On August 21, 2017, the United States will experience the first coast to coast total solar eclipse in 99 years. It is estimated that 1.85 million to 7.4 million people will travel to locations in “the path of totality.” Although New York is not in “the path of totality,” people in New York will be able to view a partial eclipse. This rare and exciting event, however, comes with the potential danger of eye injuries including temporary or permanent blindness. It is important that you do not view the eclipse with the naked eye and that you use a solar viewer or eclipse glasses that meet the ISO 12312-2. The American Astrological Society has compiled a list of eclipse glasses and solar viewers that meet this standard:

New York Archdiocese and the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program


unnamedIf you or someone you know has been the victim of child sex abuse by a member of the Catholic clergy, it is important that you know that the New York Archdiocese has implemented a program called the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) to investigate and evaluate claims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests which cannot be brought in the courts because of the lapse of time.  Typically, these claims occurred during the childhood of persons who are now adults who still bear the lifelong shame and psychological harm of this traumatic abuse.

Donald D. Brown, Esq., senior partner in the firm of Spiegel Brown & Fichera, LLP with offices in the Mid-Hudson Valley and Manhattan, has been prosecuting claims on behalf of clergy abuse victims for the past 15 years and has obtained one of the highest reported award under the IRC Program of the Archdiocese of New York.  He has been recognized by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America for his pro bono representation of survivor’s families in the September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund, as well.

Mr. Brown is a graduate of the St. John’s University School of Law and Marist College, as well as the Catholic school system in the City of New York and Long Island.  He has established a policy of accepting these abuse cases on a reduced contingency fee basis.

Perhaps one of the most critical factors is that Mr. Brown and the firm of Spiegel Brown & Fichera, LLP have a total commitment to ABSOLUTE CONFIDENTIALITY and extend complete assurances of same from your first phone call through every stage of the proceeding.  All of your questions will be answered and there is no charge or legal fee, unless or until we obtain an award for you.

The deadline for the submission of claims to the Archdiocese of New York’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program has recently been extended to November 1, 2017.  The process is open to all claims of sexual abuse, past or present, against any priest in the Archdiocese of New York[1] whether previously reported or not.  It is critical, however, that evidence be accumulated and that the claims be documented.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of clergy abuse, please do not hesitate to call Donald D. Brown, Esq., at (845) 452-7400 for a completely confidential consultation in one of our conveniently located offices.

The Archdiocese of New York includes Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx and the seven upstate counties of Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Putnam, Ulster and Sullivan.  In addition, the Diocese of Brooklyn, announced just recently that it is establishing a similar compensation program for sex abuse victims of at least 54 priests in the Boroughs of  Brooklyn and Queens who have abused at least 280 different victims, already known, dating back as far as the 1930s.



The New York legislature has passed legislation that would make Supplemental Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist (SUM) coverage automatic in New York motor vehicle insurance policies. If the bill is signed by Governor Cuomo, insurance policies written after that date will provide SUM coverage in an amount equal to the bodily injury limits unless the insured signs a waiver.

SUM coverage protects drivers or passengers (and the spouse of a named insured) who are injured by the negligence of someone else who is either uninsured or underinsured. When the other driver is uninsured, SUM coverage will provide you with up to $25,000 (or more if you purchased additional coverage) for your accident-related injuries. Underinsured coverage comes into play when the value of your injuries exceeds the bodily injury policy limits of the negligent driver’s vehicle. In that case SUM coverage will permit you to recover up to the policy limits of your SUM coverage less the amount of the bodily injury policy limits of the negligent driver.

Time limits apply to making a SUM claim so if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident you should promptly contact a knowledgeable attorney such as the attorneys of Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP to find out if SUM coverage may apply to you.


According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), every day, nine people are killed because of distracted driving. Just five seconds of diverted attention at 55 miles per hour equates to driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded. Young drivers are especially vulnerable to being involved in distracted driving accidents. Between being more likely to use a phone while driving, more likely to drink and drive, and less likely to wear a seatbelt, young drivers pose a heightened risk on the road.

Distracted driving is any activity that can take your attention away from driving and can be visual, cognitive and/or manual. All pose a danger to those on the road but not all are not illegal in the state of New York. Visual distractions occur when a driver takes their eyes off the road. Cognitive distractions are essentially thoughts, or when the driver becomes distracted by those thoughts. Manual distractions occur when the driver takes their hands off the wheel. One example of manual distraction is the use of cell phones while driving. Though any form of distracted driving can be dangerous, New York’s distracted driving laws only apply when a law enforcement official sees a cell phone in a driver’s hand while the vehicle is in motion.

To reduce the use of cell phones while driving and resulting accidents, New York has enacted strict laws for the use of mobile electronic devices while driving. In the State of New York any form of use of a mobile electronic device is prohibited including talking on a cell phone, texting sending emails, taking pictures and playing games. In recent years, the New York legislature has harshened the penalties for using a mobile electronic device. One violation can result in 5 points on your license as well as fines. Because young drivers pose a heightened risk on roadways, a violation of this law while driving on a learner’s permit or junior license, results in an automatic 120-day suspension of their driver’s license.

According to a recent survey, while 90% of Americans find it “unacceptable” that drivers text while driving, 35% of the respondents surveyed admitted to doing just that. To keep the road safer, it is important to be a role model to young people while at the wheel. Keep the phone away and emphasize their responsibility to stay focused while driving. Turning the phone’s setting to “airplane mode” will prohibit calls and other notifications from coming in. This greatly decreases the chance that a phone will become a distraction.

In the unfortunate event that you are injured by a distracted driver, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Spiegel, Brown and Fichera, LLP for a consultation of your case free of charge.


Recent news of self-driving cars from Uber, Google, and Tesla is both exciting and a bit unnerving. Handing over the wheel to a computer can give drivers a sense that they are not in control, and therefore more unsafe. Every so often, news of a self-driving car crash emerges. However, self-driving cars are proven to be even safer than human drivers.

Google’s fleet of self-driving cars have traveled more than 1 million miles since their launch in 2009 and have only experienced 16 accidents. Interestingly, none of the incidents were the fault of the computer system. Accidents that involve self-driving cars are usually the fault of those around them, as aggressive drivers are not accustomed to the degree to which autonomous vehicles adhere to rules of the road.

Data collected over multiple years of testing shows that self-driving cars crash less often. 90% of all car crashes are caused by human error, killing 40,000 in just 2016 alone, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fact of the matter is that autonomous vehicles cannot get drowsy, distracted, drunk, or become enraged at the wheel.

However, the 2016 Tesla crash proves that these cars are not perfect in discerning their surroundings. A white tractor-trailer made a turn in front of the self-driving car, blending into the overcast sky. The car essentially did not see the danger ahead, and neither did the driver, who was watching a movie at the wheel and was killed.

Hacking is another concern car makers have about these new machines. Proof-of-concept attacks have been tested on these vehicles, showing that laser pointers can force the car to swerve, slow down, and come to a complete stop.

It is important to weigh the risks associated with self-driving cars, especially until legislation can effectively regulate the advancing technology. One of the ethical gray areas of self-driving cars is that decision making is written into the computer code of the vehicle. Although it removes the element of driver error, it requires relying on a computer rather than a human to make a judgment call in the face of potential danger. As the 2016 Tesla case showed, the vehicle’s computer did not detect an impending danger in order to avoid an accident.

In the event there is a motor vehicle accident involving a self-driving vehicle and a person is injured, the avenue for seeking compensation for those injuries depends on whether the at-fault vehicle was a self-driving vehicle or one operated by a human. If the at-fault vehicle was driven by a human, compensation can be sought by filing a claim with the driver’s automobile insurance company. However, if the at-fault vehicle was a self-driving vehicle, the cause of the accident would not be driver error, but either a faulty computer or the inability to detect an impending threat prior to an accident occurring. In this case, the claim would not be made against an individual, but the manufacturer of the self-driving vehicle. This would essentially be a product liability claim. So far though, the majority of accidents reported involving self-driving vehicles were caused by error on the part of the driver of another vehicle. If this remains the case, the majority of personal injury claims resulting from motor vehicle accidents will still be made through the driver and/or vehicle owner’s insurance company. As technology evolves, it will be interesting to see how self-driving vehicles will impact the area of personal injury law.