David Schwartz: We need car insurance reform, not higher rates

From Queens Chronicle:

By David Schwartz

Alice’s Law — the bill named after a 71-year-old Queens grandmother killed in a staged car accident — is an example of the common-sense, no-fault reform required in New York. It stipulates that a person who stages an accident with the intent to commit insurance fraud is guilty of a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.

But while this necessary legislation remains pending in the state Legislature, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association is supporting counterproductive measures — like the so-called SUM bill — that will put money in its members’ pockets.

New York citizens do not need the additional insurance coverage, known as SUM, for supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist. They need legislation that will put an end to the accident-staging enterprises which endanger the public’s well-being and lead to increasing insurance costs.

Gov. Cuomo is currently deliberating on the SUM auto insurance requirements, which passed by a slim margin at the end of New York’s legislative session. The real benefactors are hiding behind the veil of public concern. Instead of protecting New Yorkers, this misguided legislation would merely add to the outrageous insurance fees. This is not about protection; rather, this is about one group profiting from New York’s already overburdened drivers.

The NYSTLA, as a primary supporter of the SUM bill, claims this is one type of insurance the public should not be without — that SUM coverage should be automatically included in everyone’s insurance plan.

In 2011, the Insurance Research Council ranked New York as one of five states with the lowest percentage of uninsured drivers: only 5 percent. Should all auto insurance owners be forced into purchasing coverage just in case they happen to collide with the underinsured or that statistically insignificant 5 percent?

This bill is basically formatted around one big “What if?” scenario from a protection standpoint. So what is this really about?

The net results would be two-fold. More people would purchase the SUM coverage out of fear of falling victim to an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, while insurers will be exposed to additional liabilities under the new law, forcing them to raise consumer rates. And make no mistake — the New York trial lawyers will certainly be waiting to benefit from any litigation that emerges from liability claims.

If the goal is to protect New York drivers, something must be done to stop the no-fault fraud crisis. Just this year, an auto-fraud ring worth over $250 million was discovered in the city, the largest of its kind yet found in the Empire State.

A current annual report from the state Department of Financial Services explains that “Reports of no-fault fraud totaled 85 percent of health insurance fraud reports and more than half of reports of fraud of all types. In sum, it is the biggest single fraud issue faced by the department.”

New York’s no-fault system is actively abused by the fraudulent enterprises that participate in no-fault fraud and the trial lawyers who benefit from the resulting litigation.

It’s time for real reform and real accountability.

David Schwartz is an attorney and the spokesman for New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud, as well as a founding partner at Gotham Government Relations & Communications and Gerstman Schwartz & Wink in Roslyn, LI.

Learn more at NYSAIF.org

NY POST: David Schwartz on Kennedy Hospital Child Endangerment Flap

Gerstman Schwartz & Wink Founding Partner David Schwartz in New York Post Today:

From the NY Post:

Two nurses say a healthy dose of money and a public apology on the “Today” show will help cure the “pain and suffering’’ they’ve endured since Douglas Kennedy moved his newborn son out of their hospital, The Post has learned.

But that’s not enough for Cari Luciano and Anna Lane. Their proposal also includes a weird demand that Kennedy, a Fox News Channel reporter, spend two weeks collecting garbage.

The son of slain Sen. Robert Kennedy was charged with child endangerment and physical harassment after an altercation with the nurses when he took the infant, Bo, out of the maternity ward at Northern Westchester Hospital on Jan. 7.

The case centers on whether he was authorized to do so.

“Douglas is confident that he will be fully exonerated at trial. He had no interest in making any kind of deal,” a Kennedy friend said. “This proposal smacked of a shakedown.”

Kennedy has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor count of child endangerment and two counts of harassment, which are violations. He is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 22 in Mount Kisco.

In a secret March 19 “settlement proposal” drafted by Luciano and Lane’s lawyer, Elliott Taub, and obtained by The Post, the nurses offered to withdraw their allegations — for a price.

Taub wants “a monetary settlement to each nurse the sum of which is to be agreed upon and paid, commensurate with each nurse’s physical and psychological injuries, pain and suffering, and particularly posttraumatic stress disorders.

“The nurses,” Taub said, “agree to keep this settlement amount strictly confidential.”

The deal would force Kennedy to plead guilty to “some charge in exchange for the nurses withdrawing their criminal complaints . . . with a sentence or penalty of community service to be set by the DA and/or Court — preferably collecting garbage daily in Mount Kisco or Chappaqua for at least two weeks,” said Taub, who did not respond to a request for comment.

The plan also demands Kennedy donate to a children’s health fund.

Moreover, it would require Kennedy, who has five children, to publicly apologize to the nurses on the “Today” show for his actions, including allegedly twisting the arm of one nurse and kicking the other.

Kennedy rejected the deal.

A spokesman for Westchester County DA Janet Fiore declined to comment. But a source close to the case said there was “not even a hint” of plea bargaining.

A former Brooklyn prosecutor criticized the nurses’ attempts to settle the case for a price.

It’s wrong,’’ said David Schwartz, who is not involved in the case.

“You can’t exchange a quid pro quo of this magnitude. It’s a play for money, and they’re not going about it the right way.”

It’s the prosecutor who determines whether to pursue the case or accept a plea, he added.

Read more from NY Post..

Here’s video from the nurse’s appearance on NBC’s Today:

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David Schwartz: Wal-Mart's Low-Price Promise: The Changing Face of Poverty

Gotham’s David Schwartz editorial on the effects of Wal-Mart  in the Bayside Brooklyn Patch:

patchAs a small business advocate, I have witnessed worrisome changes in the business arena, but recent poverty projections for the United States, especially when accompanied by past data, are disturbing – particularly because one of the primary driving forces of this trend shows no intention of curbing its carcinogenic market structure.

In fact, it is quietly lobbying for entry in Willets Point and East New York.

While the public awaits the grimly projected 2011 poverty statistics due to be released this fall, The Associated Press asked experts to comment on the issue. If their estimations are correct, roughly 50 years of the War on Poverty could unravel at America’s feet.

According to the surveyed think-tanks, economists and other academics, the poverty level could reach as high as 15.7 percent, but a 0.1 percent increase alone could bring America back to the 1960s. In 2009, the Census Bureau reported the largest number of people living in poverty ever recorded: 43.6 million. Statistics such as these leave individuals like myself wondering how the United States ended up on such a path.

Little did America know that the face of poverty is both ever-changing and currently routed in the low-price promise, the very same promise that Wal-Mart is offering to New York and its developers…

Read the rest at Bayside Patch…

Video – David Schwartz on New York's New First Lady, Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee the star of the food network’s “semi-home-made” is now our semi-first lady. She says she plans to use her platform to highlight a pet issue helping to make food more affordable for New Yorkers. Only issue? She’s Governor Cuomo’s girlfriend not his wife. So should she take on a traditional first lady role?

David Schwartz from Gotham Government Relations vigorously defends Sandra Lee to take on all ceremonial duties.