Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

I came across this interesting article on CNN.com regarding a massive class action lawsuit involving hundreds of auto bodys from nearly every State in the Country against the insurance industry and major insurance companies.  The complaint at the heart of the lawsuit concerns the use of old and/or junk parts in the repair of vehicles and steering by the insurance company to “preferred” body shops.  The body shops along with Attorney Generals representing several States have initiated this action to end both of these practices by the insurance company which they feel are unsafe and deceptive.

LKQ / USED PARTS IN THE REPAIR OF A VEHICLE

The term LKQ stands for Like Kind and Quality.  It means a replacement part that came off of a previously totaled or salvaged vehicle.  Massive salvage yards are in every corner of the country with thousands of vehicles that were deemed total losses following an auto accident.  These salvage yards remove every piece of a vehicle and post them for sale.  When a body shop or insurance company calls the salvage yard looking for a 2004 Camry headlight, they will very likely have one in stock.  Then that used headlight goes into your repaired 2004 Camry.  The insurance companies claim that they do not owe for a brand new Toyota headlight because the car being fixed is not new.  In other words, the insurance companies justify this practice by saying “we replaced a ten year old Camry headlight with another ten year old Camry headlight.”  There may be some fair rationale to that argument.  This lawsuit alleges, however, that used parts in a salvage yard are not always safe or in the best condition.  For that reason, forcing body shops to use such parts can potentially create a hazardous situation.  And lets be honest, if a tree falls on your house and you make a homeowners claim, would you expect your contractor to use 30 year old wood while re-constructing your house or brand new materials?  Junk parts are just that – junk.

STEERING TO PREFERRED BODY SHOPS

If you report a car accident to an insurance company one of the first things that you may hear is – “we’ll be happy to refer you to a body shop for your repairs which will be guaranteed for life.”  Sounds great!  One of the most difficult insurance companies in the State, Progressive, even advertises their repair centers on TV.  The idea is just drop off your car and we’ll give it back to you with a lifetime warranty.  You’ll have no idea who fixed your car or what parts they used, but they hope you won’t mind this trickery since they offer a lifetime warranty.  The insurance companies want you to use their preferred shops because they have a mutually beneficial agreement with them.  We guarantee that we will send you business each month and in return we expect that you will write affordable estimates and use the parts the insurance companies want them to use.  This means, for example, using junk parts or repairing a door in 1 hour instead of 3 hours.  The fear is that this creates unsafe or sloppy repairs.  This is a very important practice for the insurance companies and adjusters are watched for how many cars they are able to steer to these preferred shops.

I do not write this under the assumption that preferred shops are bad or dangerous in any way.  In fact, many terrific body shops are on preferred lists with insurance companies.  It is important, however, that the vehicle owner understand who is repairing the car and how is the vehicle going to be repaired.

Also, Rhode Island, does offer vehicle owners some protections.  Depending on the age and mileage of your car (under 3 years, 36,000) miles, insurance companies can not use certain alternative replacement parts.  They will have to use genuine Toyota or Ford parts.  That said, if your car has over 36k miles the insurance companies are free to use junk parts or aftermarket parts (generic parts made by companies other than the vehicle manufacturer).  I am curious how this lawsuit will play out and if it will effect the insurance industry practice in the future.

My office handles hundreds of car accidents each year and we always help our clients with the property damage claim as well as the personal injury claim.  If you have questions or concerns about the damage to your vehicle following an auto accident and the repairs that it will receive, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Considering that most New Englanders now feel they are living in Alaska, it is not surprising that snow and ice are causing a lot of car accidents in the past weeks.  This has led to a common recurring question – why am I at fault for an accident caused by snow or ice?  It is a reasonable question.  If your car slides on ice and you are unable to come to a stop despite your absolute best efforts, then why should you be responsible if you rear end someone.  You couldn’t help the slide, after all.

As reasonable an argument as that may be, the reality is that anyone who operates a vehicle in snow and ice willingly takes on the risk that comes with those conditions.  We all know that it is dangerous to drive in the snow and therefore we take responsibility if we lose control of our car.  Any injuries or property damage that are caused will be the responsibility of the person who lost control in the snow.

Aside from this, auto accidents caused by snow and ice are subject to the same rules of the road as any other car accident.  If you hit a patch of ice and slide through a stop sign striking another vehicle, you will be responsible for the damages caused.  Rhode Island does not become a no-fault state because of snow and ice.  If you have been hurt in a car accident caused during the recent snow storms, contact our office for a free consultation.

Much like the seemingly never-ending construction on Reservoir Avenue around our office, our driveway has now been torn up creating a huge hole. It led me to think about the dangers of such environments and how the law approaches holes and other defects on property.

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Slip and fall cases can often be very tricky and in order to obtain fair compensation for your injuries, these cases will often require a lawsuit. In order for a landlord to be responsible for your injuries, in part, he or she must have known or should have known about the defect causing the fall and subsequent injury. If aware of the defect, the landlord must notify and warn all visitors or immediately fix the defect so that it is no longer dangerous. It is their duty to protect guests from known dangers. One exception to this rule is the “open and obvious” doctrine.

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held that a landlord is under no obligation to warn against an open and obvious condition on the premises. Stating further that the duty is on the plaintiff to act as a reasonable and prudent person. A landlord may be responsible if he failed to warn or repair of a defect that injured a person. That landlord, however, may not be responsible if the defect is so large or easy to see that there is no reason the plaintiff should have missed the defect. In other words, the defect is so large and easily visible that the plaintiff was negligent for not seeing it in advance and taking steps to avoid it.

Slip and fall in Rhode Island as you can now see requires a defect large enough that the landlord should have been aware of the defect but not so large that the plaintiff should have clearly avoided the defect. Now you can see why many of these cases end up in litigation. My office regularly takes these complex cases to trial and would be happy to talk to you about the injuries you sustained in a slip and fall.

By the way, I hereby warn any potential visitors that for the next few days our driveway has a dangerous defect! That said, I probably did not need to warn because a RI Court would likely find the defect open and obvious.

Welcome news this morning as I was reading the Turn to 10 webpage. It appears that RI Lawmakers have put in place mechanisms to check and ensure that Rhode Island drivers have active automobile insurance coverage. Failure to maintain active auto insurance can result in suspension of your driver’s license. A link to the story can be found here.

This is certainly welcome news since 1 in 5 vehicles on the road in Rhode Island is currently uninsured. Every week I have to give the extremely upsetting news to a car accident client that the at fault driver did not have auto insurance at the time of the accident. That means that despite thousands of dollars in vehicle damage and serious bodily injury, the at fault driver will not be able to compensate the victim. Luckily, on many occasions my clients have uninsured motorist coverage on their policy and they are able to receive compensation through their own insurance company. Many clients, however, do not have this coverage and are out of luck.

Theoretically, you can sue the at fault driver for damages with or without insurance. Unfortunately, this is a time consuming and complex process. There are also quite a few costs associated with a lawsuit. Drivers who do not possess auto insurance on their vehicle are also very unlikely to have any money or assets since a person of wealth would never risk driving their vehicle without insurance. So, you have a time consuming and complex lawsuit against a defendant with no money. That is why a personal injury attorney is unlikely to help you if there is no insurance.

One thing you can do to avoid being in this position is to call your insurance company or agent and make certain that you have uninsured motorist on your policy for BOTH property damage and personal injury. You may be very surprised to see that this can cost as little as $100/year. While uninsured motorist is not required by law in the State of Rhode Island, an extra $100/year might just save you tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid property damage, medical bills and lost wages.

That said, it is good to see Rhode Island taking proactive steps to reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road. Other states also have similar programs. In some states the insurance company is required to notify the DMV when a policy is cancelled, not renewed, etc. The DMV will investigate and if the person does not have a policy with a different company, the license will be suspended.

License suspension is a much more serious harm than the $500 fine currently given to those in Rhode Island caught driving without insurance. If you are caught driving on a suspended license, you will be arrested! It is a misdemeanor. Furthermore, Rhode Island does not have any hardship provision for license suspensions. It does not matter to a Judge in RI if you have four kids and drive 100 miles a day to work. No matter what, your license will remain suspended. The threat of a night in jail and criminal record is much more scary than a fine and I hope it will be enough to encourage more people to drive with proper auto insurance on their vehicle.

We should continue to encourage our lawmakers to push for better laws and stricter punishments against uninsured drivers. Their negligence can destroy lives without the means to help put the pieces back together.

No matter how the injury is sustained, whether auto accident, slip and fall or by defective product, there may be no more serious or devastating injury than a brain injury. In addition to the life altering physical symptoms, we also understand that there are equally devastating personality and emotional changes.

I work in tandem with another trial attorney who himself has experienced traumatic brain injury. He lost nearly ten years of his life and career while rehabilitating from this traumatic injury and now dedicates himself to helping others who have experienced similar injuries.

We understand that brain injury cases are more than headaches, nausea or other physical symptoms. We know that your entire personality can be altered affecting not only your life but your relationship with family and friends. We understand that large sections of your memory and life can be forgotten and erased. We understand that you have uncontrollable rage at times and that you make decisions that you never would have made prior to the injury. We look past the MRI and physical symptoms to look at the whole picture to see how your brain injury has affected your life.

Our collaborative expertise guarantees the best possible result for your complex and serious brain injury case. If you or a loved one has sustained a brain injury from an accident, contact our office for a free consultation.

After five years of work on a complex medical malpractice case, and in collaboration with an excellent Providence law firm, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the $5 million dollar settlement for a young girl whose life will never quite be the same due to doctor’s negligence.

The mother of the young girl first brought this case to my attention when her daughter was just five months old. The young girl had a very difficult delivery resulting in approximately 20 minutes without appropriate oxygen. She was immediately airlifted to the NICU at Women & Infants where everything was done to save her life and reduce the trauma suffered. Despite an admirable job at the second hospital, the damage was already done at the first. As a result of the medical negligence, the young girl, now 6, is destined to experience cognitive difficulties, organ failure and kidney problems. Her life expectancy was also dramatically reduced.

Not unlike this case, medical malpractice injuries are often devastating and life changing. The cases are complex and vigorously defended. As we did with this case, I look to work with the best expert witnesses and collaborative attorneys to ensure the best possible result in medical malpractice cases.

Errors made during child delivery are often the cause of traumatic and life altering injury, including cerebral palsy and the types of injuries sustained in this case. Contact our office for a free consultation. We will immediately review the medical records at our own expense and review the potential of the case with a medical expert witness. If you have a case, we promise to represent you with the same intensity as we have done in this case.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving, in particular our past and current clients, staff and everyone who helps us do what we do every day. It’s been a wonderful year for us with a record level of new cases and a recent $5 Million dollar medical malpractice settlement.

Here’s a wish for everyone for this year and next!

Ive recently become involved in an interesting auto accident case and I thought it might be informative to others out there having a similar experience. My client has been experiencing frequent panic attacks and mental anguish following an automobile accident. While insurance companies, and even juries to some extent, are able to quantify damages for broken arms and/or legs, they are much less equipped to quantify damages for mental anxiety and suffering. The relative lack of these types of cases can make them difficult to settle and make determining a value difficult.

To anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack, I empathize. I understand that many people would rather have a broken arm or leg than live through five minutes of a full blown panic attack. Anything can bring on these attacks and for some it is difficult to even get in a car again or drive down the same street where the accident occurred. Because panic attacks are unpredictable, it does not require an extremely serious or traumatic accident. Even a moderate impact can have devastating results. Sometimes the auto accident is the last straw in an otherwise stressful life – work, kids, bills and life are sometimes enough to deal with before an accident occurs and your car is destroyed, you are unable to work and your life is flipped upside down.

Rest assured, that while difficult to monetize, these claims have merit. Like any other injury suffered in an accident, the claim has to be supported by medical evidence. This means that a therapist, psychologist or social worker has to actively treat your condition, much like an orthopedist would mend your broken leg. With a proper diagnosis and treatment these cases can be handled if your personal injury attorney is experienced with dealing with such circumstances.

If your injuries are more than just physical in nature, contact our office for a free consultation and we will discuss your options and rights. Be certain, these cases can be complex and it is important that you speak to an experienced auto accident attorney.

I’ve written about hit and run accidents on this blog in the past, but it still seems to come up quite a bit so I thought it merited another post. What are your rights and what can you do if someone causes an accident injuring you and damaging your car and then takes off? Hit and run accidents, unfortunately, are quite common especially in Providence. There are a number of reasons why someone might take off after causing an accident such as:

  • He or she has an outstanding arrest warrant;
  • He or she does not have a license and/or insurance;
  • They are drunk or on drugs;
  • And sometimes, he or she is just a jerk who thinks they can get away with it.

If a driver flees the scene, all is not lost. While many police departments do very little in their “hit and run” departments, our law office may be able to identify the driver if you have a license plate. The RI DMV allows access to insurance and registration information if you have a plate of the hit and run vehicle. If you were unable to obtain a license plate, you may still be protected.

Depending on your insurance coverages you may be fully protected and able to obtain compensation for damages to your car, a rental vehicle, and a personal injury claim including medical bills and lost wages. Many people have uninsured motorist coverage on their auto policy and do not even know it. This coverage means that your insurance company will take the place of the insurance company that the at-fault driver should have had if they did not flee the scene. Bear in mind that uninsured motorist coverage is very affordable, so if you do not currently have it on your policy, get it! You never know when you might need it.

The point of this post is to remind you that if you are struck by a hit and run driver, you still have many options not only for your vehicle but also for your personal injuries. Contact our office for a free consultation and we will search high and low to find coverage for your losses.

Party buses and vans have grown increasingly in popularity for over a decade now taking business away from standard limousines for group functions. Bachelor, bachelorette parties and other group outings often rent a party bus for the evening. In one regard, it is much safer because it hires a designated driver for people who know they will be drinking. On the other hand, the lack of standard seating and the impetus to dance and walk around the party bus can make them dangerous even without an accident occurring.

One such company out of California which has rooftop access has been sued by a woman who claims she was struck by an overhanging tree branch causing significant injury to her face. The lawsuit claims that the company failed to monitor the overpass clearance for patrons standing and partying on the rooftop. The poor woman who was visiting New York at the time of the accident suffered a fracture of her orbital socket and numerous other facial injuries. Shockingly, this horrific accident came only one week after a young man was killed while riding on the top level of a party bus. In that case the poor victim struck a concrete overpass. This demonstrates disregard for patron safety, lack of awareness of safe and proper routes, and poor training for the bus operators. It is also important to note in this case that no warnings of any kind were given to the patrons.

Operators of sightseeing and party buses, particularly those with upper level access, have to apply strict safety standards even if it is contradictory to their intended purpose of fun.