Driver Distraction Responsible for 1.4 Million Automobile Crashes in the Past Decade

Driver Distraction Responsible for 1.4 Million Automobile Crashes in the Past Decade


Distracted driving is a serious problem throughout the nation for drivers of all ages as well as cyclists, pedestrians and everyone who shares the road. New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman recently put the problem into perspective, saying more than one million crashes in the past decade involved a distraction of some kind.


Sources claim there were around 3 million auto accidents between 2004 and 2013. About 1.4 million of those, nearly half, involved driver distraction. In those accidents, more than 1,600 people died.


The “Decade of Distracted Driving”

Hoffman called it the decade of distracted driving, saying that something needs to be done to stop such accidents and save future lives. Hoffman has also warned that this problem is only getting worse, rather than better. The rate of distracted driving crashes is rising.


In 2004, for instance, inattention was cited in 42 percent of crashes. Today, inattention is cited in 53 percent of all accidents. The percentage of distracted driving accidents has grown 26 percent during the past decade.


Law enforcement cracking down

Several police departments have received grants to help fund distracted driving prevention and enforcement efforts. This comes from the new federal campaign “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” The campaign includes checkpoints and increasing patrols to hold distracted drivers accountable before they cause an accident.


Law enforcement has issued around 3,000 summonses for distracted driving violations, only halfway into the campaign.


A recent survey revealed that even though 9 out of 10 respondents knew it was against the law to text and drive, 3 in 10 admitted to doing it anyway despite the dangers of it being mentioned all over the local news, internet and roadside signs.


There are many causes of distractions

Texting and emailing aren’t the only distractions to drivers, others include talking on your phone and even reaching for it. When cited on accident reports, “inattention” also can refer to eating behind the wheel, dropping something on the floorboard or even changing the radio station.


Recent research suggests that even hands-free technology is distracting. Your mind is still being distracted, even though your hands aren’t. This leads to something referred to as “inattention blindness”.


A recent study from the University of Iowa Public Policy Center found that when drivers used hands-free devices there was a reduction of brain activity in the areas needed for driving of about 37 percent. In other words, the mere acts of listening and talking are enough to cause a serious auto accident.


This research is a strong indicator that we need to go above and beyond what the laws require of us. Putting down your cell phone and ending texting while driving isn’t enough, you need to make sure your eyes and your mind stay focused solely on the road ahead. Anything less, and you risk being involved in an accident that could dramatically change your life forever.


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While Going Through a Divorce, Keep the Children in Mind



Many people believe that a divorce has to be an all out war involving family members, friends and even the children choosing sides. They will wage battle after battle, and allow the anger and hostility to consume every aspect of their lives. Going through the New Jersey divorce process is a very stressful experience. However, when there are broken hearts and hurt feelings left in its wake, a divorce can get downright ugly.

The saddest part of this tragedy is that the children get caught in the crossfire. The children of a combative divorce often suffer tremendous emotional strain because their developing psychological frameworks can’t handle the pressure when they are continuously exposed to the negativity. As a Jersey City divorce lawyer, I often see how the battles that parents wage against each other can create an unhealthy atmosphere for themselves and their families.

While your children will not, and should not, be involved in the negotiations of your divorce, here are three ways to handle your divorce proceedings to ensure the process takes your child’s feelings into consideration.

Keep it respectful

First you should demand a respectful atmosphere between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. Often referred to as “taking the high road”, each and every time there is a communication between parties through email, in person, letters, text messages, etc, they should be handled without getting nasty. Of course there will be some rough discussions, but even those should be handled with a high level of professionalism. This won’t be easy, but you have to keep in mind how harsh communications can affect the children, even when they aren’t intended to.

Do whats in the best interest of the children

Always put the best interests of your children first. I have seen many divorcing parents in Hudson and Bergen Counties use parenting time and financial support as bargaining chips in both divorce proceedings and in their lives. Rather than take into consideration what is truly in the best interest of the children, they negotiate with hate and manipulation. It is never healthy for one parent to threaten the other with dragging the children into the middle of their battle. Parenting time and child support negotiations should be contingent upon what is best for the children.

Promote a healthy relationship with the other parent

Accept and promote the fact that it is healthy for your child to have a relationship with their other parent. Each parent should encourage the child to go and visit the other parent rather than making comments like “you have to go” or “It’s court ordered and I’ll get into a lot of trouble if I don’t make you go”. A far better statement would be, “Your mom/dad loves you and wants to spend time with you too”.

Its not always easy

Now I realize this all sounds well and fine, in a perfect world you would be able to maintain complete emotional control at all times. I’ve been practicing in family law far too long to know that once you get on the emotional roller coaster of a divorce, you will slip now and again, that is perfectly natural, you are only human and this is a very difficult and emotionally challenging time in your life. The best you can do when a slip does occur, is to apologize and then pledge to move on in a more productive manner with the very clear intention of bringing as much peace to your children as you can.

What Happens to Assets and Debt in a Divorce?



“What happens to our assets and debt when we get divorced?” This is a very common question I get asked by clients starting the New Jersey Divorce Process. Rightly so, couples are worried about the debt they have accrued on credit cards, a home equity line of credit, student loans and car loans. At My Law Firm we will review the documentation you provide and along with other financial factors, explain your options in your proceedings.

Does Marital Fault or Misconduct matter?

For the most part, judges dividing marital property in New Jersey don’t care who is at fault in the divorce, however, there are a few rare exceptions. In the case one spouse has “dissipated” (wasted) marital assets by misusing property (gambling is an example), a court may assign the other spouse a larger part of the remaining assets to help compensate for the loss of marital funds. A judge might also make an exception if one spouse’s behavior was “egregious” or extremely shocking. An example of this is if one spouse tried to kill the other.

Are there factors more important than others?

It is up to the judge to decide how important any particular factor is. Judges usually consider the length of the marriage and the marital lifestyle as the most important factor in a Northern New Jersey divorce. For example, people ending longer marriages have usually contributed more significantly to a joint standard of living and given up more individual opportunities.

Couples going through a Hudson or Bergen County divorce can negotiate their own property divisions, either on their own, or with the help of their lawyer. New Jersey courts also provide several programs for divorcing couples to help them resolve property disputes. If an agreement isn’t able to be made, a judge or arbitrator will make the decision.

Equitable distribution is made in three basic steps:

Identifying Marital Property

Marital property includes assets and debts which are accumulated during the marriage. This does not include property either spouse acquired before the marriage, received as an individual inheritance or a gift from a third party during the marriage. A spouse will have to prove any claims that property the couple owns at the time of divorce is separate. This can be difficult, since separate and marital property are often “commingled,” or combined. An example of this is, one spouse might deposit funds from a previously separate account into a joint account, and then continue to add marital funds to the joint account during the marriage.

A spouse who owns property can “transmute” (change) separate property into marital property, or vice versa, by changing the title to the property during marriage. For example, if one spouse changes the title on a separately owned home to both spouses as “tenants by the entirety,” the home becomes marital property subject to equitable distribution.

Distributing marital property from separate property can be complicated. If you and your spouse disagree about whether specific property is separate or marital, it is best to contact one of the professionals at My Law Firm.

Determining the Value of Marital Property

Normally, property is valued at its current “fair market value,” which is what you could sell the asset for if you sold it today. In some cases, couples need help from professionals, such as real estate or business appraisers, to determine asset values for property, in the case of a home or a business. A retirement pension can also be very difficult to evaluate and may require the input of a forensic accountant or an actuary.

Distribute Marital Property

There are several different options to consider in the distribution of marital assets and debts. A couple can agree to sell a marital home and divide the proceeds even before the divorce is final. If only one party agrees on this line of action, that spouse will have to ask the court for permission to put the home on the market.

A couple can also give (or be ordered by the court) one spouse the right to live in the home for some temporary period of time. This is most common when the couple has minor children. The order or agreement might specify that the house will be sold at some specified future date, for example, when the youngest child leaves for college. Another possibility is that the home be transferred to one spouse, while the other retains an interest-bearing loan.
If a couple has enough joint assets to enable one spouse to “buy out” the other spouse’s share, the spouse keeping the house may be able to refinance it with a new mortgage.

How do You Find Out if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets



Unfortunately, some spouses try to hide assets before or during a divorce to avoid having to share them with their soon-to-be ex spouse. However, divorcing spouses in New Jersey can use the power of “discovery,” to help them find hidden income and other assets.

The first step in dividing assets during a divorce is to create a complete financial picture of all the assets owned by each spouse. Usually, these assets will be categorized as marital (property acquired during the marriage), separate (property acquired before the marriage, after the separation or by gift or inheritance), or commingled (where you’ve mixed the marital and separate property together).

Even though you may not have ownership rights in your spouse’s separate property, it’s important to account for all of it because a court may consider the value of both spouses’ separate property when deciding how to divide marital property and debts.

How do you find assets when you’re the “Out-Spouse”?

If you didn’t handle the bookkeeping during your marriage, and you payed little or no part in tracking finances, you are what some attorneys refer to as the “out-spouse.” This just means that you don’t have immediate access to, or knowledge of, the financial information like your spouse does.

If you’re the “out-spouse,” your first course of action should be to simply ask your spouse for copies of all financial records. If your spouse can and will produce all the records, the information gathering may go a little smoother. However, this is rarely the case. Sometimes, your spouse simply can’t find all of the records. If this is the case, the two of you may be able to work together to gather the information. Today’s online access to just about everything makes it easier to get account records.

Unfortunately, many spouses refuse to produce information because they’re hiding assets. Finding hidden assets in a divorce can be challenging, especially if you don’t have an attorney. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets, it is in your best interest to contact the My law firm, Jersey City Family Law Attorney, to make sure your rights are preserved.

The Discovery Process

If you have reason to believe your spouse won’t voluntarily disclose all financial information in your divorce, your My attorney will need to use a formal, legal process to get the information and documents. Attorneys and judges refer to this as the “discovery process.” The discovery process provides several methods of getting information, which includes the following:

Document demands. Your attorney can ask your spouse to produce specific documents, such as tax returns, financial statements, loan applications and account records.

Written questions called “interrogatories” or “requests for admission.” Using this process, your spouse must answer questions in writing, or admit specific statements that you believe are true.

Inspection demands. You can ask to inspect property like a safe deposit box or a collection.

Testimony given under oath. In an oral deposition, you, your spouse and lawyers appear before a court reporter. Your spouse is sworn to tell the truth and must answer questions asked by your attorney.

The discovery process is an excellent way to collect financial information from an uncooperative spouse because the court has the power to compel compliance. For example, if your spouse fails to produce documents, you can ask a judge to order them to do so. If your spouse disobeys the order, a court may punish them by imposing a “sanction,” which can include monetary fines or even a judgement against them on a particular issue.
A deposition is an especially good process to obtain information from a dishonest spouse. Anyone who lies under oath during a deposition can be charged with perjury. This may be just the kind of pressure to get a soon-to-be ex to tell the truth about hidden assets. Typically, you should hold off on the deposition until you’ve obtained some of your financial records so you know which questions to ask about the records you’ve already examined.

Why it’s Not a Good Idea to File Your Own Divorce



Filing a New Jersey Divorce is a complex process. There are several details of your current and future life up for negotiation, forms to be filed with the court and eventually standing in front of and addressing a judge.

Along the way there are several obstacles and loopholes to avoid. The courts call representing yourself “Pro Se,” which means without counsel. As a Jersey City Divorce and Family Attorney, I have helped many clients who have considered taking on the legal process without counsel and quickly realized they needed help.

I’ve also had clients who made it through the process only to realize that their agreements aren’t working or they made mistakes that are suddenly starting to cost them much more than they would have otherwise spent if they had hired an attorney.

The main reason people choose to file their own divorce is because they think it will save them money. In my experience most people wind up spending more money in the long run when they represent themselves rather than they would if they had hired a reputable New Jersey lawyer.

Some realize this and wind up spending even more to have a lawyer try to fix the mistakes they have made. By finding an honest and ethical attorney with an expert and efficient staff you will save money in several ways.

In the beginning many people think they have a cordial relationship with their soon-to-be-ex and therefore they can work things out between themselves without the need of counsel. What they don’t anticipate is that the excellent relationship may start to unravel when they start to get into the details of their arrangements.

An experienced Hudson County divorce lawyer can offer creative solutions and they will fight for the best deal possible to secure their client’s future. The fact is this is probably your first divorce, but for the lawyers at My Law Firm we have been through several and know exactly what to watch for and anticipate.

Working through the Bergen County court system takes experience and attention to detail. You not only have to put the correct agreements in place, but your forms need to be filled out correctly or the court will return them to you with little explanation.

The court will tell you that they can’t give you legal advice and they will direct you to either a lawyer or a law library to find the answers to your questions. The right attorney will meticulously prepare all of your divorce documentation, track progress and responses from the court and keep you informed at each step of the process.

In addition to the complexity of required court documents and filing procedure, the wording of your divorce needs to be precise. For example, the types of alimony you request in your paperwork can have significant ramifications including the length of time it is paid and for what reasons. You could either find yourself cut off in a short amount of time or wind up paying for too long whichever the case may be.
The most important thing to remember is, no matter how you get through the divorce process, the final agreements are legally binding. You will be legally bound to comply with the agreements including alimony and child support payments. If these aren’t calculated or negotiated properly it could cost you a lot more money.

Creating a Successful Visitation Plan

When your divorce or separation includes children, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is how you will arrange time with your children. Your parenting plan, also known as custody or visitation, should revolve around the specific needs, challenges and opportunities of your family.


Whether or not you and your ex can sit down and work out a parenting plan together, or you need to work with a mediator, here are some important considerations for mapping out a successful plan:


Different Kinds of Time to Consider

When you are creating a parenting plan it is recommended that you think about the different kinds of time you spend with your children. For example:


  • Regular at-home time (meals, homework, chores)
  • Overnights
  • Outside activities spent together (sports, shopping, visiting relatives)
  • Holidays and special days
  • Time the children spend away from both parents (school, friends’ homes)


No matter how much time each parent spends with the child, it should include these kinds of activities.


Also, consider how much input the children should have. Parents need to make decisions for young children, but teens might feel more empowered if they are able to have some input.


Age-Appropriate Planning

How should normal every-day time with each parent be split? With the assumption that there aren’t any safety issues in either home, the answer depends largely on two factors. First, your family’s unique needs and second, the development stage of your children.


First take into consideration the logistics, your work schedules, your children’s activities, how you’ll arrange pick-ups and drop offs and any childcare arrangements. Can the child get to school from both parents’ house? Also take into consideration the emotional aspects, how well your child can adapt to transitions, how well siblings get along with each other and other family members and how well you are able to communicate with your ex. Having an understanding of what works for your unique situation will help create a plan that works best for your family.


Next, take into consideration your child’s development stage, are they very young or older? How much attention do they need and how much transition can they handle?


Babies and young children need more attention and structure. Infants need frequent physical contact with each parent, as well as a predictable schedule. Toddlers still need frequent contact, but have more awareness of others, so sibling relationships may also be important to them. A plan for a family with infants or toddlers may involve 3 or 4 changes a week (2 days or so at each home, or for one parent to take the children out for a few hours while they are staying with the other parent).


Older children may be more flexible. By the time children reach elementary school age, they can spend a few more days with each parent, and can use other types of contact (phone, computer, etc.) to stay connected. A plan for adolescents, may involve the children spending a week with each parent. This is a time when they are exploring relationships with peers, so they need their parents to catch them when they fall. However, a plan for teens may involve the children spending a week with each parent.


Dividing the Holidays

Holiday planning doesn’t have to be difficult if you follow some simple steps. When a holiday is important to both families, parents sometimes alternate, so the children spend Christmas with Dad during even years, and Mom during odd years. Or, if parents spend holidays close to each other, they may split the holiday itself, so the children spend the morning with one parent and the evening with the other. Still in some families, it may work for the parents to spend time with the children together.


Summer Vacation

How long do you each want to have your children during the summer? Do you take vacations or travel? What kinds of activities are your children in during the summer? Parents often want to keep things as normal as possible, so this is a place where you might want to create a plan that takes your children’s schedules into account.


Other Considerations

How well do you and your ex get along? How well is your communication? In a perfect world we all want to think that we are able to do whats in the best interest of the child and work out an agreement that benefits them first and foremost and allows fair parenting time for both parents.


However, even though we can start out with the best intentions in mind, divorce is a very emotionally charged experience that can breakdown good intentions along the way. It is for this reason that you need to make sure your agreement is recorded and protected by a professional outside party who will look out for your needs and rights.
At the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Attorney Santo V. Artusa we have spent years protecting the rights of New Jersey parents going through the same situation you are. Our professional team focuses on providing top quality legal representation, with our client’s best interests’ our top priority.

Personal Injury and Parental Responsibility Laws

Many parents don’t realize that they can be held legally liable for the acts of their minor children. Almost every state has enacted some version of this kind of law, although the specifics vary, and it usually applies to both intentional and negligent acts committed by the child.


Parental Responsibility Laws

Parental responsibility laws have been a cornerstone of our legal system for more than a century. The first state to enact a law of this type was Hawaii in 1846, and to this day Hawaii’s version of the law remains one of the most encompassing in its application. In most states, the concept of parental responsibility applies to both the criminal and civil acts of the child.


Even though it may seem unfair for a parent to be held legally responsible for the acts of a child, state legislatures have decided that an innocent victim should not bear the financial burden of property damage or medical expenses that resulted through no fault of their own.


The reasoning behind these laws is that parents have a legal obligation to control their minor children, and to teach them better life skills so that the children may make better decisions. If a parent fails to fulfill their legal obligation to control their child, and the child then causes harm to another person or to property, the parent is legally and financially responsible. It is for this reason, if a child is negligent, that negligence is transferred to the parent.


Legal Age of Personal Responsibility

A minor is any person who has not yet reached the age of adulthood. The age at which a child legally becomes an adult varies from state to state, but in most states that age is 18. Most states that have parental responsibility laws have established the rule that parents can be held responsible for the acts of their child only until the child reaches 18 years of age However, at least one state has expanded parental responsibility to include children up to 21 years of age in certain situations.


Example of Parental Responsibility Laws in New Jersey

Parents may be liable for a child’s acts, but only for damage to railroads, public utilities or school property. In those instances a parent’s financial responsibility is capped at $5,000.00.


Parental Liability for a Minor’s Acts While Driving a Car

Usually, most parental liability laws include any damages a child may cause while driving a car. However, many states also have specific statutes further defining the legal liability of a parent or other adult in that situation. Those statutes are typically called “sponsorship laws.”
In those states, anyone under the age of 18 must have a “sponsor” in order to obtain a driver’s license. The sponsor is typically a parent, but may also be an employer. However, if the minor is negligent or engages in willful misconduct while driving a car, then damages resulting from the conduct can be transferred to the adult sponsor. This is true even if the sponsor had no actual control over the minor or even the vehicle. If the minor does cause any damage to others, the sponsor may be legally liable to the injured person up to the full amount of the damages.