With Push From Cuomo, NY Legislature Expected To Finally Pass Child Victims Act In 2019

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The New York State Legislature appears finally ready to give new hope to the victims of child sexual abuse and their families. The Child Victims Act, if approved this year, is expected to extend the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children, allowing more victims to sue their attackers and the institutions they represented.

In 2019, with the Democrats leading the Senate and Assembly under Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the long-debated Child Victims Act may finally be approved by state lawmakers. The Republican-controlled Senate in the past had blocked the legislation after the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed it.

The legislation may give past abuse victims a one-year window to file civil claims, regardless of when the abuse happened. The one-time measure has powerful opponents in Albany, including the insurance industry and the Catholic Church.

Cuomo is expected to highlight the legislation in his executive budget proposal, which will be introduced Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Albany.

To summarize, according to recent news reports, the proposed legislation does the following:

  • Extends or eliminates the statute of limitations for future criminal sexual cases involving a child under the age of 18, which would give victims more time to come forward after they become adults.
  • Extends the time limit for victims to sue in civil court to the time they turn 50.
  • Opens a one-year window for all past victims of child sexual abuse to file civil claims, regardless of when it happened.

The most serious felony sexual crimes against children already have no statute of limitations, so prosecutors can’t be restricted from bringing charges because of how much time has passed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But there is a five year statute of limitations for other lower-level felonies that begin when the victim turns 18. A 2018 bill proposed by Cuomo called for dropping any time limit but the Legislature’s bill would start the five-year statute of limitations when the victim turns 23.

The bill’s sponsors call the so-called “look-back period” the key part of the legislation. If approved, the one-year period would begin six months after the bill is signed. In that next year only, victims would be able to seek civil relief from people or institutions, regardless of the victim’s age or when the abuse occurred.

News reports said insurance groups have strongly lobbied against the look-back period for obvious reasons: They would likely face pressure to pay out damages to victims of institutions the insurers count as clients for claims that had been previously barred by the statute of limitations.

The state Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic dioceses, has also targeted the look-back period, saying it appears it would only apply to private institutions — like the Catholic Church — and not schools and governments, according to news reports. The bill sponsors said it applies to both.

The dispute is over what’s known as a “notice of claim,” which has to be filed within 90 days of an act and serves as an extra layer of protection that public institutions have against being sued.

But last week, news reports said Cuomo’s office announced the Child Victims Act in his budget would eliminate the need for a notice of claim when a sex crime is committed against a child.

Cuomo also wants judges to attend required training on how to handle cases involving children who are sexually abused. The legislation would also let the state Office of Court Administration establish rules for adjudicating revived claims against abusers in the past.

Thank you for reading,

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

 

 


New Year, Many New NY and PA Laws For Twin Tiers Residents

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Twin Tiers residents face some new state laws that could impact their lives in 2019.

In New York and Pennsylvania, some of the new laws established in 2017 and 2018 take effect in 2019. In NY, state lawmakers in Albany debated and approved minimum wage increases, more paid family leave, and much more. In PA, state lawmakers in Harrisburg toughened penalties for DUIs and domestic violence and closed a gun show loophole among a group of new laws.

The New York State Legislature begins meeting Jan. 9 and the Democrats have a lot on their plate because they control the state Assembly and Senate, and are led by a Democrat, newly re-elected Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A big topic of debate in 2019 will be the possible legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

The Pennsylvania Legislature returned Jan. 7 with the Republicans still having the majorities in both chambers. There are a record number of female lawmakers who will join the fight in tackling redistricting, education, and pension reform, among many other issues, and will be expected to better address the opioid crisis.

Here is a summary of what you need to know:

New York

■ Good news for many New York homeowners: Property tax rebate checks will increase an average of $530 this year for STAR-eligible homeowners earning $275,000 or less a year in property tax-compliant school districts.

Dollars■ The minimum wage upstate increased to $11.10 an hour, up from $10.40 an hour, on Dec. 31. It was the third straight year that the wage was increased and is part of a phased-in increase that will continue through 2021.

In New York City, small employers with no more than 10 employees will pay $13.50, up from $12. Large employers, with 11 or more employees, saw the increase jump from $13 to $15 an hour. In Long Island and Westchester County, the wage increased from $11 to $12.

As usual when there is a rate hike, some business owners said they will pass the increased labor costs on to their customers, or their business may close. Worker advocates say the increases are good for all minimum-wage employees.

Eligible employees denied the wage increase can call a state hotline to report noncompliant employers: 1-888-4-NYSDOL.

Vounteer-FD■ Volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain forms of cancer after Jan. 1 will be eligible for state disability coverage. The firefighters must have served at least five years to get access to the tax-free disability and death benefits.

To learn more about which forms of cancer are included, contact your state lawmakers or read the state’s frequently-asked questions document about the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disabilities Benefits Act, which was approved in October 2017.

■ The state has increased paid family leave from eight weeks to 10 weeks. Eligible employees can take that time off for a new child, a sick family member or to help a family member when another member of the family is deployed on active military service. The number of weeks will continue to increase for the next two years, to 12 weeks in 2021. Learn more here.

■ Drugstores and mail-order pharmacies required to give consumers the ability to return unused prescription drugs through free drop boxes, prepaid envelopes or other secure avenues. The Drug Take Back Act is trying to discourage the flushing of unused drugs into sewers.

■ Health insurers are now required to provide prostate cancer screenings to men free of co-pays or deductibles. Health insurers are also required to let consumers know about the feature.

■ A new law that takes effect on Jan. 30 will allow state correction officials to screen inmates for homemade weapons using body scanners. The weapons, often ceramic craft blades found in cutting tools but not detected by metal detectors, have been used to injure correction officers, state officials said.

■ Diaper-changing tables are now required in new or renovated public men’s and women’s restrooms.

Pennsylvania

police-lights■ First felony DUI law: Those convicted of repeatedly driving under the influence face the state’s first felony for DUI, which went into effect on Dec. 23. A driver could face the felony charge when they have been arrested for a third offense in a decade with at least twice the legal limit for alcohol (legal limit is .08 percent), or if they are a fourth-time offender. All previous DUI offenses were misdemeanors.

Longer jail sentences are also likely for those who unintentionally cause someone’s death because of their repeated DUI violations.

■ Domestic violence: Abusers facing final Protection From Abuse orders are required to surrender their firearms to police and not family members or friends.

A new law also lets judges use risk assessment tools to determine if an abuser continues to be a threat to victims, and the same tools can be used to determine bail amounts.

■ Firearms: The law was changed to close the “gun show loophole” that let guns be sold without a state police background check.

■ School bus cameras: A new law helps schools buy external cameras to catch images of anyone driving around a stopped bus.

December 1986 Miami, Florida, USA

■ Saving animals: Law enforcement officers can now remove pets from motor vehicles without being liable for damage. It’s called the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act.

■ Hazing: A new law toughens penalties for hazing and makes sure colleges and universities set up anti-hazing safeguards to protect students.

■ Opioid crisis: With the drug problem in mind, lawmakers grant grandparents guardianship rights for grandchildren for 90 days to one year if parents are unable to care for the children.

■ Sentencing change: Drivers’ licenses can no longer be suspended for non-driving infractions.

■ Criminal appeals: The state extended the filing period for post-conviction relief appeals – when people argue their defense lawyer was ineffective in cases that ended in criminal convictions – from 60 days to one year.

■ Clean Slate Law: The new law lets people with 10-year-old criminal records ask to get those records sealed if their crime was a nonviolent misdemeanor and included a sentence of one or more years in prison. The person must also not have any new convictions in the 10-year period.

The law also authorizes the automatic sealing of second- and third-degree misdemeanor convictions that ended in sentences of less than two years – also if there are no new convictions in the last 10 years.

■ Skimmers: A new law criminalizes the card readers that illegally gather data from credit and debit cards.

■ Drones:  The penalties have become tougher for those who use a drone to stalk or monitor another person outside of the scope of law enforcement.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 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

 

 


Ziff Law’s Jim Reed Named Lawyer Of The Year For Southern Tier Region In 2019

Jim Reed, Ziff Law Firm

Jim Reed of the Ziff Law Firm has been named the 2019 Plaintiffs’ Lawyer of the Year among personal injury lawyers in the Southern New York Region, which encompasses a region from Binghamton to Corning and Elmira to Ithaca.

Jim, the managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, will again be included in the Best Lawyers directory, a nationally recognized resource used to locate the best-qualified attorneys by region. Jim was also named Lawyer of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

According to the Best Lawyers directory, one lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as a Lawyer of the Year, making it a significant achievement for Jim.

Attorneys are selected based on peer reviews and the recognition reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity.

Jim’s clients weren’t consulted, but many agree with Best Lawyers’ designation.

  • Thomas of Amherst, NY: “After a traumatic bike crash, I was thankful I was able to lean on Jim’s experience and expertise. He was upfront with me from the beginning and went the extra mile at the end and was able to get a higher settlement than what was originally expected from the insurance company. I am very appreciative.”
  • John and Sylvia of Horseheads: “John was in a severe rear-ending collision and Jim was always there to help no matter when we needed him. Jim and the Ziff Law Firm handled everything. After Jim acquired a sizable settlement, Ziff Law took care of paying our debtors and made sure we had a good investment for our future. Jim is a hard-working, concerned, passionate, and dedicated attorney.”
  • Terri of Big Flats: “After being involved in a motor vehicle crash, we hired Jim and his team and it was the best decision we could have made. Jim is a fantastic attorney. Just as important, he is a fantastic person. Jim never promised us the moon. He was careful to advise us of the good and the bad that could happen. Many places will tell you anything to get you as a client; this was not the case with Jim. His approach was full of professionalism, kindness and compassion, integrity, and patience.”

Congratulations, Jim!

 


Danger Zones: Our Unsafe Roads and What You Can Do To Be Safer

car-accidents-on-the-rise-nationwide_0The latest motor-vehicle crash statistics from around the world down to the counties in the Twin Tiers remain grim, but there are a few bright spots in New York and Pennsylvania.

The number of traffic-related deaths worldwide reached a high of 1.35 million in 2016, according to news reports about the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Capture1Although the report points out that progress has been made in certain areas, such as legislation, it has not happened quickly enough to meet the UN’s goals to halve road traffic deaths between 2016 and 2020.

Closer to home, New York and Pennsylvania roadway statistics continue to show how dangerous our roads are. And with the winter months ahead of us, dangers grow on our roads.

The numbers are eye-opening.

From the latest New York State report,
for the years 2012-2014:

On average there were 1,098 deaths each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, killing 5.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 65 and older followed by those 20 to 24 years old.

The rate of deaths due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from a high of 8.4 per 100,000 residents in 2001 to a low of 4.9 in 2014.

On average, there were 12,093 hospitalizations each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, hospitalizing 61.5 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by those 65 and older.

41LFZQwEf1LThe rate of hospitalizations due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries has decreased from a high of 87.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2002 to 57.0 in 2014.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2017 national crash overview

Early 2018 national crash overview estimate

NY crash data summary 2014

PA 2017 crash statistics overview

On average. there were 136,913 emergency department (ED) visits each year due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, requiring the treatment of 696.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for females and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by ages 15 to 19.

The rate of ED visits due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from 778.7 ED visits per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2005 to 685.8 in 2008. They increased to 731.0 in 2010, followed by a decrease until 2013 when the rate increased to 737.0. In 2014, the rate decreased to 683.1.

In Pennsylvania:

In 2017, there were 128,188 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,137 people and injured another 80,612 people. To add some perspective, the 2017 total of reportable traffic crashes is the twelfth lowest total since 1950, when 113,748 crashes were reported.

In 2016, there were approximately 101.1 billion vehicle-miles of travel on Pennsylvania’s roads and highways. The 2017 fatality rate of 1.12 fatalities per hundred million vehicle-miles of travel was the lowest ever recorded in Pennsylvania since the department started keeping records of this in 1935.

Here are the latest crash results available by counties in New York and Pennsylvania.

My observations:

The two biggest causes of collisions I have been seeing lately are distracted driving resulting in rear-end collisions and driving too fast for conditions (usually in snow but sometimes in rain).

One other big cause is left-turning cars that fail to yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles.

My best advice, based on more than 30 years of representing injured clients in crash cases:

  • Slow down this winter, because you never know when you will hit ice or frozen debris in roadways.
  • Turn the phone off until you are stopped or reach your destination. No peeking at traffic lights.
  • Beware of vehicles turning left or planning to turn left. Some people never turn their turn signal on, and some do but either don’t see you approaching or think they can make the turn before you are in the intersection. Approach intersections with extra caution because everyone seems to be in a hurry and in no mood to wait.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 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

 

 


Winter Strikes Early … Are You Really Ready? Legal Tips for Winter Safety

Capture1Winter arrived way too early in the Twin Tiers.

Our mid-November snowstorm has mostly melted, but it’s not something most of us will forget any time soon. We jumped from raking leaves to shoveling and blowing wet, heavy snow (full of leaves) in 24 hours.

So before the next storm strikes, here are some things Twin Tiers motorists and property owners need to remember as we head into another unpredictable Northeast winter.

Cleaning up the snow: I recently appeared on WENY-TV’s special report, “Winter Ready 2018,” with the Horseheads TV station’s meteorologists to talk about snow removal. I am always amazed at the number of property owners who don’t clean their sidewalks, driveways, and porches within 12 to 24 hours after a snowfall.

In many cases, if someone falls on their property because the sidewalk or driveway is not cleaned sufficiently in a timely fashion, the property owner could be held liable. Most communities have laws that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice within a reasonable amount of time after a snowfall or ice storm.

So keep your shovel and salt handy, and if possible, keep your snow blower full of gas and ready to go. If you are a renter, does your landlord handle snow removal or have they delegated that responsibility to you? Be sure to review your lease closely about sidewalk and driveway responsibility.

You can watch my WENY segment here.

 

 

About that “move over law” in New York State: Many of us have learned to slow down and move over to another lane when we encounter emergency responders on our four-lane highways, but did you know it’s also the law to do it when you are driving 30 mph or so in a city, town or village? I see people ignoring emergency lights all the time when they’re going slower speeds.

If you did not watch the video above of the officer talking about the importance of the move over law — he survived being struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop — then you should watch it now before reading any more.

move-overHere is another overlooked fact about the law: We all know we are supposed to slow down and pull over safely or stop for emergency vehicles such as police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances, but we are also supposed to provide a slow and safe buffer zone around other non-emergency vehicles such as snow plows, tow trucks, sanitation trucks, and road construction crews.

I strongly recommend you read the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1144-a.

If an officer or trooper pulls you over for violating this law, it’s a moving violation that is punishable by two points on your license and a fine of $275. If you’re pulled over for that violation, you might also see some additional charges: Failure to Yield the Right of Way (three points), Improper Passing (three points), Unsafe Lane Change (three points), Reckless Driving (five points), and Speeding (three to 11 points depending on the speed).

So if you see a vehicle with flashing amber, red or blue lights, slow down and decide carefully how you can get around them for your safety, theirs, and everyone else. On a two-lane road, moving over to the other lane may not be a safe move. You may have to stop and move over slowly, so be prepared to slow down and stop.

Also, about that snow on your car: If you have a buildup of snow and ice on your vehicle, it could pose a clear and present danger to vehicles behind you and can illegally obstruct your visibility out of your vehicle. You could be ticketed and face a civil lawsuit because you failed to take reasonable steps to make sure you could see safely.

Bottom line: Our Twin Tiers winters are unpredictable, so my best advice is always to slow down and avoid distractions (your phone!) when driving, keep your sidewalk and driveway clear, clean that snow off your vehicle, and move over for all emergency vehicles.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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

 


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


Nominate A Veteran Today! Veteran Of The Game Program Ready For New Seasons In Elmira and Binghamton!

Ziff Law's Annette Viselli Thorne, left, joins Army Spc. Albert "Joey" Daghita and his wife Brittany after the Veterans of the Game surprise Saturday at First Arena.

Ziff Law’s Annette Viselli Thorne, left, joins Army Spc. Albert “Joey” Daghita and his wife Brittany after a Veteran of the Game surprise homecoming in March 2014 at First Arena in Elmira. Hockey returns to Elmira and the Arena this fall with a new team.

The Ziff Law Firm’s annual Veteran of the Game program is back this fall for hockey fans at two Twin Tiers arenas in Elmira and Binghamton. We are excited to be back home in Elmira while also saluting new veterans in Binghamton!

elmira-enforcers-logoIt’s a great opportunity to thank Twin Tiers military veterans and active-duty military personnel home on leave for their service to our country. Veterans and military personnel generally prefer to avoid the spotlight, but at the Ziff Law Firm, we believe our Veteran of the Game program is an important reminder to all Twin Tiers residents about the sacrifices made by veterans and active-duty military personnel and their families, as well as the challenges they have to overcome Binghamton-Devils-New-Logo-590x460after leaving military service.

That’s why the Ziff Law Firm is proud this fall and winter to offer its popular Veteran of the Game program during professional hockey games in Elmira and Binghamton.

Twin Tiers residents can nominate veterans and active-duty personnel home on leave to be honored during home games at these great hockey arenas:

  • First Arena in Elmira, the new home of the Elmira Enforcers in the Federal Hockey League, and the former home of the Elmira Jackals, who disbanded at the end of the 2016-17 season.
  • Broome County Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, the home of the Binghamton Devils in the American Hockey League.

The Devils drop the puck first, starting their season on Oct. 6 against the Toronto Marlies in Binghamton. Game time is 7:05 p.m. Learn more here.

The Enforcers, a new team announced in July, open their season Oct. 26 against the Danville Dashers at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville, Ill. Learn more about the new team here.

The Enforcers’ first home game is Nov. 16 against the Carolina Thunderbirds. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at First Arena.

“We are very excited about the return of hockey to Elmira because it allows us to bring our Veteran of the Game program home while also honoring Binghamton-area veterans,” said Jim Reed, Ziff Law Firm managing partner. “We hope the families and friends of veterans and active-duty personnel home on leave will contact us with nominations because the program honors our unsung heroes and helps to keep veterans issues in the spotlight.”

Here is how the program works:

Once a veteran or active-duty member is nominated (see how to nominate below), the program coordinator schedules their game and provides them with four free game tickets in a special seating area so they can sit together with family and friends at the game.

During the game, the public-address announcer will introduce the honored veteran or active-duty service member and read a short biography of their military service. Once the biography is read, the announcer will encourage a round of applause for the honored military member, who can stand or remain seated as hockey fans let out a big cheer.

“I am honored to once again have the opportunity to honor our veterans and military personnel,” said program coordinator Annette Viselli Thorne of the Ziff Law Firm. “I look forward to seeing some of our past-recognized veterans as well as meeting new veterans. The military people who are honored and their families and friends say it is an evening they will remember forever, and we hope to create many more memories this season inElmira and Binghamton.”

To nominate a veteran:

Military veterans and active-duty personnel who are home on leave can be nominated for the Veteran of the Game program by using one of the following ways to contact the Ziff Law Firm:

  • Email: Annette Viselli Thorne, program coordinator, [email protected].
  • Call: 1-800-943-3529 or 607-733-8866 during business hours weekdays.
  • Mail:
    Ziff Law Firm
    Veteran of the Game program
    303 William St.
    P.O. Box 1338
    Elmira, NY 14902-1338

Thanks for reading, and please nominate a veteran or active-duty military member today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

public-insurance-adjusters-near-you_orig

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