Articles Posted in auto accidents

Many people may be unaware of a very helpful statute in RI which requires insurance companies to submit to arbitration before a lawsuit is filed.  According to RIGL 27-10.3-1, any insurance policy written in the State of Rhode Island must include a provision for arbitration if the case is valued under $50,000.

This statute is incredibly helpful for difficult personal injury cases that don’t have a particularly high value.  In Rhode Island, it can literally take years before a lawsuit is reached for trial and if you go the whole distance the costs can skyrocket into the thousands or tens of thousands.  For that reason, it doesn’t always make sense to file a lawsuit, particularly on cases that are worth 15-25k.  For these types of cases, this arbitration provision can be a lifesaver.  If the insurance company is disputing liability or just making a low-ball offer, then filing statutory arbitration may be the best bet.

Our office uses this tool a great deal.  When insurance companies like Allstate, Progressive and Liberty Mutual (these 3 in particular) want to make ridiculous low-ball offers by cutting the lost wage claim, cutting the medical bills and reducing the pain and suffering, my office often moves right to arbitration.

There is no single question that I receive more often than… “What is my case worth?”  Often, that is very tricky to answer, especially early on.  The fact is that only a verdict from a jury after trial is a final and true determination of value.  But so few cases actually go all the way to trial that your attorney must rely on his experience and skill to obtain as much for you as possible.  There are a number of factors that go into determining the value of your case.  Foremost, the severity of the injury and the extent of the treatment required.  Additionally, the value of your medical bills and lost wages (if any).  Also, are you willing to file a lawsuit and wait for more money or would you prefer to settle quickly for less.

So you see.. “What is my case worth” is a rather loaded question.

It may come as a surprise to many readers but another important factor in determining the value of your case is… which insurance company is involved?  Especially early on during initial settlement talks, the insurance company on the other side makes a big difference.  One company can value a case at 25k while another offers 12k.  How can that be you ask? If my case is worth 25k it is worth 25k.  Well, it is not so easy as that.  Several insurance companies will “low ball” your initial offer.  They want to see if your attorney is willing to file arbitration or file a lawsuit or rather just encourage you to settle for a quick payout.  In most cases, the attorney accepts these low settlement offers and insurance companies continue to get away with paying less than they should.  In Rhode Island, you have to be particularly careful of Progressive Insurance, Allstate Insurance and Liberty Mutual.  These three companies (at least in my experience) are notorious for making low, sometimes insulting, offers of settlement.  They justify this by cutting down your medical bills (claiming that treatment received was too expensive or unnecessary) and they will cut down your lost wages (suggesting you could have gone back to work earlier than you did) and they will offer you relatively little in pain and suffering.  In the end, you get an offer way below your own valuation of your injuries.

A cranston school bus veered off the road yesterday in a single vehicle accident.  Approximately 13 children were on board the bus when the accident occurred and while they did not initially complain of injury, many students went to urgent care facilities or hospitals in the evening with complaints of pain.  Apparently the police or bus driver did not feel it necessary to call any ambulance to the scene.  I find this very surprising.  Even if the accident was not terribly bad and no child immediately complained of pain, isn’t precaution the better option here?  A child can’t be expected to make important health decisions at the scene.

The cause of this school bus accident is still unknown.  This particular bus was not a city bus but rather a school bus outsourced to First Student, a private corporation.  Turnto10.com has reported that the driver was wearing a blue tooth head set in her ears which is absolutely prohibited.  The driver claims to have hit a patch of sand which caused her to veer but a witness directly behind the bus indicated that the bus made no evasive maneuvers or attempts to avoid the accident.  I am certain that the police will be taking a close look at this drivers cell phone records to see if it was in use at the time of the incident.

School bus accidents can be particularly dangerous to children because they are not buckled and they do not have the added protection of airbags.  Often children are standing or turned around in their seats which can cause dangerous and uncertain falls when a school bus collides with another object or runs off road.  Luckily, in this instance, it appears none of the injuries are serious.

Ive long discussed the difficulties and complications following a diagnosis of concussion after an auto accident.  Minor traumatic brain injuries can occur in many serious car accidents.  It is not necessary that you black out following an accident or strike your head with serious force to sustain a concussion.  The diagnosis will likely be determined at the emergency room based on either diagnostic testing or a review of the objective and subjective symptoms.  Some diagnosed with a concussion may never exhibit symptoms while others will experience intense post-concussion syndrome.  Headaches, tiredness, forgetfulness, dizziness, nausea, emotional swings are all just a few of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

While obviously not a doctor myself, I always suggest to my clients who have been diagnosed with a concussion or are exhibiting signs of post-concussion syndrome to follow up with their primary care physician or a neurologist.  Too often I feel that diagnoses of concussion are taken too lightly and inadequately investigated.  The long term implications are serious.  For one, any sufferer of a minor traumatic brain injury is at an increased risk to have another concussion.  In other words, the more concussions you have sustained the easier it is to sustain a concussion.  Today, I came across an article articulating another long term risk of concussion.  The report revealed that while it has been long established that serious head injuries increase the likelihood of suicide and suicidal thoughts, so too may a minor brain injury, or simple concussion, increase the risk of suicide over time.

The test looked at hundreds of thousands of patients who had sustained a concussion in the past twenty years and found that 667 had committed suicide.  This number is roughly three times higher than the suicide rate in the general population. Worse, the study also supported that those with multiple concussions had yet an even higher suicide rate.  The lead physician of the study stated that mild concussions “although invisible at the time of the incident, could be dangerous later on.”

News today reports that a RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) bus was involved in a pretty serious accident with a tractor trailer.  The accident which happened Tuesday at the corner of Church and Pine Streets disabled both vehicles and sent at least two bus passengers to the hospital with several others complaining of pain.  This follows accidents  in March involving a pedestrian very seriously injured when struck by a RIPTA bus and several other high profile accidents in the past few months.

In this case, the RIPTA investigation (unsurprisingly) claims fault is with the truck driver who allegedly ran a red light.  Both drivers may argue fault in this matter and debate who had the right of way.  Fortunately, passengers on the bus are entitled to compensation no matter who is at fault.  Joint and several liability holds that anyone who carries no negligence (passengers clearly can’t be at fault since they were not in control of either vehicle) are entitled to obtain compensation from one at fault party, or the other, or both.  In short, either the truck driver or RIPTA will be paying the claims to these injured passengers.

RIPTA in general is notoriously difficult to work with and very rarely settles cases for fair value without a lawsuit.  RIPTA is also self-insured meaning that they settle all of their claims “in house” and attorneys do not deal with a traditional insurance company.  My office has handled a number of RIPTA cases, and honestly, we just file suit right away.  There is little point in trying to negotiate directly with RIPTA especially in a case like this where they are alleging the other party is at fault.  If you have been hurt in an accident with a RIPTA bus or while riding as a passenger on a RIPTA bus, be sure to talk to your attorney about his or her experience in dealing with RIPTA and hire an attorney who has a record of success against RIPTA and who is prepared to file the often necessary lawsuit.  If you have been injured in this accident or any other bus accident, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

I came across this interesting article on CNN.com regarding a massive class action lawsuit involving hundreds of auto bodys from nearly every State in the Country against the insurance industry and major insurance companies.  The complaint at the heart of the lawsuit concerns the use of old and/or junk parts in the repair of vehicles and steering by the insurance company to “preferred” body shops.  The body shops along with Attorney Generals representing several States have initiated this action to end both of these practices by the insurance company which they feel are unsafe and deceptive.

LKQ / USED PARTS IN THE REPAIR OF A VEHICLE

The term LKQ stands for Like Kind and Quality.  It means a replacement part that came off of a previously totaled or salvaged vehicle.  Massive salvage yards are in every corner of the country with thousands of vehicles that were deemed total losses following an auto accident.  These salvage yards remove every piece of a vehicle and post them for sale.  When a body shop or insurance company calls the salvage yard looking for a 2004 Camry headlight, they will very likely have one in stock.  Then that used headlight goes into your repaired 2004 Camry.  The insurance companies claim that they do not owe for a brand new Toyota headlight because the car being fixed is not new.  In other words, the insurance companies justify this practice by saying “we replaced a ten year old Camry headlight with another ten year old Camry headlight.”  There may be some fair rationale to that argument.  This lawsuit alleges, however, that used parts in a salvage yard are not always safe or in the best condition.  For that reason, forcing body shops to use such parts can potentially create a hazardous situation.  And lets be honest, if a tree falls on your house and you make a homeowners claim, would you expect your contractor to use 30 year old wood while re-constructing your house or brand new materials?  Junk parts are just that – junk.

Considering that most New Englanders now feel they are living in Alaska, it is not surprising that snow and ice are causing a lot of car accidents in the past weeks.  This has led to a common recurring question – why am I at fault for an accident caused by snow or ice?  It is a reasonable question.  If your car slides on ice and you are unable to come to a stop despite your absolute best efforts, then why should you be responsible if you rear end someone.  You couldn’t help the slide, after all.

As reasonable an argument as that may be, the reality is that anyone who operates a vehicle in snow and ice willingly takes on the risk that comes with those conditions.  We all know that it is dangerous to drive in the snow and therefore we take responsibility if we lose control of our car.  Any injuries or property damage that are caused will be the responsibility of the person who lost control in the snow.

Aside from this, auto accidents caused by snow and ice are subject to the same rules of the road as any other car accident.  If you hit a patch of ice and slide through a stop sign striking another vehicle, you will be responsible for the damages caused.  Rhode Island does not become a no-fault state because of snow and ice.  If you have been hurt in a car accident caused during the recent snow storms, contact our office for a free consultation.

Welcome news this morning as I was reading the Turn to 10 webpage. It appears that RI Lawmakers have put in place mechanisms to check and ensure that Rhode Island drivers have active automobile insurance coverage. Failure to maintain active auto insurance can result in suspension of your driver’s license. A link to the story can be found here.

This is certainly welcome news since 1 in 5 vehicles on the road in Rhode Island is currently uninsured. Every week I have to give the extremely upsetting news to a car accident client that the at fault driver did not have auto insurance at the time of the accident. That means that despite thousands of dollars in vehicle damage and serious bodily injury, the at fault driver will not be able to compensate the victim. Luckily, on many occasions my clients have uninsured motorist coverage on their policy and they are able to receive compensation through their own insurance company. Many clients, however, do not have this coverage and are out of luck.

Theoretically, you can sue the at fault driver for damages with or without insurance. Unfortunately, this is a time consuming and complex process. There are also quite a few costs associated with a lawsuit. Drivers who do not possess auto insurance on their vehicle are also very unlikely to have any money or assets since a person of wealth would never risk driving their vehicle without insurance. So, you have a time consuming and complex lawsuit against a defendant with no money. That is why a personal injury attorney is unlikely to help you if there is no insurance.

Ive recently become involved in an interesting auto accident case and I thought it might be informative to others out there having a similar experience. My client has been experiencing frequent panic attacks and mental anguish following an automobile accident. While insurance companies, and even juries to some extent, are able to quantify damages for broken arms and/or legs, they are much less equipped to quantify damages for mental anxiety and suffering. The relative lack of these types of cases can make them difficult to settle and make determining a value difficult.

To anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack, I empathize. I understand that many people would rather have a broken arm or leg than live through five minutes of a full blown panic attack. Anything can bring on these attacks and for some it is difficult to even get in a car again or drive down the same street where the accident occurred. Because panic attacks are unpredictable, it does not require an extremely serious or traumatic accident. Even a moderate impact can have devastating results. Sometimes the auto accident is the last straw in an otherwise stressful life – work, kids, bills and life are sometimes enough to deal with before an accident occurs and your car is destroyed, you are unable to work and your life is flipped upside down.

Rest assured, that while difficult to monetize, these claims have merit. Like any other injury suffered in an accident, the claim has to be supported by medical evidence. This means that a therapist, psychologist or social worker has to actively treat your condition, much like an orthopedist would mend your broken leg. With a proper diagnosis and treatment these cases can be handled if your personal injury attorney is experienced with dealing with such circumstances.

I’ve written about hit and run accidents on this blog in the past, but it still seems to come up quite a bit so I thought it merited another post. What are your rights and what can you do if someone causes an accident injuring you and damaging your car and then takes off? Hit and run accidents, unfortunately, are quite common especially in Providence. There are a number of reasons why someone might take off after causing an accident such as:

  • He or she has an outstanding arrest warrant;
  • He or she does not have a license and/or insurance;