“Driving Selfies” Put New York Motorists At Risk

Aug 2016

Driving a carIn the wake of warnings about texting while driving and playing games while driving, New York is now cautioning motorists against another type of distracted driving: taking “selfies” behind the wheel.

According to a new report published by the Auto Insurance Center, New York ranks eighth in the nation for #DrivingSelfies per 100,000 residents. That means thousands of drivers statewide are taking their eyes off the road to take pictures of themselves with their smartphones and upload them to social media.

New York has some of the nation’s toughest laws against cell phone use while driving. The state law prohibits drivers from holding portable electronic devices, viewing, taking or transmitting images and transmitting, sending or retrieving electronic data while driving, all of which are involved when taking “driving selfies.” Penalties include a $400 fine and five points on the offender’s license.

But according to the Auto Insurance Center’s report, state laws have done little to deter drivers from taking this risk on the road.

New York officials emphasized the need for drivers to think about the consequences of using their phones while driving, as WIVB 4 reports. Distracted drivers have a hard time staying in their own lanes, which means they could drift off the road and hit someone walking or jogging. They often cause rear-end accidents and even head-on collisions when they drift into the oncoming lane.

And because taking a picture takes the driver’s eyes off the road for at least two seconds, driving selfies can be even more dangerous than texting or talking on the phone while driving.

People injured by distracted drivers have legal rights – and an attorney can help

Because using handheld electronics while driving is illegal in New York, people who are injured by distracted drivers may think their insurance will cover them without issue. Unfortunately, the truth is often more complex. The distracted driver may deny wrongdoing, or the insurance company may try to claim that the injured person did something else to cause the accident.

Even if the distracted driver is cited for using a cell phone while driving, it’s important to remember that the police are there to deal with the offender, not to help the victim get compensation. And even if fault isn’t disputed, the insurance company may try to downplay the extent of your injuries or find other ways to reduce your claim as much as possible.

That’s why it’s critical to retain an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after a crash. If distracted driving was a factor, your attorney will consult cell phone records, social media and witness reports to prove that the driver who caused your injuries was negligent. As with any car accident case, we’ll also review medical records and other evidence to prove the full extent of your losses due to the crash, and we’ll negotiate directly with the insurance company to make sure you are fairly compensated.

Watch Your Step When You Catch Them All

Jul 2016

Playing The Pokemon Go with blur backgroundIn the few weeks since its release, Pokémon Go has quickly become an international sensation. Created by Niantic Inc., this new app combines virtual reality with actual reality and gives fans the chance to experience the joy of being a Pokémon Trainer. The game is encouraging exercise, bringing likeminded players together, and helping to increase small business revenue across the US. Yet, Pokémon Go could have dangerous and potentially fatal consequences.

Despite warnings from Nintendo, some people continue to play the game while driving, focusing on their phone screens instead of on the road. As with any other forms of distracted driving, repeatedly looking away from the road in front of you greatly increases your chances of a car accident. And that’s exactly what happened in Auburn, New York. A 28 year-old man was playing Pokémon Go while driving and crashed his car into a tree. Though the car was severely damaged, the driver is expected to make a full recovery.

It’s not only distracted driving that is causing Pokémon Go-related accidents. There have also been reports of pedestrians walking into traffic, robbers specifically targeting distracted players and, in one report, two players crossed into a fenced-off area and walked off the edge of a cliff. Miraculously, none of these people were fatally injured, yet all of these instances could have been avoided entirely had these players focused more on their surroundings and less on their phones. Just as it is the responsibility for motorists everywhere to pay attention to the road, pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings, especially when walking along busy roads or highways.

Safety Tips for Playing Pokémon Go

  • Do not play Pokémon GO while driving. Every year, thousands of car crash fatalities happen as a result of distracted driving. Looking down at your phone, even for a few seconds, could cause an accident. Keep your phone off and your eyes on the road.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Especially if you’re playing at night. Pay attention to where you are walking and the people who are around you.
  • Bring a friend. Not only is catching Pokémon with your friends a fun experience, there is always safety in numbers.
  • Watch for signs as well as Pokémon. If you trespass onto private property or ignore construction signs that might be outside of buildings or other dangerous areas in an attempt to catch Pokémon, you may end up putting yourself in danger and could end up breaking the law. Remember, any Pokémon that appears in a restricted area will reappear in another, safer location at another time. Stay safe. Pikachu can wait.

Summer is the Season for Motorcycle Accidents

Recently, a 40-year-old Buffalo man died in a motorcycle accident when his motorcycle was involved in a crash with another vehicle. Buffalo News reports the accident happened at Fillmore Avenue and East Delavan and occurred shortly after 7:30 p.m. Police were investigating the cause of the collision and asked witnesses to call with information.  The Buffalo News also reported police were asking for information on another unrelated motorcycle accident which had occurred in the North Tonawanda area.

Unfortunately, as warmer weather arrives in the Buffalo area, more reports of motorcycle crashes are likely to hit the papers. This is because warm summer weather brings more people out on motorcycle-accident-300x200motorcycles to ride for pleasure or to ride to commute. Drivers, who may not be as used to seeing motorcycles on the road after a cold and snowy winter, now need to make sure they are taking extra precautions to avoid hitting and injuring or killing a motorcycle rider.

Avoiding Motorcycle Accidents During the Summer Months

A rise in motorcycle accidents does not have to be inevitable just because there are more motorcyclists on the road. Drivers and motorcycle riders can all do their part to exercise caution and try to prevent collisions.  To reduce the chances of a motorcycle accident happening as temperatures rise:

  • Drivers and motorcycle riders should stay sober: Drunk driving is a contributing factor to many motorcycle accidents. Don’t drink and drive or drive after using drugs.
  • Drivers should leave plenty of space around motorcycle riders. Drivers need to leave a gap between their car and the motorcycle so they can stop in time if the motorcyclist does something unexpected. Motorcycle riders are more vulnerable to changes in road surface and more at risk due to debris in roadways than people in cars, and drivers need to be aware motorcyclists may need to react to a road problem.
  • Drivers should follow the rules for yielding the right-of-way to motorcycle riders. Many drivers don’t successfully judge how fast motorcycles are going and thus they end up cutting off motorcyclists or striking them. Drivers should make sure to yield the right-of-way and not try to enter an intersection when it is a motorcycle rider’s turn.
  • Drivers should look twice before they turn or before they change lanes. It can be harder to see a motorcycle, which is much smaller than a passenger car. Don’t just rely on mirrors to make sure the lane is clear- actually take a look before you change lanes and accidentally hit a motorcycle rider.

By following these tips and otherwise exercising caution and following traffic safety rules, hopefully drivers can help to prevent motorcycle accidents which would otherwise be likely to occur as the weather gets warmer and more motorcycle riders take to the roads.

Research Shows Medical Errors Are Third-Leading Cause of Death

Analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins doctors finds over 250,000 deaths yearly

According to a new study, medical errors are behind only cancer and heart disease as a cause of death in the United States.

This new report, conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in The BMJ, showed that medical errors in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other healthcare facilities are much more common than previously believed. Medical errors claim over 250,000 lives annually, more than respiratory disease, accidents and stroke.

Researchers Martin Makary and Michael Daniel stated that their goal was to shed more light on a problem that historically has been overlooked despite putting thousands of lives at risk. Makary said in an interview that his investigation of medical errors included everything from poor judgment by individual doctors to more systemic problems, such as miscommunications when patients go from one department to another or one facility to another.

Their analysis was a comprehensive review of four large studies, including one by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and one by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Reporting standards do not document preventable deaths, researchers say

According to the study results, medical errors should rank third on the annual ranking of causes of death published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), behind only heart disease and cancer.

However, medical errors are currently not included in the CDC figures because of the way the CDC instructs physicians to fill out death certificates. Under current standards, the cause of death is recorded as the underlying medical issue that led the patient to seek treatment, not the medical error.

For instance, if a doctor fails to diagnose a patient at risk for a stroke and the patient subsequently suffers a stroke and dies, the cause of death is recorded as stroke, not medical error. Likewise, if a patient dies on the operating table while undergoing surgery for a respiratory illness, the cause of death is listed as respiratory disease – even though a surgeon’s error directly caused the death.

The findings of the Johns Hopkins study could have major implications, both for the healthcare system in general and for families who have lost loved ones due to medical errors. While it has long been known that medical errors can put patients at risk, this new information shows just how prevalent they are – and how difficult it can be to prove that a medical professional’s mistake caused the death.

That’s why it’s so important for friends and relatives of a patient who has died due to medical error to seek qualified legal representation as soon as possible. A caring, compassionate and experienced attorney who knows how to ask the right questions can build a strong case to bring justice after such a loss. If you’ve lost a loved one to a medical error, contact the Law Offices of James Morris.

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Buffalo Collision Involving Two Teens Reveals Risks of Teen Drivers

Apr 2016

In the state of New York, countless teen drivers are involved in fatal car collisions each year.  Even a single death is devastating, but unfortunately teenagers face the most substantial risk of any demographic group of being killed in a car crash. Teens are especially at risk of getting hurt or killed in a wreck if they have any passengers in the car at the time when a young person is driving.

Buffalo Collision Shows Risk For Teen Drivers & Passengers

This past winter, one of many collisions involving teen drivers occurred when an 18-year-old driver became involved in a crash with a snow plow. Buffalo News reports the 18-year-old’s vehicle moved across the center turn lane and crossed over into the eastbound lane where it struck one of three plows which were on the road at the time.  A passenger in the car, who was 16, sustained injuries including cuts and a fractured vertebrae. Both the driver and passenger who were injured were taken to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.

The teen was issued two tickets in this case, with the first citation indicating he had moved from a lane unsafely and with the additional citation indicating he had failed to keep right. The reasons for the accident are still under investigation.

The fact the teen had a passenger in the car with him was a contributing risk factor to a crash occurring.  A recent study from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety clearly demonstrates dangers associated with young people having passengers in the car as they drive.

Having even one other passenger nearly doubles motor vehicle collision risk among teen drivers. The crash risk per mile doubles as soon as there are two passengers, and quadruples in situations where at least three additional passengers aged 21 or under are in the car with the teenaged driver as he is operating a vehicle.

CBS News, reporting on another recent study, revealed having passengers in the car was very risky for young people because these passengers could be more of a distraction than cell phone use, than eating, or then reaching for items inside of the vehicle.

Graduated licensing laws in New York recognize the dangers of having multiple passengers and impose a restriction on teens who have not yet become eligible for their full license available at age 18 (or aged 17 if the teen took driver’s education).  Teens without their full license are allowed to have only one passenger under the age of 21 in the car with them at a time.

Graduated licensing laws limiting passengers can reduce dangers of crashes, but since NY law still allows one passenger, teens who drive around with at least one friend will continue to face a higher chance of a fatal crash.

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Rear-End Accidents Less Likely Due To Crash Prevention Systems, Study Reports

Mar 2016

Front crash prevention systems installed in vehicles have reduced the number of rear-end accidents caused by drivers, according to a recent nationwide study analyzing different crash prevention technologies.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted the study based on auto accident data gathered by police nationwide, according to Motor Trend magazine. The IIHS analyzed data for accidents involving vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking systems and forward collision warning systems.

Such technological advancements greatly reduced (from 23 to 40 percent, depending on the type of warning or braking system) the number of rear-end accidents. “The success of front crash prevention represents a big step forward towards safer roads,” IIHS chief researcher David Zuby said, according to the Motor Trend article.

How do front crash prevention systems work?

Front crash preventions vary depending on the vehicle manufacturer. In most cases, such systems work using a combination of motion-sensor cameras, lasers or radar to detect another vehicle.

Some car companies equip their vehicles with warning systems that alert drivers to a possible collision with another vehicle based on the distance between the two vehicles and their respective speeds. Other warning systems go one step further and automatically brake if the car is about to collide with another vehicle.

Such technology has the potential to significantly reduce the number of “rear-end crashes and whiplash injuries,” Zuby explained to Motor Trend magazine. Whiplash is a type of neck injury caused by the violent forward, backward movement of a person’s neck, especially during rear-end accidents.

In addition, pedestrians and cyclists will also likely benefit from such technology, since vehicles will warn drivers or automatically stop the car if the car drives too close to other people on the road, according to Consumer Reports magazine.

What can I do to avoid a rear-end car accident?

Vehicles equipped with crash prevention technologies are a great way to prevent rear-end accidents. But you don’t need to have such technology in your vehicle in order to avoid a rear-end accident. When driving, make sure you leave a safe distance between your vehicle and other cars in front or back of you. A safe distance means you have enough time to safely come to stop if another driver hits another vehicle or stops unexpectedly. In general, a safe driving distance is two to three seconds between vehicles.

Other safety tips include:

  • Driving a safe speed (which can vary depending on weather conditions, especially in Upstate New York, where winter storms can be severe.)
  • Avoiding distractions while driving (don’t eat or text while driving. Texting while driving is against the law in New York.)
  • Properly maintain your vehicle (have your brakes and tires checked regularly to make sure they’re in good working order.)

Unfortunately, even the safest drivers sometimes have rear-end accidents. If another driver caused your rear-end crash in New York, contact our law firm immediately. We have years of experience working with people injured in rear-end car accidents. That’s how we’re able to consistently obtain settlements and verdicts that fairly compensate accident victims for the true cost of their crash. Contact us online or call 1-800-477-9044 to schedule your free case evaluation today.

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How Federal Rules Affect Buffalo Truck Accidents

Feb 2016

When truck accidents in Buffalo occur, it is very often not the person who is in the truck who gets hurt in the incident. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicated the victim who is killed in a deadly truck accident case is outside the truck and in a different passenger vehicle 70 percent of the time. truck-4-1478008

Whenever a victim is injured or killed in a collision involving the truck, the victim needs to know his rights. There are federal rules, called Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) which can have a profound impact on how a collision victim’s case goes against a trucker or trucking company.

How Federal Rules Affect Buffalo Truck Accident Cases

In a typical Buffalo car accident, the victim of the crash has the opportunity to sue a driver who caused the accident provided the victim’s injuries are more serious than would be covered by NY’s no fault insurance. Victims have to prove the other motorist was negligent, which is usually done by showing the driver was unreasonably careless.

Victims who sue will recover compensation paid by the insurer of the careless driver. Drivers have to buy $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in liability coverage. As a result, insurers pay out a maximum of $25,000 to each injured person and a maximum of $50,000 total to all victims of a particular accident if the driver who caused the crash only had minimum coverage. Victims need to take insurance policy limits into account when deciding whether to settle because insurers don’t pay more than policy limits.

In a truck accident case, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 387.9 ensures there will be much more insurance coverage available. Trucks covered by FMCSRs have to have at least $750,000 in liability coverage.  If the truck is one which transports hazardous materials, the minimum amount of liability coverage could be $5 million.  The high coverage limits mean there is a lot more money available for victims of truck crashes to be compensated after a collision occurs.

FMCSRs can also help crash victims in another way. These federal rules dictate a lot of aspects of truck operation, truck maintenance, and truck driver behavior. In the event any of the rules are broken, the victim can show the violation of the safety regulation to create a presumption of negligence. This can make it easier for victims of truck accidents to meet their burden of proof and demonstrate they are entitled to damages.

Because FMCSRs dictate so many different aspects of truck operations and truck maintenance, the federal rules also require truckers and trucking companies to keep extensive records.  Victims of truck collisions can subpoena the records during the discovery process as they prepare their case and seek compensation. These records can serve as important evidence to help crash victims prove how their accident happened and to help crash victims show they should be entitled to compensation for losses from the trucker and/or trucking company.

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Why Seek Medical Attention after a Rear-End Crash in Buffalo

Jan 2016

When a rear-end car accident happens, victims of the collision could be hurt as a result of the crash impact. It is imperative for everyone involved in the accident to seek medical attention. You should get an exam performed even if you believe your injuries are relatively minor and will go away on their own. drive-time-676275-m

Why Seek Medical Attention After a Rear-End Crash in Buffalo?

New York is a no fault insurance state, and every driver has to buy personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. This means no matter how a rear-end crash happened, all victims can make a claim with their own insurance provider to have certain post-crash losses covered. Covered losses can include medical bills.

Getting an auto insurer to pay for your injury treatment can save you a significant amount of money, especially as Auto Insurance Center warns the average cost of a personal injury protection (PIP) claim was $8,017 as of 2013. If you cannot make a successful injury claim, you will have to cover costs of necessary treatment and bear other expenses of the rear-end accident on your own.

To make a successful injury claim, you have to be able to provide proof of injuries sustained in the accident. You must both show the crash caused the injuries and also show the extent of the injuries.  You can do this only if you go and see a doctor and the doctor conducts a comprehensive exam. The doctor should carefully document all of the damage sustained in the crash as well as how badly each injury affects your health over the short-term and long-term.

When you make an injury claim, the medical records from after the accident will be used to determine if you are entitled to compensation and the amount of damages. You do not want to be left without medical records due to skipping the doctor, as this could mean you are not able to make your claim.

Medical records showing the extent of injuries will also be useful if you suffered serious injuries and are able to make a personal injury claim against the other driver in the crash. Drivers have to buy liability insurance in New York, and crash victims get to sue when their injuries are more serious than no fault policies cover.

Victims have to prove the other driver was liable, which is usually easy for drivers in lead vehicles in rear-end crash cases since there is a presumption the rear driver is responsible for hitting the other vehicle from behind.  Victims also have to prove how badly they were hurt, which medical records will do.  The case may settle outside of court or be resolved through injury litigation, but the medical records can help convince either an insurer or a jury regarding the payment of appropriate crash damages.

NHTSA Traffic Crash Data a Call To Action for Buffalo Drivers

Dec 2015

If you drove in 2015, you faced an increased risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns there were significantly more motor vehicle collisions in 2015 compared with 2014. The year is over, so bringing crash rates down for last year is now impossible. However, drivers can and should view the higher crash rates as a wake-up call to improve driver safety in 2016. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Improving Driver Safety in 2016 To Fight Rising Traffic Crash Rates

The total number of fatalities in motor vehicle collisions in 2015  increased 8.1 percent from the 32,675 people who were killed in 2014. The fatality rate in 2015 also rose 4.4 percent from the 1.07 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven in 2014. The significant rise in deaths is a reversal of a downward trend in car crash deaths which had been occurring over the past several years.

How can drivers help to reverse these rising crash rates next year? There are many different things motorists should make a commitment to do so 2016 does not show another rise in collision rates. Safe driving tips include:

  • Driving the speed limit and slowing down in bad weather conditions. Winter in Buffalo means snow, and drivers need to allow themselves plenty of time to get to their destination when conditions are not ideal.
  • Avoiding driving in bad weather whenever possible. If the weather report is warning of a storm, postpone non-essential trips. If you must drive, refrain from passing snow plows and try to stick to more well-traveled roads which are more likely to be plowed.
  • Keeping vehicles well-maintained. Changes in temperature can lead to changes in tire air pressure, which can result in tire blowouts.  Keep the tires properly inflated and have other car parts, like the brakes, checked regularly to make sure mechanical failure does not cause collisions.
  • Avoiding using any type of electronic device or smart phone. Apple watches are the latest concern when it comes to distracted driving. NHTSA warns 10 percent of deadly accidents in 2014 involved a driver who was distracted when the crash happens. All products, including hands-free ones, are a big risk factor for collisions.
  • Never drinking and driving. In 2014, drunken drivers caused 9,967 of the total fatalities- which was around a third of all car accident deaths.
  • Staying awake and alert. In 2014, 2.6 percent of crash deaths were attributed to drivers who were drowsy. The number of drowsy drivers who cause crashes may be underreported since motorists often do not admit when they were too tired but kept driving anyway.
  • Being especially careful when traveling through intersections. Close to 40 percent of the collisions within the United States occur when the motorists are at an intersection, with most of these crashes happening because drivers don’t look carefully enough before going into the intersection.
  • Buckling up. Forty-nine percent of the people who died in car accidents in 2014 had no seat belts on when they were involved in the fatal crash which ended their lives.

Where Head On Collisions are Most Likely to Occur in Buffalo

Nov 2015

A Buffalo woman attempting to pass a car on Route 97 recently collided head-on with another vehicle. The woman was trying to pass another vehicle and was traveling eastbound in the opposing traffic lane. She collided with another car, killing the other driver instantly. She was also killed in the accident. According to Buffalo News, the collision is under investigation and law enforcement officers are awaiting toxicology reports to make a determination on whether alcohol use was involved in the head-on accident or not. way-wrong-1245111

Head-on crashes make up a disproportionately high share of fatal car accidents, and of collisions resulting in serious injury. Statewide in New York, 966 fatal collisions and another 118,465 non-fatal injury crashes occurred over 2014, according to the NY Department of Motor Vehicles. Improper passing, which often results in head-on crashes, was the cause of a total of 13,589 statewide collisions. Drivers going the wrong way onto a highway, and drivers losing control while traveling around a curve are also very common causes of head-on crashes.

Motorists must be aware of the dangers of head-on collisions and must be proactive in attempting to prevent them from occurring. One key part of effective prevention decisions is knowing where head-on collisions are most likely to occur.

Where Head-On Collisions are Most Likely to Occur

Head-on collisions frequently occur on two lane roads, which have no middle median or physical barrier. Safety Transportation says ¾ of all head-on accidents in the United States occur on these types of roads. One possible option for lawmakers to improve safety on these type of roadways is to add a cable barrier or some other type of physical barrier.

Cable barriers are often recommended over concrete medians because the cable barrier has more give if a driver hits it, so motorists who strike the median are less likely to be badly injured or killed. The use of rumble strips could also be an effective way to alert drivers they have crossed over from their lane and into the lane of opposing traffic, which they are in danger of hitting head-on.

Drivers who travel on two lane undivided roads can also make sure they follow the speed limit- especially around curves where 23-percent of head-on accidents happen. They can also avoid distractions, intoxication, and drowsy driving, which are all contributing factors to causing head-on crashes as drivers veer off into opposing lanes.

Head-on collisions also frequently occur on highways, as well as on the entrance ramps and exit ramps people use in order to access highways. When drivers get onto highways going in the wrong direction, they are very likely to strike other vehicles moving at high-speeds, thus causing fatal head-on collisions. The use of more effective “No Enter” signs, placed slightly lower, could help to reduce these types of crashes according to NBC. Drivers also need to be careful attention to pavement markings and avoid intoxicated driving which could cause disorientation and result in wrong-way head-on accidents.