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

14251290_m-846x564

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.

public-insurance-adjusters-near-you_orig

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

Police Captain Speaks on Elmira Shooting- Neighbor Reaction_14723095_ver1.0_640_360

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

Legal News You Can Use: Check Out Ziff Law’s New Summer 2018 Newsletter

Capture

maxresdefault

Adam Gee, Christina Sonsire, Jim Reed, and Mike Brown.

 

The Ziff Law Firm debuts its new – and redesigned – free newsletter this week as the Summer 2018 issue arrives in mailboxes and inboxes around the Twin Tiers. It is filled with legal news that you can use – and much more.

Our cover story explains how our popular Veteran of the Game program came home to Elmira this summer.

Then we get to the legal news:

Our lawyers write about some of the key issues they encounter in their practices as they tackle these questions:

  • Do bicyclists in New York State have to operate by the same laws as vehicles? Ziff Law managing partner and noted bicycle law expert Jim Reed educates readers.
  • Is motorcycle insurance the same as car insurance? Partner Adam Gee, a longtime motorcyclist and motorcycle law expert, has some surprising answers.
  • Why does Ziff Law partner Christina Sonsire teach for a statewide legal education organization?
  • How does Ziff Law attorney Mike Brown’s family play a role in his legal practice?

And just for fun, we profile a downtown Elmira shop, a hidden gem that is in the “upcycling” business, in our Business Spotlight.

The owner of Nutmeg Upcycling, longtime downtown business owner Rich LaVere, talked to us about his growing business and why he keeps returning downtown.

We published a short interview in the print newsletter and there is a bonus longer interview with Rich here, where he talks about the challenges facing downtown and how the city can start turning things around. He’s an optimist!

At Ziff Law, we are committed to being environmentally responsible, so if you’d like to receive our free newsletter by email, send an email to us today at [email protected] and we will send you a PDF right away – and as a bonus, add your name for an upcoming drawing for a $50 gift card to Lib’s Supper Club in Elmira.

If you’d like to receive the newsletter by mail, call (607-733-8866) or email ([email protected]) us with your name and address and we’ll send it right out.

Happy reading!

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

How To Avoid No-Fault Nightmares: Review Your Car Insurance Today

emergency

Karen Wheadon, a paralegal who works with Ziff Law Managing Partner Jim Reed, has written the following blog post about no-fault insurance coverage.

Many of our clients are victims of car crashes, and therefore, subject to the rules and regulations of no-fault insurance. Unfortunately, many of our clients struggle financially because they have inadequate no-fault coverage.

Karen Wheadon.

Karen Wheadon.

Briefly, state-required minimum no-fault insurance consists of $50,000 in coverage for the following:

  1. All necessary doctor and hospital bills and other health service expenses, payable in accordance with fee schedules established or adopted by the New York State Insurance Department.
  2. Eighty percent of lost earnings up to a maximum monthly payment of $2,000 for up to three years following the date of the crash.
  3. Up to $25 a day for a period of one year from the date of the accident for other reasonable and necessary expenses the injured person may have incurred because of an injury resulting from the accident, such as the cost of hiring a housekeeper or necessary transportation expenses to and from a health-service provider.
  4. A$2,000 death benefit, payable to the estate of a covered person, in addition to the $50,000 coverage for economic loss described above.

When shopping for car insurance, many people don’t think to invest in anything other than that basic coverage. However, additional coverage can be purchased … and can make a huge difference to someone’s life and financial stability. When we consider the growing costs of health care, $50,000 does not last long.

Here are some examples of crash victims and their no-fault insurance coverage,

Mike

Mike, like many of our clients, receives Medicare benefits. He had a serious car crash and exhausted his basic no-fault coverage. His medical bills were then submitted to Medicare for coverage and he was personally responsible for co-pays. On top of that, under federal law, Medicare (and Medicaid) are allowed to assert a lien against any third-party recovery.

What that means for Mike is that the personal injury claim/lawsuit we filed against the person responsible for causing the crash and Mike’s injuries now has a lien against it. At the time of the settlement, Mike has to pay Medicare back from his settlement. Had Mike had additional no-fault coverage, he could have avoided his bills going to Medicare and kept more of his settlement for himself.

Michelle

Michelle, injured in a car crash in 2016, had basic no-fault coverage that was paying her medical bills and was also reimbursing her for lost wages because she is unable to work. Like so many of our clients, Michelle relied on her monthly wage loss checks to pay for her basic necessities (mortgage, groceries, etc.).

Michele’s no-fault benefits were exhausted in May, leaving her with NO income at all. She has an application pending with Social Security Disability, but applicants often wait a year to hear if they are accepted or denied. If denied, the appeal process is even longer.

On top of that, Michelle’s private health insurance is through the Affordable Care Act. She has catastrophic coverage only with a $6,000 deductible. The neck surgery that was being scheduled is now on hold because she cannot afford to pay a $6,000 deductible without any income.

Obviously, Michelle would have benefited greatly from additional no-fault coverage. Her story is a great argument for universal health care because her health insurance plan is abysmal. She is a hard-working, taxpaying citizen who found herself with a disability and unable to work after a car crash. She should not have to put off medical treatment because she can’t afford her co-pay.

Opponents of universal health care argue that they don’t want the government making their medical decisions, but insurance companies already do that all the time. They arbitrarily decide a patient only needs 10 physical therapy sessions, or that they can’t have a drug prescribed by their doctor because it is too costly, or that surgery is not necessary because they have not exhausted conservative treatment options. Insurance companies base these decisions on money – their money that they would rather not pay out!

Justin

My stepson, Justin, was involved in a near-fatal car crash in 2015. He was taken from the scene of the crash by ambulance to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, and then quickly transferred to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. From there, he was life-flighted to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., where he was admitted for more than a month and underwent numerous surgeries to repair his fractured neck and re-attach a shoulder and arm.

There are a lot of miracles associated with Justin’s crash – too many to recount here. The fact that he is alive and well and now a father of two beautiful little children is sometimes more than I can believe. We are very, very blessed. But as you can imagine, the medical bills were astounding. The life-flight bill alone was $54,999, which was paid in full by his primary no-fault coverage.

Luckily, in addition to the basic no-fault coverage of $50,000, Justin had $10,000 of med-pay, $25,000 of OBEL (Optional Basic Economic Loss), and $150,000 of APIP (Additional Personal Injury Protection). He had such incredible coverage because he was the passenger of a vehicle that had more than basic coverage and he was also covered under his own policy which had even better coverage. This is far from the norm.

But even all of that coverage was very quickly exhausted, leaving a balance due to Geisinger Medical Center in excess of $1 million. This was turned over to his health insurance.

Justin was 23 years old at the time of his crash, but thankfully he was still covered by his father’s health insurance plan as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which extended medical coverage for children up to age 26. Donations from friends and family through a gofundme campaign covered the deductible, so Justin did not have to file bankruptcy because of insurmountable medical debt, as so many Americans do.

Justin’s example shows that even incredible no-fault coverage cannot adequately cover you from a catastrophic injury. But catastrophic injuries are, thankfully, rare.

The vast majority of our clients are like Michelle and Mike. They have broken bones that may or may not need surgery. Most of our clients seek medical treatment locally and don’t have multiple ambulance and life-flight bills. However, even routine injuries that require fairly routine medical treatment will quickly exhaust a basic no-fault policy.

So make the wise choice and protect yourself by asking your insurance agent about increasing your no-fault coverage. Had Michele or Mike had Justin’s maximum no-fault coverage, they would not be facing hard financial and medical decisions. We hope you won’t have to, either.

Therefore, we recommend adding Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP) of at least $75,000 and Supplementary Underinsured (SUM) Coverage of at least $250,000. The good news is that adding this additional protection does not cost much more but will give you much better protection.

If you have questions, or would like us to review your insurance policy for free, please email me at [email protected] or Jim Reed at [email protected].

Thank you for reading,

Karen Wheadon
Paralegal
Ziff Law Firm
[email protected]


NY Lawmakers Steer Motorists To Better Insurance Protection, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

car-insurance

Most New York State motorists will now be better protected by their car insurance policies — and they didn’t even have to call their agents, thanks to the lobbying efforts of lawyers across the state, who finally persuaded Albany that it needed to reform the way insurance companies operate in the state. The New York State Trial Lawyers Association was among the leaders fighting for motorists.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Driver and Family Protection Act on Dec. 18, which improves Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage for all motorists. The Senate and Assembly bills are here: S5644B and A8519A.

State lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in June to send the legislation to Cuomo’s desk. The Senate voted 62-1 and the Assembly 104-6.

This is why it is important to anyone who travels in a vehicle, not just drivers: the new law helps to protect New Yorkers who are involved in car accidents with drivers who are uninsured or underinsured.

Under the old law, an insured had to specifically request that their SUM policy limits be increased to match their liability limits.

Under the new law, an insured’s policy will automatically match the liability and SUM limits unless the insured specifically waives the increased SUM coverage by signing an opt-out form. (Why would anyone sign the form?)

I have always said SUM coverage is very important because it protects the insured and their family in the event they are involved in a crash with an uninsured/underinsured vehicle.

The automatically matching limits are great news for auto insurance consumers because the SUM coverage is the most critical component of your car insurance policy.

Here’s why: If you have an accident caused by another driver who has no or inadequate insurance, you could end up paying for your own recovery, and your medical bills could be staggering.

If you’re like most drivers, you accept the minimum levels of coverage to keep your costs down. But those low levels can get you in trouble if you have an accident, regardless of whether it was your fault.

Here’s an example: I once met with a local businessman who had $500,000 of liability coverage to protect others should he have an accident, but only the legal state minimum of $25,000 in SUM coverage to protect himself and his family in that very same accident.

Needless to say, he was shocked to learn that his insurance coverage was so deficient but happy to learn that he could add additional SUM coverage he needed for less than $10 a month.

I have met too many people who don’t learn about the need for sufficient SUM coverage until it is too late. Don’t be one of those families.

Insurance companies like to keep their customers in the dark. They do a terrible job of educating consumers and are far more interested in profits than helping their customers.

Make reviewing your car insurance policy one of your resolutions in the new year. Do it now, in fact. Make sure your insurance company follows the new law and sets your liability and SUM limits at the same amount.

If you have a question about your car insurance policy, email me at [email protected].

Thanks for reading!

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
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