On October 7, 2011, Buffalonews.com reported a three car accident that killed 51 year old Cheryl Ozzimo and her husband, 58 year old Ronald Ozzimo. This tragic incident raises several legal issues. A wrongful death action also includes a personal injury. The personal injury is the underlying theory for the culpability of the defendant. Damages in a wrongful death action is the financial loss to the survivors of the decedent. The time between injury and death including pain, medical treatment, loss of work are brought as a separated personal injury action, they are not covered by the wrongful death cause of action. All damages after death (future wages, services to spouse, etc.) are included as financial losses to the survivors. The statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years.
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Check out Tammy Riddle, Esq., President of the WNY Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association and an attorney at HoganWillig, appearing on WGRZ’s “The Healthy Zone” to discuss the upcoming “Think Pink” event that is offering free mammograms to women, 40 or order, who are uninsured or underinsured.
Last week, the Buffalo News reported that a 29-year old driver with 2 prior convictions for DWAI has been charged with DWI in connection with his arrest for driving the wrong way down the Thruway. The question in everyone’s mind is: “if this is his third offense, why wasn’t he charged with a felony?” The defendant is being charged with a misdemeanor, which is considered a crime and is punishable by up to one year in jail, but he won’t be charged with a felony. Here’s why:
His two prior convictions were for Driving While Ability Impaired. DWAI is defined as a traffic infraction, not a crime. Even though it’s an infraction, a defendant convicted of DWAI can be sentenced to up to 15 days in jail. A second conviction for DWAI within 5 years is also considered traffic infraction, but carries additional fines and a possible jail term of 30 days.
If he had one prior DWI conviction within the past 10 years, he would be charged with a Class E Felony. If he had two prior DWIs within 10 years, he would be charged with a Class D Felony. However, the rule is not the same where a defendant, like the one in this article, is charged with Misdemeanor-DWI after having two prior DWAI convictions. If he is convicted of DWI, the court will certainly take his prior convictions into consideration at sentencing.
In this case, the District Attorney could choose to also charge him with DWAI as a “lesser-included offense” in order to increase the likelihood of securing a conviction. The DA would have discretion whether to charge it as an infraction or as a misdemeanor because this is his third DWAI within 10 years. The defendant is entitled to have proper notice at the beginning of the case as to what he is being charged with. If the DA chooses to charge “Misdemeanor DWAI,” the DA will have the burden of proving the existence of the two prior convictions within the past 10 years. A conviction on this charge will carry increased fines, up to 180 days in a penitentiary or county jail, or both.
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The Buffalo News reported on October 2nd that investigators are still on the look out for a driver that hit and killed a woman on Broadway and didn’t stick around to fess up.
Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident with out reporting it may result in serious fines and penalties, including criminal prosecution. When an accident leaves someone dead, the operator of the responsible vehicle may face criminal charges that can increase if drugs or alcohol were involved. These accidents may also result in civil suits by the estate of the person who was killed. These suits can include claims for personal injuries as well as wrongful death.
As many Western New Yorker’s are aware, there has been a rash of vehicles crashing into buildings in 2011 so far, including the most recent today, September 30th, into the front of Dessert Deli in a busy plaza at Maple and North Forest in Williamsville.
If these unfortunate incidents are truly accidents, the drivers will be charged accordingly. Those charges could include anything from inadequate brakes (a misdemeanor), failure to use due care (infraction or misdemeanor, depending on circumstances), speed not reasonable and prudent (3 points), to maybe even a charge of parking in a prohibited place! (max $150 fine). Depending on their driving records, they may be able to negotiate a reasonable deal with prosecutors. If alcohol or drugs are involved, the driver can be expected to be charged criminally. The drivers need to stay on site, though, because leaving the scene of an accident involving a personal injury is a separate crime. Civilly, the driver is also on the hook for damage to person or property, as well as the owner of the vehicle.
Our advice to drivers and building owners is the same: review your insurance coverage and make sure you are properly protected. Paying attention while driving no matter where you are goes without saying. There are serious consequences as indicated by these unfortunate accidents resulting in property damage, serious injuries and in some cases even death to the driver and innocent pedestrians.
Published in a recent article in the Buffalo News, a Hamburg woman received both jail and probation time for driving under the influence of a narcotic drug with young children in the vehicle. Drinking and driving laws in New York will continue to become more strict each year. Leandra’s Law imposes two new major consequences on defendants convicted of DWI or driving while impaired by drugs with children in the car.
First, as this article discusses, Leandra’s Law re-classified the crime as a felony instead of a misdemeanor, which results in more severe sentences. Second, it requires the defendant to install an ignition interlock device in every car they own or operate, which imposes added expenses and burdens on the individual. In many cases, the defendant will not be given an opportunity to negotiate a reduction in the charge, so defense attorneys are focusing their efforts on attempting to get a commitment from the court for a more favorable sentence. Another problem that is not discussed in this news article is the likelihood that a civil lawsuit will be brought against the drinking driver and the owner of the vehicle to recover money damages. It’s important to have the experienced counsel to evaluate these issues and be prepared to address them as they arise.
Today, September 27, 2011, The Buffalo News published an article regarding a Buffalo man “charged with running a red light and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle following a T-bone crash.” There are critical deadlines to be aware of in the case of all motor vehicle accidents. You have only 30 days from the date of the accident to file a No-Fault Application (NF-2) Form with your insurance company – even if the accident was the other driver’s fault.
No-fault insurance covers many expenses, including things like household help, medical expenses and mileage to and from medical appointments.
In a situation where the other driver is at fault and issued citations related to the accident, it is helpful for the prosecutor to know if there were injuries associated with the person’s actions. This can be done by letter or a telephone call.
HoganWillig is a full-service law firm with offices in Amherst, Buffalo, Lancaster, and Lockport. As the largest suburban full-service law firm in Western New York, HoganWillig has a skilled team of 100+ professionals, including approximately 50 attorneys.