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

 


PA Traffic Deaths Down In 2013, But Could Be Much Better, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

1599R-19050Great news for Pennsylvania drivers — traffic deaths on roads in the Keystone State were at an all-time low in 2013, state officials have reported here and here.

Motorists could achieve another all-time low in 2014, too, if everyone could take their responsibility to drive safely more seriously. The major causes of the fatalities are largely within our control and preventable – seat belt use, speeding, DUI, distracted driving and single vehicle crashes – often from falling asleep or inattentiveness.

Don’t drive if you haven’t had enough sleep, if you’ve been drinking alcohol, or you can’t put your phone down long enough to drive safely to your destination.

The total of 1,208 fatalities in 2013 was down from 1,310 the previous year and was the lowest number since traffic records began being logged in 1928.

By the numbers:

Deaths were down:

  • Among those not wearing seat belts (425, down from 503 the previous year).
  • Speeding accidents (193, down from 262).
  • Single-vehicle crashes (566, down from 648).
  • DUI-related fatalities dropped to 342, down 35 from the prior year and the lowest total since 1977, when the state started keeping records of drunken-driving deaths.

More fatalities were linked to:

  • Distracted driving (64, up from 57).
  • Head-on collisions or sideswipes (178, up from 148).
  • Drivers 75 years old and older (142, up from 126).

Don’t relax and think Pennsylvania roads are safer. Accident records go up and down year to year. Just do your part to make the roads safer. Be alert, be sober and be vigilant. Watch for pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and any other danger in the road, such as potholes.

Never let your guard down when you are driving.

Thanks 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]

 


Lucky To Be Alive, Texting Driver Has Unforgettable Message For Distracted Drivers

Chance Bothe was nearly killed six months ago when he crashed as he was texting while driving.

If you are a driver who is still texting or talking on a cell phone while driving, let me introduce you to 21-year-old Chance Bothe.

Six months ago, Chance was driving and texting on a Texas road when he sensed he was in danger and wrote this:

“I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident.”

That was the last text message Chance sent before his truck veered off a bridge and landed in a ravine.

It was a miracle that Chance survived. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and broke virtually every bone in his body. He was rehabilitating in a Houston hospital for the last six months and recently went home.

But first, he had a message for drivers everywhere:

“Don’t do it. It’s not worth losing your life. I went to my grandmother’s funeral not long ago, and I kept thinking, it kept jumping into my head, I’m surprised that’s not me up in that casket. I came very close to that, to being gone forever.”

You can read more about Chance’s second chance at life and his powerful message in The Daily News and the Huffington Post.

One of Chance’s doctors, Dr. Jacob Joseph, told The Daily News that he is seeing an increased number of patients injured because of texting on the road.

“And, unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see a decrease in that anytime soon,” Dr. Joseph said.

Chance’s father says his son is 80 percent back. No one knows whether Chance will ever be 100 percent again.

But Bothe told The Daily News he hopes to return to college. Until then, Chance is trying to get the word out about the dangers that come from texting and driving.

He is living proof of what can happen when drivers aren’t paying attention. He was fortunate he did not kill himself or ANYONE ELSE.

Chance hopes his story reaches some of the millions of motorists who drive distracted, and I hope it resonates with the many distracted drivers in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers!

Chance believes God spared him so he can do something special. “I believe what is special is that I should tell everyone not to text message and drive,” Chance said.

Did you get the message yet? 

Thanks for reading, and focusing on the road!

Thanks, 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

New York Crackdown On Texting Drivers Sends Right Message, Says NY Accident Lawyer

New York State's tougher texting while driving law is being enforced more across the state. Maybe drivers are starting to get the message!

Police departments in New York State handed out more than 20,000 tickets in the first year of the state’s tougher texting-while-driving ban!

That is four times the amount of tickets issued in the previous year, state officials announced, according to a story in the Star-Gazette.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill banning texting-while-driving a year ago after there were several fatal accidents involving teenagers who were texting while driving. The law took effect July 12, 2011.

According to the Star-Gazette story, the law allows police to pull over drivers specifically for texting. A law in 2009 made texting a secondary infraction, meaning police could only issue a ticket if a driver was pulled over for another offense, such as erratic driving.

The law also increased the penalty for drivers using a handheld device from two points to three points on their license.

We have written a lot on this blog about the dangers of texting while driving because we feel it is very dangerous. We want to continue to do our part to remind residents of Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers to NEVER TEXT WHILE DRIVING (OR TALK ON YOUR CELL PHONE WITHOUT A HANDS-FREE DEVICE).

In the year before the 2011 law went into effect, police issued 4,569 tickets across the state. From July 2011 through June 2012, those numbers soared to 20,958!

The local numbers are startling, too. Chemung County jumped from 27 tickets to 92 tickets, Tompkins County from 20 to 139, Tioga County from 13 to 67, and Steuben County from 14 to 108. Schuyler County apparently had little enforcement of the new law; the increase was from just three to four tickets!

More than 3,000 people died last year in accidents blamed on distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Remember that texting while driving is not just about you — it’s about making sure the people driving near you – and their passengers – are safe, too! Same with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists!

Put the comb or hairbrush down. Put the phone down. Wait until you stop to eat. If you’re sleepy, pull over and take a nap, or stop driving for the day!

Focus on the present when you are driving. That will save lives.

We have written a lot about texting while driving. You can read our latest stories here. I would encourage you to learn more about this important issue by reading our previous blog posts.

Thanks for reading, and focusing on the road!

Thanks, 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

 

 


PA Needs To Rewrite Texting Ban, Target All Distracted Driving, Says PA And NY Accident Lawyer

PA needs to follow NY's lead and toughen its distracted driving laws.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently ran an excellent news article looking at the problems with Pennsylvania’s no-texting law.

The problem with PA’s anti-texting law is it’s poorly written!

The goal is to prevent distracted driving, but it is so narrowly written that many equally dangerous activities are perfectly legal! PA needs to overhaul its law to be more like NY and prohibit any non-hands-free use of electronic devices.

The Patriot-News reporter talked with a Harrisburg-area police officer who pulled over a woman he thought was texting but she was filing her nails while driving. She was an unsafe distracted driver, yes, but she was doing nothing illegal.

Few police departments in the Harrisburg area have issued citations for driving while texting because even if an officer witnesses a driver using their phone, it’s difficult to prove they were texting, police told the newspaper.

Pennsylvania became the 35th state to ban texting while driving on March 8. It is a primary offense, so police officers can stop drivers for texting behind the wheel and no other violation. The fine is $50.

“There’s no way an officer can determine what a person is doing unless they stop them and the person is honest,” State Police Lt. Robert Fegan told the newspaper. “Therein lies the dilemma.”

According to the article and the state Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania’s law banning texting while driving:

  • Prohibits any driver from using an interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.
  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.
  • Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
  • Carries a $50 fine for convictions.
  • Supersedes and pre-empts any local ordinance that restricts the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The penalty is a summary offense. The violation carries no points as a penalty and will not be recorded on a noncommercial driver’s record. It will be recorded on commercial drivers’ records as a nonsanction violation.

The texting ban does not include the use of a GPS device, a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communications device that is affixed to a mass-transit vehicle, bus or school bus.

It also doesn’t prohibit non messaging uses of the device – so while you can’t text, you may be able to check your facebook account, surf the web, and eat a sandwich all at the same time

Residents of Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers, should PA toughen its distracted driving laws? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading and sharing your comments!

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]

 

 


PA FINALLY Bans Texting While Driving, But Not Handheld Cell Phone Calls, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

Pennsylvania today becomes the latest state to crack down on distracted drivers.

Finally! Pennsylvania has caught up with New York State and clamped down on distracted driving. Well, some of it anyway. The state has banned texting while driving, BUT it is still legal to use a handheld cell phone behind the wheel!

Starting today, motorists caught trying to send a text message, email, tweet or updating Facebook while driving will face a $50 fine. The state Senate approved a ban on handheld cell phone use last June, but it has not passed the state House yet.

PLEASE contact your local lawmakers and tell them that banning handheld cell phone use is critical, too!

Authorities told The Associated Press that there were 14,000 crashes in the state in 2010 in which distracted driving contributed, including 68 fatalities.

The new law going into effect today prohibits text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail or other written communication composed or received on a wireless device, making it a primary offense, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The law applies to wireless phones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, portable or mobile computers or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.

The law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that state police will observe drivers and determine if traffic stops are necessary.

“This is a serious problem and we are hoping that we can educate citizens on the danagers of texting while driving and prevent future accidents,” Noonan said. “Ultimately, we hope that our enforcement efforts will create voluntary compliance by the majority of motorists.”

The violation carries no points as a penalty and will not be recorded on the driver record for non-commercial drivers. It will be recorded on commercial drivers’ records as a non-sanction violation.

The texting ban does NOT include the use of a GPS device, a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communications device that is affixed to a mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus.

New York toughened its texting ban last summer when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law that makes texting while driving a primary offense. The fine for violations is $150.

According to a February story by The Associated Press, the tougher texting while driving law has snared 7,500 motorists in New York since last July, and another 111,000 tickets have been issued to motorists accused of using handheld devices behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has an interesting map of the country showing how state after state has cracked down on distracted driving!

I hope the crackdown in Pennsylvania will serve as a reminder to drivers in Elmira and Corning, too, that distracted driving is dangerous — and could be costly to those who are caught!

Thanks for reading.

Adam
__________________________________________

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

 


With Tougher Penalties for Distracted Driving, a Greater Chance for Safety

A new New York State law with harsher penalties for texting while driving could help to increase safety on the roads.

A recent front-page article in the Elmira Star-Gazette delivered some excellent news; in fact, the headline says it all: “Tickets for Texting Soar.” Indeed, under a recent law, drivers caught using electronic devices while driving could face a $150 fine and three points on their driver’s licenses.

In the article, Barbara Fiala, commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, said, “We currently have one of the strongest anti-distracted-driving laws in the country.” Last July, a state law made texting a primary offense, meaning that a police officer could pull someone over if the officer suspected texting behind the wheel. And in a state where more than 570 tickets were issued in Chemung and Steuben County alone for cell phone and texting violations over the past 7 months, taking even greater measures to crack down on distracted driving will, true to Ms. Fiala’s words, help to better ensure our local status as having one of the “strongest”- and safest- “anti-distracted-driving laws in the country.”

As an accident attorney, I could not support this new law more. Cell phones- and the temptation to use them while driving- are a prevalent part of everyday life. This legislation and the penalties it will inflict are a wonderful reminder of just how important it is to drive safely and just how much one can stand to lose by driving distracted (and, as I see on a regular basis, it is a lot more than a $150 fine!).

The article included an especially poignant statistic: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5,400 people were killed and almost 450, 000 were injured nationwide in crashes involving distracted-driving in 2009. What these incredible statistics may not portray, however, is the depth of the suffering for those involved. The legislators behind the new texting and driving law made their decision about the specifics for the new law after hearing testimony from local officials and residents, including Jacy Good. Miss Good, of White Plains, lost her parents and the use of one arm in a 2008 Pennsylvania distracted driving crash. She missed her parents’ funeral because she was in a coma.

Please learn from Miss Good’s story. If hearing about the suffering of distracted driving accident victims is not enough, instead take heed from the potential penalties of this new law. It will save lives- and hopefully bring a sense of justice to people like Jacy Good.

 

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)
Web:zifflaw.com
Blog: NYInjuryLawBlog.com


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)
Web:zifflaw.com
Blog: NYInjuryLawBlog.com


UPDATE: More Elmira Pedestrian Accidents …. It’s Time for Drivers to Wake Up and Watch Out for Walkers and Bicyclists

Two accidents involving pedestrians in the last 24 hours in Elmira serve as a stark reminder of the dangers facing pedestrians from inattentive or distracted drivers!

First, a mother and her 1-year-old child were injured, then a 17-year-old girl was struck 45 minutes later!

In the Elmira/Corning area where I live, there seems to be a growing trend of cars and trucks hitting pedestrians and bicyclists. I think this is a combination of more walkers/bikers and more cars/trucks sharing the roads together with a huge increase in the number of distracted drivers on the road.

These drivers are distracted by phones, radios, texting — or they are simply not paying attention.

In both Elmira pedestrian injury cases, the pedestrians were crossing the four-lane Clemens Center Parkway, which is a nightmare for pedestrians because they have to move quickly to get across safely before the light changes.

How many times have we seen pedestrians stranded unsafely in the middle of an intersection, waiting for the light to change again? This problem is especially obvious on a road like the Clemens Center Parkway, where the road is four lanes wide and there is a higher speed limit.

BUT REMEMBER:  NY LAW REQUIRES A MOTOR VEHICLE TO YIELD TO A PEDESTRIAN!  So regardless of the color of the light, if you see a pedestrian on the road, follow the law and give them a safe distance.

In one of the accidents, a mother and her 1-year-old child in a stroller were struck. They suffered minor injuries, police said.

According to news reports, the first accident occurred at about 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Clemens Center Parkway and East Fifth Street, Elmira, NY. The mother and child were transported to Arnot Ogden Medical Center and the driver of the pickup truck accused of striking them, Clayton Stevens of Lowman, was charged with Failing to Yield and Driving with a Suspended License.

A 17-year-old girl was hospitalized with internal injuries and possible broken bones after a second accident 45 minutes later involving a pedestrian at the Clemens Center Parkway and South Avenue on Elmira’s Southside. She is being treated at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. Police said the investigation continues.

See the news reports from WETM-TV and the Star-Gazette.

Remember the 17-year-old girl, and the mother and her 1-year-old child, the next time you’re driving on Clemens Center Parkway and SLOW DOWN. As you approach intersections, even if you have a green light, scan both sides of the road for pedestrians. Remember there may be people still trying to cross the road!

Finally, FOCUS ON THE ROAD — not your text messages or your missed phone calls or talk radio or talking with your passengers.

Someone else’s life may depend on you paying attention to the road!

Thanks for reading.

Thanks, Jim

_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Mailto: [email protected]
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Web: www.zifflaw.com
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Maps Of Road Fatalities A Reminder Of Toll Of Distracted Driving, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

Check out where fatal accidents have occurred in your community in recent years.

A United Kingdom transportation company has created a website that allows anyone to track road fatalities in the United States by location, including in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers.

You can find the exact scene of an accident that led to a death between 2001 and 2009. I drilled down to the local fatalities in Elmira, Horseheads, and Corning and learned that I handled a large number of the wrongful death cases displayed on the local map.

I have worked on many cases in the last 26 years, and each of the little dots is a reminder of what I know to be devastated family and friends. … The 14-year-old cyclist mowed down by a hit-and-run driver, the elderly pedestrian hit by a driver who admitted she was busy adjusting her radio and on and on ….

It’s very unsettling and sad.

But it’s important that everyone take a look at the map of their community. Notice where people died when you look at the map of Chemung County — Lower Maple Avenue in Elmira, County Route 64 in Big Flats, Interstate 86 and the Miracle Mile (Corning Road) in Horseheads. Look at the grouping of fatalities, on I-86, Route 352 and Route 64. Those are high-traffic areas where everyone should be their most vigilant. Those should be no-distraction zones, and that means turning the radio or CD down, too!

Some of the fatalities were pedestrians, some were drivers or their passengers, and some were on motorcycles or bikes. Yes, it’s important to know where the most dangerous spots are in Watkins Glen and Southport and Pine City, then south to Towanda, Sayre and Athens, Wellsboro and Mansfield.

But there is a larger lesson here.

The maps serve as a stark reminder to all of us to SLOW DOWN and PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD. Shut off the cell phone. Cut down the chatter. Be vigilant. Live in the present.

Respect the lives of others, and be mindful of the dangers around you. Distracted driving kills. Next time you’re on the road, think of the people lost in accidents on that map.

Please have a safe and joyous holiday season free of heartbreaking accidents.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks, Jim

_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Mail to: [email protected]
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Web: www.zifflaw.com
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
NYBikeAccidentBlog.com