Central New York Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

White Semi-Truck parked in forbidden spot.

underride crash

In the last few decades, the way we build cars has drastically reduced deaths and serious injuries.  As Central New York car and truck accident lawyers, we know.  Our car crash case volume has gone down, and the injuries are often less severe.

Some of the greatest safety improvements are at the front of the car, which is now designed to absorb a great deal of crash impact — accordion like.  This, accompanied with airbag deployment and seat belts, saves hundreds of lives per year.

But all these safety features are of no avail if the car you are riding in slides under the back of a tractor trailer or truck.  The occupants’ heads get crushed  against the back of the trailer (see second photo above).  The structures designed to absorb the energy of a crash are bypassed, as they slide underneath. The airbags and safety belts can’t do their jobs at all. It is literally a “head-on” collision.  That’s your head, not the car’s.

“Underride guards” are designed to prevent this scenario.  They hang down from the back ends of box trailers and semitrailers, as shown in the first photo. They save lives.  But they do not save as many as they could.

Regulations (by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or “NHTSA”) now require underride guards to sustain only a 30 mile-per-hour impact. Cars that crash faster usually break off or bend in the underride guard so that it does no good.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

The NHTSA is now proposing that the requirement be raised to 35 miles per hour. This is already the requirement in Canada. Manufacturing new trailers with the stronger underride guard will cost, on average, an extra $229 per trailer.

Well worth the cost in our opinion.  In fact, in our opinion, the protection should be extended by 5 miles per hour every decade until we reach 60 miles per hour.  This fairly balances industry cost concerns with public safety.  And it brings us forward to safer and safer cars.

We look forward to the day when we will no longer have ANY car crash clients.  Unfortunately, there are still plenty of other injuries out there to keep this Central New York personal injury law firm busy!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Syracuse NY Truck Accident Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

 

0cd70268171212b504a54dd2083c6b04Drowsy driving kills thousands of people in the United States each year. We’ve all been there:  You are driving down a boring interstate highway at night.  You start to nod off and, just when you about to enter la la land, you “snap out of it” and clutch the wheel, your heart racing.  Scary, huh? And you were one of the lucky ones.  Other drivers, succumbing to the sirens of sleep, crash and burn.

But a new device being developed may keep drivers like you awake and save your life. Here’s how it works:

A Bluetooth headset fits on one ear and points an infrared sensor toward the eye to detect blinking. (See photo). The driver’s blinking frequency indicates drowsiness. The data is transmitted by Bluetooth to a smartphone. If the sensor detects drowsiness, the headset vibrates, flashes and beeps to alert — and awaken — the sleepy driver.

Simple, right? The device has not been perfected and is not on the market yet, but one day it will be.

But the creator of this device had better hurry up if it wants a return on its investment:  Self-driving cars will be taking over our roads within a decade. When cars are driving people, and not visa versa, the would-be “drivers” can just snooze away without the need for the new device.

Either way, car rides are going to get safer.  And that’s good news for everyone.  Yes, even for me, a guy who makes his living — in large part — suing for car accident injuries.  Hey — I’m a driver, too.  My commute is going to get safer just like yours.  My bank account may get smaller, but hey, small price (I hope) to pay for safety!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Car Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

I sometimes wax nostalgic about the “good old days” when my boys were toddlers: The petting zoos, the living-room wrestling matches, the cute things they would say. But one thing I definitely do NOT miss is struggling with car seats. What a pain! And I was never sure I had them in right.

Well, I was right to be unsure. Results from recent child car seat inspections throughout New York State revealed that out of 931 random car seats inspected only 112 seats were installed correctly. That’s only 12%!  Nevertheless, most parents — 96% to be exact — BELIEVED they had their kids correctly installed in the car seat.

What was wrong with the car seat installation? In some cases, the seats didn’t fit the child, in others they weren’t fitted in tight enough, in still others they were installed or positioned incorrectly.

Well parent, are you worried yet? Good. Now do something about it. Go to www.seatcheck.org. You will learn some important fact there, like the fact that fatal injuries are reduced by 71 percent when child safety seats are used. More important, the website offers a free New York State child safety seat inspector locator program.

Last year 375 such events were held. That’s the only way you can know for sure you are using the car seats in the right way to best protect your little sweeties.  So don’t assume — like 96% of parents do — they you are doing it right.  Make SURE you are doing it right.  Get it checked.  Take it from a lawyer who represents New York car accident victims — you can’t afford to be wrong about this.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Syracuse Car Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

insurance policy A New York resident is on vacation and has stopped into a rental car agency.  Let’s listen in:

Customer“Hello, I came to pick up my rental car.  I was told it was $30 per day”.

Salesman “Sure, but you should really get the “rental insurance” on it for an extra $10.  Otherwise, you may be responsible for any damage to the car or injuries to others.”

What do you say?  Do you buy the insurance?

What is really irksome is that they lured you in with a quote that did not include insurance and now they are telling you you really need the insurance, which increases the price they quoted for you significantly.  It’s a kind of switch-and-bait. Now they are using scare tactics to get you to bite.

But again, what do you do?

Well, here’s your answer if you are a New York resident with an auto policy issued in New York: NO THANKS, I DON’T NEED IT!

At least that’s the answer if the rental contract does not exceed 30 days and the rental car will not be driven out of the United States and/or Canada.  The  extra “collision damage waiver” and the “liability” insurance they are trying to sell you does you no good at all. Your own New York auto insurance automatically covers it!

Don’t believe me?  Pull out your auto insurance and look for the section called “rental insurance”.  See what I mean?

This is not typical of insurance policies issued in other states, such as Florida, which is why Florida residents may need to purchase this additional insurance.

CaveatThe rental car insurance in your New York policy is only automatic if you have fewer than five vehicles insured and if the insurance is issued to you and your spouse only. Also, note that policies insuring certain types of vehicles, such as most types of trucks, are not required to include the rental vehicle coverage. If you are not sure whether your own auto policy covers rentals, call you insurance agent and find out.

Don’t pay more than you have to.  Don’t buy rental insurance without calling your insurance agent to make sure you really need it.

Hope you enjoyed this friendly money-pinching tip from your favorite Central New York personal injury lawyer!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

 

 

donald trumpIn the TV smash hit “The Apprentice”, Donald Trump famously trumpets the words “you’re fired” when dismissing a contestant for failing to live up to his high job performance expectations.

Well, Trump isn’t the only one. Honda yesterday uttered those same words to Takata, the Japanese maker of the infamous defective shrapnel-shooting airbags.

Maybe it was “you’re fired” or maybe “Sayonara”.  But by any measure, Takata had a bad day yesterday. Longtime customer Honda dumped the company right after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) slapped Takata with a $70 million penalty for failing to promptly disclose the dangerous defects in its airbags.

Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, summarized Takata’s lack-luster performance as follows: “Delay, misdirection and a refusal to acknowledge the truth allowed a serious problem to become a massive crisis.”

So, yes, Takata, “you’re fired”. But as the French say, it’s not adieu (goodbye) but rather aurevoir (see you later).  Yes, New York personal injury lawyers like me (and other lawyers from other states) will see you in court. We will sue you for your transgressions each and every time an innocent victim is seriously injured by your defective airbags. And we will sue not just for compensatory damages, but also for punitive damages since you knew of the danger but deliberately failed to disclose it or fix it.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

insurance policyWe made this offer in our latest Newsletter and had a solid response from our readers. So we are now offering it to our blog readers as well:

We are offering all our NY State readers a free auto insurance review.  Why? We see it time and time again. A client comes to us with severe personal injuries suffered in a car accident. The at-fault driver has only minimal car insurance, not enough to cover all the lost income or medical expenses. Our client’s hard-earned finances are wiped out. Sometimes they need to go on welfare. You can’t get water from a rock. So if the guy who hits you does not have enough insurance, and he has no real assets to go after, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. UNLESS you have had the foresight to buy the right kind of insurance yourself. And buying it is not expensive. It’s just a matter of knowing what to buy. You just need a little advice on how to structure your insurance policy.

Time out. Here’s a quick quiz: Do you know what SUM (Supplemental Underinsured Motorist) coverage is? What about “spousal coverage”? How about “APIP” (additional personal injury protection) If you don’t, you need to talk to us. In our experience, many insurance agents do a very poor job of educating their clients about choices in insurance policies. They often want to take your money without doing the work it takes to get you the right protection.

That’s why we are offering anyone who brings us, or mails or emails us, his or her auto insurance policy a FREE car insurance review. Seriously free, no strings attached. This is a public service, not a gimmick. We don’t sell insurance. Just send your auto policy to us or email it to bersani@michaels-smolak.com. We will give you our advice on whether you need to change anything in your insurance policy within a week. Then you can call your own insurance agent and discuss it with him or her.

As personal injury attorneys, it is our job to help seriously injured people get fair compensation so they can get back on their feet after an accident. But if you don’t have the right insurance, that is sometimes impossible. Let us help you help yourself. Let us review your auto insurance policy for FREE!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

20130402_151224Duck_tour_londonThe photo on left is of my then 16 year-old son and me a few years ago as we were about to board the Duck Boat for a tour of Boston and its harbor. The “Duck Boat” – for those that don’t know — is a six-wheeled amphibious vehicle originally used as U.S. military landing craft during World War II, but later adapted for tourists in cities with a harbor, river or lake such as Boston, London, Philadelphia and Washington.

It was a cool ride!  We drove around B-Town, then drove right into the Harbor and kept going.  The tour guide — Duck Dude —  joked all the way through the tour while sharing useful and sometimes not-so-useful but sure-as-hell entertaining information.

But there is sad news this week for Duck Boat lovers. A Seattle Duck Boat crashed into a charter bus full of college kids. Terrible accident sending 50 people to the hospital.

Witnesses say the accident happened like this: As the Duck Boat was making a left turn it seemed to lurch suddenly, lost control, and smashed into the nearby charter bus. Why? It is too early in the investigation to be certain, but what may have caused this unusual lurching movement is a defective axle. Ride the Ducks International had issued a warning two years ago to all local Duck Boat franchises that the axle was defective and needed to be fixed to avoid failure. The boat involved in the Seattle crash hadn’t had its axle replaced or fixed.

Seattle Duck Boat owner, if that’s what happened, you’ve got a big problem.  That’s a pretty heavy injury toll. And if all those good people are maimed, mangled and otherwise messed up because you did not do what you were supposed to do, I hope you’ve got plenty of insurance.  You’re going to need it.

Corporations often cause injuries and death by cutting corners on safety to save a buck.  This case may be no different.  And as I have said over and over again in these blog posts, the job of personal injury lawyers like me is to make them pay.  Making them pay serves two purposes: (1) compensate the victim and (2) teach the negligent cost-cutting, safety-violating corporate decision makers a lesson that will — hopefully — give them an economic reason to put safety first.  If they know they will have to pay big bucks when their unsafe practices cause harm, they are more likely to avoid the harm by making their products safe.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

 

medinaI love traveling to far flung places, and when I do I like to penetrate deep into the places’ streets and culture. Speaking several languages (English, Spanish and French) helps me delve into the culture and mindset.  But there are some things I never really “get” when I am abroad.

Take my recent trip to Morocco.  Lovely country. Stunning landscape.  Beautiful labyrinthine old walled cities (“Medinas”), home to mile after mile of colorful scent-laden souks and open market stands displaying gorgeous hand-crafted silverware, carpets, foods, spices, exotic dresses, handmade crafts, and zillions of other cool stuff. Gorgeous!

But as a humble Central New York injury lawyer, there was something more compelling that drew my attention — indeed my extreme caution:  Motorcycles.  They drove through the narrow crowded streets brushing by people and stalls as if they were slalom ski gates.  I was afraid that if my wife or I took just one small step left or right while admiring the goods in the stalls, a motorcycle from behind would bowl us down.  And, according to my Marrakesh taxi driver, that’s not an infrequent occurrence.  Marrakesh’s Medina produces on average 10 motorcycle-on-pedestrian collisions a day!

Just look at this youtube video and see what I am talking about:

Here’s what puzzles me:  Why do they put up with that dangerous situation?  Why don’t they outlaw motorcycles in the Medina? The topography is flat so bikes work just about as well, with far less risk.
My guess is they don’t have a vigorous tort law system like we do over here.  No insurance required for the motorcycles.  No personal injury verdicts to dissuade would-be motorcyclists. It’s pure legal bedlam.
So, Morocco, you’re a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live — or die — there.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293

carcrash-thumb-300x199I have blogged about the new driver-less automated cars before, and how they will dramatically reduce car crashes and fatalities. This future is not far off. The first true self-driving vehicles are expected before the end of the decade. A fleet surpassing 50% of all vehicles on the road could be here within 20 years.

We will be much better off with them for sure! But what I never really considered – until I read a recent article – was the profound effect driver-less cars will have on our economy. That’s what I’ll consider in this blog post.

To recap about driver-less cars, human driven cars will soon be going the way of the horse and buggy. An automated self-driving fleet of vehicles will almost certainly replace the current human-driven one within the next 25 years. The new fleet will have many advantages over the present one, but one of the most notable is that they will hardly ever crash. A study by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) predicts that a self-driving fleet could eliminate 93 percent of crashes attributed to human error. This means, among other things, that we will be able to drink ourselves senseless without worrying about criminal penalties of “driving” drunk.

This crash-less, driver-less new world will have a more profound effect on our economy than almost anything since the personal computer. Many industries that are now dependent on car crashes will either disappear or be decimated. Car insurance? You probably won’t need it, or if you do, it will be very cheap because insurers will not have to worry about crashes. Emergency rooms and trauma treatment facilities will also slim down. Auto sales will plummet because we will not likely “own” our cars. Instead, apps on our smart phone will allow us to flag a nearby self-driving vehicle to our home which will, with the click of a few buttons, deliver us to our destination. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says that if truly functional autonomous car are built, he’ll buy every one of them. This of course would benefit Uber but not the Uber drivers or the taxi industry.  The cost of transportation will be a fraction of the cost of what it is now.

Other sectors of the economy that will “suffer” from self-driving cars are:  Driving industries (truck drivers, taxis, etc.), car rentals, body shops, towing services, traffic enforcement, lawyers, emergency services of all kinds, court employees.

Because fewer cars will be needed, we will also likely see a decline in other industry sectors such as steel, aluminum, precious metals, oil. The federal, state and municipal bureaucracies that exist to serve the automobile would also likely get smaller.

And central New York car accident lawyers like me will all but disappear.  That’s OK with me – I can transition to other lines of law easily.  I’ll just take a “crash” course in business law!

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Car Accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

 

1-315-253-3293

truckJust read a New York Times op-ed piece titled “Trucks Are Killing Us”. As Syracuse NY trucking accident lawyers, we already knew that. And we also knew that truck-accident fatalities are increasing at the same time as car fatalities are decreasing. That’s because trucks are getting bigger and heavier, and their drivers are not getting any better. And that puts all of us who are on the road in danger.

We’re on the road – so to speak – to a major national trucking accident crisis. And what is congress doing about it? Making matters worse! Here are some of the things Congress has done according to the article:

  •  trimmed back well-considered safety improvements ordered by federal regulators, including, for example, a rule that allowed truck drivers to work only 70 hours a week (the new rule allows for 82 hours);
  • eliminated the two-day required rest for truck drivers each week;
  • discouraged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from investing in wireless technology that would allow closer monitoring of drivers and their vehicle;
  • signaled its willingness to allow longer and heavier trucks despite widespread public opposition;
  • signaled it wants to lower the minimum age for drivers of large trucks that are allowed to travel from state to state to 18, from 21.

Why is Congress doing all this? The answer is $.  That’s right, moola.  To be more specific, trucking industry lobbying money.

The trucking industry, through its chief trade group, the American Trucking Associations, insists that safety-rules are costly and will destroy profits, raise rates for shippers and, ultimately, consumers. That’s not totally false – safety does cost something, and the cost has to be passed on to all of us somewhat. But by the same logic we should abandon seat belts and airbags in our cars (and by the way, trucks have no airbags and that’s because the trucking industry has lobbied against having to provide them!). Eliminating seat belts and airbags in our cars would bring down the cost of the car. Why is “safety first” the rule of the road for cars but not for trucks?

Again, it’s all about money.  Trucking industry money.  It’s a huge business.  Almost everything in your home got to your neck of the woods by means of a tractor trailer.  Meanwhile the death toll in truck-involved crashes rose 17 percent over the last 5 years while car crash fatalities have gone down 3%. Cars are getting safer while trucks are getting more dangerous.

I guess I can’t complain.  More truck-related accidents means more business for me.  But jeez, there has to be a better way to make a buck . . .

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

Email me at: bersani@michaels-smolak.com                   I’d love to hear from you!

Michael G. Bersani, Esq.

michaels-smolak.com
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.

1-315-253-3293