THE INFAMOUS MCDONALD’S COFFEE CASE
No one case that I can think of has done more to give the public a negative view of personal injury lawyers than the McDonald’s coffee case. As the media reported the case, a women sued McDonald’s and received $2.9 million dollars for spilling a cup of coffee on herself. This is basically all the information that the public was given and it has stuck in people’s minds. However, the facts of that case may surprise you, and even change your perception of our Civil Justice system. You may even start to think that personal injury lawyers are not all that bad, OK maybe I won’t go that far.
In 1992, Stella Liebeck, purchased a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive thru. She put the cup between her knees and when she removed the lid the coffee spilled into her lap. She suffered third degree burns to her inner thighs, buttocks, perineum, genital and groin area. She was admitted to the hospital for 8 days, underwent skin grafts, debridements and was disabled for 2 years following the accident. Her treating physician testified at trial that it was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.
At trial, the jury allegedly learned that McDonald’s Corporate directive was that its coffee was to be served between 180 degrees and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, third degree burns occur within 2 to 3 seconds. It was alleged that from 1982 to 1992, McDonald’s coffee had burned more than 700 people, and McDonald’s allegedly admitted at trial that it had known of the risk of serious burns and had no plans to reduce the temperature of its coffee. McDonald’s also allegedly admitted that because of the temperature of its coffee that it was not fit for consumption for the first 10 minutes, as it would cause scald injuries to the mouth and throat. It was also allegedly shown that McDonald’s coffee was sold at temperatures dangerously higher than the coffee served by other fast food chains. Many of the more specific facts were tightly sealed behind a confidentiality agreement that went with the final settlement. However, it was alleged that McDonald’s, aware its market share was down substantially, hired marketing experts to determine the reason. They determined that the lost market share was due to an average 22 minute gap from point of purchase of breakfast/coffee to the time it was consumed at which time the coffee was cold. As a result, McDonald’s retro-fitted the coffee urns to raise the temperature high enough to remain hot for 22 minutes after being poured.
The jury after learning the above, awarded Ms. Liebeck $200,000.00 for her severe injuries, which was reduced to $160,000.00 as they found her to be 20% at fault. The jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages (which was reduced to $480,000.00 by the trial court) to deter similar conduct in the future because they found McDonald’s actions to be willful. As McDonald’s sold one billion cups of coffee a year, generating $1.3 million a day in revenues, the jury’s punitive damages award equated to a mere 2 days worth of McDonald’s coffee sales. There, now you know the real story
Pet Insurance Review 2018
Welcome to my revised third article in which I discuss Pet Insurance and review some of the best plans. Many pet insurance companies change their policies every year or two. So companies that I may have recommended in my previous articles, I may no longer recommend for various reasons.
As you may recall from my previous articles, I am an attorney who has been dealing with insurance companies for over 25 years. I also own 2 dogs, Storm and Sarah. Storm became an internet sensation this summer, when my video of him saving a fawn in Port Jefferson Harbor went viral. He now even has his own Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/GoodBoyStorm. As for Sarah, I adopted her from Last Chance Animal Rescue, www.LCARescue.org. I have been volunteering for Last Chance for almost 5 years now, am an Adoption Event Leader, and act as their Pro-bono attorney.
When it comes to Pet Insurance, there are too many companies for me to review each one. However, I can tell you that many of them are not worth the cost. There are many reasons for me saying this. Some change underwriters every year, so that any condition that your dog was treated for in one year, will end up being a pre-existing condition the next year even though you did not change companies. Others have caps/limits on the cost of procedures, treatments or tests, have yearly caps, and/or lifetime caps on coverage. So you must be very careful when selecting a plan, read everything, and ask a lot of questions.
Here are my reviews of the plans in the order that I would currently select them. I provide the pricing that I was quoted for my dogs to help you compare the cost. As for pricing, purebreds are typically more expensive than mixed breeds and larger dogs are more expensive than smaller dogs.
1. Trupanion - (www.Trupanion.com)
I currently have both of my dogs insured with Trupanion. Trupanion has been in business for about 10 years and is still run by the founder. This is an accident, illness and injury policy only. They reimburse 90% of the actual veterinary bill. There is no benefit schedule or usual and customary charge table to cap what they will pay for certain services, which many companies have. You can select a deductible from $0 to $1,000.00 to adjust your monthly premium. The deductible only has to be paid one time per condition or type of illness for the life of your dog. There is no yearly cap on how much they will pay out for veterinary bills, and there is no lifetime cap on benefits. They cover chronic illnesses, as well as hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia. They cover any service needed to diagnose and treat the injury or illness, such as x-rays, MRI, blood work, etc. They cover prescription medication, dietary supplements, and even prescription food for up to two months. They do not increase your monthly premium as your dog ages, as some companies do. Their rates only increase depending upon the increase of veterinary costs in your area. There is a $25.00 set up fee, with a five day wait period for accident/ injury coverage, and a thirty day wait period for illness. They do not reimburse for the veterinary examination/office visit charge. They cover some holistic treatment, but offer chiropractic, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physical therapy etc. in a separate package for an additional premium. The current monthly premium that I pay for Storm is $71.00 with a $250.00 per condition deductible. The premium increase from last year was $7.00, from $64.00 to $71.00. I have had Storm insured with Trupanion since 2010 when he was a puppy. The original monthly premium was $41.00 with no deductible, so the rate has increased and I have also increased my deductible. For Sarah I pay $49.00 a month with a $300.00 per condition deductible. More importantly, the coverage automatically renews at the end of each policy period as long as all payments are current. After 60 days or upon the policy renewal, they will not cancel your policy except for non-payment of premiums.
2. Healthy Paws - (www.Healthypawspetinsurance.com)
This is a younger company than Trupanion, and they are the only other company to offer a policy similar to Trupanion. They offer 3 different reimbursement levels, 60%, 70%, or 80%. They do not re- imburse for the exam/office visit charge, the same as Trupanion. They also offer only three different deductible amounts, $250.00, $500.00 and $750.00. However, these are annual deductibles paid only once per year, not per incident. This differs from Trupanion, which is a per incident/illness deductible, but paid only once per type of illness for the life of the dog. So if your dog ends up with a chronic condition/illness, Trupanion may be better. If your dog ends up with many one time conditions, Healthy Paws would be better. They offer unlimited per incident/condition and unlimited lifetime benefits the same as Trupanion. Their standard policy in- cludes the holistic care offered by Trupanion in their separate package, so that is a plus. Their rates will go up based upon cost of veterinary care in your area, not based on the age of the dog, the same as Trupanion. Neither Trupanion or Healthy Paws will cover pre-existing conditions, preventative/routine care, or spay/neuter procedures. I was quoted $81.00 a month for Storm and $41.00 for Sarah, by Healthy Paws with a reimbursement level of 80% (which is the maximum percent) and a $250.00 deductible.
3. Figo - (www.figopetinsurance.com)
This is one of the newest companies in the pet insurance industry, starting in April of 2015. They require that your pet undergo an annual health check and dental exam as a condition to coverage. They have 3 plans to choose from, Essential, Preferred and Ultimate. The Essential plan has an annual cap of $10,000.00 in benefits and the Preferred plan has a $14,000.00 annual benefit cap. The Ultimate plan has unlimited annual benefits and all plans cover the exam fees for injury and illness, which Nationwide covers, but Trupanion and Healthy Paws do not cover. You can customize each policy with deductibles ranging from $50.00 to $500.00 with reimbursement rates from 70% to 100%.
They quoted me $76.00/month for Storm for the Ultimate plan with a $200.00 annual deductible and 90% reimbursement. The coverage provided by Figo and the premiums are very tempting. However, the fact that it is a very young company is a big factor to consider. They will likely experience growing pains as they learn the business, which could have a huge effect on premiums. In fact, I read that in August 2017, Figo filed to increase rates in New Jersey by 52%! Someone's policy premium went from $86.00 a month to $141.00 a month.
4. Nationwide Pet Insurance - (www.Petinsurance.com)
In my original version of this article I had Nationwide listed as first, and had decided to switch to them. I actually did switch and when I received the policy I immediately cancelled it. Fortunately, I hadn't yet cancelled my Trupanion policy. I cancelled the Nationwide policy for three important reasons. First, the policy language allows them to change the coverage on renewal based upon the health of your dog. Secondly, they can cancel the coverage based on the health of your dog. Third, they increase rates based upon the age of your dog, in addition to increases based upon the cost of veterinary care. For me, this all increased the risk that I would not really have the certainty of protection I wanted for my dogs.
They offer 3 plans, the best plan is called Whole Pet with Wellness. Under this plan there is one annual deduction of $250.00, not a per condition deductible which some plans have. It provides 90% reimbursement of actual veterinary expenses, not usual or customary expenses like some other plans. The cost of the veterinary exam is covered, including wellness, emergency and specialty exams. Most plans do not reimburse for the exam fee.
The cost of preventative care, including vaccinations, teeth cleaning and spay/neuter are all covered. So is the cost of monthly flea/tick and heartworm prevention, as well as deworming and parasite treatment. It covers hospitalization, surgeries including preventative and elective procedures, injuries, illness, cancer, and hereditary/congenital conditions. Prescribed nutritional supplements, therapeutic diets and medications are also covered. Even prescribed holistic, alternative and preventative care is included.
There is no annual or lifetime Cap or limit on the benefits. For this plan I was quoted $128.00 a month for Storm (large purebred, 7 years old) and $68.00 a month for Sarah (large mixed breed, 3 years old).
This coverage sounds amazing. However, if they can change and cancel the coverage each year and if the rate increases makes it unaffordable when my dogs need it most, it really is not what it appears to be.
The other 2 plans offered by Nationwide are called Major Medical and Pet Wellness. The Major Medical plan covers exams, lab tests, x-rays, prescription, surgeries, hospitalizations, and chronic conditions. This plan would cost about $56.00 a month for Storm and $36.00 for Sarah. However, it has set benefit amounts for covered conditions. There is a $250.00 annual deduction and unlimited annual benefits. The Pet Wellness plan only covers wellness exams and tests, flea/heartworm preventative and vaccinations.
5. Pet Plan - (www.gopetplan.com)
I no longer recommend Pet Plan due to many changes to their policy and dramatic price increases since my last article. For example, it would cost over $300.00 a month for unlimited coverage with a $100.00 deductible and 80% reimbursement to insure Storm.
6. Embrace - (www.Embracepetinsurance.com)
I no longer recommend Embrace either due to many policy changes in their policies resulting in reduced coverage and increased costs. For example, a policy for Storm with a $15,000.00/year cap, a $300.00 deductible with a 90% reimbursement, was $110.00 a month.
There are many other companies that offer pet insurance, and every plan is different. Most have caps on benefits, and with the cost of veterinary care today, you certainly take a risk by having a limit on benefits. I want insurance that will cover the very expensive treatment if my dogs need it. The cost of surgery, treatment for cancer, or chronic conditions could easily go above and beyond the caps on many policies.
I hope that this article helps you make the best choice for your pet. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have about pet insurance or about a plan you already have. The fact that I had to revise this article only highlights how important it is to carefully read your policy.
I wish your dog or cat a long and healthy life.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Finding a Long Island Car Accident Lawyer
Almost every lawyer on Long Island claims that they "handle" car accidents, but what does that mean?
I see lawyers that really only practice bankruptcy law, real estate, criminal law, family law, etc. saying that they also handle car accidents and personal injury cases. However, if you are involved in a serious car accident on Long Island, you need a lawyer that concentrates in only those types of cases, and here is why.
First, they know exactly what to do because they have done it thousands of times before. They know all the ins and outs, time limitations, exceptions, and all the other little things that can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. Second, the involved insurance companies know exactly which lawyers know how to "handle" car accident cases with the skills needed to obtain a big jury verdict if necessary.
The insurance companies actually keep lists of the Long Island lawyers that truly know how to handle serious car accident cases, why? Because they need to know which lawyers are dangerous to them and their pocketbooks, and they will settle car accident cases for more money with them every time. I have been handling serious car accident cases on Long Island for over 20 years with the results that make insurance companies need to know who I am. View my track record of success.
In addition to the insurance companies knowing who I am, so do their lawyers. They know how diligent I am in pushing my client's cases through the court system quickly, and they see me in the courts every week doing just that. They also see me taking the necessary time to properly build my client's case to maximize their recovery, which in turn increases the risk to the insurance companies if they do not settle for the amount that my clients deserve. They see me hiring the right experts like Life Care Planners, Vocational Rehabilitation specialists, and Economists to prove my client's full economic losses. They know I will take depositions and hire engineers or accident reconstruction experts to win my case. They know that when I take on a serious car accident case, that I will do everything possible to win and to get the best possible result for my client. They know I am driven, and I have done this a thousand times over my career. They know that I will not take short cuts and jeopardize my client's chances of results that they truly deserve. They know that I am an honest stand up lawyer whose word they know they can trust, and that is invaluable when negotiating case settlements.
Read what my clients and others have to say about me here.
To learn more about car accident cases, including damages to your car, No-Fault benefits, or the injury case itself, you can view my videos on these topics and more on YouTube.
Keep it safe out there.
Why You Should Purchase GAP Insurance When You Buy a New or Used Car
Over the last 25 years of practicing Personal Injury law on Long Island, I have spoken to countless clients involved in car accidents in Nassau and Suffolk County. In many cases they have had to pay out thousands of dollars for cars they no longer owned even when the car accidents were not their fault. Although it seems unfair, it is a reality for many people that own cars with outstanding loans and do not have GAP insurance.
GAP stands for Guaranteed Auto Protection, and provides protection for the difference between what your car is worth and what you still owe on the car loan when your car becomes totaled, stolen, etc. In New York state every car lease is required to include GAP coverage as part of the lease. However, there is no requirement when you purchase and finance a new or used car. The average new car loses about 20% to 30% of its value in the first year, and after three years it is likely only worth about half what you purchased it for. For example, if you purchased a new car for $30,000.00, your insurance company would probably only pay you about $21,000.00 for a total loss in the first year. Without GAP insurance you would be out of pocket that $9,000.00 difference, and the person that caused the accident would not be responsible for reimbursing you that amount. Remember, if you drive many miles each year, your car will depreciate even faster.
GAP insurance is available from all new and used car dealers, but you must specifically request it. Also, most car insurance companies offer GAP insurance, and possibly for a third or quarter of the price of the dealer. In addition, GAP insurance is available from stand alone companies such as www.gapdirect.com, that only sell GAP insurance. The GAP insurance offered by your car dealer is likely the most expensive, so shop around before you purchase it from them as you could save hundreds of dollars. If you purchase it from your car insurance company or a stand alone company, you also will not be paying interest on the cost like you would if you rolled that cost into your car loan payment. With the insurance companies, you can also cancel the coverage when you don't owe more on your loan than the value of your car and no longer need the protection.
If you already have purchased a car and have a loan without GAP insurance, it is not too late to add it. The dealer likely can't help you, but your car insurance company and the stand alone companies will sell you a policy as long as it is not already damaged.
The cost for GAP insurance varies, car dealers typically charge in the $500.00 range and more which covers the loan period. Insurance companies may charge as little as $150.00. When comparing costs, just make sure you are comparing the same coverage/protection.
If you have any questions you can call me at 631-402-5527, I would be happy to speak to you about GAP insurance or any other car insurance related question.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Pet Insurance… A Quick Review of the Best Plans
As a dog owner and attorney that has been dealing with insurance companies for over 25 years, I am amazed at how many different companies now offer pet insurance. I first wrote an article on this subject about three years ago, and since then the cost of veterinary care has continued to increase along with the number of pet insurance choices. In addition, as a volunteer and Pro-bono attorney with Last Chance Animal Rescue (www.LCARescue.org),I am always being asked for my advice on pet insurance from fellow volunteers, as well as adopters. A good place to start your homework is at www.petinsurancereview.com, which will provide you with a list of the different companies, some of the differences between them, and a "user rating" score. However, this site does not tell the whole story. I selected the top four plans, reviewed their websites, and questioned representatives at each to determine what the real differences were between the plans. Here is my review of these plans in the order that I would select them.
Trupanion- (www.Trupanion.com) This would be my first choice, and in fact, I have both of my dogs insured with Trupanion. This is an accident, illness, injury policy only. They reimburse 90% of the actual veterinary bill. There is no benefit schedule or usual and customary charge table to cap what they will pay for certain services, which many companies have. You can select a deductible from $0 to $1,000.00 to adjust your monthly premium. The deductible only has to be paid one time per condition or type of illness for the life of your dog. There is no yearly cap on how much they will pay out for veterinary bills, and there is no lifetime cap on benefits. They cover chronic illnesses, as well as hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia. They cover any service needed to diagnose and treat the injury or illness, such as x-rays, MRI, blood work, etc. They cover prescription medication, dietary supplements, and even prescription food for up to two months. They do not increase your monthly premium as your dog ages, as some companies do. Their rates only increase depending upon the increase of veterinary costs in your area. There is a $25.00 set up fee, with a five day wait period for accident/injury coverage, and a thirty day wait period for illness. They do not reimburse for the veterinary examination/office visit charge. They cover some holistic treatment, but offer chiropractic, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, etc. in a separate package for an additional premium. They have been in business over 15 years. The current monthly premium that I pay for my 5 year old Golden Retriever is $64.00, with a $100.00 deductible. If I increased the deductible to $250.00, my premium would be $55.00 a month.
Healthy Paws- (www.Healthypawspetinsurance.com) This is a relatively new company, and may experience some growing pains as it learns the business. This could affect premiums at some point. They are the only other company to offer a policy similar to Trupanion. They offer three different reimbursement levels, 70%, 80%, and 90%. They do not reimburse for the exam/office visit charge, the same as Trupanion. They also offer only three different deductible amounts, $100.00, $250.00, and $500.00. However, these are annual deductibles paid only once per year, not per incident. This differs from Trupanion, which is a per incident/illness deductible, but paid only once per type of illness for the life of the dog. So if your dog ends up with a chronic condition/illness, Trupanion may be better. If your dog ends up with many one time conditions, Healthy Paws would be better. They offer unlimited per incident/condition and unlimited lifetime benefits the same as Trupanion. Their standard policy includes the holistic care offered by Trupanion in their separate package, so that is a plus. Their rates will go up based upon cost of veterinary care in your area, not based on the age of the dog, the same as Trupanion. Neither Trupanion or Healthy Paws will cover pre-existing conditions, preventative/routine care, or spay/neuter procedures. I was quoted $56.00 a month for my Golden Retriever by Healthy Paws with a reimbursement level of 90% and a $250.00 deductible. However, if i switched to them, any condition that my dog has had in the last five years could be considered a pre-existing condition. In light of this and the fact that they are a young company, I would not change from Trupanion. I am also happy with the service that I have received from Trupanion over the last five years.
3. Pet Plan- (www.gopetplan.com) They offer three different packages, Bronze, Silver, and Gold ,all for accident, injuries and illnesses. This includes coverage for hereditary and chronic conditions, as well as for testing and prescription medication. However, each package has a yearly cap on the benefits that will be paid out which ranges from $10,000.00 to $22,000.00 . You can choose a deductible of $50.00, $100.00, or $200.00, and reimbursement levels of 80%, 90%, and 100%. There are no benefit schedules or usual/customary charge tables to limit payment for particular services. The plan reimburses for the exam/office visit charge, and the deductible applies per condition, per year. They quoted me $76.00 a month for my dog with the Gold plan which had a $100.00 deductible, a 90% reimbursement level, and a $22,000.00 yearly cap on benefits. If I went to a $200.00 deductible and 90% reimbursement it would be $54.00 a month.
4. Embrace- (www.Embracepetinsurance.com) Embrace also offers three different packages all with an 80% reimbursement level and yearly deductibles of $200.00, $300.00, and $500.00. There are no benefit schedules or usual and customary charge tables to cap out reimbursement of services at a certain amount. They do reimburse for the exam/office visit charge. However, each package has a yearly cap on benefits of between $5,000.00 and $15,000.00. Embrace quoted me $90.00 a month for a policy with a yearly benefit cap of $15,000.00, a $200.00 yearly deductible, and a 90% reimbursement level. If I went to a $10,000.00 cap, and 80% reimbursement it would be $58.00 a month.
There are many other companies that offer pet insurance, and every plan is different. You must read all of the fine print and ask a lot of questions. Most have caps on benefits, and with the cost of veterinary care today, you certainly take a risk by having a cap on benefits. I want insurance that will cover the very expensive care if my dogs need it. The cost for surgery, treatment for cancer, or chronic conditions could easily go above and beyond the caps on many policies. I personally would only consider a policy with Trupanion or Healthy Paws. They don't cover everything, but I have peace of mind knowing that my dogs have great coverage if something serious happens. To me, that is why you buy insurance.
I hope this article takes some of the mystery out of the pet insurance choices out there. More importantly, I wish your dog or cat a long and healthy life.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Choose Carefully When Selecting an Injury Lawyer, and Don't be Afraid to Switch
When it comes to obtaining the compensation that you truly deserve for serious injuries resulting from an accident, the lawyer that you select can make all the difference. Insurance companies and their lawyers do not offer everyone the same settlement for the same injuries, the ability and track record of your lawyer plays a big part in the amount offered.
Insurance companies and their lawyers respect the lawyers that pay attention to every detail, and carefully prepare a case to prove every aspect of the damages. These lawyers will do all of the necessary work, go to court, take depositions, hire experts, prepare visual trial exhibits, and will not rush for a quick settlement. These lawyers are the most dangerous to insurance companies, because a well prepared lawyer poses a risk for a large jury verdict. This is what makes insurance companies settle cases for their true value. A quick settlement is rarely in the best interest of an injured client.
If you feel that your lawyer is not doing everything that they can to maximize the results of your case, then you should at least speak to another attorney for a second opinion. You only have one chance to get the results that you deserve, so you owe it to yourself to at least talk it over with another lawyer. If your lawyer is trying to persuade you to settle your case for an amount that you are unsure of, it is also a good idea to speak to another lawyer. You are permitted to change injury lawyers in New York at anytime and for any reason. The process is simple and the lawyers will share the 1/3rd legal fee, so it will not cost you anymore legal fee. I frequently take over cases for people who are unhappy with their current injury lawyer, and most of the time I am shocked at the condition of the file and by what has not been done.
Recently my firm took over a construction site accident case from another lawyer. The prior lawyer was pressuring the client to settle his case for $750,000.00, but the client wasn't comfortable. Once we obtained the file from the prior lawyer we went to work on creating a game plan. We first attacked on proving that the defendants were 100% at fault for causing our clients scaffold to fail. The lower court judge did not agree, so we appealed to the Appellate Division where we won 100% liability!
Upon winning the fault part of the case, we next attacked on proving the damages, and not just the pain and suffering like most lawyers. We proved the economic losses to our client. We hired a Life care Planner to say what medical care and treatment our client would need for the rest of his life. We hired a Vocational Rehabilitation expert to say if our client could work again, and if so, doing what, and at what salary. We hired a Professor of Economics to say what the future value was for the loss of income and the cost of medical treatment. We hired a medical/legal artist to create amazing trial exhibits showing the surgeries our client underwent. In all, we invested over $50,000.00 before trial to make sure that our client's case was proved perfectly. There are very few lawyers on Long Island putting forth this type of effort into cases, and the insurance companies know it.
You may be wondering what happened on this case. Well, the week before trial the insurance company and their lawyers did everything they could to have us attend a mediation. After many intense hours at mediation we successfully settled the case for our client for $2.3 million dollars, more than three times what the prior lawyer tried to get our client to settle for. Our client can now stop worrying about an uncertain future, and concentrate on rebuilding his life with his family. This is the difference that my firm makes, and we do this many times each year for many clients.
If you, your family or friends ever have any questions about a serious accident, please call me to have an honest conversation.
Keep it safe out there.
The Crucial Car Insurance Coverage That Every Police Officer In New York Must Have
The Crucial Car Insurance Coverage That Every Police Officer In New York Must Have
As we all know, being a police officer anywhere in New York involves a high degree of risk of injury. I know this first hand as my father and uncle proudly served as members of the NYPD for many years.
In New York, police vehicles are self insured by the cities, towns, villages, etc. that own them, they are not insured by private insurance companies like our own cars. As such, they are not covered with the same insurance benefits that private cars must be insured with. For instance, police vehicles are not provided with Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. Therefore, if a police officer is injured as a driver or passenger of a police car and is injured by another vehicle with no insurance or a small policy, they have no insurance protection for their injuries through the police vehicle. Because of this, I have always advised my many police officer family members, friends, and neighbors to purchase a large amount of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage for their own/personal vehicles. This is because this coverage is like a shadow that follows you and every family member regardless of where you are or what car you are in when you are injured. With this coverage you can protect yourself from people that injure you and have no insurance or a very small policy. When you have this coverage you are not at the mercy of the person that injures you, as typically the worst drivers have the least insurance.
If a police officer is riding in a police car and has this coverage on their own car and is injured by another vehicle with no insurance or a small policy, the officer will be able to pursue an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist claim with their own personal car insurance to obtain the additional compensation they deserve. This coverage will also provide protection to the police officer if they are struck by a stolen car, or a car that leaves the scene and is never identified. Moreover, it will provide coverage to the police officer even if they are a pedestrian and are struck and injured by a car.
Since police officers employed by the City of New York, the State of New York, Suffolk County, Nassau County, and every other county, city, town, or village are not covered by the police cars they occupy, they must make sure that they properly insure themselves with their own personal car policy. I would recommend a minimum of $250,000.00 of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, and more if possible due to the risk of injury police officers face everyday.
In a recent case, New York's highest court stripped away a police officer's right as a passenger to pursue an Uninsured/Underinsured claim against the personal insurance policy of the police officer who was operating the police car. In the case of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Fitzgerald, 2015 N.Y. Slip Op. 05626 (July 1, 2015), police officer Fitzgerald was a passenger in a police car that was struck by a drunk driver whose car was insured with a small liability policy which was insufficient to compensate officer Fitzgerald for his serious injuries. As a result, officer Fitzgerald (who apparently did not have sufficient Uninsured/Underinsured coverage on his own car) made an Underinsured Motorist claim against State Farm Insurance Company (who insured the police officer operating the police car), which State Farm denied to pay on.
The Court of Appeals sided with State Farm because they determined that a police vehicle is not considered to be a "motor vehicle" under NY Vehicle & Traffic Law section 388(2). This is crucial because in order for the police officer passenger to be able to pursue an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist claim with the State Farm policy of the driver police officer, the passenger police officer must occupy the driver's own car, or any other "motor vehicle" being operated by the driver. The Court of Appeals in this decision overruled the lower Appellate Division court which had decided that a police vehicle was a "motor vehicle" as broadly defined under NY Vehicle & Traffic law section125, and had allowed the injured police officer's claim to proceed.
As a result of this harsh decision by New York's top court, police officer Fitzgerald was unable to obtain the compensation he deserved. State Farm walked away without paying a dime, just because officer Fitzgerald was in a police car which the court decided was technically not a
"motor vehicle" under the law. This decision is contrary to common sense, and will be used by insurance companies in New York to deny the legitimate claims of seriously injured police officers for years to come.
The lesson to be learned is to always properly insure yourself, especially if you are a police officer in New York.
If any police officer or their family members have any questions about this insurance coverage, I am always happy to speak to you and to review your car insurance policy to make sure that you have the protection you need.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
When Are Dog Owners Responsible For Injuries Caused By Their Dogs In New York?
Most of us probably think that dog owners in Nassau County & Suffolk County on Long Island and elsewhere in New York are responsible anytime that the actions of their dog injures another person. However, this is not always the case. In fact, New York is arguably the most dog friendly state when it comes to an owner being held liable for dog related injuries. In June of this year, New York's highest court once again confirmed that dog owners are only responsible for injuries caused by their dogs under a theory of strict liability, and not based upon a claim of negligence.
So what does that mean for the person who becomes injured by a dog bite, a jumping dog, a running dog, etc.? Essentially this means that the dog owner is only responsible if three essential facts can be proven. The first fact that must be proven is that the dog actually caused an injury by biting someone. If there is no proof of an actual bite, then there will be no liability. Next, it must be proven that the dog had " vicious propensities " before the day that it bit someone. This means that it must be shown that the dog had a natural inclination or a habit to act in a way that is dangerous. This would include the dog's disposition or attitude towards people, and whether it had bitten anyone before. A prior bite by the dog is usually the best evidence, but aggressive behavior such as snarling, baring teeth, growling, and lunging can be sufficient if the nature and frequency of this behavior would make it reasonable to believe that the dog may cause an injury by biting. However, proof of mere barking, jumping, pulling, etc. will not be enough to prove a vicious propensity. Finally, since a dog owner is allowed to assume that their dog will not injure anyone, it must be proven that the dog's owner knew or should have known about the dog's vicious propensities. This knowledge can be proven by showing the dog actually bit someone before, or possibly by showing that the dog was kept muzzled, tied up by a rope or chain, or that the owner would put the dog in to a closed room when people came to their home, or by showing that the dog growled, snarled, bared its teeth or lunged at everyone that visited or passed by the owner's home.
To collect the necessary evidence to prove liability on the owner, you can request prior bite records concerning the dog from the Department of Health. Anytime that a doctor or hospital or doctor treats someone for a dog bite they are required to provide a report to the Department of Health. It is also a good idea to speak to the neighbors of the dog owner who may have knowledge of the dog's behavior, as well others who may go to the home on a regular basis. For instance the mail carrier, UPS or Fed Ex route driver, landscaper, bottled water delivery person, etc. all may have encountered the dog and may have information that can be used to show that the dog acted viciously.
New York is one of the only states in the country where a dog owner is not responsible if they negligently fail to prevent their dog from causing an injury to someone. For instance, if their dog injures someone while chasing a ball, running to their owner on command, running loose off leash, running in front of, or into, a person riding their bicycle or while walking, etc., the owner will not be held liable.
Based upon the recent decision of our state's high court, this will be the law regarding injuries caused by dogs for many years to come. If you have any questions about a dog bite, call me at 631-402-5527 for a free and honest opinion.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Help New Drivers Survive on our Dangerous Long Island Roads
I recently took my son to the DMV for his Learner's Permit test. Of course I was happy that he passed, but as I drove home on Route 347 I started to wonder...how am I going to teach him what he needs to know to stay safe on roads like this. We all know that Driver's Ed classes just teach the bare basics, and I didn't think that was going to be enough. I consider myself a good, safe driver with enough patience to pass along the skills and knowledge that I have. However, I still didn't think that was going to give him the advantage he needed on these Long Island roads in Suffolk County. Representing seriously injured people involved in car accidents on Long Island for the last 25 years, and seeing the effect on people's lives has made me more proactive when it comes to safety...just ask my kids. But the proof is in the numbers...Over 5,000 teens died in car accidents last year, the leading killer of American teens aged 16 to 19, accounting for more than 40% of deaths in that age range...almost 50% of fatal teen driver car accidents involve only one car; 20% of car passenger deaths involve a teen driver...and the numbers go on.
So I started doing a little research on driving courses that go beyond the usual Driver's Ed classes. I had heard about Skip Barber Racing School (www.skipbarber.com), so I started there. It turns out that they offer a Teen Safety & Survival School. It's a hands on all day course for teens. The teen just needs a Learner's permit and 20 hours of driving time under their belt. The course concentrates on survival skills and street awareness, and includes defensive and emergency driving exercises. The closest track is Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, but this class is not offered there often and fills up quickly. The next closest track is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Atlanta, they offer the class there year round. The all day class is around $1,000.00.
As I continued my research, I came across another great skills school called Tire Rack Street Survival (www.streetsurvival.org). This school offers classes across the country, even at the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum (coming up on May 23, 2015). Other nearby locations are Bergen County New Jersey and in Stratford, Connecticut (right off the ferry). These schools teach real world, hands on experience. They teach the teens to control their own car under unpredictable situations, showing them how the car will react. This will help them to make better driving decisions and react more appropriately. They will become more aware while driving and learn to anticipate other driver's actions. Here comes the bonus...it costs only $75.00 for the entire day of school. Needless to say, I signed my son up and we will be taking a road trip this summer. Drivers with a Learner's Permit need to have had their permit for 3 months, and have 25 hours of driving experience before the date of their class.
If you need more reasons to sign your teen driver up for one of these courses, call me. I will be happy to talk to you about the serious car accidents and life changing injuries that I have seen in Suffolk County and Nassau County on Long Island over the years. If these courses can help to decrease the risk, it's hard to not find the time to give our kids an advantage.
My next article will offer some guidance and resources on finding a safe car for the teen driver. Stay tuned.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Giving New Drivers an Edge Behind the Wheel
Last weekend I took my new driver teenage son to Connecticut to participate in a "Street Survival" course to gain knowledge and confidence...mission accomplished.The program is sponsored by the Tire Rack, and is only $75.00 for an all day, intensive, hands on experience. You can visit www.streetsurvival.org for more information, and to see the schedule of upcoming courses. They limit the program to about 30 young drivers, who are each assigned their own driving instructor for the day. The instructors typically have some type of racing experience, and they accompany the new drivers in the car while going through some intense exercises on a closed course. The new drivers use their own cars during the drills, and the essence of the course is to teach them what their cars can and can't do under extreme situations. They are also taught great defensive driving lessons. These included tips on predicting what other drivers may do, creating a space "bubble" around your car, looking further ahead and not just at the car in front of you, constantly scanning the road and area around you, and what to do when different scenarios suddenly come up. They also went over proper seating positions, mirror adjustments to avoid blind spots, as well as use of the steering wheel. There was about 2 hours of classroom discussion, and the rest of the day was spent on the track. Out on the track they had the new drivers performing skid pad drills, where they would accelerate quickly and suddenly apply the brakes hard to make the car skid. They also had them drive fast in a circle to feel the car skidding and sliding. Then they soaped and watered the circle for some real sliding! There was a sudden lane change drill where they had to accelerate quickly and then turn suddenly in the opposite direction of a flagman. Then they hit the slalom, where they had to quickly maneuver their cars through strategically placed cones. Each driver was able to go through each of the drills about 4-6 times to gain confidence and to get a real feel for the different situations. As a dad and spectator, it was great to see my son and the other drivers get better as the day progressed. I know my son learned more in this one course than he did all Summer in Driver's Ed. I took many videos of the different drills, and I would be happy to share some if you are interested in seeing exactly what goes on at this course. You can just send me a request at email@example.com, please include your name and address.
As a lawyer that has been handling serious car accident claims in Suffolk and Nassau County on Long Island for more than 25 years, I can tell you that this course should be mandatory for all drivers. The roads on Long Island are crowded, fast, confusing, and dangerous for new drivers. We all know that the Driver's Education classes don't properly prepare our kids for driving on today's roads , they just teach the very minimal basics which just aren't enough. The Street Survival course gives new drivers and edge to stay safe, and I encourage every parent to have their new driver participate in this course.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
The Most Important Things You Need to Know About New York’s New "Surprise" Medical Bills Law
1. New York's new law helps protect patients from "surprise" medical bills, and went into effect on April 1, 2015.
2. For non-emergency treatment, doctors must advise you in writing or on line who their network and hospital affiliations are. The doctors must tell you when you call to make the appointment if they participate in your network.
3. The doctor must tell you that you have a right to know what amount will be billed for a procedure before they provide you with non-emergency treatment. They must also tell you the anticipated cost of the procedure if you ask.
4. If other doctors will be involved in your care, you must be told who the doctors are, and how to find out how much your network will cover for those doctors. A doctor in your network cannot refer you to an out-of-network provider without your written consent. Hospitals and other health care facilities must also tell you what doctors will be involved in your care/procedure, and what their networks they are in.
5. Hospitals must post a schedule of charges on their website; list the health plans they participate in; warn patients that doctor charges may not be included in hospital bill, and how to check on the networks that the doctors participate in; post the names of the different practice groups contract with, and how to find out if they are in your network.
6. If you receive emergency treatment, you will not have to pay anything more than your typical in-network costs/co-pays.
7. If you received out-of-network medical treatment when in-network providers were not available, or if you were not given the information required by this law, you will be protected. You will be able to assign your claim to the out-of-network doctors and pay your typical co-pay/deductible. The bills will be negotiated directly between your health plan and the doctors.
8. A "surprise" bill is a bill you receive for covered treatment performed by an out-of-network doctor. Here are examples of how you may receive a "surprise" bill:
a. The out-of-network doctor treats you at an in-network hospital or surgery center and an in-network doctor was not available, or, an out-of-network doctor treats you without your knowledge.
b. An in-network doctor refers you to an out-of-network doctor without your written consent. This would include when your in-network doctor brings in an out-of-network doctor to treat you or sends your blood to an out-of-network lab for testing without your written consent.
9. If you receive a "surprise" bill or a bill for emergency services, the best course of action is to call the telephone number on your health plan ID card so that your health plan can negotiate with the doctor to resolve the claim.
I hope this summary helps to you to better understand your rights as a patient under this important new law. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 631-402-5527.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
CAR ACCIDENTS ON LONG ISLAND...WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Part 1, Car Damage
We see them everyday in Suffolk County and Nassau County on Long Island, car accidents. They seem to be everywhere, people are always driving too fast, too close, too distracted and always in a rush. So what happens when one of these drivers end up hitting our car? Well, if your car is damaged and you have collision coverage, your insurance company will pay to have it repaired, less your deductible. Then they will go after the at fault car's insurance company in subrogation to get
paid back. If you have rental coverage on your policy, your car insurance company will pay for a rental up to a certain amount. If the other car caused the accident, their insurance company will likely reimburse you the rental expense as well, or provide additional rental coverage if you need more than what your policy covers. If you do not have collision insurance , you will be at the mercy of the other insurance company to pay for your car repairs. If the car accident was clearly the fault of the other driver, it should not be much of an issue. However, if the other driver doesn't agree it's their fault and gives their insurance company some story about how it was your fault, it could become messy. Insurance companies are allowed to go by their insured's version of the accident. In New York we have pure comparative negligence laws, which means everyone is responsible for their own percentage of fault. So if the other driver says you wer driving too fast, etc., their insurance company will likely not offer to pay for 100% for your car repairs. In fact, unless you are stopped at a light and get hit in the rear, they rarely offer 100%. Even if their insured had a stop sign, they try to get away with offering 80%. Also, many people who are apologetic at the car accident scene on Long Island, change their tune when they get home. If you can, try to get their insurance company on the phone at the scene and have them report it to them in front of you while you can hear what they are saying. They are less likely to say you were at fault while in front of you. I did this the last time someone texting hit me in the rear. I actually called their insurance company at the scene to report the accident , told them what happened and then handed my phone to the other driver to confirm it with their company. If you can do this, I think it is a good idea. Always get the other person's car insurance company information, license plate number, and driver's license number. Take pictures of all involved cars and the damage, as well as the accident scene.
CAR ACCIDENTS ON LONG ISLAND...WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Part 2, No-Fault Car Insurance.
Someone just hit your car... Maybe you have immediate pain, or maybe it takes a day or so to set in, which is not uncommon. You now need medical attention, an ambulance, hospital, orthopedist, neurologist, physical therapy, MRI, etc., who will pay for all of this ? Well, if you become injured in a car accident on Long Island in Suffolk County or Nassau County you are entitled to No-Fault insurance benefits from your OWN car insurance company. It does not matter who was at fault for causing the accident, your own company always provides you with No-Fault coverage. No-Fault will pay for all reasonable and medically necessary treatment related to your car accident. This includes payment for treatment received by EMTs, Hospital Emergency Room, doctors, testing such as MRIs, CAT Scans, X-rays, physical therapy, medications, medical equipment, surgery etc.
It also reimburses for travel expenses related to your medical treatment, as well as for lost wages. Lost wages will be paid at 80% of your gross, tax free, up to $2,000.00, $3,000.00, or $4,000.00, depending on what coverage you purchased. You must also file for New York State Disability if eligible, and those payments will reduce the amount that No-Fault will pay you. You have 30 days from the date of your accident to apply for No-Fault benefits with your insurance company. Every car insurance policy sold in New York provides $50,000.00 in No-Fault benefits, but you can purchase up to $175,000.00 in benefits. No-Fault benefits are available to all passengers in your car that become injured. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist on Long Island struck by a car, that car's insurance company must provide you with No-Fault benefits. It is always a good idea to speak to an experience car accident lawyer on Long Island in Suffolk County or Nassau County if you require medical treatment for injuries sustained in a car accident.
You can call me at 631-402-5527 with any questions and to have an honest conversation about your car accident. No fast talk, no false promises, just straight forward legal advice. You can also visit my all new website at www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
CAR ACCIDENTS ON LONG ISLAND...WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Part 3, Do You Have a Case?
Assuming the accident is the other driver's fault, you may have the right to pursue a legal action against that person depending on the extent of your injuries. Under New York State Insurance Law, you have the right to seek compensation against the at fault driver if you can prove that one or more of your injuries is "serious". This is commonly referred to as the serious injury threshold, and relates to the No-Fault benefits that you are entitled to regardless of who is at fault for the car accident. The Insurance Law basically says that because you are able to get No-Fault benefits which cover your medical bills and lost wages, that only people that suffer a "serious" have the right to bring a lawsuit against the at fault driver. The Insurance Law sets forth a definition of what injuries qualify as a "serious". Parts of the definition are very clear and other parts are not so clear and many cases are brought where there is a real issue about whether the injuries qualify. For instance, the loss of a body member or organ, such as a kidney, spleen, finger, etc., a fracture of a bone, a loss of a fetus, a significant scar, and being medically unable to work for at least 90 days are within the definition of "serious". These are pretty black and white. However, many soft tissue type injuries to the neck, back, knee, shoulder, may or may not be considered "serious". These types of injuries would first have to be proven objectively by MRI, CT SCAN, etc., and then it would have to be shown that the injuries were permanent and significant. So for instance, a Herniated disc, tear in a knee or shoulder may or may not qualify, depending upon the effect of the injury on you. It is crucial to speak to an experienced car accident lawyer on Long Island in Suffolk County or Nassau County if you have any injuries from a car accident. They will be in the best position to advise and guide you, do not rely on advice from the insurance companies. You can call me any time at 631-402-5527 to have an honest conversation about injuries that you have suffered in a car accident. I have successfully represented thousands of Long Islanders whose injuries have included Herniated discs requiring spine surgery; knee tears requiring arthroscopic surgery, reconstruction surgery, and knee replacement; Shoulder injuries, including Rotator Cuff tears requiring surgery; Leg, ankle, and foot fractures; Arm, wrist and hand fractures. Serious scars; Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, and death.
No fast talk or false promises, just straight forward legal advice backed by my 25 years of experience. Keep it safe out there. Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Making The Right Choice For Your Personal Injury Case
I have often heard it said that Personal Injury lawyers are "all the same", or that they are a "dime a dozen". Maybe this is because of all the Personal Injury Lawyers advertising on TV with their pictures of smashed up cars and people in neck braces, or because of their constant little jingles on the radio. I also believe this is because many Personal Injury lawyers are too busy trying take in every single injury case that they can get their hands on regardless of fault or the extent of the involved injuries. These lawyers tend to take the "churn and burn" method of handling personal injury cases. Unfortunately, this method typically ends up selling the injured client short, and they do not receive the compensation that they are entitled to. Even in Suffolk County on Long Island there are Personal Injury Lawyers that do not do the due diligence to make sure that their clients are fully compensated for their injuries sustained in car accidents, construction site accidents, or from dog bites, trips and falls, or other types of accidents.
However, I take a whole different approach to litigating personal injury cases in Suffolk County on Long Island. First, I am very selective about the cases that I accept. I only represent people where fault is clear and where they have sustained serious injuries. This allows me to provide the people who deserve it the most my personal attention from start to finish. It also allows me to commit quality time perfecting the presentation of their case to the insurance companies and their lawyers. I will hire the proper experts such as Life Care Planners, Vocational Rehabilitation specialists, and Economists to prove exactly what the full economic losses are. This is what the insurance companies fear, because with these experts I am able to set forth black and white economic losses to a jury. Most lawyers only concentrate on pain and suffering, which doesn't scare insurance companies and which many jurors have a difficult time making large awards for.
I have been using this method of maximizing settlements for my clients for over 20 years. Click here to see some of my results. I manage a law firm with 7 attorneys and a full support staff. I am in the courts of Suffolk County every week, and am very well known to defense lawyers and insurance companies. I will always come to your house to discuss a serious accident, and answer all of your questions. My goal is to bring you peace of mind.
To see what clients and others have to say about me, please read my reviews at www.northshoreinjurylawyer.com/reviews.
Remember, you only have one chance to obtain the results that you truly deserve.
Adopt a Dog or Cat from Last Chance Animal Rescue
Spread the word and share this with anyone that may be considering adding a dog or cat to their family this year.
If anyone is looking to add an animal to their family this year, please considering adopting a dog or cat from Last Chance Animal Rescue,www.LCARescue.org
. I am an animal adoption event leader for Last Chance and have been volunteering weekly with Last Chance for almost two years, and we get some really amazing animals. My family adopted a puppy from Last Chance in September and she has brought us many smiles.
All of the available dogs and cats are updated weekly on the Last Chance website and facebook page, www.facebook.com/LastChanceAnimalRescue. We hold adoption events every Saturday from 10am to 4pm at Petsmart stores in lake Grove, Port Jeff Station (also Sundays from noon to 4pm at this location), Commack, Patchogue, and Riverhead. We also now hold events at PetValue in Setauket (by Chilis) twice a month. I will be leading our next events at PetValue on Saturday January 10th and 24th from 10am to 2pm.
We are always looking for new volunteers and foster families, and kids can earn community service hours for volunteering. You just need to fill out a volunteer form on line and show up at one of our events to help. My daughter joins me every week, its a great way to spend some quality time with your child. If you have any questions about getting involved, you can call me at 631-402-5527, or send me an email at NorthShoreInjuryLawyer@gmail.com.
I am also donating $1.00 to Last Chance for every new "like" of my facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheNorthShoreInjuryLawyer. In 2014 I was able to donate almost $1,000.00 to last Chance just for like's of my page. So please help support the work of Last Chance by liking and sharing.
Please share this with anyone you know that may be looking to add a dog or a cat to their family. Adoption fees are considered tax-deductible donations, as Last Chance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Great Apps To Prevent Distracted Driving Caused By Our Mobile Phones
Believe it or not, our mobile phones are a greater distraction to us while we are driving than being stressed out from a screaming child in our car. A recent CDC report found that 69% of drivers talk on their phones while driving, and 31% of drivers read or send text messages while driving. In fact, nearly 60% of high-school seniors admit to texting or emailing while driving. These numbers will only increase as each generation becomes ever more attached to their mobile devices, and the number of serious car accidents in Suffolk County and Nassau County on Long Island will also continue to rise. In my own everyday commuting to court in Riverhead and Mineola, or to my office in Woodbury, I see drivers looking down at their phones all the time. The level of distracted driving is getting out of hand, and many people are passing this dangerous habit down to their kids. As a parent, if you're reading or sending texts while you are in your car with your kids, they think that it's safe to do so. So when they drive, or start to drive, guess what...they will be doing it to, and that is scary. Young drivers don't have the skills and experience to avoid many accidents as it is. If you take away precious seconds from their reaction time due to being distracted from their phones, it is clearly an accident waiting to happen. If we really want to keep our kids more safe behind the wheel on our already dangerous roads, we need to change our habits as well.
There are some great apps available to help us kick the habit of using our mobile phones while driving, and to prevent our young drivers from being distracted by their phones. Here are 5 that I came across that seem to be worth considering:
1. Canary - Whenever a driver is travelling 12 miles per hour or more and uses their mobile phone in any manner (including texting, talking, tweeting, going on line, etc.), this app logs the activity and sends a report to a person that is assigned to keep the driver accountable (For example, a parent, spouse, friend, etc.) People are so busy that they don't realize the extent of their phone use while driving, and the risk they are taking. This app allows them to actually see in a report what they have been doing. It is also a great deterrent to know that someone else will see what they are doing, and this can help resist that temptation to read or send a text.
2. TextBuster - This app is meant to stop texting while driving, and will prevent the driver from getting all texts and emails. The driver will still be able to make and receive all phone calls. This app requires a device that is installed in the car in minutes. Using Bluetooth, it sends a blocking signal to the driver's phone. The app is password protected so it may not be removed, and has monitoring and tracking features.
3. Drive Mode - In this mobile app, text messages and emails are read aloud in real time. It also responds automatically with no need for the driver to touch their mobile phone
4. DriveOff - If a vehicle is travelling 10 miles per hour or above, this app will prevent driver distraction by turning off all incoming calls and other notifications. A static screen saver of your choice will display while you are driving.
5. DriveScribe - This not only limits the distractions of the driver's mobile phone, but also acts as a driving coach. It blocks incoming calls, emails, texts, etc. On some phones, it will even notify the caller that the person is driving. It also monitors the driving patterns of the driver for parents to see. When the app catches the driver going too fast or running a stop sign, it sounds an alert to the driver. The driver can even earn points for good driving that can be exchanged for gift cards. Mom & Dad may want to match the points with a little cash as an extra incentive. Parents can actually track their kid's driving in real time, and alerts will sound on the parent's phone if the traffic infraction is serious.
All of these apps are quick and easy to download and use. Take a look at each for yourself to determine which one is best suited for your family. Based upon my research, I like the features of DriveScribe. So, as my kids quickly approach their driving years, I will be keeping this app in mind.
Remember, when many of us learned to drive we didn't have nearly the amount of distractions that drivers have today. The roads probably didn't have as many cars squeezed onto them, and people's lives didn't seem to be so filled with places to go. Our roads are the most dangerous places that our kids will visit growing up, let's do everything we can to help make them safer. If you would like a free DNT TXT N DRV magnet or decal for your car to help remind your family, you can visit www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com to take the DNT TXT N DRV pledge.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
DNT TXT N DRV... Take The Pledge To Help Make Our Roads Safer
DNT TXT N DRV
Think about it, are text messages worth risking your life or the lives of others? We all know the answer, yet all around us people are driving while distracted. This is despite the fact that we are all well aware that car accidents and tragedies are occurring daily on our roads in Suffolk County. Many of us may say that we don't text and drive, so we are not part of the problem. However, distracted driving involves more than just texting. Distracted driving is engaging in any activity that takes our attention away from the task of driving for any period of time, and it is causing countless serious car accidents on Long Island.
In 2012, over 3,000 people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted driving, and over 400,000 people were injured. This equates to about 9 people killed every day, and over 1,000 people injured each day. At any given time in our country, over 650,000 drivers are using their cell phones or other electronics. The simple act of reaching for our phones, dialing, or texting increases our chances of having a car accident in Suffolk County by 3 times. Just sending or receiving a text message takes our eyes off the road for an estimated 4.6 seconds...which is the same as driving the length of an entire football field at 55mph, blind !
As adults, we can't say that we are more experienced drivers, so we can get away with it, or do it safely, and then tell our kids not to do it. It doesn't work that way. If our kids see us do it once or twice, then to them, they can do it too. That's how us humans work, we learn by example pure and simple, and if you think otherwise you are fooling yourself and putting your kids at risk as well. Here is a sobering fact, 21% of fatal car accidents involve the use of cell phones in drivers aged 15-19. Yet, 10% of parents, and 20% of teens admit to having extended multi-message text conversations while driving.
Now that we know the facts, what are we going to do about it? Are we willing to help make our roads in Suffolk County safer, with fewer life altering car accidents? If so, let's all take the pledge along with our younger drivers by visiting www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com, and clicking the pledge link. Everyone that takes the pledge can request a free DNT TXT N DRV car magnet or decal.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Dog Bites... When Are Dog Owners Liable For Injuries in Suffolk County?
Many people may be surprised to learn that just because a dog bites someone in Suffolk County, it does not automatically mean that the dog's owner is legally responsible for the injuries caused by the dog bite. Suffolk County courts require that the injured person prove that the dog owner had prior knowledge of the dog's "vicious propensities" in order to recover for their injuries. Moreover, the courts do not consider any particular breed of dog to be dangerous as a matter of law. Of course, if the involved dog has bitten someone else before while the owner owned the dog, it will be easy for the injured person to prove their claim. However, there are other behaviors of the dog that can be considered in determining whether the dog owner was aware that the dog possessed vicious tendencies. Proof of growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, lunging or other such behaviors may be enough to raise a question of fact to maintain a claim, and not have it dismissed. Some may argue that the law is unfair to the injured person, and that dog owners should always be liable if their dog bites someone. However, if a dog has never displayed any signs of being vicious, what should we expect a dog owner to do to avoid an unexpected biting by their dog? There is also a greater societal issue to consider if there was automatic liability for every dog bite. Many more dogs that would make amazing companions would remain unadopted in shelters and with rescue groups because, there would be less people willing to adopt them due to the increased liability. Moreover, many of our animal shelters and animal rescue groups would cease to exist due to the increased financial burden of being liable for every single dog they adopted out, even when they had no knowledge of the prior behavior of the dog. This would obviously lead to thousands of more dogs being euthanized in New York, which is a result clearly no one, dog lover or not, would deem acceptable. Mark T. Freeley, Esq. - www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com
New Insurance Protection For Our Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance EMTs
Great news for those that bravely serve our communities as volunteers in the fire departments and ambulance services. New York State Insurance Law, section 3420 was recently amended to provide Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage to all volunteer or employed members. This new law ensures that members are provided with bodily injury insurance coverage, if they are injured during the operation or use of a "Fire vehicle" due to the fault of another motor vehicle that is uninsured or underinsured.
In other words, this coverage will be available to any member that suffers injuries in the course of their duties due to the fault of a driver of another vehicle that has little or no insurance coverage on their car.
This is peace of mind for our volunteers who are placing themselves in harm's way to provide help to us in our time of need. They will now be able to be more fully compensated for serious injuries that they sustain due to the fault of another driver that does not have adequate insurance coverage.
Please share this information with any of our volunteers that you may know, and let them know that we appreciate all that they do for us.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. - www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com
New York's New Tougher Cell Phone and Texting Laws... What You Need To Know
Governor Cuomo recently pledged $1 million to fund a campaign against cell phone use while driving, and along with this pledge came some real changes to the cell phone use law. As of June 1, 2013, the violation of the law carries a penalty of 5 driver violation points against your license. In addition, as of July 26, 2013, the first offense fine is $150.00, second offense is $200.00, and for the third or more offense within 18 months it is $400.00. For probationary and junior drivers, the new law is even more strict. As of July 1, 2013, drivers with probationary driver licenses, Class DJ or Class MJ driver licenses or learner permits, a conviction will result in suspension for 60 days. Moreover, a second conviction will result in a revocation of at least 6 months for a probationary license, or a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver license or learner permit.
Under the law, "using" a cell phone is defined as "...holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of the user's ear.", and "immediate proximity" means the distance that permits the operator to hear the person on the other end. Further, the driver who holds the cell phone to or near their ear while the car is in motion is presumed to be engaged in a call. This is important because this means that the police do not need to prove that you were actually talking on the phone.
The penalties and fines are the same for violations for the use of portable electronic devices, which include cell phone, handheld device with mobile data access, laptop, pager, electronic game or portable computing device, etc. "Using" for these devices is defined as holding the device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages or other electronic data, in other words...you can't use it at all. If you are holding the device in a "conspicuous manner" you will be presumed to be using the device, which again means that the police will not have to prove that you were actually using it.
There is good reason behind these stricter laws, and most of us probably see it everyday...more car accidents in Suffolk County, Long Island, and throughout New York resulting in personal injury. From 2005 to 2011, there has been an approximate 143% increase in cell phone related car accidents in New York. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in the U.S. in accidents involving distracted drivers. In 2012, New York issued 30,166 tickets for texting while driving, a 234% increase from the previous year. According to the NHTSA, using a cell phone while driving multiplies the risk of crashing by a factor of 4, while texting while driving increases the risk as much as 23 times.
In addition to the tougher penalties, New York State Troopers are now using special unmarked SUVs that are raised so that they can look down and into your car to catch you, which will make enforcement of the laws easier.
Believe it or not, 9 in 10 of us realize how dangerous talking/texting while driving is, yet 7 out of 10 report talking while driving and a third admit to reading texts behind the wheel.
Let's all commit to ourselves, families, children, neighbors to not talk/text while driving. It only takes a second or two to change our lives or someone else's life forever.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. - www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com
Special Protection For Workers in the "Trades"...New York's Labor Law
In New York state, construction workers in the "trades" (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, steel workers, steamfitters, laborers, masons, painters, and every other trade) are protected under the "safe place to work" laws. These laws are known in the legal arena as the "labor law" and there are different sections covering varying types of work related activities and injury causing situations. Labor Law cases are very favorable to construction workers. These laws hold the building/structure owner as well as the general contractor liable for certain injuries suffered by workers in the trades. What this really means is that in addition to having a worker's compensation claim against their employer, the injured worker may also have the right to bring a lawsuit against the owner of the building/structure and against the general contractor overseeing the job. Thus, the injured construction worker has two claims.
In order for the safe place to work laws to apply and provide protection to the injured worker, certain criteria must be met. First, the work being performed by the injured worker must be the type that is covered under the law. All trade work is typically covered if its being done for construction, erection, repairing, demolition, or altering of a building or structure. The injury does not have to occur on a construction site or project. As long as the work being performed is trade type work there is typically protection under these laws.
So, for example, if the trade worker's company was hired by a building owner to simply paint ,or replace electrical wiring, or install an alarm system, or to install a new boiler, these types of activities will normally be covered under these laws.
In addition, the safe place to work laws concentrate on providing workers in the trades with protection from elevation-related accidents, such as falls from a height (ladders, scaffolds, platforms, etc.). When a worker falls from a height and is injured because a ladder/scaffold is inadequate, unsecured, unstable, or defective these laws mandate "absolute liability" upon the owner and general contractor. This is true regardless of who owned the ladder or scaffold. The owner and general contractor are required to ensure that workers working at a height are provided with proper safety devices. So, if a ladder or scaffold collapses, breaks, tips, slides, etc., and causes injury to the worker, both the owner and general contractor are liable. The same is true if materials, tools, or supplies fall from a height striking a worker below. There is even a special section of the law providing heightened protection for window washers who are injured on the job due to height/fall related injuries.
The safe place to work laws also provide protection for injuries caused by slipping/tripping on a work site, injuries caused by lack of eye protection, injuries caused by electrocution, injuries caused by unguarded power equipment and many other types of trade related activities.
As Construction Managers, General Contractors and owners typically look at these jobs as "time is money", they are always looking to get the work done as quickly as possible. However, this oftentimes means skimping on safety, and the workers are hardly in a position to complain if they want to stay employed. Therefore, these laws are absolutely necessary to keep the job sites safe for the workers who are involved in this physical and often times dangerous work.
As with all laws, there are many exceptions and exclusions that apply, and these cases are very fact specific. As such, consulting with an attorney that is experienced in handling cases involving the labor law is essential.
Distracted Driving... Taking Life For Granted and Tempting Fate
We all see others doing it, and most of us can admit to doing it ourselves...driving while we are distracted. However, if life is what we live for, then why do so many of us drive while our attention to the road is distracted by our cell phones? What type of example our we setting for our kids, who will be our future drivers, or who are now our new, inexperienced drivers ? If we think it's OK to drive distracted and then preach to our kids that they better not do it, aren't we being hypocritical? Face it, kids learn their habits from watching us, and if we are talking/texting while we drive, they will undoubtedly be doing it as well. Even when driven carefully and defensively, cars kill. However, when our driving skills and focus are compromised, the stakes are raised and other people's lives, along with our own, are placed in danger. Many of us take life for granted by following our daily routines and trying to pack as much work/activities as possible into the hours of the day. While we rush from place to place too many of us are talking/texting/checking texts or emails etc. while driving through dangerous roads or in residential neighborhoods where kids are playing. Think about it, aren't we tempting fate? Will we be able to face the consequences if we injure our own family or a neighbor's child? We need to reexamine the life in which we consciously or unconsciously participate. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributes to one in four traffic accidents. Unbelievably, between 4,000 and 8,000 crashes per day are associated with distracted driving. One study concludes that cell phone drivers' reaction times are reduced by approximately 20 percent and that such drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in rear end collisions than drivers not using cell phones, even though the drivers' eyes are fixed on the road ahead. The most startling conclusion of this study, is that the performance of drivers using cell phones is more impaired than drivers who are intoxicated. Another study concluded that drivers on cell phones have more accidents and slower reaction times than drivers who are legally drunk. All the dangers and risks created by driving while using our cell phones are avoidable. It is a choice. We as drivers choose whether to risk our lives and the lives of others by using a cell phone while driving. Life is here today, and it's our responsibility to preserve it. We have control over the daily tasks and decisions that make up our day to make sure that life will be here tomorrow. So before we pick up our cell phones the next time we are in our cars, let's examine if our lives are worth living.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq. - www.NorthShoreInjuryLawyer.com
Pay It Forward... Consider Fostering A dog For Last Chance Animal Rescue
Without the selflessness of foster families providing temporary homes for animals awaiting adoption, Last Chance Animal Rescue would not be able to save the lives of so many deserving animals. By offering a temporary home and providing shelter, care and attention, you are giving an animal a chance at life.
The number of available foster families directly affects the number of animals that Last Chance can save from High Kill shelters. You may think that it would be too hard to say "good-bye" to your foster. However, in the big picture you are providing them the opportunity to find their forever home, and that is the greatest feeling of all. Each week I see dogs that my daughter and I have taken off the transport van , cleaned up, played with, and spent the day with, adopted by loving families. Each week we have a favorite dog that we become attached to, and although it is sad to say "good-bye" to them, we both have big smiles and a warm feeling inside when we see them go home with their new family.
If you are not yet ready to foster a dog, start by volunteering for Last Chance as there is always a need for more volunteers. You can visit www.LCARescue.org to learn more about how to become a volunteer or a foster. You can also see all the animals they presently have available for adoption, and new dogs are brought up from South Carolina each weekend and dropped off at many of the local Petco and PetSmart stores in Suffolk.
Each weekend volunteers are needed at local pet adoption events or to transport dogs to and from the events. There is also a great Rescue Ranger program where kids can volunteer and earn community service hours.
So pay it forward, get involved and help save the lives of animals that are depending on us to find them a home.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
The Harsh Reality of New York's Wrongful Death Law
In the last twenty years, the most difficult and emotional conversations that I have had with clients have taken place when we were discussing the death of a loved one as a result of an accident. The loss of a spouse, parent or especially a child is something none of us even want to imagine as we cannot seem to fathom how we would ever be able to deal with such tragedy. Yet every week in the news we see tragic events unfolding all around us on Long Island. When we learn of a death caused by the fault of another, we naturally assume that the family of the deceased will be properly compensated for the loss of their loved one. One would think that cases involving the death of a loved one would have the greatest value of any case. Unfortunately, under the archaic New York State Wrongful Death Law (which only a very few states still have), this is not true.
New York State law limits the damages that can be sought in death cases. Surviving family members are not permitted to seek compensation for their emotional grief or loss; widows/widowers are not entitled to compensation for the loss of the marital relationship; mothers/fathers cannot even seek compensation for the emotional loss of their child. When I explain our law to clients that have lost someone, it is often difficult for them to believe or comprehend.
The only compensation that can be sought in a case involving death is for the financial loss of the person who died (decedent) or for the conscious pain and suffering they endured prior to their death. So, if the decedent was earning income for the benefit of the family, the loss of this income can be sought. Also, if the decedent was a parent of a child, the loss of the nurture, care and guidance of the parent to the child can also be sought.
If there is proof of conscious pain and suffering and the duration of same, compensation can be sought for that as well.
The toughest cases involve the death of a child or an elderly family member where there is no evidence of conscious pain and suffering. In these instances there is usually no economic loss that can be proven either, and as such the compensation that can be sought is very small ( unless the survivor was in the " zone of danger" and witnessed the death). It is impossible to imagine the loss of a child, and to then learn that our law does not permit compensation for the emotional loss of a child is inexplicable.
Each year the New York State Trial Lawyers Association speaks to our legislators about changing this senseless law, yet, it still remains with us. However, the more people that know about this law and understand how unjust it is, the better our chances are of getting it changed. Let's all make a commitment to contact our lawmakers in Albany letting them know that it's time for a change. You can send an e-mail to Assemblyman Steven Englebright by going to his website at www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Steve-Englebright, and you can send an e-mail directly to Senator John J. Flanagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.
Getting The Answers You Need From Your Lawyer
Here is a list of questions to ask your lawyer to find out exactly what is going on in your injury case.
It's not always easy to get the answers you are looking for from your lawyer. Some lawyers seem to speak an entirely different language. Worse yet, some lawyers talk down to their clients, and some are actually rude. I don't know why lawyers just can't seem to talk to their clients the same way they would to their friends or neighbors. Maybe it would help if lawyers were compelled to take courses in effective client communication, but don't hold your breath.
This lack of lawyer communication skills seems to be on the rise, as I receive an ever increasing amount of phone calls from clients who are unhappy and fed up with their lawyers. Their main complaint is almost always related to how their lawyers speak and interact with them, or how they don't. Another related complaint is that the clients aren't sure that their cases are being handled properly and in a timely manner, and they are concerned that they may not receive the compensation they deserve because of that.
In an effort to help clients obtain the answers they need from their lawyers, I have put together a list of questions that can be useful when communicating with their lawyers. These questions are specifically geared to personal injury matters, as these are the only types of cases that I handle. The worst thing that you can do is to sit back and hope for the best. You only have one chance to get it right, so you need to be pro-active. So with that in mind here is my list of questions:
1. Ask your lawyer if a Summons & Complaint has been filed with the court, and if a Bill of Particulars has been served. Have your lawyer send you copies of both. Ask if a Preliminary Conference has been held in court, and if deposition dates have been selected. Make sure they have all of your medical records and test results, go over all of your medical treatment and testing with them. If your lawyer doesn't have all of your records, the insurance company won't have them, and that will affect the value of your case. What is the present case status, what is the next step, what else needs to be done, and how long will it take? When will your case be placed onto the trial calendar?
2. Ask what insurance company insures the party that injured you, what are the liability policy limits, and whether there is any excess insurance coverage. Have there been any settlement talks, and what offers have been made. What does your lawyer think is the realistic settlement value of your case? Does your lawyer think it can be settled or will a trial be necessary? Has your lawyer considered mediation or arbitration as a way of resolving your case? Has your lawyer hired a life care planner, vocational expert or economist to project your future medical care costs and loss of wages?
3. Watch for these warning signs; Your lawyer makes you feel like you are asking too many questions. You receive unclear responses that don't really answer your questions. They tell you "don't worry", things will be happening "soon", or the same thing they told you the last time you spoke to them. You have to call more than once to speak to them, there is a delay in them getting back to you, they don't call you back, or you only get to speak to a secretary. If your lawyer's responses leave you feeling unhappy and unsure about how your case is being handled, you have the right to consult another lawyer. Most lawyers can look up your case on the court computer system and advise you of what has taken place in your case so far, what else needs to be done and about how much longer it should take. Remember, you are allowed to change lawyers at anytime and for any reason. Further, changing lawyers will not delay your case or have any affect on the legal fee, as it will be split between the lawyers if you decide to change.
So go ahead and make that call to your lawyer today and show them that you know how to speak their language. You only have one chance to timely obtain the results that you truly deserve.
Unfair New York Malpractice Law Should Be Changed
New Yorkers deserve a "Date of Discovery" rule in order to prevent the injustice of undiscovered medical malpractice.
New York is one of only five states in the country where the Statute of Limitations begins to run from the date that medical malpractice occurs, instead of when a person can reasonably know about the malpractice or has discovered that the malpractice occurred.
A few weeks ago the Daily News published a story about the plight of Marilyn Veritzan, a mother of three from Nassau County. Marilyn was involved in a car accident in 2009 and was brought to the county hospital for treatment. A CT scan of her spine showed a density in her lung, unrelated to the accident. The doctor treating her at the hospital ordered a follow up chest x-ray, which was normal. Marilyn was told that she was fine and could go home to her family. However, unknown to Marilyn, a chest x-ray was the incorrect test to determine what the density on her lung really was. Marilyn later learned that a CT scan of her lung was the test that should have been performed to properly diagnose her lung condition.
Sadly, by June 2010 Marilyn had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer with three masses in her lung instead of the one mass they saw in the hospital after her accident in 2009 when they said she was fine. Had the correct test been done initially, her diagnosis would have been stage 1 instead of incurable stage 4.
When Marilyn finally found out that the hospital failed to order the correct test, she consulted an attorney to see what could be done about the malpractice that was committed. This is when she learned about the harsh and unfair malpractice law in New York. It was too late for Marilyn to bring a lawsuit against the county hospital to hold them accountable for their malpractice. This is because the Statute of Limitations in New York for malpractice runs from the date that the malpractice is committed, not from when the patient learns it was committed. Further, since it was a municipal hospital she only had one year and 90 days to start a lawsuit, and she was three months late. Had it been a private hospital she would have had two and one half years to start a legal action. More importantly, if New York had a "Date of Discovery" rule like almost every other state, Marilyn would have been able to obtain the compensation that her and her family deserve.
In light of her situation and many others like hers, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor Cuomo have indicated that they will review the present malpractice laws to consider adding a "Date of Discovery" rule. Let's hope they do.
Bad Drivers With Limited Insurance... How To Protect Yourself
Protect yourself from bad drivers with small insurance policies by making sure that you have Underinsured Motorist coverage on your policy.
In the last 20 years of handling serious car accident cases, I have seen countless clients suffer significant injuries from the reckless actions of bad drivers. I have also seen first hand that most bad drivers have their cars insured for the New York minimum requirement of $25,000.00. In addition, the trend of poor drivers insuring themselves for the minimum required limits has continued to increase as the cost of insurance has increased (especially for those in the Assigned Risk pool) and as our economy has slowed. The only way to protect yourself from these drivers as well as drivers that drive with no insurance at all, or from hit and run drivers, is to ensure that you have UM/SUM coverage on your car insurance policy. This coverage is also known as Uninsured/Supplementary Uninsured Motorist coverage. All policies sold in New York come with $25,000.00 of Uninsured Motorist Coverage. However, you can purchase up to at least $250,000.00 in this coverage and the increase to your premium will be surprisingly small. Most people tend to look just at the Liability limits of their policy, because they are told that they need more of this coverage in case they cause an accident and get sued. Unfortunately, very few people are informed about the need for UM/SUM coverage and never learn of it until it's too late. In my opinion, this is one the most important coverages on your policy. This is the coverage that protects YOU when you become injured by a bad driver with a small policy or with no policy at all. This coverage operates like your shadow and follows you and provides protection to you wherever you become injured. It also follows and provides protection for all members of your family in your household. It provides protection if you are driving your car, if you are a passenger in a friend's car, even if you are riding your bicycle or walking your dog. Without this coverage you are at the mercy of the bad driver that injures you, and you must hope that they have sufficient insurance coverage which they likely won't. By way of example, if you were struck and seriously injured by a bad driver with $25,000.00 in liability coverage and you had $250,000.00 of UM/SUM benefits, you could recover the $25,000.00 from the bad driver and up to another $225,000.00 from your own insurance company. Your benefits are reduced by the amount that you recover from the bad driver. By having an adequate amount of UM/SUM coverage on your policy, you never need to worry if the person that seriously injures you has enough insurance to compensate you for your injuries. Remember, even though the bad drivers do cause many accidents, we have an increasing amount of distracted drivers all around us. From talking on the phone, texting, GPS, you name it, people are greatly distracted on our roads, we see it everyday. Now is a good time to dig out your car insurance policy and review it. Call your insurance agent or broker now to add this important coverage. You can even see and print out a sample policy with coverage suggestions on my website. Hopefully you will never need to rely upon it, but it's great peace of mind knowing that you will be protected if one of the bad or distracted drivers happens to find you.
Keep it safe out there.
Grandma Freeley's Irish Soda Bread Recipe... With A Little Irish History
Get ready for some real Irish Soda Bread.
Kathleen Freeley was born Kathleen Beirne, in Lisacul, Ballaghaderreen, county Roscommon, Ireland. She came from a family of thirteen, eight girls and five boys. When she was a young girl, she immigrated to the states where she eventually married Patrick Freeley, who had also come from Ireland. Grandma Freeley was the kindest, most unselfish person I have ever met. As a child I remember her walking to church almost every day of the week. I also know for fact that she made the best Irish soda bread in the world, and she made it for me every week when we visited her house for dinner. Grandma passed away in 1989 while I was preparing for my BAR exams. However, grandma Freeley's younger sister, Aidan and her younger brother, Patrick are still with us today. Aidan lives in Sligo, Ireland at St. Patrick's Convent, where she entered the sisterhood in 1932. Sister Aidan just celebrated her 100th birthday; her quote for the Sligo Champion newspaper was "I put my trust in God, took everyday as it came and helped anyone I could." The last time I remember seeing Sister Aidan was when I was about ten years old at a family reunion at my house, and of course we had Irish soda bread. So to celebrate Sister Aidan's 100th birthday, I am sharing the secret Irish soda bread recipe of my father's mom, Kathleen Freeley: IRISH SODA BREAD 2 cups bread flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1tbsp caraway seeds, 2 tbsp butter, 1 cup raisins, 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & sugar in a bowl. Stir in the caraway seeds, cut in the butter with a knife until the mix looks like coarse ground grain, stir in the raisins, beat the egg into the buttermilk, pour into center of bowl, mix in the dry ingredients and turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead lightly into a ball and place into a round casserole, slash the ball with an X. Brush bread with an egg beaten with 1 tbsp water. Bake 1 hour. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Let set for 10 minutes and remove from casserole onto a wire rack. Enjoy, and Happy St.Patrick's Day!
Damage From A Neighbor's Tree Due To The Storm... Who Is Responsible?
Whose insurance company is responsible for the damage caused by my neighbor's tree that fell?
I think this may be one of the most frequently asked questions recently given all the trees and branches that have fallen due to Storm Sandy and the subsequent Nor'easter that dumped the heavy wet snow on us.
As a general rule in our state, the owner of the car or house damaged by a neighbor's fallen tree must look to their own insurance company to file a property damage claim. So, beleive it or not, if your neighbor's tree or limb fell damaging your car or house you would file a claim with your own insurance company.
However, if your neighbor was negligent in the inspection, care and maintenance of the tree or limb that fell, you may be able to pursue a liability claim against your neighbor's insurance company. To prove that your neighbor was negligent you would have to show that your neighbor was aware that the tree or limb was damaged or decayed posing a risk, and that they failed to take any corrective action to remove the damaged or decayed tree or limb. You may also be able to show that your neighbor was negligent by proving that a reasonable routine inspection of the tree would have revealed the damage or decay, and that they failed to do such an inspection. This would likely require an expert opinion from an arborist or other tree professional stating that an inspection would have shown the damage or decay.
Moreover, as with any negligence case, you would be dealing with a percentage of liability (fault) depending upon how strong your proof is that your neighbor knew or should have known of the tree damage or decay. Obviously, if you had sent your neighbor a letter prior to the tree or limb falling advising them of the damage, decay or risk, or if you took photos before the fall depicting the condition of the tree, you would have a much higher likelihood of success with your claim.
Of course you should always read your insurance policy to see what the policy language says about the coverage your insurance company provides for damages sustained to your house or car.
To find storm related assistance, to see what you may be eligible for, to apply for assistance, or to check on the status of your application, you can go towww.disasterassistance.gov.
If you have any questions, you can send me an e-mail and I will do my best to answer them.
Car Booster Seats... Required By Law To Keep Our Kids Safe
Booster seats are not only required by law, they help reduce the risk of injury to our kids.
Did you know that car accidents are the number one cause of fatalities of children between the ages of 4 and 7? The correct child restraint device dramatically reduces the risk of injury and death to children involved in a serious collision. Without a booster seat, a child can suffer serious internal and/or spinal injuries in a crash if the seat belt rides up onto the soft stomach area instead of staying on the hip and thigh bones. Children between the ages of 3 and 9 years of age are at the greatest risk of sustaining Seat Belt Syndrome due to the improper fit of the lap and shoulder positions of an adult seat belt. Seat Belt Syndrome is a pattern of intra-abdominal and spinal injuries caused by the improper fit of seat belts. Unfortunately, too many parents allow their children to use lap and shoulder seat belts without a booster seat before their children are ready.
In 2009 , New York State amended Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1229-c, requiring that all children under 8 years of age (previously age 7) use an appropriate child safety seat, which includes a booster seat. However, this is a MINIMUM requirement and many children are much better off using a booster seat even after they turn 8. According to pediatric experts, children should use a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, which most children don't reach until they are 10 or 11 years of age.
The booster seat helps to ensure that the seat belt properly passes across the child's chest, not the neck or throat. It also aids in the lap belt fitting across the child's hips, not their stomach or abdomen. Younger children should not graduate from a car safety seat to a booster seat until their ears reach the top of the safety seat's back or their shoulders go above the slots for the harness straps or they exceed the weight recommended by the seat manufacturer (typically 40 pounds).
I know from personal experience that kids don't really love to be strapped to a car seat or booster seat, but in my house it was never up for discussion. Knowing these facts there really is no choice. Just stick to your guns and eventually your kids will realize it's just something they need to do, sort of like brushing their teeth.
Keep it safe out there.
No-Fault Car Insurance... What It Is, And How It Works
What is No-Fault and what does it cover?
New York State requires every motor vehicle policy of insurance to provide for No-Fault coverage, also known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This is the part of your policy that provides for the payment of medical expenses and loss of wages when you are injured in a car accident. It covers the driver, all passengers as well as any pedestrian or bicyclist that is struck by your car.
The minimum mandatory amount of PIP on every policy written in New York is $50,000.00, this amount has not increased since 1975. This means that the most that your insurance company will pay out for medical bills and loss of wages will be $50,000.00. This is really not a lot of coverage if you need to be hospitalized for a period of time. The maximum lost wage reimbursement under the mandatory PIP benefits is 80% of your gross earnings up to $2,000.00 per month. However, any disability payments that are payable to you from New York State, will be deducted from this amount. So again, this is really not much coverage either, especially if you are unable to work for a lengthy period.
In addition to the above mandatory minimum PIP benefits, you can purchase increased No-Fault benefits known as Additional Personal Injury Protection (APIP), as well as Optional Basic Economic Loss protection (OBEL), both of which will provide you with higher limits of No-Fault coverage.
APIP can typically be purchased in increments of $50,000.00, and usually up to $100,000.00, on top of your mandatory PIP. These benefits work the same way as your mandatory PIP does, and can be used for medical bills and wage loss reimbursement. You can also increase your wage loss reimbursement to $3,000.00 or $4,000.00 per month when you purchase APIP.
OBEL coverage can only be purchased in the amount of $25,000.00, and can be used for loss of wage reimbursement, physical or occupational therapy and rehabilitation after the mandatory PIP has been exhausted.
The most amount of total No-Fault coverage that my insurance carrier offers is $175,000.00, which includes the mandatory $50,000.00, the APIP $100,000.00 (with the $4,000.00/month wage loss) and the OBEL $25,000.00, and this is the coverage that I currently have.
It is a good idea to take out your car insurance policy and review it to make sure that you understand and are comfortable with your current coverage. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail and I will be happy to guide you through the choices.
Keep it safe out there.
Changing Attorneys ... Your Rights and The Process
Can I change attorneys and if so how will it affect my case?
However you came to consult your current Injury lawyer, there may come a time that you start to think maybe they aren't the "best" lawyer after all. Maybe there is a communication issue and your phone calls are not being promptly returned or are rarely returned by your actual lawyer. Are you always speaking to their secretary? Maybe when you ask "What's going on with my case?", you receive a vague response that gives you the uneasy feeling that really nothing much is going on with your case. Maybe the lawyer is not keeping you informed and not providing you with copies of important legal documents with explanations of what the next step will be. Maybe you just feel like you have no idea what is going on with your case, which makes you feel like you have lost control of the situation. Maybe when you call the lawyer you get the feeling that you are bothering him/her because of the short responses you receive or you are told the exact same thing that you were told the last time that you called. I actually like to call my clients regularly to see how they are doing and to update them on the status of their case. It's my belief that if a client has a case worth handling, then it's worth handling to the best of my ability.
When it comes to lawyers some people are hesitant to look for a different lawyer who will provide them with a better level of service, because they seem to think that somehow changing lawyers will hurt or delay their case...this is simply not true. Some people think they will pay more legal fees if they change lawyers...not true. Some think that because they signed a Retainer Agreement with their lawyer that they are unable to change...again, not true. The truth is that you can change attorneys at anytime for any reason. I tell all of my clients this when I first meet with them, many lawyers do not. My view is that my clients have a right to know this and if I treat them the way I would want to be treated, they will always be happy anyway.
I frequently receive phone calls from other lawyers' unhappy clients wanting to know if they can change attorneys and asking about the process. The process is quick, simple and painless. The client just needs to sign a "Change of Attorney" form stating that they want to change from their current lawyer to their new lawyer. The new lawyer sends the forms to the current lawyer and requests a statement of their case expenses. The new lawyer reimburses the current lawyer for their expenses, and the lawyers work out a division of the one-third legal fee up front or at the conclusion of the case. If the current lawyer has performed legal work on the case, they will be fairly compensated for their services. The new lawyer then picks up the client's file and advises the involved insurance carriers that they have taken over the case. The client does not have to have any dealings with the current lawyer, as the new lawyer will handle everything for them.
If you are happy with your attorney and are confident that they are doing everything they can to ensure the best possible outcome in a fast and efficient manner, then you should by all means stay with them. However, if your case seems to be taking too long to resolve, if you are not sure if a legal action has even been started, or if you are not receiving the answers you are looking for, it may be time for a second opinion. You only have once chance to obtain the right result on your case, you need to make sure you have the right attorney fighting for you.
The Nuts and Bolts of a Trial in Suffolk County
The essential facts about trials in Suffolk County.
When a legal action seeking compensation for serious personal injuries cannot be resolved between the attorney representing the injured person (Plaintiff) and the insurance company that insures the person that caused the injuries (defendant), a jury trial may be necessary to resolve the matter. A case may not settle for a variety of reasons. There may be a difference of opinion as to which party was at fault and/or to what degree, especially if there are multiple defendants, as a lot of finger pointing usually occurs. There may also be disagreement about the value of the plaintiff's damages, including the severity of the injuries and how they affect the daily life of the plaintiff and their ability to work.
Trials in Suffolk County are bifurcated, meaning there are 2 separate parts to them. The first part deals with liability only, who was at fault and what are the percentages of fault between the parties. The jury is not permitted to hear anything about the plaintiff's injuries during this part of the trial. It may be 100% against a party, or 50-50, 75-25, etc. The jury is the trier of fact and will make the determination as to fault. The judge will tell the jury what the involved law is and the jury will apply the law to the facts of the case before them. As long as the plaintiff was not found 100% at fault for causing the accident, the second part of the trial will then begin. This is called the damages phase and deals with only the injuries, pain, suffering, loss of income, etc.
The first step in the trial process is to select a jury, which is comprised of 6 jurors and 2 alternate jurors. Alternate jurors are selected in case a juror becomes ill or for some other reason can no longer serve. After the jury is selected by the attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant, opening statements are made by each attorney. The openings tend to outline to the jury what each attorney feels the evidence will show during the trial to support their claims or to dispute the claims of the opposing side.
Once the opening statements have been completed, the plaintiff's attorney will then proceed to present the witnesses and evidence necessary to substantiate that the defendant/s was at fault for the accident. The plaintiff and defendant/s will testify on direct and cross examination, as well as any eye witnesses and possibly the investigating police officer. The accident report, scene photos, vehicle photos and other tangible items may be marked into evidence and presented to the jury to help them decide the issue of fault. Once the plaintiff's attorney rests, the defendant's attorney has an opportunity to present their witnesses and evidence as well. Thereafter, closing statements/arguments are made by all attorneys wherein each will remind the jury what the evidence showed and how it favors their clients. This is the final opportunity to persuade the jury to find in favor of their clients. The judge will then instruct the jury on what the applicable law is and the jurors will then begin their deliberations to achieve a fair and just verdict. The verdict sheet will be quite simple in a motor vehicle accident case, and will likely ask: Was the defendant negligent, yes/no? Was the negligence of the defendant a proximate cause of the accident, yes/no? Then the same 2 questions about the plaintiff. Finally, What % of fault was the defendant? What was the % of fault of the plaintiff? The total must equal 100%.
The damages phase will then begin with openings again by both sides, and the plaintiff and his/her treating doctors will testify about the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. Evidence may include ambulance/hospital records, x-ray/CT scan/MRI films, medical diagrams/models, etc. Testimony may also come from life care planners, vocational rehabilitation experts, and economists. The life care planners may testify about what medical treatment the plaintiff will require over their lifetime, including future surgeries, tests, therapy and medication. The vocational expert may testify that the plaintiff can no longer work at all, or only in a limited capacity and explain what possible jobs the plaintiff could perform, what re-training or additional education would be required, and what the pay scale of those jobs would be. The economist would then take the numbers given by the life care planner and vocational expert and project what the future cost of the necessary medical needs will be and what the economic income loss will be to the injured plaintiff.
Both sides will then make closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jury as to the law, and deliberations on damages will begin. The verdict sheet will focus on 3 main questions involving amounts of compensation for different categories of damages: Pain & Suffering, which includes a loss of quality/enjoyment of the plaintiff's life due to the injuries; Loss of income; Medical expenses. All three categories will have 2 parts to provide compensation for: Past, meaning the period of time from the date of the accident up until the date of the jury verdict; and Future, from the date of the verdict through the period of time that the jury finds is necessary. For the pain & suffering ,this may be for the remainder of plaintiff's life, or for the number of years that the jury believes the plaintiff's life will be affected by the injuries. For the loss of income, it may be for the remainder of plaintiff's work life expectancy, or for the number of years the jury feels plaintiff will be unable to work, or for the difference in what the plaintiff was earning before the injury compared to what they can now earn. For medical bills it includes all necessary future medical treatment, surgery, testing, therapy, medication, etc., this can be a very large number, especially when the future costs are projected by the economist.
Once the damages verdict is arrived at, the judge will reduce the total amount awarded to the plaintiff by the jury by any percentage of fault that the jury found the plaintiff to be at for contributing to the accident during the liability portion of the trial.
The jurors of Suffolk County take their service as jurors seriously and they do a great job. It is not easy work, and both sides of the legal action count on them to make their decisions based upon the facts presented to them in court and to leave any bias or pre-conceived notions or ideas out of the process. Common sense is the only tool a juror needs to bring to the courthouse. Serving as a juror may be a temporary inconvenience, but it is absolutely essential that everyone participates so that we can ensure a true jury of our peers. So the next time you get that Juror Summons, don't be nervous or try to squirm out of it somehow. Step up to the plate and help serve up some justice. You never know when you may need some fair-minded, level headed person just like yourself on a jury deciding the outcome your case.
Car Insurance Coverage For Mistakes Of Your Spouse
What happens when you are a passenger injured in a car accident where your spouse is at fault? If you don't have the proper coverage, you are not going to like the answer.
There you are, comfortably riding along in the passenger seat of your car while your spouse is behind the wheel hopefully paying full attention to the road. However, something distracts their attention for a few seconds and before you know it, the front of your car has just smashed into the rear of the car traveling ahead of yours.
Just prior to impact you put out your arm in an effort to brace yourself. Unfortunately, the airbag deploys with such force that it fractures your wrist and now begins your journey of what can be done to compensate you for your serious injury. This scenario plays out more often than you think, and I have represented many spouses injured under similar circumstances.
Whether the injured spouse will be able to recover compensation for their injury will turn upon the car insurance coverage that they had purchased. Specifically, Spousal Liability coverage must be a part of their car insurance policy. It must be requested, as very few insurance companies include this coverage as part of their policies.
With this coverage, the injured spouse can make a direct claim against their own insurance policy for the mistake of their spouse and recover compensation for their injury. Without this coverage, the spouse will not be able to make a claim against their policy and will not be able to recover any compensation for the accident and injury caused by their spouse.
I think we have all been a passenger at one time or another where we have seen our spouse become distracted or do something maybe not so safe. This coverage is very affordable and is something every family should strongly consider adding to their car insurance policy. Keep it safe out there.
A Quick Car Accident Checklist
Be sure to protect your interests in the event of a car accident by following these simple guidelines.
Here are some basics about what you should and shouldn't do if you become involved in a car accident.
First, always call the police so that a formal report can be prepared so that how the accident occurred, and the identity of the driver, owner and insurance company of the other car is properly documented.
This will make things go much more smoothly when trying to prove fault to obtain compensation for your car damage or bodily injuries. Do not let the other person convince you that they will "take care of it," or to "just go through the insurance." These are the first people to change their story when you leave the scene without making a report.
Make sure you copy down the name of the other person's insurance company and policy number. Make a note to yourself about how and why the accident occurred and any other important information while all the facts are fresh in your mind. Take photographs at the accident scene of the position of the cars, as well as the damage to each.
Also, obtain the name, address, e-mail and telephone number of all potential eye witnesses. If you are injured, you really should document your pain and problems as soon as possible by seeking medical attention. This will help to establish a causal connection of these injuries to the accident if later your injuries turn out to be more serious than you initially thought.
Call and report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Give them all the details and advise them if you have pain and are injured, and tell them every body part that hurts. Be sure to file a No-Fault benefits application form with your insurance company within 30 days of the accident date if you have pain and injuries. Your insurance company is responsible for paying all of your medical bills and loss of wages resulting from the accident regardless of whose fault the accident was.
Avoid speaking to the other person's insurance company. They represent the other person's interests, not yours. They will record your conversation and ask you many questions in an effort to help their interests. You can tell them where your car is located so that they can send an adjuster to inspect it, but that's it. Speak to an attorney before you proceed any further with the other person's insurance company, and please do not sign anything for them without an attorney reviewing it first as you could be waiving some of your rights.
If the accident involves a hit and run where the other vehicle leaves the scene, you must notify the police and have a report made within 24 hours. If the other vehicle was stolen or uninsured you should immediately notify your insurance company. In both of these cases, you should consult an attorney as you will have to make a timely claim with your insurance company.
These are just some general guidelines to follow after an accident, hopefully, you will never need to use this checklist. Keep it safe out there.
Car Insurance Coverage: What You Don't Know Could Hurt You
A quick car insurance primer and the coverage you shouldn't drive without.
These days we are all looking for ways to trim our budgets, and we may be tempted to reduce our car insurance to lower our premiums. However, the small savings achieved now could very well come back to bite us in the event of an accident.
It is a fact that the worst, most dangerous drivers typically insure themselves for the very least they are legally required to. In New York, this means that the people who are the most likely to cause an accident with us will only be insured for $25,000.00, certainly not a large sum if we are seriously injured and cannot work.
The ONLY way to protect ourselves from these bad drivers with limited insurance is to make sure WE have a sufficient amount and the right type of insurance.
There are several different types of insurance contained in our car insurance policies, each providing us coverage for different losses. The liability portion of our policies provides protection if we cause an accident and get sued. Our insurance company will pay out to the person we injured up to the liability limits we purchased, and provide attorneys to defend us in any lawsuit that is brought.
The Personal Injury Protection portion of our policies provides anyone in our car, regardless of fault, medical and lost wage benefits. This is commonly known as No-Fault coverage. The Collision protection covers damage repairs to our cars, also regardless of fault, as does the Comprehensive protection.
Now we come to the most important coverage provided by our policies that most of us don't know about, or don't really understand. It is called Uninsured/Supplementary Uninsured Motorist coverage. This is the coverage that provides the crucial insurance we need to protect us from the bad drivers with little insurance. If the person that injures us has no insurance, minimal insurance, or just less insurance than we have, we can recover for our injuries from our own insurance company. With this coverage we are not at the mercy of the person that seriously injures us, and we don't have to hold our breath hoping that there will be adequate insurance to compensate us for our injuries. For example, if the person that injures us has a $25,000.00 policy, and we have $250,000.00 in Uninsured/Supplementary Uninsured coverage, we can collect the $25,000.00 from the bad driver's policy and then collect up to $225,000.00 from our own policy (the $25,000.00 is deducted from our coverage ). This coverage protects everyone that lives in our house no matter where they are... walking, bicycling, in a friend's car, etc.
It is a layer of protection that follows us and our families wherever they may be at the time they are injured. Moreover, this peace of mind can be added to our policies at a very low cost. So instead of calling our insurance agents/brokers to reduce our protection, we should pull out our policies and make the call to add the insurance that we really shouldn't drive without. A sample car insurance policy with suggested coverages can be viewed and printed from my website at www.northshoreinjurylawyer.com. I would also be more than happy to review your car insurance policy and answer any questions that you may have free of charge. I do not sell insurance or work with any agents or brokers. You can simply call me, email me, or send me a fax and I will make sure that your car coverage is providing you and your family with the protection you need. Keep it safe out there.
Courts Permit Insurance Companies Access to Your Facebook/MySpace Accounts – What Gives?
Think your Facebook and MySpace accounts are private.... Think again.
It now seems as though if you bring a case to court seeking compensation for injuries someone else caused you, you may be forced to permit that person's insurance company lawyer's to see what you have been posting on Facebook and MySpace. Whatever happened to the notion of privacy?
Recently, a Supreme Court judge in Suffolk County granted a request by the Insurance company's lawyers to obtain access to the injured person's current and historical Facebook and MySpace accounts, including all deleted pages and related information. Are you kidding me ! Talk about a fishing expedition for the sole purpose of trying to find something, anything, to smear the person their client injured, with the sole goal of trying to escape having to fairly compensate them.
Think of all the things that could be used completely out of context against you. A picture of you smiling to show that you are really not in pain. Who cares when it was taken or whether you happened to have had a "good" day when the picture was taken. How about a picture of you dancing at your wedding to prove your back, knee, etc. is fine and how dare you think the responsible party should compensate you. Of course they won't mention the pain medication you had to take before, or how you paid dearly the next day, no one wants to hear those details. What about pictures of a trip you took that was planned before the accident? Of course it will be argued that people that are "really" injured don't travel. It doesn't matter how long you saved for that trip, or that you haven't had a vacation in 2 years because of the economy, or that when you went away you really just relaxed and didn't do the things you really wanted to do because of the pain. Nope, none of that will be spoken of.
Oh sure, once they parade this stuff in front of the jury, they say you will get your turn to "explain" what it all really means. Forget it. It's over. You are now the bad, un-injured person looking to win the "lottery" against the poor, defenseless person that just happened to hit you in the rear, totalling your car. This is just wrong. Too many people with legitimate claims and serious injuries are going to get hurt by this, and if they can't get the rightful compensation for the future medical treatment they will require from the poor insurance companies, guess what? They are going to go to Medicaid or Medicare for help, hmmm, who pays for that?
The playing field in accident/injury cases is already more than fair to the insurance companies. They have attorneys, investigators, doctors, and unlimited resources at their disposal. They are permitted access to basically all of your medical records, their attorneys get to ask you questions under oath, their doctors get to examine you, and their investigators get to secretly photograph and videotape you. Do they really need to see everything on your private Facebook/MySpace accounts as well? What about the privacy of the other people's postings on the accounts?
I don't know, maybe after 20 years of representing people injured in accidents and dealing with the insurance companies, my views may be skewed a bit. But if I were you, I would be careful about what you post on any Social networking site, you never know who will be allowed to see it.
New York's New Concussion Law For Student Athletes
Governor Cuomo just signed a new law in New York to deal with concussions in youth sports.
Beginning July 1 of next year, New York's new concussion law will require student athletes who may have sustained a concussion to be sidelined for at least 24 hours. The student will not be permitted to return to play until they have been symptom free for at least one day and have been checked and cleared by their doctor. The law also requires that coaches and teachers be educated and trained on the symptoms and treatment of concussions, which are actually mild traumatic brain injuries.
Governor Cuomo stated, "By raising awareness of the risks of mild traumatic brain injuries we are protecting students across New York ... and will help enable student athletes who experience concussions [to] get prompt treatment, helping avoid the future health problems that often accompany such injuries."
I recently attended a three day conference in New Orleans entitled "Legal Issues In Brain Injury," conducted by the North American Brain Injury Society. There were over 30 faculty at the event that are on the forefront of the most up to date methods of diagnosing, testing and treating persons with Traumatic Brain Injuries as well as Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, such as concussions. The main reason that I attended the conference was to gain the necessary knowledge to better understand what my clients with TBI were going through and how to properly document their injury so that I could be a stronger advocate for them in court.
However, some of the most interesting information I learned dealt with concussions in youth sports. A concussion occurs when a person sustains a mild blow to the head that causes shearing of brain cells. According to the experts who spoke on this topic, many kids are being allowed to go back to playing sports long before the effects of the concussion have resolved. Concussions take time to heal, and while the brain is recovering, the risk of a second concussion is greater. Moreover, if the child has not recovered from the initial concussion and then receives a second concussion, not only is the recovery period going to be longer, but the chances of permanent damage and future problems are increased.
Unfortunately, the full extent of the damage cannot be seen on a CT scan or typical MRI, which are the tests that are routinely given in an attempt to determine if the brain was damaged. These tests do not show minor TBI, and other tests may be necessary. These include an MRI with a stronger magnet, an fMRI (functional MRI), and DTI (Diffuse Tensor Imaging), among others.
The signs of concussion to look for are: the person appears dazed or stunned, is confused about assignment or position, forgets sports plays, is unsure of game score or opponent, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness, behavior or personality changes, can't recall events prior to hit or fall, can't recall events after hit or fall.
The symptoms reported by the athlete are: headache or pressure in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, double or blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, feeling sluggish, hazy or foggy, concentration or memory problems, confusion or just doesn't feel right.
The best course of action is to seek medical attention right away to determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe to make a return to the sport. Stay out of play until a doctor clears the return. It's better to miss a game or two, instead of an entire season.
Concussion In Youth Sports
Concussions are injuries to the brain and should not be taken lightly.
I recently attended a three day conference in New Orleans entitled "Legal Issues In Brain Injury", conducted by the North American Brain Injury Society. There were over 30 faculty at the event that are on the forefront of the most up to date methods of diagnosing, testing and treating persons with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI ) as well as Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, such as concussions. The main reason that I attended the conference was to gain the necessary knowledge to better understand what my clients with TBI were going through and how to properly document their injury so that I could be a stronger advocate for them in court.
However, some of the most interesting information I learned dealt with concussions in youth sports. A concussion occurs when a person sustains a mild blow to the head that causes shearing of brain cells. According to the experts who spoke on this topic, many kids are being allowed to go back to playing sports long before the effects of the concussion have resolved. Concussions take time to heal, and while the brain is recovering the risk of a second concussion is greater. Moreover, if the child has not recovered from the initial concussion and then receives a second concussion, not only is the recovery period going to be longer, but the chances of permanent damage and future problems are increased. Unfortunately, the full extent of the damage cannot be seen on a CT scan or typical MRI, which are the tests that are routinely given in an attempt to determine if the brain was damaged. These tests do not show minor TBI, and other tests may be required. These include an MRI with a stronger Tesla magnet, an fMRI (Functional MRI), and DTI (Diffuse Tensor Imaging), among others. Colleges are starting to have full time clinicians specializing in concussion on staff to diagnose and treat athletes that have suffered concussion to assure that the concussion is resolved before the athletes return to their sports team.
The signs of concussion to look for are: the person appears dazed or stunned, is confused about assignment or position, forgets sports plays, is unsure of game, score or opponent, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness, behavior or personality changes, can't recall events prior to hit or fall, can't recall events after hit or fall.
The symptoms reported by the athlete are; headache or "pressure" in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, double or blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy, concentration or memory problems, confusion or doesn't "feel right."
The best course of action is to seek medical attention right away to determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe to make a return to the sport. Keep your child out of play until they are cleared to go back. It's better to miss a game or two instead of an entire season. Inform the coach about any concussions your child may have sustained.
For more information on concussions you can visit www.cdc.gov/ConcussionInYouthSports
Feel Good Dog Training
Group dog training sessions at a Nursing home brightens residents lives.
I recently completed 12 weeks of obedience training with my 10 month old English Golden Retriever; he completed Basic Obedience & Manners level 1 and 2. Before deciding on which trainer to use, I did some homework by speaking to my dog's Vet and to other dog owners, as well as speaking to several trainers. I knew I wanted a trainer that relied upon positive reinforcement, but other than that I didn't know what else to look for in a trainer.
After speaking to the recommended trainers, I selected Happy Hounds. The owner, Ritsa Galitsis, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and personally runs all the training sessions. Basic 1 is a six week program, and the first session is held in your house. This gives the trainer an opportunity to see your dog in its daily environment and how it interacts with all family members. It also gives you a chance to show and discuss with the trainer any particular behavior issues that you would like to focus on.
After the initial meeting, the next 5 training sessions are held with other dog owners and their dogs in a group setting. These hour long sessions are held at Oak Hollow Nursing Center in Middle Island. Happy Hounds holds the group training sessions at this Nursing home so that the residents can watch the training sessions, and interact with the dogs. During the five weeks the dogs learn the basic manners of sit, down, wait, stay, come, leave it and walking nicely on leash. The dogs learn these manners while interacting with other dogs in the group and while in the presence of the nursing home residents, which helps to improve your dog's socialization process which is an added benefit.
What affected me the most was seeing how much the residents truly looked forward to being able to watch the group dog training. They learned the names and breeds of all the involved dogs and enjoyed being part of class. This was the best feel good dog training that I could imagine. I brought my kids a few times so that they could be a part of a little life lesson.
Basic 2 involved six more weeks of group training sessions at Oak Hollow and the dogs worked on accepting a friendly stranger, sitting for petting and grooming, walking on a loose leash, walking through a crowd, staying in place at a distance, coming when called, reacting to another dog, and more. All the while the residents continued to enjoy the company of the dogs and owners. At the end of the 12 weeks it was sad to say goodbye to the residents, but they will be able to enjoy the company of the new classes to come.
This training experience has convinced me to continue my dog's training and to have him tested to obtain his certification as a Therapy dog, which he can do once he turns one. Then I will be able to visit Oak Hollow and other Nursing Homes, Rehabilitation facilities, and possibly local hospitals. How great would it be to bring a smile to child confined to a hospital or to a Veteran confined at the Stony Brook facility? Columbia/NY Presbyterian Hospital in the city has an incredible dog visiting program available to patients with thousands of registered dogs participating. I called the local hospitals and none have any type of a dog visiting program I was told. This is truly a shame and maybe someone reading this with contacts at one of our local hospitals can make a suggestion to the decision makers. There is something about a dog that makes most people feel good inside, so if you are so inclined, check out Happy Hounds Dog Training. Maybe you too will want to look into turning your dog into a Therapy dog.
Wire Glass: The Hidden Danger in our Schools
We need dangerous Wire Glass out of our schools for the safety of our children.
We have all seen the glass with wire in the middle in our schools growing up or in the schools that our children attend. We have walked by it and most likely never given it a thought. We probably think that the wire in the glass adds strength to the glass and that it's OK to push on it to open a door. However, wire glass is actually very dangerous, but unfortunately our schools are not being proactive in trying to eliminate this hazard. Wire glass was initially used when our schools were built as it was the only available product that would withstand the heat produced by fire and maintain its integrity. It was installed in all doors meant to be used as fire doors, to prevent the fire and smoke from traveling from one area of a school to another. It was used in practically all stairwell doors in our schools.
However, New York State's 2007 Building Code prohibits the use of wire glass in any new school construction and prohibits the use of wire glass in existing schools for replacement if broken. This is because the Building Code now requires all glass in impact areas in schools to be impact resistant, which means that wire glass is NOT impact resistant. In fact, the New York State Education Department issued an important advisory in 2006 to all schools concerning the use of wire glass in schools. According to the advisory, "It appears that there is a common misconception that wire glass is impact resistant. This is not true, and in fact wire glass is only half as strong as regular plate glass."
The State of Oregon was the first to change its code following an accident in a school where a student suffered severe nerve damage from broken wire glass. The metal itself is very sharp and holds the broken glass shards together, which tends to cause serious injuries when broken by contact with a child.
The advisory by New York State Education Department indicates that there are several fire-rated and impact resistant glass options available to be used by our schools. The advisory goes on to state, "We strongly recommend that all existing wire glass locations be evaluated for potential impact and injury. There are several alternatives available to remedy locations determined to be at risk, such as replacement with impact and fire resistant materials, coating the glass with specialty films and installing protective bars or railings."
It appears that our schools, despite being aware of the danger of wire glass since at least 2006, have chosen to do little or nothing to lessen the exposure of this risk to our children. Why not warn our kids with announcements over the PA system, hold student assembly meetings to educate our kids about the danger, post signs on the walls next to the doors with wire glass, install magnetic hold open devices to keep the doors open so they don't have to touch the doors which tend to be mostly made of glass, or replace the wire glass with the alternative impact resistant glass.
I know some people will think it's too expensive to replace all the wire glass in all of our schools, or we don't have the money in the budget, or our taxes are already too high. But one of the most important objectives in educating our kids has to be their safety while we educate them, no? We can warn and educate them as we steadily remove the wire glass and replace it with the available alternatives. Start with the main stairwells where our kids have the most daily exposure to this risk, then look to replace this dangerous glass in other hazardous locations. We don't need to immediately replace every single piece of wire glass in all of our schools, but the schools certainly have a responsibility to do something. Common sense should prevail so that the risk of a serious, life altering injury to one our kids is at least minimized. I don't think that is too much to ask from our schools, do you?
The Most Important Car Insurance Coverage
The Car Insurance Coverage You Shouldn't Drive Without.
With our ongoing not-so-positive economic situation, many drivers have opted to reduce the amount of their car insurance in an effort to save money on their premiums. Some drivers have even chosen to risk driving with no insurance as they simply can't afford to pay for it.
Moreover, the typical driver with a bad record is usually in an Assigned Risk pool that each Insurer has to accept a certain percentage of drivers from, and these drivers almost always have the required minimum amount of liability insurance. Unfortunately, the odds of one of these drivers causing an accident is quite high, and now there are increased odds that whoever hits you will have a small liability policy.
This can have a dramatic effect upon you or your family if you become seriously injured by one of these drivers, because there simply won't be a sufficient amount of insurance to reasonably compensate you for your pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment and quality of life, loss of wages and medical bills. This is because New York State only requires a vehicle to be insured for $25,000 to operate it on our roads. So, regardless of how serious your injuries are, how much income you lose or how high your medical bills are, you are likely to only end up with a whopping $25,000 in compensation.
This is where the most important car insurance coverage comes into play. This coverage is called Uninsured Motorist coverage and Underinsured Motorist coverage, also known as Supplementary Uninsured Motorist coverage. This is the part of your car insurance policy that you will have to rely upon for adequate compensation if you become injured by one of these drivers with little or no liability insurance.
Do you have this coverage? Do you know how much of this coverage you have, or how much you really should have? Don't rely on a general statement from your insurance agent or broker that you are" fully covered," because that doesn't really mean much. They may be referring to the fact that you have a lot of liability coverage, that will provide protection if you cause an accident and someone makes a claim against you. Liability coverage will not afford you coverage for your injuries.
If the at fault car that injures you has an expired or lapsed insurance policy, you will need to rely upon your Uninsured Motorist coverage, as this will be your only source of compensation for your injuries. This is the coverage that would also protect you if you were involved in a hit and run or if you were struck by a stolen vehicle.
If the at-fault car was insured but with the minimal limits of $25,000, you would need to rely upon your Underinsured Motorist benefits to compensate you for your injuries/damages valued in excess of $25,000. In order to qualify for these benefits, your liability limits must be greater than the at fault car's limits and your Underinsured Motorist coverage must be greater than $25,000.
For example, if your liability limits were $100,000 and your Underinsured Motorist limits were also $100,000 ( they should always be the same), then depending upon your injuries/damages, you could recover the $25,000 from the at-fault driver and then recover another $75,000 from your Underinsured Motorist coverage for a total of $100,000. If you had $250,000 in this coverage, you could recover up to an additional $225,000.
This is the minimum amount of Un/Underinsured Motorist coverage that I would recommend; some insurance companies allow you to obtain even higher amounts. Since this coverage is likely to be your only source of compensation regardless of how seriously you are injured, you should obtain the most coverage that your budget permits.
This coverage provides you a layer of protection wherever you become injured - in your car, a friend's car, while walking, riding a bicycle, etc. - and provides the same protection for all residents of your home. It is simply the most important coverage to have in order to properly protect you and your family. Having a sufficient amount of this very affordable coverage can make all the difference if you are injured by a car with little or no insurance.
Take the time to review your car insurance policy and speak to your insurance agent/broker to ensure you have this crucial car insurance coverage before you need to rely on it. You will be happy you did.
Keep it safe out there.
Mark T. Freeley, Esq.~www.northshoreinjurylawyer.com
Driving: The Most Dangerous Part of our Day
Our government maintains statistics on all sorts of things that go on in our country. However, some of the most startling numbers have to do with the not-so-simple daily act of driving a car. It seems that maybe we don't think of driving as a dangerous activity, and therefore we tend to let our guard down when we get behind the wheel. Maybe the following facts will help to get us all back on the defensive when driving on Route 347 , Middle Country Road or Route 25A.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 40,000 people die and 3.2 million people are injured on our roadways every year. Unfortunately, the odds are that one day in the next six years we will be involved in one of these accidents. That statistic alone should motivate us all to attempt to be safer drivers.
A third of all traffic fatalities involve someone who is speeding.
We are 23 times more likely to have an accident if we text while driving. Statistically, texting is more dangerous than drinking and driving, which makes it 11 times more likely that we will have an accident.
Simply dialing our cell phones while driving triples our risk of having an accident.
Did you know that it takes the average car traveling at 60 mph about 271 feet to come to a stop? That is almost as long as a football field. How many of us keep that distance between the car in front of us on the LIE or the Northern State?
Statistically, for every accident we are involved in, we typically experience 11 near crashes. When was the last time you had a "close call" because you were distracted by the cell phone, radio, Starbucks, kids, etc.?
We really can't ignore the fact that our daily trips in our cars are likely the most dangerous tasks we undertake each day. Knowing this, we each should take steps to help keep us safer behind the wheel. We need to ...
- wear our seat belts every time
- ensure our kids wear their seatbelts
- use booster seats and child safety seats on every trip
- adjust our headrests properly; the top should be the same height as your ears
- not sit too close to the steering wheel, as we may hit the steering wheel before the airbag can deploy and because airbags can cause serious injuries if we sit too close to them
- keep our hands on the steering wheel at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions to allow for quicker reaction time
- check our tire tread, as worn tires can reduce our stopping distance by 25 percent
Let's all take our daily driving more seriously and set good examples for our children by driving smarter.
Keep it safe out there.
Kids In the Front Seat? Not So Cool
When should we let our kids ride in the front seat of our cars?
My 9-year-old daughter has been bothering me for quite some time about wanting to sit in the front seat of my car. My response was always "no, it's against the law." I assume at this age they think it's cooler to sit in the front than the back.
When I was a kid, I do seem to remember trying to yell "shotgun" before my brother or sister did as we ran to get into my mom's car. Our problem back then was that mom actually drove a Buick station wagon, and the front seat didn't really help in the cool department.
After my daughter asked me for the 10th time, I decided it was time to show her the law. However, to my surprise, there is no law in New York that requires a child to be of a certain age to sit in the front seat. I did find New York State's Seat Belt Law brochure which states, "For maximum protection, children under the age of 12 should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle." So for now, this is the "law" in our house, because airbags deploy at around 240 miles per hour, causing serious injuries to young kids. That's definitely not cool.