Due to COVID 19, we're providing FREE consultations via PHONE or VIDEO conferencing for your safety and convenience. Please see Our Coronavirus Policy.

Justia Lawyer Rating
AV Preeminent Martindale-Hubbell Lawyer Ratings
Bar Register Preeminent Lawyers
Avvo Rating 10
The Best Lawyers in America
Best Law Firms 2020
Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Super Lawyers
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
Hispanic Lawyers Association

hitchhiking-300x200
It just occurred to me that after so many years of blogging, I’ve never blogged about how I ended up becoming a Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer.  That’s actually a pretty interesting question because you can ask a thousand ten-year olds what they want to be when they grown up and I can pretty much guarantee you none of them will say, “a personal injury lawyer”.  They might say “lawyer”, but I doubt any of them aspire to be the guy on the big billboard under the worked “INJURED?”

Here’s my story.  Just for fun, I’m going to embed a lie in it.  At the end I’ll tell you what the lie was.  Play along and try to guess what the lie is before you get to the end.

When I finished college, I was undecided on a career, but I knew I wanted to see the world.  So I went back home to Syracuse, New York, where I worked in a textile cleaning company (Coyne Laundry) for a year to save up some money for long trip.

bear-300x199vicious-dog-200x300
Every once in a while, my news feed delivers to me some horrendous story about a lawsuit involving a vicious attack by someone’s exotic pet animal such as a monkey or wolf or bear.  Yes, some folks don’t find owning a standard run-of-the-mill dog or cat satisfying enough.  No sir, they want to take a “walk on the wild side”.  They might get a pet wolf, boa, miniature crocodile – you name it.

Since this is a legal blog, and a New York one, I am going to speak about what you have to prove in New York if you are attacked by a pet animal such as a bear or wolf versus the proof you need if you are attacked by a traditional pet – like a dog.  There’s a legal difference!

Let me briefly digress.  We had a case several years ago where our client accepted an invitation to visit a friend who was soon to be the lucky recipient of lawsuit papers signed by yours truly.  What did he do to earn such an honor?  He harbored his own private collection of caged bears and other exotic animals, a miniature zoo. Just a nice little hobby. He loved showing off his trophy beasts to friends and neighbors, and that’s what he did to our client.  Unfortunately, he failed to warn our client about the length of the bears’ arms.  Our client inadvertently wandered too close to a cage, and the bear got him in – well – a bear hug.  I’ll spare you the gruesome details of what happened next.

boating-300x199
I took in yet another boating accident case the other day.  In many ways, it was a typical Finger Lakes boating accident that boating injury lawyers are bound to come across from time to time:  Unbeknownst to the boat operator who had been drinking and was on his cell phone chatting, two of his passengers went for a swim.  The boat operator then put the throttle in forward, and ran them over.  The boat operator then felt the prop of his boat “snag” on what he assumed was seaweed.   The trail of blood, and bodies, behind his boat alerted him to the real problem.

Not a pretty picture.  And not pretty injuries.  I’ll spare you the details.  But here’s what you need to know so this same thing doesn’t happen to you or your boating buddies:

  • Never drink and drive. Not in a car, not in a boat, not on a bike.  Just don’t. The rules for alcohol blood levels, and the penalties, are the same for all motorized vehicles, including boats.

bookI’ve been settling my New York personal injury cases here in the Syracuse area for what some of my colleagues see as larger than normal numbers.  It seems I don’t have to try as many cases these days because the insurance carriers want to pay me to go away before we get to trial.  My “secret weapon”?  The “Rules of the Road” technique to case preparation.

Here’s a litmus test for picking a New York personal injury lawyer:  Ask your would-be lawyer whether he or she uses the “Rules of the Road” technique from the start of litigation through trial.  If he or she looks bewildered, run away.  The best personal injury attorneys in New York and all throughout these United States use it from day one in their case preparation.

The method was devised, or at least perfected, by the team of Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone.  You can get their book here. (I am not affiliated with them and do not get commissions from sales of the book).

Bathroom Window
I shot the photo above from my bathroom window in Geneva, New York.  The video below shows the same scene but in vivid motion.  Watch it!

Why did I shoot this video?  Because I wanted to show my readers what a law-suit-waiting-to-happen looks like.

coronavirus-image-300x169At Michaels & Smolak, we were glad to reopen our office to the public on June 5th in compliance with the New York State Phase 2 guidelines. Although the office is now “open for business”, we will continue to offer virtual appointments for clients who prefer to stay home.  The health and safety of our clients and staff is our first priority, so we are actually encouraging “virtual” meetings rather than in person meetings for the time being.  But the choice is yours!  Please call 315-253-3293 or email us at reception@michaels-smolak.com  to schedule an appointment and specify whether you prefer to “meet” with your attorney by telephone or in person or by a virtual format such as skype or Facetime or Zoom.

You can view our in-office COVID 19 office policies below.  We hope to see you soon!

GUIDELINES FOR IN-PERSON APPOINTMENTS

mel_gibson-233x300
Mel Gibson was born in Peekskill, New York.  But somehow he got his first big acting gig (in the movie Mad Max, his break-through role)  in Australia in 1978 at age 22. But why was this Peekskill, New York-born US citizen in Australia? Because his parents decided to emigrate there when he was 12 in 1968. But why did his parents decided to emigrate there? Because his father’s New York personal injury lawyer obtained a $145,000 settlement for him for work-related injuries.  This gave Mel Gibson’s father the money to move to Australia, where his family was originally from.

If Mel Gibson’s father’s personal injury lawyer had not gotten Mel Gibson’s father a $145,000 settlement, Mel Gibson would never have ended up in Australia, where his acting talent was discovered.

So as you can clearly see, a New York personal injury lawyer (the one who represented Mel Gibson’s father) is responsible for the meteoric rise to stardom of actor Mel Gibson.  Thus, every time you watch movies such as Mad Max, Lethal Weapon and Braveheart, you should thank a personal injury attorney!

lawyer-client-198x300
You read that right.  If you are injured in New York, whether in New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo or the Southern Tier, do NOT hire a lawyer who claims to be a “specialist” or “specialized” in New York personal injury. Why?  Because if the lawyer you hire calls himself a “specialist” in New York personal injury law he or she is either (1) an idiot or (2) unethical or (3) both.

Why an idiot?  Because if he is in fact a New York personal injury lawyer he should know that New York’s lawyer advertising rules prohibit him from holding himself out to be a “specialist” in personal injury law.  If he is not an idiot, he is just plain unethical.  Why unethical?  Because if he knows the law (as he should) he is deliberately violating New York’s  legal advertising rules. That’s unethical.

A lawyer in New York can’t say she is a “specialist” in personal injury claims, nor can she say she is an “expert” in personal injury law or claims.  Those two words (“specialist” and “expert”) are verboten.  What lawyers can say is that they “handle” or “concentrate” in personal injury claims, or that they don’t do anything but personal injury cases, or even that they do nothing but live, breath, think and dream about personal injury cases.  But “specialize” and “expertise” are not allowed.

storerestaurant
As a New York personal injury lawyer (serving mostly the Syracuse and Central New York areas), I have pretty strong opinions about so-called “tort reform” (which we personal injury lawyers call “tort deform”):  I’m against it. Generally, tort reform is just a power-play by big business, the chamber of commerce and insurance companies to get a free pass to act negligently and injure people without having to pay the price.  The “price” of their negligence is shifted to the people who can least afford it:  Their injured victims.

But I agree partially with the corporate/insurance lobby’s newest call to arms:   They want immunity from coronavirus tort lawsuits for businesses that open up to the public.  I agree that restaurants, gyms, and retail stores should get some kind of immunity. Total immunity, no, but rather “qualified” immunity.  I’ll explain what I mean further down.

But first, why would a New York personal injury lawyer like me be in favor of a form of personal injury lawsuit protection for certain businesses?  Because I want America to get back on its feet. This damn virus has slammed with particular vigor at our retailers and restaurants.  Some will never reopen.  Those that will are going to need some help.   Our restaurants and retail stores are like a boxer who has been felled by a near knockout punch.  We need to allow him to get back up on his feet before we can engage him in more fighting.  Otherwise, we could kill him. (For a contrary view, read here).

file-139x300The old me

IMG_0454-225x300The coronavirus me

This Central New York and Syracuse area personal injury lawyer hasn’t set foot in his office in three weeks.  (He also hasn’t shaven in three weeks, but that’s another story).  Have I been on vacation?  No.  Have I been laid off because of the coronavirus?  No. (Since I’m self-employed I would have to fire myself!)

Contact Information