February 2013 Archives

February 26, 2013

Last Year Saw an Increase in the Number of Deaths of Teenage Drivers

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.

February 21, 2013

Accidents and Injuries on Construction Sites

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;
  • Falls;
  • Co-workers negligence and inexperience;
  • Falling objects from workers stationed above;
  • Disregard for safety measures.

If you have been seriously injured in a construction site accident you are entitled to workers compensation. This will pay for your medical bills and a portion of your wages. Workers compensation, however, is limited. Most notably, you are not entitled to pain and suffering through workers compensation. It is imperative for you to understand, that despite the workers compensation laws in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that you may still be able to bring a third party case for negligence in a construction accident case. If successful, this will award you damages for pain and suffering.

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The workers compensation laws prevent you from bringing a third party claim against your employer. That is still the case on a construction site. The difference, however, is that on a construction site there may be a dozen subcontractors and different companies involved. If any of the employees or agents of a company, other than your own, was the cause of the accident or injury you may be able to bring an action against that company. You will not be barred from this action because you do not actually work for the defendant. The most common defendant in construction site cases is the general contractor. Often injured employees work for a subcontractor, whether it is iron work, labor, electric, etc. The general contractor is responsible for the overall safety of the workplace and if you are not a direct employee of the general contractor, you may not be limited to workers compensation for your injury claim.

Construction site injuries can be extremely serious and life-changing. These include:

Scarring;
Burns;
Broken Bones;
Head injuries;
Amputation;
Paralysis;
Death.

If you were seriously injured while working on a construction site it is absolutely imperative that you contact a personal injury firm experienced in these types of cases. I have represented numerous victims of construction site injuries and understand the complexities and challenges that these cases present. Contact my office for a free consultation and as with all personal injury claims with my office, there is no fee unless I recover damages for you.

February 19, 2013

Settlements for Minors over $10,000 in Rhode Island

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.

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February 17, 2013

How Long Should My Auto Accident Claim Take to Resolve?

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

Settlement is not always a bad thing. In fact, for the majority of cases it is the best decision for all of the involved parties. Settlement is quicker, less costly, and if well negotiated by your personal injury attorney, should result in a settlement amount for full value of your case.

But the point of this post is to discuss how long the process takes. This is how the process works at my office if we can settle prior to litigation. Following the injury there is likely to be a course of treatment with medical providers. If you sustain whiplash following a rear-end auto accident you may be required to see a chiropractor. If you break your arm in a slip and fall you will likely see an orthopedist for several months and undergo a course of physical therapy. More serious injuries may require surgery and lengthy follow-up... and so on. During your medical treatment, my office will contact you every 3-4 weeks to see how you are feeling and to make sure that we are aware of all the medical providers that you are seeing. We will also see if you have been able to work, or return to work following an absence.

Regardless of what doctors you see or how long it takes, we will continue in this fashion until you are done with treatment. If the doctors have done everything they can for you and you are still in pain, our office will likely request a letter from your doctor to discuss your future prognosis. Once completed with all of your medical treatment, we will compile all of your most up to date medical records. At this point, I will write a detailed demand letter for the insurance company in which we make our case for damages and demand a specific sum of money for compensation.

My office promises to send out your demand letter within one week of receiving all of your final medical records. This guarantees that there is no unnecessary delay in attempting to resolve your case. No other firm that I know of promises to work so quickly on your behalf. Once the demand letter is received by the insurance company, it generally takes 3-5 weeks for them to make an initial offer (depending on the insurance company.) We will then begin aggressive negotiations to try and resolve the case for full value. When a fair dollar figure has been achieved, the client can consider settlement. If settled, the case will be closed and the check received in 7-10 days.

The Litigation Process

Many cases, however, do not settle in the manner described above. There can be a lot of reasons for this. For one, the insurance company might make too low an offer to be fair. Second, the insurance company might believe that you are partially at fault for the accident, and therefore, not entitled to full value. Also, some cases are just too serious or complex to easily settle. For instance, if I have a client who is very seriously injured I will often suggest filing a lawsuit right at the beginning because there is little chance of getting full value for very serious injuries in a settlement. For all these reasons, your case might wind up in litigation.

Litigation, especially in Rhode Island, can be a long process and I would not guarantee my clients that they will see any money for at least a year or two. Once the case is in litigation, we can still attempt to resolve the matter through arbitration or mediation which will be quicker than going all the way to a jury trial. Even if you file litigation, the case will often settle (eventually) and hopefully for much more money than offered before we filed suit. Just because you file a lawsuit does not necessarily mean that you will one day go to a jury trial. In fact, only a small percentage of filed lawsuits actually go to trial.

So, to make a long story short - my office promises to make every effort to attempt a settlement of your case quickly. Frequently within just a few months of the accident. If we are unable to settle or if it is inappropriate to settle prior to litigation, we will aggressively pursue your lawsuit to try and achieve an appropriate resolution as quickly as possible.

If you have any questions about the personal injury claims process, particularly regarding the length of time prior to settlement, contact our office for a free consultation. If you are currently represented and feel that your case is taking way too long, you can also call for a free consultation. If I believe, that I can assist you in resolving your case, we can discuss a possible transfer.

February 11, 2013

New Pit Bull Law Proposed in Rhode Island

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;
  • Dog bites most often occur to minor children;
  • Animal attacks result in a severe mental trauma that is not common to other types of accidents and injuries.

I applaud this bill for a few reasons and am critical for others. I applaud the law because it seeks greater protections for the public from the dangers of dog bites. According to this law, owners of pit bulls would require registration and insurance as well as posting signs and other notices on their personal property. Pit bulls would have to be kept inside at all times and muzzled in public, in addition to other restrictions. I especially applaud the requirement of insurance for ownership of dangerous dog breeds. It is terribly irresponsible to harbor a dangerous animal and lack the required insurance to protect someone injured. Of course, I firmly believe, most dangerous animals are that way because they are owned and raised by immature and irresponsible owners.... but that is the story for another day.

I am critical of the law because I see no reason to single out a particular breed. While statistically pit bulls might cause a higher number of dog bites than other breeds, the laws should focus on protecting the public from any such attack. This, I believe, can be done by educating the public and owners of dogs, particularly potentially dangerous dogs like pit bulls. I would also open up the liability requirement to owners of any dog. From my experience in the cases that I have handled, small unsuspecting dogs are just as likely to bite a person than a pit bull.

Of course, the law in Rhode Island, gives owners of dogs a free pass for one bite UNLESS the owner knows or should know that the breed is dangerous, such as a pit bull or akita. In other words, a dog owner may not be liable if he or she had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous because a) it has never bitten anyone before, or b) it is not a "dangerous breed." Another way we could enhance the protection of the public from dog bites without singling out pit bulls, is to remove this "free pass" for the first bite from Rhode Island law.

If you or a family member has been the victim of a dog bite, contact my office for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for scarring, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. There is never any fee unless I recover damages for you. Call the firm specializing in dog bite attacks in Rhode Island.

February 8, 2013

The Big Move is Finally Official!!

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:

Law Office of Joseph Lamy
696 Reservoir Avenue
Cranston, RI 02910

Thank you to everyone for all of the ongoing help and support!