Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

I came across a New York Times article the other day with the above title.  I didn’t have to read the article to know it was true; having worked as a New York car accident lawyer for more that two decades, I have personally witnessed the effects of smartphones on driving accidents.

Some of the apps for smart phones out there seem almost designed to kill drivers (and those they collide with). Take for instance the “snapchat” app’s speed filter.   Want to impress your friends as you are driving along the highway?  Ratchet your speed up to 120 miles per hour and then snap a video of your view from the car. Now you can post the video on snapchat instantly.  Your friends will see the video with your speed — “120 mph” — superimposed on it.  They will think you are so cool!

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Another dangerous app is Waze.  Full disclosure:  I love Waze. I use it every time I am driving in big urban areas like New York City or Philadelphia.  It works just like any other navigator but it actually finds you the quickest route to get where you are going based on the current traffic conditions, including construction slow-downs, roadway accidents blocking traffic, traffic jams, and even objects in the road blocking a lane of travel.  But how does Waze know about all these conditions?  Other Waze users observe these conditions as they drive by and then hit buttons on Waze’ app screen to notify Waze about them.  Those drivers might feel like good Samaritans by helping other Waze users steer clear of traffic obstructions, but they are risking their own and other lives by paying attention to their phone screen instead of the road.

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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Car accident fatalities are on the rise.  Why?  You probably know (especially if you regularly read this blog):  Smart phone texting and social media.  Drivers, especially young ones, are crashing as they gaze down at their phones.  Sure the texting driver is liable, but is anyone else?  What about the friend that was texting to the driver and who knew he was driving?  An appellate court last year in New Jersey said, yes, that guy can be liable, too.

But here’s a new twist:  What about Apple or other companies that make the phones that are distracting us?  What if I told you that Apple has a powerful technology that can detect when the person using the phone is driving a car, and that the same technology can block access to the phone when that is happening?  Shouldn’t Apple be liable for having failed to implement that technology?  After all, it is now well known that social media is an “addiction” and some of those who are glued to their screens can’t seem to help themselves from “sneaking a peek” even while driving in heavy traffic.

Can Apple, or any of the other smart phone producers, be held liable?  That’s what a new lawsuit in Texas will help decide.  The product liability lawsuit, filed against Apple by families of the victim of a car crash caused by a texting driver, contends that Apple (1) knew its phones would be used for texting while driving, (2) had gone so far as to design technology to block drivers’ phones from being operational, but (3) did not deploy the life-saving technology.

Rear-view of a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road
This fall your Central New York personal injury lawyer will again — for the 9th straight year — give his annual “CLE” (continuing legal education) class to fellow New York personal injury lawyers across New York State.  Once again I will be lecturing on the topic of governmental liability for causing personal injuries.  In other words, I’ll talk about how to hold the State and its various sub-divisions (counties, school districts, villages, towns etc.) liability for negligently causing personal injuries.  Each year, the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy invites me to do so.  I am invited to speak to rooms full of New York personal injury lawyers in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Manhattan, Queens, Long Island and more.

Why?  Because I have been fortunate enough through my work to become seen as one of the top experts in this field of law in New York State.  My articles on the subject have been published in New York’s most important law journals and magazines.  New York State judges sometimes cite to my work when they decide cases.

Suing governmental entities and agencies such as New York State or its cities, counties, school district, villages and towns is very different from suing a private wrongdoer such as a car driver or a hospital or a business.  The procedure is different, the time deadlines are different, the things you can sue for are different, and the defenses that can be raised are different.  You name it, it’s different.

dogI have a love/hate relationship with dogs. I love my dog, but I hate dogs who chase me on my bike or who snarl at me on my runs. When I go bike riding out on the country roads near Geneva, NY where I live, I even carry a small pepper spray canister to defend myself from man’s best friend.

Yes, I protect myself from “unleashed” dogs.  But unfortunately, New York State negligence law does not.  Believe me.  As a NY personal injury lawyer who handles dog bite / attack cases, I know first hand!

The problem in New York – unlike in other states – is that to hold a dog owner liable for injuries, you need to show the owner knew or should have known the dog had “vicious propensities”. If you do, the owner is “strictly” liable to you for your injuries.  That’s all well and good where a dog with a history of biting or attacking bites you, but not much else.

lane splitting motorcycle.jpgIt’s motor cycle season again. While I don’t have the statistics for last year yet, I know that a total of 4,381 motorcyclists died in U.S. crashes in 2013. That’s about 30 times the number of people who died in car crashes, even though many more cars than bikes travel our roads.

Many of those deaths are not the bikers’ fault; four-wheel drivers just don’t see motorcycles. They then cut them off or come blasting out from stop signs into their right of way.

But of course many bikers cause their own death or serious injury, too. One way to do it is called “lane-splitting”. That’s where you ride through the space between cars in parallel traffic lanes. If a cop catches you, it’ll cost you 2-points on your license. If a car “catches” you, it could cost you your life.

Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgHey bikers, it’s me, your Central New York motorcycle accident lawyer with some motorcycle safety tips for heavy traffic riding. That’s where a lot of the accidents happen, so listen up. I’m warning you, you’re going to have to multi-task out there when competing with heavy traffic. And if you don’t do it right you could end up wrong. I’m talking road kill or hood ornament.

(1) Ride in open zones

Look for those gaps between vehicles and try to ride them. This will keep those big hunks of moving metal away from you and give you more room to maneuver and react.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycle riders.jpgGood news for motorcyclists. A bill (S. 7138) just passed the NY State Senate that would require “motorcycle awareness” training as part of the Department of Motor Vehicle’s mandatory 5-hour course that all new drivers are required to take. The training would educate new drivers on how to be aware of, and share the road with, motorcyclists.

The bill, which is expected to also pass in the Assembly, be signed by the Governor, and thus to become law, was prompted by a recent upswing in motorcycle accidents in upstate New York. Oswego County has been especially hit hard – motorcycle collisions have claimed four lives in Oswego already this season, a new record.

Why the upswing in motorcycle accidents? In recent years, with the high cost of gas, more New Yorkers are giving up their four wheels for two. In Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties alone, for example, the number of registered motorcycles has increased 16 percent since 2007. More motorcycles usually means more motorcycle accidents. (Paradoxically, if there were many more motorcycles on the road, we would probably see FEWER motorcycle accidents. Read why here).

money handshake.jpgMonday I was scheduled to try a Seneca County NY motorcycle accident case in the Seneca County Courthouse in Waterloo. But as often happens, the case settled on the eve of trial, in this case Sunday afternoon.

Why do personal injury cases settle so late in the game, after the attorneys have put so much work into preparing for trial”? In one word, “pressure”. The pressure of an upcoming trial transforms the psychology of the parties and the lawyers. The weaknesses of your own case suddenly come into focus as never before. The risks of trial loom larger. This happens on both sides. When the parties’ positions are not far apart to begin with, splitting the difference suddenly seems more palatable.

Trying cases is exciting, fun and, yes, frightening, especially for the client who usually has never been to court. The cases that get tried are the ones where the parties are miles apart. Where the positions are “within firing range” of each other, the pressures of trial often lead to a settlement on the courthouse steps.

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