Staying Safe on the Playground

21
Jul 2022
By:

Broken swing dangling from one chain in a playground.

School is out, and kids of all ages are ready to enjoy their summer vacation! As the days get warmer, more and more kids will be begging their parents, babysitters, and legal guardians to take them to the local playground.

Unfortunately, over 200,000 children receive emergency medical treatment for various playground injuries every year.

While the playground is a bastion of fun and a door to a child’s imagination, there are still rules to be followed for their own safety. Here are a few tips to ensure your next trip to the playground is stress free.

  • Always keep an eye on your child.
  • Properly dress your child. Your child should wear athletic clothing. Tie their shoes tight. Avoid clothes that may get tangled with playground equipment (ex. necklaces, drawstrings, etc.)
  • Check playground equipment. Do not allow your child on equipment that is wet or extremely hot. Look for rust, protruding bolts, broken equipment and other sharp points or edges.
  • Instruct the child to use the equipment correctly. Your child should sit properly on swings, slides, and seesaws, as well as hold on tightly to prevent themselves from falling.
  • Survey the playground space. The ground surface surrounding the equipment should be covered with at least 12 inches of shock-absorbing material such as sand, wood chips, mulch or safety-tested rubber. Playground structures taller than 30 inches should be at least 9ft away from each other.

There are many hazards on playgrounds that can cause severe injuries to children. Sometimes, playground accidents happen due to the negligence of the owner or manager of the property, whether that’s a school, park, or individual property owner.

If your child was injured in a playground accident, it’s important to know your legal rights and options. At the Law Offices of James E. Morris, we can listen to what happened, answer your questions, and help you weigh your legal options. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced child injury lawyer.

7 Water Safety Tips You Should Know

21
Jul 2022
By:

father and two children jumping into pool

The brutal winter is finally over, and people around the Western New York area are gearing up for long days by the local lake, pool, or pond!

Although we are all eager to enjoy this summer season, remember to practice your water safety.

In the US, there is an average of 10 fatal drownings per day, and drowning is the number one cause of injury-related deaths for children between the ages 1 and 5.

Water safety is essential to having a fun and relaxing summer with the people you love.

Here are a few tips to ensure your safety, whether you are boating on Lake Erie or hanging out by the pool:

  • Always keep an eye on children.
  • No diving in shallow water. (min. 8ft to dive)
  • Wear a life preserver while boating.
  • Swim with a partner.
  • Check the weather forecast before water activities.
  • When caught in a current, stay calm and float with it, or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim free. Do NOT try to fight the current!
  • Avoid alcohol while swimming, boating, and participating in water sports or activities.

Swimming, boating, and other recreational activities are a terrific way to enjoy summer days in Western New York, but it’s always necessary to take safety precautions.

However, if you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses.

At the Law Offices of James Morris, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources to protect your rights and help make you whole again.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact the Law Offices of James E. Morris today for a free, confidential consultation.

Recovering From Facial Injuries After a Crash

19
Oct 2021
By:

A man with a dreadful blotchy black and blue (and red) eye also has a large bandage covering several medical stitches in his temple after a car accident.

A Buffalo, NY car accident lawyer reveals what drivers need to know

Hundreds of thousands of vehicles travel the roads in Buffalo and throughout western New York every day. It only takes one negligent driver to cause a car accident that can leave people seriously hurt. Many victims of these crashes suffer painful and traumatic facial injuries that have a significant impact on their lives.

One study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found these types of injuries are very common. It reviewed the cases of 461 accident victims who had been admitted to a regional trauma center during a 15-month period. Just over half of them were found to have suffered facial trauma.

The impacts of facial trauma

There are many ways that facial injuries can happen during an auto accident. Broken glass and other debris can strike the face, resulting in serious cuts and lacerations or eye injuries. Impact with the steering wheel or another part of the car can lead to broken bones. If a fire breaks out during the crash, a person can suffer painful and devastating burns to the face.

These injuries can happen in seconds, but often have a lifelong impact on victims. They are affected physically and may require extensive medical treatment. This may include reconstructive surgery and/or skin grafts to repair scarring or other types of disfigurement.

Victims may also be affected emotionally. If their face is left disfigured, they may experience emotional difficulties and a loss of self-confidence.

There is also a financial impact. The cost of medical treatment can add up quickly and accident-related expenses can become overwhelming. This may include the cost of surgery, hospitalization, medication, and therapy.

If a negligent driver caused a crash that left a victim with a facial injury, the victim deserves financial compensation for the damages they’ve suffered. But the process of recovering compensation can get complicated quickly.

Experienced legal representation can make a difference

One obstacle is the negligent driver. That driver may have been speeding, driving recklessly, texting and driving, or driving drunk. But negligent drivers often deny doing anything wrong and refuse to admit fault. If you were hurt in an accident, the other driver may claim that YOU were actually at fault.

Another obstacle is the insurance company. While processing your claim, insurance adjusters focus on their company’s bottom line. That’s why they will try to pay you as little money as possible. They’ll question the extent of your injuries or argue they were pre-existing. Or they’ll pressure you to just accept a lowball settlement offer, saying it’s the best that they can do.

That’s why it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side. You need a lawyer who knows the tactics that insurance companies use and how to build strong cases that they can’t ignore.

Attorney James Morris has been fighting for the injured for decades. He understands the impact that facial trauma and other types of injuries can have on crash victims. He knows how to handle insurance company attempts to limit your compensation, and he fights for every dollar you deserve.

If you suffered a facial injury in a crash, it’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo car accident attorney.

Tips for Teen Drivers to Stay Safe in the Summer

19
Aug 2021
By:

A young teen texting on his flip-phone as he drives down the road. Mirror shows that his eyes are on the phone, not on the road. Blurred motion out the windshied and speed on the speedometer show that he's really driving. Phone screen says "lol".

Our law firm explains what drivers in Buffalo and Western NY need to know

Public safety advocates refer to the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the “100 deadliest days of summer,” according to Bankrate. That’s because teenagers are involved in more car accidents during the summer months than at any other time of year.

How risky is summer for teen drivers?

Approximately 30% of motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers happen during the summer months, according to AAA. Between 2010 and 2019, more than 7,000 people (roughly seven people per day) died in motor vehicle accidents involving teen drivers nationwide during the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.”

But the rest of the year can be just as dangerous for teen drivers. Among teens ages 15 to 18, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And among all teenagers 13 to 19 years old, motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, more than 2,400 teenagers die in motor vehicle accidents nationwide.

The problem is just as bad in New York. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens ages 16 to 17, according to the New York Department of Health. And each day, approximately 10 people are killed or seriously injured in accidents caused by teen drivers in New York.

What are the most common causes of teen driver accidents?

Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, noted that “teens tend to have more unstructured time behind the wheel” during the summer.

AAA and Bankrate cited several other reasons why there are so many accidents involving teenagers during the summer, including:

  • Immaturity and inability to assess risks on the road. Many teens are unaware of “the grave consequences of their actions,” according to Bankrate.
  • Speeding, which plays a role in approximately 30% of traffic fatalities involving teen drivers.
  • Drowsy driving along with inexperience. That’s because unlike more experienced drivers, teens may not realize when they’re too tired to safely operate a motor vehicle.
  • Distracted driving, which plays a role in more than 60% of accidents involving teen drivers. Using a cellphone or texting while driving is a common problem, but the biggest distraction for teenagers is other teenagers. By simply having another teen in the vehicle, the odds of a teen driver causing a crash double. If there are two or more teenager passengers, a teen driver is three times more likely to cause a crash, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute.
  • Inexperience driving at night. The fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19 is four times higher at night versus during the day. That rate is also nearly three times higher than the accident rate for drivers ages 30 to 59.
  • Drunk driving. Even though teenagers cannot legally drink, drivers ages 16 to 20 with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05% to 0.079% are 12 times more likely to be killed in an accident than sober teen drivers. In addition, the CDC noted that 24% of teenagers who caused fatal accidents were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.
  • Lack of seatbelt use. Approximately 60% of teen drivers killed in accidents were not wearing a seatbelt. And compared to other age groups, seatbelt use among teens is the lowest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What to do if you get hit by a teen driver

If you were in an accident caused by a teen driver (or any driver, for that matter), make sure you take certain steps to protect your well-being and your legal rights, such as:

  • Call 911 so the police can respond to your accident.
  • If you or anyone else is injured, ask for an ambulance.
  • While you’re waiting for police to arrive and if it’s safe to do so, take pictures and/or video of the crash scene (be sure to include all property damage, vehicle damage, tire marks, street signs, traffic signals, and any visible injuries).
  • If someone witnessed what happened, get their name and contact information. Eyewitness testimony can be a powerful piece of evidence when determining who or what caused an accident.
  • Get the other driver’s full name, address, driver’s license number, and insurance information. Do not discuss the crash with the other driver. Anything you say could later be used as evidence to deny your injury claim. Even something that may seem harmless like “I’m sorry” could be interpreted as an admission of fault.
  • Get checked out by a doctor. Even if you were evaluated at the crash scene by an EMT, you should still see a licensed medical professional within 24 hours of your crash. Some injuries aren’t immediately noticeable in the moments after a crash. Your adrenaline can mask pain, and inflammation may not set in until well after the collision. Failure to seek prompt medical attention after a car accident also opens the door for an insurance company to question the severity of your injuries and minimize your claim.
  • Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to learn your legal rights and options.

How a car accident lawyer can help you

We have experience countering the tricks insurance companies play. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success in Buffalo and throughout western New York. Our dedicated legal team has the tools and the resources to investigate your crash and build a strong case. We then present our case to the insurance company and aggressively advocate for the compensation you need and deserve. Learn more about how an experienced car accident lawyer can help you. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation at our office in Buffalo today.

Safe Cycling Tips for Summer 2021

27
Jul 2021
By:

traffic accident between a car and a bicycle with helmet in road

If you’re hitting the road on your bike, be prepared

It’s peak cycling season in western New York, and while hitting the road on a bike is a great way to enjoy our beautiful weather, it’s also potentially dangerous if motorists don’t share the road. Cyclists need to know the law, know their rights, and know how to protect themselves. Here’s what you need to know about safe cycling in New York.

Cyclists have every right to use most roads

In New York, bicycles are allowed on most roads, though they are not allowed on highways, interstates, and similar unless specifically permitted by signage. Cyclists are required to use the bicycle lane if one is available, or ride as far to the right as possible if there is no bicycle lane. It’s legal to ride two abreast if there is no other traffic on the road. Cyclists are also allowed to “take the lane” and ride to the center to avoid being passed on the left if the lane is very narrow (10 feet or less).

As a cyclist, you are required to ride with rather than against traffic (except for one-lane roads), follow traffic lights and signs, and signal before turning. Bicycles are allowed to use the same turn lanes as motorists, including using the entire left turn lane when making a left turn.

New York law doesn’t prohibit biking on the sidewalk, but many cities have passed local laws addressing this. In Buffalo, children under age 14 are allowed to bike on the sidewalk, but cyclists 14 and up are not.

Make sure you’re prepared to ride safely

When you’re on a bike, sharing the road with cars, you are vulnerable to injury, so it’s important to protect yourself. Wear a helmet – in New York, only children under 14 are required to wear helmets, but it’s a good idea for everyone – as well as bright or reflective clothing to maintain visibility. Tuck in your clothes, tie your shoelaces, and carry items in a backpack or strapped to the rear of the bike to make sure nothing gets caught in your bike’s moving components. Keep both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.

That said, there is only so much any cyclist can do while sharing the road with much larger and more dangerous vehicles. Motorists have a legal obligation to drive with caution around bicycles, including leaving at least three feet of room when passing on the left, yielding the right of way at intersections, and paying close attention at all times. It’s also illegal to block a bicycle lane, to open a car door into traffic without first checking for bicycles, or to leave the door open for any longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Injured cyclists have legal rights

Ultimately, while cyclists certainly should do what they can to protect themselves, motorists need to share the road — and they need to be held accountable when they fail to do so. If you are hit by a car as a cyclist, you can always file a “no-fault” claim with the insurance policy for the vehicle that hit you. If your injuries are serious, then you can file a third-party claim or a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Under New York law, you deserve full and fair compensation for your injury-related expenses, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other costs.

The key is to act quickly. Evidence can disappear fast in a bicycle accident case, and important legal deadlines can limit your ability to recover. If you’ve been hurt in a bicycle accident in Buffalo or anywhere in western New York, the Law Offices of James Morris would be honored to listen to your story and explain your legal options in a free consultation.

Keeping Kids Safe in Buffalo This Summer

30
Jun 2021
By:

father and two children jumping into pool

Tips to keep your family safe

Summer is here, and with the COVID-19 pandemic in full retreat, families throughout Western New York are eager to make up for lost time. This is undoubtedly good news, but it also comes with all the usual risks of hot weather, outdoor activities, and potential accidents that can cause injuries to children. Keep these tips in mind to make sure your family’s summer is safe and memorable.

Supervision is critical

Kids should never be in the water, whether a pool or natural body of water, without adult supervision. Whether or not there is a lifeguard on duty, parents and guardians need to take responsibility for supervising the kids. If multiple adults are present with a group of children, one responsible (and sober) adult needs to be designated as the point person to watch the kids. Too many accidents happen when several adults all assumed that someone else was supervising play.

The same principle applies to other outdoor activities, such as playing on playgrounds. Accidents can happen quickly, and the watchful eyes of a responsible adult are important to keep kids from getting seriously hurt. Make sure kids only play on age- and size-appropriate equipment, and especially in the afternoon, touch metal surfaces first to make sure they aren’t too hot.

Stay safe in the heat and the sun

Know the signs of heat exhaustion or heat cramps, and be prepared to take immediate action if a child seems to be showing warning signs of heatstroke. Kids are more vulnerable to dehydration than adults, so they need to stay hydrated on hot days. Wear light, weather-appropriate clothing to avoid getting too hot. Never leave a child unattended in a car — at any time of year, really, but especially in the summer when the greenhouse effect can cause temperatures to rise quickly.

Make sure you’re applying sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and remember to reapply every 3 hours or immediately after swimming or playing in water. Waterproof sunscreen protects skin while in the water, but not after you dry off.

Be safe around fireworks

With the Fourth of July coming up, remember that children should never touch or light fireworks. Thousands of children under 15 go to emergency rooms every year with fireworks-related injuries.

In New York, the only legal fireworks are sparkling devices — a broad category that includes devices that burn at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, more than enough to cause devastating burns. If your celebrations involve sparklers, make sure a responsible adult reads the instructions and handles the devices appropriately.

We are honored to stand up for children injured by negligence

Most parents do everything they can to keep their children safe, but there is always a risk that a child can be harmed by a negligent driver, property owner, or another party. When that happens, the injured child and their family have recourse under New York law. That’s why it’s critical that you talk through your legal rights and options with an experienced personal injury lawyer. If your child has been hurt, contact the Law Offices of James E. Morris today for a free, confidential consultation.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

19
May 2021
By:

Two people riding a motorcycle on a rural road

Peak riding season has arrived in Buffalo and Upstate New York, and with that will come an increase in the number of motorcyclists we see on our roads and highways.

As traffic throughout the U.S. starts to return to pre-pandemic levels, drivers are being reminded that we all need to watch out for and share the road with bikers.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and as we make our way into the summer, here’s what you can do to avoid causing a motorcycle accident.

Fatal motorcycle accidents in New York State went up in 2020

According to a recent report by WGRZ-TV, fatal motorcycle accidents in New York State increased by over 30% in 2020 when compared to 2019. In 2019, there were 132 fatal motorcycle crashes that resulted in 133 deaths. For 2020, there were 172 fatal motorcycle wrecks that caused 179 deaths, even though there weren’t nearly as many motorists out on the road due to restrictions related to the pandemic.

“Despite fewer vehicles on the road last year, we saw a startling increase in deadly motorcycle crashes, and every life lost was someone’s loved one,” said Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee Chair and DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder. “Everyone sharing the road whether in a car or on a motorcycle has a responsibility to help stop these tragedies. As the weather warms up and we continue making progress battling COVID-19, there will be more traffic and more riders, so stay alert, avoid distractions, and never, ever drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

Earlier this month, a motorcyclist was hit by a car on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Buffalo and thrown into the oncoming lane of traffic before he was hit by a GMC truck. WKBW Buffalo reports bystanders used a jack to free the victim, who was transported to Erie County Medical Center.

Police are still investigating the cause of the collision, but tragic crashes like this are becoming more and more common in the Buffalo area and serve as an important reminder that motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable drivers on the road.

Safety tips for drivers

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and AAA are working together to raise awareness and promote safe driving practices since the primary cause of most motorcycle accidents is negligence — by other drivers.

To avoid causing a motorcycle crash, other motorists should:

  • Slow down — Speeders won’t be able to react or stop quickly enough to avoid a collision with a motorcycle rider.
  • Keep a safe distance — It’s common for bikers to downshift or roll off the throttle to slow down, meaning the motorcycle’s brake lights won’t be triggered and there will be no visual warning that the rider is reducing their speed. Experts say to keep a following distance of about 3 to 4 seconds when driving behind a motorcycle.
  • Stay focused — Since motorcycles are a lot smaller than cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles, it’s easy for other motorists to not notice riders until it’s too late. Add in the distraction of a cellphone, food, drink, GPS, or a chatty passenger, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind focused on the road ahead.
  • Use your turn signals — Turn signals are a form of communication to other drivers, including motorcyclists, that let them know where you’re going and what you’re intentions are. Always use your signals for a minimum distance of 100 feet when you’re going to make a turn or change lanes so other drivers can act accordingly.
  • Check your blind spots — Whenever you’re going to change lanes you should watch out for motorcycle riders in your blinds spots, which on most passenger vehicles are located around the doors and roof pillars. Use your signals, check your mirrors, and look out for motorcyclists, who may also blend in with other vehicles, bushes, fences, and bridges. Try to remember that it’s also hard to gauge how fast a motorcycle is going, which means you need to be extra cautious when waiting to make a turn. In fact, the most dangerous scenario for motorcycle riders occurs when other motorists fail to grant bikers the right of way, which is common when other vehicles are making a left turn at an intersection.

As for riders, the best motorcycle safety tips include wearing a helmet (it’s also the law in New York), wearing appropriate gear, taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, being mindful of road conditions and hazardous weather, riding sober, and performing regular maintenance on your bike to keep it in good working condition (e.g., check the tire pressure, tighten loose bolts, replace damaged parts, etc.).

After a crash, you deserve justice

No matter how careful you are when riding your motorcycle, all it takes is one moment of negligence by another driver to cause an accident that leaves you severely injured — or worse.

If you were injured or a close family member died in a motorcycle accident that was someone else’s fault, you have recourse under New York law to pursue appropriate compensation for your damages.

The problem is other drivers and their insurance providers often have a bias toward motorcyclists and view them as reckless thrill-seekers who, when injured in an accident, must have deserved it because they were being careless. As such, it’s a widespread practice for insurance adjusters to downplay, dispute, delay, and flat-out deny injury claims brought forth by motorcycle riders.

At the Law Offices of James Morris, we know the games insurance companies play and we don’t put up with them. Founding attorney James Morris has been doing this for a long time (over 30 years) and knows how to fight for the compensation his clients deserve.

Find out how a highly skilled motorcycle accident lawyer in Buffalo, NY can help you. Contact us right now to set up a free case consultation.

Going down the wrong path with wrong-way crashes

29
Apr 2021
By:

Wrong way sign on highway ramp

Even if you’re responsible and practice safe driving habits, all it takes is one negligent driver to cause a car accident that changes your life forever.

While every crash has the potential to cause severe, life-threatening injuries, head-on collisions are easily the most deadly because of the force that’s released when two vehicles going in the opposite direction collide, resulting in a devastating impact that is considerably more destructive than what victims usually experience in other types of motor vehicle accidents.

Common causes of head-on collisions include lane departures by motorists who are texting while driving, speeding, asleep at the wheel, or driving distracted — but wrong-way drivers, that is, those who drive the wrong way down a divided highway or ramp —  are actually the most at risk of causing a deadly head-on crash.

Unfortunately, these types of crashes are on an upward trajectory.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there were about 500 deaths per year from the period of 2015-2018 due to wrong-way crashes on divided highways, an increase of about 34% when compared to the average number of annual fatalities caused by wrong-way drivers from the period of 2010-2014.

Experts agree that older drivers have a better chance of becoming wrong-way drivers, but those who pose the biggest risk are drunk drivers.

“Wrong-way crashes on divided highways are often fatal as they are typically head-on collisions. And unfortunately, as the data shows, fatalities from these crashes are on the rise.” —  Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 

Drunk driving the biggest factor

A staggering 60% of wrong-way crashes involved a drunk driver, which is why AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are increasing awareness and calling for countermeasures to help address the problem.

“Alcohol impairment is, by far, the single most significant factor in the majority of wrong-way driving crashes, which unfortunately has not changed since the NTSB issued its Wrong-Way Driving special investigation report in 2012,” said Dr. Rob Molloy, NTSB Director of the Office of Highway Safety. “The important work done by AAA shows that we need to redouble our efforts to address this safety hazard.”

To keep impaired drivers off our roads, the NTSB suggests:

  • Highly visible enforcement operations.
  • DUI checkpoints.
  • Promoting the installation of alcohol ignition interlock devices, a tool intended to prevent a vehicle from starting unless the driver provides a breath sample that results in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below a pre-set limit.

Crash data also reveals that drivers older than 70 have greater odds of being a wrong-way driver when compared to their younger counterparts. Analysts say certain steps can be taken to address the issue, such as driver refresher courses, installing more visible signs and signals, infrastructure improvements, and legislation to help identify drivers who may be at risk physically or cognitively.

Make your case count. Contact us today.

If you were injured or a loved one died in an upstate New York crash caused by a wrong-way driver, you owe it to yourself to set up a free legal review of your case.

A knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney can help you get the medical care and treatment you need, investigate your claim, find evidence to build your case, represent you in settlement negotiations, and file a lawsuit on your behalf if the insurance company won’t offer you a fair financial settlement.

Attorney James Morris is a highly skilled personal injury lawyer in Buffalo who has been practicing law for more than 30 years and has won millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for his clients. Attorney Morris isn’t afraid to take on complex cases and fight hard for victims struggling to recover from injuries. Over the years, he has built relationships with accident scene investigators, reconstruction experts, medical professionals, and others who can provide the expert testimony you need to win your claim.

Find out what the Law Offices of James Morris can do for you.

Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.

Fatal accidents due to distracted driving on the rise

24
Mar 2021
By:

Driving while using a cellphone and drinking iced coffee

Among the most avoidable fatal motor vehicle accidents in the world are those caused by distracted drivers.

So, it’s tragic that this type of death is on the rise.

Distracted driving is when a person operating a motor vehicle attempts to multitask by doing something such as texting, eating, shaving, or applying makeup to the already focus-intense act of driving.

Distracted driving is a choice. The death and damage caused by distracted driving can be easily avoided by any motorist who refuses to take his or her attention off the road.

Yet in 2019, more than 3,100 people died in preventable, distracted driving car accidents. This is a 10% spike over how many people died due to distracted drivers the prior year, according to new research by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

Data on how many people have suffered whiplash, nerve damage, head injuries, broken bones, and internal bruising from these types of crashes is not as available.

NY Distracted Driving Law

Meanwhile, states across the country have been drafting and passing anti-distracted-driving laws mostly within the last five years. The first state to ban texting while driving was Washington. They did it in 2007.

In New York, the state has banned the use of handheld devices like cellphones, smartphones, unmounted GPS devices, and tablet computers, among other equipment. The state also has a separate ban on texting while driving. New York passed its first anti-distracted driving law in 2011. Violating the law results in a fine from $50-$450 depending on circumstances.

The federally funded GHSA study, “Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications,” found that the laws really can prevent many fatal crashes, but only if they are rigorously supported. Researchers found that states with strong anti-distracted driving laws, backed by enforcement and public education, had the least distracted driving accidents.

Bullied By Insurance Companies

While the law seeks to stop distracted driving accidents, it doesn’t do much to help the victims and their families of such avoidable harm and damage.

Insurance companies have been granted the primary responsibility of compensating accident victims and their families – and they are incentivized to pay victims as little as possible. They do this by making lowball settlement offers, delaying payments, questioning the extent of injuries and damages, blaming the victim, and outright denying a claim. An insurance company may attempt to pull one of these tactics on you, even if it’s your insurance provider.

What a Good Lawyer Can Do For You

A typical distracted driver will take their eyes off the road for 5 seconds to check a text, the GHSA report noted. If a person checks a text while going 55 mph on the highway, they will have traveled the length of an entire football field in that time. A crash caused by a distracted driver can happen anywhere at any time to anyone, regardless of driving skill.

An experienced lawyer knows how to collect the proof you need to support your claim. An attorney can track down eyewitnesses, bring in experts who can read clues at the scene like skid marks (an absence of which likely means the driver didn’t brake before the accident), and gain access to information like the at-fault driver’s cellphone records.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, the key to recovering fair and full compensation for your damages is having a good lawyer on your side. Any settlement or court verdict needs to compensate you for past, current, and future medical expenses resulting from the accident, as well as lost wages, lost earning potential, lost quality of life, and any other accident-related expenses.

The Law Offices of James Morris has been helping clients in western New York and the Buffalo region following motor vehicle crashes and other types of accidents for years. Attorney James E. Morris has been selected by Super Lawyers in the personal injury field every year since 2009 as one of New York State’s best lawyers. Contact us today for a free consultation.

The arguments insurance companies make – and how we can fight back for you

20
Jan 2021
By:

If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you’re looking at dealing with at least one insurance company, and perhaps several more. You need to be aware of the arguments they’ll use to try to limit the amount they have to pay.

Remember, the insurance company’s goal is to protect its bottom line

Some of the arguments an insurance adjuster may make won’t even sound like arguments. They’ll ask you seemingly innocuous questions or ask you to give them a recorded statement. They’ll say they’re on your side. The truth is that the insurance company’s financial incentive is to pay you as little as possible (or nothing at all), and that means you constantly have to be on the alert.

“They weren’t going very fast, right?”

This is common in rear-end collisions and other crashes that happen at low speed. The insurance company’s goal here is to downplay the severity of the collision and thus the extent of your injuries. This is often a prelude to arguing that you’re faking or exaggerating your injuries, or that your injuries were not actually sustained in the crash.

Insurance companies play this game all the time, which is why we strongly encourage you to see a doctor right away after a car accident, even if you think it was minor. Getting medical attention not only protects your health but also creates a record of your injuries in case the insurance company tries to dispute them later.

“Do you think you could’ve avoided it if you were paying closer attention?”

Whenever an insurance company has the opportunity to shift blame for your injuries onto you, they have a significant incentive to do so. New York uses the comparative negligence standard to determine damages (financial compensation) in personal injury claims. If you are found to be, say, 30 percent responsible for your injuries, your award will be reduced by 30 percent. Even if the insurance company can’t pin the entire accident on you, any percentage of fault reduces the amount they have to pay.

The insurance companies invest a lot of effort in determining fault in ways that benefit them, up to and including hiring their own experts to make the case that you were at fault for your injuries. It’s critical that you have your own advocate telling your side of the story and arguing for your interests.

“It’s a he-said-she-said, so there’s nothing we can do.”

On the surface, your accident may look like your word against the other driver’s. Again, the insurance company’s incentive is to use any uncertainty to their financial advantage. They may cast doubt on your ability to recover at all and perhaps offer a small settlement, saying it’s the best they can do. (More on that in a moment.)

The truth is that a full investigation, cross-referencing witness testimony, physical evidence, and other information we may be able to gather, can often establish fault for an accident much more definitively than seems possible at first. That’s why you need to retain an attorney as soon as possible to launch an investigation that protects your interests.

“Here, take this settlement.”

They may say it’s the best they can do, or they may not even say that much. The insurance company wants you to believe that you have to just take whatever they offer, which is usually a “lowball” number intended to protect their bottom line. In reality, any personal injury settlement is negotiable, and an attorney may be able to get you much more than the insurance company’s initial offer or even what they say is their “final” offer.

Remember, once you’ve accepted the insurance company’s money, that’s it; you can’t go back for more. The settlement you accept must cover the full, long-term cost of your injuries. The only way to be sure you’re getting full and fair compensation is to review the settlement offer with an experienced car accident attorney.

The key takeaway: don’t negotiate with an insurance company on your own

Insurance companies do this every day. Their adjusters and attorneys are experts at reducing or denying claims. If you try to negotiate with them on your own, you’re at a severe disadvantage. An experienced attorney can level the playing field and handle these questions on your behalf while you focus on getting better.

If you’ve been in a car accident, we’d be honored to discuss your legal rights in a free consultation. If you choose to retain us, we’ll deal with the insurance company on your behalf, countering their arguments and advocating for your interests. Contact us today for a free consultation with a Buffalo car accident attorney.