scared driver.jpgI sometimes tell people that safe driving would drive me out of business. As a New York car accident lawyer, someone’s negligent driving puts bread on my table. Now isn’t that just sick?

Sure it is, which is why I am perfectly prepared to move into another line of work should motor vehicle accidents ever become a thing of the past. I’m tired of seeing good people get crushed and mangled, or worse, in avoidable accidents. I am tired of seeing my clients pay the price of someone else’s negligence.

And, believe it or not, car accidents most likely WILL become a thing of the past someday soon. By the end of the decade, the typical American vehicle will be navigating as part of a network, constantly sharing information as it travels via transmitters. Your car will have a brain, and one that doesn’t get distracted like human brains. Your car’s brain will monitor your blind spots and warn you when you start to veer out of your lane. Sophisticated sensors, lasers and cameras will scan the road like electronic eyes.

crosswalk.jpgI came upon some surprising statistics recently: Just as motor vehicle travel is getting safer (for those inside the vehicles), walking is getting more dangerous because motor vehicles are striking and killing more and more pedestrians.

Just look at the statistics: 22 percent fewer traffic fatalities from 2003 to 2012, while pedestrian fatalities have been climbing steadily since 2010. In 2012 alone, the pedestrian fatalities were up 6 percent from the year before. A motor vehicle kills a pedestrian every two hours and injures one every seven minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). Fourteen percent of all road fatalities are pedestrians. There are 4,000 to 5,000 pedestrian fatalities per year in the U.S.

Why are pedestrian fatalities up while motor vehicle fatalities are down? No clear answer out there. But I have a theory (are you listening NHTSA?)

money.jpgA first offer from an insurance adjuster is like the first kiss on a date: It usually leads to something more substantial. At least that’s my experience (recently in law, and a long time ago in dating). Yes, I have plenty of recent experience (more than 20 years) in New York personal injury law.

When you are hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you are likely to get a call from an insurance adjuster fairly soon. He or she will offer you money to settle. It probably won’t be enough. My advice? Think of it as a first date. If you simply take that offer, and sign a “release”, and say goodbye, you’ll never find out what would have happened on the second date.

As Nancy Reagan used to say, “just say no”! Don’t worry about the offer evaporating. As a New York personal injury lawyer with many years’ experience, I have never seen that first offer “disappear”. I have never even seen and insurance adjuster LOWER an offer, much less take it off the table. And I have seen many, many times, indeed most times, insurance adjusters INCREASE their offer.

iStock_000008918307Small.jpgLitigation lawyers are, in a sense, at war. Each lawyer is fighting for his client to prevail. A spirited fight requires, sometimes, spirited verbal exchanges.

But there are limits. Fellow lawyers, here’s a little rule of thumb: Don’t call your opponent an “asshole”.

That’s exactly what one lawyer called another in Alexander Interactive v. Adorama Inc., a case involving a simple business dispute, and not, as one would expect given the level of vitriol, a roiling matrimonial case. The insult-hurling lawyer — whose surname is coincidentally “Savage” — dropped the “A-bomb” in an email to her opponent. Then the “Savaged” opponent – who apparently denied the charge — one-upped her by flipping the email over to the judge, who then sanctioned Ms. Savage with an admonishment, despite Ms. Savage’s pleas that her opponent had “provoked” her into her transgression.

SETTLEweb-master675.jpgWrongful convictions in New York are probably a lot more common than we think. But proving a wrongfully conviction is indeed rare. It’s not easy peeling away at a skillful prosecutor’s evidence, especially from behind bars.

But some convicts have done it. And when they do, we should all rejoice because, “but for the grace of God, there go I”.

Does society owe such a person compensation? You bet. And compensation is what happened today in New York when Jabbar Collins (shown in the photo), a man who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and then spent three years in litigation against the City of New York, reached a $10,000,000 settlement. That’s about $600,000 per year in prison.

I’ve recently been blogging about New York bicycle law and how to investigate and prove bike accident cases in New York. Today I am going to answer a common question I get from other cyclists.

Because I am both a New York personal injury lawyer and an avid bicyclist, my biking buddies often ask me about bicycle laws in New York. One thing they often want to know is whether it legal for them to “take the lane” rather than stay to the far right.

The answer is “sometimes”. Section 1234(a) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law (not applicable in New York City) provides that, “upon all roadways, any bicycle . . . shall be driven either on a usable bicycle . . . lane or, if a usable bicycle . . . lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.”

bicycle helmets.jpgIn my recent blog post about how bicycle accidents happen, I promised to blog next about how to properly investigate a bike accident to prepare a New York bicycle accident case against the at-fault motor vehicle driver. I keep my promises!

The first rule is to preserve the evidence. This is important not only to prove your case, but also to prevent the defendant from later arguing that your case should be tossed out because you destroyed evidence. So save the bike! Don’t use it or fix it. Preserve it!. The damage to it may help show where the car struck the bike and the force of the impact among other things.

Of course you should get any police accident reports. Equally important, but more time consuming, go to the scene and explore it carefully. Bring a camera and photograph and film everything in sight. Look for skid marks. Have an accident reconstructionist or investigator with you to take measurements. Have someone take a video as he or she rides or walks along from the cyclist’s point of view. Do the same, from a similar car, for the driver’s point of view. Look to see if it should have been obvious to the driver that there would be bikes and pedestrians in the area. For example, are there marked bike lanes? Are there sidewalks or crosswalks?

bicycle mike.jpgYeah, that’s yours truly in the photo (at the Geneva NY MusselmanTriathlon a few years ago). No, I didn’t win anything, not even for my age group, but yes, I had fun trying!

With all this great weather we’ve been having here in the Finger Lakes, I’ve been getting out on my road bike quite a bit. I try to cram in two or three 30-milers during the work week and one long one on the weekend.

Since I’ve got cycling on my mind, my next few blogs will thus be about cycling accidents, how to prevent them, and, god forbid, if you are hurt in one, how your lawyer should build your case.

doubledays.jpgunited way-69782-69783-69787.jpgFor the second year in a row, the Michaels & Smolak Auburn New York Injury Law Firm is honoring United Way of Cayuga County volunteers as “hometown heroes” at all 38 Auburn Doubledays home games this year.

Here’s how it works: At each home game, one United Way volunteer is publicly recognized and honored as a “hometown hero” and receives four game tickets and food vouchers for his or her family and friends. A different volunteer is honored at each home game and the Michaels & Smolak Auburn New York Injury Law Firm funds the program, including the free tickets plus food for the “hometown heroes”.

“It’s a wonderful program and I am thrilled that they are generously continuing it again this year,” said Carrie Collins-Fadell, Executive Director of the United Way of Cayuga County.

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.

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