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.

Litigation: the Boxing Match That Never Ends

Litigation can often be a boxing match that never ends. Imagine a scenario where you are a professional boxer in a boxing match. You start the match feeling very confident. You throw a straight punch followed by a hook, and then you pull a haymaker and a mixture of other punches that have other names of an unknown origin. To your surprise, however, your opponent pulls a Bolo punch, and you find yourself on the floor. Ready to throw in the towel, you do so, and the referee ends the match.

That’s the end of it, right? Well, no. Your opponent continues to hammer you, relentlessly. Refusing to acknowledge your surrender.  What would you say about such a scenario? What if you were to be told that such scenarios often occur in the world of litigation?

In the event you get sued, you have two options: litigate the case or settle it. You may decide to litigate, but in this scenario you settle, at which point, you enter into a settlement agreement.

You do your part and abide by the terms of the settlement. To your astonishment, however, your opponent does not discontinue the case, despite your compliance and the settlement agreement. How would that make you feel? That is exactly what transpired in the case of Martin v Harrington, 2016 NY Slip Op 04027 [2d Dept May 25, 2016].

In the Martin case, neighbors had a property line dispute. Martin claimed that due to improvements made by Harrington on his property, which included an asphalt driveway, Harrington encroached and trespassed on her property.

The neighbors fought it out in court for about six months. The parties finally agreed to settle the case. The proposition to settle was initiated by Martin’s counsel. The attorney for Martin sent a letter to Harrington proposing to settle the matter; Martin would discontinue the case if Harrington were to satisfy certain conditions. Harrington agreed and satisfied the conditions including removal of the encroachment, which cost him over $5,500.00.

About three years later, Martin complained to Harrington that he is still encroaching upon her property. Harrington’s position was that he satisfied the conditions as agreed upon. To Harrington’s surprise, Martin did not discontinue the case despite complying with the conditions.

It is parallel to our analogy with the boxer; you tap out, but your opponent is still throwing punches at you. Harrington moved the court to enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss the case as settled. Martin (who wants to have her cake and eat it too) claimed that the settlement agreement is not binding.

New York Civil Practice Law and Rules defines what constitutes a binding settlement agreement. An agreement is binding upon a party if it is in writing and signed by the party or the party’s attorney. Furthermore, the settlement agreement must contain all the material terms and must be clear that there is a mutual accord between the parties.

In the Martin case, the material terms were contained in the letter that was sent from Martin’s attorney to Harrington’s attorney. Based upon the correspondence between the attorneys, Harrington performed the tasks set forth within the settlement. Martin never objected to the settlement or to Harrington’s compliance with the conditions. The court in the Martin case therefore concluded that the settlement agreement is indeed enforceable and confirmed the dismissal of the action.

The lesson to be learned here is to make sure that your attorney is careful to ensure that the settlement agreement is absolutely binding, and then to follow-up and verify that the case is discontinued upon satisfaction of the settlement terms. You do not want to be in the position of the boxer that is being pummeled while down.

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.

A Juror Grappling With The Evidence

A Juror Grappling With The Evidence:  While serving as a juror, you will be presented with a wave of evidence that you are expected to consider and draw conclusions from. At times, the evidence may be overwhelming, and so taking a structured approach is helpful to making sense of it all.

A juror need not accept all the evidence admitted in trial as true. Rather the juror must evaluate the testimony and decide how much weight to assign to a given testimony surrounding each piece of evidence. It is important to keep in mind that a testimony may not be reflective of reality. For example, the witness may be lying, or he or she did not accurately observe the events as they transpired. The witness’s memory may have faded, or he or she may not have been clear about the facts, which could, in a juror’s mind, lessen the weight given to such evidence. There is not a set rule based upon which a juror is supposed to evaluate the evidence. A juror is expected to decide the reliability of information based upon the tests he or she applies on a daily basis, and this is molded by their life experiences and background.

There are various questions that a juror should answer about a given witness when weighing the witness’s testimony: (1) whether the witness has an interest in the outcome of the case; (2) whether the witness has a bias or prejudice; (3) the age of the witness; (4) the appearance of the witness; (5) the demeanor of the witness when relaying his or her testimony; (6) the opportunity and the circumstance under which the witness observed the facts he or she is testifying to; and (7) the probability of the witness’s testimony in light of the remaining evidence.

The evidence presented may conflict with other evidence. Therefore, the juror should try to reconcile the evidence, weighing it all in turn. However, if the juror is unable to fit the conflicting evidence, then the juror must decide which evidence to accept and which evidence to reject.

At times, a given testimony is not contradicted with an opposing testimony, but still appears unproven. A jurordoes not need to accept unopposed testimony. Each member of the jury must assign weight to the testimony, especially when it is not opposed, and a juror can reject the testimony in its entirety, as untrue, if they so deem. The important thing to remember as a juror is to weigh each testimony and each piece of evidence.

A case may involve events that have occurred at a certain location. The juror should refrain from visiting the location, because the present condition of the location may be different from what it was at the time that the events occurred. Therefore, the juror must rely only upon the evidence presented at trial in order to assess the condition and circumstance under which the events occurred.

A case may also involve heightened media attention.   Therefore, if necessary, a juror may be instructed to refrain from gathering information about the case through the newspaper, radio, television, or social media. A juror is not permitted to conduct his or her own research about a given matter or topic, whether through books, magazines or the Internet. As a precaution, the juror is asked to turn off electronic devices. As mentioned above, the juror must only draw his or her conclusions from the evidence admitted at trial.

Do not be overwhelmed. Remember, there are other jurors with whom you will have the opportunity to discuss and assess the evidence. You are not on your own.

 

“A Juror Grappling With The Evidence” was Posted by Michael B Schulman, Managing Attorney