Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

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.

Like everyone I am overwhelmed by the attack during the Boston marathon. It was a disgusting act of cowardice that has left many families destroyed. Fortunately, my family and friends were not directly affected in this incident, but Boston is a city close to my heart. It is where I went to law school (Boston College) and it is a city that I called home for a number of years.

I heard of this charity opportunity and I think it is such a great idea that I wanted to use this forum to help spread the word. The people from City Lights Home, the same featured in the TV show, Flipping Boston, are collecting donations on behalf of the Boston Marathon victims. They will use their resources and the donated money to equip and modify the homes and apartments of the marathon victims. Dozens of these poor victims have lost limbs and are now permanently disabled. We must remember that health insurance may cover the victim’s medical bills and may even cover for prosthetic devices and wheelchairs, but insurance almost certainly will not cover the cost of converting a house and making it handicap accessible. This cost, which could be in the tens of thousands, will fall on the shoulders of the victims who have already suffered enough.

My understanding is that this fund will be used to help cover the cost of making victims homes handicap accessible. City Lights Homes promises that 100% of the collected donations will go directly to assisting the victims and their families. It’s a very worthy goal and I encourage everyone to assist in any denomination that they can afford. My office will be making a donation to assist and my family will be praying for everyone affected.

A new study suggests that more than texting and even more than drunk driving, that distracted driving is the greatest danger on the road. A study from the Erie Insurance Group concluded that it is actually five times more dangerous to drive distracted (daydreaming) than it is to drive while texting or talking on the phone. In fact, it may be the leading cause of fatal auto accidents throughout the country.

Cars continue to increase safety measures but no amount of technology or airbags can prevent bad drivers from causing injury. Driving comes so naturally to us that we take for granted that we are driving a 3000 pound piece of metal at 60+ miles per hour. When we take our obligations for granted, by texting, drinking and driving, or simply not paying attention, we invite disaster. A nationwide review of 65,000 fatal auto accidents across the country in the past few years showed that at least ten percent of those accidents fell into the distracted driver category.

Surveys of accidents caused by distracted drivers indicate that a great many of those drivers were simply “lost in thought”. To my knowledge, few surveys such as this have looked solely at daydreaming as a cause of auto accidents. New safety mechanisms such as lane departure warnings and proximity alarms are audible alerts to notify the driver that something is wrong. Car companies are aware that many accidents may be avoidable if the driver is paying attention to the potential danger. Audible alerts or seats or steering wheels that shake to alert the driver will likely become increasingly common.

Distracted driving is anything that takes our eyes or attention off the road. This could be texting, playing with the radio, reading, putting on makeup, etc. And as this study shows, distracted driving may simply include “being lost in thought”.

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An interesting situation arises when a person is driving without insurance (a mistake, and in Rhode Island, illegal) and gets into a car accident, but is not at fault for the accident. For example, you are driving an uninsured vehicle but are rear-ended by another driver while you are waiting at a red light. Who is at fault in this situation?

I receive a lot of questions about this scenario and I can see why it might be confusing. It could be argued that it is negligent to drive a car without insurance. It can also be argued that since driving without insurance is a violation of Rhode Island law, the driver should not have been on the road when the accident occurred. While these are both valid points, they actually have no bearing on determining auto accident liability.

A lack of insurance, or license and registration for that matter, is not enough to impose liability for an auto accident on a person. The rules of the road still apply and are the only factors considered in determining who is at fault for the accident. In the example above of a rear-end accident, you would hold 0% liability for the accident. An uninsured driver is still entitled to damages for the property damage done to their car, and if injured, can make a bodily injury claim for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

While violating State law in such a way will not negatively impact your rights to damages, you are still subject to Rhode Island law. This is a very important distinction that you must understand. You may still be cited for lack of insurance at the scene or in some cases you will receive the citation by mail shortly after the accident. This citation includes a $500 fine. If you are driving without a license or on a suspended license, this is a misdemeanor and you may be arrested for this offense.

In summary, you can not escape the consequences of Rhode Island law if you are driving a vehicle in an accident without insurance, but it will not effect your rights to recover damages while making an insurance claim. You do not need to be afraid to report your damages to the insurance company because you were driving uninsured at the time of the collision.

Expungement allows a person with a criminal record, under certain circumstances, to have his or her criminal record permanently deleted. This is an incredible tool and is useful for someone applying for college, applying for new jobs, looking to join the army or other branch of the military, or who just wants to keep the public out of their past. An article in the Providence Journal yesterday reported that the number of criminal records expunged jumped 36 percent in 2012. Last year, 269 felonies and 3,929 misdemeanors were expunged and erased from the public record. This was a jump from 3,091 total expungements completed in 2011.

Today, it is reported that Attorney General Kilmartin is proposing newer easier restrictions to allow for more expungements. His proposal asks that any person who has never committed a felony and has stayed out of trouble be allowed to expunge up to five misdemeanors as opposed to the current one misdemeanor allowed. The law would not apply to domestic violence crimes or DUIs. Rhode Island law, as it stands, has a “one bite at the apple” approach. A single misdemeanor can be expunged after five years without further offense and a single felony can be expunged after ten years without further arrest. The increased opportunity for expungement is meant to assist those who made bad decisions or indiscretions in their youth but have since changed and improved their life for the better.

If you have waited the appropriate amount of time after your previous crime and the conviction was not for an act of violence, you may qualify for an expungement. My office will file the paperwork and appear at the motion on your behalf. The total fee for this service is only $500 which includes the $100 fee payable to the Courts if your expungement is approved. It is a small price to pay to permanently remove your criminal record as you seek a new job or a new life position.

My office has handled many expungements and it is a rather quick and easy process. If you would like more information about expungement or if you are interested in pursuing this step, contact my office for a free consultation.

A new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association shows that the first half of year 2012 saw a 19 percent increase in teenage driver fatalities. The report took a look at all 50 states and showed that last year saw the reverse of a trend that saw decline in teenage accident related fatalities for almost a decade. Of even greater concern, the rate of fatalities for 16 and 17 year olds was even higher than the reported 19 percent jump.

This particular report focused solely on teenage drivers and did not include all auto accident related fatalities involving teenagers as passengers or pedestrians. The report also did not look at liability in these cases so there is no reported evidence to how many of these accidents were caused by the teenage driver.

We can only speculate as to why last year saw such an increase. One suggestion is that an improving economy is making it more accessible for teenagers to access a vehicle. Another suggestion is that we are seeing a slow down in previously created laws meant to reduce teenage driving fatalities such as graduated driving laws which have been enacted in many states. I would also add that the increase in smartphones and mobile technology has to be considered a cause in the increase of teenage auto accident related deaths. No generation is more wired and tech savvy than the current crop of young drivers and the distraction to text or check facebook while driving may be the cause of these tragic numbers.

Construction remains among the most dangerous professions in our country and, as such, accounts for very serious life-altering injuries. OSHA among with State and Federal laws and guidelines have attempted to reduce the dangers of working on a construction site, but they will always remain. Quite honestly, creating and maintaining an absolutely safe environment at a construction site would send project costs sky-high and would likely add months to any project.

Construction accidents can be caused in countless ways but some of the most common causes of work place injuries are:

  • Defective products on the work site;
  • Falls;
  • Co-workers negligence and inexperience;
  • Falling objects from workers stationed above;
  • Disregard for safety measures.

If you have been seriously injured in a construction site accident you are entitled to workers compensation. This will pay for your medical bills and a portion of your wages. Workers compensation, however, is limited. Most notably, you are not entitled to pain and suffering through workers compensation. It is imperative for you to understand, that despite the workers compensation laws in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that you may still be able to bring a third party case for negligence in a construction accident case. If successful, this will award you damages for pain and suffering.

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The workers compensation laws prevent you from bringing a third party claim against your employer. That is still the case on a construction site. The difference, however, is that on a construction site there may be a dozen subcontractors and different companies involved. If any of the employees or agents of a company, other than your own, was the cause of the accident or injury you may be able to bring an action against that company. You will not be barred from this action because you do not actually work for the defendant. The most common defendant in construction site cases is the general contractor. Often injured employees work for a subcontractor, whether it is iron work, labor, electric, etc. The general contractor is responsible for the overall safety of the workplace and if you are not a direct employee of the general contractor, you may not be limited to workers compensation for your injury claim.

Construction site injuries can be extremely serious and life-changing. These include:

Scarring;
Burns;
Broken Bones;
Head injuries;
Amputation;
Paralysis;

Death.

If you were seriously injured while working on a construction site it is absolutely imperative that you contact a personal injury firm experienced in these types of cases. I have represented numerous victims of construction site injuries and understand the complexities and challenges that these cases present. Contact my office for a free consultation and as with all personal injury claims with my office, there is no fee unless I recover damages for you.

If, God forbid, your child is seriously injured in an accident of any kind – bike accident, dog bite, auto accident, etc., and the settlement exceeds $10,000 in value there will be some additional steps that you will be required to take on behalf of your child. Rhode Island state law holds that any settlement over $10,000 for a minor child must be approved by a Judge.

The law is meant to protect minor children in a couple of ways. For one, the Judge will be looking to confirm that the settlement is fair to the child for the injury sustained. Second, the Judge is looking to ensure that the money will be secured for the minor child and not used by the parents.

A guardian ad litem will be appointed for your minor child. This person, an attorney, does not work with your personal injury attorney, nor does he work with the insurance company. The guardian ad litem is solely interested in assuring the best interest of the minor who can not speak for himself. He or she will do this by ensuring that the settlement offer is fair and that the parents have made necessary arrangements to put the money into a trust fund or other savings account that can be used by the minor for his or her benefit. Often, the money is designed to be accessible to the minor when he or she comes of age.

Your attorney will need to file whats called a “friendly suit”. In almost every way this is a normal lawsuit, except that both sides have already agreed to a resolution. You will not have to go through the discovery process and you and your child will not be deposed. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will file a Motion to have the case heard before the Formal and Special Cause Calendar. At that hearing, the Judge will hear from both the plaintiff and defense attorney and will also review the report of the guardian ad litem. If the Judge is satisfied that the interests of the minor child have been protected, the settlement can finally be approved.

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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.

A controversial new law proposed in the Rhode Island senate seeks to protect the public from dog bites and other injuries caused by pit bulls. The law is controversial and unique in that it focuses solely on one breed, pit bulls. Breed specific laws are not common but those that do exist in other states tend to focus on pit bulls much like this law does.

Thumbnail image for Pit-Bull.jpgMy office has gained a reputation for handling dog bite cases so I am following this law with great interest. We have helped dozens of victims of dog bites in the past year alone, settling most cases for tens of thousands of dollars and more. Dog bite injuries are very serious for a number of reasons:

  • Dog bite injuries almost always result in a scar ranging in size from small teeth marks to large long scars;
  • Dog bites most often occur to minor children;
  • Animal attacks result in a severe mental trauma that is not common to other types of accidents and injuries.

I applaud this bill for a few reasons and am critical for others. I applaud the law because it seeks greater protections for the public from the dangers of dog bites. According to this law, owners of pit bulls would require registration and insurance as well as posting signs and other notices on their personal property. Pit bulls would have to be kept inside at all times and muzzled in public, in addition to other restrictions. I especially applaud the requirement of insurance for ownership of dangerous dog breeds. It is terribly irresponsible to harbor a dangerous animal and lack the required insurance to protect someone injured. Of course, I firmly believe, most dangerous animals are that way because they are owned and raised by immature and irresponsible owners…. but that is the story for another day.

I am critical of the law because I see no reason to single out a particular breed. While statistically pit bulls might cause a higher number of dog bites than other breeds, the laws should focus on protecting the public from any such attack. This, I believe, can be done by educating the public and owners of dogs, particularly potentially dangerous dogs like pit bulls. I would also open up the liability requirement to owners of any dog. From my experience in the cases that I have handled, small unsuspecting dogs are just as likely to bite a person than a pit bull.

Of course, the law in Rhode Island, gives owners of dogs a free pass for one bite UNLESS the owner knows or should know that the breed is dangerous, such as a pit bull or akita. In other words, a dog owner may not be liable if he or she had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous because a) it has never bitten anyone before, or b) it is not a “dangerous breed.” Another way we could enhance the protection of the public from dog bites without singling out pit bulls, is to remove this “free pass” for the first bite from Rhode Island law.

If you or a family member has been the victim of a dog bite, contact my office for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for scarring, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. There is never any fee unless I recover damages for you. Call the firm specializing in dog bite attacks in Rhode Island.