Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

You may be among the tens of thousands of people who come to Rhode Island each year, maybe to see Newport, or to attend a convention or see the sights in Providence. Perhaps you were coming to visit your son or daughter in college or visit family. Unfortunately, while visiting Rhode Island, you were seriously injured in a slip and fall, car accident, or other type of accident.

If you are injured in Rhode Island, it is Rhode Island law that will apply and any potential lawsuit must be filed in the Rhode Island Court system. For that reason, even if you live in Denver, Colorado, you will need to hire a Rhode Island personal injury attorney. My office has plenty of experience in helping out of State residents with their Rhode Island personal injury claim. I currently represent clients from Connecticut, Maine, Colorado, California, and Maryland, all of whom were injured while vacationing or visiting Rhode Island or Massachusetts.

Computers, faxes, email, Skype, and smart-phones have made it very easy for attorneys and clients to interact even if from thousands of miles away. If the case requires a lawsuit, you will have to appear at a deposition along the way. This can be arranged to suit your schedule with as little inconvenience as possible. Remember, however, that most cases settle and in that situation you will not have to return to Rhode Island, unless by choice.

The process is actually quite easy and my office utilizes every technical advance to limit the inconvenience of long distance representation.

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It seems like almost every week that I have to call a client and tell them that the at-fault driver who hit them in a car accident is uninsured. Sometimes, my client carries uninsured motorist and we can simply go through their own insurance. Sometimes, however, my client does not carry uninsured motorist and the client, who was not at fault for the accident, is stuck with body damage to their vehicle, mounting medical bills, and lost wages. Your personal injury attorney could sue the at fault driver directly, but people who are reckless enough to drive their car without insurance are not likely to have any assets and are not worth suing in Court. You will be left without a car and without any personal injury settlement. It happens much more than you think and you should seriously consider spending the extra few hundred dollars a year to protect yourself with uninsured motorist.

In Rhode Island, it is the law that every registered vehicle carry an auto insurance policy equal to $25,000 per person injured. Rhode Island, however, does NOT verify the insurance information given. Therefore, when a car is registered the person can write down any insurance company that comes to mind and the clerk at the DMV will likely not even ask for proof. If proof is asked for, the person only needs to pay the first month installment, obtain a proof of insurance card, and then stop making payments for the rest of the year. No one is the wiser! Until an accident occurs.

In Massachusetts, insurance companies by law are required to notify the registry of motor vehicles when an insurance policy has lapsed so that the uninsured person loses their license and is forced off the road. Massachusetts’ laws have teeth!

If you carry the appropriate uninsured motorist you will be able to have your car repaired and collect for all the personal injury damages to which you are entitled: past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

An equally important reason to carry uninsured motorist coverage is because it will act as “under”insured coverage if you are seriously injured in an auto accident and the person who caused the accident only carries the state minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage. If your personal injury claim is worth $100,000 and the at fault driver only carries the State minimum, then you are losing $75,000. However, if you carry uninsured motorist of $50,000 then you would be able to collect that as well. Now if you have a $100,000 personal injury claim you can collect the $25,000 available from the at fault driver and the $50,000 from your own insurance company. Therefore, you end up with $75,000 instead of $25,000. Even though it is not the full value of your injury claim it is much better to suffer a $25,000 loss than a $75,000 loss.

Underinsured motorist coverage can become very complicated and you need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. For one, the injury is very serious and you need an attorney who understands the value of a serious injury. Second, there are certain things you must do before accepting the policy limits from the other driver and going after your own underinsured coverage. If you do not handle this appropriately, you may lose out on tens of thousands of dollars. That is why it is imperative that you speak with an experienced Rhode Island car accident attorney.

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A brain injury, whether mild or severe, is one of the most serious injuries that can occur in a car accident. Each year, roughly one million people are seen in emergency rooms for head injuries, many of which occur in auto or motorcycle accidents. Many of those people will suffer permanent and prolonged effects.

It is a mistake to believe that a head injury can only occur from a very serious accident such as being thrown from the vehicle or falling through the windshield. A head injury can occur in even a relatively mild car accident. You do not need to hit your head on an object, such as the windshield, airbag, or visor, nor do you have to be travelling at a high rate of speed. If you are traveling along the road at 40 mph when struck by another vehicle, your brain slows from 40 mph to zero in an instant. The soft tissue of the brain is forced forward, sideways, or backwards into the hard bone of the skull causing injury. This impact results in traumatic brain injury.

A brain injury is almost always serious. Nevertheless, the less serious brain injury results in a concussion. While a more serious brain injury can result in bleeding on the brain or hemorrhaging. Because the skull is a solid enclosed space, bleeding from a head injury can result in swelling and excess pressure because the fluid has no where to go. This is an extremely serious and life threatening injury. Brain injuries can occur on a microscopic level, so even diagnostic testing such as MRI’s or CT scans, do not always reveal the injury.

Long term effects of brain injuries can include:

  • loss of memory
  • psychiatric disorders
  • mood swings
  • post-concussion syndrome
  • increased likelihood of sustaining subsequent brain injuries with more severe consequences

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious auto accident and sustained a head injury whether mild or severe, it is imperative that you contact a Rhode Island auto accident attorney experienced in dealing with brain injuries. These are extremely serious cases that require a great deal of attention.

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Slip and fall accidents can be notoriously difficult to prove liability, especially if there are no eyewitnesses to the fall. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts all residential and commercial insurance policies will cover personal injury damages for a person hurt in a slip and fall, if the owner of the house or commercial property is responsible for the fall. There are three common ways to prove that the owner of a property is liable for your injury:

  • That the owner of the house or commercial property, or an employee of the owner, caused the spill or other defect that caused the fall;
  • That the owner or an employee of the owner, knew or should have known of the defect and did nothing to treat the problem;
  • That the owner should have known of the defect because a reasonable inspection of the property would have identified the problem.

Following a fall your first concern should be to obtain necessary medical care. If, and only if, you are able to look for witnesses, try to find someone who may have seen the fall and obtain a name and phone number. If you are in a place of business, try to find a manager and see that an incident report is made. Also, if you are carrying a digital camera or smartphone able to take pictures, take as many pictures of the scene as possible and, in particular, the defect that led to the slip and fall.

Also, it is important to remember that in Rhode Island, a fall which occurs on city and State property must be reported within sixty days or you will be barred from bringing the lawsuit. The notice must include specific information and be submitted in an exact fashion so it is imperative that you speak to a Rhode Island personal injury attorney for such cases.

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Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states, including Rhode Island, in addressing the danger of cell phones in cars. Today, September 30, the Massachusetts Safe Driving Act goes into effect. I wrote a similar post when Rhode Island officially banned text messaging while driving and I pointed out the immense dangers of texting while driving. In fact the distraction caused by using a cell phone is potentially more dangerous than drunk driving. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood poignantly described the danger of text messaging while driving:

If you’re looking down at your texting device for four or five seconds, you drive the length of a football field in a 4,000 pound unguided missile

Among the numerous provisions of the statute, most important is that teenage drivers, aged 16 and 17, can not use a cell phone at all while driving in Massachusetts. Teenage drivers are notoriously the worst drivers on the road and frequently in auto accidents. The combined inexperience on the road and distraction of cell phones while driving is a recipe for disaster.

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Drivers over the age of 17 can still use a cell phone while driving but can not use the phone to send text messages. Of course, police will have a tough time determining whether a vehicle operator was dialing a phone number or writing a text message. Therefore, enforcement of this new Massachusetts law will be difficult.

Under the new Massachusetts law, a first texting offense for adults comes with a $100 fine. For drivers under 18 years old, the first offense for using a cell phone comes with a 60-day license suspension and $100 fine, plus required attendance at an “attitudinal retraining” course. The second-offense penalty is a $250 fine and a 180-day license suspension.

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Any witness testimony that is secured either by payment from the State or because the district attorney gave the witness a favorable deal in their own criminal case, is always highly suspect. Is the witness telling the prosecution what they want to hear or what actually happened?

Today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that prosecutors can have no involvement in a process that gives financial reward to witnesses. The case stems from a New Bedford murder involving defendant Wayne Miranda. The City’s Chamber of Commerce offered any witness $3000 for information relevant to the investigation and an additional $2000 if their information led to a conviction. The prosecution, it should be noted, did not endorse or pay for this information. All monies strictly were paid by the City of New Bedford. Nevertheless, the prosecution wrote a letter on the witnesses behalf after the trial to confirm that the witnesses’ testimony led to a conviction so that they could receive the additional $2000.

The Massachusetts SJC has ruled that this practice needs to stop to prevent even a hint of impropriety.

We recognize that, to prove the crime charged, prosecutors often need to procure the cooperation and truthful information or testimony of reluctant witnesses. The interests of justice, however, are not well served when a witness’s reward is contingent on the conviction of a defendant rather than the provision of truthful information or testimony…

The murder judgment against Mr. Miranda was upheld on other grounds. The opinion regarding the letters for payment was not critical to the decision, but was ruled upon by the Court’s authority to ensure that all such activity cease.

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I have to thank a colleague for bringing this information to my attention. Rhode Island currently has seven nursing homes with outstanding citations and violations for substandard care. Those homes are Charlesgate, Woodpecker Hill, Harris Health Center, Summit Commons, Cortland Place, and Steere House. If you have a loved one at any nursing home, including those listed above, it is imperative that you keep in constant contact with your loved one to make sure that they are receiving proper care.

Nursing homes are notoriously under staffed and poor and negligent treatment can become quite common particularly for patients who do not have actively involved family members. Some of the common injuries and problems that can occur due to nursing home negligence include: Bed sores, neglected injuries or illnesses, improper and incorrect medication, verbal and emotional abuse, falls due to improper care and monitoring, etc.

The elderly and sick of this Country are vulnerable to nursing home abuse and neglect and the best defense is to keep active in your family members life so that the facility is aware of your involvement.

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There was a fascinating story in the New York Times which talks about how innocent people can be coerced and pressured into confessing to crimes that they did not commit. At criminal jury trials, confessions carry a great deal of weight because jurors believe that no reasonable person would confess to a crime that he or she did not commit. But in fact, it can and does, happen.

The story follows Eddie Lowery who spent ten years in prison for a rape that he did not commit. There was absolutely no physical evidence linking Lowery to the crime, but he was convicted on his confession alone. DNA evidence would eventually prove that another man committed the rape but not until Lowery had spent ten years of his life in prison for a crime he never committed.

We know of at least 40 people who confessed to a crime that they did not commit only to be proven innocent years later by DNA evidence. Experts suggest that those who are mentally ill, possess below average intelligence, or are easily pressured and swayed, are the most likely to confess to crimes not committed.

It is also possible that investigating detectives wore down the defendant by using questionable tactics such as endless interrogation (sometimes lasting days), depriving him or her of water and/or food, uncomfortable chairs and heat, etc. They push a suspect to the point that they would rather confess and end the torment than continue to profess their innocence.

If the police are desperate to obtain a confession it means, quite possibly, that they do not have enough evidence to convict you absent a confession. If you have been arrested or simply brought in for questioning do not speak to the police. Even if you do not “confess” to the crime your statements can be used against you such as contradicting an alibi. Tell the police that you want to speak to your attorney and end the interrogation immediately.

There is no greater injustice than for an innocent person to spend years in jail for a crime they did not commit. False confessions are real and they do happen.

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I have discussed in previous posts how the statute preventing tractor trailers from crossing the Pawtucket River Bridge on Interestate 95 is a money making juggernaut for the State of Rhode Island so they are unlikely to repair the bridge or remove the law preventing commercial trucks from passing any time soon.

Many commercial transportation companies from out of State are shocked to find themselves hit with a $3000 bill just for crossing a bridge. I have appeared on behalf of many companies and saved my clients thousands of dollars at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. I may be able to have your citation dismissed as I have done for some previous clients. Even if I am unable to have the ticket thrown out of Court, I will be able to reduce the fine considerably saving you and your company a great deal of money.

If you or your company has been handed a hefty $3000 ticket in Rhode Island, contact my office right away so that I can begin to assist you.

The trial of Andrew Gallo is beginning this week in California. Gallo, 23, is the man who caused the accident which killed Angels pitcher, Nick Adenhart, along with two other people. Along with the obvious DUI charges, the California prosecutor has charged Gallo with three counts of second degree murder. It is uncommon for a drunk driver to be charged with murder rather than vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter, or other lesser offenses. The reason it is uncommon is because murder is an “intent” crime meaning that the death of the other person was not accidental but was instead an intended result. Drunk drivers, rarely if ever, intend to kill even though they are aware that it is a danger if they drive drunk.

But prosecutors are playing it tough with Gallo. Their stance may be due to the publicity of the case because Gallo killed a major league baseball player, but prosecutors also point to the fact that at the time of the accident Gallo’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Also, Gallo is not a first time offender. Gallo was arrested for DUI in 2006 and signed papers indicating that he was aware that he could kill someone if he drives drunk.

Prosecutors in Orange County have been actively pursuing murder charges in cases like this rather than manslaughter. As the crackdown on drunk driving continues across the Country it is important to watch decisions like this. A jury is never sympathetic to a drunk driver and most of the public, even though not based on legal grounds, believe that a drunk driver who kills should in fact be charged with murder.

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