Car Wreck with Smashed Hood and Ambulance
Ok, maybe “secret” is not the right word, but I am always surprised by the vast number of people who don’t know this simple safety tip.  Here it is (drum roll please):  When waiting to turn left at a red light or while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, do NOT turn your wheels left until you are actually going to turn.  Wait with your wheels straight.

The reason should be obvious, but just in case it isn’t, there are two very unpleasant things that can happen to you if you are rear-ended with your wheels turned left:

  • You can be pushed into oncoming traffic and get clobbered by an oncoming vehicle

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This summer, a 28 year-old man was driving along Owasco Street in Auburn, New York when, for no apparent reason, he drove off the road and smashed into a tree.  When the police arrived on the scene and interviewed him, they learned what had caused the crash.  Was he talking on his cell phone?   Nope.  Texting?  Guess again.  Answer:  He was playing “Pokemon Go”.  Completely immersed in the game, he forgot he was driving a car and crashed into the tree.

For those of you who don’t know about Pokémon Go, it is a HUGELY popular game among Millennials played in “virtual reality” on a smart phone.  The game allows its users to travel around looking for “Pokémons” (the name in Japanese means “pocket monsters”), capture them, and then use them to conquer Pokémon “Gyms” (arenas). Players hatch Pokémon “eggs” by walking while playing.  Players need to go near “Pokéstops”, which are landmarks where they can pick up things to advance in the game.

The car accident made national news and was a wake up call to local police regarding the dangers of the new “hit” game (pun intended). In the wake of the crash, Auburn police offered the following advice to Pokemon Go players:

Little girls are having fun in adventure park
If plunging toward the ground at rollercoaster speeds, like a hawk swooping toward a rabbit, is your idea of fun, then a zipline adventure might be for you.  But if you’d rather end up like the hawk (happy and satisfied) than like the rabbit (dead), read on!

Zipline popularity is on the rise! And as with other adventure sport on the rise, serious injuries are rising along with it.  Just last year around 4,000 people (mostly children and teens) were treated in U.S. emergency departments for zipline injuries. That’s nearly 10 per day!

Falls account for three quarters of the injuries, and collisions with trees or other structures make up most of the others. Many injuries result from improper backyard installations (by good ol’ dad). Accidents are fairly common at challenge courses, canopy tours, summer camps and parks as well.

Rear-view of a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road
This fall your Central New York personal injury lawyer will again — for the 9th straight year — give his annual “CLE” (continuing legal education) class to fellow New York personal injury lawyers across New York State.  Once again I will be lecturing on the topic of governmental liability for causing personal injuries.  In other words, I’ll talk about how to hold the State and its various sub-divisions (counties, school districts, villages, towns etc.) liability for negligently causing personal injuries.  Each year, the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy invites me to do so.  I am invited to speak to rooms full of New York personal injury lawyers in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and more.

Why?  Because I have been fortunate enough through my work to become seen as one of the top experts in this field of law in New York State.  My articles on the subject have been published in New York’s most important law journals and magazines.  New York State judges sometimes cite to my work when they decide cases.

Suing governmental entities and agencies such as New York State or its cities, counties, school district, villages and towns is very different from suing a private wrongdoer such as a car driver or a hospital or a business.  The procedure is different, the time deadlines are different, the things you can sue for are different, and the defenses that can be raised are different.  You name it, it’s different.

Happy Senior Man Driving his car
One of the most difficult conversations to have is with a parent, grandparent or elderly spouse who has – through aging or age-related losses – become a danger to others on the road is the “give-up-the-car-keys” conversation. In the U.S.A., we have a deep emotional attachment to driving.  Driving equals freedom. When the elderly consider this loss of independence, particularly in rural and sub-urban areas where good public transportation is lacking, they will resist giving up the keys even when they recognize their own physical or mental barriers to safe driving (which they often don’t). When this happens, what is a son/daughter/spouse to do?

First, let’s be clear on the legal duty.  The family member of an elderly person who may be unfit to drive has no legal duty – or even the right — to take the keys away (unless they have legal guardianship of the elderly person).  But family members have the right – but not the duty — to report the elderly family member’s suspected inability to safely drive to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). From there, DMV will take over.

But should you snitch on grandma?

thYes, once again all four of the lawyers here at Auburn New York’s premier personal injury and medical malpractice law firm have been included in this most prestigious legal directory, the 23rd (2017) edition.  They have been selected for both the “personal injury” and “product liability” litigation categories.

According to the publishers of “Best Lawyers in America”, inclusion in Best Lawyers is “based entirely on peer-review and employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.” Best Lawyers asks voters – which consist only of other lawyers and judges who are named Best Lawyers – the question: “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you be to refer it to this nominee?”

The American Lawyer magazine – one of the nation’s preeminent law magazines – describes the Best Lawyers directory as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

thCentral New York personal injury lawyers like me have a tough job.  We have to convince a skeptical jury that our client’s injuries are real and significant. Most injuries are fairly “invisible”.  It doesn’t help that most pain and limitations in movement do not appear on x-rays or other films.  Unless the injury is very visible and obvious – like an amputated arm — most jurors start out with the preconceived notion that the plaintiff is either faking or exaggerating her injury to get money in court.  (Actually, this is very rarely the case, and is never the case when we at Michaels & Smolak present a plaintiff to a jury).

To present our clients’ injuries to the jury, we of course must elicit testimony from witnesses who have seen, first hand, the real life consequences of the injuries.  Such witnesses include not only the plaintiff herself and her immediate family members, employers, and others who have witnesses how the injury has changed her life, but also medical doctors who have performed surgery or treated her.  All these witnesses bolster the veracity of the injury.

The insurance companies we are up against, on the other hand, hire their own doctors to examine the plaintiff and to testify regarding the injuries.  Naturally, since these hired-gun doctors are not in the business of treating the injured plaintiff, but in supplying testimony paid for by the insurance company, their testimony tends to be biased against the plaintiff.  Their “job” is to try to minimize the injury. The examinations they perform on plaintiffs are misnamed an “Independent Medical Examinations” (“IMEs”) and the doctors who performs them are sometimes called “IME” doctors.  On the plaintiffs’ side, we prefer to call these examinations “Defense Medical Examinations”, or “DME’S”, since there is really nothing “independent” about them. (Read my prior post about IME’s).

cancer25n-2-webI could write about the horrendous injustice of the current New York medical malpractice Statute of Limitations law myself, but never so eloquently as Elissa McMahon, one of the countless victims of the current barbaric statute-of-limitations rule and cheerleader for the proposed bill (“Lavern’s Law”) which would end the injustice:

Why We Need Lavern’s Law

By: Elissa M. McMahon

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I have blogged about texting while driving so many times I have lost track.  (Though I never blog while driving.  Just thought I’d mention that!)

This is not just another nag-post about the dangers of texting while driving (though it is that, too). It’s about a new proposed law and a new technology that may allow the police to “catch” driving texters and prosecute them in the same way they do drunk drivers now.

As you know, most states have banned texting (or even holding a device with one hand) while driving.  Some States have spent loads of money on  public service campaigns aimed at getting drivers to refrain from texting behind the wheel.   If you are in New York, you have probably seen the “it can wait” ads, as well as the new signs on the Thruway announcing “text stops” (formerly “rest stops”).  See photo above left.