NY Attorney Offers Advice on Technology that Helps Keep Teens Safe While Driving

As an accident attorney, I could not help but laugh when I saw this Close to Home comic. Throughout my daily work, I meet many teenage victims of accident cases, so I understand the importance of not driving distracted. Therefore, while this comic is funny, it also got me thinking: is there a better way for parents to ensure the safety of their teen drivers— without going to the extremes of this mother and her driving gloves?

Recently, I have come to find a surprising source of comfort for the anxiety that having a teenage driver may provoke: technology. Indeed, those same cell phones that can cause so much potential for reckless and distracted driving can also be a powerful tool that can help keep young adults safe and accident-free.

Last November, my colleague Jim Reed wrote a blog post, which can be seen here, praising the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for banning texting while driving. Like Jim, as an accident attorney, I cannot say enough how much I agree with that decision. I am, however, also realistic in realizing that, like so many adults, teens are often glued to their cell phones. Even though there are laws in place banning texting and driving, the temptation is still there. That is why many parents may find a recent USA Today article, entitled “Devices Target Distracted Driving,” interesting; it cites cell phone apps or other forms of technology that can allow parents to stop their teen from texting, surfing the Internet, or even talking on their cell phones while they are driving.

Inspired by the USA Today article, here are three tools that can help keep your teens safe:

1. Cellcontrol– available for $7.95 a month for up to six phones, this in-car port stops drivers from gaming, searching the Internet, and receiving texts and phone calls while driving. You can see a video of how Cellcontrol works here.

2. iZup– a cheaper alternative to Cellcontrol, costing $20 annually, this blocks cell phone use while a car is moving, even disabling it at stop signs and red lights, often taking several minutes to disable after a car stops moving.

3. iCar Black Box App– In the event of an accident, this 99 cent app acts as a black box, recording a video during the accident that you can then access later.

Indeed, today the phase “There’s an app for that” can apply to so many varied topics, including everything from pet first aid to emergency flashlights when it comes to accident scenes. I deal with many families with teens who have been deeply affected by the terrible physical and emotional pain that car accidents can cause, and I can only hope that new technology can help prevent similar trauma in the future.

Even if these tools do not work best for you and your family, I encourage everyone with teenage drivers to stay safe, talk to your kids about their driving habits, and keep up to date with New York State teen driving laws.

No matter how you choose to protect your family while they drive, I hope that everyone stays safe this winter— preferably without having to wear “no-text driving gloves”! 

 Thanks, Christina

Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
[email protected]
Office: 607.733.8866
Toll-Free: 800.ZIFFLAW (943.3529)
Blog: NYInjuryLawBlog.com

Just Asking for Disaster: Why Some Legal Matters Shouldn’t Be Do-It-Yourself Projects

Do-it-yourselfHere is a hilarious guest post, “Self-Help Legal Switcheroo” by Rick L. Law, an Elder Law attorney in Aurora, Illinois. Rick exposes the absolute flim-flam that is legal advice and documents on the Internet. Here’s Rick’s Guest Post:

“We all like to save money — especially on legal matters. Millions of people are now using do-it-yourself online legal form services like www.legalzoom.com. To check it out, I went there, too. Their home page proudly raves, “Save time and money… created by top attorneys… helps you create reliable legal documents… we even review your answers and guarantee your satisfaction.” There is even a testimonial from an attorney who says, “As an attorney, I have been pleasantly surprised with the ease and efficiency of legalzoom.”

What is not as obvious, at the very bottom of the home page, is their disclaimer of liability. Go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of the page—you’ll see the disclaimer in very light print. It states:

“The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered. Legalzoom’s legal document service is not a law firm and is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. Legalzoom cannot provide legal advice and can only provide self-help services at your specific direction. Please note that your access to and use of legalzoom is subject to additional terms and conditions.”

The words “additional terms and conditions’ is a hot-link that if you click on it will take you to an even longer disclaimer! The disclaimer guts all of the assurances of reliability and suitability of use that you may have assumed were part of the “actual review of your answers and guarantee of satisfaction.” YOU ARE THE “LAWYER” WHO CHOOSES THE LEGAL FORM!

If you decide to be your own lawyer, please understand that legalzoom has the best of all worlds. They advertise that they will provide you with the best form of your choosing and save you money — but if you ever have a problem because of that document, they’re not responsible. You are the one who made the decision about which legal document was right for you and your circumstances.

Just yesterday in a meeting with a client, that client exclaimed, “Wow, I never knew that there were so many things to think about in our estate planning.” I responded, “You know, that’s what most people say when it comes to estate planning, disability, Medicaid, or veteran’s benefits. You don’t do this work every day, so you just can’t know all of the issues.”

The real value of what any professional counselor does is listen to your description of your circumstances and goals, and then choose the best course of action.

There is an old story about a factory which shut down due to an equipment failure. The owner of the factory called a renowned expert to rush to the factory to get things moving. The owner told him, “This shutdown is costing us $100,000 per day!” The expert arrived, walked around the faulty machine, then took out a screwdriver and adjusted a thing or two. Within moments the machine came back to life and the factory began to hum with activity. The owner was thrilled — until he was given a bill for $10,000. He roared, “But it took you less than 10 minutes to fix the machine — it cannot possibly cost $10,000!” The expert calmly responded, “No, it took me a lifetime to know exactly where and how to use that screwdriver. The bill is $10,000—but the value to you is $100,000 per day.”

Moral of the story: The right solution for the circumstances often requires a lifetime of preparation.”

– Rick L. Law, http://ricksblog.lawelderlaw.com

Thanks for reading – and thank you, Rick for the guest post!
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] http://www.zifflaw.com

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Nice to Meet You, One Trillion Dollars

Piles of cashI’d like to introduce you to someone we’ve all been hearing about lately – and that we are all going to get to know in some form or other (as a boon or a debt): a TRILLION dollars.

It’s the scale of money, big, big money that is being distributed in the stimulus and bailout packages by the U.S. government to jump-start our flagging economy.

Some things and concepts are so colossal, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around them. Like the distance to the sun, or the speed of light.

To help you wrap your mind around the size of the stimulus and bailout programs, I found the following descriptions of a trillion bucks:

  • First of all, remember that a trillion dollars is a million, million dollars. Written out, it looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000. (Probably easier to stick to using just “trillion”.)
  • A trillion dollars has a bit of a weight problem. In one dollar bills, it would weigh about 1.1 million tons. If you were using 100 dollar bills it would weigh about 11 thousands tons.
  • A trillion dollars is one tall drink of water. It would take a military jet – flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out 1 trillion.
  • A trillion dollars requires quite a commitment. You could earn a dollar a second for 32,000 years and still not quite earn a trillion.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] http://www.zifflaw.com

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Elmira Car Accident Attorney Discovers History Lesson in Accident and Injury Lawsuits

Car Crash

Frustration is nothing new in accident and injury lawsuits. All the parties have something to complain about: insurance companies don’t like to pay high settlements, the courts are backlogged, and personal injury victims may have to wait years for their cases to be resolved.

Add to all these concerns the perception that the situation is getting worse.

In recent years, insurance companies have created the idea that there has been an explosion in the number of lawsuits. But a little history lesson puts that idea to rest. The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog had an entry earlier this month about car accident lawsuits that really opened my eyes to the true situation.

The entry quoted a Time Magazine article, “Traffic Jam.” Here are some fast facts from that article:

  • Car accidents account for more than half to three-quarters of personal-injury lawsuits. Tens of thousands of auto accident cases await trial in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.
  • Car accident victims might wait years for their cases to get to the jury.
  • Despite taking in huge sums in premiums, insurance companies suffer a net loss!

The pretty shocking truth is that the Time Magazine article was printed Jan. 10, 1964! That is more than 45 years ago.

I don’t write this in the sense of “Let’s all despair; things are never going to get better.” The reality is that the system is always being refined. Just because things aren’t perfect, let’s not forget to look at what is improving.

The truth is that there are fewer NY accident lawsuits per capita now than there were 20 years ago. In fact, statistics from the NY State Office of Court Administration show that there were actually more than 13,000 FEWER cases brought in NY Supreme Courts in 2006 than in 2002.

Will the legal system ever be perfect? Probably not, because “justice” is a perception to all the parties involved in a case. Most outcomes are likely to displease someone involved.

But it’s important to appreciate the fact that the law is continually being adapted to make things better. Maybe the law will never be perfect, but that is what it aspires to be.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll-free 1-800-943-3529
mailto: [email protected] http://www.zifflaw.com

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The National Institute for Trial Advocacy — a Worthwhile Investment

Shortly after I joined Ziff Law, Jim Reed, the firm’s managing partner (and frequent poster on this blog,) told me to sign myself up for the two-week National Session on Building Trial Skills offered by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA). “And by the way,” he remarked, “the program is located just outside Boulder, Colorado.”

‘Nuff said. As a former resident of Denver and Missoula, Montana, I am a true lover of the mountains and was ecstatic about the chance to spend some time savoring mountain life. Oh, NITA looked pretty cool as well.

I had no idea at the time that I was about to embark upon a career changing — if not life changing — voyage. Seriously. Two weeks at NITA equaled, for me and I suspect most of my classmates, at least five years of real world trial experience. Unfortunately, as most practitioners recognize, cases are not tried nearly as often today as they were fifty years ago. Increased pressures to settle matters quickly or engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution — such as mediation or arbitration — has created a professional atmosphere in which young attorneys wait years or even decades before ever getting a chance to see a case through to verdict. (The one notable exception is in the area of criminal law, where cases are tried on a somewhat more frequent basis.) (Watch an interview with The Honorable Jim R. Carrigan, one if NITA’s founders.)

I was fortunate to have tried a number of cases as a prosecutor before participating in NITA’s National Session. However, the skills and confidence I gained from NITA are unparalleled. I had an opportunity to test myself against some of the best up-and-coming attorneys in the country — and even the world! The faculty was comprised of seasoned practioners with practical, focused advice on how to become the very best trial lawyer possible, and the lecturers offered insight into cutting edge legal trends and technology emerging from all ends of the globe. (Read NITA’s Blog.) Continue reading

Safety Tip #1 — Check your Tires

“A stitch in time saves nine.” I never really understood this proverb when I was growing up, though I certainly heard my father use it on more than one occasion as he cautioned me to take my time before embarking on a new endeavor.

As a personal injury attorney in the Elmira/Corning, New York area, I have now come to understand the true wisdom behind those words, especially when it comes to automobile maintenance. Accidents certainly do happen, but general awareness of basic automobile maintenance can go a long way toward preventing personal injuries and saving lives. Although I do not profess to be an expert mechanic in any way, I have decided to post basic auto tips periodically this summer to inform – or more likely, remind – readers of simple steps you can take to protect your families from injuries sustained in automobile accidents.To many people summer is synonymous with road trips and family vacation, and I hope my tips will help readers stay safe when hitting the roads.

Tip #1 – Check your Tires

Today is my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. My father, ever the romantic, decided to take my mother to the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, New York for a little getaway. Alas, as my parents pulled out of Horseheads to begin their journey, they got a flat tire. Luckily neither was injured and my dad had the tools to change the tire, though they may have been “spared” (I couldn’t resist) a short delay if only my dad had followed his own advice and checked car before getting on the road.

Tires are crucial to vehicle’s handling, traction, and stability, and can cause an automobile to loose alignment if they are not in proper working order. In general, you should check each of tire periodically, or about once a month.

When checking your tires, first look for obvious defects and damage, and visit a professional if anything looks seriously amiss.

It is very wise to carry a tire gauge in your automobile at all times, and you should check the pressure in each of your tires every time you check them. Tire pressure changes due to a variety of factors, though they are most commonly affected by changes in weather or air temperature. A decrease in air temperature often causes a loss in tire pressure, while an increase in air temperature often causes a gain.

Each vehicle has its own recommended air pressure, and information about it can likely be found in your vehicle’s owners manual. Although a tire’s maximum pressure is listed on its in fine print, you should never use max pressure as a guide when filling your tires because over-inflation allows tires to puncture more easily and can create instability for your automobile.

As an avid bicycle rider, I realize the importance of checking the pressure of my bike’s tires before every ride I take to avoid an accident (and make the ride more enjoyable!) Although checking a vehicle’s tires before every trip may be a bit overly onerous, it is something all of us could do a bit more frequently in order to stay safe.

Thanks for reading,

Christina Bruner Sonsire

A Brief Introduction from the Newbie


As the newest addition to Ziff Law’s personal injury and malpractice litigation team, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to the firm’s blogosphere community. Without going into too many details about my so-called “pedigree” and educational background – information about which can be found on Ziff Law’s website at www.zifflaw.com or a recent Star Gazette article at http://www.stargazettenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080322/BUSINESS/803220302 I want to provide you, the interested personal injury blog connoisseur, with some interesting (though not directly relevant to my practice) facts about me.

I was born and raised in the Twin Tiers and come from a long line of folks – going all the way back to my Continue reading

A Little Upstate New York Humor

Have you ever heard the expression that “it’s better to laugh than cry”? Those of us who live in Upstate New York just KNOW that this expression was coined by a native Upstate New Yorker because Upstate New York is one of the few places in the world where you can experience all four seasons- Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall- in a single day. As we enter the hectic holiday season and as I look out the window at 6 inches of snow on the ground (with rain in the weather forecast), I thought a little Upstate humor might be good for all of us! Keep reading for comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s hilarious poke at Upstate New Yorkers!

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 36 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Upstate New York…..
Continue reading