Most Common Personal Injury Claims

Injured man and his wife meet with a personal injury lawyer.There are many claims that fall under personal injury law.

Vehicle accidents, slip and falls, workers compensation, products liability, and wrongful death are all possible claims that you can recover compensation for within the field of personal injury law.

Hiring an attorney to review the facts behind your injury will give you the possibility to recover monetarily.

Vehicle Accidents

Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents are one of the most common reasons why people need personal injury attorneys. Accidents not only happen every day but can also happen to any driver or passenger on the road. In addition to dealing with the grief of potential vehicle damage and insurance companies, you may also need medical attention for your injuries. The entire situation can oftentimes be very costly, but you deserve to be compensated for the costs that you incur due to the negligence of other people.

Workers Compensation

Employers may be liable for injuries that happen to you while you are working. Whether you now have a medical condition obtained during your course of business or your employer was negligent in maintaining the work area, you may be able to receive compensation through insurance. Furthermore, if you were driving while working, a workers compensation claim can allow you to recover financially. Many jurisdictions require all employers to have workers compensation insurance, so you may be able to receive compensation for your medical bills, injuries, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Slip and Falls

Slip and falls happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, it is not your fault, but rather the fault of the owner of the premises. Whether you slipped from a puddle that should have been cleared or because of a condition that an owner should have properly maintained, you may have the possibility to sue for your injuries caused by such conditions in another’s owned property. Successful slip and fall accident cases have included puddles, poorly maintained areas, and artificial conditions that owners should have been aware of the dangers.

Products Liability

If you are injured because of a defect in a product, you can also sue the business that you purchased the product from along with the manufacturer. Product design defects, manufacturing defects, and lack of sufficient warnings or instructions are all examples of reasons to sue for product liability after you are injured by using such a product. Everyone in the chain of distribution can be liable following an injury involving a problem with a product, so an attorney will be able to determine who should be sued and advise you on which decisions to make.

Wrongful Death

If your close family member passes away due to the negligence of someone else, you still have the ability to sue in his or her place. If you were relying on this family member or have lost the close companionship of that loved family member, you have remedies available to you. The grief of a family member’s passing can be a difficult time to go through, but attorneys will be understanding and take away most of that stress involved in a wrongful death claim.

Contact Us

If you have been personally injured, you may have a successful claim against the party that is liable. The first thing to do is contact our experienced attorneys to review your case and see what we can do. Please contact us at (716) 907-7777 at your earliest convenience.

What Falls Under Personal Injury Law?

Injured man consulting an attorney about a lawsuit.

Personal injury law consists of various types of injuries and harms. Many of these injuries can happen to you or your family member on any given day.

  • Personal injury attorneys handle cases involving: 
  • Vehicle accidents (including cars, trucks, and motorcycles)
  • Work-related accidents
  • Premise liability (such as slip and falls)
  • Negligence
  • Medical malpractice
  • Wrongful death

Whether you were injured personally, or your family member has passed away due to someone else’s fault, personal injury attorneys will take the steps necessary for you to receive the compensation that you require. 

Car Accidents 

Car accidents are one of the top reasons why people reach out to personal injury attorneys because they are unfortunately very common. In fact, car accidents happen every day. Most people drive every day and with that necessity, always comes the chance that an accident can occur. 

Car accidents are always stressful, and many people simply want to have the situation over with as soon as possible. However, that is not always the best option. Firstly, you may not realize that you are injured because you may not feel your injuries until days after the accident. Additionally, insurance companies will likely try to contact you to receive your statement so that they end up paying the least amount possible. In the future, your insurance payments may increase as well. Do not fall into the trap of moving on as quickly as possible following a car accident. Instead, contact a personal injury attorney so that he or she can advise you on what you should do for you. 

Premise Liability 

If you are injured at a place of business, the owner of that business may be liable to you. When you visit a place of business, you are considered an invitee. Having invitee status means that the owner of the business has a duty not only to maintain the premises so that they are safe to his or her patrons, but to also make reasonable inspections of the area and repair any dangerous conditions.  

As an example, there has been a series of cases involving banana peels: In one case, the owner was held liable because the banana peel that a patron slipped and fell on was dark, gritty, and dirty (presuming that it had been there for a long period of time and should have been noticed and removed); in another case, an owner was not held liable because the banana peel that a patron slipped and fell on was bright yellow and fresh (presuming that it had just been dropped and it would have been unreasonable for the owner to have immediately inspected and fixed the condition). 

Medical Malpractice 

Another common personal injury is medical malpractice. When you go to a hospital or other healthcare facility, you want to feel better and be healed. However, there have been several cases involving medical misconduct or negligence that have left patients unjustly worse off than when they first arrived. Doctors are professionals that deal with the health and well-being of their patients. You should rightfully presume that you will feel better after seeing a doctor rather than worse or with a new condition. Depending on the facts, you may have a claim if you are furtherly injured following a doctor visit. 

Contact Us 

The O’Brien Law Firm is ready and ample to take on your case if you believe that you have been involved in an accident that requires compensation. Call us today at (716) 907-7777 so that we go over your case and see what we can do for you. 

New York Firework Safety And Laws

Fireworks laws in NYIndependence Day is here. You know it’s that time of year again with the sounds of small neighborhood-lit fireworks, firework pop-up shops, along with the red, white, and blue themed decorations everywhere. While fireworks are surely pretty to look at, there have been many accidents, injuries, and damage caused by them. Before buying and setting off any fireworks, make sure that you know the laws in your area, how to light them cautiously, and safely dispose of them. 

Safety Precautions

Fireworks have caused burns, eye damage, fires, property damage, and even death in the past. Without careful use, people are hurt with either minor or permanent damage each year across the country. Some safety precautions to take include: 

  • Purchase any devices from a registered retailer that has complied with the state’s established requirements 
  • Read the packaging information, directions, and warnings 
  • Use any device outdoors, out in the open away from people’s property 
  • Protect your eyes 
  • Keep any device away from small children and people who do not know how to handle fireworks 
  • Do not use any device after you have been drinking 
  • Keep a method of extinguishing a possible fire near you 
  • Read the directions on how to extinguish a fire 
  • Do not leave a lit device while it is still burning 
  • Follow the directions on how to extinguish a firework after use 

Regulations

New York has banned certain types of fireworks and limits their type, size, and sound. Certain fireworks are illegal in New York such as roman candles, bottle rockets, and firecrackers. Additionally, fireworks that mimic a percussion sound such as a bang or siren are also illegal. Lastly, fireworks that shoot up into the air are banned. On the other hand, what is allowed are “sparkling devices.” Sparkling devices include devices that can be held in your hand or lit on the ground without going up into the air or exploding. You can have them create sparks and colored flame, however.  

Counties are also allowed to locally ban them altogether, which three counties decided to do so in 2017. Each year, counties can decide whether sparkling devices will be allowed or not. This year, sparkling devices are allowed in each county, but if you are unsure or have questions, always call your local municipality to see whether they are legal and whether the ones you have purchased are allowed. 

Even though this year sparkling devices are allowed, it does not mean that they are completely safe. Whether dealing with fireworks or sparkling devices, you are dealing with fire and sparks that can spread and cause bodily harm. These sparkling devices can nevertheless cause third-degree burns and eye damage. The New York police department has stated that whatever you do, to use common sense and stay safe. Furthermore, if you come across a retailer that is unregistered, notify the authorities so that they can take the necessary steps to stop the use and sale of banned sparkling devices and fireworks. 

Legal Help

If you are injured or endure property damage due to fireworks this holiday weekend, contact the O’Brien Law Firm so that we can begin looking over what happened and start helping you receive compensation. Contact us at: (716) 907-7777. 

BBQ Safety – What Every Griller Needs to Know 

Grilling BarbecueNothing says summertime like firing up the grill for a barbecue with family and friends.  However, grilling can be dangerous.  Fire departments put out almost 10,000 fires a year that were started by a grill, hibachi, or barbecue.   Between 2012 and 2016, an average of 16,000 people went to the emergency room due to injuries involving grills.  Often, these injuries involve a child bumping up against a hot grill and sustaining serious burns. 

At The O’Brien Firm, we wish you a safe and happy summer.  Following these grilling safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) can help keep you safe while you enjoy your summer barbeques.   

Before You Grill 

Whether you are using a charcoal grill or a propane grill, there are steps you should take before you fire up the grill.  First, the NFPA recommends grills, whether charcoal or propane, should only be used outdoors.  (Note: “outdoors” does not mean “in the garage.”)  Your grill should be positioned a safe distance from the home and deck railings.  You should not use a grill under the eaves of the home or garage, or below overhanging tree branches.  

Inspect your grill for cleanliness.  Make sure no birds or bees used your grill as their home for the winter months. 

Do not leave a lit grill unattended for any length of time.  Keep children and pets well away from hot grills, both during cooking and afterwards, as it cools.  Before using, make certain the grill is clean, removing fat and grease from the actual grill itself as well as the trays below the grill.   

Check for Gas Leaks 

If you are using a propane grill it is a good idea to check for leaks before using the grill.  The NFPA has created a video to illustrate the process.  First, check the connection points between the gas tank hose and the regulator and cylinder, as well as where the hose connects to the burners.  If these connections are loose, tighten them.  Next, check the gas hose for leaks.  Using children’s bubbles or a dish washing liquid mixed with water, apply the solution to the length of the hose with a brush or spray bottle.  Turn on the cylinder and watch for bubbles.  If you see bubbles, this is evidence of a leak.  Turn the gas off and recheck the connections.  If you turn the gas on again and see no bubbles, proceed to grilling!  If the bubbles remain, have your grill serviced by a professional before using it.   

When Grilling with Propane

If you smell gas during grilling, turn off the gas tank and the burners.  If the leak stops immediately, have the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.  However, if the smell of gas remains, make certain everyone moves away from the grill.  Do not move the grill.  Call the fire department immediately and explain what is going on. 

When Grilling with Charcoal 

If you use starter fluid, only use charcoal starter fluid.  Do not use charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquid, such as gasoline, to add to an active fire.  Make certain when not in use the charcoal fluid is away from heat sources.  If using an electric charcoal starter, make certain any extension cord used is designed for outdoor use.   

Stay Safe and Enjoy Your Summer 

At The O’Brien Firm, we wish you a safe and happy summer, filled with time spent with family and friends.   

Recognizing and Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can result in temporary injury, permanent disability, or death.  A TBI can be caused by a jolt, blow, or bump to the head.  It may also be the result of penetrating head injury.  A TBI can be mild, resulting in a short change in mental status.  Alternatively, a TBI may last longer, resulting in an extended period of unconsciousness.  Sometimes, a TBI results in amnesia after an injury.

Danger Signs in Adults

Traumatic brain injury can result in a dangerous condition where a blood clot crowds the brain.  If you have bumped your head, received a blow, or your body or head was jolted, watch for these danger signs.  If you experience any of them, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends contacting your medical professional or emergency room immediately.

  • Slurred speech;
  • Repeated nausea and vomiting;
  • Weakness;
  • Numbness;
  • Decreased coordination; as well as
  • A headache that gets worse and does not go away.

Additionally, if you have sustained a blow, bump, or jolt to the head, you should ask someone to check on you regularly.  If you display any of the following symptoms, your friend or loved one should immediately take you to the emergency room:

  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Becoming increasingly agitated, confused, or restless;
  • Displaying unusual behavior;
  • Unable to recognize people;
  • Unable to recognize places;
  • Convulsions;
  • Seizures;
  • Appearing very drowsy;
  • Unable to wake up; or
  • Having one pupil larger than the other.

Danger Signs in Children

If a child sustains a blow, bump, or jolt to the head or body, and displays any of the adult warning signs, they should be taken to the emergency room right away.  Additionally, if your child

  • will not stop crying;
  • is otherwise inconsolable;
  • will not eat; or
  • will not nurse;

 

you should seek emergency medical attention.

Potential Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury

There is a wide range of potential effects of TBI.  Generally speaking, TBI can result in both short and long-term changes in the following:

  • Emotion: TBI may result in feelings of anxiety and depression. Persons affected may exhibit personality changes, acting out, and general social inappropriateness.
  • Language: TBI can impact one’s ability to express oneself, communicate clearly, and understand what is being communicated to them.
  • Sensation: Both sight and balance can be impacted by a TBI.
  • Thinking: TBI may impact one’s memory.  Additionally, it may impact one’s reasoning.

A TBI can increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other brain disorders, according to the CDC.  A TBI may also cause epilepsy.

Understanding a Concussion is a Traumatic Brain Injury

A concussion is a mild form of a traumatic brain injury.  Around 75 % of all traumatic brain injuries are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury each year.  Repeated traumatic brain injuries are particularly dangerous.  Over time, the cumulative effects of traumatic brain injury can include neurological and cognitive deficits.  If one suffers repeated mild traumatic brain injuries within a short period of time, the results can be catastrophic.  It may even be fatal.   A “short period” may be over a few hours, days, or weeks,

Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury

Not all TBI’s are the same.  Sometimes, there is no full recovery from a traumatic brain injury.  Other times, a full recovery is possible.  In either event, there are some general tips the CDC recommends when healing from a traumatic brain injury, to the extent healing is possible:

  • Write things down to aid in remembering;
  • Take medication as prescribed;
  • Do not take medication not prescribed;
  • Avoid situations where another head injury may be sustained;
  • Don’t drink alcohol without a doctor’s approval;
  • Consider returning to work gradually, rather than all at once;
  • Refrain from multitasking;
  • Consult with a trusted friend or family member when making decisions you consider important;
  • Avoid extended computer use;
  • Rest; and finally,
  • Be patient with yourself. You may need to re-learn some skills.  As your health care professional for a referral.

Protect You and Your Loved Ones from Traumatic Brain Injury

While you cannot predict every eventuality, there are certain steps you can take to reduce your likelihood of getting a traumatic brain injury.  These include:

  • Use child car seats as designed;
  • Wear seat belts every time;
  • Don’t drink and drive;
  • Wear a helmet when riding a bike, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle, while skiing or snowboarding;
  • Make certain living areas are free of fall hazards by doing the following:
    • Identify and remove tripping hazards such as cords and clutter across walkways;
    • Install nonslip mats in the bathtub;
    • Install handrails on the stairwells; and
    • Improve lighting.
  • Install window guards to prevent small children from falling out windows; and
  • Use safety guards on stairwells if you have small children.

If You Have Suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury

If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  Whether due to a car accident, a slip and fall, or some other situation, at The O’Brien Firm, we will work with you and for you.  Our goal is to help you get the compensation you deserve.  We offer free consultations.  If you are not feeling up to travel, our attorneys will come to you.  Contact us today at (716) 907-7777.

 

Winter Driving in Snow

Winter is here.  Like it or not, the next several months require driving in snow if we want to drive anywhere.  Whether this is your first winter driving in snow, or you are an old hat at winter driving, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on a few winter driving tips.

Tips for Driving in Snow

The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following:

  • When approaching a hill, get some forward movement going. While on the hill, do not stop if at all avoidable. 
  • Do not apply extra gas on a hill. Slow and steady will get you to the top.
  • Once at the top of a hill, reduce your speed.
  • Drive down hills as slowly as possible.
  • Understand the challenge of starting a vehicle from a full stop, rather than accelerating a car that is still moving. Don’t stop if you can avoid it safely.
  • Stop your vehicle by keeping the heel of your foot on the floor. Use the ball of your foot to brake.  Apply steady, firm pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Put eight to ten seconds between yourself and the car in front of you. This will provide you a longer distance for stopping.
  • Remember, nothing happens as quickly on snow covered roads. Plan on needing more time to stop, accelerate, and turn your car in snow.
  • Applying the gas slowly is best for avoiding skidding out.
  • Use your headlights to make your vehicle more visible.
  • Consider staying home. If you don’t need to go out, stay put.  Just because you are familiar with driving in snow doesn’t mean your fellow travelers are similarly skilled.

Areas of Additional Concern

There are certain portions of the roadways that may be more dangerous than others.  Be advised, for example, that bridge decks freeze first.  Even if the snow is melting elsewhere on the roadway, bridge decks should be approached with caution.  They may be icy.

Exit ramps and entrance ramps may be more icy than the main roadway.  Be aware of this when entering and exiting the freeways.

There is also vehicle specific information you should be aware of.  Sports Utility Vehicles, 4 x 4 vehicles, and trucks weigh more than other passenger vehicles.  This means they need more time and space to stop.  If you are driving one of these vehicles, give yourself more time.  If you are passing one of these vehicles, give them wide berth.  Avoid cutting in front of larger vehicles.

Plows require special attention.  Give them plenty of room.  Do not pass plows on the right.  Stay at least 200 feet behind plows.

Let someone know where you are going.  Provide them with your expected route.  Also, get the Buffalo, New York traffic and road conditions.

Stay Safe this Winter

As the winter season progresses, we at The O’Brien Firm wish you safe travels.  If you or a loved one does get hurt in a car crash, we are happy to come to you to discuss the facts in your case.  You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  At The O’Brien Firm, we have over 35 years of experience representing clients in car crash cases.  There is no cost to you unless we win your case.  Contact us at (716) 907-7777.

Holiday Decoration Safety

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a list of holiday decoration safety tips, designed to keep you and your family safe.  Please consider these tips as you and yours celebrate the holidays this year.

General Holiday Safety Tips

Fires can be a devastating event.  To prevent fires, some general tips include:

  • Keep fire starting materials, such as matches and lighters, out of the reach of children.
  • If you smoke, be mindful of flammable decorations, as well as fresh cut Christmas trees.
  • Avoid loose or flowing clothing near open flames, including the fireplace, stove, and near burning candles.
  • Understand evergreens and pine can be hazardous when burned in a fireplace. When dry, evergreens and pine can quickly burn out of control.  In particular, evergreens can flare out of control, sending sparks into the room.
  • Have an emergency plan in case of fire. Practice the plan.  Make sure every family member understands their role, identify more than one escape route, and decide on an agreed upon meeting place.

Candles

Keep burning candles away from wrapping paper.  Do not mix candles with evergreens.  Be mindful of where candles are placed.  If a candle can be knocked down or blown over, consider moving it to a safer location.  Use candle holders that are non-flammable.

Tree Maintenance

If you choose to keep a real tree in your home over the holidays, be advised dry evergreen trees are a significant fire hazard.  There are, however, steps you can take to minimize the hazard.  First, place your tree in a location away from heat sources, including but not limited to radiators, space heaters, and fireplaces.  Rooms with direct sources of heat contribute to trees drying out quickly.   Make sure your tree is not in a common traffic area.  Instead, place the tree in a corner.  Use guide wires to secure the tree to the ceiling or walls if the tree is large.  Cut two inches off the base of a live tree trunk.  This provides for better absorption of water.  Make sure the stand is filled with water during the time the tree is in the house.

If you are not sure if your tree is fresh or not, check the following:

  • Fresh trees are green in color;
  • Fresh tree needles are difficult to pull from branches;
  • Bent needles, when fresh, do not break;
  • Fresh trees have tree stumps that are sticky with resin; and finally,
  • If you bounce a tree stump on the ground, and a shower of needles falls, the tree is too dry.

Lights

Before installing any lights, either inside or outside, check them for safety.  Examine all strands of light for broken or cracked sockets.  Look for wires that are frayed or bare.  Check for loose connections.  If lights are damaged in any way, do not use them.

Outside lights need secure fastening.  Fasten the lights to the house, fence, trees, or other supports to protect them from wind damage.  If you use extension cords, do not use more than three standard sets of lights per cord.  When you go to bed or leave the house, turn off the lights.  Turn off other decorations as well.  Lights may start a fire if they short out.

Electric lights should not be used on a metallic tree.

Fires in the Fireplace

Before starting a fire in the fireplace, take the time to clear the area.  All greens, boughs, wrapping paper, artificial snow, and other decorations should be removed.  Make sure the flue is open before starting a fire.  When in use, keep a screen in front of the fireplace.  A word of caution about “fire salts:” they contain heavy metals.  Fire salts produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires.  However, this makes them an attractive nuisance to children.  They can cause severe intestinal distress and vomiting if eaten.  Keep them out of children’s reach.

Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace.  Wrapping paper can ignite suddenly.   It also burns intensely.  Wrapping paper should be disposed of properly.

Happy Holidays

From all of us at The O’Brien Firm, we wish you a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.

Is Avvo a Good Way to Find a Lawyer?

There are many ways to find a lawyer.  Some say the best way to find a lawyer is word of mouth.  However, many people don’t know anyone who has needed the services of a personal injury attorney.  In that case, people may not know where to turn.  Of course, there are lots of online attorney review web sites.  However, not all online attorney review web sites are equal.  Some ranking sites allow attorneys complete control of their rankings.  Others, like  Avvo, rank attorneys based on a number of factors, including some the lawyers have no control over, and is a good place to start.

Avvo Ranking

Avvo ranks their attorneys based on several different factors.  First, Avvo considers whether an attorney has had disciplinary action by the bar association.  Second, Avvo considers an attorney’s experience.  Finally, Avvo considers industry recognition.  This includes things like publications, speaking engagements and the like.

Additionally, Avvo has two ratings features.  The first rating feature allows other lawyers to rate each other.  Lawyers are not required to rate each other.   Consequently, a lawyer recommendation has some value.

The second rating feature allows past or current clients to rate the lawyer.  Lawyers have no control over this feature.  They can respond, but they cannot get a negative comment removed from the site.  While you should expect some disappointed clients to grumble, client reviews should show a pattern.  When you see a series of positive reviews, take this as a good sign.

Interviewing an Attorney

Avvo is a good starting place for determining whether an attorney might be a good fit for a given situation.   However, there is no substitute for an in-person meeting.  As an injured party, you are looking for a lawyer who knows what they are doing.  But you also want a lawyer who you can work with.  The American Bar Association (ABA) states, “the first qualification is that you must feel comfortable enough to tell him or her, honestly and completely, all the facts necessary to resolve your problem.”

The only way to know whether you feel comfortable with an attorney is to meet with them in person.  Attorneys understand you are looking for the attorney that best fits your needs.  You can treat your first meeting as a job interview.  You are encouraged to take some time to think about what is most important to you.  Some things many people find important when hiring a personal injury attorney include the following:

  • Someone who makes house calls;
  • Someone who is available on weekends;
  • A lawyer with support staff to assist in the case;
  • An attorney who has ties to the community;
  • An attorney recognized by their peers;
  • Significant past experience;
  • A history of settlements and trials on behalf of other injured people;
  • Someone who treats them like a person, not a number;
  • Someone who is easy to talk to; and
  • A person they can trust.

Consider The O’Brien Firm

If you have been injured, please consider The O’Brien Firm.  We are happy to come to you – at your home or at the hospital – to talk to you about your case.  We also want to talk with you about your particular situation, including your family, your immediate needs, and your long-term concerns.  At The O’Brien Firm, we understand each case is different, and every client is special.  We value your business.  We never charge a fee unless we win your case.

Winter Is Coming: How Drivers Can Prepare

The National Safety Council encourages drivers to plan ahead! Winter is coming whether we like it or not. Winter driving is different. In Buffalo in the winter time, blizzards can come out of nowhere. Icy conditions happen as often as not. While newer model cars have more and more safety features, there are still steps all drivers should take to minimize danger and maximize safety.

Create a Winter Safety Kit
Don’t wait for the first snow fall to create a winter safety kit for your car. As a starting point, make it a goal to always have a full or almost full tank of gas. Never let the gas tank get below half full in the winter time. Also, make sure your car has fresh antifreeze and plenty of wind shield fluid. Finally, take a moment to ensure your spare tire is properly inflated, you have a wheel wrench, and a working tripod jack.
Your emergency safety kit within your car should also include the following items:
• A shovel for digging out of snow;
• Jumper cables;
• A tow line;
• Bag of salt to melt snow;
•Kitty litter for increased tire traction;
• Blankets;
• Mittens;
• Hats;
• Warm socks;
• Boots, if the driver doesn’t wear boots in the car as a matter of course;
• Tool kit;
• Nonperishable foods like nuts, dried fruits, and granola bars;
• Flashlight, along with fresh batteries;
• Scissors and twine;
• Reflective triangles;
• Wood matches in a waterproof container;
• Flares;
• Ice scraper;
• First aid kit;
• Portable phone charger (make sure it is fully charged!);
• Snow brush; and
• Compass.

Give Your Car a Winter Weather Check
It is a good idea to have a qualified mechanic review your vehicle systems before winter arrives. They should check the ignition, brakes, spark plugs, hoses, and fan belts. They should also check wiring, the battery, the distributor, air filters, fuel filters, and emission filters. Finally, they should check the PCV valve, the battery, air pressure in the tires, tire wear patterns, and the antifreeze level. A few dollars of preventative maintenance can go a long way this winter when the temperature drops.

Before You Leave. . .
Any time the weather gets really cold, it’s natural to want to warm up the car before taking a trip. While warming up a car ahead of time is fine, never warm up the car in an enclosed area. Even if the garage door is open, it is not safe to leave a car running in an attached garage. Rather, let the car warm up out in the open, in the drive way or in front of the house.
When the weather appears dangerous or unpredictable, consider waiting out the storm. If that is not possible, make sure you inform a family member or friend of your planned route. Call them when you arrive safely. In the unlikely event your car goes off the road or is involved in a crash, knowing your route can shave valuable minutes off rescue efforts.
If you find yourself stranded in an unfamiliar area, the National Safety Council recommends you don’t leave your car. Instead, remove the flares from your winter tool kit and light them. Place the flares in front of and behind your car. Take a moment to make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow, garbage, mud, or other objects.

If You Get Hurt in a Crash
In winter driving, crashes are inevitable. While we hope you never need us, The O’Brien Firm is here for you if you do. If you have been hurt in a crash, we will come to you to meet with you and discuss your case. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Why Do So Many Cases Settle?

At The O’Brien Firm, over 98% of our cases settle before trial.  Many of our multimillion dollar cases have settled without a client ever appearing in a courtroom.  When people think about trials, they often view the opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments, as “litigation.”  This is part of litigation, however, this does not provide a complete picture of what constitutes litigation in a given case.  Below is a simplified version of how attorneys handle personal injury cases.

How Attorneys Evaluate Cases

When someone is injured in a crash, the first step is talking with an attorney experienced in personal injury cases.  When you meet with an attorney, they ask questions designed to determine how you were injured, when you were injured, why you were injured, what consequences you dealt with or continue to face, and who was responsible.  Next, your attorney will seek to gather information which may further inform them of the facts and circumstances of your case.

When an attorney determines there is a legal cause of action, they can file a complaint against the wrongdoer.  That party then answers the complaint.   Next, the parties engage in something called “discovery.”  In its simplest sense, discovery is the opportunity for the attorneys to obtain documentation in support of their claim.  This can include medical records, police reports, videos which may have recorded the accident, statements from witnesses, and other information that either supports the injured party’s claim, or detracts from the strength of their claim.

Once discovery is complete, the attorneys evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their respective cases.  Then the negotiation begins.  Attorneys consider past medical expenses, and past lost income, which are easy to calculate.  They also consider future medical expenses, which are not always as easy to calculate.  Depending on the nature of your injuries, attorneys consider other costs, such as loss of future income, and pain and suffering, both past and future.  In evaluating what a case might be worth, of course, attorneys must honestly evaluate any possible defenses asserted by the other side.

Case Negotiations

Once an attorney feels they have adequate information and have evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the case, they will engage the other side in negotiations.  It is not uncommon for the attorneys to have several discussions over days or weeks, seeking to come up with a dollar amount that is satisfactory to both sides.

In New York, settlement conferences are mandatory in many personal injury cases.  During settlement conferences, the court requires the appearance of attorneys fully familiar with the action.  These attorneys must also have authorization to resolve the case.  This results in meaningful discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, which often results in resolution.

Why Settle?

There are any number of different reasons parties settle personal injury cases.  In some cases, due to the facts at hand, the insurance company makes an offer at the limits of the policy.  In other words, there may be no advantage to taking the case to trial because no additional recovery can occur from the insurance company.

Even in cases where a larger award is possible at trial, the opposite is also true.  Whenever you leave the question of the amount of the award to the jury, you run the risk the jury will award less than the amount offered.  The jury even has the option of coming back with no award at all.

Another reason cases often settle is the value of time.  Trial preparation and trials take time.  The parties attend the entire trial.  Additionally, they must work with their lawyer to prepare.  The parties testify and opposing counsel cross-examines the witness.  For the inexperienced, this can be quite stressful.  On balance, settling may be the better choice considering the following:

  • The amount offered;
  • The added time commitment required for trial prep and trial;
  • Stress;
  • The potential for a slightly higher award; and
  • The risk of no award.

Finally, settlements are agreements between the parties.  Jury awards, however, are not agreements.  Either side can file an appeal.  Appeals can challenge the decision of the jury.  Alternatively, appeals can challenge the rulings of the judge during or pre-trial.  Appeals can drag on for months or years.  Settling the case provides finality and certainty.

Injured?  Contact The O’Brien Firm

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  At The O’Brien Firm, we have a proven track record of successful litigation from pre-suit discovery through trial.  Contact us to discuss your case.