February 2012 Archives

February 29, 2012

Understanding the Arbitration Process

If you have an experienced and aggressive Rhode Island personal injury attorney, your case may have ended up in litigation. There are two major reasons reasons why a personal injury case goes to litigation: 1) the offer of settlement is not high enough; or, 2) the insurance company is not accepting 100% liability. If you enter litigation there is a very strong chance that your attorney may attempt arbitration before the case goes all the way to trial.

Arbitration is compulsive under the Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure, however, the decision is not binding. What this means essentially is that either side (plaintiff or defendant) can force the two parties to at least try arbitration, but neither side is compelled to accept the award if they are dissatisfied. You can have your case removed from the arbitration process if the amount in contention is in excess of $100,000.00.

Arbitration can be a highly effective tool for resolving difficult cases without the huge amount of money and time that a full civil trial that would require. At an arbitration, both sides will agree on a neutral party to serve as "judge". Each side submits an arbitration memorandum complete with their argument, exhibits, affidavits and any other evidence that they would like to present or have considered by the arbiter. Then there will be an actual hearing during which time each side will state their case while presenting evidence and witnesses. It is a very informal "trial" in that sense. Arbitrations can be either simple with one or two witnesses or they can be incredibly complex with several witnesses, including experts and dozens of exhibits.

Within 2 weeks the arbiter will make his decision in writing. The decision will include a dollar amount along with some thoughts and notes on the topic to explain why the arbiter came to the decision that he did. Arbitration is a relatively quick and painless process that might result in a speedy aid to ongoing litigation. If your case is going to arbitration or may be eligible for arbitration speak to your personal injury attorney to discuss the process.

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February 27, 2012

Investigation Uncovers Nursing Home Abuses and Violations

Anyone watching the news on NBC 10 may have seen an investigative report this afternoon uncovering nursing home abuses and violations across Rhode Island but in particular at the Pawtuxet Village Care and Rehabilitation Center in Warwick. The investigation began with news that the Rhode Island Department of Health was investigating an allegation that one of the residents may have been overdosed at Pawtuxet Village.

Once the investigation began, it was quickly discovered that there were dozens of complaints of patient violations at Pawtuxet Village, many of which were related to improper medication and dosing and improper transfer of patients. Some of the complaints also dealt with abuse and involuntary seclusion of patients.

For the meantime, the Rhode Island Department of Health has ordered Pawtuxet Village to stop admitting new clients. Inspectors said they found several quality-of-care issues at the facility, including problems with pain management, fall prevention, pressure ulcers, and range-of-motion issues.

These are very serious allegations. Unfortunately, all of these problems are classic examples of nursing home abuse and neglect. Overmedication, the primary complaint in NBC 10's investigation, is a serious problem in nursing homes because it is means by which they keep the patients "quiet" and "under control." A sedated and overmedicated patient is unlikely to complain or require much attention. Instead the become like "zombies" - the same term that the family who lodged the initial complaint against Pawtuxet Village used for the condition of their father.

Senior care centers and retirement homes have a major responsibility to care for the health and wellbeing of our elderly. Unfortunately, many of them ignore this responsibility because too many patients do not have actively involved families to speak out about these injustices and because too many patients are too sick of body or mind to be able to speak up for themselves.

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February 14, 2012

Allstate Commercials Trying to Convince You They're Not So Bad!

For an insurance company that has been named the worst insurance company in America almost every year for the past decade by the American Association for Justice, I find it amusing that their current advertising campaign is aimed at customer satisfaction. First they have introduced the Claims guarantee, and I will go out on a limb and say that if they do not change their current practices, this program will be gone within a year because the number of unsatisfied clients will cost the program hundreds of millions. Second, they have a funny little commercial in which an executive driving a luxury car is rear-ended by a scruffy looking college kid. The executive is "scared" that the kid might have "cut-rate" insurance but is miraculously relieved to find out that the kid has Allstate insurance.

The executive in the commercial should hang his head in despair that he has to try and obtain the money and damages he deserves from a company that has a claims process intent on frustrating, delaying and under-cutting claimants entitled to damages.

Why is Allstate the worst company to deal with if you have been in a car accident? Despite the insurance companies contractual obligation to protect their insureds by paying claims for which they are liable, Allstate endlessly delays the process and when forced to make an offer of settlement, often makes an offer far below the value of the claim. Even when a lawsuit has been filed, Allstate will drag out the litigation process often taking the case all the way to the end before making a reasonable offer. They reject the offers of arbitrators or mediators if the award is above their valuation of the claim. Why do they do this? Insurance companies make money by investing the premiums paid into it. The longer that an insurance company can hold onto that premium money, the better the return on their investment. They also employ these tactics because they know that they can wear out many plaintiffs who will accept less than fair value for their claim merely to "get it over with."

When new clients come to my office following an auto accident with an Allstate insured, I tell them that there is a good chance of litigation if they do not want to settle for little money. You have to fight companies that employ these kinds of tactics and if you have been injured by an Allstate insured, you need to hire an attorney who is able and ready to fight these tough cases. Contact my office right away for a free consultation. I like Dennis Haybert as an actor myself, but don't let him convince you that the "good hands" company is anything but the worst.

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February 10, 2012

School Zone and School Bus Accidents

A school bus company in Cincinnati settled a wrongful death lawsuit for Five Million Dollars, after a teenager was struck and killed in a tragic accident. The accident and settlement highlights the fact that despite ample measures taken to prevent accidents in and around school buses, serious or potentially fatal accidents can occur. In this Ohio case, the family for the deceased alleged that the driver failed to adequately defrost and clean his windshield making it impossible to see the young man whom he struck and killed.

The statistics for school bus related accidents are quite alarming. When accidents occur, they are often very serious or fatal because of the extreme weight and size of a school bus. Also, the number of people injured in a single accident is much higher due to the capacity of a school bus. Each year thousands of people are injured in school bus accidents.

School bus companies and drivers have a very large responsibility because they are carrying small (and often impulsive children). Stop signs and bus monitors have become commonplace over the last 10-20 years to prevent accidents involving children and school buses, but they still occur. Some of the causes for school bus related car accidents include:

  • Poor driver training
  • Insufficient care and maintenance of the bus
  • Overcrowding of the bus
  • Driving in dangerous or inclement weather (much like in the above mentioned Ohio case)
  • Driver distraction from children inside the bus
  • Aggressive driving or speeding

School buses are one of the largest large vehicle carriers in the United States. Every day tens of millions of students are transported to and from school on buses. Accidents, sometimes serious, can and will occur. If your child was injured in an accident involving a school bus, contact my office right away.

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February 8, 2012

Neck and Back Injuries and Car Accidents

As a Rhode Island and Massachusetts personal injury attorney I have handled many, many whiplash injuries caused by car accidents. The term "whiplash" refers to the rapid and forceful movement of the neck backwards and/or forwards following a car crash. This sudden and forceful movement can cause strains and/or sprains to the muscles around the neck and back resulting in significant pain.

Despite my vast experience representing injured clients with soft tissue injuries, I still come across articles or information that give me a greater understanding of the injuries and how they are caused. I recently came across an article by Dr. Jay Lipoff, a New York Chiropractor, which opened my eyes to a few things that I feel are worth sharing.

Like Dr. Lipoff, I often see clients and potential clients down-playing the severity of their whiplash injury following a car accident. Clients often say "it's not too bad" or the injury is "nothing major". I believe this comes in part because we tend to ignore our own health or believe that the pain will go away quickly when in reality serious, sometimes, permanent injury has occurred. Sometimes, potential clients believe that any injury short of a broken bone is not worth pursuing against the insurance company. Remember, you have a valid and important injury claim if you suffered whiplash.

As Dr. Lipoff points out, it is next to impossible for the soft tissue of a human body to be OK after an auto accident when steel and metal is nearly destroyed. If a 2500 pound car is seriously damaged, it is safe to assume that the 180 pound person inside the vehicle, whether seat-belted or not, is going to be hurt. From the article:

"The impact to the driver is 2.5 times greater than the force to the vehicle itself. So whatever damage you see to the vehicle, realize the force to your body was 2.5 times greater. Changes of speed of only 2.5 miles an hour during crash tests caused occupants symptoms of soft tissue injuries; whereas damage to a vehicle may not be seen until 8.7 mph."

We are not so invincible as we sometimes believe, and the soft tissue and muscles of our body are particularly prone to injury in an auto accident. It is important to remember, that although common, soft tissue or whiplash injuries, are serious injuries that require the help of an experienced car accident attorney. If you have suffered a whiplash injury following an auto accident, seek the proper medical treatment for your injuries and call our office for a free consultation.

February 1, 2012

Pfizer Recalling Approximately 1 Million Birth Control Pills

Pfizer today announced that it is recalling two kinds of oral contraception because some of the packages had the pills in the wrong order. Obviously, while attempting to avoid unwanted pregnancy it is absolutely imperative that the person take the proper dose at the right time. Because the packages were filled with the wrong dose at the incorrect time, the drug may prove ineffective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. It is possible that some women have unwillingly become pregnant.

The effected medicines are Lo/Ovral-28 or generic norgestrel/ethinyl estradiol pills. Any woman currently taken these medications should contact their ob/gyn immediately and contact the pharmacy that filled the prescription so that the recalled drugs may be replaced. If you became pregnant while taking these recalled drugs, it is imperative that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. If it can be established that the unwanted pregnancy was caused by the negligence of Pfizer you may be entitled to significant compensation.

It has been a tough couple of months for birth control drugs. Yaz, in particular, has been hit with hundreds of lawsuits claiming that it causes dangerous bloodclots and also results in other unwanted and dangerous side effects. In addition, the FDA has indicated that its dosage may be too low to adequately prevent unwanted pregnancy.

Drug makers profit heavily by pushing drugs on our society and they must be held to a very high standard of quality control and safety, else we are putting ourselves at serious risk of harm.