Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

Today marks the single most heavily trafficked day of the year. Highways will be jammed with family members making, sometimes long, treks to visit each other for the Holiday. It is a weekend in which our office receives a lot of calls for auto accidents. Don’t let it detract from the Holiday but be careful out there because the sheer volume of cars increases the likelihood of car accidents, minor or serious.

If you live in a State other than Rhode Island or Massachusetts and are involved in a car crash or slip and fall while visiting family in these States, you should know that you will need to hire a local attorney licensed in Rhode Island and/or Massachusetts. The State in which the accident occurred holds the applicable law and is the State in which a lawsuit, if necessary, would need to be filed. You will not be able to return to your home State and hire a lawyer unless they are also licensed in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. My office has represented many long distance clients who happened to be injured while visiting Rhode Island or Massachusetts, and the process is not difficult. With email, fax, Skype and other applications, my office can represent you as if you lived 1 mile away rather than 1000.

Business aside, I want to wish everyone reading this post, including past and future clients, a happy and safe Holiday.

One of my favorite shows on TV is AMC’s Mad Men. It is brilliant in every way. One element of the show, however, is shocking to those of us born of a more recent generation and that is the frequency and severity of the sexual harassment to which the women are subjected. Obviously, we have come a long way in this area and no one would recognize the type of office that mad men depicts. We have not, however, resolved the problem of sexual harassment at work. There is a reason that all major companies require employees to participate in “workplace sensitivity” and other human resource trainings to prevent sexual harassment.

It does still happen, and more often then we may think. A great deal of sexual harassment cases are never discussed because the victim is afraid to come forward for fear that she will not be believed or that she may be fired, etc.

Both State and Federal law prohibits sexual harassment. Unlawful sexual harassment is often defined as: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, under any of the following conditions: (a) submission to the sexual conduct is made a condition of employment, either expressly or impliedly, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions (i.e. loss of a job promotion opportunity) affecting that individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or (d) creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

There are numerous examples of sexual harassment, including but not limited to: unwelcome sexual propositions; unwelcome touching such as hugs, kisses or other physical contact; lewd gestures or remarks; unwelcome discussions of sexual acts, physical anatomy or sexual practices; unwelcome showing of sexual pictures, drawings, movies, jokes, etc; comments or discussion about one’s physical appearance.

An employer has an obligation to protect its employees from this type of offensive environment and may be liable for damages should you experience this type of sexual harassment. If you feel that you are being harassed in your workplace, make an effort to collect evidence in your support as it will greatly assist your potential lawsuit. Evidence such as emails, text or phone messages, pictures, etc. can go along way towards establishing your case for sexual harassment. Even if there is only your word, but you feel that you have been sexually harassed at work, it is imperative that you contact an attorney. My office has helped victims of workplace harassment and will speak to you for a free consultation. Remember, that the law also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who complain about sexual harassment. Do not be a silent victim. You have the right to a safe, comfortable and enjoyable workplace.

This is a bit of a dual topic post, but they share similarities. What I am referring to is the number of ways in which an insurance company can spy on a plaintiff during a personal injury claim. The two most common ways that adjusters and defense attorneys can try to obtain information about a claimant are: 1) social media and 2) video surveillance. It is important to remember that your activities and statements may not be private if you are in the middle of a personal injury claim against an insurance company, in particular, if your case has gone into litigation. Regardless of whether your injury was caused in a car accident, slip and fall, or other type of accident or injury, it is ALWAYS in your best interest to keep details of the case or lawsuit private.

Social Media

Almost everyone is on Facebook and Twitter, including this office. (Please click the links to follow our pages). If you are in the middle of a personal injury claim, however, you may want to keep quiet about the details of your claim and your injury status especially if your Twitter and Facebook accounts are open to the public. If the insurance company believes that: a) your injury is not as severe as you claim, or b) that you healed from the injury much sooner than the medical records indicate, then the insurance company may look for evidence to support their opinion which includes looking at your Twitter or Facebook profiles. If you make statements or post updates that suggest you are feeling better or if you upload pictures of yourself performing manual labor or exercising, then rest assured the insurance company will use that evidence against you. If you were injured in an auto accident or other type of incident and want to update your friends and family regarding your condition, it is best to make your posts private or to keep your posts vague so that it can not be used as evidence against you. Also, do not accept friend requests from people that you do not know since this may be an insurance adjuster or an employee of the defendants law firm.

Video Surveillance

Many people are shocked to find out that they may have been the subject of a private investigation. It is true, however, that insurance companies will hire private investigators for 10-20 hours to videotape your behavior if they believe that you are “faking” or “exaggerating” your injuries. If these videos show that you are able to work in a physical profession or exercise, then that evidence will be used against you in your personal injury claim. Surprisingly, this is not illegal or a violation of your privacy. I do not want to scare anyone into thinking that they are being followed. In fact, this tactic is very rarely used and usually only in cases in which the insurance company truly does not believe your injury claim.

In the end, it is important to remember that you and your attorney should control your personal injury case. You do not want to hand over control to the insurance company by saying or doing things that can be used against you at a later time.

A number of people have recommended that I post a results and testimonials page on my website to show the great results that we are obtaining for our clients. I understand that there are a lot of personal injury attorneys that you can hire for your accident case and I also understand that the words of your friends and neighbors might be very helpful in deciding if my firm is the right choice for you. To that end, I have added a testimonials and results page to my website which includes emails, letters and cards that I have received from clients thanking our office for a job well done.

In a few short years my office has grown tremendously thanks, in large part, to the kind referrals of past clients. A personal injury attorney needs to not only be an aggressive professional but also a trustworthy friend. I go to great lengths to forge long lasting and solid relationships with all of my clients who are very important to me. I want to thank all of my clients and I invite any past or current client to comment on this blog post sharing your thoughts and observations about my law firm.

The results and testimonials page will continue to be updated. Please take a chance to look at the page and see what customers are saying about our firm. Testimonials are included from auto accident victims, slip and fall victims, medical malpractice victims, etc.

When you are looking for a personal injury attorney to take your case you will see that all bodily injury attorneys offer a free consultation and a no fee unless we win policy. My firm goes above that and tries to do things differently by keeping open lines of communication, pursuing quick and aggressive results and by making all of our clients feel like the most important client. Please take a minute to talk to us and see what sets us apart from the rest.

Lifespan, which manages several RI hospitals including: Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital, has today announced that as many as 2,000 patients over the past year may have received an erroneous prescription at one of these Lifespan Hospitals. Lifespan is blaming this medical malpractice error on a computer, or software, malfunction. Their statement does not indicate whether anyone was harmed by this malpractice. It is understood that most affected patients have been contacted regarding this error or are in the process of being contacted.

Giving a patient the wrong medication, the wrong dose of a medication or unnecessary medications are all examples of medical malpractice. While the full extent of these errors by Lifespan are unknown, you may be entitled to collect personal injury damages if you were injured or harmed because of receiving incorrect medication. At the same time, not all victims of this mistake are entitled to compensation. If you discovered the error before ingesting the medication or if you ingested the medication but were not harmed, you may not be entitled to compensation. However, if the wrong medication caused you personal injury, even temporarily, you may be entitled to damages for pain and suffering, medical bills (if you were required to seek treatment) and lost wages if you were unable to work.

It is unclear if anyone was seriously injured by Lifespan’s mistake but given the high risk of pharmaceutical medication, it is likely that someone was seriously injured. Patients may have been given medications to which they are allergic or may have been given medications that have harmful or potentially fatal interactions with other medications. Overdoses from receipt of the wrong amount of medication are also possible. Anyone seriously injured because they were prescribed the wrong medication should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney right away.

It appears that Rhode Island law enforcement organizations love rhyming, yet juvenile, slogans for their campaigns. In the wake of “Click it or ticket” an effort to remind people to buckle up or face a citation, comes the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office with “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks!”. This witty little ditty is meant to bring to everyone’s attention the very real and very serious dangers of texting while driving. Clearly I’m having a little fun with the nature of these awareness campaigns, but I am fully supportive of their intent.

Texting while driving, as demonstrated in earlier posts on this blog, is as dangerous and potentially more dangerous than drunk driving. Texting increases both the likelihood and seriousness of being injured in a car accident. We say “texting” but in effect any use of your smartphone that takes your attention away from the road can lead to a car crash. Checking Facebook, Twitter, email or anything else that your smartphone might be capable of takes your attention from the road. Even though you feel that you are only glancing at the phone for a second or so, your attention is greatly distracted and an accident may be inevitable.

Here are some of the statistics that I have discussed in previous posts: Roughly 20% of all injury causing auto accidents are caused by distracted drivers and Smart phone users are more than four times likely to be in a car accident. Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association has reported that distracted driving is the Number ONE cause of teenage deaths in America!

It’s been a while since I last posted but I was pre-occupied with a trial and I return to my office to find welcome news in the mail. Today I found a recent report from the Cato Institute, a right wing conservative think tank, that has confirmed what this blog has long held, namely, that caps on medical malpractice (or other tort claim) awards is a mistake! It is unusual to hear this coming from a right wing think tank since it is generally the province of Republicans and right-wingers to fight for tort reform. Nevertheless, their report has indicated that “caps unfairly shift the costs of malpractice injuries from negligent providers to their victims.” The study further states that “reducing physician liability for negligent care by capping court awards, all else equal, will reduce the resources allocated to medical professional liability underwriting and oversight and make many patients worse off”.

This last sentence is critical. The accountability that medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits provide is the one last defense that many consumers have from being unfairly harmed through the negligence of others. Capping damages not only invites increased negligence it denies adequate resources to those severely injured through the negligence of others.

Consider that the FDA has a long record of failing to keep unsafe food out of the distribution change and unsafe drugs from the pharmacy counters. They simply lack the resources and the personnel to ensure the safety of all of the consumer products under their protective umbrella. If tort reform were to interfere with the ability to bring lawsuits against negligent companies, then we are not far from welcoming products such as chinese dry wall, toxic food, and dangerous drugs into the market without proper oversight.

The study found that while “supporters of capping court awards for medical malpractice argue that caps will make health care more affordable” that the actual case “may not be that simple. First, caps on awards may result in some patients not receiving adequate compensation for injuries they suffer as a result of physician negligence. Second, because caps limit physician liability, they can also mute incentives for physicians to reduce the risk of negligent injuries . . . .”

It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work in the future!

Many years ago, I worked as an adjuster for a major insurance company and since then I have been explaining on this blog and my website the many ways in which insurance companies attempt to devalue your personal injury claim and poke holes in your liability claim to make you appear at fault. I have used this personal experience to the benefit of my clients resulting in fantastic and quick personal injury settlements. Despite my previous writings, I was surprised to see an article about the “secrets of insurance adjusters” on a major website such as MSN.com. Nevertheless, there it was… This is a very interesting article covering many of the insurance industries tactics and tricks to ensure you do not receive what you are entitled to for your personal injury claim.

Although they are contractually obligated to protect their insured and pay for all reasonable damages, it is essential to note as this article points out that insurance companies did not become multi-billion dollars businesses by giving away their money!

Devalue the Case!!!

This is insurance adjusting 101. As soon as the accident is reported to the company an adjuster is on the phone talking to you. He or she may try a number of tactics to ensure that you do not get full value for your case:

1) The adjuster will tell you that you do not need an attorney because they value cases the same way with or without an attorney and that the attorney will just take your money. Ask my recent client about this strategy. She attempted to work with the insurance company directly until they offered her an insulting amount of money (less than $20,000). Just a few months after hiring me we settled the case for the at-fault drivers policy limits – $100,000. After hearing this you should understand why insurance adjusters want you to stay away from auto accident lawyers.

2) They will try to convince you to settle quickly. Releases are binding contracts and the insurance companies know that if they throw a few thousand dollars at you early on before you know the full extent of your injuries they can receive a binding Release which will prevent you from seeking any further damages in the future. Never settle early and without first speaking to a Rhode Island personal injury lawyer.

3) They will try to steer you to “preferred” auto body shops. Do not get me wrong, many “preferred” auto body shops do a wonderful job repairing your vehicle, but they do not press the insurance companies for certain repairs that other body shops might. This is because they receive a good amount of business referrals from the insurance companies. Go to the shop you want to go to and if it happens to be a “preferred” body shop then that is fine you can still be confident that they will do a great job!

4) They will look to take a recorded statement from you. Remember that you are under no obligation to give any kind of statement to the other driver’s insurance company. They are taking the statement, in part, to confirm the facts of the accident, but also in hopes that you might trip up and say something damaging to your own case. If you make a statement against your own interest, they know have it on tape and will use it against you to offer you less than 100%. In Rhode Island, as I have discussed in the past, the insurance company can withhold any percentage of money that they feel you contributed to the accident. If they believe you were speeding do not be surprised to find out they are reducing your payout by 10-20%. Do not give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company without first speaking to a car accident lawyer.

Do not confuse this with your own insurance company who you are contractually obligated to cooperate with.

5) Devalue your injury. The insurance adjuster will attempt to settle your case early, even if you are still seeking medical treatment. They will try to convince you that the injury is not very serious and that their offer is fair. They may even tell you that this is all the money you would receive even if an attorney were involved or if the case went to trial. If you think the offer is too low, it probably is.

As you can see the insurance companies set out early with a plan to cut costs and devalue your case. If you do not hire an experienced personal injury attorney they will use one or all of these tactics to ensure that you do not receive all the money you are entitled to. Don’t fall into any of these traps… even MSN money wants to make sure you do not make bad financial decisions following an accident or injury, this is no longer just my office speaking. Call my office today for a free initial consultation. There is no fee unless we obtain money for you!

From time to time, I like to take this forum to share great results and this week has seen another personal injury victory for attorney Joseph Lamy. In this case, my client was T-boned by a drunk driver in downtown Providence suffering a fractured ankle. She did not immediately hire a car accident attorney and chose to work directly with the insurance company. After several months to a year of recovery and working directly with the insurance company, they extended an insultingly low offer that barely covered her medical bills. Of course, personal injury attorneys such as myself are not at all surprised by such tactics. Unfortunately, too many people accept these offers in the belief that it is all their case is worth. Particularly after the insurance company tells the victim that they will receive less money if they hire an attorney, etc.

Fortunately, my client understood that the offer was far too low and contacted my office. We filed suit and quickly went to work proving my client’s case. After depositions, expert testimony and aggressive discovery, the defense attorney has offered the policy limits in this case to the tune of $100,000.00. Not only is this offer more than FIVE TIMES what my client was initially offered but the offer was made only six months after my taking the case!

This is a fantastic result, particularly given the speed with which the offer was made. Litigation too often takes several years to end in a good result. Results like this, however, remind us that if an offer seems too low it probably is. Litigation while time consuming and at times, stress-inducing, is sometimes the only way to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your serious bodily injury.

If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident or other type of personal injury and are considering which attorney to hire for your representation, remember that most lawyers can settle a case, but only a few know how to win your case! Contact my office right away for a free consultation.

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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