Snapchat: The Need for More Penalties for Distracted Driving

In New York State, a driver is not permitted to use his/her phone (or other portable handheld device) to talk, text, play games or to take pictures while operating a motor vehicle.  Fines for violation of this law can reach $150 for even a first offense. Is that fine high enough for the many types of distracted driving?

It has long been a known fact that the law often fails to keep up with technology. As technology advances and types of apps used by individuals on their phone changes, the law struggles to match pace.  A classic example of this failure is the rise of Snapchat and the dangers it poses to every driver on the road.

Most New Yorkers are aware that they can use their cell phone to text and send pictures to others using their phone with relative ease.  Most are also aware that you can send messages through a number of different apps on their phone including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, among others.

snapchat distracted driving, Michael B. Schulman, Melville, New York, attorney

However, there is another newer app that is growing in seemingly ever-increasing popularity, especially among the younger generation: Snapchat.

Snapchat is a picture sharing app that can be downloaded on both Apple and Android phones. It functions like many other apps and is designed to share pictures between users with a quick caption.  The catch however, is that whichever phone apps download the Snapchat picture they can no longer look at the picture at their leisure and save it to the file their phone, as Snapchat only makes the picture available on the phone for a maximum of 10 seconds once it has been opened.  Afterwards, the “snap” is deleted.  A user can save the picture in their phone, but only if they act quickly enough to save it before the 10-second timer expires.  In addition, the snap must be opened within 24 hours, or the snap will be deleted before it is even viewed. This adds a certain sense of urgency for Snapchat users to stay on the app and see the pictures that are made available for a limited time.

So now, if you are a young (or old) driver who receives a snap, this understandably creates a sense of urgency to open and view the picture as quickly as possible and attempt to save it before the picture is deleted forever.  This would therefore pose an even greater danger to a driver who opts to view a picture on Snapchat rather than on more “traditional” forms of distracted driving.

The more “traditional” forms of distracted driving such as reading a text, speaking on the phone or even viewing a picture message, while certainly not safe by any stretch, and rightfully outlawed, at least allow a driver to swivel between the road and their phone.  Snapchat does not afford a driver that opportunity.

In a 10-second window, a driver being distracted by “traditional” means may alternate between their phone and the road multiple times without fear of missing the message.  However, a Snapchat user, due to the rules of the app, will be more focused on the picture to view and attempt to save the snap before time expires and spend considerably less time focused on the road.  As every driver knows, a lot can happen on the road in ten seconds.

Due to the nature of Snapchat and the unique potential danger it poses by its functionality, it is arguably much more dangerous than the traditional forms of distracted driving.  Because of this increased danger are additional penalties needed for drivers who knowingly engage in such behavior?

On one hand, there is the argument that distracted driving is distracted driving and a law is already in place that is designed to curtail the practice.  On the other hand is the fact that lawmakers did not know or consider the implications of such an app when the law was made.

Renting a Car, Know Your Rights

You are on vacation, and like most people you rent a car. As part of the rental process, you show the agent at the counter your driver’s license. You are asked, “are there going to be any other drivers of the vehicle?” and you say “no, just me” before leaving with the car. The question you should be asking is: if you are renting a car, do you know your rights?

Now let’s say you are traveling with a spouse, a friend, a significant other, or any other properly licensed driver, and they ask you if they can take the car just to “pick something up; they’ll be right back”.

Sound familiar?

Now let’s say that the unregistered driver of the rental car gets into an accident and causes damage to a third party or to the car you rented, which you know would be completely covered if you were the driver.

The insurance company now tells you that you are personally responsible for the damages to the car and/or third party because you let “an unauthorized” person driver operate the rented car.

DON’T FALL FOR THAT LINE! Under New York State Law, you are protected.

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) section 370 requires rental car companies to provide insurance for their vehicles, including minimum liability coverage for bodily injury. The VTL further requires that such insurance “insure to the benefit” of the permissive user of the vehicle.

The New York State Court of Appeals held in MVAIC v Continental Nat’l. Am. Group Co. that where the lessee of a rental vehicle PERMITS another person to operate it, the rental company is deemed to have constructively consented to such use, and here is the important part, folks, that is EVEN WHERE THE LEASE VIOLATED THE RENTAL AGREEMENT BY ENTRUSTING THE RENTAL CAR TO ANOTHER.

In following the lead of the Court of Appeals, the Appellate Division of the State of New York, stated in Lancer Ins. Co. v Republic Franklin Ins Co., the fact the lessee was the only individual expressly authorized to operate the rental car in the case does not make the driver a non-permissive.

Know your rights? Do not assume the insurance company of the rental car company is protecting you or your rights.

For any further questions, or any other issues, please contact us at 631-622-2080 and please like us on Facebookfor more great law insight.

 

“Renting a Car, Know Your Rights” was written by Michael B. Schulman, Managing Attorney.

Michael B. Schulman is now a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of New York

We are pleased to announce that Michael B. Schulman is now a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of New York. As always, Michael B. Schulman & Associates, P.C. is here to assist you with regard to any real estate transaction from the time of sale to closing, or to assist in your obtaining a lease for residential or commercial spaces. Please feel free to contact us at 631-622-2080.

Maybe you are a first time buyer or seller of a home, condo or coop.  Maybe you are buying a property to flip. Whether it is a short sale, a multi-family home or a commercial property, you want to work with a group of lawyers who are competent and knowledgeable with regard the various transactions.  Michael B. Schulman & Associates, P.C. pride themselves on  representing  you and only you. We do not represent the bank or lending institution. You can rest assured of getting our complete and undivided loyalty and attention.

Our attorneys will review and prepare all of the necessary documents to ensure you a proper closing. From the contract to loan application, the  title report to the final closing documents, the attorneys at Michael B. Schulman & Associates look to eliminate any “cloud” on title. We review the survey and legal description to make sure they match. We look to make sure that there are no open permits, building applications or violations and see to it that the building has all of the proper certificates.

If there are any obstacles prior to closing, whether you are the seller or buyer, we have the expertise to help you overcome those obstacles. 

If you are a Landlord of a multi-family unit, single family unit or commercial property, Michael B. Schulman & Associates can assist you in reviewing and/or drafting the lease to ensure that the terms are what you want, prior to you signing. 

Our goal at Michael B. Schulman & Associates is to consummate the deal. However, as we all know, sometimes things do not go as planned. If the necessity arises we carefully prepared to litigate a deal that goes “bust”.

Michael is a well-respected attorney in the community who has obtained a wealth of experience in his 30 plus years as a New York attorney. As the founding member of the firm, Michael has taken it upon himself to embody the cornerstone motif of “Professional, Personal and Proficient” in all aspects of his life.

Michael is happily married with two grown children and four small dogs. He is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his first grandchild due in the summer of 2015.

An avid golfer who loves to show off his framed “Hole in One” ball, Michael is a proud member of the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club where he was treasurer and held a position on the Board of Governors. Michael enjoys working in his yard, creative carpentry and traveling when the opportunity arises.

Unlike Michael roots for the underdogs, like the NY Mets. Baseball season brings out a “healthy competition” in the office.

 

“Michael B. Schulman is now a licensed Real Estate Broker in the State of New York” was written by Michael B. Schulman, Managing Attorney.

Battling the Banks with HAMP UPDATE

Recently we have explored the benefits and pitfalls of the HAMP program, and at times it can seem like a distressed homeowner has no hope when the banks make all the rules and then break these rules at will. Fortunately, that is not always the case.

In Putnam County, New York Michael B Schulman and Associates were able to score a major victory for the little guy against the corporate behemoths who all too often run roughshod over average, middle class Americans.

In that case, the defendants endured a tumultuous run of bad luck that started with their involvement with a ponzi scheme in which they lost most of their life’s savings. This initial financial misfortune put the defendants, a normal working class family with two children, on the edge of homelessness, as they fell behind on their mortgage. But they still had hope when they had found a “white knight” in the form a man who offered his services to get them a loan modification to save their home.

That “white knight” quickly morphed into a villain, however, as he pocketed the family’s money for himself as part of a multiple state mortgage modification scam that defrauded dozens of families of hundreds of thousands of dollars before the FBI caught up to him.

Unfortunately, that arrest gave little comfort to the defendants. They had relied on the fraudster and now were in full-blown foreclosure and having never answered the court in the case, they were on the verge of losing their home. It was at this point where, with the help of Michael B Schulman and Associates, they applied for a HAMP loan modification. With adequate income and the home within the appropriate property value metrics, it had every indication of being an easy approval.

However, the bank denied the defendant’s application, and not only that, but they only did so after taking months and months to render a decision. The time during which the court action should have been stayed as a settlement was worked out, but the Court instead ruled against the defendants, granting the bank’s motion for an Order of Reference, normally a death knell for the homeowner, within days of the bank denying the HAMP application.

Such a sudden change of events took the defendants by surprise and spiked the curiosity of Michael B Schulman and Associates. This scenario should not have happened. There had to be a reason for such a whirlwind of events to transpire, and sure enough there was.

The bank that was at the center of the foreclosure had sold the note and mortgage along the way as the court action progressed. In fact, the mortgage and note were sold four times since the original court papers were filed with the Putnam County Clerk. Compounding the issue was the fact that neither the court or the defendants were never told that the mortgage and note had been sold.

The entire time that they were trying to get a loan modification in good faith, the bank never owned the mortgage or the note, and yet continued to “negotiate” with the family.

Obviously, the bank was not playing fair. But would they get away with it, as they have gotten away with so much in the past? Not this time.

Michael B Schulman and Associates was able to bring an order to show cause before the Court in Putnam County asking the Court to vacate the default judgment and order of reference in the case and effectively start the case over.

This would allow the defendant family to go through the foreclosure action with an attorney and allow them to negotiate a loan modification in good faith with the actual owner of the mortgage and note. The Court granted the application.

The family that has endured so much hardship at the hands of fraudsters and then dirty dealing by the banks will now get the chance to triumph over their adversity and force the bank to treat them fairly and to get the HAMP loan modification that they deserve to save their home.

 

“Battling the Banks with HAMP UPDATE” was written by Michael B. Schulman, Managing Attorney.

Read our previous article detailing the HAMP program, “Don’t Let the Banks Win, Get Home Help With HAMP,” here.