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Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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You are walking along the shoulder of a road with no sidewalk.  You are facing traffic, as you are supposed to.  To your right, walking with you, is your husband.  Suddenly the car heading towards you veers off the road and onto the shoulder.  You have time to jump to the left and escape injury.  Your husband, on the other hand, is hit and killed. You watch this happen, horrified.

Clearly your husband’s estate has a claim for “wrongful death” against the negligent driver of the car. As his widow, you are probably going to be the administrator of that estate, and will sue on behalf of the estate.  The estate will recover all the financial expenses stemming from the accident (medical and funeral expense) and will also recover for any pain and suffering he endured before death, and for any loss of financial support you and other family members will suffer.

But what about you.  Do you have a personal claim (not just on behalf of the estate) against the driver for the emotional harm you suffered from being right next to your husband, and watching, when he was hit and killed?  That image is going to haunt you for the rest of your life!

This has been a snowy February in Upstate, New York, especially in contrast to our January, which was green. More snow is predicted in the Finger Lakes and Syracuse area this week. So it seems like a good time for this New York car accident lawyer to review some safe driving tips for winter weather.

In fact, the New York Times just published an article on this very subject. But what do they know?  They’re in balmy downstate.  The REAL snow-and-ice driving experts are up here in the Syracuse area – the snowiest City in New York State. (No, it’s not Buffalo, it’s Syracuse, the winner of the “Golden Snowball Award” most years!)

FIRST, THE OBVIOUS: 

Governor Cuomo recently signed into law legislation requiring passengers in motor vehicles over the age of 16 to buckle up in back.  This is a change from the current law which requires them to wear seat belts only when in the frontseat. The new law takes effect November 1.

Note that in New York the driver of the vehicle is responsible for ensuring that his or her passengers are all wearing seat belts. Buckle up in back or your driver gets the ticket.

Why the new law?  Studies have more conclusively proven that you are much less likely to suffer serious injuries or death if you wear a seat belt, even in the backseat.  In fact, studies show that the use of a backseat seat belt could reduce death rates by 2/3.

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!

This Syracuse car accident lawyer keeps getting too many rear-end collision cases.  This uptick in my rear-end collisions case load has nothing to do with me. The same uptick is experienced by all Syracuse car accident lawyers, and in fact by auto accident attorneys everywhere in the USA.  This has been a trend for at least a decade, ever since smart phones really took off so that everyone and their mother has one.  Not only does everyone have one, but it seems almost every one at some point in time uses their phone while they are driving.  Be honest, have you?  Ever?

If not, you are in the minority. According to a recent study, almost 90 percent of drivers in the USA admit to using their cell phones (at least sometimes) when they are driving.  Scarier still, the average driver is on his phone 3.5 minutes for every hour of driving.

This doesn’t sound like a lot but it totally explains my uptick in rear-end collision cases.  If you look down at your phone for only one second at a speed of 55 miles per hour, your car travels 80 feet during that second.  So guess where the hood of your car ends up if, during that second, the car you were following decides to stop?  That’s why car accident lawyers all around the Syracuse area, and in fact all around the nation, surely have, like me, increased their rear-end collision case portfolio over the last decade.

Photo of newest roundabout in Ontario County

Before I explain why roundabouts (also called traffic circles) are popping up all around us, let me digress.  I lived in France for five years back in the 70’s and 80’s and I never once came across a four-way stop.  That’s because they don’t exist there.  In fact, I recently had a French visitor driving my car in Geneva, New York, with me as passenger.  When we approached the four-way stop on Castle and Brook Streets, he did not know what to do. After I explained to him the “first come first go” principle,  he seemed perplexed, and asked me, “but what if we get to the stop sign at the same time?” Touché!  Good question.

France has more roundabout intersections than baguettes. They’re everywhere.   One out of every 45 intersections in France is a roundabout.  Au contraire over here.  It’s only one in a thousand.

As I write this blog, the roads in Syracuse, New York and surrounding areas are deadly.  Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day .  The roads are frozen.  My driveway in Geneva, NY is an ice skating rink.  My windshield had a thick shell of ice covering it before I rolled it into the garage.

The National Weather Service just posted that the roads in Syracuse and all the way down through Pennsylvania are likely to be “treacherous” for travel for the next 48 hours.  The National Weather Service is warning of “nearly impossible” driving conditions. They warn drivers to stay home or at least “use extreme caution, allow plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you”.

Already about a dozen Onondaga County vehicles are reported crashed or disabled likely due to the weather.

Now that the new school year has begun, here’s a mind-blowing statistic for New York State parents to worry about:  50,000 drivers a day in New York illegally pass stopped school buses.  And by “stopped” I mean with lights flashing and stop sign extended.  I have actually witnessed this happen myself.  Do I sound like an old fogy if I say that drivers used to respect stopped school buses?

Maybe, but I’m not the only old fogy out there. Just talk to any veteran school bus driver.  They’ll tell you that “back in the day” people respected stopped school buses as almost sacred.  One of them, A North Syracuse Central School bus driver, was interviewed last year in the Syracuse Post Standard.  She  complained that she was seeing not just a few, but many motorists, on a daily basis, illegally passing her bus with its lights on.  She eventually took matters into her own hands; she no longer allows children to cross until she has personally checked to see if traffic is approaching.  She no longer trusts motorists to stop for her bus’ flashing lights and extended stop sign! Now isn’t that sad?

Check out this video that went viral a few years ago.  It shows a car in New York passing a stopped school bus and narrowly missing a child:

This Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer loves to travel all over the world.  I find other cultures and places fascinating.  Last year I went to Japan.  And this year it was Egypt, Jordan and Israel.  (Just got back last week).  See some pics I took above.

When I travel, because of what I do for a living, I can’t help noticing how other societies organize and structure their safety rules. I’m always on the lookout for dangerous conditions and am impressed when I see really safe practices. For example, in Japan I was impressed how pedestrians would wait for their light to turn green even when there was no motor vehicle anywhere near the intersection.  I went right ahead and crossed if there was nothing coming.  Made no sense to me to wait. The Japanese must have thought I was just another crazed foreigner.  The Japanese seem obsessed with safety, cleanliness and rule-following.  That’s probably one reason they live longer than any other people on the planet. Their average life expectancy is over 83 years.  Ours is only 78.

Egypt was another story.  I spent a few days in Cairo, a ramshackle city of 22,000,0000 people. It’s a fascinating place with thousands of years of history.  The people are friendly, the food delicious and the sites incredible. But safety?  Not a lot of emphasis on that.  For example, there are almost no rules for crossing the street.  I walked all over Cairo, and rarely did I see a crosswalk (and even then, motorists paid no attention to them).  So how do you cross a street in Cairo?  When in Rome, do as the Romans do.  Here is a video I took of my wife, Alejandra, and I braving a stream of Cairene motorists:

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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