lady justiceThey say that justice is blind, but anyone who believes that is truly blind. Examples of inherent bias in our judicial system abound. For example, blacks get the death penalty and heavy sentences far more often than whites for the same crimes. Poor people – who can’t afford a “dream team” of lawyers and instead rely on assigned counsel — have far less success in court than their wealthier “lawyered up” counterparts.

And unfairness does not plague just our criminal justice system. Our civil justice system is also contaminated with it. Although statistics are not available locally, it is common belief among the local bar in Central New York that if you are black, poor, excessively overweight or just plain ugly, you are likely to get a smaller money award in your New York personal injury or medical malpractice case than if you are white, well-off, thin and good-looking. That’s why most competent personal injury trial lawyers will talk to a jury – in the jury selection process – about these prejudices, and try to weed out of the jurors who are more likely affected by them.

Like it or not, judges and juries are just regular people with regular prejudices. But courts – and your lawyer – nevertheless have a duty to try to combat them – to even out the scales of justice. A recent case illustrates this.

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.

best lawyersModesty gets you nowhere.  Sometimes you have to toot your own horn.  (Just ask Donald Trump . . .).  And today we are doing just that:

We proudly proclaim that all four Michaels & Smolak Lawyers – Lee Michaels, Jan Smolak, Michael Bersani and David Kalabanka — were selected by their peers to be listed in a national directory of top-rated attorneys, “Best Lawyers in America”, for 2016. They were listed in the categories of “plaintiffs’ personal injury law” and “products liability law”.

The inclusion in Best Lawyers is limited to the best of the best — based entirely on peer-review (lawyers rating lawyers). According to the Best Lawyers publishers, the way they select lawyers to be listed

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);

boatingAt Michaels & Smolak, we’ve seen our share of drowning cases. Usually they involve children too young to know how to swim. In fact, besides car accidents, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 12 years old.

Cars have seat belts, and there are helmets for bikes, but what is there to protect children and others from the dangers of drowning? Life jackets you say? What child wants to wear those bulky things on the beach or near the pool? Enter “Kingii“.  It looks like a large bracelet.  It sports a rectangular pouch loaded with carbon dioxide. It weighs less than five ounces and is about the size of a smartphone.  It costs only $79.  In trouble in the water? Just tug on the bracelet and – voila – a CO2 cartridge inflates a hidden orange flotation device.  This device works well for both children and adults.

Check out this video to see how it works:

dogI have a love/hate relationship with dogs. I love my dog, but I hate dogs who chase me on my bike or who snarl at me on my runs. When I go bike riding out on the country roads near Geneva, NY where I live, I even carry a small pepper spray canister to defend myself from man’s best friend.

Yes, I protect myself from “unleashed” dogs.  But unfortunately, New York State negligence law does not.  Believe me.  As a NY personal injury lawyer who handles dog bite / attack cases, I know first hand!

The problem in New York – unlike in other states – is that to hold a dog owner liable for injuries, you need to show the owner knew or should have known the dog had “vicious propensities”. If you do, the owner is “strictly” liable to you for your injuries.  That’s all well and good where a dog with a history of biting or attacking bites you, but not much else.

pedestriancrossingI was glad to read in the news today that the condition of a 15-year-old girl who was struck on Monday by one car and then run over by another, in Auburn, New York, has improved. The girl’s condition has been upgraded from “life-threatening” to “fair” at Upstate University Hospital, according to police.

It doesn’t surprise me that this accident happened on Grant Ave, one of the busiest — and most accident prone – roads in all of Cayuga County. We have represented many car accident victims who were hit on that busy arterial.  The posted speed limit is rarely obeyed there — motorists are in a hurry, rushing between Auburn and Syracuse and all the places in between.

The girl was trying to cross Grant Ave in a rain storm shortly after 9 p.m., near the Metro Mattress store. She was apparently trying to reach the MacDonald’s on the other side of Grant Ave. A driver trying to make a left turn from Grant onto McIntosh Drive struck her. Then, to make matters much worse, a second car ran over her as she lay in the road.

doctor bad.jpgYet another study, reported yesterday in the New York Times, indicates that so called “defensive medicine” — ordering extra tests and performing extra procedures in an attempt to avoid getting sued for malpractice — doesn’t reduce the number of lawsuits. What does drastically reduce medical malpractice claims (besides being a careful and good doctor) is being a GOOD COMMUNICATOR with the patient. That’s because patients rarely sue doctors they like, who treat them with kindness, and who listen to them. Doctors who are liked – because they connect well with the patient — can make mistakes that will often be forgiven. But the same patient wouldn’t think twice about slapping a lawsuit on a cold, distant, non-listening doctor.

I have not seen any similar studies for the legal profession, but it would make perfect sense that lawyers who communicate well with their clients are less likely to get sued. So, fellow lawyers, treat your clients right, listen to them, take the time to explain things to them, joke with them – in sum, win their love! That’s the best malpractice insurance you can buy – and it’s free!

Keep safe!

courtroom-thumb-300x199I read recently about the case of a man charged with attempting to murder his mom by ramming her with his SUV as she sat in her living room. He ran it right through the wall. Why? Apparently he had a financial dispute with her. In my humble opinion, that’s a pretty lame excuse for murdering your mother. And geez, the weapon he chose was pretty bizarre, too.

The guy obviously has a screw loose, or more likely a brain full of loose screws.

The mother, of Mamakating, in Sullivan County, NY, ended up in the hospital with severe injuries. The son/driver, of Bloomingburg, NY, was charged with several crimes, including second-degree attempted murder. (Shouldn’t there be a separate and more severe charge for attempted mom murder?)

Construction is almost the most dangerous job in America, bested only by mining. And like mining, greed often plays a part in accidents. Companies take cost-saving shortcuts at the expense of safety to try to turn a bigger profit.

Case on point.Last Sunday a 12-ton air handling unit snapped loose from a crane and plummeted 30 stories to the street below in Manhattan. Ten people were injured. Obviously they were using a cable of insufficient strength for the job.

As a recent NYT article points out, this is only the most recent dangerous mishap this year in the New York construction industry. In fact, this year is poised to match 2008 – the year two cranes toppled in New York City claiming 19 lives – as the most deadly construction year in New York history.