Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

The National Transportation Safety Board released the findings from a study which revealed, the not surprising at all fact that, wrong way drivers are extremely dangerous and cause hundreds of auto accident fatalities each year across the country. The study also finds that the majority of wrong way drivers are intoxicated and operating their vehicle at two to three times the legal limit for alcohol.

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I have written previous posts highlighting the danger of head-on collisions. Head-on accidents are among the most dangerous and life threatening auto accidents that can occur because the speed and force of both vehicles impact directly into one another. Wrong-way drivers, whether on a side street, a main street, or in extreme cases, the highway, create a very high likelihood of a head-on collision.

When an operator is coming down the road in the wrong direction it can be very difficult to avoid collision for a number of reasons. For one, as drivers we are unaccustomed to be on the lookout for wrong-way drivers. While we are trained to always keep our eye on the road, a driver coming the wrong way down the highway or down a one way is not something we are likely to look for. Second, even if we are aware of the wrong way driver it may be impossible to avoid collision. Perhaps there is no room to get out of the way (as in a tight one-way road) or the driver is coming to fast for you to take evasive action (as on the highway).

A car accident caused by a wrong-way driver is always a scary thing. I recently was retained by a woman who was struck by a man driving down the wrong way on Route 195 West in Fall River, Massachusetts. She turned her car abruptly at the last second and was able to avoid a direct head-on collision, but despite her bravery and quick thinking she still suffered a broken leg and ankle in the collision.

If you are injured in an accident caused by a wrong way driver you may be entitled to past and future medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. My office specializes in car accident cases and complex injuries. Call my office for a free consultation and let my experience work for you.

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This winter has been extremely mild for us here in New England which seems to rule out the risk of a snowmobile accident or injury, but if you are injured this winter during a snowmobile accident it is imperative that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney right away to protect your rights and obtain compensation for you. There is no need to contact a national law firm to help you with a snowmobile accident because our firm is local and ready to fight for you.

Snowmobile accidents can occur in a number of ways. Collision between two snowmobiles, operator error, and product malfunction can all lead to an accident. Injuries sustained in a snowmobile accident can be serious and permanent including but not limited to head injuries, fractures, paralysis and even death. Do not delay in contacting a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will need to act quickly to establish the facts of loss and identify potential coverages for you to be compensated. Many insurance companies are now covering so called “small lines” vehicles such as jet skis, motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles. Because of this increase in coverage there is a strong likelihood that the vehicle which caused your injuries has an insurance policy protecting it. In some instances the homeowners policy may also cover your damages. As with other personal injury cases you are entitled to past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Because it is unlikely for the police or other government agency to investigate a snowmobile accident, there may be no incident report. Therefore, if AND ONLY IF, you are able, it is imperative for you to try and identify witnesses and take pictures of the scene. This will help establish the facts when trying to recreate the accident at a later date.

Snowmobiles and Product Liability

If your snowmobile accident was caused not by operator error but by a defect in the machine itself, it is worth looking at your accident as a product liability case. If your snowmobile has a defective design that made it unsafe for its intended use, or was manufactured in such a way as to be dangerous, then you may have a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Recently both Ski-Doo and Bombardier have recalled snowmobiles for various unacceptable risks that caused serious injury to users.

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I don’t use this forum to discuss criminal cases too often, but after an exceptional week in Court, I want to share some good results. This week I secured the dismissal of a DUI case and the dismissal of a domestic assault charge. My approach to my client’s case whether personal injury or criminal is to aggressively pursue the matter and prepare every case as if we are going to trial. I never assume an injury case is going to settle and I never assume that a criminal case is going to result in a plea… this approach is the most effective way I know to ensure great results for my clients. This week was a good one in the criminal courts.

My first client was arrested for DUI following an auto accident with significant property damage and injuries. Although it was the first offense, the prosecution was looking for severe penalties because of the accident. After aggressively fighting this case, the DUI was dismissed for lack of evidence and my client was left to face only civil penalties.

The second charge dismissed this week was for domestic assault. In this case, the client had a prior record which was resolved by a criminal filing. His year for the criminal filing had not yet passed and the new domestic assault charge also meant that he would be violated on the filing charge. After a full hearing in front of the Judge, the violation was dismissed. This was a major victory for a client who was facing jail time should he be found in violation.

The Providence Journal is reporting on a real mess of an auto accident that occurred on the Sakonnet River Bridge this morning. It is reported that traffic was slow and tight across the bridge because police had previously responded to a minor auto accident. The driver of the dump truck approached the scene in the passing lane and when traffic narrowed, he sideswiped a van and continued forward striking several additional vehicles including the two police cruisers responding to the earlier car crash. The driver of the commercial truck which caused the accident claimed to police that his brakes failed. As a result, the Sakonnet River Bridge was shut down for nearly three hours! The Journal has not reported or indicated if there were any injuries.

As it concerns the commercial truck driver, he has done quite a bit wrong and his company may have one heck of a tab on their hands. For one, an oversized vehicle carrying rocks should not be in the passing lane to begin with. Second, if we accept as truth that the driver’s brakes failed, then the company will be liable for poorly maintaining their trucks. The more likely scenario is that the driver was not paying attention to the stopped traffic and caused the mess. As most people are wont to do following an accident, he tried to shift attention away from himself by blaming faulty brakes.

Between my time working for the insurance companies and now representing plaintiff’s on my own, I can not tell you how many times I have heard “My brakes failed”. It is such a well tread excuse following an auto accident, that the police do not even consider that it may be true.

This follows what was already a tragic weekend in Rhode Island when another bridge accident resulted in the wrongful death of one of the drivers and serious injuries to several others. There was a head-on collision Saturday on the Mt. Hope Bridge, in which the deceased driver, Paul Matthews, was allegedly distracted causing his vehicle to go left of center. Mr. Matthews did not survive his injuries and multiple passengers in both vehicles were seriously injured, although no other injuries appear to be life threatening.


These serious auto accidents present complications both for their complexity and severity. I wish every one a safe ride on the streets especially during this time of year.

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Car accidents which occur in parking lots are actually extremely common and come with a host of unique problems and complexities that need to be understood. If you have been involved in an accident which occurred in a store or other parking lot, hopefully the following information can be of assistance.

For most auto accidents that occur on a public road, determining who is at fault is much easier than in a parking lot accident. On a public road there are traffic controls, stop signs, and well understood rules of the road. Violating a rule of the road or ignoring a traffic signal will put one at fault for the car crash. In a parking lot, a determination of fault is not always as easy.

Why is it Tricky to Determine Liability in a Parking Lot?

A recent Supreme Court decision from the State of Maine brings to light some interesting considerations for accidents involving commercial work trucks and insurance coverage. The case, State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance v. Estate of Carey, stems from a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of James Carey. Mr. Carey was struck and killed by Roger Linton who was an independent contractor and former employee of Jennings Masonry. Linton was driving a large commercial truck owned and insured by Jennings but was not working at the time of the accident. State Farm insured the truck involved in the loss.

Linton was not currently an employee of Jennings, but was in the past. He also frequently drove Jennings vehicles with permission. On the date of this accident, he was again driving in a Jennings truck but did not return the vehicle when he completed his work. Instead, Linton took the truck to several friends houses and a tavern. It was during this “excursion” that the fatal auto accident occurred involving Mr. Carey. Linton was legally drunk at the time of the accident and arrested.

Quickly, State Farm petitioned the Court for a declaratory judgment stating that they had no obligation to insure or defend Linton. Their position was that he did not have “permission” to use the vehicle at the time of the accident and was not using it for work purposes, and therefore, he was not legally operating the vehicle at the time of the collision. If he did not have the permission of the owner to operate the vehicle at the time of the accident, State Farm, would not be required to cover the loss. (As a side note, if that sounds unfair because it could leave the owner of Jennings Masonry holding the bag – you are correct. If an insurance company can avoid paying they will regardless of the harm it might present to their insured).

Some States with mandatory insurance coverage have taken the position that since the lawmakers intended all vehicles to carry liability insurance, that they would be inclined to find coverage in a situation like the one at hand, so long as permission was given, at any time, to operate the vehicle. This is the so called “initial permission” rule. The Maine Supreme Court did not accept this approach and instead held that the trial court would have to reconsider the case under the minor deviation rule. The minor deviation rule has long been the standard for determining whether an employees actions are covered under the employees policy. Clearly, an employee acting on behalf of his employer at the time of an accident is covered by the company’s policy. Under the minor deviation rule, an employee who makes a slight or minor detour, such as stopping for lunch, while using a work vehicle will be covered. A major deviation, however, such as the one taken by Linton are unlikely to be covered because it was so far outside of the scope of his employment and work related use of the vehicle, that a jury would conclude that he did not have his employers permission to use the vehicle in that manner.

Auto accidents involving commercial trucks are very serious because of the size and weight of the vehicles involved. The injuries sustained can be catastrophic, or as in the case of Mr. Carey, fatal. It is imperative that you speak with an experienced truck accident attorney right away to ensure that you receive all of the compensation that you deserve.

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Abortion rights and wrongful death law seem not to have much in common, but a new federal lawsuit in Nebraska may have an interesting effect on both abortion laws and wrongful death laws across the country. The lawsuit stems from a tragic auto accident in which a Maryland couple was killed with their two children when a tractor trailer struck their stationary automobile. It turns out that the woman was also pregnant with the couple’s third child. The estate brought the action for wrongful death on behalf of the entire family and cited a 2003 Nebraska law which extends legal protections to an unborn fetus. This is the first case to raise such a statute, but it appears that the law should also give wrongful death rights to the unborn fetus.

Readers can now probably see why this law is problematic when viewed in the light of Roe v. Wade and its subsequent cases. If an unborn fetus is considered a child in the eyes of the law, so that it can be granted legal rights, then it will legally (rather than morally) be murder to terminate the pregnancy. I assure you I am making no stance on the topic here.

Most of the States that have enacted laws similar to the one in Nebraska are right wing leaning States such as Utah, Florida and Nebraska, which are keen on stronger abortion laws and restrictions. The Rhode Island Supreme Court in Amica v. Miccolis held that a nonviable fetus could not maintain a cause of action for wrongful death because it is not a person within the meaning of the wrongful death statute. If this auto accident occurred in RI, the fetus would not have an individual cause of action. If the child, however, could have been delivered (by C-Section for instance) and then died from the injuries sustained in the automobile accident, then a cause of action for wrongful death could proceed.

It will be interesting to follow cases like this one as they unfold. It’s mark on federal law could be wide reaching and may cause more States to enact similar liegislation.

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This blog has always focused primarily on questions of personal injury and pain and suffering recovery, yet there is another important part to an auto accident claim that is often not discussed. That is the property damage – the repair to your vehicle, replacement of a total loss and placement in a rental vehicle immediately following an auto accident.

I have previously written posts about low bodily injury settlement offers from insurance companies if you do not have a personal injury attorney. But even when it comes to property damage, the insurance company’s main objective is to cut costs and limit your total recovery. Since you need immediate help following a car crash, it is imperative that you call an experienced car accident attorney right away, so there are no delays or problems with the repair of your vehicle.

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What if my vehicle is repairable?

After three years of maintaining this blog and drafting hundreds of blog posts, I sometimes wonder what questions I can answer, or what information is left to be shared with my readers. Today I was thinking about some of the less common personal injury claims and I was reminded of a few cases of mine stemming from sporting events. If you (or your child) was injured either playing a sport, or while attending a sporting event, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.

Were you or your child injured while playing a sport?

More than three million under the age of 14 are treated for sports related injuries each year. The vast majority of those are not candidates for a personal injury claim. We all understand that injuries occur in sports, particularly contact sports such as football, hockey or rugby. I know – I played rugby for ten years! Because we are aware of the danger, we accept the risk simply by playing. Similarly, parents sign waivers so that their children can play organized sports. Personal injury claims do not exist in such “normal” or “expected” types of sports injury.

Negligence can occur, however, that causes injury and which is not part of the “accepted risk” of playing a sport. The most common causes of preventable sports injuries are:

  • Inadequate or defective equipment;
  • Inadequate or defective playing surfaces or fields;
  • Abusive coaches or trainers;
  • Training or practice that is excessive for a child’s age and experience.

Most sporting organizations carry insurance for these types of negligent acts that lead to injury. The most common types of injuries to young athletes are muscle sprains/strains and fractures. More serious injuries, such as spinal injuries, head injuries, permanent muscle damage, paralysis and even death, can and have occur from the playing of sports. Injured persons are entitled to compensation and should contact an experienced sports injury lawyer right away.

Were you or your child injured AT a sporting event?

Much like playing sports, we accept a certain amount of risk everytime that we go to a game. We understand that foul balls will enter the stands and may injure spectators. Public address announcers warn several times that hockey pucks, baseballs or other objects might fly into the stand. They even agree to refund your ticket if you are unwilling to accept such risk.

Again, like playing sports, there are some injuries that spectators sustain that was not foreseeable or preventable. These types of injuries may be compensable under a personal injury claim. Some examples of injuries at sporting events that might be covered:

  • Assault by another intoxicated spectator (maybe a rival fan). Much like restaurants and bars have an obligation to not over serve customers, so too do sporting venues;
  • The protections meant to prohibit injury the stands are inadequate or defective;
  • Slip and fall at the venue.

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This is an unfortunate story that seems unable to run out of steam. A nationwide outbreak of meningitis is being linked to a specialty pharmacy company here in Massachusetts. Every day the Center for Disease Control has increased the number of victims who have caught a deadly strain of meningitis after receiving a tainted steroid shot intended to relieve back pain. The current number stands at 119 cases of meningitis with 11 documented deaths related to the tainted steroid injections. The cases of reported illnesses has spread to ten States.

The company voluntarily recalled the steroid that was sent to clinics in 23 States after a tainted vial was found on their own premises. They have since expanded the recall to include everything they have distributed.

While there are no confirmed cases of meningitis here in Rhode Island, the Department of Health continues to notify potential victims of the possible exposure. An additional 50 patients have been notified of the link today. Victims who have contracted meningitis from the tainted injections will have a strong product liability case against the manufacturer who clearly released an unsafe and defective product into the market.