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Binghamton Law Blog: Covering Topics from Personal Injury to Estate Planning Law

Wills and trusts can be established upon reaching legal adulthood

People nationwide, including New York, may think that estate planning need not be considered until they are middle-aged. However, the best time to draft wills, trusts and other documents is as soon as they are legally regarded as adults after turning 18. Estate planning is not only for people with significant assets. Having a job and a vehicle might only be the start, with marriage, children and buying a home in the foreseeable future. Life is unpredictable, and having estate plans in place can provide peace of mind.

National initiative to reduce pedestrian vs. car accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsors the National Pedestrian Safety Month during October. However, the New York Department of Transportation and other agencies are already collaborating on a commitment to improving pedestrian safety and reduce car accidents. Their focus is on Long Island and upstate New York, and the plan was initiated in 2016 with the expectation that it will remain a focus through 2021.

According to the NHTSA, in 2018, fatal pedestrian accidents happened every 84 minutes across the country. These are the most recent statistics available and, of course, include New York. The agency further says that the risks faced by pedestrians increase significantly after daylight saving time ends. From September through February, one-third of the fatal pedestrian accidents happen in the evening hours.

Recovery from crash-related brain injuries could take a long time

Head trauma can have long-term consequences, regardless of whether the skull is penetrated. Victims of accidents in upstate New York that caused brain injuries might have to adjust to a changed lifestyle. Depending on the severity of the injuries, both physical and physiologic damage could require extended periods of therapy and medical care, all of which could cause financial hardship.

Brain injuries are unique to each victim, depending on the location of damage to the brain. Moderate to severe damage could cause cognitive problems like impaired concentration, attention and memory. Patients could also experience slowed processing of language and impulses; their language and speech abilities could be affected. They may struggle to understand what people say, and their speech might be slurred, making it difficult for others to understand them.

New York state police investigating accident that injured trooper

A news release reported a recent crash that caused serious injuries to an upstate New York state trooper. The car accident occurred on a recent Saturday morning shortly before 5:45 a.m. The injured trooper is a state police veteran of 18 years. She was in her stationary patrol car when another vehicle smashed into it.

Reportedly, the patrol car was parked on the shoulder of a highway behind a rental truck. It is unclear whether the rental truck was involved in an earlier crash, but the report mentions that the truck driver had already been transported to a hospital when the SUV struck the patrol car. However, the truck's emergency lights were activated, and the trooper was awaiting the arrival of a tow truck to fetch the rental truck.

The best time for trusts and wills is upon entering adulthood

Many young adults in upstate New York put estate planning on the back burner. They typically regard wills and trusts as unnecessary and something to address when they are middle-aged. Few of them realize that death or incapacitation can happen in the blink of an eye, at any age. Being young does not make them invincible. When they start earning money, estate planning is as much of a responsibility as budgeting, balancing bank statements and getting insurance.

However, in their early 20s, young adults might have many questions about estate planning, how it works and their options. Even if they live healthy lives until they reach old age, having a plan will provide peace of mind. The first and most crucial step is to draft a will. That expresses how the person wants his or her assets distributed to beneficiaries. Also, who will manage the testator's financial interests after death and be the guardian of minor children?

Distractions and speed cause most fatal car accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the daily average of fatal crashes nationwide, including upstate New York, is 90 people. This is based on 2014 data when more than 32,600 people lost their lives in car accidents. Those numbers included single and multiple-vehicle wrecks. Some of the people who suffered fatal injuries died at the scene while others succumbed to their injuries later. In many cases, the survivors are left with long-term health problems or even disabilities.

If motorists understand why the number of fatal accidents is so high, the NHTSA says they might avoid becoming a part of those concerning statistics. Distracted driving is by far the most prevalent cause of deaths on U.S. roads. Statistics show that younger drivers -- ages 15 through 20 -- make up most distracted driving fatalities. After mobile phone distractions, reaching for objects on the floor, looking at passengers and fiddling with the radio, eating and drinking beverages are often the cause of devastating accidents.

Car accident: Hit-and-run driver strikes 2 teenagers

An Upstate New York community was shocked by the events that caused the death of one high school student, and critical injuries to another teenager on a recent Saturday. Reportedly, the two were struck by a pickup truck on State Route 176. A police report indicates that the car accident occurred shortly after midnight while three teenagers were walking on the road's shoulder.

The New York State Police say a third person accompanied a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy. No information about that person was provided, who reportedly suffered no injuries. According to the accident report, the pickup truck driver failed to remain at the accident scene and continued driving after striking the teenagers.

Unregulated restraining device may cause wrongful death

New York residents would be hard-pressed to avoid recent news stories regarding people that have suffered injury or death while in direct contact with law enforcement officials. The topic can be controversial, and in many states, people are taking legal action on behalf of victims. Recent cases nationwide may provide evidence that suggests that a spit mask, a type of hood used to restrain a person, may be the cause of wrongful death in some situations. 

In March 2020, New York police officers used a spit mask after being called to the scene where it had been reported that a man was behaving erratically. It was later determined that the man had a history of mental illness. There is no clear situational or procedural protocol in place for the use of these masks. According to reports, the man vomited inside the mask and died a few days later. 

Wills: Different people can be named as guardians

When parents in upstate New York do estate planning, they might have questions about nominating guardians. Suppose someone who is the ideal person to be the guardian of a child is not good at managing finances. Likewise, the best choice for an estate guardian might not be suitable as a guardian of children. Although two different people may be named as guardians of a person and estate finances, specific questions must be asked before appointing them and finalizing wills.

This will likely apply if the other natural parent of the child is incapable or no longer alive. One aspect to understand is that the child's guardian will have to request funds from the estate's guardian for paying expenses on behalf of the child. Matters to consider before appointing two guardians include the relationship between the two individuals.

Car accidents: Rear-end crash kills 2 children

Lives lost in preventable crashes are understandably traumatic experiences for the surviving family members. However, when children are killed in car accidents, it is usually even worse. On a recent Thursday, two children died after a pickup truck smashed into the rear of a minivan in upstate New York.

According to state police, the accident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. on the New York State Thruway. According to a preliminary accident report, two children, ages 11 and 9, were sitting in a westbound minivan's rear seat. A lane closure caused the driver of the minivan to reduced speed. Another driver in a pickup truck did not slow down and struck the rear of the van. The collision's impact pushed the van into another vehicle, forcing it into the back of a big rig.

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