th1-300x200I recently blogged about Dan Hanegby, a young investment banker, father of small children, who was killed the other day in a collision with a bus while he was riding a Citi Bike in Manhattan. That post was about how relatively “safe” Citi Bikes seem to be; this was the only fatality in four years of the City-operated bike-sharing program’s existence.

After I posted that blog, the New York Times and the Gothamist published articles with additional information about the accident.  This most recent development in the case illustrates a grave and common problem with how the police investigate and report motor vehicle accidents.

The Times had originally reported that the cyclist was killed after he “swerved toward the bus, fell and was caught beneath one of the rear wheels”.  This is the version of events that the NYPD gave the widow.

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I am an avid cyclist and a personal injury lawyer who represents a fair number of New York bicycle injury victims. Maybe that’s why, whenever I read about a cyclist getting clobbered by a car, I think, “there but for the grace of God, go I . . .”.

It is therefore with special sadness (and also surprise) that I read in the New York Times the other day about a 36-year-old investment banker, Dan Hanegby, who was killed in Manhattan when the Citi Bike he was riding collided with a charter bus.  He seemed like a successful and loving husband and father of small children.

It should be obvious to my readers why I was sad, but maybe not so obvious why I was surprised.  I was not surprised that a cyclist was killed.  Rather, I was surprised that this was the FIRST fatality (according to the Times) in the history of the City’s four-year-old bike-share program called “Citi Bike”.

billboard-300x225Every picture tells a story.  The photo above is no exception.  So sit back and listen to the story of this photo.  You won’t be disappointed (I hope).

The photo above accompanied an article on the front page of the Auburn Citizen yesterday.  The article was about the billboard.  Recognize those guys in the billboard?  Yup, that’s us.  In our one and only billboard.

Before I tell you the story behind the billboard, let me tell you why we have only one billboard.  Generally, we under-spend our rivals on advertising by a long shot.  That’s because we get most of our cases from our network of referring lawyers and prior clients who love our results.  We don’t need to advertise as much as those other guys.  But we do like to get our name out there a little.

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Just in case you were wondering (and I’m sure you were), the photo on the left is what eleven years of litigation looks like.  I have blogged about this case before:  It took me eleven and a half years to finally get justice for nine Guatemalan and Mexican migrant farm workers who were injured in a big explosion in upstate New York.

The picture on the right was taken in a hotel in Guatemala where I brought the men to sign settlement papers and open bank accounts.

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Pretty proud of this win in the Appellate Division Third Department.

A very fine Central New York personal injury lawyer hired us to take an appeal from a Labor Law 240 (“scaffold law”) motion he had lost. The case is called Griffin v AVA Realty Ithaca, LLC.

The fact that a great Syracuse personal injury lawyer would choose to have us fight an appeal for him is in itself something we are proud of.  Winning the appeal was of course the icing on the cake.

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Photo of Brendan Jackson doing the work he loved.

Here at Michaels & Smolak we were saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Brendan Jackson, who passed away immediately after finishing the last running segment at the “Seneca7″ relay race around Seneca Lake on Sunday, April 30, 2017.

We at Michaels & Smolak are proud sponsors of the Seneca7.

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I tend to get a lot of immigrant and Spanish speaking clients.  Could be because I speak fluent Spanish and am married to a Guatemalan.  I hope it is also because word spreads in the immigrant community that I get good results.

Anyway, the guy standing with me in the photo above is from Nicaragua.  One day as he was riding his bicycle to work (on the shoulder of the road, just as he was supposed to) near Rochester, NY, a car swiped him from behind and never bothered stopping.  We call that a hit and run.  The next thing he remembers is waking up all bloodied in a ditch, with a piece of broken car mirror next to him.

My Nicaraguan friend had bad injuries but also has a tough, fighting spirit.  He got back to work only five months after his accident so he could put food on the table for his wife and two children. Hard working Nicaraguan immigrant! I admire him and all the other hard-working immigrants I have had the privilege of representing.

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As a New York personal injury lawyer, my job is to fight my hardest on behalf of each and every one of my clients.  And so I do.  But I would be lying if I said I liked all my clients to the same degree.  Just like teachers have their “pets”, lawyers have their favorite clients.  You are looking at some of my favorite clients ever in the photos above.

The seven men shown in these photos all came into the USA illegally and worked here illegally, too.  Some of you who are reading this will now instantly dislike them.  Please don’t.  Please forgive them for breaking a few rules.  They are not criminals, rapists or murderers (as some politicians will have you believe).  They are simple peasants with only second or third grade educations who needed to support their families back home in Guatemala and Mexico.

Once here, they worked brutally long and hard hours in upstate New York’s vegetable fields from spring to summer, and then in Florida’s orange groves in winter.  They were sending almost every penny they earned back home to feed small hungry mouths.

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I am writing this post mostly for my fellow attorneys, but non-attorneys might also find it interesting.

One of the differences between a seasoned litigator and a novice is the ability to take total control of the witness, both at deposition and at trial.  Inexperienced attorneys, including my former self, often let witnesses run from the question, or take them down irrelevant rabbit holes, or hide behind non-answers.  But as we mature as lawyers, we learn to reign the witness in, to “let them know who’s boss”.  We also learn not to take any crap from opposing counsel.

Here’s a recent example of “taking control” from a deposition I recently had.  I was deposing a corporate witness in a convenience store slip-and-fall case.  She was trying her hardest to weasel out of answering my questions.  Look at how she tries to evade my questions:

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For years now I have made it my goal to clearly explain even the most complex concepts of the New York personal injury claim process to my clients.  And over the years I’ve gotten very good at it.  I love it when my clients call me bewildered and confused with a question about their claim, and five minutes later say, “now I get it, Mike, thanks“.  Some have even said, “hey Mike, you ought to write a book”!

But I didn’t really want to write a book.  I was too busy representing my many clients injured in New York accidents.  So instead I looked online and in book stores for a book that would explain what all my clients should know about their New York State personal injury claims process.

Guess what.  I didn’t find one.  (Well, there were some, but they were either inadequate or just plain wrong.)

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