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Love affairs are tantalizing, but dangerous.  I know because I have been involved in such a love affair for well over a decade.  The object of my affection is not a person.  It is a thing.  And what a lovely thing it is: Email!

Email has revolutionized my New York personal injury practice.  Before email, I would get back to the office from a day in court and have dozens of phone calls to return, and to make.  Ever since I got email on my smart phone (about 10 years ago?) that hardly ever happens.  My smart phone is always on me and I can read and respond to my clients’ inquiries while standing in the Deli line or while sitting in court waiting to argue my case. What a time saver!

Email, I love you.

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.

book

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.)

cruzsanders trumpclinton
Unlike in past presidential elections, “tort reform” is not a hotly debated issue this time around.  Nevertheless, for a New York personal injury lawyer like myself, whose firm is currently representing hundreds of injured tort victims, it is an extremely important issue.  I therefore decided to research how the four main presidential candidates (Trump, Cruz, Clinton and Sanders) feel about so-called “tort reform”. (Note:  Those in favor of limiting injured victims’ rights in court invented the term “tort reform”, but since I don’t think our tort laws need “reforming”, and I think that denying victims their day in court is a bad idea, I would rather call it “tort deform“.  I recognize, however, that most people won’t know what I’m talking about if I call it “tort deform“, so I will — unwillingly — call it “tort reform” just like they do.)

Donald Trump:  Although many or even most of Trump’s supporters would probably support tort reform, Trump himself is no enemy of lawsuits.  In fact, he is one of the most free-wheeling lawsuit filers on the planet. He often uses lawsuits to force settlements or to stop people from saying things about him that he does not like. For example:

  • He threatened to sue Ted Cruz if he did not remove a campaign ad where Trump is shown in a 1999 interview claiming he was “very pro-choice.”

our plane
Michaels & Smolak’s new publicity campaign is taking off!  Starting today, April 1, 2016, many commercial airlines around the country — and beyond — will feature the Michaels & Smolak personal injury law firm name and tagline, as shown in the photo above.

Not everyone is excited about the new ads.  One passenger interviewed as she was boarding a Michaels & Smolak plane was quoted as saying, “while I realize Michaels & Smolak is one of the top personal injury law firms in the nation, their logo on this plane with the tagline ‘for serious cases‘ makes me a little uneasy about boarding to say the least”.

Most airlines nevertheless jumped on board the innovative campaign.

index$55 Million. That’s a lot of money. I can’t claim to have ever gotten a verdict that big. Not even close. Almost no one has.

What is more stunning is that the verdict was purely for emotional, not physical harm. No amputated arm or leg. No paralysis. No scars. She is still beautiful. She still has a stunningly successful career as a sports broadcaster for Fox.

Yes, I am blogging about the Erin Andrews verdict.

jury verdictHere at Michaels & Smolak, on any given day, you are likely to find, on our attorneys’ desks, piles of dog-eared, highlighted, and marked-up volumes of the New York Jury Verdict Reporter. The Reporter summarizes jury verdicts on a weekly basis from around New York State. (Actually, this publication is now called “VerdictSearch“, but old-timers like me, and most New York personal injury lawyers, still call it the “Jury Verdict Reporter“.)

Why do we read it?  To help us represent YOU in YOUR CASE.  True, every case is different, including yours, so the New York Jury Verdict Reporter provides only limited guidance.  Every case, including yours, has a unique set of facts, lawyers, and jury members. All of these variables can and do affect the result of a case. Therefore, in one sense, the result of a single case reported in the Jury Verdict Reporter literally tells us nothing about how your case will end up.

But if you keep reading the jury verdict reports week after week, as we do, certain patterns emerge that are very helpful to both predicting the result of, and guiding our handling of, your case. Here are five main lessons that come out of the jury verdict reporter:

29906170001_4711937433001_FLINT-STILLOne thing you godda love about lawsuits is “discovery”. It’s what goes on right after you sue and the party you sued answers. Then you get to ask them to turn over almost any document relevant to the claims or defenses. Almost any document that has any possible relevance at all is game.

And sometimes you turn up some real gems. It’s what I call “getting the goods”.

Think about the lawsuits in the 70’s against Big Tobacco. Imagine finding – hidden in the reams of papers turned over to you – internal reports admitting that Big Tobacco manipulated nicotine levels to “hook” smokers to their dangerous product. Or that they knew their product caused cancer even as they denied it publicly.  It’s a “gocha” moment! How much money is that kind of evidence worth at trial!?

2010-thumb-250x171New York personal injury lawyers like me get this question all the time. The answer is complex, but explaining complex things to judges, juries and clients, is what we do for a living. We are essentially in the “communication” business. So here goes:

  1. Most often it is not a good idea to settle your claim until you are done treating or at least until your doctor can render an opinion on what – if any – permanent injuries you have. This often takes a year or longer. Insurance adjusters won’t give you anything for “permanent” injuries until your medical records make it clear that they are permanent. This can usually happen only a year or longer after your injury, or even longer if the injuries are very serious.
  2. If the insurance adjuster is disputing “liability”, that is, he or she says  the defendant was not at fault, or that the accident was partially your fault, the case may take longer. We may need to sue.  Only by suing can we take depositions.  Once we nail down the defendant’s and witnesses’ sworn testimony at deposition, we can show the insurance adjuster the accident was all defendant’s fault.  If there is still a dispute about liability after depositions, we may have to go to trial to prove we are right. This judicial process takes months or even years!

juryOur jury system is in trouble, big trouble, and that’s no small matter.  It’s a Constitutional matter.  The right to a civil jury trial is enshrined in our Constitution’s Seventh Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights.

But that right is under siege, as explained in a recent series of New York Times articles. Who is assaulting this important right? Corporate America.  Corporations are tucking away arbitration clauses into the contracts their customers and employees are routinely required to sign. These arbitration clauses state something like this: “The company may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration”. With these simple words, corporations are depriving millions of Americans to their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.

Examples abound.  Do you have a credit card, a cell phone, or internet service? Then you have given up your right to a jury trial in any dispute with those companies.  In the fine print of your service contract lies a hidden a requirement that you “arbitrate” any disputes at a forum pre-selected by the corporation. The same is true in many employment contracts you might sign. Think your boss has discriminated against you? No jury.  No Court.  Arbitration.

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