April 2012 Archives

April 21, 2012

Bicycle Injuries: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Riders?

A national story printed on cnn.com discussing an investigation into bicycle accidents in New York City brings to light what is truly a nationwide dilemma. Rhode Island and Massachusetts are not without their fair share of bicycle accidents that result in serious injury and the question has to be asked whether the law does enough to protect bike riders on public streets.

Michelle Matson was struck while riding home on a bicycle by a driver who was speeding and subsequently fled the scene. She was nearly killed in this accident with serious injury to her skull and spine. She feels little effort was made to investigate the accident or apprehend the driver who nearly killed her and left the scene. As a result, Ms. Matson's life was turned upside down and she has no legal recourse to recover for her pain and suffering and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. The question must be asked why no thorough investigation was conducted? The article points out that absent death or catastrophic injury, little investigation will be conducted into a bicycle accident.

There is no doubt that this problem exists in Rhode Island as well. While bicyclists have a right to use the road under the same rules as motorists, the assumption is that bicyclists merely get in the way of operators of motor vehicles. Bicycle riders must maintain the absolute care and lookout for all of their surroundings, yet the law puts little requirement on vehicle operators to take such care. Auto accidents involving pedestrians and bike riders are almost always serious because bikes offer such little protection to riders. The law must seek ways to better protect bike riders and more thoroughly investigate accidents.

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April 15, 2012

In Cases Taxes Weren't Bad Enough, Your More Likely to be Involved in An Accident on April 15

Among the stranger articles that I come across each day, CNN Money has reported that fatal car wrecks see a spike in frequency on Tax Day, April 15, the day by which everyone must file and pay their annual taxes. According to the article, the odds of being involved in a fatal car accident is 6% higher on April 15 than any other day of they year! The only other day of the year with a similarly high jump in deadly car wrecks is Super Bowl Sunday which I suppose would be easily attributed to drunk driving.

The reasons behind a spike in fatal car accidents on April 15 is not quite as clear, however. Some of the suggested reasons for this finding is that stressed drivers are more error prone drivers. The lack of sleep and/or concern over the filing of taxes can lead to distracted and disoriented drivers which leads to an acute spike in the number of accidents.

In case you didn't have enough reason to dread tax day...

April 11, 2012

When Vehicle Malfunction Leads to Serious Injury or Death

I woke up this morning to a tragic story in the Providence Journal in which a Delaware woman was struck and killed in Rhode Island by a wheel that had "flown off" of a Hummer. Apparently the two vehicles were traveling on the highway in opposite directions when the wheel came free of the Hummer and traveled all the way across the divider into oncoming traffic striking the poor victim.

The comments section to the story included many questions as to fault in this accident, in particular, whether the owner of the Hummer should be held responsible. The answer is absolutely, yes. Not unlike my recent post discussing sudden illness and auto accidents, in which I explained that a person needs to be aware of their medical condition and accepts the risk of causing an accident because they fall ill, a person needs to be aware of the overall condition of their vehicle. Similarly, if our vehicle malfunctions in such a way as to cause injury to another person, then we are responsible for not properly maintaining the car. Driving an unsafe vehicle or ignoring loud noises or other warnings that the car is not operating properly is negligence and a person is definitely responsible if that negligence leads to another's damages.

The facts of this case, however, suggest that additional defendants will also be responsible. There may be several potential defendants for a product liability claim in connection with this auto accident. The personal injury attorney should explore how and why the wheel came off of this vehicle. Were defective lugnuts or wheel bearings on this vehicle? I have seen other online articles suggesting that the wheels of a Hummer H2 can come off at high speeds which leads to question whether the Hummer is designed defectively. If so, GM may find themselves a party to this lawsuit.

Additionally, one would have to see if the Hummer was recently serviced or repaired. Perhaps it was recently inspected and the inspection facility failed to identify the problem with the wheel. When a strange and tragic accident like this occurs, there are inevitably hundreds of questions. Yes, the driver of the vehicle will be liable for damages, but so too may other defendants as the facts of this loss are uncovered.

My deepest condolences to the family.

April 4, 2012

What you should know about Pre-Settlement Funding or So-Called Litigation Lending

The companies are all over television, advertising usually at the same time as many personal injury attorneys who advertise on television. They are lenders, such as Peachtree financial and Oasis financial, who tell you that they will advance the money to you that you will potentially receive when your personal injury case settles. It is a practice known as pre-settlement funding or litigation lending. Many of my clients have asked me about working with these companies. The short answer is - NEVER. Here is what you need to know before signing up.

Personal injury cases do not ordinarily settle quickly. The injured party has to obtain medical treatment for several months or more and then the attorney has to undergo a lengthy process of negotiating with the insurance company. Furthermore, if the insurance company is unreasonable, the case may need to be litigated. During this time, the injured party may be out of work and may have medical bills and/or other expenses piling up. In comes, a pre-settlement funding company offering to lend you the money to pay those bills so that you do not have to wait for your injury settlement. The catch - some of these companies charge as much as 200% interest!!! Yes, 200% interest. It is no surprise to find out that this type of loan arrangement was first conceived of by an indicted loan shark out of Las Vegas. And as of right now, the practice is legal. Rhode Island, however, now has a bill pending that looks to cap such loans at an interest rate of 21%. I certainly hope that it passes because these loans are predatory and victimize accident victims.

I sadly had one client, who I represented for an auto accident, fall victim to this type of loan. I begged the client not to take out this loan because I knew that the contract was awful and the loan was essentially a scam. Nevertheless, he convinced me by saying that he might lose his apartment if I did not sign the paperwork. I conceded. He took out a mere $500 and when his case settled a few months later he owed $947 in interest and fees. He paid almost double to the lender after less than six months.

I have also had clients ask if I can forward an advance on the personal injury settlement. The answer to that question is always NO. It is not because I am uncaring, it is because our rules of ethics as lawyers clearly forbid such advances. I know that some attorneys in Rhode Island will loan money off of your settlement and I even know of an attorney who charges interest on such loans - but I assure you that it should not be done and you may want to reconsider who is representing you if they so readily violate the rules of ethics.

I understand that it can be very difficult when you are out of work due to an accident and bills and expenses pile up. Talk to your attorney and he or she may be able to make some phone calls to help alleviate the bills or delay payment until your case is ready for settlement. The right personal injury attorney should also work quickly to make sure that your case is resolved when it is ready and that it is not unnecessarily delayed. Always talk to your attorney and see if something can be done before you make a serious mistake in taking a loan out with one these companies.

April 2, 2012

Law Office of Joseph Lamy Celebrating 3 Awesome Years!!

I am so grateful to all of my family, friends, past and future clients for helping to make my law practice such a success. Today marks 3 years since I opened my own doors in Providence and I can hardly believe it. I've been so fortunate to meet so many great people throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts (and in the case of entertainment law, people all over the country!) and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help with their legal needs.

The last year was the best yet with a record number of new clients and cases and some terrific results for my clients in personal injury, entertainment law and criminal defense. I am proud to describe just a few of the great results and projects that I was involved in over the past year alone:

In Personal Injury:

  • $150,000 for a fractured femur following an auto accident;
  • $100,000 for a fractured ankle (my client was previously unrepresented and the insurance company made a high offer of $20k... within 6 months of my taking the case and filing suit, the insurance company paid the policy limits of $100k);
  • $100,000 for nerve damage to client's elbow following an auto accident.

In Entertainment Law

  • Worked as lead counsel on two films, one on a micro budget of $20k and another with a mid-range budget of $350,000;
  • Lead counsel on a reality television show currently in production in Rhode Island;
  • Secured synchronization rights for one of my artists songs on a nationwide television commercial;
  • Negotiated and secured a four album recording deal with a major record label;
  • Negotiated and secured the film option for a novel written by a New York Times bestselling author.

In Criminal Defense

  • Full dismissal of multiple DUI cases;
  • Full dismissal of two felony assault cases - one before trial and one by jury verdict;
  • Reduced 2 counts of Third Degree Sexual Assault to misdemeanor simple assault on the morning trial was scheduled to begin (Client was facing ten years in prison and instead plead to one year of probation);

These are just some of the highlights to a great year! In addition to these cases I have successfully helped hundreds of other clients in the past year in all three areas of law. I am so grateful to past and current clients who continue to tell their friends and family about my office aiding in my growth and success. I can never thank you enough. Here's to another thirty successful years!!!