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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.

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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!)

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Introducing this year’s proud recipient, the second ever, of the Syracuse University College of Law’s prestigious Lee S. Michaels Advocate Award and Scholarship: Joseph Tantillo.

Congratulations Joe!

More about Joe in a minute.  But first something about the award itself.  Last year we announced that M&S’s senior lawyer, Lee S. Michaels, had established and endowed the Syracuse University College of Law Lee S. Michaels Advocate Award and Scholarship. Lee, a die-hard S.U. supporter, graduated from the Law College in 1967, was active in alumni activities and events for many years, and has been teaching trial practice since 1990 and deposition practice there since last Fall.

boating-300x199Summer is fast approaching in New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes area.  And boating is a great way to enjoy the area safely during this coronavirus era. As far as I know, the virus cannot be transmitted through lake water, and as long as you are on your boat with household members, you don’t have to worry about those pesky little masks or that annoying six-foot social distancing rule.  Whether you live in Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, Ithaca, or any place in between, boating is a great way to get out and enjoy the treasures of our Central New York way of life!

But please do so safely, and legally.  To help you out, I have prepared a chart comparing New York’s automobile laws to its boating laws.  After that, I will discuss the differences between boating accidents and car accidents that I have discovered after nearly three decades of litigating both boating accident cases and car accident cases throughout New York State.

New York Boating Law Compared

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Since this blog post is about death, I have decided to feature one of the oldest and most famous icons in history:  The grim reaper.  Throughout history, this imaginary figure has personified death.  And what a powerful image!  Wielding his sickle, he “reaps” his harvest of human beings, cutting us all down (eventually) like blades of grass.

Before the modern area, which ushered in antibiotics and modern medicine, the grim reaper was ever-present, cutting down humans of all ages.  You were as likely to be his victim if you were young as old.  Most parents lost a few young children to his insatiable appetite for fresh crops.

In the modern era, we have gotten use to the idea that death (usually) befalls only the old.  The grim reaper today prefers mature crops, and leaves the young, green shoots to grow.

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Above: Central NY Injury Lawyer on bike leg of a triathlon.

Spring has sprung in Central New York, and despite the “shelter-in-place” orders in some cities, in Central New York we are at least allowed to go outside and get some good old-fashioned exercise.  For me, that means biking.

I’ve been out three times so far. With the coronavirus keeping many motorists off the road, it’s very safe out there.  So few vehicles to watch out for.  I’ve even been taking advantage of the light traffic to travel some roads around Geneva, New York, where I live, that I normally avoid because of heavier-than-average traffic or because there are no good shoulders to ride on.

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Most New York State counties, including Monroe, Onondaga, and all the counties in between, have a law on their books which allows the county public health commissioner to issue an order for involuntary isolation if an individual disobeys a quarantine request and is believed to be an immediate threat to public health.  And the counties are not shy to enforce the law.  Example:  One of my brothers, who lives in Auburn, New York, developed Coronavirus symptoms a few weeks ago.  The Onondaga County Health Department ordered him to get the test (which he willingly did) and then ordered him quarantined in his home until the test results came back (7 days later).  Fortunately, he tested negative, but a County Health Inspector stopped by his house two times a day to make sure he was not leaving the home.  If they had found he had “flown the coop”, they likely would have issued an order for his arrest.

Here’s an even better example:  A Monroe County resident with Covid-19 symptoms, who refused testing, and then disobeyed a Monroe County Department of Public Health civil order to quarantine himself, was arrested and jailed recently in a County jail in Brighton, New York.   He has been isolated from other inmates to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Assuming this selfish and anti-social person passed the virus onto others, who got very sick or died, can his victims or their families sue him for money damages in New York?  That’s our New York personal injury law question for today.

IMG_0168-300x225 IMG_0172-225x300Like almost everyone else on Planet Earth, this Syracuse NY injury lawyer has been holed up at home, hunkering down against the pandemic.  My home is in Geneva, NY, which is a pretty nice place to be locked down.  People here are looking out for each other.  I’ve joined a group of corona virus fighters at a local church preparing cheap and even free meals for folks on the weekend.  Can you guess which one in the above photos is me?

My “real” job, though, is not on standstill.  In fact, my laptop keyboard is getting quite a workout:  I have been conducting online research, shooting out emails to adjusters and defense lawyers, preparing legal briefs, etc.  My cell phone has also been working overtime:  Insurance adjusters are still working (from home) so I have been trying to settle cases with them. I have also been catching up with clients on the status of their medical treatment.

The court system, however, is frozen solid, at least in the civil arena.  All motions, court filings, trials, etc. are suspended.  My calendar is just about empty.  And that does give me some extra time for reading and writing.

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If you are like us, about 90% of your conscious life these days can be summed up in one word: coronavirus.  President Trump has declared a national emergency.  New York State is just about in total lock-down. Our office, just like all other offices, has been ordered physical “closed” by Governor Cuomo.  No staff is there.  Our doors are locked.  But we are not resting idle!  Read on!

Call us!

We are not at the office, but we are answering the phone!  Call us and one of our staff will pick up and put you through to your lawyer!  While our office is closed, we will be happy to “meet” with you by phone, Skype, or FaceTime, at your convenience.

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