Back to School Safety for 2020

School Bus Safety Caution SignThe 2020-2021 school year is upon us, and parents are preparing for a school year like none they have ever seen before. According to the New York Department of Education, students will be engaged in learning five days per week, but will be attending a mixture of in-person and online classes. As parents prepare for their children to go back to school after an unusually long absence, their children’s safety, both online and offline, is always the top priority.

Travel Safety

School buses will begin appearing on New York roads after a long absence. Drivers should be aware, as always, of traffic regulations in regard to school buses, including when to stop. Whenever a school bus is stopped and the STOP sign is deployed, drivers on both sides of the road must stop until the bus begins moving. Although children are supposed to walk in front of a bus while exiting, drivers should not assume that all children will follow these rules. Be on the lookout for children both behind and in front of a bus.

Even after a bus has started moving, children may be present and may cross the road with no warning. After the bus has begun to move, and even after it has left the area, drivers should be alert for children on or near the road.

The normal summer break started several months early this year, so drivers and pedestrians have become unaccustomed to watching out for school busses, commuting parents, and children walking or riding bicycles to school. Additionally, the new, mixed learning schedule for this school term may mean that children might be traveling to and from school at unusual times. When driving near a school zone, drivers should assume that parents and school buses may be dropping off children and children may be present at or around schools, outside of normal school hours.

Drivers should also be aware that children may be home during normal school hours, and should look for children playing outside, even during the day.

Online Safety

The new learning environment means that children may be spending more time online than they have in the past. Younger children may be online for the first time. Increased computer time may increase the risk of children being exposed to online predators, so a child’s online learning time should be supervised by an adult. Fortunately, most online browsers have parental controls to make this supervision easier on parents of younger children.

 

New York Injury Attorneys

The attorneys and staff at The O’Brien Firm wish a safe and productive school year for all New York families. If you or your child is involved in an accident or suffers an injury due to the fault of another, we are here to help. During a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our expert attorneys, we will answer your questions and tell you how we can get you compensation that you may need. Call us at 716-907-7777 or visit our website here.

What to Do When You Are in an Accident While on Vacation

The last thing you want to think about when planning a family vacation is the possibility of an accident, but unfortunately, accidents don’t wait for the most convenient time. Whether you are taking a road trip in your own vehicle or renting a car when you arrive at your destination, some advance planning can save a lot of trouble if an accident does happen.

 

Plan Before You Go

If you plan to rent a car, check with the rental company about the laws of the jurisdiction in which you will be driving in. Some jurisdictions have “no-fault” laws, meaning that in a minor accident, each driver’s insurance will pay for the damage to their vehicles, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If you are traveling to a “no-fault” state, talk to your insurance agent before you go to see if your policy will cover damages to your rental car. Regardless of where you are traveling, you should make sure you are adequately covered by your insurance when renting a car. If your insurance does not provide the coverage you need, supplemental insurance is always available from the car rental agency.

 

If your vacation plans include travel to any foreign countries, it is even more important to check with your insurer before you go. International travel may not be covered by your plan.

 

Extra Caution is Important

Many factors can increase the chances of accidents while traveling. A common cause of accidents for travelers is unfamiliarity with their surroundings. When traveling in an unfamiliar area and relying on GPS navigation, you may find yourself having to brake quickly or make a sudden lane change. Since those actions are among the most common causes of highway accidents, it is important to plan your route in advance to minimize such situations. Missing an exit and having to backtrack is a minor inconvenience compared to an auto accident, which at the very least, will set back your vacation plans.

 

If you are renting a car or recreational vehicle, take some time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle before you get on the road. Distracted driving is almost as dangerous as drunk driving, and you do not want to be searching for your light switch or turn signal while driving on the highway at 65 miles per hour.

 

Special caution is needed if you rent a recreational vehicle, especially if you have never driven anything larger than a passenger car. Drive the vehicle around for a couple hours before you start your trip to become accustomed to its size and handling. Learn where the vehicle’s “blind spots’ are. When traveling, remember that a larger vehicle will take longer to stop, and may be more likely to overturn than a passenger car.

 

If You are in an Accident

If you do find yourself in an accident while traveling, remember the following tips:

 

  • Report the accident to your insurance company, and to the car rental agency if you are in a rented vehicle.
  • Report the accident to the local police and get a copy of any police report.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you are injured or think you may have been injured.
  • Talk to a local attorney as soon as possible after the accident.

 

New York Accident Attorney

If you are involved in an automobile accident while vacationing in New York, the attorneys at The O’Brien Firm can help. Call  716-907-7777 or Visit our website for more information.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.

 

What to Do After a Hit and Run

You could have been driving alone, minding your own business, when a car suddenly came out of nowhere, hit you, and sped off. Perhaps, you were riding a bicycle and a driver got a little too close and knocked you off onto the pavement. Worse yet, a driver could have hit your child and left the scene. What can you do after a hit and run accident to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Call 911. If anyone needs immediate medical attention, this is your first priority.  However, even if immediate medical attention is not necessary, alerting the police to the location of the accident as soon as possible increases the chances that the hit and run driver will be apprehended.

Try to notice as many details as possible. The more you can remember about the vehicle or its driver, the better chance the police will have to find and apprehend the person responsible. If you are capable, identify possible witnesses at the scene who can potentially remember and identify additional details.

Take photos.  If possible, take photos of the scene of the accident as soon as possible. Tire marks, skid marks, debris from the hit and run vehicle, and other physical evidence can help identify the vehicle who hit you and tell a story about how the accident happened. Even if the other driver is found guilty of hit and run, you must still prove that he was at fault for the accident in order to recover your damages.

Make sure you have enough insurance. This is the most important protective measure you can do to protect yourself in case of a hit and run accident, but, of course, it must be done before an accident occurs. Many drivers leave the scene of an accident because they do not have proper insurance. Some hit and run drivers are never found. If the driver who hit you is not found or is uninsured, you can still make a claim with your own insurance company for uninsured motorist benefits. Make sure you have enough coverage to protect you and your family if one or more of you is seriously injured in a hit and run accident.

Seek the advice of an attorney. Don’t wait to talk to a personal injury attorney after a hit and run accident. Important evidence can be lost or destroyed within days or even hours after an accident, and your attorney can send investigators to collect and preserve this evidence if necessary. You may be able to get compensation for lost wages and/or medical expenses even before the other driver is found. If litigation is necessary, you will need an experienced attorney in your corner.

The attorneys at The O’Brien Firm are available any time for free, no obligation consultations. Just call 716-907-7777 to arrange an appointment. Visit the firm’s website at http://www.theobrienfirm.com/personal-injury/ for more information. COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.

 

 

Car Issues During Quarantine

It is an uncommonly known fact that when you don’t run your car for a long time, it risks forcing you to deal with  maintenance issues that you normally would not have to worry about, rather than prolonging its lifetime. During quarantine, most people labeled as nonessential workers have had to stay home. Therefore, their cars aren’t being used as much as they normally would have been. While this has led to decreases in car insurance and gas prices, it has caused a rise in car problems as our country begins to open back up.

Common Issues

  • Dead Battery: Even when your car is not running, there are many electronics in it that will slowly drain your battery over time. When you run your car, your battery starts charging. However, if you let your car sit for too long, the battery can drain, and you won’t be able to start your car back up without a new battery or charging the current one with proper equipment or professional help.

 

  • Sun Damage: Leaving your car out on your driveway, in the sun, can cause interior damage. Your seats may become discolored and the fabric can be damaged. If you have any items inside your car that could melt, that can also cause permanent stains.

 

  • Brakes: Brakes can stick to the rotors, freeze, and stop working. The last thing you want is a running car that cannot stop under its own power.

 

  • Tires: Tires can deflate over time. Temperature changes affect tires and air can escape over time if this goes unnoticed. This can cause you to either have to inflate your tires or replace them altogether prematurely.

 

  • Gas: Gas can break down over time if it sits for too long. Bad gas can cause issues with a car’s ignition system and performance. Left unchecked, it may have to be checked by a professional to flush out or proper additives might be needed.

 

  • Critters: Unwanted critters can make your car their home if you don’t start it up over time. This could cause your car to be inoperable and even cause bad odors. Furthermore, certain critters, such as rats, can chew wires and hoses if they nest under your hood.

Contact Us

Throughout this pandemic, The O’Brien Firm has remained open to help their clients with any of their personal injury issues. Contact us today at: 716-907-7777 to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.

 

How Will COVID Affect Auto Insurance Rates?

It is now more than two months into the nationwide COVID lockdown, and medical experts and government officials are warning Americans that returning to their normal routines may take months, or even years. With many people laid off from work or working from home, and travel severely restricted, there is some good news. The number of automobile accidents have decreased, and people are putting less wear and tear on their cars, causing many drivers to wonder how their insurance rates might be affected.

Fortunately, most major car insurance companies have taken steps to compensate their customers for part of the premiums they have paid for vehicles that have been virtually idle since March. Many have offered rebates and/or discounts on premiums during the pandemic. Some of these include:

Allstate: A 15% discount on premiums for April and May

Farmers: A 25% credit for April premiums

GEICO: A 15% discount on premiums for new policies, and for policies that renew between April and October 2020.

Liberty Mutual: A 15% discount on premiums for April and May

Progressive: A 20% credit on April premiums, and a 20% discount on May premiums

State Farm: An average credit of 25% for the period between March 20 and May 31.

USAA: A 20% credit for April and May premiums

All companies report that discounts and rebates will be applied automatically.

Since driving habits may be altered for quite some time after the pandemic is over, some insurers are offering new products, such as User Based Insurance (UBI). A UBI insurance policy calculates premiums based on the actual number of miles driven during the policy period. Users will have to install a tracking device on their vehicle to qualify for the programs, which could save money for people who drive sporadically. Some insurers also offer discounts for safe driving, based on devices that monitor such things as speed, the time of day a car is driven, and whether the driver makes sudden stops. While many are skeptical about allowing insurers to have access to so much information, others may be willing to accept the trade-off.

Insurance tracking devices may also be useful in the event of an accident, to prove that a driver was not exceeding the speed limit, for example. If your insurance company offers UBI or safe driving discounts, make sure to learn as much as you can about the type of devices they use and how the collected information is protected from unlawful use and disclosure.

If you or a loved one is injured in an automobile accident, the attorneys at The O’Brien Firm are here to help. Just call 716-907-7777 to for a free consultation. COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.

 

Trucking Accidents: Who Can Be Held Responsible?

Millions of trucks and tractor trailers drive our highways and roads every day, delivering food and other goods to stores in every city and town in America. With so many trucks on the road, accidents are inevitable. Because of their size and weight, trucks are particularly dangerous in an accident – according to the National Highway and Safety Administration, 73% of those killed in accidents involving large trucks were occupants of the other vehicles, and 81% of the fatal accidents involving trucks were multiple vehicle collisions.

One of the most challenging tasks after a trucking accident is determining who is responsible. All interstate commercial truck drivers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates all aspects of commercial trucking, including drug and alcohol testing, hazardous material transportation, training and licensing of commercial truck drivers, and insurance requirements for trucking companies. Once the actual cause of the accident has been determined, the next step is to determine if any of these regulations were violated.

Some common causes of trucking accident include:

Driver Error

Driver error is the leading cause of all auto accidents, including trucking accidents. Often, truck drivers are found in violation of regulations regarding the number of hours they drive in one trip. Drivers are limited to 14 consecutive hours at one time, including breaks and mealtimes. After 14 consecutive hours, drivers must be off duty for 10 hours before being allowed to drive again. Drivers should have logbooks to record their hours, but the books can be neglected or even falsified. Studies have shown that fatigue has the same effect on one’s ability to safely drive as alcohol, so failing to follow these regulations can have disastrous effects. Other driver errors include distracted driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol or other substances, speeding, and simple lapses in judgment or concentration.

 

Cargo

Improper loading of cargo may cause a truck to be unbalanced, increasing the chances of an accident. Contents inside a truck may shift if not properly secured, also creating a potential hazard. After an accident, a spill of hazardous materials may cause additional injuries. In these cases, liability may fall on the manufacturer of the materials or the shipper in charge of loading the truck.

 

Mechanical Failure

Commercial vehicles, like all motor vehicles, must pass periodic safety inspections. Safety inspections for commercial vehicles are more rigorous and detailed than those for private vehicles. The owner of the truck, either a trucking company or an owner/driver, is responsible for proper maintenance of the vehicle. Cutting corners on safety inspections or equipment can lead to accidents. After an accident involving a truck, it is important to access inspection record and also have the truck inspected for faulty equipment that may have been improperly maintained.

 

All of this may seem overwhelming for someone who is already struggling with a serious injury or with the loss of a loved one. The attorneys at The O’Brien Firm have many years of experience handling trucking accident cases and can help identify the responsible parties to work with their insurers. We are available any time for a free consultation at 716-907-7777. Visit the firm’s website at http://www.theobrienfirm.com /for more information about the firm and our attorneys. COVID-19 UPDATE: Although we are working from alternate locations, we remain fully functional and look forward to helping you.

Protecting Your Rights After a Motorcycle Accident

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, it is normal to feel anxious, frightened, and even relieved if you were not seriously injured. Understandably, you may not be able to think clearly immediately following the incident or even a few hours to days after. However, time is not on your side after an accident and you must act quickly to preserve your rights. Before going out for a ride, all motorcycle riders should know what they should do to protect their rights in case they are involved in an accident.

  1. If you can, take photos of the accident scene before any vehicles are moved. The relative positions of the vehicles can be a crucial piece of evidence needed to establish who was at fault. Other physical evidence, such as skid marks and debris on the road, may disappear or fade within days or even hours. Photos can also help show weather conditions at the time of the accident.
  2. If there are witnesses, try to obtain their contact information, in case they leave the scene before the police arrive.
  3. Do not admit any fault to anyone. Even if you believe you may have been partially or completely at fault for the accident, you may not be aware of all of the circumstances. A hasty admission of fault can affect your rights, even if it turns out that you were mistaken.
  4. Ask for a copy of the police report. It will contain important information that you may need later on.
  5. Always seek medical care. Some injuries are not immediately apparent. The stress and adrenaline of the accident may mask pain and lead you to believe that you are uninjured. Failure to seek immediate medical attention will weaken your case if you start to experience symptoms afterwards. Even in extenuating circumstances, such as with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it is important to be checked by a doctor after an accident. Take proper safety precautions, but do not delay in getting medical attention.
  6. Call an accident attorney. Your attorney will be able to help preserve evidence, interview possible witnesses, and work with insurance adjustors to get money for your medical expenses even before your case is settled.

The attorneys at The O’Brien Firm are dedicated to helping accident victims and have the experience necessary to handle the unique circumstances involved in motorcycle accident cases. Visit our website at  http://www.theobrienfirm.com/ for more information, or call us at 716-907-7777 to arrange a consultation. During the current coronavirus outbreak, we are available for phone and video consultations.

Preventing Workplace Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, workplace accidents cost over $161 billion in 2017, taking into account medical expenses, loss of productivity, administrative costs, and uninsured expenses. Of that amount, employers paid over $12 billion in uninsured costs. Employees lost over 104,000,000 days of work due to on-the-job injuries, time that had to be covered by overtime, temporary workers, or extra shifts. Many of these accidents could have been prevented.

Common Causes of Workplace Accidents

Overexertion

The most common cause of injuries leading to lost workdays is overexertion, accounting for over one-third of reported workplace accidents. Overexertion can include lifting or moving heavy objects, using improper lifting techniques, and engaging in any repetitive motions over long periods of time. While it is ultimately up to the employee to know the limits of his own body, employers can help reduce overexertion injuries by:

  • Making sure all employees are trained in proper lifting techniques
  • Requiring the use of safety equipment such as back braces and wrist supports.
  • Making sure that shifts are adequately staffed, so workers do not have to lift heavy objects without assistance.
  • Allowing workers whose jobs duties require repetitive motions to take regular breaks.

 

Contact With Objects

This category of accidents includes being struck by falling objects, getting caught in machinery, and being struck or crushed by collapsing structures or materials. Employers can help avoid these injuries by:

  • Not allowing untrained employees to operate dangerous equipment
  • Enforcing a dress code that does not allow loose clothing that could get caught in machinery
  • Making sure that boxes and other materials are stacked properly
  • Frequent inspections of storerooms, warehouse space, and dangerous machinery

 

Slips and Falls

This includes falling off of ladders and scaffolding, tripping over objects, slipping on spilled liquids, and falling from high places at worksites, such as roofs, decks, and ledges. In addition to proper training of employees, employers can take the following steps to reduce slip and fall accidents:

  • Not allowing employees to work on ladders, scaffolding, roofs, or other high places alone
  • Making sure ladders and scaffoldings are properly maintained and sturdy
  • Having proper equipment available for every job so workers do not have to improvise with equipment not suited to the task
  • Keeping floors and aisles clear of debris
  • Having a janitorial crew or assigned workers on hand to clean up spills quickly

 

Workplace Diseases

Exposure to chemicals, dust, fumes, and other environmental hazards can lead to permanent disability or death. OSHA standards require all employers to provide adequate safety equipment for employees working with hazardous chemicals or materials. These include breathing equipment, eye protection, hearing protection, and protective clothing. Employers should make sure all workers use protective equipment at all times, even when it may seem inconvenient or less efficient to do so.

 

New York Workers Compensation Firm

If you or a family member is involved in an accident at work, call The O’Brien Firm at 716- 907-7777 to learn more about your rights and options. You may also visit our website at http://www.theobrienfirm.com/.

 

Highway Etiquette – Avoid Accidents by Being Considerate

When driving, as in other aspects of daily life, practicing the Golden Rule can make for a safer, more pleasant experience. Here are some practical driver etiquette tips that may help avoid an accident, a road rage incident, or an unpleasant encounter.

Knowing and Obeying Right-of-Way Rules

New York traffic laws govern rights-of-way in intersections, the most common locations for automobile accidents. New York law and common courtesy require that a driver approaching an intersection must yield to a driver already in the intersection. Even if your light is green, do not pull out in front of another vehicle. You may be legally within your rights, but that will be little comfort when your vehicle is damaged, or you are injured.

In an intersection with four-way stop signs, drivers are required to yield to the driver on their right. If there are drivers at all four intersections, highway etiquette dictates that the first driver to approach should be allowed to proceed first.

No Tailgating

It can be frustrating to be stuck behind a slow driver but failing to leave enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you is not only impolite, but also dangerous. If that driver makes a sudden stop, lane change, or has to swerve to avoid an obstacle, you may not have enough time to stop. If you rear-end another vehicle, you will almost always be found responsible for the accident.

Avoid Aggressive driving

Aggressive driving practices such as frequent or sudden lane changes, honking or repeatedly flashing your lights in order to get a vehicle to move out of the way, and excessive speed, increase your chances of being involved in an accident. In addition, these practices may startle an inexperienced driver, further increasing the risk of an accident.

Use Your Signals

New York law and common courtesy require the use of turn signals before turning or changing lanes. Think about yourself in a similar situation: would you appreciate another driver suddenly stopping to turn without any warning? The driver behind you may be distracted, or may be following a bit too close. He may even be distraught over some bad news or a family emergency. Give him a chance to see that you are about to slow down or move into his lane, and you may avoid a potentially deadly accident.

General Courtesy

Drivers who are considerate of other motorists and who treat others on the road as they would prefer to be treated may avoid creating situations in which other drivers feel the need to retaliate for rude behavior, either with aggressive driving of their own, or even deliberate actions.

New York Accident Attorneys

Despite your best efforts, you may fund yourself in an accident someday. If you do, call the personal injury experts at The O’Brien Firm at 716-907-7777, or visit our website at www.theobrienfirm.com for more information.

 

Trick or Treat Safety

If you have young children, they are probably already planning what to wear for Halloween.  Some parents opt to forego traditional trick-or-treating in favor of parties, haunted house tours, or one-location trick-or-treat events. For those who opt for the traditional trick-or-treating, here are some ways to help make it a fun and safe experience.

Costume Choices

  • Make sure to check the length and fit of children’s costumes before they go out. Costumes that are too long or too loose may restrict a child’s movement or may be a tripping hazard.
  • If cold weather is anticipated, long underwear and other layers can keep a child warm while not spoiling the look of their costume.
  • Face paint is more comfortable than a mask and allows for unrestricted vision.
  • If the costume is dark in color, make sure to sew or pin some reflective material on the costume so that your child can be seen by drivers.
  • If your child’s costume includes any type of weapon, make sure it is obvious from a distance that the weapon is not real. This is especially important for older children, who could be mistaken for an intruder in the dark. For maximum safety, any costume piece that resembles a firearm should be avoided.

Precautions

Furthermore, children should carry a flashlight after dark. Children should also be instructed not to approach any house that does not have a sign, porch light, or other indication that the occupants are participating in trick-or-treat. Despite the name, “trick-or-treat,” children should be instructed not to play any pranks on non-participating neighbors.  A frightened homeowner may mistake a child for a burglar, to disastrous ends, or the prankster might encounter an aggressive or overly protective pet.

 

Supervision

 While very young children are happy to trick-or-treat with their parents, older children prefer some freedom. Parents may give their older children a sense of freedom while still keeping an eye on them by restricting their children to known streets or neighborhoods, and by accompanying them to a location where they can be observed but not escorted. Children should be instructed not to enter any house or building unless their parents know and trust the occupants and have specifically given permission for the child to enter. Lastly, all children should observe the local trick-or-treat hours.

 

The Spoils of the Night

 Despite the numerous urban legends, verified incidents of tampering with Halloween candy are rare. Nevertheless, children should be instructed to bring all candy home before eating it so you can inspect it. Candy that is not in its original packaging, or in packaging that appears damaged, should be discarded.

 

New York Personal Injury Attorneys

 The attorneys and staff at The O’Brien Firm wish your family a safe and happy Halloween. If you or a family member is injured due to someone’s negligence, call us at 716-907-7777 for a free consultation.