DOT Worker Hurt By Trucker Who Is Accused Of Violating Move Over Law, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

WENY-TV

WENY-TV

A tractor-trailer driver is accused of violating New York State’s Move Over Law after police said his truck struck a New York State Department of Transportation vehicle, injuring a DOT employee, Wednesday morning in a work zone on State Route 17 in the town of Nichols in Tioga County, N.Y.

move-over-poster2News reports said the DOT employee, who police said was seriously injured, was airlifted to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. Police did not identify the DOT employee or release any other information about the extent of the DOT employee’s injuries.

The truck driver, Lawrence Faucett, 37, of Ulster, PA, was ticketed for Failure To Move Over and Moving From Lane Unsafely.

The Tioga County, N.Y., Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Owego Fire Department, New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, New York State DOT, and Guthrie Air Medical.

The NY Move Over Law requires cars to move over and slow down, if they can safely do so, for police, firefighters, ambulance workers, tow-truck drivers and other personnel as they work at crash scenes. Motorists are similarly required to move when construction and maintenance vehicles are stopped alongside roads – this includes NYS Department of TRansportation Vehicles who care for our highways.

The law, first enacted in 2011, was expanded in July 2016 to include volunteer firefighter and ambulance workers. In November 2016, sanitation vehicles, such as garbage and recycling trucks, were also added.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 100,000 people have been ticketed for failing to move over since 2011, including more than 12,000 in 2018.

The penalty for violating the Move Over Law is a fine of up to $150, or jail time of up to 15 days, or both. It also counts for two points on a driver’s license. A second offense within 18 months of the first one could double the amount of the fine, pushing it up to $300. A third offense in 18 months could lead to a fine of up to $450.

There are also steep state surcharges on moving violations: $88 or $93 upon conviction for violating New York’s Move Over Law, and there’s an impact on vehicle insurance: Studies confirm that being convicted of a moving violation can result in a rate increase of up to 20 percent, sometimes more.

The Move Over Law is important – it protects vulnerable people who are forced to work at the edges of roadways where cars, trucks and tractor trailers are flying by mere feet away.  Because the protected people are busy doing their job, they can’t pay as much attention to traffic as they would like.  When people violate the move over law, the results can be tragic, and injuries are certain to be very serious because of the speed of the moving vehicles.

The Move Over Law is a common sense solution to give the protected workers room to do their jobs, so move over, slow down, and make sure everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading,

Adam M. Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866

 

 


For Pedestrians, All Crossings Are Danger Zones, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Attorney

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A new national study of pedestrian safety has reported just how unsafe it is to be a pedestrian in 2019.

According to “Dangerous By Design 2019,” published by Smart Growth America, the number of people struck and killed while walking has increased by 35 percent in the last decade.

I am handling many more pedestrian injury cases than ever, which I attribute to more people driving distracted. I often notice when I am stopped at red lights that drivers immediately grab their phones and are texting. They often start rolling forward as they are finishing texts and clearly aren’t paying attention to pedestrians who may still be crossing in front of them.

The report smart growrth coversays drivers struck and killed 49,340 people across the country who were walking on streets between 2008 and 2017. As the authors pointed out, that’s more than 13 people dying every day. One pedestrian dies every hour and 46 minutes every month.

“Dangerous by Design 2019” reports that overall fatal traffic crashes fell slightly in 2017, but 2016 and 2017, the last two years for which there are data, were the most deadly years for walkers killed by drivers since 1990.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that 5,977 pedestrians were killed nationwide in 2017. In 2016, there were 5,987 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes, a 9 percent increase from the 5,495 pedestrian fatalities in 2016. This is the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1990.

Over a 10-year period starting in 2008, Florida appeared to be the most dangerous state for pedestrians, according to federal crash statistics. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area was the most dangerous in the country, with 656 fatalities in 10 years. Florida had eight of the top 10 most dangerous regions.

In 2016, California led the nation in pedestrian fatalities with 867. Florida had the second-most with 652, while New York (304) and Pennsylvania (169) had far fewer fatalities.

Here are some chilling statistics from a 2016 study by the NHTSA, its most recent data:

  • In 2016, pedestrian deaths accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities.
  • Twenty-six percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred from 6 to 8:59 p.m. in 2016.
  • In 2016, one-fifth (20 percent) of the children 14 and younger killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
  • More than two-thirds (70 percent) of the pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were men in 2016.
  • Alcohol involvement — for the driver and/or the pedestrian — was reported in 48 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2016.
  • In 2016, 90 percent of the pedestrians killed were killed in single-vehicle traffic crashes.
  • One in five pedestrians killed in 2016 were struck in crashes that involved hit-and-run drivers.

In New York State, from 2012 to 2016, pedestrian fatalities ranged from a high of 336 in 2013 to a low of 264 in 2014. In that same time period, injuries ranged from a high of 16,278 in 2013 to a low of 13,413 in 2015.

In Pennsylvania, from 2013 to 2017, pedestrian fatalities ranged from a high of 172 in 2016 to a low of 150 in 2017. In crashes involving pedestrians from 2013 to 2017, the high was 4,375 crashes in 2013 and the lows were 4,001 in 2014 and 2015.

My advice to drivers: Put the phone down, even at stop signs and red lights – it’s the law! Watch for pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, motorcyclists, skateboarders, and more. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
My advice to pedestrians: Assume a motorist does not see you until you at least make eye contact. If you’re not sure that a driver will wait for you even after eye contact, signal the driver to be sure it is safe to cross. Never assume just because they see you that they will wait. Also, don’t be a distracted or drunk walker. Those are mistakes that can get you killed.
.

Thanks for reading,

Adam

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


Limo Companies, As Expected, Challenge Proposed Stretch Limo Crackdown, But Cuomo Plan Makes Sense

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ban on remanufactured limousines – like the one in October’s fatal crash in Schoharie County that killed 20 people – would be a good step toward ensuring safer limo experiences across New York State. Many Twin Tiers residents use them for weddings, proms, and Wine Country tours, among other occasions, so it’s time to stop their use for now and consider if we they can be made safer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Of course, in Albany, the lobbyists – limo industry trade groups – are putting pressure on state lawmakers to oppose the ban, which claims it is already struggling with high taxes and competition from ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.

Cuomo is proposing a good look at the limo industry, but there are plenty of other limo and bus choices beyond the remanufactured or stretch limos. Many of the stretch limos are remanufactured professionally and safer than the ones remade inexpensively at the garage down the street.

The limo involved in the deadly Oct. 6 crash is accused of circumventing state Department of Transportation inspections and oversight.

When limo company owners stretch the body, do they take into account the other systems, like the brakes, that likely need to be enhanced for the heavier load?

One of the most important parts of Cuomo’s proposal is ending the seat-belt exception for limos, buses, taxis, and other multi-person vehicles, including school buses. I wouldn’t get into a stretch limo with 15 other people unless we all had seat belts available.

According to news reports, in addition to an outright ban on stretched limousines, Cuomo’s proposals would:

  • Make it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker, or remove an “out of service” sticker placed by a DOT inspector from a vehicle without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service.
  • Create new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker.
  • Require mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection.
  • Increase the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT “operating authority” or operating a vehicle without such authority.
  • Prohibit U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state.
  • Establish stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including “an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT Commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
  • Subject multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle.

Cuomo also wants to require drivers to hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for-hire vehicle with eight or more passengers so the drivers would hopefully receive more training and would be more closely regulated.

Some limo company owners are urging state lawmakers to better enforce the existing laws and not ban stretch limos.

“The industry is dead if you ban all (stretch) limos,” Fred Visconti, owner of Visconti Limousines in Newburgh, told the news media. “The answer is to better enforce the regulations we already have, and make companies follow the engineering standards we already have.”

Other limo company owners have said bad owners are dragging down the owners who obey the state laws already in place. Some support monthly inspections and tighter regulations, but not an outright ban.

The president of the Limousine, Bus, Taxi Operators of Upstate New York, Kevin Barwell, said he’s not sure a ban will resolve the problems with stretch limos.

“I think personally the state has a tendency to overreact,” Barwell, the owner of Giorgio’s Limousine Service in Buffalo, told the news media. “Obviously, our members are very upset. This is their livelihood.”

Barwell also has proposed a compromise that would not ban stretch limos outright but limit their size to double the original seating capacity or limit ownership to just 10 years. He said the October crash was not related to how the vehicle was re-manufactured. “This is an unfair action.”

Cuomo, however, said the deadly October crash was a shock to the state and it needs to act.

“We are advancing reforms that will give aggressive new powers that will allow authorities to take dangerous vehicles off the roads without delay, hold unscrupulous businesses accountable, and increase public safety in every corner of New York.”

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


What Twin Tiers Drivers Need To Know About Roundabout Safety

main photo

Roundabouts have arrived in the Twin Tiers, and the circular intersections have confused many drivers.

Most drivers who rarely see roundabouts have had to learn to (1) slow down as they approach and be ready to yield, and (2), yield to traffic already in the roundabout as they prepare enter.

radialMotorists will find roundabouts on state Route 13 in Horseheads, at Franklin Street and Old Ithaca Road, and a new one in Newfield on Route 13. Many Chemung County-to-Ithaca commuters have learned to navigate roundabouts because they are a daily fact of life.

There are also two small roundabouts on Maple Avenue on Elmira’s Southside, and soon, the city of Elmira will have a high-profile roundabout on North Main Street just south of Elmira College, one of the high traffic areas in the city. The city is still lining up funding for construction of that roundabout after initial bids came in too high.

In this era of aggressive driving, it’s hard to get motorists to slow down and yield, so as we see more roundabouts, we could see more crashes.

The biggest lesson for Twin Tiers drivers? As you approach a roundabout, be prepared to yield to vehicles already in the roundabout when you arrive.

Many motorists shake their heads and argue that roundabouts aren’t needed, that traffic lights and stop signs work just fine, but transportation and highway safety officials say they are safer. Especially for left-turning traffic.

Andy Avery (WETM)

Andy Avery (WETM)

Andy Avery, the commissioner of public works for Chemung County, knows why roundabouts make sense for the Twin Tiers. Roundabouts, for one, have fewer conflict points in comparison with conventional intersections, he said.

“The potential for hazardous conflicts, such as right-angle and left-turn head-on crashes, is eliminated with roundabout use,” he said. “Additionally, roundabouts eliminate the vast majority of 90-degree and head-on crashes. Crashes are low speed and at an angle, generally reducing severity and damage.  Roundabouts eliminate most stopping situations for vehicles, increasing efficiency of the intersection, and reducing pollution caused by vehicle idling.”

Roundabouts are a relatively new way of designing intersections in our area, Avery said, so confusion and frustration are common reactions for motorists new to roundabouts.

“Drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts should take the time to read the signage and slow down,” he said. “The biggest challenge for drivers has been the realization that the perceived main route doesn’t always have the right of way.”

So, for example, if you are approaching a roundabout on Route 13, that doesn’t mean you have the right of way. If someone is in the roundabout as you approach, you must yield to them.

The roundabout is the best option for the North Main Street project in Elmira, Avery said.

“The roundabout will solve an oversized, multi-approach intersection (with a crash history) by creating a logical and safer progression through the intersection,” he said “It will reduce 90-degree crashes, lower speeds, and provide for easier access from the side streets.”

According to statistics reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in the U.S. Department of Transportation, roundabouts result in:

  • More than 90 percent reduction in fatalities.
  • 76 percent reduction in injuries.
  • 35 percent reduction in all crashes.
  • Safer intersections for pedestrians because of the slower traffic.

Also from the FHWA:

“Roundabouts can provide lasting benefits and value in many ways. They are often safer, more efficient, less costly and more aesthetically appealing than conventional intersection designs. … The FHWA Office of Safety identified roundabouts as a Proven Safety Countermeasure because of their ability to substantially reduce the types of crashes that result in injury or loss of life. Roundabouts are designed to improve safety for all users, including pedestrians and bicycles.

“Most significantly, roundabouts REDUCE the types of crashes where people are seriously hurt or killed by 78 percent to 82 percent when compared with conventional stop-controlled and signalized intersections.”

Learn more about roundabouts from the FHWA, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (includes a great Q&A).

Also download this PDF from FHWA: Safety Aspects of Roundabouts.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Danger Zones: Our Unsafe Roads and What You Can Do To Be Safer

car-accidents-on-the-rise-nationwide_0The latest motor-vehicle crash statistics from around the world down to the counties in the Twin Tiers remain grim, but there are a few bright spots in New York and Pennsylvania.

The number of traffic-related deaths worldwide reached a high of 1.35 million in 2016, according to news reports about the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Capture1Although the report points out that progress has been made in certain areas, such as legislation, it has not happened quickly enough to meet the UN’s goals to halve road traffic deaths between 2016 and 2020.

Closer to home, New York and Pennsylvania roadway statistics continue to show how dangerous our roads are. And with the winter months ahead of us, dangers grow on our roads.

The numbers are eye-opening.

From the latest New York State report,
for the years 2012-2014:

On average there were 1,098 deaths each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, killing 5.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 65 and older followed by those 20 to 24 years old.

The rate of deaths due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from a high of 8.4 per 100,000 residents in 2001 to a low of 4.9 in 2014.

On average, there were 12,093 hospitalizations each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, hospitalizing 61.5 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by those 65 and older.

41LFZQwEf1LThe rate of hospitalizations due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries has decreased from a high of 87.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2002 to 57.0 in 2014.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2017 national crash overview

Early 2018 national crash overview estimate

NY crash data summary 2014

PA 2017 crash statistics overview

On average. there were 136,913 emergency department (ED) visits each year due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, requiring the treatment of 696.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for females and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by ages 15 to 19.

The rate of ED visits due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from 778.7 ED visits per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2005 to 685.8 in 2008. They increased to 731.0 in 2010, followed by a decrease until 2013 when the rate increased to 737.0. In 2014, the rate decreased to 683.1.

In Pennsylvania:

In 2017, there were 128,188 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,137 people and injured another 80,612 people. To add some perspective, the 2017 total of reportable traffic crashes is the twelfth lowest total since 1950, when 113,748 crashes were reported.

In 2016, there were approximately 101.1 billion vehicle-miles of travel on Pennsylvania’s roads and highways. The 2017 fatality rate of 1.12 fatalities per hundred million vehicle-miles of travel was the lowest ever recorded in Pennsylvania since the department started keeping records of this in 1935.

Here are the latest crash results available by counties in New York and Pennsylvania.

My observations:

The two biggest causes of collisions I have been seeing lately are distracted driving resulting in rear-end collisions and driving too fast for conditions (usually in snow but sometimes in rain).

One other big cause is left-turning cars that fail to yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles.

My best advice, based on more than 30 years of representing injured clients in crash cases:

  • Slow down this winter, because you never know when you will hit ice or frozen debris in roadways.
  • Turn the phone off until you are stopped or reach your destination. No peeking at traffic lights.
  • Beware of vehicles turning left or planning to turn left. Some people never turn their turn signal on, and some do but either don’t see you approaching or think they can make the turn before you are in the intersection. Approach intersections with extra caution because everyone seems to be in a hurry and in no mood to wait.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


Winter Strikes Early … Are You Really Ready? Legal Tips for Winter Safety

Capture1Winter arrived way too early in the Twin Tiers.

Our mid-November snowstorm has mostly melted, but it’s not something most of us will forget any time soon. We jumped from raking leaves to shoveling and blowing wet, heavy snow (full of leaves) in 24 hours.

So before the next storm strikes, here are some things Twin Tiers motorists and property owners need to remember as we head into another unpredictable Northeast winter.

Cleaning up the snow: I recently appeared on WENY-TV’s special report, “Winter Ready 2018,” with the Horseheads TV station’s meteorologists to talk about snow removal. I am always amazed at the number of property owners who don’t clean their sidewalks, driveways, and porches within 12 to 24 hours after a snowfall.

In many cases, if someone falls on their property because the sidewalk or driveway is not cleaned sufficiently in a timely fashion, the property owner could be held liable. Most communities have laws that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice within a reasonable amount of time after a snowfall or ice storm.

So keep your shovel and salt handy, and if possible, keep your snow blower full of gas and ready to go. If you are a renter, does your landlord handle snow removal or have they delegated that responsibility to you? Be sure to review your lease closely about sidewalk and driveway responsibility.

You can watch my WENY segment here.

 

 

About that “move over law” in New York State: Many of us have learned to slow down and move over to another lane when we encounter emergency responders on our four-lane highways, but did you know it’s also the law to do it when you are driving 30 mph or so in a city, town or village? I see people ignoring emergency lights all the time when they’re going slower speeds.

If you did not watch the video above of the officer talking about the importance of the move over law — he survived being struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop — then you should watch it now before reading any more.

move-overHere is another overlooked fact about the law: We all know we are supposed to slow down and pull over safely or stop for emergency vehicles such as police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances, but we are also supposed to provide a slow and safe buffer zone around other non-emergency vehicles such as snow plows, tow trucks, sanitation trucks, and road construction crews.

I strongly recommend you read the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1144-a.

If an officer or trooper pulls you over for violating this law, it’s a moving violation that is punishable by two points on your license and a fine of $275. If you’re pulled over for that violation, you might also see some additional charges: Failure to Yield the Right of Way (three points), Improper Passing (three points), Unsafe Lane Change (three points), Reckless Driving (five points), and Speeding (three to 11 points depending on the speed).

So if you see a vehicle with flashing amber, red or blue lights, slow down and decide carefully how you can get around them for your safety, theirs, and everyone else. On a two-lane road, moving over to the other lane may not be a safe move. You may have to stop and move over slowly, so be prepared to slow down and stop.

Also, about that snow on your car: If you have a buildup of snow and ice on your vehicle, it could pose a clear and present danger to vehicles behind you and can illegally obstruct your visibility out of your vehicle. You could be ticketed and face a civil lawsuit because you failed to take reasonable steps to make sure you could see safely.

Bottom line: Our Twin Tiers winters are unpredictable, so my best advice is always to slow down and avoid distractions (your phone!) when driving, keep your sidewalk and driveway clear, clean that snow off your vehicle, and move over for all emergency vehicles.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Deer Season Makes Twin Tiers Roads More Dangerous This Fall, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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It’s deer season for hunters – and drivers – this fall.

Hunting seasons are underway in New York and Pennsylvania, so that means deer collisions on Twin Tiers roads are going to skyrocket. It’s also mating season for deer, so they are more restless and your chances of hitting a deer are much higher this time of year. Remember that dusk and dawn are the most dangerous deer-related collision times for motorists.

So be prepared.

Traffic-Signs-RM213-lgYour first step, in addition to being more watchful on area roads, is checking your car insurance policy to make sure you are covered sufficiently in case of an accident. Deer collisions are covered under the comprehensive section of your policy, which protects you against acts of God or nature.

Although we call it a deer collision – it is not covered under your insurance policy’s collision coverage, which protects you if you strike a fixed object or another vehicle. For example, your collision coverage would likely cover you if you swerve to miss a deer and strike a guardrail or a tree.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay a deductible on your comprehensive and collision coverage. You may also want to consider rental coverage so you do not have to pay out pocket for a rental car or be left without a vehicle in the event yours is inoperable after a deer collision.

If you are injured in the collision, your medical bills and lost wages will be covered under no-fault insurance.

It’s also important to check your liability coverage. Many drivers and passengers are injured in deer-related crashes because drivers swerve to miss the deer and strike other vehicles or fixed objects, such as a tree or guardrail. In these instances, an injured passenger or other motorist may bring a claim against you for their pain and suffering.

Therefore, it is very important to heed the advice below to keep you and your loved ones safe and free from liability.

If you strike a deer …

Mike Brown.

Michael Brown.

Move your vehicle to a safe place. If possible, pull over to the side of the road, and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.

Call the police if there are injuries to you or passengers, or the deer is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury or property damage, you may need to fill out an official report. This report also can prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

Document, document, document. Write detailed notes about what happened and be as specific as possible. Shoot photographs of the roadway, your surroundings, damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you or your passengers sustained if it is safe. If witnesses stop, take down their account of what occurred and get their contact information.

Stay away from the animal. A frightened, wounded deer could use its powerful legs and sharp hooves to harm you.

Contact your insurance agent. The sooner you report damage or injuries, the sooner your agent can file and process your claim.

Don’t assume your vehicle is safe to drive. Double-check that your car can be driven after colliding with a deer. Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.

Consumer Reports offers the following tips to help you avoid striking deer this fall:

Slow down. Watch for deer especially around dawn and between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m., when they’re most active.

Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where animals are likely to travel. If you travel the same route to and from work every day, you may find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see the animals.

Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down. At night when traffic permits, put on your high beams for improved visibility.

Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Instead, just slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds for surviving an accident are better when hitting an animal than hitting another car.

Assume they have friends. The “where there’s one, there’s usually more” often holds true. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.

Don’t rely on deer whistles. Some drivers put these devices on their front bumpers to scare off animals, but animal behavior is unpredictable, even if you use one of these.

Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 60 percent of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing their seat belts.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Brown, Esq.
NY Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
[email protected]
Office: (607) 733-8866
Web: www.zifflaw.com


After Deadly Limo Crash, It’s Time To Review YOUR Vehicle Insurance, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

Capture2The crash of the stretch limousine last weekend in Schoharie, N.Y., that killed 20 people has left a lot of people in the Twin Tiers shaken. At some point in our lives, many of us have hopped aboard a limo for happy events like a wine tour or a wedding or a birthday party. Most of us were having so much fun with family and friends and co-workers that the thought of a crash never occurred to us. Or we have been passengers with another driver with insufficient insurance to protect their passengers in case of a crash.

But during this week of grim news, as the operator of the Schoharie limo company was charged with criminally negligent homicide, I want to provide something positive that Twin Tiers motorists can do to protect themselves. You’ll need your current car insurance policy.

Here’s why: Some people probably think that getting in a limo, there must be at least $1 million in coverage.  Unfortunately, that simply is not true in most cases.  In New York State, owners of stretch limos are not required to have much insurance. A limo that can hold up to 20 people is only required to have a total of $150,000 of coverage to cover everyone in that limo in the event of a fatal crash.

So in the Schoharie crash, the families of the 20 people killed the crash, in some cases with small children, may only be able to recover $7,500 per person from the insurance company assuming the limo company had the state-required minimum coverage.

What the state requires is ridiculously low but the one thing Twin Tiers residents can do to protect themselves and their families is make sure they are protected on THEIR car insurance.

On your insurance policy, there is a section called Supplemental Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage.

You should make sure you have at least $250,000 of SUM coverage in your vehicle insurance policy that would come from your own insurance company to protect your family in the event of your injury or death in your vehicle or someone else’s vehicle (for instance, if you were in a limo).

So please check your policy and make sure you have $250,000 in SUM coverage. In the Schoharie crash, SUM coverage would at least offer some additional money to compensate the grieving families and help provide for the children who lost a parent or parents.

Be sure to watch this week’s Law Talk, where I urged WETM viewers to check their insurance policies.

Here is the state law on insurance and more information I have written on SUM coverage here and here.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Beware of Insurance Adjusters! How to Navigate Your Insurance After a Car Crash

How-an-Insurance-Adjuster-Works-to-Limit-Your-Settlement

If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably talked on the phone or in person shortly after the collision with an adjuster from your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company. It’s a confusing time, often with police and ambulances and many other concerns in addition to your car insurance.

But if you have been in a crash, you’ll have to deal with insurance adjusters. They usually appear to be nice people, soothing and sympathetic. They are trying to make you think they are Here To Help You. They reassure you that they are recording your statement about the crash to get your version of events right away, and they’ll process your claim faster this way.

But before you get swept up in the frantic moments after a crash, remember this about insurance adjusters: They’re not your friends. They are doing their job, and that’s to save the insurance company as much money as possible on your crash.

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Here are some great points to remember about insurance adjusters and recorded victim statements:

  • Most crash victims just want to do the right thing and honestly record what happened in their crash when meeting with an insurance adjuster. But when the recorder is running, many crash victims misstate the facts, ramble, and make incorrect assumptions that will hurt them in the long run.
  • They are recording your statement in hopes that once you get talking, you’ll make a mistake they can use later against you in a trial, deny your claim or pay you less money.
  • Most people are not prepared to be questioned by a trained investigator, so it’s best to decline the adjuster’s request for a recorded interview or statement. Once that red light is on on the recorder, you will forget things, or remember something incorrectly, or misspeak in some other way. It happens to everyone in a high-pressure situation. Of course, the adjuster will make it sound like a rejection makes you act like you have something to hide. Don’t fall for that line. Just politely decline and end the discussion. Get a lawyer and be prepared professionally for your statement.
  • If you want to talk to the adjuster, ask to schedule a follow-up call for the statement and take time to read the police report, revisit the crash scene, review the damage to your car, and read any medical records you can obtain. Call witnesses and review the evidence carefully. Finally, be sure to review your insurance policy.

Set some rules for yourself for the meeting with the adjuster:

  • Request that the adjuster take notes and not record your meeting, unless your insurance carrier required it in your contract.
  • Be honest but brief.
  • Focus on each question, briefly answer it, and don’t ramble.
  • Do not volunteer information.
  • Only explain when asked to do so, and do it briefly.
  • If you don’t understand a question, don’t answer it.
  • When it comes to distances and amounts and speeds and items like that, don’t guess or make assumptions.
  • You can’t remember everything. If you’re not sure about something, say you are unsure.
  • Don’t be bullied into answering questions.
  • No absolute words like “never” and “always”.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Never guess. If your answer is a guess, say you can’t answer the question.
  • Ask for a transcribed copy of your recorded statement and review it for accuracy.
  • Memories of collisions get jumbled. Don’t easily admit wrongdoing if you do not believe you were at fault.
  • Bring a witness when you speak to the adjuster.
  • Take notes of questions asked of you by the adjuster.
  • Do not sign anything unless an attorney on your behalf has reviewed it.

If you’re a crash victim and you’re concerned about dealing with insurance companies, contact the Ziff Law Firm to see how we can help you by calling (607) 733-8866 or emailing [email protected].

Be well and drive safely,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Many thanks to the lawyers at the Hepworth Holzer law firm in Boise, Idaho, who contributed to these tips.


When It Comes To Buying Car Insurance, Shop Local, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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This column was originally published in The Odessa File.

It’s not easy to convince people to invest more money in their car insurance.

I often meet people, and represent clients, who are underinsured, and when I advise them to budget more money for car insurance, I am sure that some wonder, “Why does he want the insurance companies to make more money?”

I represent injured people; I’m not a salesman for insurance companies. I don’t want you to give an extra penny to the insurance companies that you don’t have to, but the reality is, most people are underinsured — and being underinsured can be financially devastating. You need to have enough insurance to adequately protect yourself and your family.

But how do you decide what is enough insurance coverage? That’s the tough question, and the answer depends upon your unique circumstances: your income, your assets, the number of dependents, your health insurance coverage, and so on.

R1-1_MOD__34542.1522940971Because there are so many factors at play, my best advice is to consult an experienced, LOCAL insurance agent. Do NOT buy your insurance online or on the phone. Take the time to sit down face-to-face with an agent who can ask you the relevant questions and who can answer your questions. There are many excellent insurance agents in our area, so ask around and see who your friends and neighbors recommend. You are looking for an agent who will take the time to get to know you and your needs.

I know that the last thing anyone wants to do is spend a lot of time shopping for insurance, and it’s very tempting to just buy the cheapest insurance you can find online but the reality is that, no matter what, you are going to be spending a lot of money insuring your vehicle and home, so it’s important that you spend your money wisely to make sure you get the coverage you need. Take the time to do this important job of buying insurance correctly.

And as an absolute baseline for all New Yorkers, I recommend that you have at least $250,000 in Liability and Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage. When a single helicopter flight to the hospital can cost $38,000 (I kid you not!) and a single day in the ICU more than $20,000, anything less in coverage is simply not enough.

Although I appreciate that my $250,000 recommendation is more than the $25,000 New York minimum, I would point out that this minimum coverage has not been increased in over 30 years while medical costs have skyrocketed. I think it’s ridiculous and financially foolhardy that state legislators in Albany have not increased the minimum limits, but regardless, you have the power to do the smart thing by buying enough coverage to protect you and your family. Better safe than sorry.

So get out your current policy and review your SUM and Liability limits. If you have a question about your car insurance policy, email me at [email protected] I will provide a free evaluation.

Be well and drive safely,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com