Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Personal injury attorneys are well skilled at discussing cases people find reprehensible.  If I had a dime for ever time someone mentioned the McDonald’s Coffee Case to me, I could probably stop practicing law and retire.  That case, like many others, was far more interesting and complex than the headline of “Woman sues McDonalds over hot coffee”.  If you are interested in what I am saying, I suggest you watch the fantastic documentary Hot Coffee.

There are other cases that people like to bring up, including some that are just fictional creations of the tort reform lobby.  And my purpose for this post is not to launch an argument against tort reform… rather I want to talk about the “new Coffee case”.  Namely, the awful Connecticut woman who sued her 12 year old nephew for hugging her!!!  My Facebook feed has been littered with friends mocking and insulting this woman with real vitriol!  I can already hear you saying, “Joe, you’re not possibly going to defend this woman or her lawsuit?!?”  Yeah, I am.  And, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.

Of course the headline of this case is reprehensible.  What kind of awful person could sue someone who loves them for an act of love??  The answer might be that she had no choice.  The simple reality is that the civil justice system is designed to shift costs.  We can not take away injuries once they occur.  We can not hit a rewind button seconds before serious injury is caused in an accident.  Nor, can we put a price on a broken bone to make it go away.  All that we can do is compensate the injured person financially to assist with the disability, the lost wages and medical bills.  In the end, that is all our personal injury system is designed to do.  The person who rear-ended you likely is not an awful person who meant you harm, rather he or she made a mistake.  Their mistake, however, cost you in medical bills and pain and suffering.  So while they did not mean to harm you, their insurance will compensate you financially because that is the best that we can do.  And in this case, the 12 year old boy is not an awful person who meant harm.  But nevertheless, he hurt his Aunt breaking her arm racking up a hefty medical bill.

Now I admit I do not know the full details of this case, but I have seen similar situations before.  I have represented a wife who was the passenger in an accident caused by her husband driving, and I have represented a child against their father.  These cases are not made for revenge and no one actually wants to bring a case against a family member, but that is what the civil justice system requires.  When you sue for a slip and fall, you do not sue Allstate Insurance, you sue the owner of the property that caused the fall.  In this case, the woman could not sue the homeowners insurance, instead she had to sue her nephew.

I imagine that this woman did not have health insurance or did not have adequate medical coverage and after the accident she was left with tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills.  If an insurance company might cover the claim and shift the costs then she can not be said to be an awful human being for trying.  She had no choice but to “sue” her nephew if the insurance company was ever going to cover her hefty medical bills.

Again, I don’t know everything… but neither do most people commenting on the case.  I hope you can understand the principals of law that I have written here and see why such an awful law suit might exist.  After all, the accident occurred because the 12 year old was running to hug her.  He must love her… so maybe she’s not so awful after all.


I’ve previously spoken on this blog about how Facebook and social media can affect your personal injury claim and/or lawsuit.  It is well established that insurance companies and defense attorneys will examine your Facebook profile if it is open to the public.  They will use anything to their advantage to discredit you or your case.  Examples of ways in which your social media can effect and harm your personal injury claim:

  • Pictures or descriptions of yourself going to the gym or for a jog while claiming disability (even if it is rehab and stretching exercises, it looks bad);
  • Pictures or descriptions of yourself doing work (even if unpaid) while making a claim for lost wages or loss of earning capacity (for instance, helping a friend move or doing remodeling work on your home);
  • Recently, I heard about a case where the witness was discredited because the defense counsel found out that the plaintiff and witness were Facebook friends.

It is also commonplace these days during discovery for defense attorneys to request to subpoena cell phone records.  This can be used to establish when and if 911 was called following an accident; what friends or colleagues were called immediately following an accident; if a driver was texting at or around the time of an accident and whether that may have played a role in the incident.

While this seems pretty clear, I have read of recent cases in which Fitbit has been subpoenaed as evidence.  This one is a little less obvious but still very interesting.  Fitbit has been used in cases to discredit that an injury occurred.  In this case, the woman was alleging that she slipped and fell causing injury.  During discovery, the subpoena of Fitbit revealed that at the time of the accident, the woman’s heart beat remained absolutely constant and there was no evidence of trauma.  It was also used in a criminal case as an alibi because the defense attorney was able to prove that his client was asleep (via Fitbit) at the time he was allegedly causing a crime.

It is very important, more now than ever, that you protect your personal information while involved in a lawsuit.  Of course, this evidence can help a case as easily as it can hurt a case, but you want to be sure that there are no surprises in evidence or that a seemingly harmless post is not taken the wrong way by an aggressive defense attorney.


No matter how the injury is sustained, whether auto accident, slip and fall or by defective product, there may be no more serious or devastating injury than a brain injury. In addition to the life altering physical symptoms, we also understand that there are equally devastating personality and emotional changes.

I work in tandem with another trial attorney who himself has experienced traumatic brain injury. He lost nearly ten years of his life and career while rehabilitating from this traumatic injury and now dedicates himself to helping others who have experienced similar injuries.

We understand that brain injury cases are more than headaches, nausea or other physical symptoms. We know that your entire personality can be altered affecting not only your life but your relationship with family and friends. We understand that large sections of your memory and life can be forgotten and erased. We understand that you have uncontrollable rage at times and that you make decisions that you never would have made prior to the injury. We look past the MRI and physical symptoms to look at the whole picture to see how your brain injury has affected your life.

Our collaborative expertise guarantees the best possible result for your complex and serious brain injury case. If you or a loved one has sustained a brain injury from an accident, contact our office for a free consultation.

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.

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.

This blog has been very very good to me and helped build my business when I left Boston four years ago, but alas, it has been long ignored. Not by intent but merely because we have been too busy during an exceptional period of growth. Starting today, however, I vow to return to the multiple postings per week that generated a lot of buzz and helped bring in many of my clients.

Here are just a few of the things we have been up to in the few months since my last post:

Be sure to call with any personal injury and criminal defense questions and we will be happy to assist you. The initial consultation is always free!

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.

Of all the questions I hear in my office from new clients who are unsure about the personal injury claim process, the question I hear the most is: how long is my claim going to take to settle. I can not speak for every personal injury law firm, but since this is such a frequently asked question, I will answer as to how my firm handles claims.

The single most important determining factor as to the length of your claim is whether the case settles prior to litigation or not. Settlement prior to litigation is NOT always the best option. Many personal injury law firms like to brag about their settlement percentage. I assure you not to be fooled by this statistic or this advertising tactic. ANY LAWYER OR LAW FIRM CAN SETTLE YOUR CASE IF THEY ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT WHATEVER LOW OFFER THE INSURANCE COMPANY MAKES. In fact, many of the law firms that highlight their rate of pre-litigation settlement are probably accepting far less than the case is worth.

The Settlement Process

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

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

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

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

The Litigation Process

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

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

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

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

If you have been involved in an accident of any kind you may undergo diagnostic testing at some point to identify the nature and extent of your injury. The most common diagnostic tests in personal injury cases are X-rays, MRI’s and CT scans. X-rays are most commonly used to identify and/or rule out fractures and broken bones. MRI’s are often taken for a close look of a muscle or tendon injury. For example, an MRI will be used to diagnose rotator cuff tears of the shoulder, or ligament tears in knees and ankles. An MRI will also be used in cases of serious injury to the neck or back to diagnosis disc injury or herniation. Finally, a CT scan is most often used to diagnosis head injuries such as concussions or bleeding on the brain. A CT scan may also be used to identify and/or rule out internal injury such as injury to the lungs, kidneys, etc.

These tests might be taken at any time during the treatment for your injury. These tests may be taken at the emergency room following a serious auto accident or may be taken after your treatment has already begun. If you are not responding to treatment or your condition worsens after treatment has already begun, then a doctor might order an MRI or other test to ensure that the injuries are not more serious than previously believed.

It is important to be aware that all of these tests, in particular, X-rays and MRI’s, are subject to incorrect readings and mistake. X-rays taken immediately after an accident may often be incorrect because swelling around the fracture makes it very difficult to accurately see the bone. Last year, I represented a gentleman who was rushed to a Massachusetts emergency room from the site of a very serious car crash. The ER took multiple X-rays but failed to identify any fractures. A week later, my client’s primary care physician ordered another set of X-rays which revealed a fractured sternum and multiple broken ribs. Similarly, I currently represent a woman who fell down a flight of stairs breaking her ankle. This fracture, however, was not identified at the emergency room. It was only identified by an orthopedist almost 3 weeks later.

MRI’s are also imperfect. On occasion, the doctor interpreting the films will actually say in the notes that the test is “inconclusive” or that there is a “possible” fracture or herniation. Of course, inconclusive and possible are unhelpful terms during a personal injury lawsuit. When this occurs, it may be best to hire an expert witness to re-interpret the films.

Like X-rays, MRI’s taken weeks or months apart may show different results. The injury was likely always there but wasn’t seen by one doctor. There may be a number of factors for an incorrect diagnostic reading:

  • Physician error or inexperience;
  • Poor film or low resolution;
  • Modality used was one not likely to identify an abnormality;
  • Small injuries are either misinterpreted or simply missed.

If you are still in pain, seek treatment and if that treatment is not working, seek a second opinion. I do not give this as medical advice, but simply as safe advice that will help ensure that your injuries are accurately diagnosed and treated. A full and accurate understanding of the nature and extent of your injuries is also critical to ensuring that you receive everything that you are entitled to in your personal injury claim.

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This winter has been extremely mild for us here in New England which seems to rule out the risk of a snowmobile accident or injury, but if you are injured this winter during a snowmobile accident it is imperative that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away to protect your rights and obtain compensation for you. There is no need to contact a national law firm to help you with a snowmobile accident because our firm is local and ready to fight for you.

Snowmobile accidents can occur in a number of ways. Collision between two snowmobiles, operator error, and product malfunction can all lead to an accident. Injuries sustained in a snowmobile accident can be serious and permanent including but not limited to head injuries, fractures, paralysis and even death. Do not delay in contacting a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will need to act quickly to establish the facts of loss and identify potential coverages for you to be compensated. Many insurance companies are now covering so called “small lines” vehicles such as jet skis, motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles. Because of this increase in coverage there is a strong likelihood that the vehicle which caused your injuries has an insurance policy protecting it. In some instances the homeowners policy may also cover your damages. As with other personal injury cases you are entitled to past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Because it is unlikely for the police or other government agency to investigate a snowmobile accident, there may be no incident report. Therefore, if AND ONLY IF, you are able, it is imperative for you to try and identify witnesses and take pictures of the scene. This will help establish the facts when trying to recreate the accident at a later date.

Snowmobiles and Product Liability

If your snowmobile accident was caused not by operator error but by a defect in the machine itself, it is worth looking at your accident as a product liability case. If your snowmobile has a defective design that made it unsafe for its intended use, or was manufactured in such a way as to be dangerous, then you may have a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Recently both Ski-Doo and Bombardier have recalled snowmobiles for various unacceptable risks that caused serious injury to users.

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