• Categories

  • Pages

  • Archives

Our Wishes for a Happy Hanukkah


May you and your family be blessed with joy, health, happiness and prosperity – Happy Hanukkah!

The BNI team

Report/Don’t Report A Vehicular Accident? Know Your State’s Rules.

car crash2

by Louis C. Amen (Ret., Highway Accident Investigation Squad Detective, NYPD)

Car accidents can and will happen to even the best of drivers.  You may be driving in accordance with the rules of the road but another driver may not, thereby triggering a chain of events that ends in a vehicular collision.

Civilians are responsible for reporting accidents* either to a police officer at the accident scene or to their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) central office.  Is there a central source of reporting information by state online?

Yes. We recommend a private site: DMV.org, to determine contact and forms information and then access any state’s DMV via links to the agency’s services such as obtaining one’s driver’s abstract, re-registering a vehicle, obtaining accident reporting forms, etc. (For example: If you wish to report a vehicular accident directly to the DMV in Alabama, select Alabama as the state of inquiry, and DMV.org will redirect you to the crash report request form).

*Depending on your states rules and regulations. See below.

Is is mandatory to report a vehicular accident?

1. Personal injury/property damage not involved: Possibly. The requirement to report a vehicular accident is based on the individual state’s directives regarding collision reporting and the necessity is generally based on the vehicle damage estimate. E.g., in NYS, it is not necessary (although allowed) to report an accident in which the projected cost of damage is less than $1,001.00.

2. Personal injury/property damage (excluding vehicle) involved. Yes.  A report of the crash incident is required in all states, when personal injury has occurred to any parties involved, including pedestrians, bicyclists and others absent participation in the original vehicular collision.

What information should I obtain at an accident scene wherein police were not notified?

From the driver involved:

  • Driver’s full name and current and policy address
  • Registrant information – name and current and policy address
  • Insurance information, including insurance company name and code, policy number and policy period
  • Telephone number(s) of all involved
  • Email information or all involved
  • Emergency or “other notification” contact information for all involved
  • Name and contact information for all vehicle occupants, others involved in the collision and witnesses.
  • Photos (to include full vehicle and areas of damage shots, of the parties involved and relevant ground markings and street signs and traffic devices that may be present at the location, to include but not limited to traffic lights, traffic signs, crossing guards…)

What are the relevant traffic accident forms I may need? (Using NYS as an example.) 

If an involved party is required or desires to submit vehicular accident reports as, for example, required by your auto insurance carrier, the following documents may be necessary:

  • Traffic accident report form
  • Witness statements
  • Liability release
  • Waiver of financial responsibility

- If you are in an accident in NY involving only property damage, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires you to stop and exchange information with the involved drivers.

- If a parked vehicle or other property is damaged, or a domestic animal is injured, you must locate the owner or contact the police.

Important facts regarding vehicular collisions in New York State (yes, this includes, New York City):

  • If property damage of any person is $1,001 or more all the involved drivers are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to file a Report (MV 104).
  • If the report is required per the above criterium, then said report must be submitted to the NYS DMV within 10 days post-incident.
  • DMV can suspend your driver’s license if you fail to report an accident.
  • If person is injured or killed, you are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to immediately report the collision to the police and you may not leave the scene unless directed by police.
  • It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident that causes personal injury or death.
  • The DMV does make or assist in liability determination of a vehicular accident.

How do I obtain a copy of an accident report form?

  • You can obtain the form online – again, we suggest you use the DMV.org site.
  • Go in person to the local police agency and or precinct where accident occurred and request a blank form and instructions.

I realize that people are understandably upset and distracted when a collision occurs.  By remaining as calm as possible and employing basic common sense, you should be able to arrive at a decision based on the facts before you in determining whether to report an accident on scene or privately afterwards.  When in doubt, or substantial property damage and or injuries are involved, call 911.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Federal and State FOIA Request Tips & Info.

foia process2

Before submitting a FOIA request, we suggest the following tips to expedite the information return: (We are citing US DOJ regulations.)

1. Research the agency’s website for the information you are seeking. (FOIA requires that federal agencies release certain information automatically, without the need for you to make a request so before you put in the effort to obtain that which is readily and immediately available. check the agency’s site.)

2. Create and submit a pre-printed FOIA request form on your firm’s letterhead.  (There is no specific form that must be used to make a request. The request simply must be in writing, reasonably describe the information you seek, and comply with specific agency requirements. Most federal agencies now accept FOIA requests electronically, including by web form, e-mail or fax.)

3. Follow up in five to six weeks post request submission if you have not received the information sought.  (The time it takes to respond to each request varies depending on the complexity of the request itself and the backlog of requests already pending at the agency. In some circumstances, the agency will be able to respond to the request within the standard time limit established by the FOIA – approximately one month. In other instances more time may be needed before the request can be completed. When an agency requires an extension of time, it will notify you in writing and provide you with an opportunity to modify or limit the scope of your request. Alternatively, you may agree to a different timetable for the processing of your request.)

Obtaining FOIA records (contact information):

For Federal Agency Records: From the Department of Agriculture to the Tennessee Valley Authority to the USPTO:   here.

For State Agency Records: Research the agency’s contact information independently as there is no there is no central state-by-state agency FOIA office registry (given the varying agencies by state) and then avail yourself of the following useful tools:

Happy hunting!

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” –  John F. Kennedy




Wishing our readers a happy, healthy, safe and joyous Thanksgiving,

Lina, Louis, Rich, Ernest, Julia and Judy and the entire the BNI team-family.

How Confidential Are Our Medical Records Really?

confidential medical records

1. Introduction To Healthcare Privacy

Since the introduction of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), many people presume, incorrectly, that all or most of the medical information that they have provided to medical professionals, insurance companies or employers is protected.

The fact of the matter is that individuals often trade confidentiality in return for things such as insurance coverage, employment opportunities, government benefits, or work site health and safety investigations.


2. What types of health and medical information exist?

Health professionals create medical records when they treat patients that generally include medical history, lifestyle details (such as smoking or involvement in high-risk sports), and family medical history. These records may also  contain  lab results, medications prescribed and surgeries.

Health and medical information is also collected from individuals when they apply for disability, life, or accident insurance through private insurers or government programs.

Additionally, individuals often generate health and medical-related information themselves via online research, joining support groups and using mobile apps , (zocdoc.com for example has the user provide significant medical details before scheduling an appointment with one of their participating providers).

3. Who may have access to health and medical information?

a. HIPAA covered entities and their business associates

Healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses have access to medical records and health information but are also required to comply with HIPAA.

b. Insurance companies

Insurance companies usually require individuals to release records before they will issue a policy or make a payment under an existing policy. Most insurance companies must comply with HIPAA as health plans, but certain types of insurers are not required to comply with HIPAA.

It is important to also your state laws. To find the applicable state’s insurance department, visit the. National Association of Insurance Commissioners website.

c. The Medical Information Bureau

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB Group, Inc.) is a database of medical information shared by life and health insurance companies.

  • The MIB is subject to HIPAA as a business associate of its member health insurance companies.
  • MIB files do not include the totality of one’s medical records as held by a health care provider. Rather it consists of codes signifying certain health conditions.
  • A decision on whether to insure is not supposed to be based solely on the MIB report.

The MIB does not have a file on everyone, and won’t have information on someone who has not applied for individually underwritten life or health insurance in the last seven years. However, people who believe they have an MIB file will want to be sure it is correct.

Individuals can obtain a copy for free once a year by calling (866) 692-6901 or ordering it through MIB’s website.

d. Prescription drug database companies

Two companies, Milliman (IntelliScript) and Ingenix (MedPoint) buy prescription information from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and compile it into reports.  They sell these prescription drug purchase history reports to insurance companies.

e. Financial institutions

Financial transactions are likely to reveal information about where an individual goes for healthcare. This kind of information is not covered under HIPAA. However, the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB) requires financial institutions to notify individuals of information-sharing practices and provide an opt out for certain third party sharing.

f. Government agencies

Government agencies on all levels (local, state, and federal) may request or receive certain types of health or medical information. For example, government agencies may request medical records or information to verify claims a person makes through Medicare, MediCal, Social Security Disability, and Workers Compensation.

g. Educational institutions

Educational institutions may have records that contain vaccination histories, information about physical examination for sports, counseling for behavioral problems, and records of visits to the school nurse among other things. Privacy of education records is under the control of the U.S. Department of Education and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  HIPAA does not cover education records.  For more information about FERPA, visit the Department of Education’s website on FERPA.

h. The court system and law enforcement

When a person is involved in litigation, an administrative hearing, or a worker’s compensation hearing and his or her medical condition is an issue, the relevant parts of a medical record may be introduced in court.

In addition, law enforcement officials may receive health information in situations such as an instance of abuse, a death, a gunshot or stabbing.

If records are for a legal proceeding, they become a part of public record. Individuals should consult legal counsel for more information.

i. Employers

Employers usually obtain medical information about their employees by asking employees to authorize disclosure of medical records. This can occur in several ways not covered by HIPAA. Depending on state law, employers may have to establish procedures to keep employee medical records confidential. Employees should ask prospective employers about the company’s medical records privacy policy.

j. Marketers and data brokers

Health- and medical-related information may be passed on to marketers and data brokers when individuals participate in informal health screenings or otherwise voluntarily release information in a situation that doesn’t fall under HIPAA or stronger state law.

k. Websites and mobile applications

A tremendous amount of health-related information is available on the Internet. Many sites and discussion forums are available for individuals to share information on specific diseases and health conditions. Websites dispense a wide variety of information, but they also collect a wide variety of information. There is no guarantee of confidentiality when a site isn’t subject to medical privacy laws (and most aren’t).

Personal Health Records (PHRs). PHRs allow consumers to store, manage, and share their health information.  Individuals manage their own PHRs which is what distinguishes them from electronic health records (EHR) that a health care provider controls and populates. Various companies offer PHRs, and features vary.  However many PHRs offer individuals the ability to store and transmit medical history information, prescription information, test results and imaging, drug alerts, immunization records, and treatment plans.
These types of aggregated electronic health records pose a number of privacy risks, here are a few:

  • HIPAA and/or state health privacy laws may not apply to a PHR.
  • The website operator could be asked to turn over customer records as part of a legal proceeding.
  • Website privacy policies are subject to change.

The World Privacy Forum’s Personal Health Records Page contains helpful information.

l. Anyone else to whom an individual reveals the information

It is important for individuals to understand HIPAA’s limits.  The best policy is ask questions and do a little research before revealing health or medical information.   There are many instances in which people create or release health or medical information and there are no applicable privacy laws.  In these cases, it is best to look for and understand any relevant privacy policies the person or company has agreed to follow.

The bottom line is become an informed medical consumer.  For the sake of expediency, we often provide access to our health information and that may be a mistake that cannot be corrected should that data become involved in any sort of civil or criminal proceeding or funds (disability, death benefits…) determination.  Research before you release your private medical records.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy

As always, stay safe.




Best Day of the Week To…

It’s not magic – just people science.  Believe it or not, you can save a lot of money (and time) by doing certain things on certain days.

Our research combed the records of numerous publications from Forbes to USA Today and below are our results for the  best days:


For traveling by plane

Wednesday is the best day of the week to buy airline tickets.


For moving
Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to move (…and save the most money).


For staying in a hotel
Sunday is the best day to get a good rate on a hotel room.


For hiring new employees
Wednesday is the best day of the week to post a job ad.


For firing old employees
Friday is the best day of the week to terminate an employee.


For food shopping
Sunday is the best day of the week to buy groceries.


For selling things on eBay
Sunday is the best day of the week to start & end eBay auctions.


For buying a car
Monday is the best day to buy a new car (especially on the last day of the month in September, October, or November).


For getting gas
Sunday is the best day of the week to fill up your gas tank.


For asking for a raise
Friday is the best day of the week to ask for a raise.


For going to a theme park
Monday is the best day of the week to go to Busch Gardens …and other theme parks.


For introducing a new product online
Tuesday is the best day of the week to go “live” with a new computer product or version.



For having a car wash...
Saturday is the best day of the week to have a car wash.


For having a yard sale or garage sale...
Sunday is the best day of the week to have a garage sale or yard sale.


For hosting a children’s party
Friday is the best day of the week to host kids parties.


For finding a job
Monday is the best day of the week to search for jobs.


For scheduling surgery
Tuesday is the best day of the week to have surgery.


For shopping for sales in Paris
Monday is the best day to find bargains in Paris.


For sending email
Sunday is the best day of the week to send email to your constituents …unless you have more than 5,000 constituents.


For getting married
Wednesday is the best day to get married.


For traveling
Saturday is the best day of the week to travel.


For family members
Sunday is the best day of the week to post an obituary.



For writers
Thursday is the best day of the week to launch a new book.


For podcasting...
Tuesday is the best day of the week to post a new podcast.


For getting publicity
Sunday is the best day of the week to try to get free publicity through TV news programs.


For shopping online
Monday is the best day of the week for online shopping.


For buying clothes
Thursday evening is the best day to buy new clothes.


For finding department store bargains
Saturday night is the best day of the week to shop at department stores.


For buying stocks
Friday is the best day of the week to buy stocks.


BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.


Charities Review: 25 Top Charities, Part II of II

Rounding out our two-part series on charities evaluation, this week we bring you the opposite of last week’s  report on the top 25 worst charities with the top 25 Best Charities in terms of Return on Donation (ROD), i.e. how much of your donation actually goes to the intended purpose/person rather than the costs of solicitation.

The below list was prepared (and reprinted with permission) from Forbes:

Values calculated November 2013

Rank Name Private Support ($mil) Total Revenue ($mil) Fundraising Efficiency (%)  

United Way

3,926 4,260 91

Salvation Army

1,885 4,078 89

Task Force for Global Health

1,660 1,664 100

Feeding America

1,511 1,554 98

Catholic Charities USA

1,447 4,393 95

Goodwill Industries International

949 4,895 97

Food for the Poor

891 900 97

American Cancer Society

889 925 76


827 6,240 85

World Vision

826 1,014 87

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

802 972 83

Boys & Girls Clubs of America

699 1,573 87

American National Red Cross

687 3,118 75

Habitat for Humanity International

674 1,492 83

Feed the Children

614 618 94

Compassion International

596 599 91

Nature Conservancy

536 797 84

AmeriCares Foundation

525 526 98

American Heart Association

511 618 84

Campus Crusade for Christ

503 548 91

United States Fund for UNICEF

498 502 93

Direct Relief

392 392 100

Mayo Clinic

380 3,739 92

Lutheran Services in America

373 20,980 81


369 558 94

Charities Revealed: 25 Worst Charities, Part I of II

Donation Box, concept of Donation

With the holidays just around the proverbial corner, out comes that big end of year push by the majority of charities to meet their annual  fundraising goals.  Aggressive pursuit of charitable donations is a good, honorable thing – if effective.  Americans, and people worldwide, are known for their big hearts, in times of urgency and in general.  And give we do.  To the tune of nearly a billion dollars annually.  But is this generosity really meeting the needs of the causes we support?

The most accurate measure available to us is that of Return on Donation; ROD –  the comparison of monies raised v. monies spent on solicitation of those charitable contributions.  Below is a list of the nation’s top (worst?) charities as determined by this analysis and as we can clearly see, often the charity is still operating just to exist. The intended recipients of these charities are not benefiting from the monies collected on their behalf.  (America’s Worst Charities is the result of a yearlong collaboration between the Tampa Bay Times and the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit newsroom dedicated to watchdog journalism. CNN joined the partnership in March 2013.)


Totals from the latest 10 years of available federal tax filings

Rank Charity name Total raised by solicitors Paid to solicitors % spent on direct cash aid
1 Kids Wish Network $127.8 million $109.8 million 2.5%
2 Cancer Fund of America $98.0 million $80.4 million 0.9%
3 Children’s Wish Foundation International $96.8 million $63.6 million 10.8%
4 American Breast Cancer Foundation $80.8 million $59.8 million 5.3%
5 Firefighters Charitable Foundation $63.8 million $54.7 million 8.4%
6 Breast Cancer Relief Foundation $63.9 million $44.8 million 2.2%
7 International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO $57.2 million $41.4 million 0.5%
8 National Veterans Service Fund $70.2 million $36.9 million 7.8%
9 American Association of State Troopers $45.0 million $36.0 million 8.6%
10 Children’s Cancer Fund of America $37.5 million $29.2 million 5.3%
11 Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation $34.7 million $27.6 million 0.6%
12 Youth Development Fund $29.7 million $24.5 million 0.8%
13 Committee For Missing Children $26.9 million $23.8 million 0.8%
14 Association for Firefighters and Paramedics $23.2 million $20.8 million 3.1%
15 Project Cure (Bradenton, FL) $51.5 million $20.4 million 0.0%
16 National Caregiving Foundation $22.3 million $18.1 million 3.5%
17 Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth $19.6 million $16.1 million 0.0%
18 United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association $23.1 million $15.9 million 0.6%
19 Vietnow National Headquarters $18.1 million $15.9 million 2.9%
20 Police Protective Fund $34.9 million $14.8 million 0.8%
21 National Cancer Coalition $41.5 million $14.0 million 1.1%
22 Woman To Woman Breast Cancer Foundation $14.5 million $13.7 million 0.4%
23 American Foundation For Disabled Children $16.4 million $13.4 million 0.8%
24 The Veterans Fund $15.7 million $12.9 million 2.3%
25 Heart Support of America $33.0 million $11.0 million 3.4%

Keep your hearts open – just ensure a viable ROD for your contribution.  To that end, next week in Charities Revealed, we bring you a well-researched list of the top 25 Best Charities, again, in terms of Return on Donation, ROD.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.



Happy Columbus Day!

columbus day

Special Edition: How Likely Are You To Contract Ebola? Become Informed.

This morning’s death in Texas of Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan,  marks the first death (ever) from Ebola in America.  Mr. Duncan, a Liberian man who had traveled to Texas to visit family, was the first person to be diagnosed with the disease while in the U.S. and became the first person to die of the disease in the U.S.   Before widespread panic sets in, let’s look at the facts.

How contagious is Ebola?

ebola r

Hopefully, the CDC’s optimism is called for in that the congation-effect of Ebola all comes down to something called “R0.”

The reproduction number, or “R nought,” is a mathematical term that tells you how contagious an infectious disease is. Specifically, it’s the number of people who catch the disease from one sick person, on average, in an outbreak.*

Take, for example, measles. The virus is one of the most contagious diseases known to man. It’s R0 sits around 18. That means each person with the measles spreads it to 18 people, on average, when nobody is vaccinated. (When everyone is vaccinated, the R0 drops to essentially zero for measles).

And that brings us back to Ebola. Despite its nasty reputation, the virus’s R0 really isn’t that impressive. It typically sits around 1.5 to 2.0.

Even in the current epidemic in West Africa, where the virus has been out of control, each person who has gotten sick has spread Ebola to only about two others, on average.Why is that?

Many factors contribute to the R0, such as how long you’re infectious** and how many virus particles are needed to make another person sick.

Now at this point, you’re probably thinking, “OK. But an R0 of 2 is nothing to brush off.” You’re right. R0 of 2 means one person infects two people, who then infect four people, then eight, 16, 32 — the numbers go up fast.

But that isn’t likely to happen in a place with a good public health system, a first world country because people with Ebola aren’t contagious until they show symptoms.

Ebola virus disease

Fact sheet N°103
Updated September 2014

Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.


    The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

    The current outbreak in west Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (via travelers.

    The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability. On August 8, the WHO Director-General declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

    A separate, unrelated Ebola outbreak began in Boende, Equateur, an isolated part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.



    At the time of this article, a second case of Ebola is suspected in Texas.  A sheriff’s deputy, said to have served the warrant (for physical possession of the victim) to Mr. Duncan’s home prior to his death, is now under watch for the deadly virus.  We will keep you posted.

BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.

As always, stay safe.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers