A new study suggests that more than texting and even more than drunk driving, that distracted driving is the greatest danger on the road. A study from the Erie Insurance Group concluded that it is actually five times more dangerous to drive distracted (daydreaming) than it is to drive while texting or talking on the phone. In fact, it may be the leading cause of fatal auto accidents throughout the country.

Cars continue to increase safety measures but no amount of technology or airbags can prevent bad drivers from causing injury. Driving comes so naturally to us that we take for granted that we are driving a 3000 pound piece of metal at 60+ miles per hour. When we take our obligations for granted, by texting, drinking and driving, or simply not paying attention, we invite disaster. A nationwide review of 65,000 fatal auto accidents across the country in the past few years showed that at least ten percent of those accidents fell into the distracted driver category.

Surveys of accidents caused by distracted drivers indicate that a great many of those drivers were simply “lost in thought”. To my knowledge, few surveys such as this have looked solely at daydreaming as a cause of auto accidents. New safety mechanisms such as lane departure warnings and proximity alarms are audible alerts to notify the driver that something is wrong. Car companies are aware that many accidents may be avoidable if the driver is paying attention to the potential danger. Audible alerts or seats or steering wheels that shake to alert the driver will likely become increasingly common.

Distracted driving is anything that takes our eyes or attention off the road. This could be texting, playing with the radio, reading, putting on makeup, etc. And as this study shows, distracted driving may simply include “being lost in thought”.

Continue Reading

An interesting situation arises when a person is driving without insurance (a mistake, and in Rhode Island, illegal) and gets into a car accident, but is not at fault for the accident. For example, you are driving an uninsured vehicle but are rear-ended by another driver while you are waiting at a red light. Who is at fault in this situation?

I receive a lot of questions about this scenario and I can see why it might be confusing. It could be argued that it is negligent to drive a car without insurance. It can also be argued that since driving without insurance is a violation of Rhode Island law, the driver should not have been on the road when the accident occurred. While these are both valid points, they actually have no bearing on determining auto accident liability.

A lack of insurance, or license and registration for that matter, is not enough to impose liability for an auto accident on a person. The rules of the road still apply and are the only factors considered in determining who is at fault for the accident. In the example above of a rear-end accident, you would hold 0% liability for the accident. An uninsured driver is still entitled to damages for the property damage done to their car, and if injured, can make a bodily injury claim for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Expungement allows a person with a criminal record, under certain circumstances, to have his or her criminal record permanently deleted. This is an incredible tool and is useful for someone applying for college, applying for new jobs, looking to join the army or other branch of the military, or who just wants to keep the public out of their past. An article in the Providence Journal yesterday reported that the number of criminal records expunged jumped 36 percent in 2012. Last year, 269 felonies and 3,929 misdemeanors were expunged and erased from the public record. This was a jump from 3,091 total expungements completed in 2011.

Today, it is reported that Attorney General Kilmartin is proposing newer easier restrictions to allow for more expungements. His proposal asks that any person who has never committed a felony and has stayed out of trouble be allowed to expunge up to five misdemeanors as opposed to the current one misdemeanor allowed. The law would not apply to domestic violence crimes or DUIs. Rhode Island law, as it stands, has a “one bite at the apple” approach. A single misdemeanor can be expunged after five years without further offense and a single felony can be expunged after ten years without further arrest. The increased opportunity for expungement is meant to assist those who made bad decisions or indiscretions in their youth but have since changed and improved their life for the better.

If you have waited the appropriate amount of time after your previous crime and the conviction was not for an act of violence, you may qualify for an expungement. My office will file the paperwork and appear at the motion on your behalf. The total fee for this service is only $500 which includes the $100 fee payable to the Courts if your expungement is approved. It is a small price to pay to permanently remove your criminal record as you seek a new job or a new life position.

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the first half of year 2012 saw a 19 percent increase in teenage driver fatalities. The report took a look at all 50 states and showed that last year saw the reverse of a trend that saw decline in teenage accident related fatalities for almost a decade. Of even greater concern, the rate of fatalities for 16 and 17 year olds was even higher than the reported 19 percent jump.

This particular report focused solely on teenage drivers and did not include all auto accident related fatalities involving teenagers as passengers or pedestrians. The report also did not look at liability in these cases so there is no reported evidence to how many of these accidents were caused by the teenage driver.

We can only speculate as to why last year saw such an increase. One suggestion is that an improving economy is making it more accessible for teenagers to access a vehicle. Another suggestion is that we are seeing a slow down in previously created laws meant to reduce teenage driving fatalities such as graduated driving laws which have been enacted in many states. I would also add that the increase in smartphones and mobile technology has to be considered a cause in the increase of teenage auto accident related deaths. No generation is more wired and tech savvy than the current crop of young drivers and the distraction to text or check facebook while driving may be the cause of these tragic numbers.

Construction remains among the most dangerous professions in our country and, as such, accounts for very serious life-altering injuries. OSHA among with State and Federal laws and guidelines have attempted to reduce the dangers of working on a construction site, but they will always remain. Quite honestly, creating and maintaining an absolutely safe environment at a construction site would send project costs sky-high and would likely add months to any project.

Construction accidents can be caused in countless ways but some of the most common causes of work place injuries are:

  • Defective products on the work site;

If, God forbid, your child is seriously injured in an accident of any kind – bike accident, dog bite, auto accident, etc., and the settlement exceeds $10,000 in value there will be some additional steps that you will be required to take on behalf of your child. Rhode Island state law holds that any settlement over $10,000 for a minor child must be approved by a Judge.

The law is meant to protect minor children in a couple of ways. For one, the Judge will be looking to confirm that the settlement is fair to the child for the injury sustained. Second, the Judge is looking to ensure that the money will be secured for the minor child and not used by the parents.

A guardian ad litem will be appointed for your minor child. This person, an attorney, does not work with your personal injury attorney, nor does he work with the insurance company. The guardian ad litem is solely interested in assuring the best interest of the minor who can not speak for himself. He or she will do this by ensuring that the settlement offer is fair and that the parents have made necessary arrangements to put the money into a trust fund or other savings account that can be used by the minor for his or her benefit. Often, the money is designed to be accessible to the minor when he or she comes of age.

Your attorney will need to file whats called a “friendly suit”. In almost every way this is a normal lawsuit, except that both sides have already agreed to a resolution. You will not have to go through the discovery process and you and your child will not be deposed. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will file a Motion to have the case heard before the Formal and Special Cause Calendar. At that hearing, the Judge will hear from both the plaintiff and defense attorney and will also review the report of the guardian ad litem. If the Judge is satisfied that the interests of the minor child have been protected, the settlement can finally be approved.

Continue Reading

Of all the questions I hear in my office from new clients who are unsure about the personal injury claim process, the question I hear the most is: how long is my claim going to take to settle. I can not speak for every personal injury law firm, but since this is such a frequently asked question, I will answer as to how my firm handles claims.

The single most important determining factor as to the length of your claim is whether the case settles prior to litigation or not. Settlement prior to litigation is NOT always the best option. Many personal injury law firms like to brag about their settlement percentage. I assure you not to be fooled by this statistic or this advertising tactic. ANY LAWYER OR LAW FIRM CAN SETTLE YOUR CASE IF THEY ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT WHATEVER LOW OFFER THE INSURANCE COMPANY MAKES. In fact, many of the law firms that highlight their rate of pre-litigation settlement are probably accepting far less than the case is worth.

The Settlement Process

A controversial new law proposed in the Rhode Island senate seeks to protect the public from dog bites and other injuries caused by pit bulls. The law is controversial and unique in that it focuses solely on one breed, pit bulls. Breed specific laws are not common but those that do exist in other states tend to focus on pit bulls much like this law does.

Thumbnail image for Pit-Bull.jpgMy office has gained a reputation for handling dog bite cases so I am following this law with great interest. We have helped dozens of victims of dog bites in the past year alone, settling most cases for tens of thousands of dollars and more. Dog bite injuries are very serious for a number of reasons:

  • Dog bite injuries almost always result in a scar ranging in size from small teeth marks to large long scars;

After what seems like an eternity of planning, organizing and actual moving, I can officially tell you that my new office located at 696 Reservoir Avenue in Cranston is open. I am no longer located at the downtown Dorrance Street address. Thanks to all of my current and past clients who have spread word of mouth about our personal injury law firm doing things differently and better, I outgrew the space in Providence.

After listening to my clients thoughts and opinions, I have found that the majority prefer to avoid the city and its traffic and lack of parking. For that reason, I have decided to go a few minutes outside of the city into Cranston. We have ample free parking at the new office and we are just minutes from downtown Providence. The firm’s phone number – 401-228-7470 – is unchanged as is our email and website address.

I invite any past, current, or potential clients to stop by and see us at our new office! Please take note of the new address:

The “good hands” company which is anything but “good” has found itself in another public relations nightmare regarding a Superstorm Sandy commercial. The company which endlessly bombards the airwaves in an attempt to convince the world that Allstate cares about its customers has recently released a commercial about their efforts to “help” the victims of Sandy. As it turns out, however, Allstate did not get the permission of their clients to use their likeness or home in the commercial. The couple did not want to participate in the commercial because they are yet another victim of Allstate’s nonsense and have been ripped off by the company.

Dominic and Sheila Traina evacuated their home in advance of Superstorm Sandy. While they were away, a neighbor notified them that the roof had been torn off their house. Amazingly, Allstate determined that the damage to the house was due to FLOODING! and therefore not covered under their policy. The Traina’s do not have flood insurance. Allstate has not yet explained how flooding reached levels tall enough to tear the roof off a full size house. Despite well over $200,000 in damages, Allstate has offered their customers $10,000. And yet their commercials tell us that “cut rate” insurance might not protect you from dangers! Embarrassing!

To add salt to the wounds, the Traina family was absolutely shocked to find their home as the backdrop for an Allstate commercial. The bad publicity has forced Allstate to pull the commercial, but the damage to the company has already been done. Of course, this is absolutely no surprise for Allstate, in fact, it is their business model. Whether dealing with a property damage claim from a storm or a personal injury claim from a car accident, Allstate will do everything possible to avoid paying a fair and reasonable settlement. If they can make any argument in their favor, no matter how implausible, they will hang on to that argument until the very end forcing countless delays and forcing plaintiff’s to spend tens of thousands of dollars to obtain the money to which they are entitled.