Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

The Trayvon Martin tragedy

19
Jul 2013
By:

The Trayvon Martin tragedy highlights the danger of becoming involved in a fight. I have handled a number of lawsuits involving fights and generally everyone involved loses. If you win the fight you may injure the other participant and face criminal charges or a lawsuit. If you lose you may have to live with a permanent injury for life. Unlike MMA fights most people are not trained to defend themselves and there is no referee to stop the fight once you are disabled. If you fight a stranger you do not know if they are a trained combatant or if they will pull a knife or a gun. In real fights a broken jaw or a fractured eye socket is not uncommon. It is not cowardice to walk away from a fight if you can. That is the advice I would give my children or my clients.

James E. Morris, Esq.

Buffalo Injury Victims Should Know What’s at Stake When Politicians Talk “Tort Reform”

7
Feb 2013
By:

On November 13, 2012, the American Association for Justice announced a new grassroots campaign called Take Justice Back. The purpose of the campaign is to educate the public on corporate efforts to limit the effectiveness of the civil justice system and to encourage activism.

The civil justice system gives power to people who are injured and forces corporations, employers, dangerous drivers, doctors and other negligent or careless individuals to obey the law and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Our Buffalo accident attorneys applaud the efforts of “Take Justice Back” to draw attention to the corporate pressure for tort reform that limits the effectiveness of civil justice.

What is Take Justice Back?

Take Justice Back is a campaign to fight for the rights of accident victims, employees and customers and to stand up against corporations that want to limit those rights. Corporations and special interest spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to limit their exposure to liability and Take Justice Back is working to help consumers understand what impact these corporations are having and to fight back.

Specifically, Take Justice Back is intended to help educate consumers on what tort reform is, what tort reform really means, and why the corporate line on tort reform doesn’t represent the whole story.

Understanding Tort Reform

Tort reform is a method of changing the civil justice system or limiting access to it. One method of doing this is by putting damage caps on the amount that a victim can recover in a lawsuit. New York currently has no cap on damages in malpractice lawsuits or other personal injury cases, although the Daily Health Report indicates that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo attempted to impose a $250,000 limit on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of efforts to restructure Medicaid. Currently, almost 30 states have such caps in place.

Those who argue for damage caps indicate that they are necessary to keep medical costs down. The reality, however, is that there is no evidence that damage caps lower the cost of insurance premiums or lower health care costs. In fact, according to WNYC.org, after Texas passed damage limits in 2003, health insurance premiums still went up 46 percent for individuals and 52 percent for families by 2010.

Most importantly, damage caps take away one measure of accountability for healthcare providers and leave innocent victims without full compensation for injuries they suffer at the hands of negligent doctors. If a patient suffers more than $250,000 in non-economic damages- which is certainly likely if a doctor causes egregious harm, or even injures or kills someone- the patient will be left uncompensated while the healthcare provider and his insurer walk away without every paying for the full consequences of a careless mistake.

The American Association for Justice reports that an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) study showed that approximately 98,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. With so many injured, there may be a lot of patients who do not get the compensation they deserve.

Other Tort Reform Efforts

While medical malpractice is often a prime focus of tort reform, there are also other tort reform efforts in place as well.  For example, forced arbitration in contracts is one big issue. More and more companies are putting arbitration clauses in contracts mandating that customers and employees address their complaints in arbitration instead of in the courtroom.

A 2011 case called AT&T v. Mobility even gave corporations the right to effectively prevent class action lawsuits by requiring arbitration instead. PayPal is one company that has taken advantage of this new rule and included a clause in its contract that took effect on November 1. The clause requires that all disputes be handled in arbitration.

When a company commits a small wrong against many, class actions are often the only way to take action in a manner that is economically feasible and worthwhile as far as the time investment. Without the ability to form class actions and go to court, companies are essentially immune from being held responsible for small injustices.

The Efforts of Take Justice Back

Take Justice Back aims to educate the public on both the myths and misconceptions about tort reform. Take Justice back will also be sharing personal stories from plaintiffs who have been denied justice as a result of tort reform efforts. On their website, they also offer important news on the issue of tort reform and limitations that big corporations are attempting to impose on the rights of public.

Their grass roots efforts are an important step in telling the public the real truth about tort reform and in helping the public to fight against the large corporations and special interests who want to avoid legal accountability for their actions.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 800-477-9044.

Additional Resources

Valuing Your Case, Personal Injury Law Blog, August 7, 2012

How to Work Effectively With Your Lawyer

It is important to work effectively with your lawyer so you can have a satisfying working relationship with one another. This is an excellent article about the subject, which we wanted to both share and elaborate upon.

It is a good idea to bring a copy of your own insurance documents (declaration page), when you first meet with your attorney. Your attorney’s office can also obtain this information if necessary, but as the article above mentions, the client can sometimes access this information quicker.

You should also bring with you other information your attorney may need to begin working on your file. For instance, for a personal injury matter, this may include the names and contact information for all your treating physicians, or copies of police accident reports. There are often key deadlines early on in a potential lawsuit, so the more information your attorney has on hand from the outset of your case, the better.

Keep all documentation, including letters and bills from doctors and insurance companies. Discuss with your attorney early on what types of documents they may want you to forward to their office, and be sure to do so in a timely fashion. This will help to ensure the attorney will always have up to date information in your file when they need it. Sometimes it is as simple as mailing (or e-mailing) it to the office when you receive it, or leaving it with the assistant or paralegal in charge of your file.

Keep a list of questions you would like to discuss with your attorney, as well as notes about what happened since the last time you spoke, which will help you make the most of your next appointment.

For a personal injury or medical malpractice case, it can be useful to keep a calendar documenting symptoms and keeping track of all your medical appointments.

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Collision Avoidance Systems: Can They Really Prevent Car Accidents?

A driver takes a risk every time he or she enters a vehicle. What if I get into a car crash? What if I’m rear ended? What if I’m not sure what to do after a car accident? All of these fears are rational and realistic. The National Highway Traffic Administration estimates that at least one car crash occurs globally every 60 seconds, approximating to more than 5.25 million car accidents every year. One of the most frequent types of car accident, a rear end crash, accounts for roughly 30% of all car accidents in a given year according to sciencedaily.com.

To combat these continually rising numbers, several car companies are implementing collision avoidance systems. These systems rely on a series of sensors located in both the front and rear end of the vehicle to alert the driver when he or she approaches external objects like nearby cars, parking ramp walls, or light poles. More intuitively, certain systems notify drivers that they must reduce their speed around upcoming turns and by how much to do so.

A real-world example of a collision avoidance system in action applies to a driver attempting to switch lanes. With the system intact, if a driver tries to prod his way into the left lane without noticing the large semi in his blind spot, the avoidance system belts out a word of caution alerting the driver of the nearby vehicle, thus preventing a potentially serious or fatal car crash. In certain brands, the car will actually swerve itself in the opposite direction to prevent the unsafe lane change.

Though many companies now include this technology in their vehicles, Swedish car manufacturer Volvo is at the forefront. Not only does Volvo’s system alert a driver if he or she is nearing a vehicle, but it also enables the car to slam on the brakes if the driver does not do so. Take a look at the video below to see Volvo’s collision avoidance system in action.

Four Ways to Prevent Workplace Accidents

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents estimates that roughly 60% of accidents at work go unreported every year. Many avoid reporting workplace accidents for fear of executive confrontation or simple lack of will. Despite the perceived burden of reporting a workplace accident, employees actually benefit from recording such incidents. For instance, if an employee seeks time-off for an accident at work, referencing a log of when the accident occurred is helpful in determining how much time off is needed to fully recover.

What most people fail to realize is that, under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation of 1995, employers are required to report all accidents in the workplace regardless of the incident’s severity. For this reason, it is imperative that employees do their part in recognizing when workplace accidents occur and properly recording them for employer review.  This requirement extends beyond the realm of erroneous human behavior to include spread of diseases and illnesses as well. Employees and employers should take every measure possible to prevent workplace accidents. The list below provides four preventive measures to take in every workplace:

  1. Safety Training for New and Current Employees: As part of orientation, all employers should enforce a rigorous safety training session to assure that employees know what to do if a workplace accident occurs.
  2. Ongoing Safety Education: an initial safety orientation is a good start, but continuing safety education in the workplace at regular intervals can save employers thousands of dollars in the long run if a workplace accident were to occur. Monthly safety meetings, bulletin board reminders and occasional informational video sessions are all good ways of continuing an employee’s safety education.
  3. Provide Necessary Safety Equipment: easily the most obvious point on the list, but also the most important. Without necessary safety and first-aid equipment readily available, an accident in the workplace can go from bad to worse in minutes. Essential safety protection includes eye goggles, adhesive bandages and ear plugs.
  4. Proper Training for Specialized Machinery: if your organization uses any sort of occupational-specific machinery, necessary training in machinery function should be given to all employees who will use it. This sort of training should not occur on the job, but rather before the employee begins work.

Virginia Tech Shooting: Who’s to Blame?

In 2007, a lone gunman shocked the nation with his violent rampage on a campus full of unsuspecting students in Blacksburg, Virginia. The campus was the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and the gunman, a disgruntled English major with a history of psychological distress and anxiety disorders. Five years after the massacre that took the lives of 33 students, including his own, and injured 25 others, prosecution attempted this past week to establish responsibility in this extensive list of wrongful death cases.

When word first broke on campus that a gunman opened fire on his classmates, university police dismissed him as a jealous boyfriend posing no further threat to the student population, or so the prosecutors lead jurors to believe. Despite yielding both .22 caliber semi-automatic and 9 mm handguns, the prosecution provided evidence that university police waited two and half hours before responding to the first shots on campus according to the Washington Post. Once a response was finally set in motion, the police pursued the wrong suspect, allowing the gunman to chain-lock the doors of Norris Hall and continue his massacre.

In a case like this, it’s difficult for a wrongful death attorney to establish responsibility or determine who was negligent  due to the complexity of the situation. But grieving parents need some sense of closure in directing blame for the death of their child. Since the gunman was unable to stand trial, the parents attorneys attempted to prove the elements of negligence in the university police’s error in judgment and response.

At James Morris Law, in wrongful death situations involving car accidentsconstruction accidents or other types of negligent cases, it is our job to bring justice to those who’ve lost a loved one. If you’re in need of a buffalo personal injury lawyer, or buffalo wrongful death lawyer  call James Morris Law today, 716-855-1118.

A Note on Civility from an Attorney in Buffalo

Our legal system is an adversary system. It is easy to become angry with opposing counsel or a Judge who disagrees with our position. As lawyers it is crucial that we act in a civil manner. Personal attacks are never warranted. We can condemn the conduct without name calling. While I admit to enjoying the humor of South Park or Family Guy, the often brutal verbal attacks on these shows involve cartoon characters and do not hurt people. By avoiding harsh attacks or crude language we improve our chances of reaching a resolution and improve our relationships.

National Trial Lawyer Top 100

We are pleased to announce that the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers has extended an invitation to James Morris. This is an elite group of the top lawyers in New York. Membership in the organization is by invitation only and is extended to individuals who exemplify superior qualifications, trial results and leadership in their respective state. The Top 100 Trial Lawyers list is based on and limited to an average of 100 lawyers in each state. Membership in this organization allows the attorney to attend legal education conferences and share information and tactics with the country’s leading trial lawyers.

NYSTLA Speaks About Medical Malpractice

New York State Trial Lawyers Association President Leslie Kelmachter testifies at a city council hearing:

President Kelmachter stressed that there is no malpractice “crisis” in New York, pointing out that since 1991 insurance premiums have risen less than the rate of healthcare cost inflation. President Kelmachter advocated for greater efforts to reduce medical errors, stating that “the biggest driver of malpractice insurance costs is tragic and preventable medical errors themselves.”

Lead Poisoning a Concern for Older Buffalo Housing

In a world where we walk with computers in pocket, communicate with a single click and have access to infinite streams of information at our fingertips, finding an alternative to lead-based paint should have happened years ago. Unfortunately, much of Buffalo’s housing is stuck in a time-warp. The Nickel City’s unique architecture serves both as a spectacle and a burden. The New York State Department of Health estimates that 85% of Buffalo homes built prior to 1978 contain lead-based paint: the primary lead source in cases of lead poisoning. From 2006-2008, Erie County had the third highest percentage of new lead poisoning cases, 80% of which were children.

Children are more susceptible to lead poisoning due to an underdeveloped digestive system and ease of ingestion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggest that a child’s digestive system absorbs up to 10 times more lead than that of an adult, and will excrete only 32% of the absorbed lead, as opposed to 99% excreted by an adult. Children ingest lead through everyday behaviors like sucking their thumb, eating with their hands or even playing with certain toys, making lead poisoning difficult to prevent.

Once a child ingests lead, diagnosis of lead poisoning can be costly and mistimed. There are few, if any, external signals alerting parents that a child has ingested lead. A doctor administered blood test is the only conclusive way to tell if a child’s lead levels are elevated. Through early detection of lead ingestion from lead-based paint or from another lead source, parents alleviate I.Q. decline, physical and intellectual debility, attention deficit disorder, delayed reaction time,  and kidney damage that may occur to the child later in life.

Don’t let your child fall victim to lead poisoning at the hands of lead based paint in your home. If your child has tested positively for lead poisoning due to exposed lead paint, call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer today. Contact James Morris Law at 716-855-1118.