Three Partners At Ziff Law Named 2018 Super Lawyers

Adam Gee, Jim Reed, and Christina Sonsire.

Adam Gee, Jim Reed, and Christina Sonsire.

Jim Reed, Adam Gee, and Christina Sonsire of the Ziff Law Firm have been named 2018 Super Lawyers in Upstate New York following a rigorous nomination process.

Super Lawyers, a rating service of lawyers working in more than 70 practice areas, selects the top lawyers based on nominations by their peers and an evaluation of 12 indicators of professional recognition and achievements. Those selected are grouped by practice area and size of the law firm. Ziff Law is a personal injury and medical malpractice law firm.

“We are so proud to be the only firm in Upstate New York where all the partners have been selected as Super Lawyers because it speaks to our excellent reputation among our fellow lawyers who selected us during the peer review process,” Jim said. “For our clients, that reputation is a huge factor in ensuring that we achieve the very best possible results for their cases.”

Jim, the managing partner of the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the 11th year in a row. Jim has been with the Ziff Law Firm since 1986 and has been managing partner since 2001.

Adam, a partner in the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the seventh time. Adam has been with Ziff Law since 2004.

Christina, a partner in the law firm, was selected for Super Lawyers for the second time. Christina was selected as a Super Lawyers Rising Star, for outstanding lawyers 40 years old and younger, from 2013-2016. Christina has been with Ziff Law since 2008.

To learn more about the Ziff Law Firm, go to www.zifflaw.com. To learn more about Super Lawyers, go to www.superlawyers.com/new-york-upstate.


NY State Appeals Court Reinstates $550,000 Verdict To Elmira Woman For Fall At Rochester Hospital

Attorney Christina Sonsire calls her client Thursday with the good news about the State Appeals Court judges' decision.

Attorney Christina Sonsire calls her client Thursday with the good news about the State Appeals Court judges’ decision.

Today was a great day for one of Ziff Law Attorney Christina Sonsire’s clients. A state Appeals Court has overturned a Chemung County Supreme Court judge’s decision to reduce a jury award to an Elmira woman who fell at Highland Hospital in Rochester.

On October 7, 2016, a six-person jury in Chemung County Supreme Court awarded an 83-year-old Elmira woman $550,000 for damages she suffered in a 2013 fall near the entrance to Highland’s Emergency Department.

The Elmira woman fell shortly before 6 a.m. on October 16, 2013, while helping her daughter get into a wheelchair in a parking garage.

“Highland Hospital allowed cement parking stops to be placed inside of a pedestrian walkway that bordered the handicap parking stalls,” said Sonsire, who represented the woman. “The parking stops were the same color as the parking garage floor, and lighting in the area was grossly inadequate. My client – who was told to report to Highland Hospital in the early morning for cancer surgery – was simply walking in a reasonable manner when she tripped.

“As a result, my client suffered a four-part proximal humerus fracture of her left shoulder, leaving her with significant loss of range of motion in the joint. These limitations make it very challenging for her to care for her daughter in the manner she did before the fall.”

Judge Judith O’Shea presided over the one-week trial in fall 2016 and attorney James Wolford of the Wolford Law Firm in Rochester represented Highland Hospital and its corporate owners, Strong Health MCO, LLC and Strong Partners Health System, Inc.

Following the trial, Wolford made several motions, including a request that the jury award be reduced because it is excessive.

On March 23, 2017, Judge O’Shea denied all of Wolford’s motions except his request for a verdict reduction. Saying the verdict was excessive, O’Shea reduced the verdict to $225,000 – a decrease of nearly 65 percent.

“We were extremely disappointed by Judge O’Shea’s ruling,” Sonsire said. “The right to a trial by jury is the bedrock of our civil justice system. This type of judicial interference undermines the notion that a trial of one’s peers, rather than an elected judge, will make decisions in cases like this.”

Sonsire and her client decided to appeal Judge O’Shea’s decision to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department.

“Under New York law, a trial court can only interfere with a jury verdict if the amount deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation,” Sonsire said. “The authority of a court to upset a jury’s monetary award should be used sparingly as it infringes upon a person’s right to a trial by jury.

“We knew it was risky to appeal the decision, as there was a chance the Third Department could reduce the verdict even further. However, my client and I both felt so strongly that this type of interference was inappropriate that we were willing to take the risk.”

On May 10, 2018, the Third Department issued a decision reinstating the $550,000 verdict in full. Unpaid judgments grow at a rate of 9 percent per year, meaning the amount Highland Hospital must pay is now close to $625,000.

“This is an occasion where justice truly has been served. My client suffered a serious injury that has a lasting impact on her life. The Third Department showed respect for the men and women who served on the jury by honoring their decision, and it confirmed to all people living in the Southern Tier that their right to a civil trial by jury remains intact.”

Sonsire said the best part, however, was telling her client the great news. “Not much beats making a phone call like that. I think the world of my client and her family, and I know the friendships we created through this litigation will last forever.”

A link to the May 10, 2018, decision is here.

Thanks for reading,

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

Meeting Thursday Night Renews Focus On Contamination At Elmira High School

dcc7eb6eb9

The Elmira City School District built a new Southside High School in the late 1970s on property once used by Remington Rand, a business machine manufacturing company. By the 1970s, the property was polluted from decades of heavy industrial use, but that didn’t stop district officials from building there.

Today, remarkably, it’s the Elmira High School, with hundreds of students from all over the city, and the state continues to remove contaminated soil from the site, with more contaminated soil to go.

Why is the school district continuing to use the school when it knows it’s built on contaminated soil?

What’s alarming now is that more former students are coming forward to report they have battled cancer and autoimmune disorders.

Walter Hang.

Walter Hang.

Fortunately, a former Chemung County legislator who has long sounded the alarm bells about the hazardous waste site will hold a public information meeting about the school property and its dangers from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Elmira Holiday Inn-Riverview on East Water Street.

Former Legislator Andy Patros, whose son attended the school and survived cancer, has been asking questions about the site for several decades, and hopes to revive the dialogue with the community meeting.

“I’m not looking to portray the (Elmira city) school district as villain. They are abiding by what the state Health Department and state Department of Environmental Conservation require,” Patros told the Star-Gazette newspaper. “At the end of the day, the community may want to organize in a regular manner and push the question ‘Is enough being done?’ If everything is OK, why do they have to continue to clean up? It’s a legitimate question. Where are we going to be with that facility in another 15 or 20 years?”

Patros has invited Walter Hang of Ithaca to speak. Hang is an environmental activist and the owner of Toxics Targeting, a company that checks sites for their environmental history.

“It’s just shocking how much toxic pollution has been identified over many, many years. That site has never been completely investigated or remediated,” Hang told the Star-Gazette. “I hope in the wake of reporting. citizens will now have the opportunity to review government data about this site and to ask questions and be able to look at what is known and what’s not known, so this site can be cleaned up from top to bottom once and for all.”

According to the newspaper, contractors took away more than 6,500 tons of soil tainted by PCBs and other chemical hazards from under the school’s tennis courts and south parking lot last summer.

Contaminated soil under the east parking lot will be dug up and transported to a hazardous waste landfill this summer.

The final phase of the cleanup, under the school track and playing field, is not scheduled yet, state officials told the newspaper.

District and state health officials point to findings that apparently show the school is not an apparent public health hazard.

Health care studies involving former students and residents in the area haven’t shown any unusual patterns of cancers, but there was a puzzling spike of testicular cancer cases in 1997 to 2000. Andy Patros’ son, Tom, was one of those who was treated for testicular cancer and survived.

District Superintendent Hillary Austin told the newspaper there has been a great deal of oversight and cooperation among the former site owners and government agencies doing the cleanup.

“There is a lot of planning, monitoring, and coordination that goes along with remediation work and we take our lead from the experts,” she told the newspaper. “Our capital projects have been accommodated by all involved parties and remediation work has been done accordingly, including the most recent parking lot replacement in the front of the building and tennis court projects.”

If you have a child attending the school, or they studied there in the past, I’d recommend that you go and learn the latest information about the dangers at that site.

Unfortunately, it looks like this remediation program is not going to be completed anytime soon.

Let’s keep the pressure on the school district and those handling the cleanup, and keep pushing for answers.

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

 


Top NY Court Questions Privacy On Facebook Posts, So Think Before You Post

aHR0cDovL3d3dy5sYXB0b3BtYWcuY29tL2ltYWdlcy93cC9wdXJjaC1hcGkvaW5jb250ZW50LzIwMTMvMDEvc29jaWFscHJpdmFjeV9mYWNlYm9vay1TRi5qcGc=

If you think your private Facebook account and its personal photos will never be exposed publicly, think again.

The top court in New York State recently ruled that parts of Facebook users’ private profiles are fair game to opponents in a lawsuit and can’t be shielded by privacy settings.

 

According to news reports, the Court of Appeals case in question involved a woman’s serious fall from a horse in a Long Island park in 2011. Kelly Forman sued the horse’s owner, claiming a strap attaching the stirrup to the saddle broke, leading her to fall. She said she suffered traumatic brain damage that has caused memory loss and difficulty communicating, among other problems.

 

Attorneys for Mark Henkin, the horse’s owner, wanted access to Forman’s Facebook account, saying they needed that to evaluate her credibility and injuries. A trial court granted access to private sections of her Facebook account, but an Appellate Division decision said Forman only had to show photos and messages she planned to reveal at her trial.

 

The Court of Appeals decision basically said Forman can’t decide what Facebook information can be revealed in her trial.

 

The case returns to the trial court now, where the horse owner’s attorneys can pursue Forman’s Facebook information.

 

The Court of Appeals, in the 7-0 opinion, compared social media material like Facebook photos to information kept in a file cabinet and said it should be available in a lawsuit if relevant.

 

NY Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

NY Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore compared Facebook information and medical records in writing for the court. If a patient commences a lawsuit, the patient may have to release private files if they pertain to the lawsuit, she wrote.

 

For example, if a person brings a lawsuit, the other side – the insurance company and their lawyers – often ask the person suing to see their Facebook postings, including photos. In some cases, they want to see why you are not able to do something now that you were able to do before.

 

Previously, NY courts have been specific that a defendant and their insurance company and their lawyers didn’t have a right to look beyond a person’s public settings in Facebook. If you permit everyone to see everything on Facebook, then defense lawyers and their insurance companies can see everything, too. But if you lock down your settings to friends only, posts were off-limits to the other side.

 

With the new ruling, the courts are not going to automatically allow access beyond a privacy setting. Trial judges will decide on a case-by-case basis if it’s appropriate for a defendant and their insurance company to see what was posted privately.

 

There is a very good reason for that decision: what the court is saying is just because you label something as “private” doesn’t necessarily mean that information is not relevant for the other side to be able to see. People often have to disclose private information in a lawsuit because the courts consider it relevant.

 

Here is the bottom line to remember from this case: there is no such thing as 100 percent privacy once you post something online.

 

Think before you post.

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

Sonsire Helps Create New Statewide Legal Course For Lawyers After Being Named Dean Of Trial Lawyers’ Group

Christina Sonsire of Ziff Law Firm

Christina Sonsire, a medical malpractice lawyer and partner with the Ziff Law Firm, has helped prepare a new course on diversity and inclusion for the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, which she will begin teaching in March.

The Academy provides member lawyers across the state with Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes for professional development.

portal_logo3In 2017, Christina was named just the sixth dean in the Academy’s history and was asked to participate in the preparation of the new CLE course for its members.

The new course is “Breaking Down Bias: Identifying and Eliminating Inequality In The Legal Profession.” A member of the Academy since 2008, Christina was inducted as a dean in May 2017 in New York City.

“The Academy was created to give upstate lawyers a bigger voice in New York’s legal community, and it is the premier legal association in the state,” she said. “There are other trial lawyer associations in New York state, but they tend to be focused more on downstate. The Academy has done a great job of connecting upstate and downstate lawyers so we can learn from each other, and make sure the issues specific to upstate residents are heard.”

Christina has made an impact on the Academy from the time she joined a decade ago, said Michelle Stern, executive director of the Academy.

Michelle Stern.

Michelle Stern.

“She has given numerous statewide lectures on a variety of topics, and has been a great asset on a select Academy committee that interviews nominees to New York’s Court of Appeals and offers feedback to Governor Cuomo,” Michelle said. “Having Christina serve as a CLE dean is a great way to allow her to take on an even bigger role within our organization, something that benefits all New York attorneys.”

The new two-hour course will discuss the impact of explicit and implicit bias inside and outside the courtroom. The course is part of a new category of CLE classes in 2018 for attorneys in New York State: Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias, which was established by the New York State Unified Court System, which administers the courses. The other categories are Ethics and Professionalism, Skills, Law Practice Management, and Areas of Professional Practice.

Attorneys in New York State are required by the New York State Bar Association to attend 24 credit hours of CLE classes over the course of every two years. New York State lawyers admitted to the bar for two or more years will have to earn at least one Diversity, Inclusion, and Elimination of Bias credit every two years, starting July 1. The new course provides two credits.

Members of the Academy don’t have to pay any additional charges for CLE courses, which are offered by the Academy across the state at different times and locations. The closest course locations for Southern Tier lawyers are Rochester and Syracuse.

“The new CLE requirement is a great thing, but it came as a bit of a surprise,” Christina said. “At the Academy, we are trying to develop good programs right away to be sure New York lawyers are able to both obtain the requisite credits, and also learn something new in an interesting way.”

Christina will teach the new course with Syracuse University Law Professor Peter Blanck and Dr. Ynesse Abdul-Malak, a sociologist and post-doctoral fellow at Syracuse University, starting on March 27 in Buffalo and Rochester. They will also teach the course on March 28 in Albany and Syracuse, April 4 in New York City, and April 5 in Long Island.

Prior to the classes, lawyers are receiving surveys from the presenters, asking them about the implicit biases in their law practices, Christina said. The responses will be discussed during the two-hour classes.

“The surveys will help lawyers think deeply about these issues before coming to the program,” she said. “Professor Blank and Dr. Abdul-Malak are at the top of their fields, and anyone who attends will have a great opportunity to learn about matters that shape the rule of law in ways we often fail to consider.”

Christina will also teach another statewide course in 2018, but the specific topic has not been announced yet. In the past, Christina has taught other CLE classes on topics such as depositions, punitive damages, direct examinations, and a course specific to birth injury as a result of medical malpractice.

Christina is also a member of the Academy’s judicial selection committee, which interviews and recommends nominees for vacant state Court of Appeals openings. The Court of Appeals is the state’s highest court. The committee has made several recommendations in recent years because of retiring judges.

Being a member of the Academy has greatly expanded the network of lawyers that Christina knows, and meeting with attorneys from across the state while preparing for and teaching classes has made her a more resourceful lawyer, she said.

“It’s been a great 10 years of learning from many other lawyers with more experience,” she said. “I am glad I have taken the opportunity to learn from my upstate and downstate colleagues and build some great connections that have benefited my practice and the Ziff Law Firm.”

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

 


Buckle Up! Cuomo Wisely Proposes Seat Belts For All Passengers In NY

car-seats4

Everyone should buckle up.  Even back-seat passengers!

That’s what New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed in his 2018-19 state budget plan. He wants everyone riding in a vehicle in NY to wear seat belts, and I applaud his proposal because I have seen what can happen when a back-seat passenger isn’t safely restrained by a seat belt.

A few years ago, I handled the very tragic case of a 15-year old-girl who was riding as an unbelted back-seat passenger when she was killed in an accident.

Compounding the tragedy is the fact that I am certain that she would have survived had she been wearing a seat belt.

185213258-cropped_400wMy advice to everyone: If you are riding in ANY vehicle (car, boat, plane, ATV) in ANY seat (front, rear, middle) where there is a seat belt available, USE IT! Most fatalities are caused by an unrestrained person either violently impacting with the interior of the vehicle or being thrown from the vehicle and crushed.

The state currently only requires the drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts, and anyone under 16 years old is also required to buckle up.

CuomoThe budget also proposed outlawing hands-free phone use by junior permit and junior license holders and requiring children younger than 8 years old to be properly secured in necessary car seats when riding in a school car or van.

We were the first state, in 1985, to make seat belt use mandatory for drivers and front-seat passengers. The state says about 21 percent of highway deaths in New York State happen to people who were not wearing their seat belts, and not wearing a seat belt was found to be a greater factor in vehicle-accident deaths than alcohol or excessive speed, according to the state.

Under current law, drivers in NY can be ticketed and fined $50 for not wearing their seat belts and fined $100 if someone younger than 16 is not buckled in safely.

But this issue isn’t about fines or tickets. This is about keeping everyone safe in your vehicle, not just people in the front seat and children in the back.

Soon, everyone will have to wear seat belts when they are in a moving vehicle. Get a jump on the law and make sure everyone in any vehicle you are in is wearing their seat belts.

They save lives. It’s that simple.

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

 


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!

Car_crash_1

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

Does Your Car Insurance Carrier Penalize You When You Were Not At Fault?

accident-frustration1

The Consumer Federation of America recently released new research that shows that safe drivers often see car insurance increases when they are involved in accidents  caused by other drivers.

car_insuranceAccording to the news release, in this new trend, some insurance carriers are penalizing their own customers when their customer did nothing wrong. It used to be that if you were involved in a collision that was not your fault, your own insurance company would not raise your rates. Makes perfect sense. Why should you be penalized when you did nothing wrong?

However, recently, a number of insurance companies decided to increase their profits by hitting their customers with significantly increased premiums when they had the misfortune to be involved in a crash that was not their fault. Two of the biggest New York carriers, Progressive and GEICO, were among the worst offenders of this new policy.

imagesInnocent drivers who don’t cause accidents should not be charged more because someone else hit them, J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and the former insurance commissioner of Texas, said in the news release. “Most people know that if they cause an accident or get a ticket they could face a premium increase, but they don’t expect to be punished if a reckless driver careens into them.”

CFA urged lawmakers around the country to prohibit penalties on innocent drivers. “Penalizing safe drivers hit by another car is not only very unfair; it also discourages them from filing legitimate claims,” Hunter said. “Lawmakers and regulators need to protect consumers from being punished when they’ve done nothing more than use the policy they have already paid for.”

CFA compared two good drivers – the only differences reflected in their socio-economic circumstances rather than their driving records – and found the following:

  • Higher-income drivers paid $78 more on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Moderate-income drivers paid $208 more on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Higher-income drivers faced a 6.6% penalty on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Moderate-income drivers faced a 9.6% penalty on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Excluding State Farm customers, who were never penalized, the average surcharges jumped to $99 (8.3%) for higher-income drivers and $264 (12.1%) for moderate-income drivers.

My suggestion: Contact your insurance agent and ask if your carrier has a policy of increasing premiums in not-at-fault crashes?

If so, I recommend you contact other insurance carriers as there are many carriers who do not increase premiums in this situation.

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