Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

insurance-claim-form-300x200There is likely a big problem with your auto insurance.  So big, so problematic, that our legislature is attempting to fix it.  But you can fix your insurance right now, with just a phone call.

But before you make that call, you have to understand the problem and a few things about New York auto insurance.

Here’s the problem:  The minimal auto liability insurance allowable in New York pays out a maximum of only $25,000 per injured person and $50,000 collectively for all persons injured through the negligence of the vehicle’s driver.  That’s woefully inadequate if you are struck by an at-fault driver and you or your passengers suffer long-term disabling injuries that prevent you or them from working.

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We all know that Venus Williams is deadly on the tennis court.  But is she deadly off court, too?  Specifically, did she recently kill someone with her car?  Or will she win in court like she does on the court?  Read and find out.

According to early news reports, just before Venus Williams was going to head off to Wimbledon (where she is now “killing it” on the court) from Florida (where she lives), Venus drove through an intersection where she was t-boned by another car, whose driver died from the impact.  The other driver’s Estate promptly brought a claim against the acclaimed tennis goddess for wrongful death.

Things looked bad for Venus.  Witnesses confirmed that, at the time of the crash, the traffic light was red for Venus and green for the other driver.

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 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.

texting and driving
I blogged sometime ago about a New Jersey case where a Court found that someone sending a text to someone else who he knows is driving can be held liable — along with the driver — for the resulting crash and injuries caused to others. What was new was the Court extending liability to  include the outsider –  who may be thousands of miles away — who is participating in the texting with the driver.

A Pennsylvania court soon followed New Jersey’s lead.  In that case, a volunteer firefighter was stopped to make a turn on his motorcycle. A texting SUV driver rammed him from behind, causing him to die. The man’s family sued not only the driver, but also the person who had sent the driver the text.  (The police obtained a search warrant and found the text still open on the texting driver’s phone).  A Pennsylvania judge  allowed the legal theory that the sender of the text was also liable to go forward to a jury.

In Pennsylvania, however, sending texts to a driver can now be a crime.   Last week Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill that criminalizes the practice, and allows courts to mete out penalties of up to five years behind bars for a non-drivers texting with drivers involved in  fatal crashes.  So we are talking not only about civil liability, but criminal liability as well.

Car Wreck with Smashed Hood and Ambulance
Ok, maybe “secret” is not the right word, but I am always surprised by the vast number of people who don’t know this simple safety tip.  Here it is (drum roll please):  When waiting to turn left at a red light or while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, do NOT turn your wheels left until you are actually going to turn.  Wait with your wheels straight.

The reason should be obvious, but just in case it isn’t, there are two very unpleasant things that can happen to you if you are rear-ended with your wheels turned left:

  • You can be pushed into oncoming traffic and get clobbered by an oncoming vehicle

Happy Senior Man Driving his car
One of the most difficult conversations to have is with a parent, grandparent or elderly spouse who has – through aging or age-related losses – become a danger to others on the road is the “give-up-the-car-keys” conversation. In the U.S.A., we have a deep emotional attachment to driving.  Driving equals freedom. When the elderly consider this loss of independence, particularly in rural and sub-urban areas where good public transportation is lacking, they will resist giving up the keys even when they recognize their own physical or mental barriers to safe driving (which they often don’t). When this happens, what is a son/daughter/spouse to do?

First, let’s be clear on the legal duty.  The family member of an elderly person who may be unfit to drive has no legal duty – or even the right — to take the keys away (unless they have legal guardianship of the elderly person).  But family members have the right – but not the duty — to report the elderly family member’s suspected inability to safely drive to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). From there, DMV will take over.

But should you snitch on grandma?

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I have blogged about texting while driving so many times I have lost track.  (Though I never blog while driving.  Just thought I’d mention that!)

This is not just another nag-post about the dangers of texting while driving (though it is that, too). It’s about a new proposed law and a new technology that may allow the police to “catch” driving texters and prosecute them in the same way they do drunk drivers now.

As you know, most states have banned texting (or even holding a device with one hand) while driving.  Some States have spent loads of money on  public service campaigns aimed at getting drivers to refrain from texting behind the wheel.   If you are in New York, you have probably seen the “it can wait” ads, as well as the new signs on the Thruway announcing “text stops” (formerly “rest stops”).  See photo above left.

NYCMGEICOPROGRESSIVEAs a New York car accident lawyer, I have been on the other side of car insurance adjusters for decades now.  So I know the score.  I know our respective jobs.  They are supposed to try to pay a little as possible to save their employer money.  I am supposed to get as much for my injured client as possible.  I get that.

But what I don’t get is why a few of the auto insurance carriers — not all — seem to believe that offering my client an unreasonably small amount of money to settle actually saves their employer money.  Most of them understand that, if they offer me something on the short side of reasonable, but still within the range of reasonable, my client will probably take it to avoid having to go through protracted litigation and a stressful trial.  This saves the insurance carrier money because they don’t have to pay a lawyer to defend a lawsuit and because they don’t have to risk a big verdict at trial.

But a few “bad” car insurance companies don’t get that. Instead, they feel that unless they make my client settle for  1/2 or even 1/3 the value of the case, they have not done their job.  That just makes me sue them, and then they have to pay their lawyer to defend the case, and on top of that they have to pay my client the reasonable verdict the jury will likely give my client and which they should have offered me to begin with!  So they end up making their employer pay more, not less.

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