September 12, 2011

Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Dog Bite Law

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has upheld the contentious "One Bite" law that Rhode Island still adheres to regarding dog bites. Although the majority of other States have switched to strict liability regarding dog bites (i.e. the owner always must take responsibility for the actions of his dog) Rhode Island still continues to allow owners one "chance" before they are necessarily responsible to a dog bite victim. Dog bites often cause serious injury and under Rhode Island law, determining fault can be quite difficult so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced dog bite attorney.

In the opinion, Chief Justice Suttell explains the current law well:

If injuries are suffered within an owner's enclosed area, the strict-liability statute does not apply, but rather the common law continues to apply and dictates that the plaintiff first must prove that the defendant knew about the dog's vicious propensities, a ... requirement commonly known as the 'one-bite rule'....

In Rhode Island, a dog owner is always responsible for biting a victim IF AND ONLY IF the dog is outside of the home or his "enclosure". In those cases, the owner of the animal will be responsible for your medical bills, lost wages and pain suffering including the scar, if any. If, however, the accident happens inside the home or the animals "enclosure" then the common law applies. Rhode Island State law defines an "enclosure" as "a fence, physical obstruction or any other condition that gives reasonable notice to third parties that the area is private." This means that in order to collect damages you must be able to show that the dog owner KNEW the animal was dangerous and was negligent in allowing the dog around people it could potentially attack. Under Rhode Island law, the owner of the dog knows it is dangerous if it has ever bitten someone in the past (hence the name of the "One Bite" rule), or if it is of a particularly dangerous breed such as a pit bull or akita.

In this case, a State inspector went to the backyard of the homeowner to look at a pigeon coop. While in the backyard the homeowners dog attacked the inspector seriously injuring him. The defense moved to have the case dismissed citing that the dog had never previously attacked anyone. The defense motion was granted and the Supreme Court has upheld the decision pointing to the Rhode Island "One Bite" law. Justice Suttell pointed out that Rhode Island's dog bite laws are well settled and that any changes to the law should come from the State assembly rather than the Courts. (I always feel that when Judges include that language in their opinions that they believe the law might be wrong and are secretly nudging the State Assembly to make changes.)

Interestingly, Justice Robinson, who dissented from Justice Suttell's opinion, pointed out that the dog in question was almost three feet tall and that the jury could conclude the owner should have known that such a large dog was inherently dangerous by his size alone. In so doing, Judge Robinson was not trying to change Rhode Island law but instead offered that even under current law, the case could go to a jury. Instead, the case was thrown out because the dog in question, who has since been euthanized, had never previously attacked anyone.

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September 7, 2011

Providence is a Very Accident Prone City

According to a report from Allstate Insurance (I am willing to cite their reports under the assumption that they are accurate even though they are the worst insurance company in America) Providence, Rhode Island is the fifth most auto accident prone city in the country. According to the report, the 170,000 residents of Providence get into a car crash approximately once every six years on average. While Providence fell behind Washington DC which won the award for the most accident prone city in the Country, our residents are still 66% more likely than the average driver to be in an automobile accident. In case you were interested, Fort Collins, Colorado was the safest city to drive in.

If you were involved in a car accident in Providence you are entitled to financial compensation including past and future medical bills, lost wages and/or loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Contact Joseph Lamy, your Rhode Island auto accident attorney right away for a free consultation.

August 30, 2011

Ulnar Nerve Damage in a Car Accident or Slip and Fall

I recently published a post regarding spinal and nerve injuries following an auto accident which in addition to demonstrating the need for an experienced Rhode Island personal injury attorney, highlighted the severity and risk of spinal injury in a serious car accident. Several cases have come into my office recently with nerve damage to other parts of the body, in particular, the ulnar nerve which runs the entire length of the arm.

The ulnar nerve originates at the C8-T1 vertebrae (the neck and upper shoulder region) and travels the entire length of the shoulder to the fingers. The nerve supplies sensation to the forearm, wrist, and the 4th and 5th digit of the hand. It is the largest unprotected, meaning not protected by muscle or bone, nerve in the body making it especially susceptible to injury. An ulnar nerve injury can be sustained in a car accident, motorcycle or bike accident, or slip and fall, especially if there is direct contact between your arm (in particular the elbow) and some other object such as a fall to the floor or being thrown into the dashboard in a car accident. Trauma can cause the nerve to be directly damaged, or entrapped by muscle. The most common form of ulnar nerve entrapment is cubital tunnel syndrome which often requires surgical intervention.

If you have been injured in any kind of accident and experience a loss of sensation, a tingling sensation, or pain in your arm you must seek medical attention. A referral to a neurologist will likely be necessary to confirm the diagnosis of nerve damage. An EMG will most likely be conducted to evaluate the injury. Physical therapy and pain medication may be sufficient to remedy the injury, but serious nerve damage is likely to require surgical intervention. Even following surgery, it is possible to still experience pain and numbness in the affected arm.

These are very serious and often permanent injuries. It can be particularly damaging if the injury is to your dominant hand. As they are want to do, insurance companies often challenge the causal relationship between a fall or car crash and the ulnar nerve injury. It is imperative that you hire an attorney experienced with these types of injury and who is ready to take the case to trial, if necessary to prove your case. If you were involved in some form of accident or injury and have been experiencing arm pain as described in this post discuss your symptoms with your doctor and ask if he or she feels that there is possible nerve damage. In addition, contact my office so that we can discuss your case to see if you have a right to be compensated for your ulnar nerve injury.

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August 23, 2011

Hit and Run Auto Accidents in Rhode Island

Hit and run auto accidents are not uncommon in Rhode Island and I am often asked by clients what are their rights following a hit and run accident. These are complex situations that require you to sit down with a Rhode Island car accident attorney right away to sort out the facts and conduct an investigation.

Generally, if you are involved in a hit and run accident it means that you were not at fault for the collision. People tend not to run when they did nothing wrong. On the other hand, people flee an accident scene for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • They are drunk;
  • Their license is suspended;
  • There is an outstanding warrant from an unrelated matter;
  • They do not have auto insurance;
  • The car belongs to someone else;
  • There are drugs or stolen goods in the car;
  • They know they are at fault and panic.

If you were injured in an accident caused by another person who then fled the scene, you must call the police immediately and offer them as much information as you can regarding the vehicle's description, license plate, etc. Also, if and only if, you are physically able - try to take pictures of the accident scene and your vehicle. Also, attempt to locate witnesses who can corroborate your story and who might be able to give additional details to the police to identify the culprit. Finally, follow-up with a Rhode Island auto accident lawyer. There are two likely scenarios following a hit and run accident:

1) The at-fault driver is later identified and caught

In the best case scenario, the police will be able to identify and locate the other driver even if it is a couple of days after the accident. In this scenario you will proceed as if this was an ordinary auto accident. You and your attorney will notify the at-fault driver's insurance company and proceed with claims for personal injury and property damage. If it turns out that the at-fault driver fled the scene because he or she did not have insurance, then you can proceed through your uninsured motorist coverage.

2) The at-fault driver is never located

This scenario is a little more complicated. You will be able to present a personal injury claim for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering against your own carrier if you have uninsured motorist. If you do not carry uninsured motorist and the other driver is never identified, then unfortunately, there is little that can be done. Also, your Rhode Island auto insurance policy must include collision coverage for repairs to your vehicle. Uninsured property damage coverage does not cover for a hit and run. The reason is that your auto insurance policy requires that it be confirmed that the other driver did NOT have insurance. If the other driver flees the accident never to be seen again then your insurance company cannot confirm that he or she did not have auto insurance. Therefore, you will only be able to repair your vehicle through your collision coverage.

If you proceed through uninsured motorist coverage, then your insurance company steps in the shoes of the at-fault driver's insurance company and will have to pay the damages for your personal injury claim. As you can see, hit and run auto accidents can become quite complex and it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Rhode Island attorney right away to make sure that you preserve your rights.

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August 15, 2011

Subsequent Remedial Measures in Rhode Island

If you are involved in a serious personal injury claim that is on its way to trial in Rhode Island it is important to understand that Rhode Island is the only State in the Country that allows evidence of subsequent remedial measures to suggest negligence on the part of another. My non-attorney readers are probably lost, but I promise to explain why it is important. As a Rhode Island personal injury trial attorney, this rule of evidence gives us a tremendous tool that most of our sister States do not have.

First, the obvious question - what are subsequent remedial measures. These are steps taken by a person to remedy or fix a situation that previously led to injury. For example, if you slip and fall down a flight of stairs in your apartment building because of a broken step and the landowner repairs the step that night - he or she has taken subsequent remedial measures to insure that no one else is injured. The very fact, however, that the landowner needed to do a repair suggests that something was wrong that needed to be fixed. In Rhode Island, according to Rule of Evidence 407, you can use the evidence of the repair to impress upon the jury that something must have been wrong if the person took steps to correct the problem.


When, after an event, measures are taken which, if taken previously, would have made the event less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is admissible.

The Federal Rules of Evidence and the other 49 States do not allow this evidence to be used against a person to demonstrate negligence. Why? Every one else believes that it is better public policy that a person remedy a potentially harmful situation rather than leave it unchanged because he or she is afraid of the repair being used as evidence of negligence at trial. In other words, if a person knows that he may be admitting fault by making necessary repairs, he is less likely to do so and this leaves the possibility that more people may be injured. Therefore, in the Federal Courts and the other 49 States you can only use evidence of subsequent remedial measures to demonstrate ownership of the property and not as evidence of negligence.

This scenario comes up most frequently in Rhode Island slip and fall cases, i.e. a crack in the sidewalk, or a loose stair, or broken rail that causes one to fall and sustain personal injury. If you are aware that the owner took steps to fix the situation, try to obtain pictures of the changes because at your trial in Rhode Island it is admissible evidence.

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August 2, 2011

Criminal Defense Attorney Joseph Lamy Secures Dismissal of Driving to Endanger Charges

This morning in Taunton District Court, Massachusetts and Rhode Island criminal defense attorney Joseph Lamy secured the dismissal of misdemeanor charges for operating to endanger. In Massachusetts, negligent operation of a motor vehicle or driving to endanger, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90, Section 24(1)(h)(2)(a), carries very serious penalties. My client was facing not only the suspension of his license but jail time ranging from a couple of weeks to two years! It may be surprising to know that a traffic violation can result in a criminal record with such serious penalties, but it is true in Massachusetts if you are charged with driving to endanger.

The language of the statute is somewhat ambiguous but you may be charged with this criminal vehicle violation if the police believe your driving was extremely reckless or so dangerous that you put the lives of others at risk. Some examples of this behavior include: racing vehicles, speeds in excess of 20mph over the limit, frequent and rapid lane changes, utter disregard for the safety of others, etc. Some police officers, as in this case with my client, are too quick to turn minor traffic violations into criminal offenses and for this reason, these charges should always be fought aggressively in Court by an attorney.

My client had not committed any of the violations that would make him subject to this charge and we were able to prove this to the district attorney resulting in a dismissal of all charges (including the speeding ticket!). This case arose out of an auto accident. My client was operating with the right of way when another driver took a left turn in front of my client, failing to yield the right of way. The impact was significant and substantial damage was caused to both vehicles. Based on the physical damages alone, and on some other questionable evidence, the officer charged my client with driving to endanger. The officer did not witness the accident. No accident reconstruction was completed and no engineer was brought to the scene to examine the vehicles. Despite the absence of any tangible evidence, the officer charged my client criminally with driving in excess of 20mph over the speed limit.

I was able to successfully convince the Taunton District Attorney that they could never reach their required standard of proof, namely, that my client was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We showed that the case was built on questionable evidence and located and interviewed independent witnesses who confirmed that my client was driving approximately 40-45 mph (the speed limit was 40). Finally, this morning we gained the judge's approval to dismiss all charges.

My office also represents this client for personal injuries sustained in this car accident. Not only did we successfully dismiss all of the criminal charges that my client is facing but we have convinced the other woman's insurance company to accept responsibility and pay for all of my client's damages.

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July 22, 2011

Has an Accident Adjuster Told You That Your Medical Bills are Unreasonable?

Normally an argument over medical bills with an insurance adjuster is something that your car accident attorney will handle, but if you are trying to resolve the case on your own, you may have recently been told that your medical bills are unnecessary or unreasonable. Of course, you are simply following doctor's orders and obtaining the treatment he or she recommends for you to get better. You may ask, how on Earth are my bills unnecessary or unreasonable?

The first thing you should understand about insurance adjusters is that they believe everyone should be healed within 6 weeks of the accident. Whether you broke a leg or suffered a whiplash injury, it is expected that you stop treating quickly. When doctor ordered treatment goes on for a lengthy period of time (because you are still in pain and the doctor is advising you to seek additional treatment) the adjuster may begin to argue that the bills are unnecessary or unreasonable.

In a Rhode Island personal injury lawsuit, you are entitled to medically necessary and reasonable medical bills. This is why, in an effort to cut costs and the value of your case, the insurance company will attempt to argue that your bills are too high. In order to obtain all of your medical bills for any given case, we must prove that your treatment was medically necessary (i.e. doctor's orders) and that the treatment is causally related to the auto accident, slip and fall, or other accident. Causal relation is extremely important and it is often the subject matter of a personal injury lawsuit. Defense attorneys love to argue that your back pain stems not from the auto accident but from some pre-existing injury such as your days playing college football or a different auto accident ten years ago. It is on your Rhode Island car accident attorney to show that the treatment was medically necessary and causally related to the accident at hand.

If the insurance company is beginning to give you a difficult time or pressure you into settling quickly, contact my office right away. We can discuss your case for free and if I take on your representation there is no fee until I obtain money for you.

July 11, 2011

Distracted Driver Statistics = Very Scary!

A somewhat humorous Farmers Insurance commercial with spokesperson J.K. Simmons (who will always be Dr. Emil Skoda in my mind) demonstrates the dangers and hazards of distracted driving. The commercial warns against not only drunk driving, but driving while texting, talking on a cell, talking with passengers, putting on make-up, reading directions or a magazine, or listening to loud music. The list of stupid things we have all done while driving a vehicle would be longer than this blog post.

The fact, however, is that distracted driving, in particular distraction from a cell phone, plays a massive part in the number and severity of auto accidents on the road today. According to a study reported by the Hartford Courant:

  • Smart-phone users are four times more likely to be involved in a serious auto accident;
  • 5474 people were killed on the roads in accidents linked to distracted driving;
  • 20 percent of all injury related accidents involved distracted driving;
  • Using a cell phone while driving can have a similar or worse impact than driving while intoxicated.

If you are involved in an auto accident and you believe that the other driver was distracted by a cell phone or other reason, it is important to report this to the police, your insurance company, and your personal injury attorney. If liability (fault) is disputed or in question, proving that the other side was distracted while driving may swing the liability decision your way. In the meantime, recognize and appreciate the danger that cell phones can present in the car because they can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

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July 7, 2011

What is a Criminal Filing in Rhode Island and How Does it Work?

In speaking with a potential client this morning, I suggested that her case might be eligible for a criminal filing. Most people, including my new client, are unfamiliar with the criminal filing and need an explanation. Here it is....

First time offenders who commit minor crimes might be eligible for a criminal filing in Rhode Island. A criminal filing is one of the lightest punishments available to a defendant. A filing is held for one year and if the defendant can stay out of trouble during that time, the case is eligible to be expunged at the end of the year. Therefore, if your criminal defense attorney negotiates a filing for your penalty, you are only required to stay out of trouble for one year and the case will be thrown out and expunged as if it never happened. It is a great alternative to probation or more serious penalties.

Furthermore, a filing entered with a plea of nolo contendre (further discussed in my blog post about no contest pleas) is not a conviction in the State of Rhode Island. If you are arrested again during the period of a filing, that disposition will be revoked and you will be back in court. Furthermore, you will now be facing penalties for the new charges.

If you have been arrested and would like to know more about criminal filings in Rhode Island or would like to know if you may be eligible for this sentence, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

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July 2, 2011

Firework Accidents and Injuries in Rhode Island

With the 4th of July approaching, a number of doctors have expressed their concern over the potential for injury this Holiday. Dangers exist not only from the illegally obtained fireworks from neighboring States, or the complex and large-scale displays put on across Rhode Island, but additional dangers exist now that the State of Rhode Island has legalized certain fireworks. So called "sparkler" fireworks, or non-explosive fireworks have been legalized in Rhode Island and are readily available. These fireworks, while they do not contain explosive elements and are not projectile, still raise the risk of burn injuries, eye injuries, and other serious injuries. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission cautioned that children should never be allowed to play with sparklers because these fireworks can reach tempatures of nearly 2000!!! degrees fahrenheit. Children are at the highest risk of firework related injury. Last Year nearly four thousand children under the age of 15 were injured by fireworks. The injuries ranged from minor to fatal.

FireworksInjury.jpg

Fireworks obtained from New Hampshire which will be shot at thousands of houses across Rhode Island this weekend, continue to possess the greatest danger. These devices contain explosive elements which can fail and explode too lose to ground level near onlookers, instead of in the sky as intended. Also, an inexperienced user of fireworks may "set off" the firework improperly causing it to project towards people instead of in to the sky, or explode early.

Injuries resulting from fireworks can be extremely serious and do not need to be outlined in this article. If you or someone you know was injured while viewing a firework display, properly licensed or not, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away.

June 27, 2011

What is a "Friendly Lawsuit?"

Tomorrow morning I will be at Providence Superior Court for a hearing on a so-called "friendly lawsuit". It occurred to me as I prepare for the hearing that many people may have heard of a friendly lawsuit, or been told that they will be part of a friendly suit, and may not know what it is all about.

Even though it sounds like an oxymoron, a friendly lawsuit occurs when the parties have agreed to terms but want Court approval of the Agreement. In the area of personal injury, in which I practice, and where friendly suits are not uncommon, they are filed because the plaintiff is a minor and the settlement is over $10,000. Under Rhode Island law, a settlement over ten thousand dollars for a minor child must be approved by a Judge after the Guardian Ad Litem has drafted a report and confirmed that the settlement is in the best interest of the child.

The purpose of this extra step is so that an impartial third party will look at the interests of the child to ensure that the settlement is fair for the plaintiff who is unable to make his or her own decision. Since a minor can not enter into a contract legally, a friendly suit, will also make the signed Release binding on the minor. Otherwise, a minor plaintiff can bring a personal injury lawsuit after his or her 18th birthday.

If your child was seriously injured in any kind of personal injury action and negotiations have begun for settlement, you may begin to discuss the need to file a friendly lawsuit. If you are working without the help of a personal injury lawyer, I would advise contacting one to help you through this tricky additional step.

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June 23, 2011

Attorney Joseph Lamy Secures Dismissal of Cocaine Possession Charge

This morning in Rhode Island District Court, criminal defense attorney Joseph Lamy successfully obtained a dismissal of felony cocaine possession charges. In Rhode Island, cocaine is classified as a schedule I drug and possession charges come with very serious penalties. According to the statute, a non drug-addicted person caught with possession of a schedule I drug is facing up to a life sentence and fines of up to $500,000!

If you have been arrested on drug possession charges, contact our office right away for a free initial consultation. The earlier I enter the case, the better your chances of a positive outcome.

June 20, 2011

Drowning Risk is High for Kids in Portable Pools

Portable pools, ranging from small plastic wading pools to relatively large constructions that hold 3-4 feet of water are increasing in popularity because they are easy to assemble and are a cheap alternative to formal pool systems. A new study, however, suggests that these portable pools may be very dangerous to young children. According to the study, in the last several years there has been 244 serious incidents involving portable pools, with 209 of those cases resulting in death by drowning. 94% of the victims were children under the age of 5, and most injuries occurred at the child's home.

The reason for this high risk of danger is unclear but there may be many factors:

  • Portable or temporary pools do not have the same protective and/or safety equipment that formal pools have;
  • parents are less likely to be in the pool with the child when and if a problem occurs;
  • some parents may wrongfully assume that the pool is too small to pose a risk;

Drowning can occur in a flash and so suddenly that even monitored children are at risk. It is imperative to constantly monitor children in a pool and if the child is particularly small, to always be within arm reach so that you can save the child immediately.

All pools, above ground, in-ground, or portable are a serious danger to children and parents and supervising adults must act with extreme caution to prevent catastrophe.

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June 14, 2011

Rhode Island May Implement Further Restrictions on Cell Phone Use While Driving

A new bill is being considered that would make it illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to use a cell phone AT ALL while operating a motor vehicle. Recently, Rhode Island joined several other States including Massachusetts in banning texting while driving, but this bill would prohibit any use of a cell phone for those under 21. Currently, any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.

The sponsor of the bill, Frank Lombardo III, suggested that he would like to see all cell phone use banned at any age, but recognizes that this is a practical first step. Ample evidence suggests that cell phone use can be as dangerous as drunk driving and is a leading cause of car accidents.

Young drivers, particularly those under 21, have a much higher propensity for accidents without additional distractions. According to the CDC, "per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash." Motor vehicle accidents are also the leading cause of death for this age group. These statistics support the Senator's contention that further restrictions on cell phone use may save lives.

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June 7, 2011

Your Rhode Island and Massachusetts Boating Accident Lawyer

In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the boating and water sport season is upon us and it is important for you to understand your rights if you were injured on board a boat or other watercraft. Accidents or injuries on board cruise ships, private boats, ferries, or even water skis, are injuries in which you may be able to collect personal injury damages including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The Center for Disease Control reports that in 2009 there were 4,730 boating accidents resulting in 3,358 injuries and 736 deaths. Among the fatalities, it was discovered that 84% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.

The most common types of boating accidents are:

The injuries following a boating accident can be quite serious including fractures, burns, head injuries, or at worst, drowning. Similar to auto accidents, most boating accidents are caused by operator inattention or recklessness, operator inexperience, and operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, the Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 5 boating fatalities are related to alcohol use.

Most watercraft are insured, but boat accident litigation can become quite complex so it is important to speak with an attorney who has experience in representing those injured while a passenger on a boat.

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