Category Archives: Schuyler County

Test Your NY Bike Law IQ By Reading My Column At The Odessa File

Odessa File

A few months ago, I began writing a column for The Odessa File (photo above), a must-read community news website in Schuyler County. Since my wife and I live there now, I wanted to find a way to connect with my fellow residents, and I know that everyone in the county reads it. Charlie Haeffner has created a great resource for county residents, and I will say it again: Everyone. Reads. It.

The feedback has been great and people are coming up to introduce themselves on the street when I am out in the community. It’s been a great icebreaker.

0411reedPicI just published my fifth column this year. I write about legal news that people can use in their everyday lives. I have written about a great insurance change in state law for New York State drivers; about how a woman’s tragic death has led to a positive change in another state law; and about how writing wills can be a messy process for families.

My latest column is a wake-up call for New York motorists and bicyclists. The hibernation is over.

The snow is gone for good (I hope) and bicyclists are getting their bikes out of the garage and checking their brakes and tires. As we all prepare to hit the road again, and dodge the horrible potholes that winter left behind, it’s time to remind everyone on the road what the law says about the rights of motorists … and bicyclists!

So please. go read the terrific Odessa File website and read my column.

As a bonus, I have a brief quiz in the column that will test your knowledge about basic bike laws in NY. If you email me your answers, I will enter you in a drawing for a $50 gift card to a great Watkins Glen restaurant.

You can also email me at [email protected] f you’d like a very readable and easy-to-understand primer on NY laws for bicyclists. It’s a great refresher so we all have another safe year of sharing our roads with drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

Thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and

Hit-And-Run Driver Gets Outrageous Four-Month Jail Sentence, Says NY and PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer

A sentence handed down Thursday in a hit-and-run accident that killed a bicyclist is outrageous.

I was shocked and outraged this morning when I read in the newspaper that a Watkins Glen woman – who struck a bicyclist who later died of his injuries – was sentenced to just four months in jail.

Four months. In a fatal hit-and-run accident!

The Elmira Star-Gazette and The Leader in Corning reported that Melissa E. Smith, 37, was driving south on state Route 414 in the Town of Dix on Oct. 16, 2011, when she struck 35-year-old Michael Delzell of Beaver Dams, who was riding a bicycle north, according to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies said Smith got out of her car and saw Delzell’s condition but made no attempt to help him or notify authorities when she went to work at a nearby hospital, according to District Attorney Joseph Fazzary.

Later on Oct. 16, after lying to deputies, Smith admitted she struck Delzell, Fazzary said.

Delzell later died at a Rochester hospital.

Smith pleaded guilty on March 1 to Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident Which Resulted In Death, a Class D Felony.

Fazzary recommended Smith be sentenced to one to three years in a state prison, but Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris on Thursday chose the lighter jail sentence and three years of conditional discharge!

The sentence in this case is absolutely obscene. It is unbelievable that this woman, someone who works at a hospital, could get out, NOT render any aid, and then go to work at a hospital without doing anything more to alert anyone to this injured cyclist, and THEN lie to the police

And now she gets a slap on the wrist. This is just shocking.

Unfortunately, shockingly light sentences like this can occur if substantial family/public pressure is not placed on the DA’s office and judge BEFORE a sentence is imposed.  While there are definitely limits to the sentences that can be imposed for certain offenses, generally there is a fairly wide range of discretion available to the judge.

Sadly, if a victim or their family does not forcefully and publicly advocate for a maximum sentence, you often see results like this.

I don’t know the family of this victim and I don’t know whether they lobbied for a maximum sentence, but given the fact that so little publicity was generated about this case while it was pending leads me to assume that there wasn’t much forceful advocacy on their behalf.

For that matter, I don’t know whether they have hired a lawyer to pursue a civil claim (I would hope so), but if I was handling this claim, I sure would have been raising hell before that sentencing.  Of course, as a civil lawyer, I don’t have any official role in the criminal proceedings but I know as a practical matter that there is MUCH that can be done to unofficially influence the process.



Please be safe out there!

Thanks for reading.

Thanks, Jim.


James B. Reed

NY & PA Bicycle Accident Attorney

Ziff Law Firm, LLP

Mailto: [email protected]

Office: (607)733-8866

Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)