Author Archive

Buffalo Intersections a Primary Winter Accident Threat

15
Jan 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneysIntersections are natural points of conflict on the roads. They are the place where traffic risks comes to meet.

A dangerous intersection in Amherst, NY, nicknamed “death corner,” is receiving special attention from the local traffic safety board, according to ABC7. Neighbors report numerous serious collisions, including rollover and entrapment accidents.

But when you add winter weather to the mix, traveling through intersections is the most dangerous thing most of us will do over the next few months. Most winter accidents in Buffalo can still be prevented, but extra vigilance will be critical.

Winter accidents in Buffalo – Safety and Liability

Poor weather only complicates the job of determining fault after an intersection collision in Buffalo. Intersection accidents are often already complex cases. Failure to yield, following too closely, running red lights, speeding and distracted driving are all common causes. Bicyclists and pedestrians are frequently involved. And involved motorists are sometimes entering or exiting private drives or parking lots.

Following an accident, there are many actions you can take to help your claim. Carefully documenting the scene with cell phone photographs is a good first step. But when winter weather is a factor in a serious or fatal collision, consulting an experienced Buffalo injury lawyer in a timely manner becomes even more critical.

Documenting weather conditions before they disappear is challenging. But the critical need to determine causation and identify all at-fault parties does not change just because of ice and snow. In fact, proving an at-fault party failed to use reasonable care can be even more critical when poor weather is partially to blame.

For instance, something as simple as clearing ice and snow from your hood and windshield can have a significant impact on accident risks, both for you and for other motorists on the road.

New York law is in flux on the issue of a motorist’s responsibility to clear ice and snow from their vehicle, with lawmakers having introduced several pieces of legislation in recent years. As of the start of 2018, the trucking industry is opposing a measure that would apply specifically to tractor trailers and other large commercial vehicles.

Resolving to be a safe driver will not only improve your odds of avoiding a weather related collision, but also reduce the chances you will be found at fault if a crash does happen.

Tips for safe driving this winter

Plan to stop well before reaching an intersection and remain alert for pedestrians or other points of potential conflict. Always be prepared to yield the right of way. Don’t assume an approaching motorist can or will stop even if you have the legal right to proceed.

Obey all traffic control devices and signals. Running yellow lights becomes particularly dangerous during bad weather, especially when visibility is reduced, because motorists require more stopping distance.

Overall, safe winter driving starts with planning. Lake effect snow can be particularly dangerous in Buffalo, where the weather is known to deteriorate rapidly. Buffalo News and AAA provide winter-driving safety tips.

Planning includes having your vehicle properly serviced. Nothing is more basic than appropriate tires and a good battery. During the first cold spell of the year, AAA reported more than 2,600 calls from motorists stranded in Central or Western New York because of a dead battery.

Travel with an emergency kit, a charged cell phone and at least half a tank of gas.

Beware of the dangers of black ice. Roads that appear clear, particularly bridges and highway exit ramps, may be covered in ice. Contact an experienced Buffalo auto accident attorney if you have been injured in a winter weather crash.

Buffalo Drivers Are Endangered by Truck Driver Fatigue

27
Dec 2017
By:

Buffalo truck accident attorneyTruck accidents can be among the most injurious of all crashes on the roads of New York. This is because large, heavy vehicles create more powerful force in a collision, and therefore cause more damage than smaller passenger vehicles. While fatigued driving is dangerous for any motorist (it’s been likened to alcohol impairment), it is particularly problematic for commercial truck drivers. The advice of a Buffalo truck accident attorney can help improve victims’ access to compensation for their injuries.

New Yorkers Suffer Real Losses as a Result of Fatigued Truck Driving

The consequences of truck driver fatigue have proven severe for New York motorists.

For one example of the potential damage, consider a recent report from The Drive, which detailed a truck accident in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn early one morning. The operator of a private garbage collection company truck fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into 13 parked cars. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the accident caused thousands of dollars in damage to the cars involved. It is unknown whether the garbage collection company carried sufficient insurance coverage to pay for the extensive damages caused by its driver. Surprisingly, the New York Police Department confirmed that the driver was neither arrested nor ticketed as a result of the incident.

Unfortunately, the consequences of fatigued truck drivers are not limited to monetary damages. Some families will never see their loved ones again as the result of a fatal truck accident caused by a tired driver. This is what happened after a devastating hit-and-run accident in Lancaster, New York. According to WKBW, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a Canadian truck driver, who told police he fell asleep behind the wheel and woke from the force of the impact. The trucker also told police that he stopped a short distance later, but “didn’t see anything.” He thought the small crack in his bumper was from a deer. He was arrested after his truck was spotted at a port of entry between New York and Quebec.

What is Being Done About Fatigued Truck Driving?

For years, federal regulations have restricted the hours of service a commercial truck driver may work. These regulations create required rest breaks and sleep periods and limit the number of hours that may be driven in a given day or week. Now, the Federal Register reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking permission to conduct a study into excessive hours on the road by those employed in the commercial motor vehicle industry. The results of this study could provide life-saving insight into the causes of commercial truck driver fatigue.

The problem of commercial truck driver fatigue is best addressed by instilling a sense of personal responsibility in truckers and the transportation companies which employ them. Because truck drivers are often paid by the mile, not the hour, many drivers have a financial incentive to push the boundaries of safety and squeeze in as many miles as possible. Some transportation companies even encourage their drivers to engage in such safety violations. Such behavior puts other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians at risk wherever the truck happens to travel. It is important for injury victims to hold truck drivers and transportation companies accountable for this dangerous conduct. Consult with a Buffalo truck accident attorney as soon as possible after any traffic accident to protect your important legal rights.

Motorcycle Accidents

There is a significantly increased risk of injury or death from driving a motorcycle compared to driving an automobile. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that 80% of reported motorcycle accidents result in injury or death. For the sake of comparison, that figure for automobiles is 20%. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that motorcycle fatalities have increased 55% since 2000. Statistically, young riders appear to be at the highest risk of fatality in motorcycle accidents, with the highest risk level amongst 20-29 year olds.

Also alarming is that, according to the NHTSA, “statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads.” This is a significant safety concern.

There are safety measures riders can take to protects themselves, some of which are similar to the tips we provided for safe bicycling. Most important is that riders use a safe and properly fitted helmet, as required by New York law. The CDC indicates the use of a helmet decreases the chances of fatality in a motorcycle crash by 37%, and decreases the risk of head injury by 69%, which is significant. Additionally, riders should wear bright clothing to make them highly visible, and protective clothing, like a leather jacket, may also be beneficial.

If you’ve been hurt, please give us a call to talk to our knowledgeable, experienced attorneys.  At James Morris Law we always fight to achieve the best results for our clients.

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Road Safety – Bicycles

Each summer we can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine. Unfortunately, there have been many tragic accidents in Buffalo and Rochester involving bicyclists and motor vehicles this summer. These types of accidents are likely to result in serious injuries or fatalities. Please use caution in sharing the road with bicyclists to help prevent a fun day from turning tragic.
Some bicycle safety tips to remember:

  • Always wear a properly fitted helmet with the straps fastened.
  • Wear bright clothing and reflectors so that you’re highly visible to drivers, even during the day. You can buy reflectors, headlights, and taillights to place on your bicycle for nighttime rides.
  • Remember that on a bike you have the same rights and responsibilities as your fellow motorists, including obeying traffic signs and signals.
  • Ride with traffic. This is not only the law, it’s for your own safety. Motorists will not expect you to be riding against traffic, and statistics show this increases the risk of an accident substantially.
  • Do not wear anything that could become caught in your bicycle chain, like straps or loose clothing.
  • Signal your turns so motorists are aware of your intentions.
  • Remain alert as you ride. Watch for motorists who may turn or pull out in front of you, and watch for open car doors. Do not pass cars on the right.
  • Do not ride on the sidewalk. It is especially dangerous to re-enter road traffic from the sidewalk as you will be virtually unseen by motorists.
  • Make sure your bicycle fits you properly and is in good repair.

Motorists, please be aware you share the road with bicyclists and so you are also responsible for their safety. Use caution when driving. Be sure to check carefully for bicyclists before opening your doors, making turns, or merging into a bicycle lane.

I also encourage avid bicyclists to check the SUM (Supplement Uninsured Motorist) coverage on their auto insurance policies. This insurance will cover you on your bicycle as well as in your car. SUM insurance is supremely important should you get into an accident with another driver who is under-insured (or not insured at all), and generally it is not very expensive. If you do not own a car and cannot obtain SUM coverage, some insurance companies are beginning to offer insurance policies specifically for bicycles.

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Valuing Your Case

As most clients will tell you, “It’s not about the money.”  A lawsuit helps people regain some sense of control at a time when they feel powerless.  An accident can destroy a person’s independence or livelihood.  So when our clients tell us that it’s not about the money, we understand what they mean.  But, ultimately, a positive result in a lawsuit does come down to a monetary value and having a ballpark figure about the value of your case can save you from making a costly mistake. Everyone knows about high profile verdicts like the one received by the woman in Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants who suffered third degree burns after spilling hot coffee on her lap. The jury awarded the plaintiff a judgment against McDonald’s for punitive damages in the amount of $2.7 million (the amount McDonalds made selling coffee in two days).  Verdicts like these tend to skew people’s expectations for settlements too high.  What people might not realize is that the judge reduced the award and McDonald’s appealed the decision.  The resulting settlement was less than $600,000.

A case’s worth is determined by several factors and I’d like to discuss them a bit here.  Please keep in mind that every case is different and that individual results will vary.

The most important determining factor in valuing a case is how much money is available either in the form of an insurance policy or a defendant’s assets.  Even if you receive a million dollar verdict at trial, if the defendant doesn’t have the money to pay you, you will not be getting a million dollars.

Another factor is the severity of your injuries and the amount of pain, suffering and expense they have caused you.  Are they permanent?  How long will you need to continue with treatment?  Generally speaking, breaking your toe is not worth as much as breaking your back.  If your injury will require future treatment, this added expense should be taken into account when discussing settlement.

A third thing to consider when valuing a case is how much income the plaintiff has lost or stands to lose.  If a highly trained neurosurgeon is left unable to return to her duties she will likely be losing more future salary than a truck driver.  This is not to say that a truck driver’s injuries are in any way less significant or disruptive than a neurosurgeon’s, it’s just something to keep in mind when you think of the value of your case.

Comparative negligence is also something to consider when valuing your case.  Did you contribute in any way to your injuries?  If a jury finds that you are 30% responsible for an accident, for instance by not looking before crossing a street, then any verdict received from them will be reduced by 30%.   A verdict of $100,000 would be reduced to $70,000. Going to trial is essentially a wild card.  A recent study of jury verdicts found the defense won 50 per cent of the time resulting in no recovery. Verdicts for the plaintiff in injury cases averaged under 30,000. This dispells the popular notion that juries commonly give million dollar verdicts. We live in a conservative area filled with working-class jurors.  They don’t hand out million dollar verdicts often.  This is a crucial fact to keep in mind when considering settlement offers.

If you’ve been hurt, please give us a call to talk to our knowledgeable, experienced attorneys.  At James Morris Law we always fight to achieve the best results for our clients.

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Cases Involving Medicare or Medicaid Are Complex

If you are on Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security Disability, it is vitally important that you inform your personal injury attorney of this fact. Unlike many other types of health insurance, these government funded plans are entitled to receive reimbursement for expenses they provided on your behalf. The process can be long and involved because it requires dealing with large bureaucracies, and it helps to get the ball rolling from day one.

Why do I have to pay?

A personal award is assumed to be compensating you for money that you have spent or will have to spend on your injuries. Theoretically, you are not supposed to be getting paid twice for the same injuries from the same accident. If Medicare has paid for your broken leg, and you then receive an award from someone’s homeowner’s insurance for those same leg injuries, you will need to reimburse Medicare for the cost of the treatment.

What if I just don’t mention that I have Medicare or Medicaid?

Medicare has started to get serious about enforcing these laws. As such, many defense attorneys will not settle without first ensuring that either there is no Medicare or Medicaid involved, or that they have been properly notified. Here is a helpful site outlining the process: MSPRC Site

Is there anything I can do?

Yes there is. By keeping your attorney informed you are allowing them to negotiate with Medicare for a lower repayment amount. Medicare often sends an initial bill that includes treatments and visits that are unrelated to the injuries in your case. Your attorney can challenge these charges. Additionally, Medicare is often willing to work with attorneys to reduce the fee by as much as a third. Don’t pay Medicare or Medicaid more than you have to. Call the Law Offices of James Morris to handle your case today.

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

A woman involved in a low speed collision accident suffers whiplash on the day of the accident, this is a relatively mild condition that most people overcome in a few days, but her pain does not decrease, instead she develops severe burning sensations, sensitivity to hot, cold, light and even touch.   She is devastated as daily activities she took for granted like cleaning, showering and even moving her limbs become more and more difficult.  She suffers debilitating pain and is forced to take stronger and stronger medications to function.  She can no longer work and has to rely on family members to do many tasks for her.

The name for this devastating condition is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  Symptoms vary but may include:

  • Severe burning  pain
  • Pathological changes to the skin, hair and bones (such as early osteoporosis)
  • Tissue swelling
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Muscle stiffness, weakness, or atrophy secondary to severe pain

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can occur after relatively mild injuries such as whiplash or a sprain.   Unfortunately, the mild nature of the accident or injuries often makes getting help difficult as family, friends and even some doctors may believe the victim is putting on an act or exaggerating the symptoms.   Insurance companies use this to their advantage hiring their own doctors to cast doubt on a victim’s credibility.

At the Law Offices of James Morris we believe you.  We have seen the tragic effects CRPS can have on a person’s life and we have fought insurance companies who claim the initial injury was too mild to result in such pain.  We have made them pay for the terrible pain and suffering our clients have endured.
If you or a loved one is suffering with CRPS after an accident, I urge you to call the Law Offices of James Morris.  We will fight on your side to get you the settlement you deserve.  We have the experience, dedication and resources to help you through this difficult time.
For more information on CRPS please see the following links:

UW Health

RSDS

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Top Medical Mistakes – Part #2

This is post two in a two part blog series devoted to a recent article on CNN Health, ‘10 Shocking Medical Mistakes. This post goes over shocking mistakes six through ten. The original piece ties these mistakes to real-life instances of these errors – click here to see the personal stories in slideshow form on CNN.com.

Today we will look at (the last) five of the most common mistakes. The first five medical mistakes can be found here on our blog – Top Medical Mistakes – Part 1.

Mistake #6 – Air bubbles in the blood – When medical staff remove a chest tube, it is important that they seal the insertion point. If not, air bubbles can get sucked into the open wound and cause a disruption in blood supply to the lungs, heart, kidneys and/or brain. Left untreated this condition can be fatal. CNN suggests, if you have a chest tube as part of medical treatment, ask medical personnel how you should be positioned when they remove your chest tube. This will increase the odds that the procedure goes smoothly.

Mistake #7 – Operating in the wrong place – This mistake happens with a patient’s chart is incorrect, is misread or is obscured in the operating room. This can lead surgeons to cut into the wrong site on the body leading to a number of potential complications. The CNN article suggests checking with your nurse and surgeon that the surgery is going to be performed on the correct site on the body.

Mistake #8 – Inadvertent Infection – Cleanliness is imperative in the operating room. When doctors and nurses don’t properly wash their hands they can spread infections to patients. This can be especially dangerous to a patient with a compromised immune system. In extreme cases patients can die from this mistake. The article suggests asking doctors and hospital personnel whether they have washed their hands prior to them treating you.

Mistake #9 – Mistaken tubes – There are a number of different tubes used in different patient treatments. If hospital personnel mixes a chest tube and a feeding tube up, there can be serious complications. Medicine meant for the stomach can end up in the chest or vice versa. CNN’s suggestion is to ask staff to trace a tube back to the source so that mix-ups are avoided.

Mistake #10 – Waking up during surgery – Anesthetic dosage is specific to each patient. An overdose can cause problems and an underdose can cause a patient to wake up during surgery. In this case the brain is often awake when the muscles remain paralyzed. The patient can feel the surgeon cutting and prodding. The article suggests discussing your anesthetic options prior to surgery. A local anesthetic may be a better option.

Medical mistakes are tragic and can cause long term problems for affected patients. If you ever find yourself a victim of one of these indiscretions contact the Law Offices of James Morris immediately. We have valuable experience in medical malpractice lawsuits, and will give you the personal support that you deserve.

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Top Medical Mistakes – Part #1

A recent article on CNN Health, ‘10 Shocking Medical Mistakes,’ goes through a number of common medical errors with personal stories to illustrate real life examples. This post is focused on the actual medical mistakes – click here to see the personal stories in slideshow form on CNN.com.

Today we will look at the first five of the common medical mistakes. Check back later to get Part #2 of this post containing the rest of the list.

Mistake #1 – Treating the wrong patient – Occasionally, at a busy hospital, staff fails to verify a patient’s identity. This can lead to severe complications. CNN suggests that a patient (or accompanying friends or family) verifies that hospital staff checks the entire name, date of birth and any hospital identification (wristband, etc.) of the patient before any procedure.

Mistake #2 – Surgical tools left behind – If surgical staff fails to keep track of the equipment used in an operation or procedure, it can lead to tools/equipment being left inside a patient. CNN’s suggestion is to immediately contact hospital staff if you are experiencing any unexpected pain, swelling or fever after an operation. This won’t prevent the complication, but it will help ensure that you take care of the problem as soon as possible.

Mistake #3 – Wandering patients – Patients who are disoriented, or who suffer from dementia are prone to wandering. They can find their way out of their hospital room, or the building. Once a disoriented patient is out on their own they are at risk of being trapped, lost leading to hypothermia and dehydration. CNN’s suggestion for prevention; obtain a GPS tracking bracelet, and you will always know the whereabouts of your loved one.

Mistake #4 – Imposter Doctors – Unlicensed and disreputable medical personnel lack the proper training and background to properly treat a patient’s ailments. Con-artists impersonating doctors will ‘play the part’ to make a quick buck. Their treatments often backfire. Instead of healing a patient they cause further harm. CNN recommends that a patient confirms online that their doctor is a licensed and reputable professional.

Mistake #5 – Long waits in the ER – Overcrowded emergency rooms leave injured patients to wait for long periods of time. In some cases, these extended wait times lead to more severe medical complications. To combat these wait times CNN suggests calling your personal doctor. If your condition warrants, your doctor will call ahead to the emergency room paving your way to necessary medical care.

Medical mistakes are tragic and can cause long term problems for affected patients. If you ever find yourself a victim of one of these indiscretions contact the Law Offices of James Morris immediately. We have valuable experience in medical malpractice lawsuits, and will give you the personal support that you deserve.

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Texting While Driving – A Teen Epidemic

An article appeared in the Buffalo News today about teen driving habits, specifically teens driving while texting and emailing. The statistics in the article are alarming. Over half of the teens surveyed in a national study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, admitted to texting while driving. That number jumps to 58% when the study is narrowed to high school seniors. As we mentioned in a previous post on texting while driving the practice can significantly increase your risk of an accident while driving. This point is reinforced by another stat line from the Buffalo News article: Distracted driving accounts for 16% of teen motor vehicle deaths.

While these stats are scary, the Transportation Department aims to do something about it. They are in the process of awarding grants in pilot programs in California and Delaware to deter the behavior through stepped-up enforcement and education on the dangers of texting while driving. If you have teen drivers in your household do your part as well. Let your teen know that texting while driving is a reckless habit that not only endangers their safety, but the safety of other drivers on the road. Consider having everyone in your household participate in a program like WGRZ’s ‘Pledge to Hang Up’, WIVB’s ‘thnk b4 u txt’ program, or any of a number of programs that advocate again distracted driving. More information, including quick facts and tips on how to stop, is also available through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration program, ‘Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.’

The Law Offices of James Morris

Do your part to stop preventable car accidents. Be sure that you and your family are practicing safe driving techniques. Don’t text and drive. If you do find yourself in an accident due to a distracted driver, contact the law firm with over 100 years of combined personal injury experience in Buffalo. Call the Law Offices of James Morris at 716-855-1118.

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