What do to After WITNESSING an Accident

You were fortunate. Whether major or minor, yours was not one of the vehicles involved in the car accident which occurred right before your eyes. However, just because you escaped property damage or injury doesn’t mean you should proceed without caution or let your emotions outweigh logic. So, with that backdrop, below are some thoughts to keep in mind if you are a witness to a motor vehicle accident.

  1. If the Accident is Major, Call 911 Immediately: You need not provide an elaborate description, and caution is advised in providing your own assessment of who was at fault unless specifically asked for this information by an officer of the law. You should keep it simple: give the operator the location of the accident, the number of vehicles involved, and (if you can determine) whether anyone is injured. They should be able to take it from there.
  2. Don’t Move Any Injured People Unless Absolutely Necessary: This is especially true if you’re not trained to handle such situations. You have no idea the extent of the injuries the person suffered in the accident, and moving them could worsen their injuries. Your kind act could end up being the reason you’re later named in a lawsuit. However, a scenario where it might be absolutely necessary to move a person might include one where the vehicle is on fire and you have decided you can approach the vehicle safely.
  3. Use Caution if Approaching the Vehicle: Unless you’re certain the scene is now safe and traffic has either stopped or a secure detour has been established around the accident, you should remain in your vehicle or a safe area. It is critical you ensure your own safety first. Failure to assess the situation could end up in more serious injuries and eliminate your ability to provide assistance. Also realize that the more catastrophic the accident appears, the more likely it is there could be flames, fire, or combustibles. Regardless of the apparent severity of the accident, you should always be aware of the risk of fire and explosion and pay special attention to the smell or sight of fire or smoke.
  4. Keep the Scene Clear: If you witness the accident or are one of the first people to arrive at the scene, a logical tactic is to pull entirely off the road and put on your flashers to make it easier for emergency personnel to locate and advance upon the scene. Even in so doing, be sure to keep a safe distance.
  5. If Possible to do Safely, Assist the Drivers in Moving their Vehicles from Traffic Lanes: If the vehicle is not so damaged as to render it completely immobile, and the driver indicates he or she is willing and able to move it, assist the driver of the wrecked vehicle in moving the car out of the traffic lane. DO NOT drive the vehicle yourself unless instructed to do so by a police officer or emergency worker. DO NOT rely on the word of the driver of the wrecked vehicle.
  6. Don’t Chase Fleeing Drivers: Whether in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, if someone is involved in a motor vehicle accident they have an obligation to remain on the scene. However, if you witness a hit-and-run accident, DO NOT FOLLOW/CHASE the driver. Do your best to get the car’s license plate number. If you can’t, pick out details about the vehicle (make, model, color, etc.) and the direction the vehicle went after fleeing the scene.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

Top Tips For Avoiding Claims Of Employment Discrimination

For businesses in today’s job market, avoiding claims of employment discrimination is a constant struggle. Whether based on race, sex, national origin, disability, religion, color, or age, discrimination claims are taken very seriously in both state and federal court. While you, as an employer, may have done absolutely nothing wrong, a great majority of employment discrimination claims cost employers money and always cost them time.

However, there are ways to limit your exposure to allegations by discharged or disgruntled employees. Today, we list 5 policies to consider implementing intended to prevent and subsequently defend claims of employment discrimination. Without further ado:

  • Have a Written Policy Defining Grounds for Termination in the Workplace: What do I mean when I say a “termination policy”? Provide your employees, in writing, with a pamphlet or document which explains your expectations and lays out the procedure for terminating an employee. If you have a “one-strike” policy, make it clear. If you base terminations on the number of warnings or suspensions, be sure to publicize it [perhaps post it in the break room] and rely upon it to justify an immediate termination. The only caution I will provide is that if you’re going to put a termination policy in writing, you better follow that process you describe in all cases!
  • Document the File: This tip ties in directly with the first policy listed above. Documenting employee performance and any instances of misconduct can be a critical piece of evidence if later accused of discrimination. If you’ve had problems with an employee, it should be reflected in performance reviews, and any performance deficiencies should be documented immediately. Some employers even go so far as avoiding performance reviews altogether and instead only putting to paper instances of misconduct or under-performance. Here’s the key: don’t think you can rely solely on what you’ve said to employees verbally, put it in writing!
  • Have a Fair Hiring Policy: People often believe discrimination claims come only from current or former employees. Au contraire my friends! The majority of federal statutes dealing with discrimination in the workplace define employees as those currently employed, formerly employed, and also job applicants. If you have a policy or pattern of refusing/failing to hire applicants from a certain protected class (age, disability, religion, race, color, etc.), expect a call from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Be careful about asking any questions which could be viewed as an attempt to determine if the applicant is in a protected class, and be conscientious of all job postings to ensure they don’t demonstrate bias in your hiring process.
  • When Firing, Don’t Do It Alone: This is critical. While terminating an employee is often a difficult, emotional experience, having a third party witness who can attest to your version of the events can go a long way in discrediting an employee’s later version of the events. If you have a HR manager, they should be the first person you consider. Alternatively, unless there are union or contractual provisions dictating otherwise, do not allow an employee to bring anyone else into the meeting.
  • Be Careful in Not Heaping Too Much Praise on an Employee: While company and employee morale are both critical components to any successful business, good luck explaining to a judge that a now terminated employee has been a problem for years when he or she has in her hands glowing performance evaluations for the same time period. Avoid the temptation to exaggerate your review of your employees and be very careful in how often you hand out that “exceeds expectation” cookie!

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Five tips alone cannot possibly cover the myriad of ways to prevent and defend against claims for discrimination in the workplace. One thing is certain, however: every company with more three employees should have an employment policy manual. Creating an effective and legally sufficient manual is no easy task, so employers would be wise to consider seeking the assistance of competent legal professionals in the drafting process.

The attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP are skilled in employment and business law. If you are interested in creating a policy to better insulate yourself from potential discrimination lawsuits, call now to arrange for a free consultation at 215-947-6240 or visit us online.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

New Pennsylvania Law Expands Sealing of Criminal Records

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed into law Senate Bill 166. The new law’s impact will be to expand the sealing of criminal records in Pennsylvania. The goal is to reduce recidivism, relieve the pardon system, and provide ex-offenders greater opportunity to join the workforce.

The new law allows individuals who have served their punishment and remained free of arrest or prosecution for anywhere from seven to ten years for non-violent second or third degree misdemeanors to petition the court for their record to be sealed from public view.

More importantly, it means being convicted of a non-violent second- or third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania need no longer remain with a person for their lifetime.
Third-degree misdemeanors include certain types of disorderly conduct, loitering and prowling at night, and open lewdness, among other crimes. Second-degree misdemeanors include such crimes as false swearing in official matters, bigamy and impersonating a public servant, among other crimes.

The Impact: This Act allows for the sealing of certain criminal records.  So while law enforcement and state licensing agencies will continue to have access to those records, a person’s past criminal record will no longer be an impediment for employment, housing, education and more.

The attorneys at Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy & O’Connell, LLP are experienced in expungement proceedings and can also assist you in petitioning the court to have your record sealed. If you were previously convicted of a non-violent second- or third-degree felony, like retail theft or disorderly conduct, and wish to speak to an experienced attorney about having this information sealed publicly, contact Howland Hess O’Connell today.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.

YES, You Can Get a DUI While Not High

Drugged driving is a misunderstood area of law. Parents particularly should be aware of the law and penalties. If you suspect your child might be using marijuana, it is important you and they recognize the  risks associated long after the effects of the drug have worn off.

In Pennsylvania, a person is guilty of driving under the influence or driving after imbibing (“DUI” and “DAI”, respectively) if said individual:

  • Drives with any amount of marijuana in his or her blood;
    OR
  • Drives with a metabolite of a marijuana in his or her blood;

Pennsylvania has a per se drugged driving policy, the focus of this article. What does this mean? Essentially, if the state proves a level of one nanogram per milliliter of
marijuana or its metabolites is in your blood while operating a vehicle (*virtually the lowest measurable amount*), the state needs nothing more to establish you are under the influence. Interestingly, the previous level required to prove per se impairment was five nanograms per milliliter, so the current level is a significant reduction.  The prosecutor need not prove you were impaired, but must only establish a baseline level of the drug was found in your system.

Why is this such a frightening proposition? The THC metabolite can remain in a person’s system for several days after an individual ingests marijuana. Therefore, even though you have long come down from the high associated with marijuana use, you are still technically under its influence under the law. Remember again that Pennsylvania does not require a showing of impairment if your blood levels show the requisite level.

The penalties you may face include a one-year license suspension, jail time, and fines up to $5,000.

DUI Marijuana

If you have been charged with an alleged DUI or DAI, an attorney skilled in DUI defense can explain your rights and help you prepare the best possible defense. The legal team at Howland Hess O’Connell is available to assist you in handling this matter. A free and confidential consultation is one phone call away at 215-947-6240, or visit us online today.

Legal Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended solely for informational purposes. They neither constitute nor imply an official legal opinion on behalf of Howland, Hess, Guinan, Torpey, Cassidy and O’Connell nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Howland Hess O’Connell encourages all readers to seek and consult professional counsel before acting upon the information contained on this site.