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

What to do before filing medical malpractice lawsuit

It is not uncommon for someone in New York or elsewhere to be in worse health after medical treatment than before. When this happens, it is only natural to want to hold the doctor or other health care provider accountable for damages. However, medical malpractice is a complicated field of the law, and it might be sensible to seek legal counsel from the onset.

Medical malpractice claims are based on negligence. This involves proving that the medical provider provided care that did not meet the standard of care that another provider would have provided under circumstances of a similar nature. Advisers suggest the first step should be to discuss the matter with the medical care provider to learn what happened, why it happened and whether it can be remedied.

Don't forget to update wills and trusts after a divorce

Ending a marriage is never an easy process, even if the divorce is amicable. It is not uncommon for people in New York and elsewhere to be so overwhelmed by property division, child custody and other issues that they push updating their wills and trusts to the back burner or forget about it altogether. There are essential estate planning matters to attend to at this challenging time.

Some of the most significant changes include beneficiaries designated on life insurance plans as well as beneficiaries on the person's IRA. With retirement plans, the spouse's consent might be required before the plans can be changed. If the ex-spouse is still named as the power of attorney, executor of the will or a trustee of the trust, it could cause problems if the testator should become incapacitated or die. Then there are transfer on death accounts that will automatically be paid out to the designated beneficiary upon the holder's death, and if that happens before it was changed, the ex-spouse might receive the funds.

Car accidents are primary causes of death among children

The Broome County Health Department, along with the New York State Police and other participants recently held an event to check on child safety seats in cars. This event arose from the concern about the fact that car accidents are responsible for the majority of deaths of children age 1 to 13 years. The lack or inappropriate use of booster seats and child safety seats may play a significant role in those statistics.

Authorities noted that only 16% of these seats are used as prescribed. The event lasted for three hours, and parents were invited to bring their vehicles for inspection and valuable advice. Those who went might have corrected errors that could save the lives of their children. Parents were asked to bring along the vehicle and car-seat manuals, and the children that use the seats.

Car accidents: Never admit responsibility

Many New York vehicle owners drive for many years without being involved in any adverse incidents. It is only natural to come to think car accidents happen only to others, and if such a driver is then involved in a crash, he or she might be unsure what to do immediately afterward. Taking the wrong steps, like admitting responsibility, could be harmful.

Under New York laws, drivers must remain at accident scenes, help injured victims (if possible) and wait for law enforcement authorities to come. Otherwise, they risk facing hit-and-run charges. Exchanging personal and insurance information with the other driver s essential, and it is a good idea to note the contact details of any witnesses. Drivers must report accidents to the police, but they do not have to agree to interviews without first speaking to their attorneys or insurance adjusters.

Wills or trusts -- which is best?

In many cases, the first stumbling block for people in New York who want to get their estate planning done is understanding the different options. Some think they have to choose between trusts and wills, not realizing that they can have both. Many people choose to incorporate trusts along with their wills because it could ensure the proper execution of their orders.

While it is crucial to have a will, it is essential to know that its purpose is only served after the testator's death. On the other hand, a trust can be valuable while the benefactor is still alive. A will rules the distribution of assets after death. In contrast, trusts can protect assets during life. A trust becomes effective upon creation and as soon as it is funded.

Determining fault in motorcycle vs car accidents challenging

The risks of severe injuries or death on New York roads are significantly higher for motorcycle riders. The lack of protection makes them more vulnerable if they should be involved in car accidents. Many such crashes occur when motorists fail to yield for bikers.

A 22-year-old motorcyclist recently lost his life in what appears to be such an accident. According to preliminary crash reports, the incident occurred on a recent Saturday evening on state Highway 206. Reportedly, the man on the motorcycle was westbound on the highway when a car made a left turn onto the highway from a side road. The motorcycle struck the vehicle in the intersection.

Researchers find growing risk of football-related brain injury

Parents have been warned about the dangers their children risk on the football field. New research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and the Carnegie Mellon University revealed that playing football is even more dangerous than previously believed. Those big hits during tackles are not the only brain injury risks, and the studies show that all the minor hits throughout the season could cause long-term damage to a player's brain.

Players have been monitored and removed from games when there are any signs of concussions, and repeat incidents have been recognized as the cause of ongoing deterioration of players' brains. However, the gradual damage caused throughout the season has largely gone unnoticed. But when researchers placed devices on the helmets of 38 football players to measure accelerative force, they found a reduction in white brain matter in more than 60% of the participants by the end of the season.

Contesting a will could be challenging for those who were left ou

Losing a loved one is naturally a traumatic experience. When a person discovers that he or she was left out of the will, the trauma is often magnified. However, challenging a will is a complicated process and best handled with legal guidance. Under New York laws, a testator has the final say over whom to name as beneficiaries in a will.

The first step is to speak to the executor who might know the reason for the disinheritance. Obtaining a copy of the will is essential. Anyone who wants to contest a will must have a valid reason. Grounds may exist if there is reasonable proof of a lack of mental capacity in the testator at the time the will was purportedly executed. This means that he or she must have been of sound mind and memory and able to understand the contents of the will when it was signed.

Premises liability: Can you sue for schoolyard injuries?

Children of all ages can suffer injuries on the playground or other areas at their schools. New York schools typically require parents to sign liability waivers at the start of each school year to avoid facing premises liability lawsuits. However, not all waivers are enforceable, and a court may deem waivers invalid if specific criteria are not met. Waivers must be explicit and unambiguous and printed clearly instead of in small print in inconspicuous places on the documents.

Waivers that meet required criteria can prevent lawsuits for ordinary negligence, but if parents can prove that a child's injuries resulted from gross negligence on the part of the school or its staff, grounds may exist. A waiver might cover an injury caused by a loose bolt that escaped the notice of a teacher who inspected the playground equipment. In contrast, the total lack of care or excessive departure from reasonable care might be deemed recklessness or gross negligence.

Car accidents: Running a red light is negligence per se

The AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety recently noted an alarming increase in fatalities due to crashes involving drivers who ignore red lights. Reportedly, 939 people lost their lives in 2017 in these kinds of car accidents. New York drivers who ignore traffic lights might be deemed negligent per se.

Running a red light and causing the death of another person can lead to criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter. It could also result in a civil lawsuit for monetary damages. The civil justice system allows the surviving family members of anyone who died as the result of another party's negligence to sue. Civil lawsuits are based on evidence of negligence; to prevail, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was negligent in a manner that caused the accident and the resulting injuries.

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