.  The very votes that are not cast due to under the radar voter suppression can easily turn a swing state from blue to red.

To its credit, the Clinton voter protection headquarters was very responsive to our concerns at our polling place.  There was a prioritized effort to involve the appropriate election officials.  At times during the day things improved, but at other times it reverted back to the same suppression problems that we recognized earlier.  Vigilance by all poll observers is a never ending requirement to ensure fair and free elections.

When the polls closed, I read reports of similar problems of legal/technical suppression issues that were occurring in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County simultaneously with our experiences in Broward County.

We will never know if voter suppression efforts – intentional or inadvertent – changed the ultimate results in Florida, North Carolina and other swing states.  We do know that one vote suppressed in our democracy is one vote too many.  All eligible voters should be allowed to vote and all votes should be counted.  That’s called a free and fair election.

The next four years are not likely to unfold as we imagined when the pre-election pollsters and pundits assured us that a victory for Hillary was at hand.  The next administration will test our confidence in our government institutions and democratic principles.  We must be vigilant, focused and more active than ever in our participatory democracy moving forward.

I have a passion for protecting voting rights that led me to voter protection volunteer work at the polls and in the courts during the past twelve years.  The Al Gore voting debacle in Florida in 2000 woke me up to this stain on our democracy.  I hope my volunteer work makes our democracy a little better every election year.

Your passion for helping others may involve issues of child protection, domestic violence, elder care, homelessness, racism, education, animal rights  or an infinite variety of other societal problems.  There are so many wonderful organizations that are begging for you to volunteer your services to help others.  Just a few of those that come to mind are NationaPopularVote.com (reforming the electoral college to honor the popular vote without the necessity of an act of Congress), NAACP, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, National Coalition for the Homeless, Brennan Center for Social Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and ASPCA.  Also, any local organization that provides services for the most vulnerable among us would love to have you as a volunteer to ensure that we as a society one day eliminate domestic abuse, animal abuse, poverty, discrimination of all kinds, injustice, homelessness, bullying, educational inequality, unequal pay for women and hatred in any form.

Remember, we’re all in this together.  Social change and social justice is only achieved when we all do our part.  Our fellow residents of America need help.  They need lots of help.  Freedom comes with responsibility.  We each need to do our part until equality, justice and fairness becomes a reality for everyone living in America

Let’s make everybody free.  We’re Americans.  We get up when we’re knocked down and come back twice as strong.  Adversity creates character and the American character has no peer.

I implore you to adopt my new post-election motto:  DON’T WHINE, VOLUNTEER.

Respectfully,

 

Richard C. Bell, Esq.

Registered to Vote? Check Out Our Link for Your Status NOW

Registered to Vote? Check Out Our Link for Your Status NOW

Dear Friends,

We all know that we face a very critical election on November 8th. The stakes are so high that every citizen needs to cast a vote and have it counted.

Every election day, besides casting my ballot, I also volunteer to do legal voter protection work at polling places  or represent disenfranchised voters at court hearings. In the past, I have volunteered in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This year, I will be proudly standing up against voter suppression in Florida.

Today’s message is simple. To ensure that you exercise your sacred right to vote, you must be properly registered. Please confirm that you are registered to vote by clicking onto the following link and if you are not registered, please do so immediately.

http://www.canivote.org/

There are many problems arising in today’s world and if you want to be a part of the solution let your voice be heard with your vote this November. It’s your right to vote. It’s your duty to vote. It’s your way of standing up and being counted in our democracy.

Please share the above link with friends, family and co-workers.

Thank you.

Best Regards.

Bicycle Safety is a Matter of Life and Death in New York City

Bicycle

Virtually not a day goes by without a report about a bicyclist being injured or killed on the streets of New York City. It seems to get worse with the warm weather and the stream of tourists renting bicycles who are competing for traffic space with the bicycle commuters and messengers/delivery persons.

Two recent incidents illustrate just how critical bicycle safety has become in the boroughs. According to the New York Daily News, Leah Sylvain, a scenic artist riding her bicycle in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn was killed when struck by a fuel truck allegedly making a left in front of her and failing to yield her the right of way. The driver was arrested for his conduct at the scene. Ms. Sylvain apparently suffered head trauma leading to her death. She was not wearing a helmet.  This tragedy is another chapter in the story of seemingly endless bicycle-vehicle crashes in the city.

Similarly, the Greenwood section of Brooklyn was the site of a serious crash between an SUV and a bicycle, according to the New York Daily News, wherein a bicyclist allegedly suffered head trauma. The driver claimed that the bicyclist illegally passed a stop sign and struck the driver’s side rear section of the SUV.

If personal injury lawsuits or wrongful death lawsuits result from these incidents, the fault of the drivers and/or bicyclists will be determined. However, it is clear that trucks, cars and SUVs are no fair match for bicycles on our streets.

Please, if you are a bicyclist keep in mind that the tons of weight of motor vehicles will always wreck havoc with your light bicycle if there is contact. You must use extreme caution, extreme awareness and extreme patience when bicycling in the city. These safety measures may be the difference between life and death as you ride the city streets. You don’t want to end up as another tragic statistic.

To learn more about your rights if you or a loved one were injured due to a bicycle-automobile accident, please call me toll free at (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988

Jury Duty – Take It Seriously and Follow The Rules or You Might End Up With a $1000 Fine.

Jury Duty – Take It Seriously and Follow The Rules or You Might End Up With a $1000 Fine.

I was summoned to jury duty last week and it made me reflect on being on the other side of the lawyers’ and judge’s questioning today.

We have all likely received a notice to report for jury duty. While my professional life revolves around trials and courtrooms, most people are unfamiliar with the jury system.

It is the duty and obligation of every citizen age 18 and older to report for jury duty and serve as a juror if chosen. Not everyone likes this responsibility of U.S. citizenship, but everyone who has been a party to a lawsuit would tell you that they want fair people from their borough paying full attention to their trial.

A recent Queens juror, according to the Daily News, posted on Facebook during a jury trial that she was sitting on a trial and she was “dying from boredom”. She also made comments about her fellow jurors on Facebook during jury deliberations.

Not only did this juror’s use of social media to discuss a pending jury trial violate the direct order of the judge to all jurors not to discuss the case with anyone or on social media during the case, but her conduct resulted in a mistrial. That means that the case will have to be tried again before another jury after wasting  the time, money and efforts of fellow jurors, the parties, the judge, court personnel and the lawyers. This very serious violation of court rules resulted in $1000 fine against the juror by the judge.

The lessons to be learned here are clear. Show up at jury duty and take it as seriously as you would want jurors to take it if it were your own trial. Listen to the judge’s orders and follow them – that’s the law. Social media is what it says – SOCIAL. There is no place for public posting during a jury trial. It’s a time to pay attention, be serious, be fair and fulfill your obligation as a U.S. citizen. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not and should not be part of the jury process. Justice is a sacred right not to be taken lightly by jurors EVER. You certainly would want jurors to be pay full attention to your case if you were one of the parties to a trial. Do the same for others. Our legal system and country depend on it!

An Open Letter to Uber

An Open Letter to Uber

If You Want to Be a Real New Yorker Provide Accessible Cars to Include ALL New Yorkers-We Embrace the Civil Rights of the Physically Challenged Here!

Uber entered the New York City market quickly and in vast numbers. Some estimates have Uber blanketing New York City with over 30,000 vehicles. There is clearly a cab war going on here between Uber and yellow cabs.

Lost in this business competition is Uber’s apparent disregard  for wheelchair-bound New Yorkers. According to two self-professed disability rights advocacy groups, United Spinal Association and United for Equal Access, there are ZERO wheelchair accessible Uber cars on the road in New York City. If true, this is a disgrace in a city that practically invented diversity and cherishes civil rights for all of its residents, visitors and workers. According to its website, United Spinal Association reached an agreement a few years ago with the City of New York “to make half of yellow cabs accessible by 2020.” This agreement will become meaningless if  Uber continues to grow in New York City and does not replace those 50% accessible yellow cabs with accessible Uber cars.

Uber, you don’t need politicians to cajole you or lawsuits to force you to become a good New York City citizen. Demand of your drivers that most of them have wheelchair accessibility by 2020 and the rest by 2023. I don’t know about the values in other places where you operate, but in New York City we demand and expect all people be treated equally all of the time. If you want to do business here and profit from the country’s largest market then be a concerned corporate citizen in return. Accessibility for all New Yorkers in Uber cars is not a suggestion, it’s the way we operate here. The melting pot of the world excludes no one.  Remember that the next time you tell wheelchair-bound New Yorkers that Uber has no cars for them. Uber, do the right thing.

For further information, please call me toll free at (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988 for a free consultations.

A THANK YOU ON OUR 30TH ANNIVERSARY

Today, March 3, 2016, is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Law Offices of Richard C. Bell.

Thank you very much to all of the wonderful clients, former clients, office colleagues, family, friends and supporters who have made this day possible.

I pledge to always make you proud of our daily fight to seek justice for those in need against the powers that be – insurance companies, corporations, individuals, landlords, government entities, doctors, hospitals and others – who bring harm to innocent victims due to negligence.
Richard C. Bell

When Profits Trump Safety

When Profits Trump Safety

Construction Companies May be Responsible for Money Damages and be Subject to Criminal Charges When Construction Workers are Injured or Killed.

It is tragic that construction workers in New York City often pay the price with their limbs or lives because completing a job quickly at a lower cost is more important to construction companies than worker safety. I have seen this in my own construction accident cases as well as in other reported cases in the media. There is no excuse for many construction accidents other than the lack of safety enforcement by construction companies who often try to cut corners for financial gain at the expense of workers’ safety.

Last year, according to the New York Post, at least 10 construction workers died in New York City in the first 8 months of 2015. It was alleged in one 2015 death case that a construction worker was crushed by a collapsing wall inside a pit two hours after an engineer told two supervisors to halt work in the pit. Reportedly, the two supervisors ignored the engineer’s warning and the pit collapsed killing a 22 year-old construction worker. The Manhattan District Attorney in 2015 charged the supervisors and their company with manslaughter, among other charges, and proclaimed “when supervisors at construction sites take shortcuts, they take lives.”

In a related development arising from that same worker’s death, the CEO of the company that employed the two supervisors was also criminally charged recently with fraudulently concealing $3 million in payroll to get back over $1 million in insurance premium breaks. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance again warned this week that, “In the construction industry, a lax approach to following proper procedures may be characteristic of a much more dangerous disregard for workers’ safety. Dishonest business practices hinder oversight and create potentially life-threatening hazards for workers and residents.”

In addition to the criminal case, the family of the deceased worker, Carlos Moncayo, is likely entitled to bring a personal injury/wrongful death civil lawsuit for money damages.

I have taken testimony from many construction company employees in construction accident cases and it was clear numerous times that tragic construction site accidents were caused by the familiar theme of profits over people. Enforcing safety practices to protect workers from injury or death was not as important to those construction companies as was rushing a job to finish it with the highest amount of profit.

Workers’ safety should always come first. Unfortunately, based on the many injured construction workers that I have represented over the years, that is often not the case in the minds of construction companies and site owners.

For further information about construction site accident cases, please call me toll free at (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988 for a free consultations.

Happy Holidays and Thank You For Your Support Year Round

Sadie and Bingo

During this holiday season, I would like to take the time to thank all of my clients, former clients and friends of my law practice who make my work days meaningful and fulfilling.  It is an honor to represent people from every walk of life in their time of need.  To those who I represent, those who I have represented and those who have referred family and friends to me, thank you for all your support and confidence.  I treasure getting to know each and every one of you who have allowed me to pursue your legal rights and obtain justice for you with passion and purpose.

Victims of accidents and medical malpractice do not choose to have their lives disrupted and sometimes changed forever because some drivers, some construction contractors, some physicians, some landlords or some retail stores were so negligent as to cause serious injury or death due to their careless conduct.  Unfortunately, these incidents happen and people need an attorney they can trust to help them get fair and adequate compensation to restore their lives to some sense of normalcy.

I take great pride when people turn to me as their attorney in these type of cases.  I understand how important it is for every client to be treated with respect and compassion.  I also know that every client deserves a lawyer that will fight for their rights every step of the way.  I never forget that every case is not simply a case but  it is all about a real person, a real victim, a real client who has entrusted me to make sure every legal right that he/she is entitled to is explored, pursued and fought for vigorously at every stage against insurance companies, corporations, landlords, construction companies, physicians and government entities.

May this holiday season bring you good health, happiness and prosperity now and throughout the new year. Enjoy your time with family and friends. Be generous with the less fortunate.  Remember kindness and a smile are not reserved for holidays.  They are appreciated all year long.

Enjoy the holidays and stay safe.

Thank you.

Best Regards,

Richard C. Bell

Jury Duty – Take It Seriously or You Might End Up With a $1000 Fine.

We have all received a notice to report for jury duty. While my professional life revolves around trials and courtrooms, most people are unfamiliar with the jury system.

It is the duty and obligation of every citizen age 18 and older to report for jury duty and serve as a juror if chosen. Not everyone likes this responsibility of U.S. citizenship, but everyone who has been a party to a lawsuit would tell you that they want fair people from their borough paying full attention to their trial.

A recent Queens juror, according to the Daily News, posted on Facebook during a jury trial that she was sitting on a trial and she was “dying from boredom”. She also made comments about her fellow jurors on Facebook during jury deliberations.

Not only did this juror’s use of social media to discuss a pending jury trial violate the direct order of the judge to all jurors not to discuss the case with anyone or on social media during the case, but her conduct resulted in a mistrial. That means the entire case will have to be tried again before another jury after wasting the time, money and efforts of fellow jurors, the parties, the judge, court personnel and the lawyers. This very serious violation of court rules resulted in a $1000 fine against the juror by the judge.

The lessons to be learned here are clear. Show up at jury duty and take it as seriously as you would want jurors to take it if it were your own trial. Listen to the judge’s orders and follow them – that’s the law. Social media is what it says – SOCIAL. There is no place for public posting during jury duty. It is a time to pay attention, be serious, be fair and fulfill your obligation as a U.S. citizen. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not and should not be part of the jury process. Justice is a sacred right not to be taken lightly by jurors EVER.

Richard C. Bell is a personal injury and medical malpractice attorney in Manhattan concentrating in cases of general negligence, construction accidents, transportation accidents, wrongful death and medical malpractice. I can be reached toll free at: (877) CALL-LAW® (225-5529) or (212) 714-0988.

* Prior results cannot and do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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