Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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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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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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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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In this Syracuse NY Injury lawyer’s last blog post, I talked about how, in most cases, a New York personal injury victim will end up with a much larger settlement with a lawyer than without one.  The problem with “going it alone” is that insurance companies will generally low ball” you an offer, hoping you will take it, sign a release, and go away (forever).

But my clients aren’t the only ones who get low balled.  Sometimes insurance company adjusters will “low ball” me an offer, hoping I will want to make a quick buck and move onto the next case.  But at my law firm, we don’t take low ball offers (except in the rare case where our clients won’t listen to our advice and take the low offer).  Although some New York personal injury lawyers regularly traffic in low ball settlements, I am proud to say ours does not.

In my opinion, those that do are typically large law  firms who advertise heavily and need to “churn” their cases to keep the money rolling in to pay their advertising bills.  At my law firm, where the bulk of our cases come by referral from other lawyers, we would rather handle fewer cases and MAXIMIZE the amount we can get for those few but dear clients.  We make our money by working up a few cases rather than knocking off quick settlements on a swarm of cases.

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A woman is walking her bicycle across a street at night. She is wearing light colored clothing. A car approaches.  Its headlights shine upon her.  The car does not slow down. It is traveling at 40 miles per hour. The car does not brake. Inside the car, another woman sits behind the wheel. She does not steer. She does not brake. She just sits there.  At the last second, just before the collision, the woman behind the wheel shrieks.  But it is too late to react.  The pedestrian is down.  She is dead.

In the 20th Century traditional car accident case, no question about who’s responsible:  the driver.  But this case is different.  There is no driver.  The car was driving itself.  The car is owned by Uber.  Uber’s engineers designed the car to be driverless.  The woman sitting behind the wheel was not driving.  She is an Uber employee and was supposed to be “monitoring” the vehicle, just in case the vehicle made a mistake.

This collision, which occurred Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, was a major setback for Uber.  But also for the entire self-driving car industry. It is believed to be the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving car.

insurance-claim-form-300x200 New York State lawmakers and Governor Cuomo just delivered New Yorkers a Christmas present.  Today Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) bill, also known as the “Driver and Family Protection Act.” This important piece of legislation will protect New Yorkers statewide who are involved in auto accidents.

I know what you are thinking (if you have even read this far).  Supplemental what?  SUM what?  What the hell are you talking about?  Click.  I’m out of here . . .

But wait.  Don’t surf past this blog post just yet. I promise I will answer these questions:  What is SUM, why was it a problem, and how did New York State just fix it?  Read on, friend.

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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