Archive for the ‘Auto Accidents’ Category

Buffalo attorney considers drugged driving laws in face of legalization of marijuana

18
Mar 2019
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyAs New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushes legislators to legalize marijuana, concerns are being raised about the issue of potential drugged driving.

Buffalo drivers need to know what drugged driving is, how driving high could affect them, and how the legalization of marijuana could potentially change the law. The answers to these questions are unclear as the debate over legalizing marijuana continues.

How marijuana use can affect drivers

The New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) states that Delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most important psychoactive substance in cannabis, is often detected in blood from drivers suspected of drugged driving.

THC affects areas of the brain that control the following:

  • Movements
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Memory
  • Judgment
  • Sensation

The OASAS states that although these effects are known, most laws relating to impaired driving have dealt with alcohol.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, drugged driving is more complicated than drunk driving for several reasons, including limited data and the lack of a single test to detect the hundreds of drugs that could influence a driver.

How is drugged driving tested and how can driving high affect you?

Officer Albert Wheech of the Rochester Police Department is one of the 15 to 20 Drug Recognition Experts, or DREs, in the county, according to a report by WHAM.

Wheech, who said he makes about 200 arrests a year for both DWI and DUI, told the ABC affiliate that all DREs go through extensive training to learn how to detect an impaired driver. He also said there is a marijuana pre-test similar to a breathalyzer; however, it is expensive.

Police departments throughout the state will need to consider how and when to invest in training and equipment of this kind. Driving high can be just as dangerous as driving drunk, creating the same risks for all vehicles on the road.

An increase in opioids

In Monroe County, alcohol or drugs played a role in 15 fatal crashes in 2017. It was the same number in 2016.

We should expect to see this number increasing. A study co-authored by Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center, found that car crashes involving a driver under the influence of painkillers have tripled in the past 25 years.

Dr. Li confirms also that the “use of prescription opioids plays a significant role in the causation of fatal motor vehicle crashes.”

Injured in a drugged driving accident? Contact us!

As Buffalo and all of New York inches closer to legalizing marijuana, the Law Offices of James Morris continue to stay on top of potential changes in laws. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a driver under the influence, contact the Law Offices of James Morris for a free consultation.

A Buffalo Attorney Discusses Saint Patrick’s Day and Drunk Driving

4
Mar 2019
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyMany Buffalo residents and visitors are gearing up to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Last year, Buffalo ranked No. 4 among the top ten cities in the US celebrating this holiday. In fact, the 78th annual celebration parade in downtown Buffalo brought out an estimated 50,000 people.

Saint Patrick’s Day is commonly known as a drinking holiday, which comes with risks that revelers should be prepared for.

Be aware. Drunk drivers will be out this season.

According to WalletHub, about 60 percent of Americans planned to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in 2018. The rate at which drunk driving causes a fatality during the holiday is every 36 minutes. About 75 percent of fatal crashes involve drivers who have consumed twice the legal limit.

Additionally, Saint Patrick’s Day is the 4th most popular day to consume alcohol – just behind Fourth of July, Christmas, and New Year’s.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 60 people were killed in fatal crashes during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period in 2016.

Despite the repeated slogan “don’t drink and drive,” it’s probable that many drivers will be under the influence of alcohol this Saint Patrick’s Day. Police will likely be out in full force looking to keep drunk drivers off the road, but unfortunately many of these drivers will go under the radar and it will be the responsible drivers who pay.

Identifying negligence in drunk driving accidents

At the Law Offices of James Morris, we have seen the devastation caused by drunk drivers. A single crash can change a victim’s life forever. Injuries can range from broken bones to permanent spinal cord injuries – leaving a victim with a heap of medical expenses, financial hardship, and loss of life enjoyment.

At worse, a drunk driving accident can result in someone’s death, causing emotional and psychological suffering to loved ones.

Determining negligence in a drunk driving case can often be simple. When police respond to a crash, they will most likely test the at-fault driver to determine his or her blood alcohol content.

In some cases, drunk driving accident cases can be more complex, if a bar or establishment can be held accountable for knowingly serving alcohol to an apparently intoxicated individual or minor under New York’s dram shop law (General Obligations, Section 11-101).

Should you or a loved one be injured in a car accident due to a drunk driver’s reckless behavior, you may be eligible for compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. It’s important that you contact our law firm to get started on your personal injury claim. We offer free case evaluations and operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay unless we win.

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. 

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.

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.

Tips to Keep Buffalo Drivers Safe

Buffalo auto accident attorneyBuffalo car accidents happen for many reasons. Distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, and many other unsafe driving habits can increase the chances of causing a car accident. Buffalo’s infamous winter weather can linger well into April and also increase the likelihood of being injured in a car accident.

By understanding the common causes of auto accidents and addressing one’s own driving habits, vehicle operators can help keep the roads of Buffalo safe for everyone.

The Recommendations from the Experts

CTV News offers tips for safe driving. One driving instructor reminded drivers to go back to the basic skills that prepared them for their test. Use signals on every turn, make a full and complete stop at every stop sign, turn into the nearest lane of traffic, and follow other basic rules of the road. Many drivers have spent decades since their driving tests developing bad habits. Make an honest assessment of your driving skills and identify any areas which have become sloppy over years.

The driving instructor also discouraged drivers from practicing “target fixation” –  a visual technique in which the driver focuses solely on the road ahead. The safer practice is to scan all areas around your vehicle in order to ascertain traffic conditions on all sides. Perform regular checks of your vehicle’s rear-view and side mirrors. This is a technique borrowed from pilots, who must regularly inspect many different instruments. Monitor traffic and road hazards in the nearby roadway – even those which are not directly in your path of travel. This can help drivers plan an “exit route” in the event of a sudden obstruction in the roadway.

Many drivers do not leave adequate space between their vehicles and vehicles in front of them (an average of only .8 seconds). While two car lengths may be sufficient while driving in fair weather conditions, ice and snow can cause a vehicle to require a greater stopping distance. A safer rule to follow is four seconds of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This can be measured by allowing the vehicle ahead of yours to pass a fixed point (such as a building or sign), then timing how long it takes your vehicle to reach the same point. If the time was less than four seconds, slow down and create more space between your vehicle and those ahead of you. Buffalo’s cold climate often causes hazardous driving conditions (such as rain, hail, sleet, snow, and ice). Slow down and exercise particular caution in these circumstances.

Finally, drivers should be careful not to rely too heavily upon vehicle safety features, which can lull them into a false sense of security. Anti-lock brakes will not shorten the distance required for the vehicle to stop. Backup cameras cannot see all obstructions. Lane drift alerts may not be activated in time to avoid a collision. Drivers must not become so reliant on such features that they fail to exercise basic caution.

When drivers fail to act in a safe manner, innocent victims can be injured as a result. The legal advocacy a car accident attorney provides can help encourage Buffalo road users to become safer drivers. Filing personal injury claims with a negligent driver’s insurance company not only helps injury victims access the compensation to which the law entitles them, but also holds drivers accountable for dangerous behavior.

Buffalo Drivers Can Prevent Accidents With Tire Safety

8
Mar 2018
By:

Buffalo auto accident attorneyTires are vital pieces of vehicle safety equipment that are easy to take for granted. Many drivers run their vehicles for thousands of miles without considering the inflation and tread of their tires. It can be easy to forget about the extensive wear and tear to which tires are subjected – at least until there is a problem.

Proper maintenance can help drivers identify tire problems and address them before they can cause an auto accident. When accidents do occur, a Buffalo car accident attorney can help victims protect their legal right to compensation.

Buffalo Roads Are Hard on Tires

Like other cold-weather cities, Buffalo has often-icy roadways, which can seriously damage tires. Ice, snow, and road salt can all lead to uneven roadway surfaces, and the damage done to tires lingers long after winter’s end. Temperature fluctuations can expand small chips or cracks in roadway asphalt or gravel. This can cause larger obstructions, such as potholes, to develop in the roadway. Such obstructions can seriously damage tires.

Many Buffalo residents have been seriously injured or even killed in car accidents caused by damaged tires. In 2016, the Buffalo News reported that a small child, only three years old, was struck by a runaway car tire while waiting at a bus stop. She was transported to a local hospital with unknown injuries. The tire had flown off a passenger vehicle passing by the bus stop. It is not known whether a manufacturing defect or negligence on the part of the owner was responsible for the tire coming loose.

In nearby Cheektowaga, a man caused a pileup of several vehicles after one of his tires blew out while driving on Route 33. According to WIVB, the man lost control of his vehicle after the tire blew out, and ended up striking a light pole in the center median. The pole then fell across lanes in the opposite direction. Drivers swerving to avoid the pole ended up rear-ending one another, flipping over, and even becoming airborne. Several were transported to nearby hospitals. In addition to injuries, the tire blowout also caused heavy delays during rush hour traffic.

What Buffalo Drivers Can Do to Prevent Tire-Related Accidents

Buffalo drivers must take responsibility for maintaining their tires in a safe condition. Failure to do so may cause an insurance company or jury to find the driver negligent. The negligent driver can, in turn, be held legally responsible for compensating the victims of a resulting accident for their injuries and financial losses.

While there is no clear rule for avoiding liability due to negligent tire maintenance, drivers can take simple steps to reduce the likelihood of being found negligent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published maintenance schedule suggestions for standard tires. Vehicle owners should also be sure to inspect their tires regularly before setting out on the road. Look for debris which might puncture the tire, under- or over-inflation, and worn treads.

After a tire-related car accident, a Buffalo car accident attorney can help injury victims determine who was liable for causing the accident and how they can best access compensation for their injuries.