Console & Hollawell Blog

September Date Set in Badiali Supreme Court Case

By Richard Console on August 21, 2014 - Comments off

How far would an insurer go to deny its own policyholder the money he deserves? So far that the company would spend twice the amount it owes just to prove a point. That’s what auto insurance carrier New Jersey Manufacturers (NJM) did to Augustine Badiali. Don’t worry, though – we’re on our way to the Supreme Court to make sure this policyholder can finally get what he truly deserves and hold the insurance company responsible for its behavior. NJM’s bad faith actions won’t keep us from fighting for our client.

Gavel Lying in a CourtroomIn less than a month, we’re taking our client’s case to the highest court in the state – the New Jersey Supreme Court. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

A Car Accident Claim Gone Wrong

It all started with a 2006 car accident in Maple Shade, New Jersey. In the accident, our client sustained serious injuries, like numerous herniated discs in his spine and worsening of degenerative spinal diseases. The driver who rear-ended Mr. Badiali didn’t have insurance. Fortunately, other parties did – including Mr. Badiali, who had made the wise decision to purchase uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.

In the course of recovering compensation on our client’s behalf, we took the case to arbitration, where an impartial arbitrator decided that NJM should pay $14,574 in compensation to its policyholder. The arbitrator also decided that an additional defendant in the case should pay approximately $15,000, making the total award over $29,000.

New Jersey state laws specify that arbitration awards of less than $15,000 are legally binding. Since NJM was responsible for less than $15,000, the company should have just paid up the money it owed. Instead, NJM tried to argue that it shouldn’t have to pay at all because the total arbitration award was more than $15,000, even though it was responsible for about $14,000. Further, NJM spent about $30,000 in legal costs defending this argument.

For an insurance company like NJM, which brings in millions of dollars in revenue each year, that $14,000 would have barely made an impact on the company’s bottom line – as evidenced by NJM’s willingness to shell out twice that amount of money to attempt to prove a point. For an accident victim with medical expenses or lost income, that $14,000 can make a difference between being able to afford a surgery and having to halt the journey to recovery. That money could determine whether a family can stay afloat financially in the face of lost income, or whether it will become unable to pay the bills. Insurers know this. They’re aware that people purchase insurance to protect themselves – and forcing their own policyholders through long, drawn-out litigation to get the money they deserve (and have already paid for in premiums) just isn’t fair.

Taking the Case to a Higher Court

It was obvious to us that NJM’s stance on this issue was wrong. We took the case all the way to the New Jersey Appellate Court, which officially ruled in 2011 what we had been saying all along: that an insurer (like NJM) can’t put a plaintiff through unnecessary, prolonged litigation after arbitration if it is responsible for paying less than $15,000, no matter what the total award is. We saw this as a clear victory for consumers and insurance policyholders across New Jersey. The ruling establishes case law, a legal precedent that can help future accident victims receive their arbitration awards without going through the lengthy litigation process that Mr. Badiali was forced to endure.

However big a win this was for consumers, it didn’t change the fact that our client in this particular case had to wait years to finally get the money he deserved. During those years, he personally faced significant expenses and understandable aggravation. To hold NJM responsible for their bad faith behavior, consumer fraud, and breach of contract, we filed a complaint on Mr. Badiali’s behalf with the state Supreme Court, which agreed in March 2013 to hear the case. The court date is set for September 9, 2014. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to finally get our client the justice he deserves from the insurer that turned its back on him.


Delays Equal Dollars for Automaker Hit with $17 Million Fine

By Richard Console on August 20, 2014 - Comments off

Just as numerous automakers have issued recalls in 2014, multiple manufacturers have now been fined for delaying recalls. Earlier this month, Hyundai became the latest car company to face fines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failures in properly and promptly recalling cars with safety defects.

car safety recallThe problem that led to the recall of tens of thousands of Hyundai Genesis cars, like the 2010 model above, stems from brake fluid that is unsuccessful at preventing corrosion of the vehicle’s brakes. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hyundai in Hot Water over October 2013 Recalls

In early August 2014, Hyundai agreed to pay a $17,350,000 fine from the NHTSA for its handling of a 2013 recall – and specifically, for its delay of that recall. The safety issue in question was a brake problem that had been linked to two injuries in six collisions as well as 87 complaints, according to Car and Driver. The problem plagued 43,500 Genesis cars with model years from 2009 through 2012. Hyundai reportedly knew about the problem as early as 2012 – as did General Motors (GM), which used the same defective parts but informed drivers of the possible danger during the 2012 year. Instead of acting, Hyundai waited until March 2013 – approximately a year later – to do anything. The automaker’s first course of action was to notify its own dealerships. It wasn’t until October, after the NHTSA began investigating, that the company finally issued a recall so that consumers would know about this safety hazard in their cars, Car and Driver reported.

Not Alone in Delays or Fines

If Hyundai’s story sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve already heard one like it this year. GM has recalled more than 29,000,000 cars since the start of 2014, but it’s not only the sheer size of the manufacturer’s recalls that upset people. It’s also the time it took the company to issue at least some of those recalls. Some of the 2,600,000 cars recalled for a specific and deadly problem with a defective ignition switch were more than a decade old. Yet GM chose to wait until this past February to finally issue a recall, despite evidence surfacing that the company knew about the potential danger as early as 2001 – before a number of the recalled cars were even built. Rather than fixing all existing cars and changing the ignition switch design immediately – a move that reportedly would have cost just a few dollars more per vehicle – GM allowed the defective cars to remain on the road all this time. For that, the NHTSA fined the company $35,000,000.

Back when the GM recall story was fresh, news about the delay in issuing a recall made me question what’s wrong with automakers’ priorities. It concerns me to see that more late recalls are emerging and that the NHTSA is finding more reasons to fine these companies. Yes, Hyundai didn’t wait for longer than a decade to acknowledge and fix the safety defect, but it did wait until October 2013 to recall the cars even though it learned of the danger in 2012. The automaker also took other actions to address the problem – which may have been a good step in and of itself, but shouldn’t have been done before issuing a recall or even clearly articulating the potential danger. I hope that seeing these car manufacturers fined millions of dollars will startle the auto industry as a whole into taking action on safety defects immediately instead of letting months or even years go by. A delay in fixing a dangerous flaw could mean that an innocent driver gets hurt.


Ask the Attorney: Deadlines for Your Claim Range from Two Years to a Matter of Days

By Richard Console on August 19, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: How long do I have to file a claim for injuries from a car accident or medical malpractice?

Attorney: I always say that after an accident, time isn’t on your side. There are time limits that restrict your legal rights to seek compensation for your injuries. These deadlines are called statutes of limitations, and they vary not only from state to state, but also depending on the type of claim, who the defendant is, and who the victim is.

As a General Rule…

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years from the date of the accident or incident. That goes for a wide variety of cases, from car accidents to dog bites and slip-and-falls to medical malpractice. Usually, you have two years to file a lawsuit – but there’s a very important “but” that you need to be aware of early on in your claim. Though two years is the typical deadline, there are exceptions that could sharply reduce the amount of time you have to pursue the complication you deserve. These exceptions can get very technical, which means that if you wait too long to consult an attorney, you may never find out that you don’t have the full two years until it’s too late.

Important Exceptions

Some exceptions actually work in the favor of you, the victim. For example, if the victim was a minor, the two year deadline is extended. Instead of two years from the date of the accident, it becomes two years from the date the victim turned 18-years-old. Of course, if a victim is seriously hurt, parents can and should still seek an attorney’s help promptly. There’s no benefit to waiting until the last minute (or in this case, the minor’s 18th birthday) to act, especially when the victim needs further medical care.

In some medical malpractice cases, too, the exception helps patients. Suppose you didn’t know right away that the medical error had occurred. Many instances of medical malpractice are far more subtle than a surgeon operating on the wrong limb, but that doesn’t mean these mistakes are less harmful in the long run. Among patients whose malpractice claims stemmed from failures to diagnose cancer, for example, the error doesn’t become clear until after the cancer has finally been diagnosed – which could be years later. Fortunately, medical malpractice claims in New Jersey and Pennsylvania include the “discovery rule.” The two year time period is still in effect, but instead of the deadline for filing a claim expiring two years from the date the doctor made an error, the clock doesn’t start ticking until the date you knew (or should’ve known) that a doctor committed malpractice.

Some exceptions decrease the length of time you have to act. Who exactly is the defendant in your claim? Without having legal expertise yourself, the truth is that you may not be sure. Another driver could be at fault, but so could a municipality or county that neglected to maintain safe road conditions. Your slip-and-fall might have occurred on property owned and maintained by a government agency. If you have to pursue compensation from a government entity, rather than an individual or business, exceptions to the statute of limitations can drastically reduce the time you have to file a lawsuit. You may have to provide written notice of the claim or your intent to file a claim within six months in Pennsylvania, or just 90 days in New Jersey.

After an accident, it’s essential that you protect all of your legal rights, and that means making sure that you never miss a deadline that could cost you big-time. That’s why I always tell accident victims to at least take the time to call a lawyer for a consultation, even if they don’t think they can afford an attorney. You need more than general answers from Internet forums or websites – you need to know exactly which laws apply to your unique claim, as soon as possible.


SUVs Catch Fire, GM Issues another Recall

By Richard Console on August 18, 2014 - Comments off

Opening the window might just make your car even hotter if you drive one of the SUVs that are the subject of another recall from General Motors (GM). That’s because the power window switches in these vehicles are apparently fire risks. Strictly speaking, your finger doesn’t have to be on the power window switch for flames to erupt – in fact, the danger of the SUVs catching fire even while switched off and unattended is so serious that GM has urged drivers to park outdoors, just in case, CBS News reported.

So, that’s reassuring.

car safety recallCould your car spontaneously light your garage on fire? The risk prompted GM to warn drivers against parking affected SUVs indoors. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Repeat Recalls

The recalled cars include 2006 and 2007 models of the following vehicles:

  • Buick Rainer
  • Chevrolet TrailBlazer
  • GMC Envoy
  • Isuzu Ascender
  • Saab 97-X

Owners of these SUVs might be getting pretty frustrated right about now. That’s because this is the third recall of this group of approximately 189,000 vehicles across the continent, CBS reported. Unfortunately, these drivers might have to wait a while to finally get their cars fixed and their garage parking privileges restored. So far, GM is predicting that it could be October before the parts needed for the repairs will even be available.

You could call this one more unwanted safety recall headline for GM. This announcement came less than a week after another GM recall that affects 461,000 cars.

Another Recall over Miscellaneous Safety Flaws

One part involved in this additional recall should be familiar to, well, just about anyone. A faulty ignition switch in 202,115 of GM’s Saturn Vue SUVs with model years from 2002 to 2004 has been traced to an injury and two collisions so far, MSN News reported. The safety issue is similar to other GM ignition switch recalls, in which the ignition can accidentally shut off while the car is being operated, cutting the electrical power to the vehicle.

Newer cars are part of this recall, too. A brake fluid issue in Chevrolet Aveo vehicles with model years 2009 and 2010 as well as 2010 Pontiac G3 vehicles could mean that drivers need a longer distance to be able to stop their cars. Fortunately, this particular problem involves relatively few cars: just 1,968. No collisions have been reported, according to MSN.

Then there’s the seat belt problem haunting 48,059 model year 2013 cars. In Buick Encore and Cadillac ATS vehicles, the part of the seat belt called the “pre-tensioner” may not lock correctly in the front seats of these cars, making the seat belts less effective at protecting passengers in the event of a crash. Again, there are no known accidents involving this safety recall.

Steering defects, too, are on this list. In model year 2014 Spark hatch vehicles, bolts that attach control arms could become loose. Approximately 1,919 of these vehicles are involved across the United States.

Finally, some recalls involve even the newest of new cars. About 14,940 Chevrolet Impala cars – those with LT and LTZ trim – have a dashboard storage compartment that can open without warning in a rear-end crash. The vehicles that haven’t been sold yet will need to have the inertia latch that can cause this problem replaced before consumers can purchase them.

As the number of recalls keeps swelling this year, it becomes easy to see that recalls stem from virtually any part of the car. Some seem unlikely to hurt anyone, while others are highly dangerous. The sooner automakers fix these problems – in some cases, before the cars are even sold – the safer our roadways are.


Among the Safest? Fatal Car Crashes by State

By Richard Console on August 14, 2014 - Comments off

Though we don’t like to think about it, an accident can happen anytime we’re on the roadway. Each time we get behind the wheel, there’s a risk – hopefully one made smaller by factors like paying attention and driving defensively – that we could become another statistic in fatal crash reports. Across the nation, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet new research by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute shows that you can’t simply divide that total by 50 to find out how many deaths happened in your state. It turns out that the likelihood of being killed in a car crash varies widely between states. Some states are “lucky.” Others are not. No state is so lucky that the fatality rate drops to near zero.

Traffic fatalities by stateResearchers learned that states in the South and the Northern Plains regions had the most fatal accidents, but findings about our local regions might surprise you. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Where We Stand

The good news is that New Jersey ranks among the top 10 states with the least fatal car crashes, both in terms of the number of deaths per miles traveled and per population, MSN News reported. In fact, 2013 saw an “all-time low” rate of traffic fatalities in New Jersey, according to The Star-Ledger. But it’s not all good news. Approximately 542 people still lost their lives on NJ roads last year – and that’s too many.

Just across the bridge, our neighbors in Philly aren’t ranking quite so well. Based on fatal crashes by population, Pennsylvania fell squarely into the middle range of traffic fatalities. And when sorting by number of miles traveled, Pennsylvania saw a high death rate. In 2013, about 1,208 people died on Pennsylvania roadways, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. That’s more than double the number of people who lost their lives in New Jersey accidents. These deaths are needless, and the high statistics are unacceptable.

Are You Safer Driving in Philly or Outside the City?

Researchers didn’t analyze why some states had more fatal accidents than others, but they did make note of some possible influences, including:

  • Speed limits
  • Enforcement of traffic laws and policies, especially those involving alcohol
  • Road topography and visibility
  • Ratio of rural and urban areas

These factors may be more complicated than they appear. Urban areas have more traffic, so they may seem more dangerous, but they also tend to have lower speed limits and quicker access to emergency medical personnel. Even if a more crashes happen in these areas, they may be less serious due to the speed of the vehicles involved, and close proximity to hospitals can improve survival rates. On the other hand, rural areas with winding roads and high speed limits can be dangerous in a different way. The lack of traffic can lull drivers into a false sense of security. When a collision does occur, the higher speed can make the impact more devastating. If the site of the accident is so rural that it takes a long time for an ambulance to reach the scene and transport the victim to the hospital, the delay in getting urgently needed medical care could mean the difference between surviving and dying.

The risk of being killed in an accident, or even being hurt in an accident, varies between states and within states. The risk can change with the weather, road conditions, time of the day, day of the week, and any number of other factors, many of which are beyond your control. We all need to do whatever we can to minimize not only the risks – and when an accident does happen, we need to stand up for our legal rights, because our lives might never be the same.


Painful Mosquito-Transmitted Disease on the Rise in New Jersey

By Richard Console on August 13, 2014 - Comments off

How much do you know about chikungunya? If you’re like most people in the tri-state area, probably not much – at least, not yet. You may have never even heard of the virus before now. Earlier this summer, the painful illness appeared prominently throughout the Caribbean, but it’s suddenly showing up in a worrying number of patients much closer to home – including right here in South Jersey.

Mosquito virus - Chikungunya mapChikungunya has been known to develop in regions of Africa and Asia, and its name means “contorted or bent over with pain” in an African language, according to the South Jersey Times. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

New Jersey Exposure

The earliest known outbreaks of chikungunya happened in Africa, and then in parts of Asia. While the virus certainly sounds unpleasant, it would never directly affect most of us here in the United States or specifically in the Philadelphia and South Jersey regions – or so it seemed until recently.

In 2013, the virus first made an appearance in islands in the Caribbean. Summer of 2014 brought more than 600 cases in the United States. And this past July, reports surfaced that people were now testing positively for the virus in New Jersey and New York. New Jersey in particular has seen more than two dozen cases of chikungunya, according to WABC News – three of them right here in South Jersey. Two cases of chikungunya have been reported in Gloucester County. Another victim lives in Burlington County.

The proximity of this virus is frightening on a very personal level. I work in Marlton, right here in Burlington County. My law firm serves clients who live in Gloucester County. Many of our employees live in this area. So do our friends and relatives. None of us want our families, or ourselves, to be exposed to a disease so unpleasant that it’s literally named for the pain it causes. And because the virus is so unfamiliar, we may not even know what symptoms to look for or what to do if we suspect we have the illness.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

Though rarely fatal, chikungunya has a nasty reputation for being extraordinarily painful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that symptoms typically present within three to seven days of virus transmission by mosquito bite and include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Muscle pain
  • Rash

The illness usually lasts for up to a week, but lingering symptoms can hang around for months in vulnerable populations, including infants, the elderly, and those with certain existing medical conditions.

Unfortunately, there is no true treatment for the excruciating disease. If a doctor diagnoses you with chikungunya after a blood test, you are likely to get only the same set of instructions that you would expect with a common cold. Rest. Drink fluids. Take over-the-counter pain and fever reducers. The good news is that if you get chikungunya once, you’re not likely to become infected again in the future – but during the painful illness, this probability may not be much consolation.

Protecting Your Family from Chikungunya

Let’s talk about prevention and what you can do to keep your family safe. Chikungunya is spread through the bites of Asian tiger mosquitos. As of this writing, officials in both New Jersey and New York believe that the cases of chikungunya did not originate here but were instead contracted during travel abroad, the Chicago Tribune reported. However, the West Nile virus has been positively identified among mosquito populations in many New Jersey counties this year, including Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Mercer, Bergen, Hunterdon, Hudson, Middlesex, Union, and Passaic Counties. It’s best to avoid mosquito exposure wherever possible to protect yourself from West Nile, chikungunya, and other viruses. That means use mosquito repellent in situations where you might encounter these insects – and that goes for any location, whether traveling hundreds of miles from home or just relaxing in your own backyard.

Naturally, we don’t want to think that an exotic virus with debilitating physical symptoms could spread to the areas where we live, work, and raise our families. We want to think we’re safe. But this may be an instance where we have the opportunity to stop further cases of chikungunya from ever developing at all. Preventing the spread of this disease starts with being prepared, including using mosquito repellant to stop potentially dangerous bug bites before they happen.


Not Cool: Insurance Company Insists on Paying Five-Figure Settlement in Coins

By Richard Console on August 12, 2014 - Comments off

In what can only be described as a “jerk move,” an insurance company has decided to pay an elderly California man’s settlement in as many as 18 buckets of loose change. Sure, I’m used to the frustrating and sometimes underhanded tactics insurers sometimes try to get away with, but even I’m surprised that the insurance company in question would resort to such a petty and easy to publicize stunt.

Settlement in coinsIt’s one thing to save up loose change for a rainy day, but another thing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in coins. The claimant didn’t find this funny – and neither should the rest of us. Photo Credit: Corbis Images.

Mr. Carrasco’s Story

We’d all like to think that insurance company personnel aren’t sitting around a boardroom, plotting and brainstorming ways to hurt us, but the way Adriana Insurance Service treated Andres Carrasco could shake the confidence of even the most optimistic consumer. The Los Angeles man in his seventies sued the insurer in 2012, claiming to have been assaulted by a company employee. Adriana Insurance Service ultimately settled the case for $21,000 in June, according to magazine Insurance Business. The company looked like a sore loser when it refused to write a check – the normal means of paying a settlement – and instead sent eight employees carrying between 16 and 18 large buckets of lose currency. Mr. Carrasco’s lawyer first assumed the stunt was “a joke,” the magazine reported, but it turned out that Adriana Insurance Service really did make the unfortunate decision to pay a claimant in quarters.

Even if this behavior were a joke, it wouldn’t be a very good one. How any company could think it was a good idea to pay a gentleman in his seventies in this manner is beyond my understanding. Let’s put this in perspective – not only is it an annoyance to transport and count coins in these quantities, it’s also totally disrespectful and potentially dangerous. Pennies weigh 2.5 grams apiece. Quarters weight 5.67 grams. If the entire $21,000 settlement came in the form of quarters, we’re talking literally over 1,000 pounds of change. An all-penny payment in that amount would weigh upwards of 11,000 pounds. With nickels and dimes also in the mix, the real amount is probably somewhere in between – and certainly more than one individual, particularly a senior citizen, can safely lift at a time. There’s nothing funny about that.

Insurers’ History of Bad Behavior

Around my office, we’re well aware that insurance companies aren’t opposed to foul play. They sometimes think they are above the rules, denying coverage for no reason and then hiding the documents that prove there’s no basis for the denial. Even when they’re not breaching contracts outright, insurance companies sometimes go out of their way to frustrate or mistreat claimant.

Some insurance adjusters have looked for ridiculous excuses to deny coverage, like claiming that a policyholder wasn’t eligible for coverage despite paying years of premiums because her name wasn’t on the title of the vehicle. Insurers sometimes act outrageously, even stalking claimants to try to prove that they don’t really live at the insured address and so aren’t covered – despite there being no reason to suspect a falsified address. Some insurance companies make absurd arguments about liability, like telling a woman hit in a parked car that it was her responsibility to prevent a truck from backing into her by beeping her horn or arguing that a driver with a history of accidents must be at fault for being hit from behind by a motorist who ran a stop sign. I’ve known insurance carriers that essentially trap patients in the hospital, refusing to approve payment for the medical equipment they need to return home. In one memorable situation, a defense attorney commented about an amputee, “It’s not like he doesn’t have another leg.”

Unfortunately, the constant advertisements you see for insurance companies are just, well, advertisements. These companies care less about saving you money or helping you out than they do about their bottom line. As M. Carrasco’s story shows, insurers sometimes don’t play fair or respect their claimants. The insurance company is not your friend. Don’t let any amount of catchy slogans, talking animals, or friendly characters on commercials convince you otherwise.


Ask the Attorney: Slip-and-Fall Victims Can Sue, but They’ll Need Help

By Richard Console on August 12, 2014 - Comments off

New Jersey and Pennsylvania personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr.Asker: Can I sue for a slip-and-fall in a store or parking lot? The company was very unapologetic about the incident and they were expecting me to handle my medical bills on my own. Can I sue for the slip and medical bills or would it be considered too minor?

Attorney: Of all the types of accidents out there, it seems that slip-and-fall injuries are among the most confusing. I often hear questions about whether a victim can sue, who they can sue, and how important the severity of injuries is to the value of the claim. You can sue for a slip-and-fall injury you suffered on a property, but you have to be able to show that the property owner or the company using the property was somehow at fault for the accident.

Understanding Premises Liability

Slip-and-fall cases are a type of claim called “premises liability.” Essentially, the injured person is asserting that the owner or user of the premises is liable, or at fault, for the injuries sustained there. So if you slipped and fell in a store or parking lot, you will have to show that there was some sort of safety hazard that caused you to fall and that the property owner should have taken steps to protect the safety of others legally on the property, like you were. For example, my office recently recovered $400,000 for a badly injured slip-and-fall victim who fell on a puddle of spilled bleach at a Target store.

Neglecting to use caution signs can contribute to slip-and-fall accidentsIn this case, the store failed to put up signs or barriers to warn customers of the danger. If the staff had placed caution signs near the spill and the shopper had ignored the signs, she probably wouldn’t have much of a case. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Premises liability cases can be difficult because property owners and commercial users will often attempt to deny liability. They may blame the victim, making statements such as “he should have watched where he was going” or “if the danger was so obvious that we should have known about it, then the shopper should have known to avoid it.” If all else fails, the defendant may try to argue that the victim wasn’t really hurt. This kind of behavior is unfair, and to victims struggling with physical pain and financial consequences, it can be incredibly frustrating. To truly succeed in a slip-and-fall case, you will need an attorney.

Who to Sue

Questions about slip-and-falls frequently look like fill-in-the-blanks. “Can I sue ___________?” People ask about casinos, schools, stores, parking lots, and restaurants.

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, victims could – at least in theory – sue any of these entities for a slip-and-fall if they can prove premises liability. However, the procedure may be different depending on who the defendant is in your case. In a typical claim, victims have two years to file a lawsuit, but against certain entities – like government agencies and schools – there might be additional deadlines, some as short as 90 days, by which the defendant must be notified of a claim.

You can sue for a slip-and-fall, but your success in doing so depends on a couple of factors you can’t control – the severity of injuries and the evidence of liability on the part of the defendant – and on one factor you can control: hiring an attorney. An attorney can make a huge difference in how much money you get and even whether or not you recover compensation at all. The right lawyer for your claim will understand how your injuries impact your life and will work diligently to gather all of the necessary evidence to show that the defendant acted negligently and caused the accident. You can get the money you deserve, but you can’t do it alone.


GM in Trouble for Recall Website Inaccuracies

By Richard Console on August 11, 2014 - Comments off

We think of a safety recall as what happens when a car isn’t made correctly. Some part of the vehicle may have a defect that could prove dangerous and needs to be fixed. But what happens when the recall itself is faulty? General Motors (GM) is finding out.

GM recall website

At a glance, it seems that recall sites like the GM Recall Center make it easy to determine if your car is one affected by a potential defect, but the government allegedly found inaccuracies that could lull drivers into a false sense of safety.

GM’s Recall Problems So Far

Automaker GM has issued dozens of recalls in 2014, including high-profile recalls of vehicles with defective ignition switches. Though GM has acknowledged relatively few accidents (including 13 deaths) connected to these defects, incidents involving the cars listed in these recalls have resulted in more than 650 lawsuits for the company. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fined the company $35,000,000, reportedly for waiting more than a decade to recall some of these cars despite knowing about the problem and the potential safety risk it posed. Since then, GM has announced numerous other recalls – hopefully so that the company can fix new potential safety problems before people get hurt.

Unfortunately, a recall is only effective if the product owners know that their product has been recalled – and with the system GM put in place earlier this year, there’s a good chance some of them don’t, according to the NHTSA.

Recall Website Inaccuracies Could Hurt Your Family

Mistakes happen. Written recall notices can get lost in the mail. Families move and some straggling pieces of mail might never get forwarded – particularly when the car is several years old and paid off, so that the owner has no further need to correspond with a dealership. Likewise, people change phone numbers or even email addresses, which can make it difficult for dealerships to reach them promptly. Besides the difficulty, concerned car owners shouldn’t have to rely on a company to notify them of a potential safety risk to their family. All motorists should be able to make sure for themselves that the car they’re driving is safe to be on the road. To that end, companies like GM launch recall websites. All owners have to do is enter the vehicle identification number (VIN) of their cars, and they can see if any recalls have been issued that affect them – supposedly.

Yet in early August, NHTSA stated that “owners of some recalled GM vehicles are receiving incorrect and misleading results,” USA TODAY reported. Specifically, owners entering their vehicles’ VINs can get false negatives – results saying that their cars are not among the vehicles affected, even when they are. It seems that this happened when the parts needed for the repairs were still unavailable – but that’s not the message website users were getting.

If you hear about a major safety recall, say the one in which the defect is linked to 13 deaths, you probably think you’re being responsible by proactively looking to see if your car needs repairs. If you find that your vehicle isn’t included in the recall, you breathe a sigh of relief and go about your life. Even if you later get a recall notice in the mail or in a voicemail message, you might chalk it up to a mistake and ignore it – after all, you already checked out the recall information, right?

The good news is that NHTSA has noticed the problem and made GM aware of it. As of last week, the automaker “has made progress” in fixing the issue and anticipated the problem “to be fully corrected” by the end of the week,” according to news source WBNS-10TV. It’s a step in the right direction, but I hope that the misleading information vehicle owners have already gotten won’t prevent them from getting the repairs made on recalled cars.

It’s true that you can’t believe everything you read online, but whether or not your car has been recalled is on piece of information that you really should be able to take at face value.


Hyundai Recalls New and Semi-New Sonatas for Gears and Brakes

By Richard Console on August 8, 2014 - Comments off

If you think your new car is perfectly safe, this might make you think again. Automaker Hyundai ended the month of July by recalling more than 880,000 cars from years 2011 to 2014 and thousands more 2015 cars for safety reasons. The two separate recalls involve Hyundai’s popular Sonata model and defects that could cause serious collisions.

Hyundai Sonata RecallYou may have heard that new cars depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the lot, but you probably weren’t counting on a safety recall weeks after buying your 2015 car. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Recalls (and Cars) Keep Rolling On

What if you stopped your car, shifted into “park” gear, and then suddenly found your vehicle rolling away? That’s what could happen to 883,000 Hyundai Sonatas with model years from 2011 to 2014. In these cars, the transmission-shift cable can become detached from the shift-lever pin – which means, in simpler terms, that the vehicle may not really be in the gear that it’s supposed to be in. This is no small problem, as it “could increase the risk of a crash,” reported Reuters.

So far, no collisions or injuries have been reported, Hyundai told the media, but it has received upwards of 1,100 warranty claims and seven “incidents” – whatever that means. The possibility of a car simply rolling away, with or without the driver inside, is just one of the potential problems. Cars could also move in the wrong direction. Drivers may find themselves unable to shift gears after parking the car, leaving them stranded.

Hitting the Brakes on 2015 Cars

If you purchased a new Hyundai Sonata in the last couple months, your car could be part of yet another recall. About 5,650 of the 2015 vehicles have been recalled for potential brake problems. The brake calipers in the front of these cars can snap or crack, which could prevent brakes from working correctly and lead to accidents. This could lead to all kinds of accidents, some of them serious. Drivers could strike the cars in front of them, crash into buildings, or find themselves unable to slow down adequately when turning and collide with other cars.

Fortunately, this danger became apparent so early on that no accidents or injuries have yet been reported. Also fortunately, fewer than 200 of these brand new vehicles have even made it off dealership lots and into the driveways and garages of owners so far, Automotive News reported. The yet unsold cars won’t be sold until repairs are made, according to a Hyundai spokesperson.

What to Do About Recalls

The dozens of recalls issued so far in 2014 have been not only high-profile, but massive. Since February, General Motors (GM) has recalled more than 28,000,000 cars, many for a problem related to faulty ignition switches and keys. In June, eight other major automakers recalled millions of cars for defective air bags made by a company called Takata. July brought a recall of nearly 800,000 Chrysler Jeep SUVs. This is still far from an exhaustive list.

With recalls abounding across seemingly all car makes and models, it’s essential that you know what to do in the event that your car is involved in a safety recall. If you receive a recall notice for your Hyundai Sonata, please don’t ignore it. In the cases of both recalls, the necessary repairs are free to drivers. Even if you haven’t received a notice but still suspect your car could be included, you can use to find out for sure.

If there truly haven’t been any accidents or injuries yet related to these defects, let’s all do our part keep it that way.


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