A Buffalo Attorney Discusses Winter Driving Risks

Buffalo auto accident attorneyThe hazards of winter driving are obvious. In fact, 2019 already got off to a deadly start, as one person was killed in a devastating pileup that happened on the New York State Thruway near Buffalo. Lake effect snow was the environmental factor that lead to the crash.  

In Buffalo, and anywhere else that experiences brutal winters, crashes caused by inclement weather are common. Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, wintry conditions account for: 

  • 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes. 
  • Over 1,300 deaths and more than 116,800 injuries. 

Heavy snowfall isn’t the only culprit behind winter-related auto accidents. After a massive snowstorm, it’s common to experience blowing snow and whiteout conditions caused by strong winds. This can obstruct visibility and lead to a serious crash.  

Even when the roads aren’t covered in snow, fluctuating temperatures can result in black ice. This occurs when snow or ice melts after temperatures rise above freezing. When the temperatures drop at night, the roads may freeze in some spots – especially near overpasses.  

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself.

AAA offers some tips to lessen the risk of a winter crash: 

  • Never mix radial tires with other types of tires. 
  • Avoid using your parking brake. 
  • Do not use cruise control. 
  • Look and steer in the direction you want to go. 
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. 
  • Increase following distance to 8-10 seconds. 
  • Don’t stop when going uphill. 

No matter how safely you drive, you cannot account for the actions of other motorists. If you’ve been the victim of a personal injury accident in the Buffalo area’s legendary winter conditions, you may feel helpless. You may be injured and unable to work or provide for your family as the bills pile up. An insurance company may be pressuring you into accepting an inadequate financial settlement because they know you are desperate. 

Protect your rights. Personal injury lawyer James E. Morris and his legal team have decades of experience representing people just like you throughout western New York. They know the hazards of winter driving and they know how to stand up to the insurance companies. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. You don’t pay a cent unless we win your case.

A Buffalo Attorney Discusses the Importance of Police Reports After Auto Accidents

Buffalo auto accident attorneyYou were just involved in an auto accident in Buffalo. You followed all the standard accident procedures – exchanging insurance information and reporting the accident to the police. When it comes time to file your claim, one of the most important components you will need is a detailed police report. If you have any questions, an experienced Buffalo car accident attorney can help you navigate this complex process. 

What will police look for at the crash scene?

After any auto accident, calling the police is standard procedure. When an officer arrives, he or she will thoroughly examine the crash scene and note all details on a traffic accident report form. This includes: 

  • Reporting the number of parties involved. 
  • Reporting any medical attention needed. 
  • Noting the tire tracks in the road.  
  • Determining the direction traveled by each vehicle.  
  • Documenting road conditions, defects, and environmental factors.  
  • Determining if any parties were drunk or drug-impaired. 
  • Collect witness statements. 

The police may not always arrive at the crash scene. The accident may not have been serious enough, or there may have been another emergency nearby. When this happens, it’s crucial that you gather evidence from the crash scene.  

This can be done by taking pictures or videos of the crash scene and speaking to witnesses. You may then submit a crash report at the nearest police station. 

Purpose of a police report

Even if you feel ok after a crash, injury symptoms may not appear until days later. The cost of medical treatment and time spent away from work can be financially overwhelming. Without a police report, obtaining compensation from the other driver’s insurance company is far-fetched. Without any hard evidence proving who was at fault, the insurance company may deny your claim.  

However, with a detailed police report, your attorney can use the evidence to help you build a solid claim and ensure that your rights are upheld.  

Obtaining a copy of your Get Accident Report can take some time. If the report was filed electronically, then it may be available after 14 days. If a paper form was submitted, it may not be available for 30 days from the date of the accident.  

In the meantime, an experienced car accident attorney at the Law Offices of James Morris can help you get your claim started. Our legal team has decades of combined experience representing injured motorists in the greater Buffalo area. Contact us today to find out how we can help you. 

Head-On Collisions in Buffalo: An Attorney Discusses

12
Dec 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyHead-on collisions in the greater Buffalo area rarely happen, but when they do, negligence is almost always a factor. Such crashes occur when another motorist crosses a center line or drives the wrong way.

That’s exactly what happened in October on Route 33 in Buffalo. Two people were hospitalized after one motorist, driving the wrong way, struck another motorist.

Head-on collisions are most likely to happen on rural roads with winding curves – much like the ones we have in Western New York. These accidents are commonly caused by:

  • Drivers distracted by handheld devices and built-in vehicle features
  • Drivers impaired by drugs, and/or alcohol
  • Drivers who fall asleep at the wheel
  • Passing other vehicles on single-lane roads
  • Turning left with no regard for oncoming vehicles
  • Slippery road conditions caused by snow and ice
  • Limited visibility caused by dense fog, heavy rain, or nighttime driving
  • Drivers who exceed the speed limit
  • Mechanical factors including brake failure, loose wheels, steering defects, or tire blowouts

Severity increases with speed

According to The Car Crash Detective, you are more likely to sustain serious, or life-threatening injuries in a head-on collision when driving faster than 43 mph.

Many of today’s vehicles can absorb the impact and save your life in a collision at 40 mph. However, your front-end frame, seatbelt, and airbag can only do so much at higher speeds.

When two vehicles collide at 40 mph each, the force of impact is comparable to hitting a parked car at 80 mph. Even if you reduce your speed to 30 mph, if the car that hits you is traveling at 50 mph, the impact will still be severe.

Motorists who have survived head-on collisions still often sustain serious injuries. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Broken bones
  • Head trauma
  • Facial injuries
  • Whiplash and other spine injuries
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Lacerations
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis

Injured in a head-on collision? We can help!

A head-on collision can turn your life upside down in a split second. Your injuries may be severe enough to put you out of work for months and unable to engage in activities you enjoy. Even worse, the other driver’s insurance company may be reluctant to compensate your losses to the fullest extent.

That’s why you need an experienced Buffalo auto accident attorney in your corner. The legal team at the Law Offices of James Morris has decades of experience helping injured motorists maximize their compensation. To learn more, contact us today.

The Risks Of Autumn Driving In Buffalo, New York

15
Nov 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyThe clocks have turned back an hour, the foliage has come and gone, and November is in full swing. What does this mean for drivers in the Buffalo area? According to a 2016 report by Statista (the most recent report), 2,998 people lost their lives on US roadways during the month of November. And as drivers in Buffalo know very well, motor vehicle accidents often occur this time of year due to shorter days, longer nights and increasingly hazardous weather conditions. 

Shorter days, more hazardous driving conditions

After daylight savings time ends, motorists spend more time driving in the dark. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), this can create limitations in visibility: 

  • On average, drivers may only see up to 250 feet without high-beams 
  • Drivers who use high-beams may see up to 500 feet 
  • Drivers around 50 years old may require twice as much light as drivers around 30 years old.  

Daylight savings can also affect drivers’ circadian rhythm or internal clock. The prolonged nighttime hours can increase the release of a natural chemical called melatonin, which programs us to sleep. This can put drivers at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. In fact, according to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, accidents caused by drowsy driving are most likely to happen during the first week of the time change. 

According to 2014 statistics by New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (the latest statistics), there were a total of 1,343 traffic accidents caused by drowsy driving statewide, which resulted in eight fatalities and 687 injuries. Another 5,198 accidents were caused by limited or obstructed visibility. This resulted in 20 fatalities and 2,231 injuries.  

What to watch out for this season

According to Esurance, the month of November often ushers in slippery road conditions that Buffalo drivers must adjust to. 

These include:  

  • Wet roads, fallen leaves: After the foliage comes to an end, leaves may cover the roadways. When combined with rain and dampness, fallen leaves can be just as slippery as ice. Additionally, they can cover traffic lines in the road, making it more difficult for drivers to navigate. 
  • Icy road conditions: As the temperature dips below freezing overnight, ice and frost can develop on the roadways. Drivers should especially be aware of icy road conditions when approaching bridges, underpasses, and other areas that may not receive a sufficient amount of sunlight.  
  • Occasional snow: While snow is more likely to happen during the winter months, it can happen in November, especially in the Buffalo area. Drivers unprepared for the first snowfall of the season in Buffalo (which usually occurs in late October) can be at risk of causing an accident.   

During the month of November, Buffalo drivers are urged to reduce their speed, maintain a safe following distance, avoid distracted driving, and stay sober. If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by another driver, contact our law firm and find out how we can help you.  

How Camera Footage Can Protect Nursing Home Residents from Abuse

13
Sep 2018
By:

nursing home lawyerPutting your loved one in a nursing home can be a tough decision. Nursing homes in greater Buffalo are obliged to provide the best possible care to residents, but they do not always meet that obligation. The risk of nursing home abuse and neglect may leave you concerned about the level of care your loved one will receive.

A recent case of alleged sexual abuse involving a nursing home resident has prompted New York state officials to launch an investigation into a Buffalo nursing home. The perpetrator at the time of the incident was an assistant director of nursing, who has since resigned. Officials from the nursing home were unable to provide any information regarding the incident. The former assistant director of nursing claims that he was assaulted by the resident, while the resident claims to have been bitten by the former staff member.

Without any crucial evidence, both statements are hearsay. However, had camera equipment been installed at the time of the incident, the footage would have told the real story.

Back in February, camera footage was used to prosecute three nurses responsible for the death of an 89-year-old resident in Georgia. As the resident called out for help while suffering from respiratory distress, the three nurses were seen laughing and completely ignoring the man’s needs.

Elder abuse is far too widespread across the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly one in every 10 elders older than 60 suffer abuse and neglect each year. Some types of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Financial abuse

However, the above statistics may not represent the full number of residents who suffer abuse and neglect. Many of these incidents go under the radar because residents are afraid or unable to report them.

What you can do to protect your loved ones

When placed in the care of a nursing home, your loved one may be all but defenseless. That’s why it’s important to document incidents of abuse and neglect, especially if you suspect that something isn’t right. If your loved one is afraid to speak up, or if nursing home staff deny that any abuse or neglect has occurred, camera footage doesn’t lie.

Not only can video footage be used to prosecute responsible parties, but your attorney can also use it as evidence in a lawsuit against the nursing home. That’s why your first course of action should be to consult with an experienced Buffalo nursing home abuse attorney who will fight aggressively to help you and your family seek justice.

It’s important you act fast. The statute of limitations for nursing home abuse cases in New York State is three years. Don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of James Morris and find out how we can help you.

Impaired Pedestrian Perils: Dangers of Walking Drunk in Buffalo

12
Sep 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyMany studies focus on the hazards of driving drunk in Buffalo, and further about how this can heighten the risk of pedestrian accidents.

What tends to get less attention is how dangerous impaired walking can be for pedestrians. Whether you’re walking or driving, alcohol consumption can cause delays in judgement.

How prevalent is the risk?

Recently, The Washington Post reported more than one-third of pedestrian accident victims killed in 2016 were over the legal limit of alcohol for motorists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s a significant increase – from 300 in 2014 to 2,000 just two years later.

Of course, there is nothing illegal about walking impaired; it’s certainly much safer than driving. However, those who walk while impaired are more likely to engage in dangerous actions like crossing outside of a crosswalk, crossing against the signal, walking in the roadway and stepping directly in front of traffic.

Alcohol impairment inevitably affects one’s reaction time and overall judgment, sometimes resulting in poor decision-making. Some traffic safety experts say many of those who are walking while intoxicated fail to consider whether or not drivers can see them.

What to do if you’re injured in a pedestrian accident

A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that it’s not just total pedestrian accidents that have increased in recent years. Deaths in particular have increased, climbing 54 percent in urban areas. These fatalities are more likely to involve the larger-model sport utility vehicles.

The IIHS said one of the biggest problems is that roads aren’t designed with pedestrians in mind, lacking crossing locations that are both safe and convenient. This can spur walkers to risk running across multiple lanes of traffic rather than walking long distances to the nearest signalized intersection. The addition of more sidewalks, pedestrian-activated beacons, street lighting, and pedestrian crossings have been shown to reduce pedestrian deaths.

If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, an experienced attorney can help. Contact the Law Offices of James Morris to discuss your options.

Niagara Falls Boulevard Pedestrian Accidents Spur Safety Change

16
Aug 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyA section of Niagara Falls Boulevard has proven to be so dangerous for pedestrians that safety officials have vowed to make immediate road safety changes. The section of I-290 separating Tonawanda and Amherst is so congested with confusing vehicle traffic patterns that it has become a deadly ordeal for pedestrians trying to make their way across.

Such accidents can lead to severe and lasting injuries because pedestrians are vulnerable road users. They are more prone to the worst injuries because they lack the same protections as vehicle occupants: seat belts, airbags, windshields, etc.

Arterial Road and Intersection Dangers

Data from a new national study affirms what many locals and have known for some time: From 2009 to 2016, pedestrian accident deaths at intersections have spiked. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that pedestrian fatalities, specifically on arterial roads like these, have climbed 67 percent in just seven years.

Arterial roads account for just four percent of streets nationally, described as wide thoroughfares in cities and suburbs designed to accommodate heavily traffic traveling at or near speeds akin to those on expressways.

In “dark conditions,” i.e., at night, pedestrian deaths on arterial roads overall are up 56 percent.

Measures to Lower Pedestrian Accident Deaths

The towns of Tonawanda and Amherst have taken action by breaking ground on a street lighting project in the region, according to The Buffalo News, investing approximately $1 million for new light poles in between the two towns for a stretch of 3 miles.

But that may not be enough. A representative for the IIHS said that while extra lighting will indeed be helpful, it isn’t the only simple and cost-efficient measure towns could take. Other methods include:

  • Lowering the speed limit
  • Installing new speed cameras
  • Widening cameras
  • Changing crosswalk settings to allow pedestrians more time to cross

It’s not that New York’s pedestrian death rates are even that unique. The Governors Highway Safety Association reported earlier this year that the number of pedestrian fatalities nationwide last year reached 6,000 – the second year in a row it’s reached heights not seen in a quarter century. Officials with that agency opined there are two likely reasons for this:

  • Smart phone use proliferation
  • Approval of medical marijuana in a growing number of states

Although these factors haven’t definitively been linked to the rising number of pedestrian accident deaths in New York or elsewhere, it’s widely accepted that both factors contribute to distraction, which we know for certain is behind a rise in the ballooning number of overall traffic deaths.

If you have been been injured in a pedestrian accident in the greater Buffalo area, you should speak to an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of James Morris.

Avoiding Risks of Buffalo Drunk Driving Collisions

17
Jul 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyIt’s prime time for discussing the risks of drunk driving collisions as we enter the second half of summer and head toward the start of football and the upcoming holiday season.

The New York State Department of Health reported more than 1,000 New Yorkers are killed each year in traffic collisions. More than 136,000 injury victims are treated in hospital emergency rooms following crashes, and 13,000 suffer injuries requiring hospitalization. Nationwide, drunk drivers are blamed for at least one-third of all fatal traffic collisions, claiming more than 10,000 lives a year.

While Christmas and New Year’s grab most of the attention when it comes to drunk driving, an experienced Buffalo car accident lawyer knows the summer months are typically the most dangerous time of the year for drunk drivers. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day bring increased risks for motorists, but travel, boating, barbecues and sporting events make the entire summer a dangerous time when it comes to drunk driving.

Reducing Risks of Alcohol-Involved Motor-Vehicle Collisions

A recent article by Driving Tests outlined steps motorists can take to reduce the risks of being involved in a motor vehicle collision with a drunk driver:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Leave plenty of following distance.
  • Use extra caution at intersections.
  • Avoid night driving.
  • Be highly aware during holiday travel.
  • Be a designated driver.
  • Support and cooperate with sobriety checkpoints.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death in Erie County, and a disproportionately high number of collisions are caused by drivers who have had too much to drink. In fact, Erie County reports more than 300 drunk driving collisions a year, more than anywhere else in upstate New York.

New York Injury Claims Against Drunk Drivers

A recent article by Buffalo News interviewed a Cheektowaga police officer who has made more than 300 drunk driving arrests. The officer estimated at least 25 percent of all traffic accidents he investigates involve a driver impaired by either drugs or alcohol. Tell-tale signs of a drunk driver read like a laundry list of poor driving behaviors: speeding, driving too slowly, driving aggressively or recklessly, weaving in and out of lanes, driving the wrong way and driving without headlights are all common signs of a drunk behind the wheel.

Drunk driving collisions are among the most complex personal injury and wrongful death cases a New York law firm can handle. While proof an at-fault driver was drunk at the wheel is often proof of negligence, your law firm must still work to identify all available insurance coverage. Determining the full extent of your compensable injuries is also critical to making a full financial recovery.

Multiple victims, serious injuries, and limited insurance coverage can also make timely filing of your claims vital to making a recovery. This may include pursuing your own insurer for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. New York auto insurance law mandates uninsured motorist coverage, which will protect you in a collision with a hit-and-run driver or a driver who lacks auto insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage can be just as important but is optional under New York law. It will protect you in the event an at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to pay the full extent of damages.

If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver, contact the Law Offices of James Morris for a free consultation.

Buffalo Car Accidents Distracted Driving Injury Risks

19
Jun 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyAuthorities and safety advocates are bracing for the summer travel season by cracking down on all manner of dangerous driving behavior, including drunk drivers, speeders, aggressive drivers and distracted drivers.

For teenagers, the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day has the awful distinction of being the year’s 100 Deadliest Days. While year-end holidays get the headlines when it comes to road carnage, the trio of summer holidays continues to rank among the deadliest. In order to promote safer driving habits, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with a grant from New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, has defined distracted driving.

Distracted Driving in New York: Definition of Dangerous

New York law prohibits hand-held cellphone use while driving. The law includes talking on the phone, using text, web browsing or e-mail features, viewing or taking images or playing games. Fines range from $50 to $450, and up to 5 points on your driver’s license, which could result in suspension of driving privileges.

As state distracted driving laws go, New York’s is among the most stringent in the nation. However, the law still permits use of hands-free devices, which the National Safety Council and other safety advocates continue to identify as posing a serious safety threat because of the distraction inherent in having a phone conversation while operating a motor vehicle. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates drivers miss up to one-third of movement and half of what is occurring outside the windshield if they are engaged in a phone conversation – even with a hands-free device.

Other common causes of distraction include talking to passengers, dealing with children or pets, eating, drinking or grooming, and using GPS or other forms of onboard electronics or entertainment. Don’t forget external distractions as the summer road construction season begins. Construction zones are among the most dangerous areas on the road for motorists and workers alike.

Distracted Driving Liability in Buffalo

Whether a distracted driver is held responsible for damages resulting from an accident will have more to do with consulting an experienced Buffalo injury lawyer than it will with New York driving laws.

While a driver’s traffic infraction may go toward proving negligence under New York civil law, a criminal citation is not required. While not the same as carelessness, negligence under the law is failure to act as a reasonable person would to protect another from foreseeable risk of harm.

Proving negligence requires proving defendant owed a duty and breached standard of care, that breach resulted in injury, and that plaintiff incurred actual damages. Your personal injury lawyer will work to identify those responsible and their associated insurance coverage, while also working to identify the extent of your damages, which can include things like property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and cost of rehabilitation.

Distracted Driving Dangers in Buffalo

3
May 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyLike other cities across the United States, Buffalo has suffered from the effects of distracted driving. Distracted driving has become an even more pervasive problem in recent years as in-vehicle technology becomes more prevalent in new vehicles. Unfortunately, driver behavior has not been consistent with either the available accident data or public opinion surveys, all of which demonstrate that distracted driving leads to accidents.

It is important for Buffalo drivers to understand the risks of distracted driving and accept personal responsibility for keeping their attention on the road ahead.

The Disconnect Between Drivers’ Beliefs and Behaviors

Distracted driving dangers are a constant presence in the media. In addition to the reports of horrible injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers, there are also ongoing efforts from advocacy groups and government traffic safety agencies. These efforts appear to be effectively spreading their message. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distracted driving surpassed other risky behaviors (such as aggressive or impaired driving) and was ranked number one in a survey of risky behaviors drivers believed to be on the rise.

Yet in spite of this, smartphone usage while driving appears to be on the rise. The AAA survey found that the number of drivers who report regularly making cell phone calls while driving jumped 46 percent between 2013 and 2018. A Zendrive study reported by Bloomberg found that almost every state experienced an increase in the percentage of time drivers spent on the phone over a yearlong period. Drastic increases were found in Rhode Island (38.7 percent), Oregon (42 percent) and California (54.2 percent).

Here in New York, drivers were found to have a 16.8 percent increase in the portion of their driving time spent on the phone. The Governor’s Office also announced an increase in the number of tickets issued for texting while driving between 2011 and 2016.

The Consequences of Distracted Driving in New York State

These studies suggest that drivers are, indeed, aware of the problem of distracted driving. Yet this knowledge is not enough to help drivers resist the temptation to divert their attention to smartphones, navigation systems, or in-vehicle entertainment systems. There are many consequences to such distraction. The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee reports that using a portable electronic device now carries increased penalties of five violation points against the driver’s license in addition to a fine. These sanctions apply to all prohibited activities, including texting, emailing, browsing the internet, making phone calls, playing games and using mobile applications.

In addition to fines and points, distracted drivers can also face the unpleasant experience of a civil lawsuit. Injury victims have the legal right to be compensated for their losses by a negligent driver. A driver who negligently causes an accident while distracted can be liable for property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other costs related to the accident. It is important for injury victims to hold distracted drivers accountable through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. This is an important deterrent to preventing future accidents.

A Buffalo car accident attorney can help injury victims protect their legal right to be compensated by a distracted driver’s insurance company while helping to make the roads safer for everyone.