December 1, 2010

Plans Under Way to Improve Pedestrian Safety on Atwells Avenue

Over the past several years, no less than eight pedestrians and one bicyclist have been struck by a motor vehicle while walking on Atwells Avenue in Providence. The number of bars and restaurants along the famous street draw out hundreds of pedestrians every night and due to the low visibility and high traffic of Federal Hill there is a persistent danger of a car accident. In addition, many drivers use Atwells Avenue as a short cut from Route 10 to downtown Providence increasing the number of cars on the busy street.

Following the high profile accident of City Council member Terrence Hassett, the City has decided to finally take action to improve pedestrian safety. Working with a number of engineers, the City intends to now increase the number of crosswalk signs, re-stripe existing crosswalks, and install a speedbump near Piedmont Street to slow down passing vehicles. The speedbump is to be located at a critical area of the street where passing cars often drive well over the speed limit, and near the area where Councilman Hassett was struck and injured.

It is an important and vital step for Providence to increase safety on one of its most beloved roads. The combination of too many cars, too many pedestrians, parking valets run back and forth, and dark and busy roads is a recipe for disaster. It is no surprise that so many pedestrians have been struck by vehicles in the past few years.

Pedestrian accidents are the most serious form of car accidents. A pedestrian is absolutely defenseless against the weight and speed of a passing vehicle and injuries are often permanent and severe. Pedestrians struck by cars often suffer: broken bones, head injuries, scarring, extended hospital stays, internal injuries, and more.

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November 30, 2010

Auto Accidents Involving Children

As a father, I can not imagine a worse scenario than to see your son or daughter injured in a car accident. Unfortunately, over 250,000 kids are injured each year in car crashes and auto accidents are the number one cause of death for children under 14 years of age. There are several unique problems that can arise when the injured party is a child, and it is helpful to speak with a personal injury attorney to understand your child's rights.

There are two common scenarios in which children are injured in car accidents. First, the child is a pedestrian, either struck while playing in the street, or while getting onto or off of a school bus. Second, the child is a passenger in a car that is struck by an at fault driver. Let's examine each situation.

Child as Pedestrian

It is an unfortunate tragedy but children are struck and severely injured every day in this Country while they are outside playing in the street. A driver proceeding through an area known to have children present (i.e. a residential neighborhood, or school zone) must proceed with caution. Children, especially very young ones, are curious and impulsive. These characteristics make it foreseeable that a child may run into traffic without warning. If the child was visible in the open road, or if it was foreseeable that a child could run into an open road, the driver of the automobile may be responsible for the injuries to the child.

Children are also victim to car accidents as pedestrians while entering and exiting school buses. By law, drivers must stop for all school buses. Sometimes inattentive drivers fail to see the stopped school bus and strike defenseless children. School bus drivers might also take shortcuts and fail to properly stop traffic or employ monitors to ensure a child's safety. In such cases, the school bus operator may be liable for the victims injuries.

Finally, children can be injured while in a parking lot. Each year, 2500 kids are injured in parking lot accidents. Distracted drivers looking for a parking space may not see children walking or standing in the lot. The majority of children in these types of accidents are under 4 years old.

Children as Passenger in Car

Children, like any passenger in a car accident, are entitled to make a personal injury claim if they have been hurt. Children can be seriously hurt even if riding in a safe and secure car seat. Furthermore, children are injured if they are not in a proper car seat. Studies show that many children are overweight for the car seat that they are using, and that many children who are out of car seats are not yet ready for adult seat belts alone.

A Child's Injury Claim

Injuries to children are extremely serious. A permanent injury can greatly affect the course of a child's life and detract from their overall quality of life. It can also mean decades of future medical expenses and care, and may even effect the potential future earnings of the child. Scarring and disfigurement is also extremely serious for children because they will have to endure the taunts and ridicule of other kids and will have to live their entire life with a noticeable flaw. This results in extreme emotional and psychological pain.

A child injured in an accident is entitled to:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Medical bills

  • Future medical bills

  • Future pain and suffering for permanent injuries

  • Loss of earning capacity (if injury impacts childs ability to work in the future)

Continue reading "Auto Accidents Involving Children" »

November 27, 2010

Your Auto Accident Injury May Not Be Immediately Felt

On the back of my recent post about a man who was conned into taking an early and low settlement from the insurance company, I thought that one point in particular deserved further discussion. The claimant in that New York case was unaware of the extent and nature of his injuries until after he signed the Release. Some people may find this hard to believe, but it is, in fact, quite common to be unaware of the extent and nature of your injury.

There are two common problems with an early settlement:

You Didn't Know You Were Injured At All

When the injury is soft tissue in nature (i.e. neck and back muscle pain) you may not experience any symptoms until two or three days later, sometimes longer. That is because the pain is most severe when the injury has set-in and the body begins to repair. Those of you who have worked with weights at a gym will recognize that your body feels much worse the next day than it did at the gym. This is the same principle at work.

Therefore, a lot of accident victims do not complain of any pain at the accident scene because they are still symptom free. He or she may even give a recorded statement to an insurance company attesting to the fact that they are not injured. A day or two later, however, and the symptoms become increasingly severe and persistent.

It is OK if you told the police you were not injured. It is OK if you told the insurance company that you were not injured. You are not giving away your rights to a personal injury claim because you were unaware that you were actually injured in the car accident. You are, however, bound, if you agree to sign a Release (as the New York claimant above) mistakenly did. Even if you previously indicated that you were not injured, but then began to experience symptoms of pain, contact an auto accident lawyer right away.

You Didn't Know How Seriously You Were Injured

People will sign a Release for a lot of reasons:

  • They need the money

  • Their attorney told them it was a good settlement

  • Their doctor told them they are not going to get any better

Sometimes the Release is signed before you know how serious the injury is. I always tell clients to seek ALL medical attention and obtain second and third doctor opinions, if necessary, because a Release is final. If you discover that you herniated a disc the day after signing a Release, you will NOT receive the compensation you deserve.

I have a close family friend (I did not represent her because I was not yet an attorney) who settled her case years ago for less than it was worth. She was told by doctors that her back was fine and by her attorney that the settlement offered was a fair one. To this day, she still has ongoing back pain.

Before you settle any personal injury claim make sure that you know the full extent of your injury and do not settle any case with the insurance company within a few days of the accident because the pain and symptoms may not have set in.

Continue reading "Your Auto Accident Injury May Not Be Immediately Felt" »

November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I want to wish all my past, current, and future clients a Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Be careful on this busy and dangerous travel weekend and get to your family safely.

November 22, 2010

Do Not Allow Insurance Companies to Force You Into an Early Settlement

I read today about a case in New York in which the New York State Supreme Court sided with the insurance company and upheld a Release for $200.00. Yup, $200. The claimant was not at fault for the car accident and did not immediately realize the extent of his injuries. Shortly after the accident, the claimant accepted the $200 check not realizing that by so doing he was giving up any and all rights to pursue further damages against the driver that injured him.

The claimant's attorneys argued that the Release was obtained by fraud and mutual mistake. They argued that the claimant was unaware of the nature of his injuries and lacked any time to seek adequate treatment before the insurance company asked him to sign the Release for $200. The New York State Supreme Court disagreed and despite being injured through the recklessness and negligence of someone else, the claimant will be left with no more than the hefty sum of $200.

Insurance adjusters often seek to close a case with a quick and inexpensive settlement without informing you of the real value of your case. You should speak with a personal injury attorney before signing any form of Release with an insurance company.

Also, keep in mind that the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulations maintains certain requirements when an insurance company attempts to negotiate settlements with unrepresented parties.

From Insurance Regulation 73:

E. No Insurer shall commence or continue negotiations for settlement of a claim directly with a Claimant who is not legally represented, unless or until the Insurer has given the Claimant written notice of the applicable statute of limitations. In addition to said initial notice, written notice of said statute of limitations shall be given to First Party Claimants at least thirty (30) Days and to Third Party Claimants at least sixty (60) Days before the date on which any such statute of limitations may expire.

F. No Insurer shall represent to a Third Party Claimant that his or her rights may be impaired if he or she does not execute any form or release within a given period of time; provided however, nothing in this subsection shall be deemed to prohibit the Insurer from notifying the Third Party Claimant of any applicable statute of limitations.

As this New York case reminds us, once you have signed a Release, it is almost always too late for an attorney to help you. In very rare instances, can a Release be voided. For that reason, if you have been injured in a car accident, it is imperative that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your interests. And always, speak to an attorney before singing any major contract, including a personal injury Release.

As a former insurance adjuster, I know that the insurance companies use aggressive tactics to keep you form hiring a personal injury attorney and then try to force you into a quick and cheap settlement for far less than your claim is worth. Do not fall victim to these tactics!

Continue reading "Do Not Allow Insurance Companies to Force You Into an Early Settlement" »

November 17, 2010

Objects Left Inside Two Patients at Women & Infants in Providence

The Rhode Island Health Department has disclosed today that two serious medical errors occurred last summer at Women & infant's Hospital in Providence. In both instances, medical and surgical equipment was left inside the patient after the procedure was completed. People often wonder how does such obvious medical malpractice occur? Yet time after time we hear about surgical material left inside patients, wrong site surgeries, and more. This story also shows that obvious medical malpractice can even occur at hospitals with very good reputations and records.

The first incident occurred on July 24 when surgical gauze was left inside a patient following childbirth. The second incident occurred in August when a piece of thread from surgical gauze seperated and was left in the patient's abdomen. From the Department of Health website:

HEALTH conducted an investigation and determined that during the July incident, the obstetrical team did not follow the hospital's policy about communication of patient information when the staff changed shifts resulting in the gauze roll being left in the patient's vagina. During the August incident, HEALTH determined that the hospital's surgical count policy was not followed. At the conclusion of the procedure, a surgical staff member noticed that the marker thread had separated from a gauze pad used during surgery. A piece of x-ray sensitive thread was found and removed before the patient left the operating room, but an x-ray was not done to confirm that the entire piece of thread was removed.

Doctors are well educated people with good intentions, but mistakes can and do occur, even extremely obvious ones. If a doctor failed to treat a patient within the recognized standard of care, it may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Continue reading "Objects Left Inside Two Patients at Women & Infants in Providence" »

November 16, 2010

Feds Tell Massachusetts It is Not Doing Enough to Combat Drunk Driving

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is criticizing Massachusetts for not doing enough to curb "hardcore" drunk drivers. The term "hardcore" drunk driver is reserved for those who operate a car with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher, or for those who have previous drunk driving arrests. So called hardcore drunk drivers are to blame for the overwhelming majority of alcohol related auto fatalities. In fact, of the 10,839 people killed in alcohol related car accidents last year, 7,607 fatalities were caused by hardcore drunk drivers.

The NTSB has outlined suggestions for States to adopt in an effort to curb drunk driving. Massachusetts, along with a few other States, has adopted only a few of these suggested plans. Among the NTSB suggestions to curb drunk driving are:

  • Frequent and statewide sobriety checkpoints;
  • Impose tougher penalties for drunk drivers with a BAC over .15;
  • License revocation;
  • Prohibit diversion programs (i.e., force judges to impose the most severe penalties);
  • Require prior DWI convicts to maintain a zero BAC;
  • Install ignition interlock devices.

It is not uncommon for our States to be on the wrong end of NTSB opinion. Just a few years ago, the NTSB also came out and criticized Rhode Island for not doing enough against drunk driving. It is a serious problem in every State that causes far too much injury.

Continue reading "Feds Tell Massachusetts It is Not Doing Enough to Combat Drunk Driving" »

November 13, 2010

Rhode Island Repeat Traffic Offender Statute and Suspended Licenses

This summer, Governor Carcieri singed the "Colin Foote Act" into effect which creates a repeat offender statute for traffic violations. The Act was proposed following the death of Colin Foote, a young man who was killed while riding his motorcycle. The woman who struck and killed Mr. Foote, had nineteen (19!) prior moving violations (all within a matter of years) and was cited again at the scene where she killed Mr. Foote. This was obviously a terrible tragedy for the family and they have used their pain to try and enact positive change in RI. There is even a billboard on Route 95 and a blog maintained by the family in rememberance of Colin.

Many people with questionable driving records, unaware of the new Colin Foote Act, may be surprised to show up at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal and find out that they are in danger of losing their license for up to one year! This is, in fact, true. The prosecution was not trying to scare or bluff you.

Under the new statute, the Traffic Tribunal may suspend or revoke a license for up to one year for any person guilty of four (4) moving violations within an 18 month period. This punishment is in addition to the ordinary penalties and fees associated with the moving violation. The moving violations subject to this statute are:

  • (1) 31-13-4. Obedience to devices.
  • (2) 31-14-1. Reasonable and prudent speeds.
  • (3) 31-14-2. Prima facie limits.
  • (4) 31-14-3. Conditions requiring reduced speeds.
  • (5) 31-15-5. Overtaking on the right.
  • (6) 31-15-11. Laned roadways.
  • (7) 31-15-12. Interval between vehicles.
  • (8) 31-15-16. Use of emergency break-down lane for travel.
  • (9) 31-17-4. Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection.
  • (10) 31-20- 9. Obedience to stop signs.
  • (11) 31-27.1- 3. "Aggressive driving" defined.
Generally, moving violations are not serious matters and may or may not require the assistance of a lawyer. If, however, you are subject to the punishment of the new repeat offender statute, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney to assist your defense. The loss of your driving license is a very serious punishment that may cause you to lose your job or add hours to your day relying on public transportation. It also seriously impacts your family, as well as your personal and social life.

Most of all - be conscious of how you are driving. Keep speeds reasonable and avoid aggressive driving. This new statute should not be seen merely as a new punishment from the State, but as a reminder that driving is very dangerous and we must act appropriately behind the wheel to avoid unnecessary tragedy.

November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day!

I want to send a heart felt thanks from my entire office and family to all of the veterans in this Country who have sacrificed so much!

November 7, 2010

Do You Disagree with Your Personal Injury Attorney About Settlement?

The following story was relayed to me by a colleague who also practices in personal injury and did not occur at my office. It is, however, an incredible story that everyone should be aware of.

A client came to my colleague's office about a year ago upset that his personal injury attorney wanted him to settle his case for $7,500. He believed that his case was worth much more money. My colleague agreed that the case deserved more money and offered to take over the case. A few weeks ago the case settled for $300,000. This is not an exaggeration. Not only had the previous attorney wildly undervalue the claim but he also failed to identify all available insurance policies.

On a much lesser scale, I recently settled a case for $54,000 after a client came to my office upset because her attorney was pushing her to settle for $12,000. This can happen. Sometimes a good attorney makes a mistake, and sometimes, quite frankly, it happens because you do not have a very good attorney. If you have been seriously injured and your attorney is pushing you to accept a settlement that you think is far too low, it is worth obtaining a second opinion. The new attorney will be unlikely to take the case if the offer is fair, but if the offer is too low then you can fire your old attorney and ask someone else to take over.

Remember that the decision to settle a case is always your decision. Do not be pressured into a low settlement if you disagree.

Continue reading "Do You Disagree with Your Personal Injury Attorney About Settlement?" »

November 2, 2010

Get Out And Vote!

Just want to remind everybody today to take ten minutes and go to their local polling place to cast their vote. One of the greatest influences to our Rhode Island law is the people that we elect to put into office. Don't let your opportunity to be heard pass.

November 1, 2010

Father of Four Year Old Girl Settles Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Crocs

A Tennessee father has settled a case against Crocs on behalf of his four-year old daughter. Crocs, the soft-rubber soled shoes and favorite of Mario Batali, have become wildly popular over the last few years. The soft rubber sole, however, is potentially very dangerous and lawsuits have been springing up across the Country.

In this case, the four year old girl was riding on the elevator with her foot close to the edge. The soft rubber eventually became entwined in the teeth of the escalator and the four year old girl was trapped. She suffered permanent and serious injuries as her foot was mutilated by the escalator. Warnings are now placed on Crocs and similar soft rubber shoes highlighting the risk of riding on escalators, but millions of pairs were sold without such warning and much of the general public may be unaware that Crocs post such a danger.

The product liability attorney trying the case cited several studies which demonstrate the inherent risk of Crocs:

Studies, including one conducted by a Japanese consumer safety testing firm, showed the Crocs and their imitators that "appear to be prone to entrapment when pressed against the (side) skirt guard or step riser while standing on the yellow line of an escalator."

Children were at particular risk because Crocs for kids were smaller, thinner and more elastic, the Japanese study stated.

A successful product liability lawsuit must show that the product:

  1. Was manufactured improperly and was therefore defective; or
  2. Was designed improperly and was therefore defective; or
  3. Lacked adequate or sufficient warning of dangers that the product might present.

In this case, an experienced product liability attorney could make a case for point 2 and point 3 above. The design was such that the soft rubber sole could easily become caught in an escalator which is a device used everyday by millions of people. Therefore, the danger of using such a product on an escalator should have been foreseeable. However, the easier argument is point 3. For years, tens of millions of Crocs were sold without adequate warning to tell people they needed to be careful on escalators else their feet may become trapped in the belt. Hundreds of accidents, with injuries ranging from cuts to severed toes, were reported over the years and it was not until 2009 that Crocs were finally sold with a warning regarding escalators.

Continue reading "Father of Four Year Old Girl Settles Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Crocs" »

October 27, 2010

Attorney Lamy Secures Dismissal of Massachusetts Felony Drug Charges

Today, criminal defense attorney Joseph Lamy secured another great result in Massachusetts. My client was charged with felony drug possession in Massachusetts following an arrest for ecstasy possession in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The case was brought in Bristol County District Court. After diligently working and fighting the charges and filing a Motion to Dismiss for Illegal Search and Seizure due to lack of probable cause, the prosecution finally agreed to dismiss all charges.

Drug possession arrests in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are serious. In this case, my client, with no previous record, still faced up to a year in prison. Instead, the case was thrown out without a plea, no probation, no community service, and absolutely no criminal record!

If you have been arrested for felony or misdemeanor drug possession in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, it is absolutely imperative that you contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.

Continue reading "Attorney Lamy Secures Dismissal of Massachusetts Felony Drug Charges" »

October 25, 2010

Assaults and Injuries in Bars and Nightclubs

My office has been heavily involved with a fatal attack that occurred outside a Providence nightclub and in the past few weeks I have received a number of calls from people injured (sometimes severely) at a bar or nightclub. Sometimes the attack occurs inside the club and sometimes it happens outside in the street or parking lot.

It should not seem as a surprise that I have received a lot of calls about these types of cases since it seems every day that the news in Rhode Island is talking about a fight, stabbing, or shooting outside a Rhode Island club. You have to realize that a night out can be fun, but also dangerous. Sometimes it is best to walk away from a threat or potential fight because you do not know the other person involved and he may be capable of murder.

So if you or a friend is attacked and injured outside of a nightclub, who is to blame? Obviously, you can sue the person who attacked you and caused the injury. However, it is highly unlikely that someone starting fights at 3 a.m. is going to have any assets worth going after. The only real option is to try and hold the bar or nightclub responsible.

Bars and nightclubs make a great deal of money selling alcohol to patrons, but because of the dangerous nature of alcohol they have a responsibility to make sure that patrons do not become drunk or violent. Also, they must act quickly and responsibly in defusing a dangerous situation if it appears that a fight is about to break out. This may include calling the police if necessary (something which clubs never want to do because of the bad publicity!) If your injury is caused by a drunken and disorderly patron or because security failed to appropriately act, then the club may be responsible under liquor liability laws.

If you have been threatened or targeted in any way while inside a club it is important to inform security so that they may take reasonable action. Failure to act appropriately can be grounds for liability if you are injured. Look for witnesses and make a record with management and the police (if applicable) so that your side of the story is clearly on record.

Unfortunately, many insurance companies are now denying coverage for negligent security. This means that even if the club is insured they may not have any coverage if liability is based on improper or negligent security. In these instances, you need an experienced Rhode Island personal injury attorney who can think outside the box and try to find a way to compensate you for the injury suffered.

Continue reading "Assaults and Injuries in Bars and Nightclubs" »

October 21, 2010

Settling Personal Injury Claims with Allstate

Several months ago I wrote a post about the unique difficulties and problems that arise when trying to settle a car accident claim with Geico Insurance. That Geico post generated a lot of calls and questions and even a woman from Nebraska who asked if I could help her settle her accident case with Geico. After explaining that I am not admitted to the Nebraska bar, I gave her the best advice I could and wished her luck.

So, I began thinking that I would write a similar post about the company that is most notorious for being difficult when settling personal injury claims, Allstate Insurance. If you ask any experienced personal injury attorney, who is the worst insurance company to deal with, a majority would likely respond, Allstate. In fact, Allstate was declared by the American Association for Justice, to be the worst insurance company in America.

Why is Allstate so terrible, you ask?

Allstate is notorious for unnecessarily delaying payments, forcing lawsuits, and making ridiculously low offers. I was recently retained by a client who was dealing directly with an Allstate adjuster for almost three years. He sustained a serious injury to his foot in a car accident that was clearly not his fault. He had twelve thousand dollars in medical bills and was treating with doctors for over a year! After almost three years, Allstate offered him an astonishing $4000. Less than one-third of his total medical bills. After the shock wore off, my client came into my office. I had barely enough time to file a lawsuit and protect the statute of limitations. Of course, Allstate made no effort to remind or inform my client that he only had three years to file a lawsuit, else be barred from ever bringing the suit.GoodHandsPoster.jpg

This has been there practice for decades. In fact, Allstate has been in Court over the last several years trying to prevent the release of a book that documents their corrupt claims practice. In the 1990's Allstate had internal documents showing a pair of "boxing gloves" rather than "good hands". The purpose of the boxing glove documents was to say that they would give quick and cheap settlements to accident victims who did not retain attorneys, and fight tooth and nail with those victims who had the audacity to hire a personal injury attorney.

During this time, Allstate also established a computerized system for evaluating personal injury claims, called Collossus. Allstate used nationwide values to interpret medical records and injuries and forced adjusters to make the low-ball offers that Collossus "spit out". Adjusters no longer had any input into the value or merits of a claim. Settlements were controlled by a computer that was manipulated by Allstate Insurance.

Despite their notorious history, I actually do not find Allstate as bad as Geico for making low and insulting offers to injury victims. However, the story told above about my client and his experience in dealing directly with Allstate, demonstrates that you absolutely must hire an experienced car accident attorney if the at-fault driver was insured with Allstate.

Continue reading "Settling Personal Injury Claims with Allstate" »