Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

The following story was relayed to me by a colleague who also practices in personal injury and did not occur at my office. It is, however, an incredible story that everyone should be aware of.

A client came to my colleague’s office about a year ago upset that his personal injury attorney wanted him to settle his case for $7,500. He believed that his case was worth much more money. My colleague agreed that the case deserved more money and offered to take over the case. A few weeks ago the case settled for $300,000. This is not an exaggeration. Not only had the previous attorney wildly undervalue the claim but he also failed to identify all available insurance policies.

On a much lesser scale, I recently settled a case for $54,000 after a client came to my office upset because her attorney was pushing her to settle for $12,000. This can happen. Sometimes a good attorney makes a mistake, and sometimes, quite frankly, it happens because you do not have a very good attorney. If you have been seriously injured and your attorney is pushing you to accept a settlement that you think is far too low, it is worth obtaining a second opinion. The new attorney will be unlikely to take the case if the offer is fair, but if the offer is too low then you can fire your old attorney and ask someone else to take over.

Remember that the decision to settle a case is always your decision. Do not be pressured into a low settlement if you disagree.

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Just want to remind everybody today to take ten minutes and go to their local polling place to cast their vote. One of the greatest influences to our Rhode Island law is the people that we elect to put into office. Don’t let your opportunity to be heard pass.

A Tennessee father has settled a case against Crocs on behalf of his four-year old daughter. Crocs, the soft-rubber soled shoes and favorite of Mario Batali, have become wildly popular over the last few years. The soft rubber sole, however, is potentially very dangerous and lawsuits have been springing up across the Country.

In this case, the four year old girl was riding on the elevator with her foot close to the edge. The soft rubber eventually became entwined in the teeth of the escalator and the four year old girl was trapped. She suffered permanent and serious injuries as her foot was mutilated by the escalator. Warnings are now placed on Crocs and similar soft rubber shoes highlighting the risk of riding on escalators, but millions of pairs were sold without such warning and much of the general public may be unaware that Crocs post such a danger.

The product liability attorney trying the case cited several studies which demonstrate the inherent risk of Crocs:

Studies, including one conducted by a Japanese consumer safety testing firm, showed the Crocs and their imitators that “appear to be prone to entrapment when pressed against the (side) skirt guard or step riser while standing on the yellow line of an escalator.”

Children were at particular risk because Crocs for kids were smaller, thinner and more elastic, the Japanese study stated.

A successful product liability lawsuit must show that the product:

  1. Was manufactured improperly and was therefore defective; or
  2. Was designed improperly and was therefore defective; or
  3. Lacked adequate or sufficient warning of dangers that the product might present.

In this case, an experienced product liability attorney could make a case for point 2 and point 3 above. The design was such that the soft rubber sole could easily become caught in an escalator which is a device used everyday by millions of people. Therefore, the danger of using such a product on an escalator should have been foreseeable. However, the easier argument is point 3. For years, tens of millions of Crocs were sold without adequate warning to tell people they needed to be careful on escalators else their feet may become trapped in the belt. Hundreds of accidents, with injuries ranging from cuts to severed toes, were reported over the years and it was not until 2009 that Crocs were finally sold with a warning regarding escalators.

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Today, criminal defense attorney Joseph Lamy secured another great result in Massachusetts. My client was charged with felony drug possession in Massachusetts following an arrest for ecstasy possession in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The case was brought in Bristol County District Court. After diligently working and fighting the charges and filing a Motion to Dismiss for Illegal Search and Seizure due to lack of probable cause, the prosecution finally agreed to dismiss all charges.

Drug possession arrests in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are serious. In this case, my client, with no previous record, still faced up to a year in prison. Instead, the case was thrown out without a plea, no probation, no community service, and absolutely no criminal record!

If you have been arrested for felony or misdemeanor drug possession in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, it is absolutely imperative that you contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney.

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My office has been heavily involved with a fatal attack that occurred outside a Providence nightclub and in the past few weeks I have received a number of calls from people injured (sometimes severely) at a bar or nightclub. Sometimes the attack occurs inside the club and sometimes it happens outside in the street or parking lot.

It should not seem as a surprise that I have received a lot of calls about these types of cases since it seems every day that the news in Rhode Island is talking about a fight, stabbing, or shooting outside a Rhode Island club. You have to realize that a night out can be fun, but also dangerous. Sometimes it is best to walk away from a threat or potential fight because you do not know the other person involved and he may be capable of murder.

So if you or a friend is attacked and injured outside of a nightclub, who is to blame? Obviously, you can sue the person who attacked you and caused the injury. However, it is highly unlikely that someone starting fights at 3 a.m. is going to have any assets worth going after. The only real option is to try and hold the bar or nightclub responsible.

Bars and nightclubs make a great deal of money selling alcohol to patrons, but because of the dangerous nature of alcohol they have a responsibility to make sure that patrons do not become drunk or violent. Also, they must act quickly and responsibly in defusing a dangerous situation if it appears that a fight is about to break out. This may include calling the police if necessary (something which clubs never want to do because of the bad publicity!) If your injury is caused by a drunken and disorderly patron or because security failed to appropriately act, then the club may be responsible under liquor liability laws.

If you have been threatened or targeted in any way while inside a club it is important to inform security so that they may take reasonable action. Failure to act appropriately can be grounds for liability if you are injured. Look for witnesses and make a record with management and the police (if applicable) so that your side of the story is clearly on record.

Unfortunately, many insurance companies are now denying coverage for negligent security. This means that even if the club is insured they may not have any coverage if liability is based on improper or negligent security. In these instances, you need an experienced Rhode Island personal injury attorney who can think outside the box and try to find a way to compensate you for the injury suffered.

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Several months ago I wrote a post about the unique difficulties and problems that arise when trying to settle a car accident claim with Geico Insurance. That Geico post generated a lot of calls and questions and even a woman from Nebraska who asked if I could help her settle her accident case with Geico. After explaining that I am not admitted to the Nebraska bar, I gave her the best advice I could and wished her luck.

So, I began thinking that I would write a similar post about the company that is most notorious for being difficult when settling personal injury claims, Allstate Insurance. If you ask any experienced personal injury attorney, who is the worst insurance company to deal with, a majority would likely respond, Allstate. In fact, Allstate was declared by the American Association for Justice, to be the worst insurance company in America.

Why is Allstate so terrible, you ask?

Allstate is notorious for unnecessarily delaying payments, forcing lawsuits, and making ridiculously low offers. I was recently retained by a client who was dealing directly with an Allstate adjuster for almost three years. He sustained a serious injury to his foot in a car accident that was clearly not his fault. He had twelve thousand dollars in medical bills and was treating with doctors for over a year! After almost three years, Allstate offered him an astonishing $4000. Less than one-third of his total medical bills. After the shock wore off, my client came into my office. I had barely enough time to file a lawsuit and protect the statute of limitations. Of course, Allstate made no effort to remind or inform my client that he only had three years to file a lawsuit, else be barred from ever bringing the suit.GoodHandsPoster.jpg

This has been there practice for decades. In fact, Allstate has been in Court over the last several years trying to prevent the release of a book that documents their corrupt claims practice. In the 1990’s Allstate had internal documents showing a pair of “boxing gloves” rather than “good hands”. The purpose of the boxing glove documents was to say that they would give quick and cheap settlements to accident victims who did not retain attorneys, and fight tooth and nail with those victims who had the audacity to hire a personal injury attorney.

During this time, Allstate also established a computerized system for evaluating personal injury claims, called Collossus. Allstate used nationwide values to interpret medical records and injuries and forced adjusters to make the low-ball offers that Collossus “spit out”. Adjusters no longer had any input into the value or merits of a claim. Settlements were controlled by a computer that was manipulated by Allstate Insurance.

Despite their notorious history, I actually do not find Allstate as bad as Geico for making low and insulting offers to injury victims. However, the story told above about my client and his experience in dealing directly with Allstate, demonstrates that you absolutely must hire an experienced car accident attorney if the at-fault driver was insured with Allstate.

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Clients often ask me how does a pre-existing injury affect a personal injury claim. For example, what happens if a person with a previously herniated disc in their back is then rear-ended in a car accident. There is no simple answer to this problem, and it is imperative that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to deal with the complications that arise from prior injuries. Do not think that because you have a pre-existing injury that you are not entitled to compensation for the pain caused by a new accident.

The short answer, and the one taught to us in law school, is “You take the plaintiff as you get them.” In other words, the defendant is liable for the damages to a plaintiff who has a very bad back, even though the damages will be much higher than if he hit a person in normal health. A defendant can not choose his or her victim. In the real world, however, the insurance companies are going to argue that the injury was not caused by the auto accident or slip and fall, but was pre-existing and not their responsibility. This is where it can get tricky!

First and foremost, the defendant will always be responsible for any exacerbation of the injury. In other words, if you had a bad back but were not treating with an orthopedist and were relatively pain-free, the defendant is responsible if you suddenly require extensive treatment and medication. It is also very important that your accident attorney obtain all of your prior medical records (regardless of how long ago the accident occurred) and compare those records to the current records. The reason this is so important is because the new accident may have worsened the pre-existing condition. The defendant will be liable for the new WORSE condition.

For example, you were in an auto accident in 2006 and suffered muscle strains and a cervical disc impingement. These are serious injuries and may cause long-term pain. Then you are in another auto accident in 2010 that is not your fault. An MRI in 2010 shows that the previously impinged disc is now herniated. That is very serious and the defendant from the 2010 auto accident is responsible for your herniated disc.

Pre-existing injuries can make a personal injury case quite complicated and it a case for which you absolutely must have an experienced personal injury attorney.

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If you have been injured in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, whether in a car accident, slip and fall, motorcycle or other type of accident, the first step in resolving the case is often through dealing with the insurance company. An experienced personal injury attorney will deal with the insurance company and is often able to negotiate a favorable settlement with them.

Hiring a personal injury attorney does not necessarily mean that you are filing a lawsuit or suing the other person. While a lawsuit may be inevitable, very few cases actually make it all the way to trial. That means, a personal injury attorney is essential even in the early stages of dealing with the insurance company.

As a former insurance adjuster, I can tell you that insurance companies work very hard to try and keep injured people from hiring attorneys. They know that if the person remains unrepresented by an attorney that the settlement will be much lower. Also, an attorney is best able to show that you are not at fault for an accident. If you do not have an attorney in your corner who understands the laws of Rhode Island, the insurance company may try to tell you that you are all or partially at fault for an accident that was not your fault.

In summary, if you have been injured in an accident of any kind, do not wait to hire an attorney. An attorney is most valuable to you right at the outset and can protect your rights and interests. Do not wait to try and work with directly with the insurance company only for the insurance company to offer a very low settlement. My office will deal directly with the insurance company from the very beginning and help you every step of the way. If, I am unable to obtain a fair settlement with the insurance company, then I am more than happy to file a lawsuit and take your case to trial.

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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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