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

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

Police Investigate After Pedestrian Struck By Vehicle In Town Of Chemung, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

emergency

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle Tuesday evening in the town of Chemung, and the New York State Police are investigating, according to Twin Tiers news reports.

Emergency responders were called to county Route 60 near Tomasso’s at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday for reports of an injured pedestrian. Tomasso’s is a restaurant and golf course.

According to one news report, the person struck by the vehicle received CPR on the scene. It was not clear if the pedestrian was transported to a hospital.

State police declined to release any other information at midday Wednesday.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.  Our thoughts are with the pedestrian, and we hope to hear good news concerning his or her condition soon.

UPDATE – local media is now reporting that the collision occurred at approximately 9:15 PM on July 17, 2018.  It is also reported that the pedestrian involved in this collision is a 15 year old girl who was walking home with her father, and that emergency crews were performing CPR on the girl at the scene.  More information is expected to be released later today.

UPDATE #2 – We are very sad to report that pedestrian has died.  15 year old Xanadu Rumsey was pronounced dead at the Robert Packer Hospital after being struck from behind by a vehicle.  It is reported that this was a hit and run collision, and the police continue to investigate and search for the driver involved.  If you have any information concerning this collision, please contact the NY State Police at 607-739-8797.

Thank you for reading,

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

 

 

 


Elmira Seeks Safer Streets With New Transportation Plan

Elmira City Hall.

Elmira City Hall.

Our streets could soon be getting safer in the city of Elmira and Chemung County.

That’s because the city of Elmira and town of Southport are among the communities that have taken positive steps forward recently in adopting Complete Streets policies and designs in hopes of making our streets safer for bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians as well as improving traffic flow.

Nicolette Wagoner.

Nicolette Wagoner.

Elmira City Council voted unanimously recently to adopt the program, which is in compliance with state law and the state Department of Transportation guidelines. According to a 2011 state law, state, county, and local agencies must consider all users’ convenience and mobility, not just the needs of motorists, when planning transportation projects that receive state and federal money. The Southport Town Board had previously approved it.

Chemung County Planning Commissioner Nicolette Wagoner and county Public Works Commissioner Andy Avery, who wrote the proposal that was approved by Elmira council members, showed real vision for a safer future for all people in drafting and supporting this policy.

Andy Avery.

Andy Avery.

Complete Streets, adopted as law in New York State, targets the improvement of transportation options in all communities for residents of all ages and abilities. That means all street construction and reconstruction projects need to be accessible to people with disabilities and safe for everyone, regardless of the method of transportation.

Complete Streets is the work of Smart Growth America, founded in 2000, to help communities plan smarter and safer development and today is a leading advocate for federal programs that support neighborhood development.

According to Smart Growth America, Complete Streets:

  • Improves safety while incomplete streets put people at risk.
  • Promotes good health while incomplete streets restrict physical activity.
  • Makes for a good ride on mass transit while incomplete streets are a barrier for riders and good service.
  • Improves mobility for older Americans while incomplete streets are a problem for older Americans.
  • Helps people with disabilities while incomplete streets impede livability.
  • Stimulates the local economy by steering people to mass transit, which pays a “green dividend,” allowing residents to spend their money in other ways in the community. This happens in cities of all sizes.
  • Is equitable streets for everyone, regardless of age, ability, ethnicity, income or travel mode, while incomplete streets are dangerous, especially in low-income communities that are disproportionatey affected by unsafe streets. In counties where more than 20 percent of households have incomes below the federal poverty line, the pedestrian fatality rate is 80 percent higher than the national average, the report says.
  • Helps keep kids save while incomplete streets are a barrier for children: fewer children riding bikes to school and increased childhood obesity rates are among the outcomes.
  • Fights climate change instead of incomplete streets hampering climate change strategies. We need more people walking, riding bikes, and taking mass transit to work and fewer motorists driving their own cars as carbon emissions continue to soar.

Wagoner, the county planning commissioner, told the Star-Gazette that the program isn’t a mandate but it encourages communities to look at all users when planning street projects.

“This shows Elmira cares about all modes of transportation, making roads safe for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists,” she said. “It’s not a requirement but it’s a nice thing to do, and it helps us when we fill out applications for grant funding. For the federal aid we receive, DOT requires you do Complete Streets.”

In the past, Wagoner said, cities were designed with wider streets to favor automobiles. “We have to fix the mistakes that were made 40 years ago. We’re talking about making crossing distances shorter, talking about where to put crosswalks. I think adding on-street parking will show traffic down.”

She pointed to East Water Street, from Madison Avenue east to the Interstate 86 exit ramp, as an example of a street with little or no on-street parking. Because of the wider street and few if any parked cars, motorists tend to go faster. More parkers will slow drivers.

Many streetscape improvements, including work toward reopening the Lake Street Bridge for pedestrians only, are in the planning stages for 2019 and 2020 in Elmira, she said.

“We want to see pedestrian and bicycle accidents go to zero,” she told the Star-Gazette. “Elmira is flat. It should be very walkable.”

Thanks for 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

 


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

 

 


Before Your Holiday Road Trip, Review The Most Common Causes Of Car Accidents — And Be Prepared For A Safe Trip!

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Patrick Allan recently wrote a timely story for LifeHacker about vehicle accidents – and what to look out for this holiday season (and any other time) – as you race about to your next distracted destination.

To get there safely, take a deep breath when you hop in the car and remember what Patrick wrote in “The Most Common Cause of Car Crashes.” Yes, his story is a reminder for drivers 365 days a year.

He suggests some basic safety procedures in addition to getting some sleep before driving – wear your seat belt, don’t drive while intoxicated, and avoid using your phone while driving. All good advice we should already be listening to every day.

Patrick also cites Steve Casner, a safety expert and author of “Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds,” who used data collected for the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey for the U.S. Department of Transportation, to come up with  a post for Slate on the types of accidents that happen the most:

  • Falling asleep at the wheel: About 7 percent of all accidents and 21 percent of fatal crashes. Check out Patrick’s previous blog post about drowsy drivers for more information about just how dangerous it is, and how much sleep is ideal. (Hint: it’s NOT five hours a night.)
  • Loss of vehicle control: Accounts for 11 percent of all crashes. Always keep other driving variables in mind. Consider the weather, your vehicle’s maintenance, and other drivers.
  • Blind left turns: Accounts for 12 percent of all crashes. If you can’t see around that bus, don’t risk driving out into the intersection. Always stop and wait until you know the coast is clear.
  • Rear-enders: Accounts for 23 percent to 30 percent of all crashes. Pay attention to the car in front of you, watch for those brake lights, and always give yourself plenty of space to stop if you need to.
  • Not staying in your lane: Accounts for roughly 30 percent of all crashes. It doesn’t take much for a driver to drift out of their lane and cause a serious accident.

The rest of the causes involve things like rolling right on red lights, which Casner says accounts for 6 percent of all pedestrian fatalities – but 21 percent of those fatalities are children.

The survey also says about 36 percent of all “pre-crash events” occurred while drivers were turning or crossing at intersections. That’s why it’s critical that you always come to a complete stop, and then check carefully for pedestrians and vehicles, before turning or driving through.

Bottom line: Keep your eyes open after a good night’s sleep. Keep your eyes on the road, not your phone or satellite radio or anything else. Watch for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, children, anything or anyone who is moving around you.

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

How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take? Answers from a NY & PA Car Accident Lawyer

Don't let insurance adjusters mislead you about the comparative negligence rule in New York State.

Immediately seek medical assistance and consult an attorney after a car accident.

Jessica Whitton, a freelance writer and paralegal, has written a good summary of the major steps in a personal injury lawsuit.

Before I summarize what she wrote, I want to point out one important factor:

Time is of the essence in IMMEDIATELY consulting a lawyer. There are many insurance companies who are training their employees to immediately contact an injured person with hopes that the can get that injured person to sign off on their claims before that person has a chance to learn the true severity of their injuries or the full extent of their possible claims.

Many times, these claims adjusters will mislead the vulnerable injured person, and accordingly, it is critically important that an injured person hire a lawyer to protect their interests.

Please remember the time for bringing a negligence claim in New York state is three years and two years in Pennsylvania.

Here is Jessica’s step-by-step approach to understanding the typical steps in a personal-injury lawsuit:

  • Seek Medical Attention: Immediately. Go to your doctor or closest hospital and get checked out. Immediately. As Jessica points out, it will give you an edge if your insurance company tries to prove that there was no injury and an immediate hospital visit shows the jury you were hurt.
  • Talk To A Lawyer: Call or email me if you have an accident, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: (607) 733-8866 or [email protected].  If I am not immediately available, I will get back to you ASAP.
  • Commencement Of Investigations: Starts immediately after your lawyer agrees to accept your case. Make sure to provide all pertinent information and be honest about the accident and your medical condition to avoid surprises in the courtroom.
  • Attorney Files An Insurance Claim: Jessica correctly writes that most personal injury cases get settled out of court but to be safe and well-prepared, at ZiffLaw we assume every case will go to trial. We have learned that if you are ready to go to trial, you have substantial leverage to achieve the best results for our clients.  In car accident cases, we submit a comprehensive settlement package to the at-fault driver’s insurance company detailing important information about your claim:  your injuries, lost wages, medical treatment, and any permanent limitations.
  • Attorney Files A Lawsuit: If the insurance company does not settle your claim out of court, your attorney may see no other option than to file a lawsuit.
  • Discovery: The plaintiff and defendant investigate one another using the documents and evidence submitted.
  • Mediation: Following the completion of discovery and before trial, the parties may agree to mediate the case with a trained mediator who attempts to broker a mutually acceptable settlement.
  • Trial: All parties are present as the jury hears the evidence in the case. Most car crash trials are relatively short– 3-4 days– but some more complex cases can take weeks or even months.

At ZiffLaw, we do everything in our power to keep our cases moving as quickly as possible.  With that said, we will not rush any case as we know achieving maximum recovery for our clients often requires us to do things the hard way, not the easy and fast way.  We truly believe our willingness to go the extra mile distinguishes us from other lawyers who are willing to accept an easy and fast settlement rather than do the hard work necessary to get the very best result.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a message below if you have any questions.

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

Go Car-Less For Two Weeks During 2016 Car-Free Challenge

chemung4

Can you make it most or all of two weeks without driving your car and find alternate ways to get to work, shop and live the rest of your life?

If you are up for the challenge in Chemung, Steuben, Tompkins and Schuyler counties, join the 2016 Car-Free Challenge from Sept. 22 through Oct. 5 and learn about some of the other ways to get around besides as a pedestrian or bicyclist. Check out carpooling resources and mass transit options at the website.

chemung-how-it-works-01To participate, click here and find the link to your Twin Tiers county. You will be asked to register, and to be eligible for drawings, you will need to log at least one car-free effort every day in the two-week period.

Every time during the two weeks that you ride a bike, walk, ride a bus or carpool instead of driving alone, log an entry on the website. To be eligible for a grand prize drawing, you must have at least three days of car-free efforts in the two weeks.

Keep track of your car-free mileage so organizers know how many miles were saved by all participants!

Check out 511NY Southern Tier Rideshare, a free resource to help you find carpool partners who live or work in Steuben and Chemung counties.  When you sign up for ride-matching, you’ll join other riders and drivers in a database. You will save money and be eligible to enter a raffle to win a $25 grocery store gift card when you register for carpooling.

The announcement of the grand prize winner will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 11 at the meeting of the Chemung County Coordinated Transportation Committee at the Corning Community College campus in Elmira at 318 Madison Ave.

Thanks for reading.

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
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

Jim Reed Named Among Best Lawyers in U.S. for Sixth Year In A Row

Jim Reed is managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim Reed is Managing Partner of the Ziff Law Firm.

Jim Reed, Managing Partner of the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira, has been selected by his peers as a “Best Lawyer in America” in a national directory of top-rated attorneys for the sixth year in a row.

Jim, selected as a Best Lawyer in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice law, was named to the 2017 Best Lawyers in America guide following a survey of lawyers in his geographical region and areas of practice. Reed was first selected for the 2012 guide.

In September 2014, Jim was named the 2015 Plaintiffs’ Lawyer of the Year by the Best Lawyers in America guide among personal injury lawyers in the Southern New York Region, based on the recommendations of lawyers in Chemung, Steuben, Tompkins, Broome and Tioga, N.Y., counties.

JIm, who has been practicing law since 1986, has argued cases at every level in the New York State court system and has successfully handled many multi-million dollar cases. His practice handles serious personal injury, bicycle accident and medical malpractice cases in NY and PA.

Jim’s leadership, experience and hard work have helped to made this the best year ever at the Ziff Law Firm, with multi-million dollar recoveries on behalf of our injured clients.

His selection as a Best Lawyer shows that he has an excellent reputation in the Twin Tiers legal community, and a trial lawyer’s reputation means everything.

Every client should care about the reputation of their lawyer because it can influence the success or failure of their case. If you have a good reputation, as Jim does, opposing counsel and judges afford you courtesy and respect. They know that every case handled by a lawyer of Jim’s stature is a good case.

Jim is also the legal expert for WETM-TV in Elmira and appears in a segment called “Law Talk” at about 12:20 p.m. each Wednesday during WETM’s noon newscast to discuss legal issues in the news.

Thank you for reading,

Adam
__________________________________________

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]

 

 


Ziff Law Lawyers Fighting In Albany For NY Families

 

tort reform art

Christina Sonsire and Adam Gee of the Ziff Law Firm recently went to Albany to fight for grieving families in New York State – like Craig and Melissa Storms, who lost their 2-year-old son in a hospital emergency room.

“Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York,” said Adam Gee.

“Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York,” said Adam Gee.

Christina and Adam lobbied with other members of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association in the New York State Legislature to fight for reforming New York’s 153-year-old wrongful death law, something the lawyers at Ziff Law have been doing for nearly a decade.

“We have been to Albany numerous times to fight for justice for those who lose a loved one due to negligence. It’s one battle we will never stop waging until the laws in New York finally improve,” Christina said.

Under the present wrongful death statute in New York, the assessment of damages is based almost exclusively on expected future income, something that is very biased toward the state’s highest-earning residents. Worse, New York is one of only seven states that do not compensate family members for their grief and sorrow.

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” said Christina Sonsire. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” said Christina Sonsire. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

“The reality is that New York law discriminates against people who are very young, retired or out of the work force, such as stay-at-home parents or people with disabilities,” Christina said. “The families of people who are not actively engaged in the work force have little to no claim for wrongful death in New York.”

Having to tell a family that we cannot take a case because their loved one’s life is worthless in the eyes of New York State law is a very difficult thing to do, Adam said. “Knowing that the same family could recover if they lived just across the border in Pennsylvania due to its strong wrongful death laws makes it even tougher for us to deal with families in New York.”

The tragic case of 2-year-old Zachary Storms highlights the discriminatory nature of New York’s wrongful death law.

Zachary’s story is heartbreaking.

Craig and Melissa Storms rushed their child to a hospital emergency room because they feared he may have ingested some red and blue dye from a child’s chemistry set.

They did all the right things. They consulted with the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which recommended, to be safe, that they take the child to a local hospital for precautionary treatment.

Things turned nightmarish quickly.

The Poison Control Centers urged “observe-only” to the hospital, but instead, the doctor forced young Zachary to drink an activated charcoal solution. He vomited and refused to drink more and the hospital put a gastrointestinal tube down his throat and poured so much liquid that it filled his throat, stomach, and lungs, killing him almost instantly.

“He was running around the emergency room, playing. Then he was dead,” said Melissa Storms.

“This is about justice and holding the people who caused his death accountable,” said Craig Storms.

However, New York’s wrongful death law only values financial loss, not human loss. A toddler, Zachary clearly was not earning any income, and his young age made it too speculative to project what he would make in the future. Therefore, under New York’s current wrongful death law, Zachary’s life was worthless.

When Congress established the Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund, it circumvented the law so surviving victims and victims’ families could be properly compensated. “Congress understood New York’s law is antiquated, and doing something like denying compensation to the parents whose children died that day was just wrong,” said Christina.

It’s time for New York State to do the same and take a giant step toward civil justice reform.

The lawyers at the Ziff Law Firm will not stop fighting for families until New York State changes this law.

Contact your local state representative and tell them about Zachary and why it’s important to modernize the state’s wrongful death law.

Thanks for reading.

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
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