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

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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

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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

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

 


Legal News You Can Use: Check Out Ziff Law’s New Summer 2018 Newsletter

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Adam Gee, Christina Sonsire, Jim Reed, and Mike Brown.

 

The Ziff Law Firm debuts its new – and redesigned – free newsletter this week as the Summer 2018 issue arrives in mailboxes and inboxes around the Twin Tiers. It is filled with legal news that you can use – and much more.

Our cover story explains how our popular Veteran of the Game program came home to Elmira this summer.

Then we get to the legal news:

Our lawyers write about some of the key issues they encounter in their practices as they tackle these questions:

  • Do bicyclists in New York State have to operate by the same laws as vehicles? Ziff Law managing partner and noted bicycle law expert Jim Reed educates readers.
  • Is motorcycle insurance the same as car insurance? Partner Adam Gee, a longtime motorcyclist and motorcycle law expert, has some surprising answers.
  • Why does Ziff Law partner Christina Sonsire teach for a statewide legal education organization?
  • How does Ziff Law attorney Mike Brown’s family play a role in his legal practice?

And just for fun, we profile a downtown Elmira shop, a hidden gem that is in the “upcycling” business, in our Business Spotlight.

The owner of Nutmeg Upcycling, longtime downtown business owner Rich LaVere, talked to us about his growing business and why he keeps returning downtown.

We published a short interview in the print newsletter and there is a bonus longer interview with Rich here, where he talks about the challenges facing downtown and how the city can start turning things around. He’s an optimist!

At Ziff Law, we are committed to being environmentally responsible, so if you’d like to receive our free newsletter by email, send an email to us today at [email protected] and we will send you a PDF right away – and as a bonus, add your name for an upcoming drawing for a $50 gift card to Lib’s Supper Club in Elmira.

If you’d like to receive the newsletter by mail, call (607-733-8866) or email ([email protected]) us with your name and address and we’ll send it right out.

Happy 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

How To Stay Safe When Boating This Summer, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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As our summer heats up, more people are heading for their nearest river or lake for some water recreation to keep cool and spend time with family and friends. There will be food and drink, including some alcohol … and we hope some life jackets.

From paddleboards to motor boats, getting out on your favorite body of water for some fun is a great way to beat the summer heat, but only if you are prepared and sober and drug-free.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reports there were 15 fatal boating-related accidents in Upstate New York in 2017. The 15 deaths in 2017 included two in  Twin Tiers lakes, according to news reports:

  • A kayaker was killed April 17 when the kayak he was operating capsized on Almond Lake in Steuben County. He was not wearing a life jacket.
  • A motorboat passenger was killed Aug. 10 when he was ejected from his seat and run over by a boat on Waneta Lake in Schuyler County. He had marijuana in his system and was not wearing a life jacket.

The other deaths involved capsized canoes, a pedal boat accident, a paddleboard fall, swimming off a motor boat, a capsized rowboat, and a cabin swamped by a wave and sunk in rough waters.

In many cases, there were not life jackets or any personal flotation devices. Alcohol and drug use were reported in some cases.

According to national recreational boating statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2017, there were about 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and about $46 million in property damage as a result of crashes.

The fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels was a 6.8 percent decrease from the 2016 fatality rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000.

The number of accidents decreased 3.9 percent from 2016 to 2017. In addition, the number of deaths decreased 6.1 percent and the number of injuries fell 9.4 percent.

Let’s keep decreasing those numbers. Remember your life jackets and don’t use drugs or alcohol before or during boating.

Remember: If you are the operator of a boat you should ensure that your passengers are wearing life jackets (when required or appropriate for the conditions) and are not dangerously intoxicated or impaired.  If you feel that it’s unsafe for your passengers to be out on the water, you should do the right thing and get to shore.  Never forget:  YOU are the captain of the ship.

Here is why: 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those drowning victims with reported life jacket use, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Finally, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the report.

Boating safety courses are not required under state law for anyone born before 1996, but with summer upon us, I would encourage everyone to take boating education seriously and consider taking the course.

Important information from the New York State Boaters Guide:

Motor Boat Education Requirements:

  • Operators born on or after May 1, 1996, must have a boating safety certificate and be at least 10 years of age.
  • Operators who are younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by a person who is at least 18 years of age or older and is the holder of a boating safety certificate or not required by law to hold a certificate.
  • The operator is the owner of a recently purchased motor boat, if required by law to hold a boating safety certificate may operate the vessel without the required certificate for up to 120 days from date of purchase.
  • Persons 18 years of age or older may rent a motor boat without a boating safety certificate provided that the operator of the livery holds a certificate, demonstrates the use of the vessel and safety equipment, and the person renting demonstrates their understanding of the vessels operation and safety equipment. Those under the age of 18 must have a boating safety certificate in order to rent a vessel.

Motor Boat Operators Exempted From Having To Hold A Boating Safety Certificate:

  • Persons born before May 1, 1996.
  • Certified New York Safe boating instructors.
  • Members of the USCG Auxiliary or US Power Squadron.
  • Persons licensed by NYS Parks, the United States Coast Guard or Canadian Coast Guard to operate commercial vessels.
  • Police officers, peace officers, fire and rescue personnel, and life guards when acting pursuant to assigned duties
  • A resident of another state or country who is the holder of a valid boating safety certificate issued according to the laws of their home state or country

Before you hit the water, remember to keep safety in mind!

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

How To Avoid No-Fault Nightmares: Review Your Car Insurance Today

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Karen Wheadon, a paralegal who works with Ziff Law Managing Partner Jim Reed, has written the following blog post about no-fault insurance coverage.

Many of our clients are victims of car crashes, and therefore, subject to the rules and regulations of no-fault insurance. Unfortunately, many of our clients struggle financially because they have inadequate no-fault coverage.

Karen Wheadon.

Karen Wheadon.

Briefly, state-required minimum no-fault insurance consists of $50,000 in coverage for the following:

  1. All necessary doctor and hospital bills and other health service expenses, payable in accordance with fee schedules established or adopted by the New York State Insurance Department.
  2. Eighty percent of lost earnings up to a maximum monthly payment of $2,000 for up to three years following the date of the crash.
  3. Up to $25 a day for a period of one year from the date of the accident for other reasonable and necessary expenses the injured person may have incurred because of an injury resulting from the accident, such as the cost of hiring a housekeeper or necessary transportation expenses to and from a health-service provider.
  4. A$2,000 death benefit, payable to the estate of a covered person, in addition to the $50,000 coverage for economic loss described above.

When shopping for car insurance, many people don’t think to invest in anything other than that basic coverage. However, additional coverage can be purchased … and can make a huge difference to someone’s life and financial stability. When we consider the growing costs of health care, $50,000 does not last long.

Here are some examples of crash victims and their no-fault insurance coverage,

Mike

Mike, like many of our clients, receives Medicare benefits. He had a serious car crash and exhausted his basic no-fault coverage. His medical bills were then submitted to Medicare for coverage and he was personally responsible for co-pays. On top of that, under federal law, Medicare (and Medicaid) are allowed to assert a lien against any third-party recovery.

What that means for Mike is that the personal injury claim/lawsuit we filed against the person responsible for causing the crash and Mike’s injuries now has a lien against it. At the time of the settlement, Mike has to pay Medicare back from his settlement. Had Mike had additional no-fault coverage, he could have avoided his bills going to Medicare and kept more of his settlement for himself.

Michelle

Michelle, injured in a car crash in 2016, had basic no-fault coverage that was paying her medical bills and was also reimbursing her for lost wages because she is unable to work. Like so many of our clients, Michelle relied on her monthly wage loss checks to pay for her basic necessities (mortgage, groceries, etc.).

Michele’s no-fault benefits were exhausted in May, leaving her with NO income at all. She has an application pending with Social Security Disability, but applicants often wait a year to hear if they are accepted or denied. If denied, the appeal process is even longer.

On top of that, Michelle’s private health insurance is through the Affordable Care Act. She has catastrophic coverage only with a $6,000 deductible. The neck surgery that was being scheduled is now on hold because she cannot afford to pay a $6,000 deductible without any income.

Obviously, Michelle would have benefited greatly from additional no-fault coverage. Her story is a great argument for universal health care because her health insurance plan is abysmal. She is a hard-working, taxpaying citizen who found herself with a disability and unable to work after a car crash. She should not have to put off medical treatment because she can’t afford her co-pay.

Opponents of universal health care argue that they don’t want the government making their medical decisions, but insurance companies already do that all the time. They arbitrarily decide a patient only needs 10 physical therapy sessions, or that they can’t have a drug prescribed by their doctor because it is too costly, or that surgery is not necessary because they have not exhausted conservative treatment options. Insurance companies base these decisions on money – their money that they would rather not pay out!

Justin

My stepson, Justin, was involved in a near-fatal car crash in 2015. He was taken from the scene of the crash by ambulance to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, and then quickly transferred to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. From there, he was life-flighted to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., where he was admitted for more than a month and underwent numerous surgeries to repair his fractured neck and re-attach a shoulder and arm.

There are a lot of miracles associated with Justin’s crash – too many to recount here. The fact that he is alive and well and now a father of two beautiful little children is sometimes more than I can believe. We are very, very blessed. But as you can imagine, the medical bills were astounding. The life-flight bill alone was $54,999, which was paid in full by his primary no-fault coverage.

Luckily, in addition to the basic no-fault coverage of $50,000, Justin had $10,000 of med-pay, $25,000 of OBEL (Optional Basic Economic Loss), and $150,000 of APIP (Additional Personal Injury Protection). He had such incredible coverage because he was the passenger of a vehicle that had more than basic coverage and he was also covered under his own policy which had even better coverage. This is far from the norm.

But even all of that coverage was very quickly exhausted, leaving a balance due to Geisinger Medical Center in excess of $1 million. This was turned over to his health insurance.

Justin was 23 years old at the time of his crash, but thankfully he was still covered by his father’s health insurance plan as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which extended medical coverage for children up to age 26. Donations from friends and family through a gofundme campaign covered the deductible, so Justin did not have to file bankruptcy because of insurmountable medical debt, as so many Americans do.

Justin’s example shows that even incredible no-fault coverage cannot adequately cover you from a catastrophic injury. But catastrophic injuries are, thankfully, rare.

The vast majority of our clients are like Michelle and Mike. They have broken bones that may or may not need surgery. Most of our clients seek medical treatment locally and don’t have multiple ambulance and life-flight bills. However, even routine injuries that require fairly routine medical treatment will quickly exhaust a basic no-fault policy.

So make the wise choice and protect yourself by asking your insurance agent about increasing your no-fault coverage. Had Michele or Mike had Justin’s maximum no-fault coverage, they would not be facing hard financial and medical decisions. We hope you won’t have to, either.

Therefore, we recommend adding Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP) of at least $75,000 and Supplementary Underinsured (SUM) Coverage of at least $250,000. The good news is that adding this additional protection does not cost much more but will give you much better protection.

If you have questions, or would like us to review your insurance policy for free, please email me at [email protected] or Jim Reed at [email protected].

Thank you for reading,

Karen Wheadon
Paralegal
Ziff Law Firm
[email protected]


Steuben County Magistrates’ Association Honors Retired Special Counsel

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From left, Hon. Betsey Farley, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association secretary; Hon. Annette Viselli Thorne, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association vice-president; Hon. Christie Brothers, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association treasurer; Maryclaire Donovan Frank; Hon. David Domm, Steuben County Magistrates’ Association president; Hon. David Gideon, New York State Magistrates’ Association president.

The Steuben County Magistrates’ Association honored recently retired 7th Judicial District Special Counsel Maryclaire Donovan Frank during its monthly meeting on May 11 at the Bath American Legion.

Maryclaire was instrumental in molding many judges throughout Steuben County, providing town and village justices with personal care, support, education, and instruction that went above and beyond the call of duty.

Maryclaire was town justice in the Town of Erwin for 17 years and was in private practice until 11 years ago, when she retired and was appointed by the New York State Office of Court Administration to the position of special counsel.

Maryclaire supervised town and village justices in the following counties in the 7th Judicial District: Steuben, Yates, Wayne, Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, and Seneca.

Maryclaire is the daughter of retired State Supreme Court justice W. Denis Donovan.

The Ziff Law Firm salutes Maryclaire and wishes her well in her retirement!

Thanks for reading,

Jim Reed

Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Email: [email protected]
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Web: www.zifflaw.com
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
NYBikeAccidentBlog.com


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
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