Central New York Injury Lawyer Blog

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I blogged just the other day about four ways auto insurance can protect you if you are hit by a car while on your bicycle.  Actually, there is a fifth way I did not tell you about.  Here it is:   Hit-and-run insurance, a/k/a “uninsured motorist” coverage.

It’s pretty unusual for one motor vehicle to strike another one and take off from the scene of the accident.  Even if that happens, the hit-and-run driver is likely to get caught if he takes his car in for repairs.  The police will be canvassing local body shops and repair shops for cars that match the description of the hit-and-run vehicle.

But things are different when a car strikes a bicycle.  There is usually little or no damage at all to the car (although the bike and cyclist are crushed!).  The driver can easily just drive away.  For example, a terrible car-on-bike hit-and-run happened a few years ago right near my hometown in Geneva, NY. The hit-and-run driver was eventually caught and prosecuted, but the bicyclist ended up losing his leg.

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I know it seems strange that auto insurance can protect you while you are on your bicycle, but believe me, it really does.  To be precise, there are four ways NY auto insurance can protect you if you are struck by an automobile while on your bike.

First, New York’s so-called “No-Fault Law”, a/k/a Mandatory Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) (Article 51 of New York Insurance Law) requires that the insurance on the vehicle that strikes a pedestrian or a bicyclist provide insurance coverage to the injured cyclist/pedestrian up to a maximum of $50,000 in medical expenses and lost income, regardless of whose fault it was.

To benefit from this law, you have to submit a “no-fault application” to the insurance carrier within 30 days of the crash.  If you have a good excuse for not complying with this time limit, you can overcome it, but you should make every effort to comply.

anticoncussionhelmet
This guy’s helmet is over the top!  Don’t worry; I don’t recommend it.

Fellow veteran bikers and newbies alike, it’s a new biking season.  Excited?  Good.  Now don’t get so excited that you forget safety.  Here’s a quick set of reminders (or for newbies, a primer):

Check your bike.  Sure, it’s a simple machine (compared to, for example, a car), but still, things can go wrong if you don’t take care of maintenance.  Bikes — compared with cars — require little maintenance. Are the breaks working? That’s the most important thing.  But for smooth and fun riding, you want all the parts to work together in harmony, like a symphony.  It might be worthwhile taking your bike in for an annual tune-up at the local bike shop.  If you are in the Finger Lakes region, I strongly recommend the Geneva Bicycle Center.  You’ll never find a more talented, fair and friendly gang . . .

cruzsanders trumpclinton
Unlike in past presidential elections, “tort reform” is not a hotly debated issue this time around.  Nevertheless, for a New York personal injury lawyer like myself, whose firm is currently representing hundreds of injured tort victims, it is an extremely important issue.  I therefore decided to research how the four main presidential candidates (Trump, Cruz, Clinton and Sanders) feel about so-called “tort reform”. (Note:  Those in favor of limiting injured victims’ rights in court invented the term “tort reform”, but since I don’t think our tort laws need “reforming”, and I think that denying victims their day in court is a bad idea, I would rather call it “tort deform“.  I recognize, however, that most people won’t know what I’m talking about if I call it “tort deform“, so I will — unwillingly — call it “tort reform” just like they do.)

Donald Trump:  Although many or even most of Trump’s supporters would probably support tort reform, Trump himself is no enemy of lawsuits.  In fact, he is one of the most free-wheeling lawsuit filers on the planet. He often uses lawsuits to force settlements or to stop people from saying things about him that he does not like. For example:

  • He threatened to sue Ted Cruz if he did not remove a campaign ad where Trump is shown in a 1999 interview claiming he was “very pro-choice.”

money handshakeI know I have blogged about this topic before, but after several years of blogging, you can’t help but repeat yourself sometimes.  Still, every time I discuss some aspect of New York personal injury law, I tackle it from a slightly different angle.  So here goes.

When will your New York personal injury lawyer try to settle your case?  Well, if he knows what he is doing, not until it is “ripe”.  When is it “ripe”?  It depends.  But the most important factor is whether your injuries are still receiving active treatment aimed at healing you.  If that is so, then you have not reached “maximum medical improvement”, also called “MMI”.  Your case is not “ripe”.

We personal injury lawyers don’t want to settle before you have reached MMI because as long as there is still some hope of your injury improving, the insurance adjuster will argue that you can still get better, and so she won’t pay the full value of your likely future pain and suffering, lost income, medical treatment, etc.  But if we wait until your doctor has documented MMI, then we can claim all the future pain and suffering and other damages, since reaching MMI means that any symptoms you still have are there for good.

thWatching the Syracuse University basketball squad get scorched by North Carolina was tough. It seemed that North Carolina just could not miss a shot.  Their three pointers seemed to swoosh in just as easily as their shots from within the paint.  And SU?  They could not seem to even score a foul shot.  Where was the miraculous Syracuse team we saw only a few days ago pull off an amazing come-from-behind victory over number-one ranked Virginia?

Yes, despite playing their heart out, the SU team lost.

Every good personal injury lawyer knows the feeling.  That’s because good personal injury lawyers sometimes try tough cases, where the odds are stacked against them.  They take risks.  And sometimes they lose.

our plane
Michaels & Smolak’s new publicity campaign is taking off!  Starting today, April 1, 2016, many commercial airlines around the country — and beyond — will feature the Michaels & Smolak personal injury law firm name and tagline, as shown in the photo above.

Not everyone is excited about the new ads.  One passenger interviewed as she was boarding a Michaels & Smolak plane was quoted as saying, “while I realize Michaels & Smolak is one of the top personal injury law firms in the nation, their logo on this plane with the tagline ‘for serious cases‘ makes me a little uneasy about boarding to say the least”.

Most airlines nevertheless jumped on board the innovative campaign.

Doctor's writing a prescription with a pen.
In a few days — March 27 — New York will become only the second State (after Minnesota) to ban handwritten drug prescriptions and instead require e-prescriptions.  And unlike the Minnesota law, the New York one has real teeth: Docs who use a paper and pen to prescribe drugs instead of a computer will face serious fines and even possible jail time. In other words, if they use a pen they may end up in the “pen”.

Why this law?  Why now? Two reasons:  (1) To avoid drug abuse through fraudulent prescriptions and (2) to avoid prescription errors due to physicians’ infamously illegible handwriting.

As for number 1 (fraud), opioid abuse is rampant these days.  And handwritten prescriptions are a recipe for opioid abuse.  Drug abusers are able to alter handwritten prescriptions to increase the quantity or dosage stated. But with e-prescriptions they won’t even touch the prescription.  The e-prescription goes directly from the physician’s computer to the pharmacist’s, by-passing the patient completely.

index$55 Million. That’s a lot of money. I can’t claim to have ever gotten a verdict that big. Not even close. Almost no one has.

What is more stunning is that the verdict was purely for emotional, not physical harm. No amputated arm or leg. No paralysis. No scars. She is still beautiful. She still has a stunningly successful career as a sports broadcaster for Fox.

Yes, I am blogging about the Erin Andrews verdict.

doctor badMedical Malpractice is rampant. You’ve probably been hearing about it in the news. It is now the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) in America. But, readers, we bear good news: Although you can’t avoid all malpractice, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the likelihood that you or your loved ones will be victims:

  1. Buddy up. Always bring a trusted friend or family member with you to a hospital surgery. Having someone act as your advocate throughout your stay is crucial, especially if you will be medicated or anesthetized. Sign any legal paperwork needed so your “advocate” has permission to know the details of your treatment and to discuss it with your doctors and nurses.
  2. Let’m Know. Make sure your healthcare professionals have your correct health information, including pre-existing conditions and allergies. Never assume they already know.