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The readers of the Star-Gazette have again voted the Ziff Law Firm is the best law firm in the Twin Tiers.
We are honored that, in a poll of 5,000 residents, the Ziff Law Firm was recognized as the best law firm in the region for the second year in a row in the Elmira Star-Gazette’s “Best of the Twin Tiers” Awards, which were announced Thursday.
We are gratified that our hometown newspaper’s readers selected our law firm, out of all the local law firms, as the best Elmira-area law firm.
As much as it is gratifying to have your fellow lawyers name us as the best (for example, Best Lawyers in America, NY SuperLawyers and many other awards), there is nothing more gratifying than having the local folks who know us so well call us the best.
The Ziff Law family prides itself on being a hard-working, dedicated part of the local community, so it means the world to us when our friends and neighbors appreciate us. We have always said our professional reputation is our single most important asset, and we strive every day to uphold that reputation.
It’s summer in the Twin Tiers, and that means it’s time for some outdoor fun on our beautiful lakes or in our pools. It’s also the season of thunderstorms, road construction and contractors signs dotting the lawns seemingly on every block.
Everyone I know has at least one good and one bad contractor story. Usually a good story involves a contractor recommended by a friend or neighbor, and a bad story involves someone hired quickly or without a recommendation.
In a recent Law Talk on WETM-TV News at Noon (every Wednesday at 12:20 p.m.), I provided some advice to those hiring a contractor to work around their home this summer and fall.
Here is the latest installment of our Q & A series, focusing on legal information that can be helpful to residents of the Twin Tiers and beyond.
QUESTION: What are the most important points to remember when people search for a contractor for a home improvement project?
ANSWER: The best advice is do your homework and be very careful about the contractors you hire. If you don’t know the contractor coming to your door or soliciting your business, check them out. Family and friends are always good sources for referrals. Look for contractors with a local connection who have been around for a while. But if it is just someone who pulls up in front of the house with out-of-state plates, then be very careful and be sure you don’t hire the wrong people.
If you are going to hire a contractor, one of the things that is really important is document everything. Keep good records of what they say they will do, when they worked, how much money you have provided them and so on. If they say they are doing a certain scope of work, get it in writing. Be very detailed about what you expect. If it is a roof job, does it include the gutters and hauling away the old roofing material? Make sure you have as much as you can in writing.
Make sure the price is listed, and this is the most important advice I give to everyone: do NOT give the contractor all the money up front! You have to hold back some money. Some companies will require 25 percent or 50 percent up front, but under no circumstances would I hire a contractor who insists that I need more than 50 percent up front.
And do NOT make the final payment until the work is fully completed to your satisfaction. Your money is your leverage against the contractor and that leverage is more important than any legal claim or lawsuit you might have.
Finally, if you have a problem, you can consider taking the contractor to small claims court or to a higher court, if the amount in controversy is more.
The best advice is be very careful BEFORE entering into a relationship with a contractor. Hire people with a good reputation and who have worked in your area or have local connections. Make sure everything is documented. Take photos and videos before, as they make progress and of the finished work.
I recently received a terrific email from a blog reader in Australia who shares my concern for the safety of people around moving vehicles.
Luise Manning’s mission is to protect children from slow-speed runover accidents, and it is a GREAT CAUSE that gets overlooked in all the other accident news here and abroad.
Children are seriously injured or killed every day when a parent or other loved one accidentally strikes a child while backing out or pulling away. We have all read about these tragedies and our hearts ache for the child or children lost AND the driver!
Luise has written a book, “Hold My Hand,” that you can learn more about here and has been the subject of a news story because of her Car Angel campaign.
Be sure to watch the video above to see what her mission is all about. You won’t forget it once you watch it.
Here is the guest blog post from Luise Manning:
5 Steps To Safely Reduce The Risk Of Low-Speed Vehicle Runovers In Driveways And Parked Cars
1. Supervision is No. 1. Adults are responsible for the safety of young children in and around traffic. It will take many years for young children to make safe decisions independently when there are cars about. Actively supervise children whenever vehicles are known to be moving by holding children’s hands or keeping them close to keep them safe. Sometimes they may not want to hold hands; they want to be independent but often they are not aware of dangerous situations.
2. Know where children are before you move the car! Children are run over by vehicles going forward as well as backing up. Be aware of blind zones – they can occur in front of and behind a vehicle.Get in the habit of walking around the car, checking for children before you get in the driver’s side door in driveways or where cars are parked.
Know where your child is. Don’t assume that they are with another person; check before you go to be sure the child is safe.
If you are alone and a car needs to be moved, protect them by placing them in the car seat prior to moving a vehicle.
When you’re out, be alert and keep a lookout for small children as they often do not respond to warning signals or reverse lights.
A reversing camera or sensor may help you avoid incidents, but young children move quickly and you may not have time to stop.
3. Secure doors and gates! Young children are growing and learning every day – one minute they can’t do something and the next they can! Consider installing self-closing gates, doors and childproof locks on doors to prevent children from opening and accessing areas such as the driveway or garage unnoticed.
4. Create safe places to play away from the garage and driveway. A driveway is actually a small road. Fence off access to driveways, and wherever possible, ensure young children play in an area separated from the driveway. Explain to children why footpaths, roads and driveways are not safe places to play. Talk with children about safe places to play. Always check that doors and gates are closed and can’t be opened by children.
The car is not a play area; keep the doors locked when the vehicle is not in use to prevent children from entering the car. Avoid leaving them to play alone, especially around areas near parked or moving cars.
5. Educate – Don’t wait for school; make some cool rules. Early education is the key to minimize the risk of dangers. While we can teach children about road safety and being careful around cars, parents and other caregivers need to be cautious about expecting a child under 10 years old to be safe consistently. Children get distracted and forget to watch for moving vehicles.
Have some family rules about driveway safety – Wave goodbye from behind a door, not on the driveway. Never let children run ahead of you.
Use simple catchphrases to help establish routines and habits. For example, say: “Stand next to the car,” or “Stay where you are,” or “Hold tight, keep me in sight” to encourage children to practice safe behavior.
Everyone needs to be involved! Praise children when they follow instructions, but lead by example to create lifelong habits. Talk with other adults in your child’s life about your family rules to reduce the risk of injury or death from low-speed accidents.
My thanks to Luise for writing this for our readers all over the world!
Ziff Law Managing Partner Jim Reed talked about how homeowners can be better prepared to deal with a disaster on a recent segment of Law Talk on a recent WETM-TV News at Noon.
Question: We have had many storms this summer, including some tornadoes, and lots of property damage in our communities in the region. What do you do right away if your home is damaged in a storm?
Jim Reed: The most important thing is document, document, document. It has become easier to document storm damage than it used to be. Document the damage by taking photos or videos; and copy invoices and receipts for items or services used.
The key thing after damages occur is to promptly walk around your home and write down, photograph and shoot video of the damage to your home and property. The more proof you have, the better.
You also need to report it to your insurance agent immediately. I always recommend to my clients that they get a local insurance agent instead of just buying your insurance over the internet. When you have a claim, your local insurance agent is your first line of defense assisting you with your claim. The insurance agent, because of his or her business relationship with you, should help you in the process of filing the claim and doing what is necessary to help you get paid for your claim. A good local agent who cares about you and your claim can be worth their weight in gold!
One of the things I have been asked about is, “What about this ‘act of God’ exclusion in my policy?” You need to read your policy, review it with your agent and you need to know, whether it’s wind or flood damage or anything else, are you covered? It’s critically important because different insurance companies and even different insurance policies within the same company can have different provisions on what is covered and what is not.
The most important thing to remember when you sit down with your agent is to be absolutely sure you know what is covered and what is not covered. Ask questions like: Is my boat covered if sitting on a trailer in my driveway? Am I covered if the creek in my back yard overflows and floods my house? Am I covered if lightning strikes my house and burns it down? In other words, try to think of the real world problems that might damage your property and ask the agent whether you are covered or not. Don’t leave the agent’s office without all your answers. And it never hurts to take notes of your conversation as to what is covered and what is not.
Thanks for reading. Now is the time to get your insurance policies out and do your homework!
See Law Talk segments at about 12:20 p.m. Wednesdays on WETM-TV News at Noon.
To submit a legal question for the Ziff Law lawyers to answer on one of their blogs, email the question to [email protected]
The hilarious seven-minute video above illustrates the nightmare every trial lawyer has encountered at one time or another – witnesses who are coached by their lawyers to give non-responsive answers so stubborn lawyers like me are left no other alternative than to keep asking the question until we finally get a responsive answer!
In the video, a lawyer is trying to depose a blank-faced witness asks the question that kicks off the confrontation – “Does the Recorder’s office have photocopying machines?” That leads to all sorts of wiggling and dodging by the witness and interference and stalling tactics by his lawyer, all designed to confuse the issue.
The amazing thing is the script for this insanity is from a REAL COURTROOM ENCOUNTER. It was taken verbatim from an Ohio deposition.
You can read more about the case that inspired this insanity, and how one lawyer would have done it differently, by clicking here.
You will see many smiles and handshakes in the news in the coming weeks as Guthrie prepares to cut the ribbon on its new, state-of-the-art Guthrie Corning Hospital in East Corning, just off Interstate 86 at the west end of state Route 352.
But after after all the back-slapping and cheering is over, this is the reality facing patients:
The beautiful new building and the latest, greatest technology don’t mean anything if the quality of care administered by the doctors and nurses doesn’t improve.
In the many medical malpractice cases we have handled against the Corning Hospital and the Guthrie system, the cases have never been about inadequate facilities or equipment. They have been about miscommunication, no communication, overworked staff, under staffing, mistakes, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, failure to investigate, failure to diagnose, failure to supervise, and failure to use common sense.
A new address and a new building won’t do anything to change the problems that lead to patients being injured by the facility they trust to care for them.
At the Ziff Law Firm, we will be watching carefully for new signs of better care and communication at the new hospital. In the meantime, we will continue to hold the hospital and its staff responsible when their mistakes injure and kill people. It is only when they are held responsible for their mistakes that change will occur.
Unless there is a change of culture at the new Guthrie Corning Hospital, the only thing they will be changing is the location.
Boaters and operators of other watercraft in New York State — including the Finger Lakes, of course — are now required to clean and drain their vessels before hitting the water to help stop the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this month adopted regulations requiring owners to remove visible plant and animal matter from boats, canoes and any other motorized or paddled vessel, before reaching the water. All watercraft owners are also required to clean trailers.
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said boats and boat trailers can spread invasive species, a threat to our ecosystem.
Before launching, boaters are asked to inspect and remove all mud, plants and other organic material, and drain the bilge.
The state has a great step-by-step inspection process here. The steps are check, clean, drain, dry and disinfect.
You can learn more about aquatic invasive species in New York State here.
Read some basic questions and answers about aquatic invasive species here to learn more.
Here is the first question and answer:
Q: What is an aquatic invasive species?
A: According to New York State Environmental Conservation Law, an invasive species is a species that is not native to an ecosystem and causes or is likely to cause significant economic or environmental harm, or harm human health. In reality, the species rarely have any human health implications, but do have the potential to outcompete native species and grow or reproduce to nuisance proportions in a body of water. In certain cases, these species may be native to the U.S. or another section of NY, but are not native to the entire state. White perch and alewife are an example of two fish species that are native to the marine and coastal region of NY, but have become problematic when introduced to inland waters. In other cases, invasive species may be introduced from other regions of the world.
Thanks for reading, and remember to check, clean, drain, dry and disinfect!
A friend of Morgan’s was killed when a Walmart tractor-trailer driven by Kevin Roper rear-ended Morgan’s Mercedes limousine at 1 a.m. June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Morgan is now in fair condition in a New Jersey hospital.
The truck driver, charged with Vehicular Manslaughter By Operating A Vehicle Recklessly and Recklessly Causing Serious Bodily Injury, remains free on $50,000 bail. Prosecutors claim Roper went more than 24 hours without sleep before the fatal wreck. The Jonesboro, Ga., man pleaded innocent last week to the charges in the crash.
In a recent Law Talk segment on WETM-TV News at Noon, I talked about the accident and the charges faced by the truck driver.
Question: Who is held responsible when a truck driver is driving for a company?
Answer: The driver and the owner of the truck are both responsible. The driver has the responsibility of driving safely, and if he is not safe, he can be held liable.
If the truck driver works for Walmart and is operating the truck in the course of his employment, then the company is responsible, too.
In this case, there is an allegation that the driver had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. That would be a major violation of federal trucking regulations.
Federal regulations are very specific. Drivers are not supposed to operate a truck for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and after those 11 hours, they are supposed to rest for at least 10 hours. They cannot drive more than 70 hours in a week.
The truck driver is also supposed to list the hours he spends on the road in a log book in his truck. There are many log requirements, but I know from handling many truck accident cases that often the log books are incomplete, and in some cases, falsified.
Sen. Schumer is calling for tougher monitoring of truck drivers.
Drivers are trying to get in more hauls because they get paid by the number of miles they travel and so often, we see truck drivers who have broken the law.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, called for “black boxes” (electronic logging devices) in trucks yesterday so trucker hours can be monitored. He cited some startling statistics: 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 injured in accidents involving trucks, and 13 percent of serious accidents are cause by trucker fatigue.
Schumer also wants the federal Department of Transportation to study, and if necessary, increase the insurance coverage level that truck companies are required to cover so victims of accidents receive the compensation and coverage they deserve, he said.
As a lawyer who has handled many tractor trailer cases in N.Y. and PA, I strongly support Senator Schumer’s call for great safety action.
To submit a legal question you’d like answered here on one of our Ziff Law blogs, please send an email to me at [email protected]
Thanks for reading, and remember when you are sharing the road with tractor-trailers, use extreme caution.
Dakota Dickerson meets Patches, the Pioneers mascot, before going on the field to meet the Pioneers Friday night.
More than 4,000 Elmira Pioneers fans who attended opening night Friday at Dunn Field will never forget Dakota Dickerson.
Dakota, an 11-year-old boy from Gillett, Pa., is battling a rare form of brain and spine cancer and was the Ziff Law Firm’s first Hometown Hero of the Game for the 2014 season.
In the fifth inning, Dakota, a big Pioneers fan, threw a pitch amid cheers and met the Pioneers on the field. Many of Dakota’s family members and friends were in the stands.
“The fans were great, and Dakota was smiling and waving his arms to thank them,” said Ziff Law paralegal Annette Viselli Thorne, who coordinates the Hometown Heroes program each summer. “It was a great moment for Dakota and all the fans.”
Dakota Dickerson meets the Pioneers after throwing a pitch in the fifth inning of Friday night’s game.
Annette was impressed by the Pioneers and their compassion.
“God love those players. One by one they walked up to Dakota and shook his hand and wished him well,” Annette said. “They aren’t much older than Dakota and I think the reality of what Dakota is going through really hit them hard. You could tell by the looks on their faces. It was an unforgettable night.”
And to make it a perfect night, the Pioneers won, beating the Amsterdam Mohawks, 3-2, Friday night.
See news reports with video about Dakota at Dunn Field here and here.
There are many local heroes to celebrate. Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized this summer?
The Ziff Law Firm of Elmira teams up with the Pioneers to honor a Hometown Hero of the Game at every Pioneers home game. The Heroes are selected from nominations provided by Twin Tiers residents.
Those selected by the Ziff Law Firm as Hometown Heroes – and up to seven of their family members and friends – are guests of the law firm at a Pioneers game at Dunn Field. The Hometown Heroes are recognized during the game by the public-address announcer. Anyone who gives back to their community through their work, actions or volunteer efforts is eligible to become a Hometown Hero.
The Elmira Pioneers play in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League every summer. The Pioneers have 24 home games in the regular season, which concludes July 30. Dunn Field will also host the league’s All-Star Game on July 15.
Thanks for reading, and please nominate a Hometown Hero today.
The Ziff Law Firm is teaming up with the Elmira Pioneers again this summer to honor a Hometown Hero of the Game for each Pioneers home game from nominations provided by Twin Tiers residents.
Anyone who gives back to their community through their work, actions or volunteer efforts is eligible to become a Hometown Hero.
Those selected by the Ziff Law Firm as Hometown Heroes – and up to seven of their family members and friends – will be guests of the law firm at a Pioneers game at Dunn Field, where they will be seated in a specially designated box. The Hometown Hero will be recognized during the game by the public-address announcer. The Ziff Law Firm first recognized Hometown Heroes during the 2012 season.
To nominate a Hometown Hero:
Online form is here.
Email: [email protected]
Mail: 303 William St., Elmira, NY 14901
Call: (607) 733-8866 or (800) 943-3529
The Elmira Pioneers play in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, a summer league with 10 teams from across New York State. The Pioneers’ season begins June 5 in Watertown against the Rams and the first home game is 7 p.m. June 6 against the Amsterdam Mohawks at Dunn Field. The Pioneers have 24 home games in the regular season, which concludes July 30.
Dunn Field will also host the league’s All-Star Game on July 15.
The Ziff Law Firm looks forward to turning the spotlight on people making a difference in our community, said attorney Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm.
“Service to your community, whether through one’s occupation or volunteer work, is as American as baseball and apple pie, so we can’t imagine a better way to thank our Hometown Heroes,” Gee said. “The Ziff Law Firm feels privileged to sponsor this program and looks forward to meeting our heroes and sharing their stories.”
The Pioneers’ owners recently announced they are replacing the stadium’s old box seats and installing a new sound system, among other improvements, in time for opening day.
“Part of my dream with the purchase of the Elmira Pioneers was to give back to the community I was born and raised in,” said Don Lewis, co-owner of the Pioneers. “We are proud for our second year as owners to partner with the Ziff Law Firm in hosting the Hometown Heroes program at Historic Dunn Field.”
The Ziff Law Firm has saluted military veterans with its Veteran of the Game honor at each Elmira Jackals hockey game for the last five seasons at First Arena. In that time, more than 200 veterans have been applauded by Jackals fans for their service to our country.
“Through our Veterans of the Game program with the Elmira Jackals, we have been so pleased to meet and honor local veterans and give them the recognition they deserve,” Gee said. “But veterans are not the only people in the community worthy of recognition.
“There are everyday heroes in our midst, and these are the folks we’ll be recognizing this summer,” he said. “Our Hometown Heroes could be police officers or firefighters or other emergency workers, or they could be people doing other good work in the community.”
Thanks for reading, and please help us recognize the great folks in our community this summer!