Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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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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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.

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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

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