Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

The criminal justice system in this Country is a mess, to which no one can reasonably deny. America has more prisoners than any other Country in the World, including dictatorships, Communist Governments, and all of the western world. Nearly 47 million Americans have a criminal record which stigmatizes them in the community and makes it very difficult to obtain quality employment.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case. For one, penalties in this Country for drug possession are obscene. A person arrested for possessing cocaine, without any intent of selling it, should not face a lifetime in prison. Another cause for the high rate of prisoners, can be seen in our Rhode Island system. Probation and Bail Violators face automatic prison stays, at least until the underlying case can be resolved. In Rhode Island, you do not need to break a law to be a probation violator. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and fail “to keep the peace” in the eyes of the police and attorney general, then you are a probation violator and are going to jail.

Clearly, there is no easy solution. I did come across, an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times, however. Lawyer and writer, Amy Bach, proposed a “Justice Index” to evaluate and score how well the criminal courts are working. Considering that we grade schools, hospitals, and other public services, it seems reasonable to grade the criminal justice system as well.

Some of the standards for grading quality she proposes are: average bail amounts; the percentage of accused who plead guilty without an attorney; percentage of certain cases which are dismissed; the nature and quality of legal protections (i.e. State law regarding the use of certain evidence); and effect on crime reduction.

I can see benefit in this system if poor results would generate legislative and judicial changes for the better. It is unreasonable to believe that the scores would influence where people choose to live or how they act in the community. Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea.

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Picture several cars stopped at a red light when a driver, not paying attention, rear-ends the car stopped at the back of the line. That driver is hit so hard that he or she is forced into the car immediately in front of him or her causing a three car accident. On occasion, the initial impact is so severe that the chain reaction can reach four cars!

A potential client called the office this morning facing this scenario. He was stopped at a red light behind another car when he was rear-ended. The impact of the rear-end accident forced him into the car directly in front of him operated by a woman. The client was taken to the emergency room for observation and suffered whiplash injuries, namely cervical strain/sprain and a lumbar strain. He asked if I would represent him for his personal injuries, and then he asked if the woman he struck could sue him?

He was concerned that because it was his car that caused the damage to the front vehicle that he would be held responsible. This is absolutely untrue! If the driver in the middle of a rear-end pile up was safely stopped before the initial impact and was then forced into the car in front of him, he is not responsible for any damages caused. The driver at the back of the chain reaction is responsible for all damages.

This is a very different scenario than if you rear-end a vehicle and then are struck from behind by another driver not paying attention. In that case you will be responsible (at least 50%) for the damages (both property and injury) to the persons in the front vehicle. The person at the end of the chain may be partially responsible for the damage to the front vehicle and will be responsible for the rear-end damage to your vehicle (as well as 50% of any injury damages). You will be responsible for the damage to the front end of your vehicle.

These types of car crashes can be difficult to sort out and it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney if you are in the middle of a multi-car pile-up. Only the person at the front of the line has nothing to worry about!

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I speak with musicians and artists almost every day to try and help them along the path to rock and pop stardom, but the fact is that many up and coming artists are struggling to make it and, therefore, can not afford legal fees of an entertainment lawyer. I always keep my fees as low as possible to help people gain access to the legal help they need, but it is not always enough.

If you are a band, singer, or musician, on the brink of stardom, you should know that I can be retained on a contingency fee basis. You may be familiar with contingency fees in personal injury cases. The attorney will not paid or compensated until you are compensated. In the case of personal injury the compensation comes from a settlement or jury verdict, in the case of entertainment law, the compensation comes from advances on recording agreements, or other contractual payments. The percentage is lower than that typically used in personal injury cases. Under such an agreement, I will review all contracts, negotiate favorable terms, use my contacts to help further your career, and ensure that your best interest is protected.

If you have been offered a recording contract, production agreement, licensing agreement, or any other contract in the music industry, it is imperative that you have an entertainment attorney review any document before you sign. Just this morning I spent an hour speaking to a client who asked me to review a recording contract only to find that there were a number of problems and unjust provisions. No matter how badly you want to make it big, you absolutely can not blindly sign a contract. The music industry is extremely complex and record labels and producers are not looking out for your best interest. An experienced entertainment lawyer, such as myself, familiar with the complex language of the music industry is your best option.

It is also worth noting that the contract language surrounding the music industry is universal. Therefore, even though I am a licensed attorney in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I can represent artists across the country. I have represented musicians from Denver, Salt Lake City, and California, in addition to many Rhode Island and Massachusetts acts.

Don’t sign your dreams away and make a contractual mistake you’ll live to regret. Contact my office right away for a free consultation. My efforts may cost you little to know money.

The Federal System has long maintained extremely disparate punishments for crack cocaine possession as opposed to powder cocaine possession offenses. This week the House of Representatives has passed the Fair Sentencing Act and it is expected to eventually become law.

The original Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 841) established minimum sentences for crack offenders that are 100 times more harsh than sentences for powder cocaine offenders, even with the same weight of drugs involved. In practice, that meant that a person facing sentencing for 5 grams of crack cocaine, a minimum 5 years, was facing the same sentence as a person carrying 500 grams of powder cocaine.

While no apparent reasoning exists for the disparity, recent claims that the current sentencing guidelines are racist have forced legislators to review their drug sentencing guidelines. White drug users are much more likely to be arrested for powder cocaine possession, whereas African-American drug users are more likely to be arrested for crack cocaine possession. As a result, black convicts faced much more strict sentences than their white counterparts for essentially the same crime.

The United States Supreme Court even ruled in Kimbrough v. U.S., that judges could sentence defendants below the sentencing guidelines for crack offenses. The new bill will reduce the disparity from 100 to 1 to approximately 18 to 1. It is a minor victory in reducing the sentencing disparities for crack possession versus cocaine possession.

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A dog bite can range from a minor scratch to a fatal mauling. No matter how serious the severity of the dog bite, any animal attack can be a traumatic experience. The law surrounding dog bites and negligence may be unclear and some may wonder how you can be compensated for an animal attack.

Rhode Island State Law is quite clear on the matter. If a dog bite occurs outside of a pet’s enclosure (i.e. outside the home in a public park or on a sidewalk) then the owner of the pet is strictly liable for any and all injury that the dog causes. Strict liability means that the circumstances as to why the attack occurred are irrelevant – the owner is always responsible!

If the attack occurred inside the home (the pet’s enclosure) then the homeowner is not necessarily liable. This may be a surprise to many people who think that a homeowner is obligated to control his pet at all times. However, if the pet is inside his enclosure and the owner has no reason to believe that the pet is a danger to anyone (i.e. the dog is not a pit bull, akita, or other dangerous breed, and the dog has never attacked anyone in the past) then the owner is not liable for the attack. If, however, the dog is a dangerous breed, or if the dog has bitten a victim in the past, then the homeowner is on notice that the dog is dangerous and is responsible for any injury suffered no matter where it occurs.

Massachusetts, also has very favorable laws for victims of dog bites. The owner of a dog is strictly liable for any attack on a person unless that person was teasing, tormenting, or otherwise harassing the animal.

In Massachusetts, the law also says that a child under 7 can not be responsible for tormenting or teasing the dog. Therefore, in Mass, a homeowner is always responsible for injuries inflicted on a child under 7. Tragically, children are the most common victims of dog bites. This may be attributed to the fact that children are on the same height level as dogs and because children do not yet understand the danger that some dogs may present.

The vast majority of homeowner’s policies will cover dog bite attacks and pay the customary personal injury debts including: medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The amount paid to a victim for pain and suffering also includes compensation for scarring which is, unfortunately, a common result of a dog bite. The value of a scar depends on many variables, including but not limited to, the location on the body and the severity and length of the scar.

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I had a new client come in yesterday morning who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He very rarely rode the motorcycle and did not maintain insurance on the bike or have a current registration. He was concerned that because his bike was unregistered and uninsured that he would be found at fault for the accident.

I thought that this is a question or concern that other people might have and decided to write this post. The short answer is that the insurance and registration status of a vehicle has nothing to do with a liability determination. Liability is a complex determination made by asking whose negligence ultimately caused this accident. In other words, which driver failed to act with due care and caused the accident. This determination does not consider the insurance or registration of a vehicle or motorcycle.

My client was 100% not at fault for this accident. That said, I certainly do not recommend operating a car or motorcycle without proper insurance and registration. For one, you will be subject to fines from the police. Even though you are not at fault for the accident, it is against the law to operate an uninsured and unregistered vehicle, and you will have to pay the consequences.

Also, if my client maintained an adequate insurance policy he might have had underinsured motorist available to him. Underinsured motorist is much like uninsured motorist. In the case of underinsured motorist, if the at fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to compensate for the serious injury, you can then turn to your own insurance policy to cover the gap. That is why it is imperative not to cut corners with your insurance policy because you never know when you will need it.

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Every Public Defender’s office in the Country is overloaded with too much work and struggle to effectively represent their clients. Armed with only tight budgets and short staffs, public defenders work tirelessly to try and effectively defend the poor arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. Today, the American Bar Association has reported that one public defenders office in Missouri has been forced to stop taking new clients.

The department hopes that this will be a temporary measure but this is not the first time that they have had to shut their doors. It is still unclear what will happen to newly arrested clients who need public representation. The story also fails to report how many cases each Missouri public defender was handling and what number of cases became one too many. I have previously discussed the extraordinary number of cases that Rhode Island public defenders handle including over 1500 misdemeanors per year and several hundred felonies!!

The greatest criminal defense attorneys in the world simply can not handle that type of caseload with the aggressiveness and efficiency that criminal defense requires. That is why it is important to hire a private attorney if you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. The public defenders may be highly capable attorneys but they simply have no time to afford your case the attention it deserves.

If you have been arrested for DUI, marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, or more serious charges such as cocaine and heroin possession, assault and battery, or breaking and entering, it is imperative that you contact my office right away so that we can begin to aggressively defend your case and work towards a dismissal.

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Margaret Marshall, who delivered the opinion in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, 798 N.E.2d 941, has announced that she will be stepping down from her post on the Court. Unfortunately, Justice Marshall’s husband has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and she will be stepping down to care for him.

Justice Marshall will be well remembered for the Goodridge decision which was a State and National landmark decision. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Marshall said that the State may not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.” In so ruling she also stated that “The right to marry is not a privilege conferred by the State, but a fundamental right that is protected against unwarranted State interference.” Constitutionally it was determined that there is no rational basis to deny same sex couples the right to marry.

Regardless, of political or moral bent, It was a courageous and important decision. Advocates for same sex rights hoped that this State decision would lead to a National right to marry for same sex couples. Unfortunately, the decision seems to have created as much tension as it has freedoms.

Best wishes to her and her family.

It has been an exceptionally difficult month for Massachusetts State troopers. In the past five weeks alone, five state troopers have been injured on duty by drunk drivers. In one case, Sgt. Doug Weddleton was killed in an accident caused by a drunk driver. In the most recent incident, a thirty-three year old Massachusetts trooper was injured while writing a ticket for an uninvolved Brockton woman, Fatima Baptista.

In light of this increased string of drunk driving incidents, the Massachusetts Police Union is seeking extra patrols on the roads to identify impaired drivers before they cause injury. The union believes that more patrols will increase drunk driving arrests and keep dangerous drivers off the road.

It is important to remember that .08 is not a very high standard for DUI, but it is the law in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Even a few drinks can impair your ability to drive and subject you to arrest for drunk driving. Additional penalties will be added to your case if you injury, or God forbid, kill someone while operating under the influence.

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The Rhode Island Court System saw a decline in both civil and criminal cases in 2009 as compared to 2008. The number of civil jury verdicts was down as was the number of Superior Court felony filings. To no surprise, the Worker’s Compensation Court also saw a heavy decrease in activity. Given that 10-15% of the State is unemployed, one would expect to see a drop in work-related injuries.

Unfortunately, there was an increase in domestic abuse filings. This may be attributed to our poor economy and high level of unemployment. The current atmosphere creates high level of family tension and drives some people to drink heavily which can lead to an increase in domestic abuse. The Supreme Court also saw an increase in the number of appeals filed.

Some numbers from the annual report are available here.

The numbers are not greatly different and the decline can be attributed, most likely, to the usual ebb and flow that occurs year to year. As a matter of fact, there have already been a great number of civil jury verdicts in the first half of this year as compared to 2009.