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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.

 
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New York personal injury lawyers like me welcome this news:  The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new kind of blood test that can detect concussions and identify possible brain injuries.  It’s called the “Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator” (“BBTI”).  The test works by measuring the levels of proteins, known as UCH-L1, and GFAP, that a damaged brain releases into the blood. Higher levels of these blood proteins indicate intracranial lesions.

There are several advantages of BBTI over traditional CT scans (which is how brain lesions at present are usually detected).  First, the blood test does not expose the brain to radiation as a CT scan does.  Second, the blood test will make for a speedier diagnosis of a brain injury.   But my hope is that the test will one day also be used to detect small lesions that today’s CT scans cannot detect.

Why is this last thing important?

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Michaels & Smolak has several connections with the Auburn Maroons hockey team: (1) We are financial & broadcast supporters; (2) our law partner Dave Kalabanka is the father of goalie Jack Kalabanka; and (3) we love to win in Court just like the Maroons love to win on the ice!

And now we have even another reason to be proud of “our boys”: On Monday evening, at the Onondaga County War Memorial, Auburn defeated Clinton Warriors 5-1 to take the Division II section 3 final. Among the hundreds of exuberant Auburn players and fans who filled the ice in pan-demonic celebration were M&S partners Dave Kalabanka (proud father!) and Jan Smolak (proud supporter!).

“I’m just ecstatic to see this team make it this far” said Dave Kalabanka. “I have followed these kids for years. I know their capabilities. There is so much potential to be harnessed. I don’t think they realize just how good they can be with the right focus. They are a great bunch of kids. They are everything we want our kids to be: Hard-working, dedicated, spirited, respectful of each other, and with a never-give-up attitude.  They so deserve this win!”

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RIP Lavern Wilkinson

Nearly three years after Kings County Hospital sent Lavern Wilkinson, a Brooklyn mom, to an early grave because of medical negligence, New York State legislators have finally revised a cruel New York State law that robbed her of her right to seek legal redress for the deadly medical malpractice that killed her.

Lavern was not the only victim of this cruel law.  Thousands of victims of malpractice have been denied their right to compensation by this arcane New York State law.

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Remember those old cartoons with exploding cigars?  Pretty funny in a cartoon.  Not so funny in real life.

Today’s real-life exploding “smokes” are not the old-fashioned trick cigars, but rather the hip x-generation electronic cigarettes (a/k/a vaping devices).  They may be “cool”, but when they explode in your face they are a little too hot for comfort.

And that’s why e-cigarette manufacturers are facing dozens of personal injury lawsuits around the country from people who were injured by their exploding lithium-ion batteries.

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Since I am a New York personal injury lawyer, you might think I never met a personal injury case I didn’t like.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I reject more injury cases than I take.  One reason I reject so many is that injuries are often caused by no one but the injured.  They sometimes try to blame others when there is no one to blame but themselves.  When that happens, obviously, there is no one to sue.

One thing I have learned in this profession is that, if there is a way to get hurt, some people will find it.  Mostly guys.   Some guys just live kind of dangerously. And I am one of those guys.

I have gotten injured through my own male stupidity many times.  Here’s one more to add to my long, painful record.

img-002-249x300As Syracuse New York personal injury lawyers, we often represent construction workers who fall from ladders and roofs when no safety line or harness is provided.  In such cases, we sue the construction site owners and operators for failing to provide this essential equipment. This happens far more often than you would think.

However, as a recent New York Times article points out, deer hunters who use tree stands are also at great risk of serious injury when they don’t wear harnesses with safety lines attached to the tree.  But personal injury lawyers don’t end up representing those folks.  Why not?  Well, think about it.  Usually a hunter has no one to blame but himself for failing to tether himself up.  We lawyers are a pretty smart group, but so far we have not figured out a way for someone to sue himself and come out ahead.

Still, since safety matters to us, we want to get the word out that tree-stand hunters, like roofers, need to tie themselves up.  A recent New York Times brings this message home very clearly.   It points out that at least five people died this year (2017) in New York State by falling from tree stands.  And many more have been injured.

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.

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Everyone knows you can get injured when you get into a motor vehicle, operate dangerous equipment, or climb up on a scaffold at a work site.  The risk of a serious physical trauma (impact) is inherent in all those activities.  I have represented countless victims of such accidents.

But sometimes big injuries can also result from small traumas.  For example, I once had a client who suffered a serious injury when one of those drive-thru bank teller windows closed on her hand as she was reaching in for her money.  The glass window closed on her hand fairly slowly, and only bruised her hand.  But the bank customer later developed a very serious injury known as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), also known as complex regional pain syndrome, a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system characterized by chronic, severe, permanent pain.

Who would have thought that such a minor trauma could cause such a serious condition? Even so, under principles of New York injury law, if we could prove that the bank teller negligently closed the window on my client’s hand, my client was entitled to full compensation for her RSD.

In just two days America will be reveling in “Black Monday” (like Black Friday but for online purchases).  In the old days of Christmases past, when parents and others actually went to something called a “store” to choose toys for their tots, a parent could often spot for herself a lurking danger.  For example, he or she could see if small parts might be removable and thus pose a choking hazard.  But now, with more and more people doing “Cyber shopping” , some of a toy’s more obvious safety flaws are less obvious.

Never fear!  Safe shopping can be done online, with a little help from our friend “WATCH“.  For more than 40 years this not-for-profit group (acronym for “World Against Toys Causing Harm”) has published an annual “top-WATCH-OUT list” of potentially dangerous toys.

Here’s an example (from this year’s list):  a toy called “Pull-Along Pony” marketed for children over one-year old but has a pull chord  19 inches long (strangulation hazard).  More examples:  A fidget spinner with small, removable parts (choking hazard).  A Spider-Man drone with rotating blades just the right size to enter an eye socket.

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