LeeMichaels1Lee Michaels is the senior attorney here at Michaels & Smolak.  He was personally responsible for hiring and grooming the rest of us.  To the other lawyers at our firm, he has been a mentor, teacher, friend, and role model.  It’s good to know that others appreciate Lee, too.

Syracuse University’s College of Law is going to bestow upon him a great honor this October 20.  You can read all about it on the Syracuse University College of Law website. Lee’s list of achievements  is too long to include here, but you can check it out on that website.  Suffice it to say Lee was a top law student at Syracuse, then because a top personal injury lawyer in the Syracuse area, and a top teacher of trial practice at the Syracuse College of Law, and has been a terrific community leader in many capacities.

As I said before, Lee has been a great mentor, teacher and friend to all of us here at Michaels & Smolak.  We are not alone.  One of Lee’s former students (Lee has been teaching Trial Practice as an adjunct at the law school for almost three decades) had this to say about Lee on the College of Law website:

A week or so ago, at Yankee Stadium, a foul ball flew off Todd Frazier’s bat at 110 miles per hour and clocked a toddler in the face.  She was seated in the stands behind the third-base dugout with her grandpa.  It hit her face so hard that players and fans alike grasped.  The game stopped.  It was a horrible scene. This video shows only the reaction of the players, not the impact itself:


When I saw this video, my first thought, like everyone else’s, was, “oh my god, I hope she’ll be all right, that poor girl!”.  My second thought was less emotional and more lawyerly: “can the Stadium be held liable”?  But then, before I had even finished that second thought, my third thought overtook it: “No, it can’t be held liable”.

For the tenth straight year I am traveling around the great State of New York this fall to deliver my annual update on New York personal injury law to my fellow New York personal injury lawyers.  As always, my topic is governmental liability for personal injuries and wrongful death.  In other words, I am explaining to other New York injury lawyers how to hold the New York State and its counties, school districts, villages, towns, and other “public corporations”, liable for carelessly causing injuries and death. I have already knocked off Albany and Syracuse, and will be hitting Buffalo and Rochester in the weeks ahead.

I am deeply honored that the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy keeps inviting me back year after year to impart whatever wisdom I have on this topic to my brethren of the Bar.

Although my lecture tour is only once a year, I field calls from other lawyers on this topic all year long.  That’s because New York lawyers who have read my articles or have attended my lectures consider me a “expert” in this area.  They want to “pick my brain” to help them with cases they have against New York governmental entities.

Best-Lawyers-2018-300x203Once gain, all four of the lawyers here at Auburn New York’s premier personal injury and medical malpractice law firm have been selected for the latest edition (2018) of  the prestigious lawyer directory, “Best Lawyers in America”.  They have been selected for both the “personal injury” and “product liability” litigation categories.

According to the publishers of “Best Lawyers in America”, inclusion in Best Lawyers is “based entirely on peer-review and employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services.” Best Lawyers asks voters – which consist only of other lawyers and judges who are named Best Lawyers – the question: “If you were unable to take a case yourself, how likely would you be to refer it to this nominee?”

The American Lawyer magazine – one of the nation’s preeminent law magazines – describes the Best Lawyers directory as “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

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.


Seeking rescue.

A few weeks ago, a group of Florida teens saw a disabled man drowning in a local pond. Not only did they fail to take any steps to rescue him or call for help, they instead taunted, mocked, and ridiculed him.  How do we know?  They filmed it and posted it online (warning, it is disturbing to watch and hear)


A delicious home made salsa pico de gallo with tomato, red onion, lime, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper.

People often ask me, “Mike, what kinds of NY personal injury cases do you take”?  My answer is simple:  Cases I can win.  I don’t mind if they are tough to win, but at least they must be winnable.  I want to help my clients, and taking an unwinnable case does the client no favor.  Tough for me to get paid on unwinnable cases, too, since I operate almost exclusively on a contingency fee basis.

Funny that no one ever asks me what kind of cases I don’t take.  Glad you asked.  I just read about a case that is the poster child for a case I would not take:  A Texas entrepreneur, Henry Riojas, recently sued a tortilla manufacturer claiming bad tortilla chips caused him to have a stroke.

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.

Love affairs are tantalizing, but dangerous.  I know because I have been involved in such a love affair for well over a decade.  The object of my affection is not a person.  It is a thing.  And what a lovely thing it is: Email!

Email has revolutionized my New York personal injury practice.  Before email, I would get back to the office from a day in court and have dozens of phone calls to return, and to make.  Ever since I got email on my smart phone (about 10 years ago?) that hardly ever happens.  My smart phone is always on me and I can read and respond to my clients’ inquiries while standing in the Deli line or while sitting in court waiting to argue my case. What a time saver!

Email, I love you.

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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