courtroom gavel Our laws go hand-in-hand with common standards of human decency. Sometimes, however, there isn’t a law to punish behavior that is dishonorable. That’s when responsible lawmakers step up and make changes to the law.

New York State Assemblyman Tom O’Mara has sponsored “Steven’s Law,” an amendment to NY’s Vehicle and Traffic law, inspired by a tragic local accident case that I handled.

“Steven’s Law” would make it a misdemeanor for a passenger of a vehicle involved in a NY personal injury accident to fail to report the incident as soon as possible.

The tragedy behind ‘Steven’s Law’

The statute was prompted by the case of 17-year-old Steven Bacon of Ridgebury Township in Bradford County, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident the night of March 22, 2007. Steven was riding his bicycle on Route 427 in Ashland when he was struck by a car driven by Kyle S. Bradley of Waverly. Bradley later testified he had swerved to avoid the passing vehicle of friend Andrew Zeller.

Bradley did not turn himself in until the next day. His passenger, Chris Knolles, did not report the accident either – and as reprehensible as that is, he had no legal obligation to do so.

Although Steven’s injuries were so severe that it is unknown if prompt medical aid would have made a difference, it was incredibly painful for his friends and family to know that his body was not discovered for more than 12 hours.

I have a connection to the case. I represented Steven Bacon’s estate and the Ziff Law Firm managed to settle for the insurance policy limits for the drivers who were responsible for his death.

Bradley was found not guilty on charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. The Elmira Star-Gazette reported that when Chemung County Judge Peter Buckley delivered the verdict, he said that although the issues to raise the accident to the level of criminal behavior were not present, “The crime (Bradley) committed was leaving the scene. It was a serious, terrible crime.”

Knolles knew as certainly as Bradley did that an accident had occurred. If “Steven’s Law” is enacted, it will be a punishable crime for passengers to fail to report an accident.

I commend Assemblyman O’Mara’s efforts to pass this legislation. When lives could be at stake, there’s no excuse for keeping silent.

Thanks for reading,

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529