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At Michaels & Smolak, we all wear our seatbelts, everywhere, every time we are in a car, whether we ride in the back or the front. Hey, as Syracuse car accident lawyers, what would you expect?  We’ve handled many cases where we believe even backseat belts have saved lives or reduced injuries.   We’ve also represented families of several unrestrained backseat passengers who were killed or seriously injury and who we believe would have survived or suffered less serious injuries had they been restrained.  According to AAA statistics, unrestrained rear-seat passengers involved in crashes are eight times more likely to be seriously injured and three times more likely to be killed.

So that’s why we support the new bill, likely to become law in New York, requiring backseat passengers to buckle up.  The current law requires only front seat occupants to wear seatbelts, and those in the back seat who are under 16 years old.

New Yorkers will not be alone in being required to buckle up in back.  Twenty-nine other States already have a buckle-up-in-back law.

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As a finger lakes boat accident lawyer and boating enthusiast, I try to keep up on boating law developments.  Well, there’s a big development coming down the pipes:  A bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk that will require all owners and operators of motorized boats (including jet skis) to take a NY State certified boating safety course. The current law says that only those born after May 1, 1996 have to take the boating safety course.

When the proposed new law says “alloperators and owners of boats, it really does mean all, no matter how old, no matter how long they have owned or operated a boat.  Are you 93 and been boating for 73 of those years?  You still would have to take the course! The new proposed law is called “Brianna’s Law” in honor of Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old victim of a boating accident.  Most legal experts think the Governor will sign the bill.  If so, it will take effect on January 1, 2020.  The good news is that the course can be taken online, though it can also be taken in a classroom setting.

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Becky Kinney                                                           Michel Tortorello

This Syracuse/Auburn NY injury lawyer is proud of his staff!  Before I tell you why, let me give you a little background.

First, working in a New York personal injury firm, whether in the Syracuse area or elsewhere, is stressful.  Litigation can be intense.  The pressure to get papers out on time, and in perfect order, is sometimes overwhelming.  When an attorney is about to go to trial, reams of binders, exhibits, and copies must be produced.  And you know who gets stuck with all that hard work?  The lawyers?  Hell no!  Staff.  And who has to deal with a stressed-out-on-edge lawyer?  Staff.

thumbs-up-e1558988680142-200x300I get calls and emails all the time from people seeking a New York personal injury lawyer.  One of the first questions I ask them is, “have you talked to any other lawyers”?  Often the answer is yes.  That’s a bad sign.  I am usually going to turn that case down. If other New York personal injury lawyers have rejected the case, chances are there were good reasons.

So my next question is:  “Why did those other lawyers turn your case down”?  Common answer:  “They said I have a good case but they are too busy to take it”.  Yes, many lawyers will claim they are “too busy” to take a case to avoid having to explain to a caller what is wrong with their case.  “Too busy” is just two words.  It takes two seconds.  Explaining why the case is no good involves a dialogue and some explaining.  Most lawyers don’t have the patience for this so they opt for the “too-busy” excuse.

At my law firm, we are different.  When we turn a case down, it is never because we are “too busy”.  No New York personal injury lawyer in his right mind would turn down a case for that reason.  In our view, it is dishonest to turn a case down for that reason.  If it is a good case, any New York personal injury lawyer worth his salt will take it.  A lawyer is never “too busy” to take a good case, only a bad case.

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Not trying to brag or boast or “holier-than-Thou” anyone, but I just need to say how proud I am to be part of a personal injury law firm that doesn’t see money as the be-all-and-end-all of the practice of law.  And yes, there are plenty of personal injury firms that do.  Not us.  Not Michaels & Smolak.  We are damn good at what we do, second to none, in the personal injury litigation field.  Our results are outstanding.  Look us up.  Ask around.  You’ll see. But besides being damn good at what we do, we also try to be just plain “good”.  And sometimes folks notice and we end up getting awards for it.  Like the one in these recent photos:

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Call us old-fashioned, but we still see the practice of law as a service, not just a money-making machine.  We treat each client as a human being, whether their case is large or small, whether we stand to make lots, or little, or no money at all representing them.  I mean this when I say it – it is NOT about the money.  It is about helping people.  I won’t lie – we make a good living at this.  But the money not only allows us to live comfortably and bring up our families in financial security, it also allows us to give more back to our communities.

Helping our injured clients is not enough.  There are many people of limited means who need legal help for reasons other than having suffered injuries.  That’s why a couple of times a month, at prearranged times, our lawyers sit at Auburn’s public library for two-hour stretches to give completely free legal advice to any stranger who shows up.  It’s called the “Volunteer Lawyers Project”.  The program is well publicized in Cayuga County, where our main office sits, so we get plenty of takers.  If we can’t help the folks who walk in to see us because their problem is not in our wheel house, we figure out how to get them to cheap or free legal help elsewhere.  If we can help them, we do.

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This is an update on the crazy serial hit-and-run dude I talked about in two past blog posts.  Anyone interested in following the story (and believe me, it’s worth it!) who has not read those two prior posts should read them now by clicking here and here.

Long story short, a NASCAR-loving nut job had a nasty habit of plowing into other vehicles, always from behind, and always as the victim was moving forward.  He appears to have been using innocent motorists in Ontario, Wayne and Seneca Counties to enact fantasy NASCAR races. Here’s his homepage on Facebook:

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Click and blowup the image above and you can see a few of his favorite things (mentally insert the song “these are a few of my favorite things” here):  NASCAR and death.

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Me finishing up a triathlon race a few years ago

Hello fellow cyclists.  Hope you have been as lucky as I have been and have found time dust off that winter-stored bike for your first ride of the season.  Actually, I have already been out three times and logged over 150 miles.  The wind has been a bit stiff – sometimes more than 20 miles per hour – which sure makes it tough going out (I usually start out into the wind) but a “breeze” heading back in.

In case you’re not familiar with any of my bicycle blog posts, let me explain that I am not one of those self-proclaimed “bicycle accident attorneys” who has never been on a bike since they turned 12 and who barely knows the front from the back of a bicycle.  Nope, not me.  I am an avid cyclist who understands cycling and the dangers we cyclists face, and to boot knows the New York bicycle law inside and out.  My firm and I have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured cyclist in the Syracuse and Finger Lakes area.  I live in Geneva NY – where I do most of my cycling – and work mostly out of our Auburn NY office.

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Click on the image above so you can read it.  We honestly don’t do all the pro bono work we do for the recognition.  We do it because we want to give back. Nevertheless, it is nice to be recognized.

Thanks to all our wonderful staff who help us do good work.

Keep safe!

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My last blog post described how I got whacked by a hit-and-run driver and then chased him down.  You can read that blog post here.  Some of my readers commented that I was a stubborn fool for pursuing him at fairly high speeds on a snowy day.  I agree.  As it turns out, though, my stubbornness may have paid off and made the roads safer for my fellow motorists in Wayne, Seneca and Ontario Counties.  Read on to find out how!

As I explained in my prior post, I kept up my hot pursuit until the 911 operator asked me to cease it.  But by then I had at least gotten his license plate number and several pictures of his tan-colored Chevy pickup truck.  Seneca County law enforcement now knew who owned the vehicle, a Lyons NY resident.  Here’s one of the pictures I snapped of the offending vehicle while on the chase:

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After I posted my blog, several of my readers from the Geneva area tipped me off about Facebook postings they had seen describing a similar tan-colored pickup truck deliberately rear-ending folks. Could this be the same guy?

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This Central New York car accident lawyer was involved in a hit-and-run and a wild chase.  So buckle up and follow my story!

Last Tuesday morning, I was heading east on Route 318 through the Town of Tyre, Seneca County, NY, my usual route to get from my home in Geneva to my office in Auburn.  I had been following a slow-moving tractor trailer on the slippery, snow-covered road.  The tractor trailer was going 55 miles per hour.  A rust-colored pickup truck trailed me.  The tractor trailer then moved into the left-turn lane at the intersection with Route 414 to turn left toward the Thruway.   I slowed down to about 30 mph behind the tractor trailer as it moved into the left-turn lane.  I kept going straight through the green light.  Just after I passed through the intersection, I glanced up  and noticed the rust-colored pickup truck growing large – quickly — in my rear-view mirror.  I knew I was going to get wacked, and hard, so I braced for it.

Here’s a google map showing the approximate location of where I got rear-ended:

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