Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in auto accidents

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.

One thing you can do to avoid being in this position is to call your insurance company or agent and make certain that you have uninsured motorist on your policy for BOTH property damage and personal injury. You may be very surprised to see that this can cost as little as $100/year. While uninsured motorist is not required by law in the State of Rhode Island, an extra $100/year might just save you tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid property damage, medical bills and lost wages.

That said, it is good to see Rhode Island taking proactive steps to reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the road. Other states also have similar programs. In some states the insurance company is required to notify the DMV when a policy is cancelled, not renewed, etc. The DMV will investigate and if the person does not have a policy with a different company, the license will be suspended.

License suspension is a much more serious harm than the $500 fine currently given to those in Rhode Island caught driving without insurance. If you are caught driving on a suspended license, you will be arrested! It is a misdemeanor. Furthermore, Rhode Island does not have any hardship provision for license suspensions. It does not matter to a Judge in RI if you have four kids and drive 100 miles a day to work. No matter what, your license will remain suspended. The threat of a night in jail and criminal record is much more scary than a fine and I hope it will be enough to encourage more people to drive with proper auto insurance on their vehicle.

We should continue to encourage our lawmakers to push for better laws and stricter punishments against uninsured drivers. Their negligence can destroy lives without the means to help put the pieces back together.

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.

If your injuries are more than just physical in nature, contact our office for a free consultation and we will discuss your options and rights. Be certain, these cases can be complex and it is important that you speak to an experienced auto accident attorney.

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;
  • They are drunk or on drugs;
  • And sometimes, he or she is just a jerk who thinks they can get away with it.

If a driver flees the scene, all is not lost. While many police departments do very little in their “hit and run” departments, our law office may be able to identify the driver if you have a license plate. The RI DMV allows access to insurance and registration information if you have a plate of the hit and run vehicle. If you were unable to obtain a license plate, you may still be protected.

Depending on your insurance coverages you may be fully protected and able to obtain compensation for damages to your car, a rental vehicle, and a personal injury claim including medical bills and lost wages. Many people have uninsured motorist coverage on their auto policy and do not even know it. This coverage means that your insurance company will take the place of the insurance company that the at-fault driver should have had if they did not flee the scene. Bear in mind that uninsured motorist coverage is very affordable, so if you do not currently have it on your policy, get it! You never know when you might need it.

The point of this post is to remind you that if you are struck by a hit and run driver, you still have many options not only for your vehicle but also for your personal injuries. Contact our office for a free consultation and we will search high and low to find coverage for your losses.

Party buses and vans have grown increasingly in popularity for over a decade now taking business away from standard limousines for group functions. Bachelor, bachelorette parties and other group outings often rent a party bus for the evening. In one regard, it is much safer because it hires a designated driver for people who know they will be drinking. On the other hand, the lack of standard seating and the impetus to dance and walk around the party bus can make them dangerous even without an accident occurring.

One such company out of California which has rooftop access has been sued by a woman who claims she was struck by an overhanging tree branch causing significant injury to her face. The lawsuit claims that the company failed to monitor the overpass clearance for patrons standing and partying on the rooftop. The poor woman who was visiting New York at the time of the accident suffered a fracture of her orbital socket and numerous other facial injuries. Shockingly, this horrific accident came only one week after a young man was killed while riding on the top level of a party bus. In that case the poor victim struck a concrete overpass. This demonstrates disregard for patron safety, lack of awareness of safe and proper routes, and poor training for the bus operators. It is also important to note in this case that no warnings of any kind were given to the patrons.

Operators of sightseeing and party buses, particularly those with upper level access, have to apply strict safety standards even if it is contradictory to their intended purpose of fun.

Not dissimilar to the asbestos trust created for victims of asbestos related diseases, GM is now creating a fund to pay out claims stemming from auto accidents in recalled vehicles. GM has indicated, rightly so, that it will not matter if the accident occurred before or after the safety recall so long as it can be proven that a defect caused or contributed to the injury sustained.

GM has been hit very hard with safety recalls in the past year with over 20 million cars affected by some form of recall. This compensation fund is intended to directly address the 2.6 million defective small cars with faulty air bag switches. GM has come under very heavy criticism regarding these defects which they allegedly knew about for over 11 years without taking proper action. GM is offering settlements based on the severity of injury if the air bag’s failure to deploy caused or contributed to the victims injury. Wrongful death claims will be compensated by at least 1 million dollars.

Creation of a fund like this does not limit a persons civil right to bring a product liability claims but it creates a means for settlement while limiting the extensive costs of a product liability claim. If you or someone you know was injured in an automobile accident with a GM vehicle and the airbag either failed to delpoy or improperly deployed, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

A fascinating study released this week from a Canadian research team suggests that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester have a much higher likelihood of being involved in auto accidents. In fact, the numbers are close to women who suffer from sleep apnea. There is no clear indication as to the cause of the spike in auto accidents for women during the second trimester, but it is suggested that increased hormones may be causing distraction or fatigue which results in car accidents.

Anytime a woman is involved in an auto accident while pregnant it is very serious. The babies safety is paramount and hospitals will generally place the expectant mother on a fetal monitoring machine for 24 hours to ensure no harm to the baby. Expectant mothers are limited to what prescriptions they can take and often have to endure tremendous amounts of pain and discomfort following an accident because they can take nothing more than tylenol.

Our office has represented many pregnant women who were injured in car accidents. Some of the more serious cases require emergency Caesarean section delivery of the baby and in some cases the unborn child has also been harmed. These can be immensely complex and serious personal injury cases and requires an experienced personal injury attorney.

The Providence Journal is reporting a relatively serious bus accident which occurred between two RIPTA buses at the terminal in Kennedy Plaza, Providence. There is not a tremendous amount of information available yet about how such an accident between two buses occurred, but pictures included in the report show pretty significant damage. At least five injuries are being reported but there may be many more. If you were among those injured in this bus accident at Kennedy Plaza on May 3 it is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away.

RIPTA is a self insured agency. That means that claims for personal injury will go directly through RIPTA and not an insurance company. RIPTA has a claims department dedicated to handling accident cases. Their claims department, however, is notoriously difficult to deal with. They often delay decisions and settlement offers, make questionable liability decisions, and make low offers for settlement. If you are involved in a case against RIPTA, it is imperative to speak with a car accident attorney experienced with settling claims against RIPTA.

The good news is that liability is often not an issue for passengers on the bus. Since you are riding on their bus, you can not be held responsible for the negligent actions of the driver. If the accident includes collision with another vehicle, you will be able to collect damages regardless of which driver is responsible. Even if there is joint negligence between the two drivers, you will be able to collect from one, the other, or both drivers. Those involved in a bus accident are entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

If you have been injured in this May 3 bus accident at Kennedy Plaza, Providence, or any other accident involving a RIPTA bus, contact our office right away for a free consultation. There is never any fee unless I receive compensation for your damages. Don’t take a risk with your rights by trying to deal with the RIPTA claims department directly.

A new study suggests that more than texting and even more than drunk driving, that distracted driving is the greatest danger on the road. A study from the Erie Insurance Group concluded that it is actually five times more dangerous to drive distracted (daydreaming) than it is to drive while texting or talking on the phone. In fact, it may be the leading cause of fatal auto accidents throughout the country.

Cars continue to increase safety measures but no amount of technology or airbags can prevent bad drivers from causing injury. Driving comes so naturally to us that we take for granted that we are driving a 3000 pound piece of metal at 60+ miles per hour. When we take our obligations for granted, by texting, drinking and driving, or simply not paying attention, we invite disaster. A nationwide review of 65,000 fatal auto accidents across the country in the past few years showed that at least ten percent of those accidents fell into the distracted driver category.

Surveys of accidents caused by distracted drivers indicate that a great many of those drivers were simply “lost in thought”. To my knowledge, few surveys such as this have looked solely at daydreaming as a cause of auto accidents. New safety mechanisms such as lane departure warnings and proximity alarms are audible alerts to notify the driver that something is wrong. Car companies are aware that many accidents may be avoidable if the driver is paying attention to the potential danger. Audible alerts or seats or steering wheels that shake to alert the driver will likely become increasingly common.

Distracted driving is anything that takes our eyes or attention off the road. This could be texting, playing with the radio, reading, putting on makeup, etc. And as this study shows, distracted driving may simply include “being lost in thought”.

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An interesting situation arises when a person is driving without insurance (a mistake, and in Rhode Island, illegal) and gets into a car accident, but is not at fault for the accident. For example, you are driving an uninsured vehicle but are rear-ended by another driver while you are waiting at a red light. Who is at fault in this situation?

I receive a lot of questions about this scenario and I can see why it might be confusing. It could be argued that it is negligent to drive a car without insurance. It can also be argued that since driving without insurance is a violation of Rhode Island law, the driver should not have been on the road when the accident occurred. While these are both valid points, they actually have no bearing on determining auto accident liability.

A lack of insurance, or license and registration for that matter, is not enough to impose liability for an auto accident on a person. The rules of the road still apply and are the only factors considered in determining who is at fault for the accident. In the example above of a rear-end accident, you would hold 0% liability for the accident. An uninsured driver is still entitled to damages for the property damage done to their car, and if injured, can make a bodily injury claim for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

While violating State law in such a way will not negatively impact your rights to damages, you are still subject to Rhode Island law. This is a very important distinction that you must understand. You may still be cited for lack of insurance at the scene or in some cases you will receive the citation by mail shortly after the accident. This citation includes a $500 fine. If you are driving without a license or on a suspended license, this is a misdemeanor and you may be arrested for this offense.

In summary, you can not escape the consequences of Rhode Island law if you are driving a vehicle in an accident without insurance, but it will not effect your rights to recover damages while making an insurance claim. You do not need to be afraid to report your damages to the insurance company because you were driving uninsured at the time of the collision.

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.