Deer Season Makes Twin Tiers Roads More Dangerous This Fall, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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It’s deer season for hunters – and drivers – this fall.

Hunting seasons are underway in New York and Pennsylvania, so that means deer collisions on Twin Tiers roads are going to skyrocket. It’s also mating season for deer, so they are more restless and your chances of hitting a deer are much higher this time of year. Remember that dusk and dawn are the most dangerous deer-related collision times for motorists.

So be prepared.

Traffic-Signs-RM213-lgYour first step, in addition to being more watchful on area roads, is checking your car insurance policy to make sure you are covered sufficiently in case of an accident. Deer collisions are covered under the comprehensive section of your policy, which protects you against acts of God or nature.

Although we call it a deer collision – it is not covered under your insurance policy’s collision coverage, which protects you if you strike a fixed object or another vehicle. For example, your collision coverage would likely cover you if you swerve to miss a deer and strike a guardrail or a tree.

Keep in mind that you will have to pay a deductible on your comprehensive and collision coverage. You may also want to consider rental coverage so you do not have to pay out pocket for a rental car or be left without a vehicle in the event yours is inoperable after a deer collision.

If you are injured in the collision, your medical bills and lost wages will be covered under no-fault insurance.

It’s also important to check your liability coverage. Many drivers and passengers are injured in deer-related crashes because drivers swerve to miss the deer and strike other vehicles or fixed objects, such as a tree or guardrail. In these instances, an injured passenger or other motorist may bring a claim against you for their pain and suffering.

Therefore, it is very important to heed the advice below to keep you and your loved ones safe and free from liability.

If you strike a deer …

Mike Brown.

Michael Brown.

Move your vehicle to a safe place. If possible, pull over to the side of the road, and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.

Call the police if there are injuries to you or passengers, or the deer is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury or property damage, you may need to fill out an official report. This report also can prove useful when filing your insurance claim.

Document, document, document. Write detailed notes about what happened and be as specific as possible. Shoot photographs of the roadway, your surroundings, damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you or your passengers sustained if it is safe. If witnesses stop, take down their account of what occurred and get their contact information.

Stay away from the animal. A frightened, wounded deer could use its powerful legs and sharp hooves to harm you.

Contact your insurance agent. The sooner you report damage or injuries, the sooner your agent can file and process your claim.

Don’t assume your vehicle is safe to drive. Double-check that your car can be driven after colliding with a deer. Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.

Consumer Reports offers the following tips to help you avoid striking deer this fall:

Slow down. Watch for deer especially around dawn and between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m., when they’re most active.

Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where animals are likely to travel. If you travel the same route to and from work every day, you may find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see the animals.

Be alert. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down. At night when traffic permits, put on your high beams for improved visibility.

Brake, don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Instead, just slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds for surviving an accident are better when hitting an animal than hitting another car.

Assume they have friends. The “where there’s one, there’s usually more” often holds true. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.

Don’t rely on deer whistles. Some drivers put these devices on their front bumpers to scare off animals, but animal behavior is unpredictable, even if you use one of these.

Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that 60 percent of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing their seat belts.

Thanks for reading,

Michael Brown, Esq.
NY Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
[email protected]
Office: (607) 733-8866
Web: www.zifflaw.com


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


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

 

 

 


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

Guest Blog Post: Preventing Dog Bites by Recognizing Their Warning Signs

Richard Cross is the guest blogger and the founder of TheDogClinic.com.

Richard Cross, the guest blogger, is the founder of TheDogClinic.com.

Richard Cross, our guest blogger, is the founder of TheDogClinic.com, which was founded in 2008 to help dog owners learn more about dog behavior, training, health, and more.

His advice here about recognizing dogs’ body language and their warning signs will help Twin Tiers residents recognize the different signs of behavior so they can remain safe.

I have represented many dog-bite and dog-attack victims and I can tell you that dog attack cases are difficult for everyone involved– the victim of the attack, the family of the victim and the dog owner.  

It is always the dog owner’s responsibility and legal obligation to prevent a dog attack but the advice below is good advice for everyone to keep in mind when in the presence of dogs.

Richard’s blog post:

Dog bites are more common in the United States than many people realize.

A CDC study found that from 2001 to 2003, there were an estimated 4.5 million bite victims each year. While many of these were minor bites, almost 20 percent of the victims required some medical attention.

For this reason, it’s important for both owners and members of the public to understand basic dog body language. This can reduce the chance of bites, which often have tragic consequences for both the animal and victim.

Common Canine Warning Signs

Most people know when a dog is showing signs of aggression. Raised hackles, bared teeth, and growling are easy to recognize as signals a dog doesn’t want to be approached. Common signs of submission, such as rolling over or crawling, are also easy to spot.

These are the most extreme examples of body language, though. Dogs have a variety of other ways to communicate discomfort or anxiety, such as:

  • Giving “Whale Eye” by holding eye contact, turning the face away, and exposing the eye whites.
  • Licking their lips when there is no food around.
  • Turning away from the person or trying to walk away.
  • Yawning while turning away.
  • Shaking off without being wet.

Dogs showing these signals aren’t likely to attack unless provoked, but may bite if they feel trapped. Unfortunately, many people miss the signals and continue to approach.

It’s also vital to understand that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog. Dogs can wag their tails when defensive, submissive or aggressive.

How to Approach a Dog

The most important rule is to never approach a strange dog without permission from the owner. Dogs of any size and breed can bite, so you can’t judge temperament based on appearance alone.

The owner will know how their dog usually reacts to strangers and whether it’s safe to interact.

Once given permission, many people get into the dog’s “space” and immediately start stroking the dog on the head. This is the wrong way to greet a dog and a common cause of bites.

When you first approach a dog, hold out your fist and allow the dog to sniff it. This protects the fingers from a bite, while giving the dog a chance to signal whether he’s happy to interact.

A dog that’s happy to be stroked will continue looking at the fist or give it a lick. At this stage, it’s probably safe to stroke the dog on the neck or shoulders, but avoid reaching over the head. If the dog looks away from the fist or tries to walk away, this means he doesn’t want to interact and you should leave the dog alone.

Also: Never try to stroke a dog that’s alone in a public place, such as tied up outside a store or in a park. Just because the owner has left the dog in an accessible place doesn’t mean it is safe to approach.

More information about preventing dog bites is available here.

 

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

 

 


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
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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