February 25th, 2013
In these winter months of sledding, snowmobiling and frolicking in the snow, you might wonder if you could be held liable if someone is hurt while having some fun on your property. New York has a law for that! Section 9-103 of our state’s General Obligations Law, commonly known as the recreational use statute, recognizes the value and importance to New Yorkers of pursuing recreational activities, and encourages landowners to open their land for recreational use without fear of liability in most circumstances.
So if you open your property for certain outdoor activities throughout the year, whether or not your land is posted, you are immune from the usual duty to keep your property safe and may well be protected from liability. Protected recreational uses include hunting, fishing, canoeing, boating, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, sledding, spelunking, horseback riding, bicycle riding, hand gliding, dog training, motorized vehicle operation for recreational purposes, snowmobiling, cutting or gathering of wood for non-commercial purposes and even organized gleaning. If a person is engaged in one of those activities on land which is physically suitable for that purpose, you have no duty to keep the premises safe or to warn of hazardous conditions or activities, as long as you don’t willfully or maliciously fail to guard or warn against a dangerous condition on the property and you haven’t charged a fee for the privilege of coming on your property to engage in that activity.
What does this mean to you? If you allow the neighborhood kids to sled down your open hill and one is hit in the eye by a sharp stick in the snow, or allow snowmobilers to cross your property and one is hurt when he drives into a gate near the trail, you very likely cannot be held liable. So let those recreational “wonderers and wanderers,” spelunkers and gleaners go ahead and have some fun – you’re protected!
December 12th, 2012
From time to time, and particularly during the holiday season, I am asked by kith and kin alike about the responsibility a homeowner has to prevent people from drinking too much at a holiday party. Concerns range from the health of the person drinking copious quantities of eggnog to the legal liability and of the host who provided the eggnog. I cannot offer an opinion on the healthy amount of eggnog, but I can provide some insight into issues that may arise when a drunk guest leaves a party and injures someone.
Without turning this into a legal brief, in New York State the basic rule is that an adult host of a party (whom we’ll call Martha) is not legally liable or responsible if an adult guest (whom we’ll call W.C.) has too much alcohol and then drives away from the party causing some injury to a someone else (we’ll call her Sue). So if Martha spiked the eggnog and W.C. imbibes too much eggnog and then injures Sue, Martha is not responsible for W.C.’s actions and the law will not support a lawsuit against Martha.
The line can get blurred when an adult host provides alcohol to an under-age guest who then leaves the party and injures someone else. In that situation, if W.C.’s son (call him Chester) consumes too much eggnog, and Martha is aware of Chester’s drinking and lets it happen, then Martha has some legal responsibility. Sue can take Martha to court for her role in Chester getting drunk and injuring Sue. Also, W.C. can take Martha to court for the injuries sustained by Chester.
To be sure, it is generally unlawful for an adult to provide alcohol to a minor. The law recognizes a parental exception, but still does not permit intoxication by the minor even if the parent approves.
So eat, drink, and be merry including, but not limited to, encouraging responsible behavior toward alcohol [this is no way should be interpreted as an endorsement of alcohol consumption by minors or to excess by anyone, and prior results do not guarantee similar outcome]. That may seem at odds with the merrymaking, but when you’re making memories, you should at least keep in mind the ability to recall them.
October 22nd, 2012
During last summer’s legislative session the New York State Senate and Assembly passed a bill that will require insurance companies in to include supplementary underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage (SUM) in their policies at the same level as the insured’s own liability limits. Although not signed into law by Gov. Cuomo yet, this is an important piece of consumer protection legislation for all insured automobile drivers to understand.
September 21st, 2012
There are special rules that apply when suing the City of Buffalo for personal injuries. One of these special rules requires prior written notice of defects before you can successfully bring a claim for personal injury. As with most rules there are some exceptions, including if city workers created the defect or where a ‘special use’ conferred a benefit to the city.
In the City of Buffalo, the applicable statute is section 21-2 of the Buffalo City Charter which states no civil lawsuits can be brought against the City “for damage or injuries to person or property sustained in consequence of any street, part or portion of any street including the curb thereof and any encumbrances thereon or attachments thereto, tree, bridge, viaduct, underpass, culvert, parkway or park approach, sidewalk or crosswalk, pedestrian walk or path, or traffic-control sign or signal, being defective, out of repair, unsafe, dangerous or obstructed, or in consequence of the existence or accumulation of snow or ice upon any street, bridge, viaduct, underpass, culvert, parkway or park approach, sidewalk or crosswalk, pedestrian walk or path, unless previous to the occurrence resulting in such damage or injuries written notice of such alleged condition relating to the particular place and location was actually given to the city clerk and there was a failure or neglect within a reasonable time thereafter to remedy or correct the alleged condition complained of.”
September 11th, 2012
With insurance fraud on the rise, personal injury victims are often confronted with the accusation that the incident that they are seeking to recover for (slip and fall, car accident or work related injury) did not ever happen in the first place.
Without objective evidence of the occurrence, through incident reports or medical records, the victim is left with nothing more to point to than their own account of the event.
Often, people are reluctant to report incidents because they are embarrassed, and/or they appear to not be injured at first glance. With injuries that can take weeks or months to present themselves, this often places the victim at a disadvantage when dealing with insurance companies, and their lawyers.
Additionally, information that is recorded as soon as possible after the incident tends to have the best indicia of reliability, as the incident is still “fresh” in the minds of the victim and any witnesses. After all, most of us cannot remember what we ate for breakfast yesterday, not to mention a car accident from 2 years ago.
If you ever find yourself in a slip and fall or motor vehicle accident situation, even if you do not feel injured at the time, and you are embarrassed … tell someone. This will improve your credibility and chances for success later on.
August 6th, 2012
In a tight economy, people are looking for ways to trim their budgets. Many insurance companies advertise that they can lower your rates. However, sometimes you’re getting a lower rate because you are getting different coverage. When shopping for insurance you should do the following:
- Review your Declarations page:
The Declarations page lists what types of coverage you have and how much you pay for each type. This page is usually at the front of your policy. When comparing insurance rates, you should check this page to make sure the quote you’re getting is for the same coverage.
March 2nd, 2012
Suffering a serious injury in an automobile accident can have a devastating impact on one’s physical and financial well-being. Typically, a lawsuit stemming from a motor vehicle accident is brought with the goal of obtaining just compensation for injuries suffered. But consider this common, and often surprising, scenario: You are seriously injured in an automobile accident as a result of someone else’s negligence and suffer injuries determined to be worth $100,000.00. You hire an attorney, file a lawsuit, and justifiably expect to be fairly compensated for your injuries only to find out the person responsible has a maximum bodily injury insurance coverage limit of $25,000,00. What are you options?
Your best option is to protect yourself ahead of time, and avoid problematic situations like the one posed above, with “SUM” coverage. SUM, which stands for supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, is insurance that you can purchase from your own automobile insurance company, which typically costs just a few extra dollars a month.