Police, Courts Steering Into Big Liability Questions With Driverless Cars, Says NY and PA Injury Lawyer

When a driverless car has an accident, who's liable? Stay tuned ....

When a driverless car has an accident, who’s liable? Stay tuned ….

One thing I have learned in 27 years of practice is that the law is constantly evolving, and if you want to do a good job for your clients, you also have to constantly evolve.

Thankfully, I love learning about new technology, which often leads me to think about how new technology will influence current laws.

A recent article on NPR’s thought-provoking Planet Money has an interesting discussion of how the law might evolve as cars start to drive themselves.

Yup, driverless cars are coming, and they’re bringing a bunch of legal headaches with them.

Google is leading the way in the effort to develop driverless cars. The technology is starting to take shape and test drives have been called a success so far.

But our legal system will face a huge challenge when faced with this difficult question: When a driverless car crashes, who’s liable?

Cory Turner, the author of the NPR blog post, points out that governments and courts will have to answer many legal and regulatory issues BEFORE we all slide into the passenger seat to watch a DVD or read a book!

The auto industry is aware of the risk, Turner said. “We have great exposure as an industry in terms of product liability,” Dan Gage of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Turner. “And I think as an industry … most of us suspect that there will always be someone in that driver’s seat.”

Turner said a lesson from the vaccine industry may hold the key for driverless cars.

In the 1980s, the rising threat of liability prompted vaccine manufacturers to pull out of the business, Turner wrote. So Congress stepped in and created a new system for people who are injured by vaccines. Cases are handled in special hearings, and victims are paid out of a fund created by a tax on vaccines.

With the threat of liability reduced, Turner wrote, more companies started making vaccines again.

To learn more about driverless cars, check out Forbes’ multipart series or a look at road rage and driverless cars in the Huffington Post.

Motorists in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers:

Would you want to own a driverless car?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Thanks for reading,


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




Elmira Accident Attorney Warns: No Smart Phones in the Jury Room!

Assorted smartphones. From left to right, top ...
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The use of smart phones grows everyday.  What used to be the size of a brick (with about the same reception) is now smaller than a wallet and capable of handling multiple e-mail accounts, surfing the web, performing google searches, browsing documents and even doing legal research.  Through e-mail and mobile social networking sites like facebook and twitter – we can instantly have access to friends and relatives and their expertise.  While that kind of power is a wonderful tool to have in everyday life, there is one place where instant access to information is banned:  the jury room.

In the jury room, jurors are supposed the weight the evidence they hear from the witness stand, apply it to the law as relayed to them by the judge, and render a verdict.  Outside information and influence is strictly prohibited.  The courts have traditionally been very slow to respond the existence of new technology, but in recognition of the prevalence of smart phones and their instant access to information, the Courts have now amended their instruction to juries about discussing the case with others.  That instruction is found in New York’s Pattern Jury Instructions at PJI 1.11 as follows:

PJI 1:11. Discussion With Others – Independent Research
In fairness to the parties to this lawsuit, it is very important that you keep an open mind
throughout the trial. Then, after you have heard both sides fully, you will reach your
verdict only on the evidence as it is presented to you in this courtroom, and only in this
courtroom, and then only after you have heard the summations of each of the attorneys
and my instructions to you on the law. You will then have an opportunity to exchange
views with each member of the jury during your deliberations to reach your verdict.
Please do not discuss this case either among yourselves or with anyone else during the
course of the trial. Do not do any independent research on any topic you might hear about
in the testimony or see in the exhibits, whether by consulting others, reading books or
magazines or conducting an internet search of any kind. All electronic devices including
any cell phones, Blackberries, iphones, laptops or any other personal electronic devices

must be turned off while you are in the courtroom and while you are deliberating after I

have given you the law applicable to this case. [In the event that the court requires the jurors                                                                                                                                                                                        to relinquish their devices, the charge should be modified to reflect the court’s practice]
It is important to remember that you may not use any internet services, such as Google,
Facebook, Twitter or any others to individually or collectively research topics concerning
the trial, which includes the law, information about any of the issues in contention, the
parties, the lawyers or the court. After you have rendered your verdict and have been
discharged, you will be free to do any research you choose, or to share your experiences,
either directly, or through your favorite electronic means.
For now, be careful to remember these rules whenever you use a computer or other
personal electronic device during the time you are serving as a juror but you are not in the
While this instruction may seem unduly restrictive, it is vital that you carefully follow these

So – if you are called to serve on a jury, please be ready to heed the judge’s instructions.  Failure to do so will result in you being removed from the jury, and may require a mistrial, which means the lawyers would be required to re-try the case.  Also, don’t be surprised if the judge asks you to surrender your smart phone!

Thanks for reading,

Adam M. Gee, Esq.

NY and PA Injury Attorney

The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]

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Google Scholar Launches Online Access to U.S. Laws and Cases

I want to pass along some BIG news that is wonderful for everyone: Google is now offering FREE access to a huge amount of U.S. law through Google Scholar.

Why is this a big deal? Because historically law firms have had to pay incredibly high rates to gain access to online case law via services such as WestLaw and Lexis. The Ziff Law Firm currently pays more than $6,000 a year to Lexis! I have been longing for the day when we can eliminate that cost.google_scholar_logo

(Google has been developing Google Scholar for years now – it’s “a freely-accessible Web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature” according to Wikipedia. The beta version was launched in late 2004, and now the Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online journals from many of the world’s scholarly publishers.)

Here’s the official Google Blog post, “Finding the laws that govern us,” regarding their new service.

How it works (basically!)

Know how to use Google? You’ve got the concept, then! Go to the Google Scholar home page and select the radio button for Legal opinions and journals. You can search by the names of the parties in a particular case or the type of decision. Not only will Google Scholar return the results for a specific case you are looking into, it will offer links to associated cases for your further research.

While Google’s current offerings don’t match all the features of Lexis yet, it is only a matter of time until we can accomplish all we need to do for FREE.

And that’s the way it should be – information wants to be free.

A postscript on Google

Google is continually coming up with new features. I came across this post on the iPhone J.D. blog, a resource for lawyers who use iPhones (as I do!). Follow this link to a great post on using Google on your iPhone and some speculation on what might be available from Google in the future.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney

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

E-mail me at [email protected] for two free books:
NY Car Accidents and NY Car Insurance Secrets YOU Need to Know.

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Experienced Attorney Warns: Protect Your Personal Injury Case By Being Smart About Social Media

Use-social-media-intelligentlyI have written before on the NY Injury Law Blog about the dangers of giving away your privacy online with social media. Sloppy postings on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and other social sites can easily undermine personal injury cases – and believe me, insurance companies are well versed in any techniques to weaken plaintiffs’ cases.

The following guest post from Virginia injury lawyer Ben Glass provides a very clear outlines of the Do’s and Don’ts of using social media for people who want to protect their privacy and their personal injury cases. I’m reprinting it here with Ben’s permission. Here is Ben’s Guest Post:

Warning for Clients About Social Media

FACT – While initially people were quite guarded about what photos they posted online and who has access to them, people are gradually becoming more exhibitionist. Your friends may have photos of you, that can be searched by your name, on their pages. In other words, your own privacy settings cannot protect you entirely.

FACT – The courts have ordered injured plaintiffs to produce their Facebook pages to the insurance company lawyers.

FACT – Evidence from Facebook has been admitted in Ontario Courts and is used by the police and the traditional media.

FACT – Every insurance defense lawyer has a law clerk on Facebook who is looking for their opponents’ pages, profiles and pictures on Facebook.

So, does that mean you have to withdraw from the 21st century and avoid social media? As your lawyer, I would like to say, well, yes. Avoid it like the plague. However, as a human being, I recognize that may not be possible. So, what steps can you take to protect yourself?

Step One: Take a critical eye to your social media sites to see if there is anything you would not want the insurance company lawyer to see. Remember that the insurance company will not know the context of your photos or comments. They won’t know if you swallowed a bottle of pain killers to get through that party.

Step Two: Check your privacy settings. Most sites allow you to block certain people altogether from seeing that you even are on the site. Block the opposing lawyer and his/her clerk. Keep in mind, however, that there will be law students and others whose names you won’t know, so this is not foolproof.

Step Three: Search your name in the search field to see what comes up and make sure it is acceptable.

Step Four: While you are at it, do the same thing on Google and You Tube. Make whatever adjustments are necessary.

Step Five: Don’t accept friend requests or answer emails through social media from people you do now know. On Facebook, if you send a message, you grant the receiver access to your profile for a certain number of days. That is a common device to get access to your profile. Keep in mind that because of the lawsuit process, the opposing legal team knows a lot about you and could send you an email that might make you think you know each other.

If you are in doubt about whether or not your pages are acceptable, speak to your personal injury lawyer about it.

Ben Glass, Virginia personal injury lawyer. Check out Ben’s website, BenGlassLaw.com, for more of his advice about personal injury law and protecting your case.

Thanks for reading,

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

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Free and Found on the Web: Great Programs for Trial Lawyers

Law-tools-on-the-InternetA cool thing about blogs: Every once in a while, you come across a post with incredibly helpful information from someone with an insider’s knowledge.

That was the case for me with the following post, found at Winning Trial Advocacy Tips: Proven Courtroom Tips to Help You Persuade Jurors and Win Trials. This blog, part of TrialTheater.com, features advice to boost the expertise of trial lawyers.

I loved the following post by Elliott Wilcox. With his permission, I am using it here on the NY Injury Law Blog as a guest post. Thanks for the post, Elliott, and the sage tech advice!

Free Software for Trial Lawyers

On a budget? Here are some software programs that will help you prepare for your next jury trial and won’t break the bank. Most of these programs work on a variety of platforms, but since I’m a Mac guy, one or two of them might be Mac-only.


GIMP: www.gimp.org

Need to crop photos, modify images, or enhance images for trial? This is a cheap (free) alternative to Adobe Photoshop. It includes a wide variety of image editing tools. It’s not easy to get started, but it’s a powerful resource.

Seashore: www.seashore.sourceforge.net

A simple image editing program that’s easier to use than GIMP.

Inkscape: www.inkscape.org

This is an illustration program (similar to Adobe Illustrator) that lets you create vector drawings and illustrations. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the professional program, but it lets you create amazing artwork.

Hugin: www.hugin.sourceforge.net

If you’re trying to take photos of a large, panoramic area, you usually can’t fit the entire scene into a single photo (at least not without a thousand dollar camera lens). Hugin solves that problem by letting you stitch 2+ photos together into a panoramic view.


Audacity: www.audacity.sourceforge.net

If your evidence includes audio recordings of depositions, interviews, or police interrogations, Audacity is an invaluable tool. With this program, you’ll be able to edit audio recordings, extract smaller portions from extended interviews, and perform other audio editing functions.


Sketchup: www.sketchup.google.com

Create 3D and 2D models, apply textures, and voila! you’ve created an interactive model of the crime scene!

Sweet Home 3d: www.sweethome3d.eu

Need to layout a residential crime scene or a slip& fall scenario? Sweet Home 3d can render home layouts, furnishings, and create floorplans.


Scribus: www.scribus.net

This program is great for producing flyers, brochures, newsletters, etc. You can use it to create posters or enlargements for use in direct examination or closing argument.

OpenOffice: www.openoffice.org

Can’t afford (or don’t trust) Microsoft Office? OpenOffice includes a full suite of office programs. You’ll get a word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics, and presentation programs.

Google Docs: www.docs.google.com

Create and edit web-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

The documents are stored online, so multiple parties can modify them at once (beware of attorney-client privilege violations).

AbiWord: www.abisource.com

This word processing program is similar to Microsoft Word.


Evernote: www.evernote.com

This program works on your computer, iPhone, PDA, etc. You can synchronize your notes everywhere at once. It’s invaluable for jotting down notes, websites, and more.

Freemind: www.freemind.sourceforge.net

Need to brainstorm new cross-examination questions? Trying to organize your direct-examination, but not sure which topics you should address or which order you should present them in? Freemind is a mind-mapping program. If you’ve never used a mind-map before, it might take a little getting accustomed to, but it will make it much easier for you to get those brilliant ideas out of your head and onto paper.

TimeBridge: www.TimeBridge.com

If you’ve ever tried to schedule a meeting with several busy people, you know how difficult it can be to find a time that works for everyone. This online meeting scheduler allows all of the invitees to choose a preferred meeting slot, then it finds tha day and time that work the best for everyone.

– Elliott Wilcox, Trial Theater.com

Thank you, Elliott, for the permission to re-post your excellent software suggestions. Readers, don’t miss out on the informative Trial Theater website, where you can find loads more advice and tips about courtroom presentation.

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

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NY Accident Lawyer Recommends Free Online Resource to “Sketch” an Accident Scene

AccidentSketch-demo-shotFree is ALWAYS good in my book!

There is a great new FREE resource available to all New York and Pennsylvania car accident victims. AccidentSketch is a online utility that anyone can use to graphically document a car accident. The service is free and doesn’t even require registration!

Why Drawing an Accurate Accident Sketch is Important

Insurance companies, courts and lawyers all require detailed depictions of an accident to successfully resolve claims for compensation. Often there will be disputes about where each car involved in an accident was prior to, during or after the car crash. Ther may be disputes about the direction of travel for each car. There may be disputes about what car had the right of way at the time of the accident.

Experienced accident lawyers know that working with an accident sketch is a great way for your clients to discuss with you the details of EXACTLY how an accident occurred.

I discovered the existence of the AccidentSketch service through the Lifehacker weblog. I think it is a fantastic tool to ease the process of making an accurate accident report – and it puts the means in the hands of the people who were involved in the crash. AccidentSketch is one of those tools that is essential, once you know it’s out there.

One Warning!

Because it is critically important that an accident sketch be as accurate as possible, I would strongly urge anyone who was injured in a car accident to consult with an experienced accident lawyer BEFORE submitting an accident scene sketch to any insurance company. Why? Because anything you submit to an insurance company, even your own insurance company, may be used against you by the insurance company for the other driver involved in your accident. Accordingly, you want to make certain that the sketch is 100% accurate and there is nothing in the sketch that might shoot you in the foot…..

How AccidentSketch works

The software is amazingly simple to use. All of the standard road elements are already created – just put them together like a puzzle to recreate the circumstances of an accident.

First, you select road “pieces” to map an accurate depiction of the road, be it a curve, a urn, an intersection or other type of street. The pieces drag and snap into a grid at a scale of 1:100.

Then select your vehicle type (trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians are also options) and place it in the road map you created. You can choose vehicle colors and input license plate numbers.

Continue to add vehicles and other details, such as traffic signs, lights, arrows, braking marks and more, until you have an accurate drawing of your accident.

You may even create a time-lapse version of the accident, by placing multiple images of vehicles on the map and using arrows to show their courses of action.

To complete your account of the accident, AccidentSketch allows you to type in a text report, where you can explain the accident in depth.

At this point, without paying a fee and with minimum effort, you will have a detailed, accurate and easy-to-follow accident report that will be invaluable information in settling insurance claims or a court case. Check out this sample: AccidentSketch-example.

Thanks for reading,
James B. Reed, Esq.
New York Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
mailto:[email protected] http://www.zifflaw.com

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