After Deadly Limo Crash, It’s Time To Review YOUR Vehicle Insurance, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

Capture2The crash of the stretch limousine last weekend in Schoharie, N.Y., that killed 20 people has left a lot of people in the Twin Tiers shaken. At some point in our lives, many of us have hopped aboard a limo for happy events like a wine tour or a wedding or a birthday party. Most of us were having so much fun with family and friends and co-workers that the thought of a crash never occurred to us. Or we have been passengers with another driver with insufficient insurance to protect their passengers in case of a crash.

But during this week of grim news, as the operator of the Schoharie limo company was charged with criminally negligent homicide, I want to provide something positive that Twin Tiers motorists can do to protect themselves. You’ll need your current car insurance policy.

Here’s why: Some people probably think that getting in a limo, there must be at least $1 million in coverage.  Unfortunately, that simply is not true in most cases.  In New York State, owners of stretch limos are not required to have much insurance. A limo that can hold up to 20 people is only required to have a total of $150,000 of coverage to cover everyone in that limo in the event of a fatal crash.

So in the Schoharie crash, the families of the 20 people killed the crash, in some cases with small children, may only be able to recover $7,500 per person from the insurance company assuming the limo company had the state-required minimum coverage.

What the state requires is ridiculously low but the one thing Twin Tiers residents can do to protect themselves and their families is make sure they are protected on THEIR car insurance.

On your insurance policy, there is a section called Supplemental Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage.

You should make sure you have at least $250,000 of SUM coverage in your vehicle insurance policy that would come from your own insurance company to protect your family in the event of your injury or death in your vehicle or someone else’s vehicle (for instance, if you were in a limo).

So please check your policy and make sure you have $250,000 in SUM coverage. In the Schoharie crash, SUM coverage would at least offer some additional money to compensate the grieving families and help provide for the children who lost a parent or parents.

Be sure to watch this week’s Law Talk, where I urged WETM viewers to check their insurance policies.

Here is the state law on insurance and more information I have written on SUM coverage here and here.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Beware of Insurance Adjusters! How to Navigate Your Insurance After a Car Crash

How-an-Insurance-Adjuster-Works-to-Limit-Your-Settlement

If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably talked on the phone or in person shortly after the collision with an adjuster from your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company. It’s a confusing time, often with police and ambulances and many other concerns in addition to your car insurance.

But if you have been in a crash, you’ll have to deal with insurance adjusters. They usually appear to be nice people, soothing and sympathetic. They are trying to make you think they are Here To Help You. They reassure you that they are recording your statement about the crash to get your version of events right away, and they’ll process your claim faster this way.

But before you get swept up in the frantic moments after a crash, remember this about insurance adjusters: They’re not your friends. They are doing their job, and that’s to save the insurance company as much money as possible on your crash.

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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.


Warning to Homeowners: Protect Bikers and Obey the Law By Keeping Grass Clippings and Leaves out of the Road

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Most people think distracted drivers and bad roads are the biggest dangers facing motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Those are the most obvious dangers.

What many homeowners don’t realize is that they could be responsible for one of the most overlooked types of dangers to motorcyclists: blowing yard waste like grass clippings and leaves into city streets and rural roads.

Grass clippings are slippery when dry and feel like you’re riding on ice or grease when they get wet.

Leaves are slippery, wet or dry, but they hide other dangers, too, by disguising potholes and other hazards in the road that can shred tires and worse. Large leaf piles raked into streets and roads send bicyclists into the path of cars. The leaf piles also clog the storm drains, leaving more water on streets and roads – another danger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANew York has two different statutes that prohibit the blowing or placing of grass clippings and leaves on roads.  Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1219(b) requires that any person who drops, or permits to be dropped or thrown, upon any highway any material which interferes with the safe use of the highway shall immediately remove the same or cause it to be removed.  Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1220(a) provides that “no person shall throw, dump, deposit or place, or cause to be thrown, dumped, deposited or placed upon any highway, or within the limits of the right of way of such highway, or upon private lands adjacent thereto, any refuse, trash, garbage, rubbish, litter or any nauseous or offensive matter.”

Homeowners, if you blow your grass into the street or road, blow it back onto the curbing or into your yard. It won’t hurt your grass – its actually good for it. If you fail to do so, you are in violation of the statutes listed above and could be sentenced to a fine, community service of both.

Slippery-When-Wet-Sign-X-W8-10aMore importantly, if your yard waste is responsible for a biker losing control and crashing, you will be personally responsible for the biker’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering associated with his injuries. These damages could easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a serious injury.

No responsible homeowner would ever intentionally place bikers at risk of harm. By following the laws requiring you to keep yard waste out of the street, you’re doing your part to ensure motorcyclists and bicyclists can safely pass your property.

Many landfill operators no longer accept bagged leaves or grass, so mulch or compost your grass and keep your leaf piles out of the street or road for easy pickup by your municipality.

Those are great ways to share the road with motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Thank you for reading,

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


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

Pedestrian Collisions In Chemung, Ithaca A Reminder About Walking Safely At Night, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

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

WETM-TV.

Two Twin Tiers pedestrians were struck by vehicles at night this week, leaving a 15-year-old girl dead in the town of Chemung and seriously injuring a second person in Ithaca.

New York State Police said 15-year-old Xanadu Rumsey was walking along County Route 60 near Tomasso’s golf course and restaurant in the Town of Chemung at about 9:30 Tuesday night when she was struck from behind by a vehicle. She was transported to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, where she was pronounced dead.

State Police in Horseheads said the girl was walking in the same direction as traffic when she was struck. The investigation continues and troopers have not released any information about the driver of the vehicle.

reflective-pedestrian-crossing-signs-watch-for-pedestrians-l7534-lgState Police are asking anyone who saw two people walking along County Route 60 at about 9:30 Tuesday night to call State Police at 607-739-8797. They did not say who the second person was with Xanadu.

At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, a tractor-trailer hit a pedestrian at the intersection of State Route 13 and Willow Avenue in Ithaca.

The pedestrian, who has not been identified, is in stable condition Thursday at an unidentified regional trauma center with serious injuries that are not considered life-threatening, according to the Ithaca Police Department.

Police said the injured pedestrian suffered a severe head injury. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call the Ithaca Police Department at 607-272-9973 or its tip line at 607-330-0000. Email tips can be sent by going here: www.cityofithaca.org/ipdtips.

If you are going to walk at night along a street, road or highway, here are some safety tips to remember:

  1. Always walk facing traffic. Do it because it’s the law, but also so you can see what is approaching and maximize your time to avoid the car if it is potentially endangering you.
  1. Get as far to the right as you can – don’t walk on the fog line. Give cars as much room as possible, not because they don’t have to go around you, but because you want to do everything in your power to avoid a collision.
  1. Wear light-colored clothes and consider wearing something reflective to maximize your chances of being seen. Also consider carrying at flashlight that you can shine so an oncoming driver has a better chance of seeing you.
  1. Recognize that perhaps the most dangerous time for a pedestrian is when two oncoming cars are meeting near your location. The operators of the cars will be focused on each other, and the oncoming headlights will impede the vision of both drivers, making it harder for them to see you. They are likely to move toward, or even onto, their shoulders to give each other as much room as possible.
  1. Walk in well-lit areas. Avoid poorly-lit areas if at all possible.
  1. Obey traffic signals and devices unless a police officer directs otherwise, including pedestrian signals.
  1. Assume drivers do not see you. While you should do whatever you can to increase your visibility, do not walk into a crosswalk assuming that the oncoming vehicle can see you. It’s better to wait to be sure the vehicle stops than to make a wrong assumption.
  1. Do not wear headphones and turn off your phone. Be alert at all times while walking.

Thank you for reading,

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


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

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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

 


Meeting Thursday Night Renews Focus On Contamination At Elmira High School

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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

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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

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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)
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