Rhode Island Injury Lawyer Blog

A national story printed on cnn.com discussing an investigation into bicycle accidents in New York City brings to light what is truly a nationwide dilemma. Rhode Island and Massachusetts are not without their fair share of bicycle accidents that result in serious injury and the question has to be asked whether the law does enough to protect bike riders on public streets.

Michelle Matson was struck while riding home on a bicycle by a driver who was speeding and subsequently fled the scene. She was nearly killed in this accident with serious injury to her skull and spine. She feels little effort was made to investigate the accident or apprehend the driver who nearly killed her and left the scene. As a result, Ms. Matson’s life was turned upside down and she has no legal recourse to recover for her pain and suffering and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. The question must be asked why no thorough investigation was conducted? The article points out that absent death or catastrophic injury, little investigation will be conducted into a bicycle accident.

There is no doubt that this problem exists in Rhode Island as well. While bicyclists have a right to use the road under the same rules as motorists, the assumption is that bicyclists merely get in the way of operators of motor vehicles. Bicycle riders must maintain the absolute care and lookout for all of their surroundings, yet the law puts little requirement on vehicle operators to take such care. Auto accidents involving pedestrians and bike riders are almost always serious because bikes offer such little protection to riders. The law must seek ways to better protect bike riders and more thoroughly investigate accidents.

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Among the stranger articles that I come across each day, CNN Money has reported that fatal car wrecks see a spike in frequency on Tax Day, April 15, the day by which everyone must file and pay their annual taxes. According to the article, the odds of being involved in a fatal car accident is 6% higher on April 15 than any other day of they year! The only other day of the year with a similarly high jump in deadly car wrecks is Super Bowl Sunday which I suppose would be easily attributed to drunk driving.

The reasons behind a spike in fatal car accidents on April 15 is not quite as clear, however. Some of the suggested reasons for this finding is that stressed drivers are more error prone drivers. The lack of sleep and/or concern over the filing of taxes can lead to distracted and disoriented drivers which leads to an acute spike in the number of accidents.

In case you didn’t have enough reason to dread tax day…

I woke up this morning to a tragic story in the Providence Journal in which a Delaware woman was struck and killed in Rhode Island by a wheel that had “flown off” of a Hummer. Apparently the two vehicles were traveling on the highway in opposite directions when the wheel came free of the Hummer and traveled all the way across the divider into oncoming traffic striking the poor victim.

The comments section to the story included many questions as to fault in this accident, in particular, whether the owner of the Hummer should be held responsible. The answer is absolutely, yes. Not unlike my recent post discussing sudden illness and auto accidents, in which I explained that a person needs to be aware of their medical condition and accepts the risk of causing an accident because they fall ill, a person needs to be aware of the overall condition of their vehicle. Similarly, if our vehicle malfunctions in such a way as to cause injury to another person, then we are responsible for not properly maintaining the car. Driving an unsafe vehicle or ignoring loud noises or other warnings that the car is not operating properly is negligence and a person is definitely responsible if that negligence leads to another’s damages.

The facts of this case, however, suggest that additional defendants will also be responsible. There may be several potential defendants for a product liability claim in connection with this auto accident. The personal injury attorney should explore how and why the wheel came off of this vehicle. Were defective lugnuts or wheel bearings on this vehicle? I have seen other online articles suggesting that the wheels of a Hummer H2 can come off at high speeds which leads to question whether the Hummer is designed defectively. If so, GM may find themselves a party to this lawsuit.

Additionally, one would have to see if the Hummer was recently serviced or repaired. Perhaps it was recently inspected and the inspection facility failed to identify the problem with the wheel. When a strange and tragic accident like this occurs, there are inevitably hundreds of questions. Yes, the driver of the vehicle will be liable for damages, but so too may other defendants as the facts of this loss are uncovered.

My deepest condolences to the family.

The companies are all over television, advertising usually at the same time as many personal injury attorneys who advertise on television. They are lenders, such as Peachtree financial and Oasis financial, who tell you that they will advance the money to you that you will potentially receive when your personal injury case settles. It is a practice known as pre-settlement funding or litigation lending. Many of my clients have asked me about working with these companies. The short answer is – NEVER. Here is what you need to know before signing up.

Personal injury cases do not ordinarily settle quickly. The injured party has to obtain medical treatment for several months or more and then the attorney has to undergo a lengthy process of negotiating with the insurance company. Furthermore, if the insurance company is unreasonable, the case may need to be litigated. During this time, the injured party may be out of work and may have medical bills and/or other expenses piling up. In comes, a pre-settlement funding company offering to lend you the money to pay those bills so that you do not have to wait for your injury settlement. The catch – some of these companies charge as much as 200% interest!!! Yes, 200% interest. It is no surprise to find out that this type of loan arrangement was first conceived of by an indicted loan shark out of Las Vegas. And as of right now, the practice is legal. Rhode Island, however, now has a bill pending that looks to cap such loans at an interest rate of 21%. I certainly hope that it passes because these loans are predatory and victimize accident victims.

I sadly had one client, who I represented for an auto accident, fall victim to this type of loan. I begged the client not to take out this loan because I knew that the contract was awful and the loan was essentially a scam. Nevertheless, he convinced me by saying that he might lose his apartment if I did not sign the paperwork. I conceded. He took out a mere $500 and when his case settled a few months later he owed $947 in interest and fees. He paid almost double to the lender after less than six months.

I have also had clients ask if I can forward an advance on the personal injury settlement. The answer to that question is always NO. It is not because I am uncaring, it is because our rules of ethics as lawyers clearly forbid such advances. I know that some attorneys in Rhode Island will loan money off of your settlement and I even know of an attorney who charges interest on such loans – but I assure you that it should not be done and you may want to reconsider who is representing you if they so readily violate the rules of ethics.

I understand that it can be very difficult when you are out of work due to an accident and bills and expenses pile up. Talk to your attorney and he or she may be able to make some phone calls to help alleviate the bills or delay payment until your case is ready for settlement. The right personal injury attorney should also work quickly to make sure that your case is resolved when it is ready and that it is not unnecessarily delayed. Always talk to your attorney and see if something can be done before you make a serious mistake in taking a loan out with one these companies.

I am so grateful to all of my family, friends, past and future clients for helping to make my law practice such a success. Today marks 3 years since I opened my own doors in Providence and I can hardly believe it. I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many great people throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts (and in the case of entertainment law, people all over the country!) and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help with their legal needs.

The last year was the best yet with a record number of new clients and cases and some terrific results for my clients in personal injury, entertainment law and criminal defense. I am proud to describe just a few of the great results and projects that I was involved in over the past year alone:

In Personal Injury:

  • $150,000 for a fractured femur following an auto accident;
  • $100,000 for a fractured ankle (my client was previously unrepresented and the insurance company made a high offer of $20k… within 6 months of my taking the case and filing suit, the insurance company paid the policy limits of $100k);
  • $100,000 for nerve damage to client’s elbow following an auto accident.

In Entertainment Law

  • Worked as lead counsel on two films, one on a micro budget of $20k and another with a mid-range budget of $350,000;
  • Lead counsel on a reality television show currently in production in Rhode Island;
  • Secured synchronization rights for one of my artists songs on a nationwide television commercial;
  • Negotiated and secured a four album recording deal with a major record label;
  • Negotiated and secured the film option for a novel written by a New York Times bestselling author.

In Criminal Defense

  • Full dismissal of multiple DUI cases;
  • Full dismissal of two felony assault cases – one before trial and one by jury verdict;
  • Reduced 2 counts of Third Degree Sexual Assault to misdemeanor simple assault on the morning trial was scheduled to begin (Client was facing ten years in prison and instead plead to one year of probation);

These are just some of the highlights to a great year! In addition to these cases I have successfully helped hundreds of other clients in the past year in all three areas of law. I am so grateful to past and current clients who continue to tell their friends and family about my office aiding in my growth and success. I can never thank you enough. Here’s to another thirty successful years!!!

Today it is the norm for both husband and wife to work full-time requiring the ever increasing need for daycare centers and nurseries to look after young children. Families often struggle to pay the huge cost of children’s daycare which are undoubtedly, very expensive. Because of the great expense and because nothing is more important to us than our children, we absolutely insist that our children be well taken care of in a safe and attentive environment. Unfortunately, accidents occur and mistakes are made and our children can be injured while at a daycare or nursery. In these cases, it is absolutely imperative that you speak with an experienced daycare negligence attorney.

Most professional and high quality day care centers will have insurance in case accidents occur. Day care center negligence might include:

  • Improper supervision of children (i.e. allowing them to play dangerous games);
  • Failure to provide required medication;
  • Unsanitary conditions leading to sickness;
  • Defects in the building (i.e. broken stairs) that lead to injury;
  • Accidents from unsafe toys or equipment;
  • Injuries caused by one child on another.

These are examples of negligence that can occur even in well cared for facilities with highly trained staff. In such cases, your child is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical bills as well as pain and suffering. If the injury is very serious or catastrophic, this money can be used to help pay for necessary medical expenses over the course of a lifetime.

Some daycare negligence cases are more obvious and upsetting. Verbal, physical and sexual abuse has and may occur in a day care center. Be sure that NO level of verbal or physical abuse is acceptable regardless of the reason or the circumstances. If you would not slap your child to discipline him or her, your daycare center is certainly not allowed to do so.

These are almost always serious cases because of the long term mental and physical implications that may occur. My firm is experienced in representing parents whose children were injured while in the care of another and I am happy to speak with you for free if your child was hurt while at a daycare facility.

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My office has represented many victims of food poisoning, or foodborne illness, including victims of some high profile Rhode Island food poisoning cases. I have helped victims of the DeFusco’s Bakery salmonella outbreak as well as six (6) victims of the norovirus outbreak that led to the Rhode Island Department of Health temporarily closing Uncle Sushi restaurant. Outside of high profile cases like this, food poisoning occurs much more often than people may think and it can range in seriousness from a relatively minor 24 hour stomach bug all the way to death. The Center for Disease Control suggests there are as many as 76 million cases of food poisoning each year of which 300,000 people seek medical treatment and 5,000 people die. Some of the most common pathogens that result in food poisoning are bacterias such as : Salmonella, E. Coli, Clostridium Perfringens, Shigella, Listeria, and more.

There are several theories of liability available in a foodborne illness case. Essentially, food poisoning lawsuits are product liability cases. The argument is that the product released from the manufacturer was in a dangerous and defective condition when it left the hands of the producer and remained in that dangerous condition when it was received by the consumer. We then have to show that the consumer used the product in the manner it was anticipated (this obviously refers to eating the product in food poisoning cases) and that the product caused the food poisoning and associated injuries.

You can also proceed with a food poisoning case under the more common theory of negligence. As in any other case of negligence, with a food poisoning case, the plaintiff looks to prove that the defendant owed the consumer a duty of care and that through its negligent actions breached that duty of care resulting in ultimate harm to the consumer. For example, a restaurant buys eggs that are not tainted with bacteria and are safe to consume. They leave the eggs outside of a refrigerator, however, for several days and then use the eggs in the preparation of a dish. Because of their negligence in not properly handling the eggs, they have grown salmonella which was transferred to the consumer while eating the prepared dish. By ignoring all state law and well known food safety handling guidelines, the restaurant committed an act of negligence and would be liable.

There are a number of serious complications in winning a food poisoning case. The primary difficulty comes in determining what food led to the illness. Humans eat 3-4 times a day and foodborne illness can sometimes take 24 hours to show symptoms. Looking back on your day it may be difficult to identify what food was the direct cause of the poisoning. Furthermore, even if you know what food caused the illness, it remains the plaintiff’s burden to show that the specific food was contaminated and led to the illness.

In some cases, the Rhode Island Department of Health will receive several complaints about a particular food or food source and will begin an investigation which can aid in proving that the food was contaminated. In more difficult cases, your food poisoning attorney may order independent laboratory testing of the suspect food. Of course, this requires that you still possess an uneaten sample of the food. Finally, if there is no direct evidence to link the food with the sickness, your food poisoning attorney may file a lawsuit against the food producer or manufacturer to try and obtain its history of similar complaints. If the defendant has a poor record of food handling and safety, it will help build your case against the defendant.

Based on the above problems, you can see that it is imperative that you call a foodborne illness attorney right away if you sense that you were the victim of food poisoning. Time is absolutely critical in these types of cases. If you feel that you are the victim of food poisoning, try to retain or preserve some of the suspect food (if possible), keep any and all receipts showing that you purchased the suspect food and contact your doctor and/or the Rhode Island Department of Health right away.

A controversial bill has been proposed in Rhode Island that would require drivers involved in serious or fatal auto accidents to submit to a blood test. Should the driver be unwilling to comply, police would have the authority to restrain the person even if he or she is not under arrest. It is a controversial proposal and is being challenged by the Rhode Island ACLU because it is a potential invasion of privacy that forces persons to submit to a blood test even if not under arrest. It is also problematic because the Fifth Amendment ensures that a person need not incriminate himself, yet forcing the person to hand over potentially incriminating evidence against his will may be a violation of that Constitutional protection.

The broad scope of the bill raises additional concerns. Drivers who were not at fault for an accident may be required to submit to blood and alcohol tests against their wills. The concern is that police, who would otherwise lack probable cause, may arrest a person for drunk or impaired driving, although they were injured through no fault of their own. Even if the driver is not drunk or impaired, being forced to submit to a blood or alcohol test after a serious auto accident can be traumatic and upsetting itself.

The bill is pending, however, in light of another tragic and fatal auto accident that occurred in Rhode Island over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Corey Johnston has been arraigned in the drunk driving killing of Domenic Izzi after Corey was driving the wrong way on Route 95 causing a head-on collision. It is unclear from news reports if Corey Johnston submitted to a chemical test, but he is being charged with drunk driving, death resulting.

Should the proposed bill pass the Rhode Island legislation, police would be able to force a person such as Corey Johnston, to a blood test thereby confirming their physical state at the time of the accident. As tragic accidents like this appear on a regular basis in the paper, public sentiment may push this law or a similar law through the legislation.

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A recent study has highlighted the foreseeable fact that Americans are far less likely to dine in restaurants in which a known slip and fall accident has occurred. The study, conducted in an effort to show restaurant owners the heavy cost of slip and fall accidents, indicated that one in three Americans would be unlikely to dine at a restaurant where someone was injured in a slip and fall. Cintas corporation, the group behind the study, has long held that slip and fall accidents increase costs from litigation, damages and increased insurance premiums, but this study also highlights an additional loss from loss of revenue and business.

It seems an odd study because most people would be unaware that a slip and fall recently occurred at a restaurant unless the injuries were incredibly severe. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate the importance of properly caring for a property or appropriately warning visitors of dangers on the property. The study did reveal an astonishing fact, namely that more than one million patrons are injured in slip and fall accidents at American restaurants each year! Slip and fall accidents are often serious resulting in broken bones, head injuries and in some cases spinal injuries. This means a potentially large loss in damages and a huge increase in insurance premiums.

A property owner is responsible for injuries to visitors on their property caused by the owner’s negligence or failure to warn. In other words, if the property is not properly maintained (i.e. broken railings, loose steps, holes and craters in the pavement, etc) and leads to a person’s injury, then the owner will likely be responsible for the personal injury damages including but not limited to medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. A property owner may not be held responsible if he or she can show that they made reasonable efforts to warn visitors of the danger or if he or she was genuinely unaware that the danger existed.

Slip and fall accidents are complex cases and often require litigation and an experienced personal injury attorney. Litigation is the result of the defense arguing that the property was not defective or because the severity of the injuries results in a battle over appropriate settlement amounts. For whatever reason a case like this may end up in litigation, you need to hire an attorney who is experienced in trying complex slip and fall cases. My law office has this experience and is ready to fight for all of the money that you deserve.

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This weekend’s fatal accident in Coventry between Randy Moore and Stephen Volpe has brought to our attention a very scary possibility that occurs quite often in serious auto accidents. Rhode Island news outlets are reporting that Mr. Moore was not feeling well and was actually driving himself to the hospital at the time of the accident. He complained of chest pains to his sister and an eyewitness to the auto accident noticed that Mr. Moore had slumped over the steering wheel just prior to the accident. Once unconscious, his vehicle drifted over the center lane and caused a head-on collision with Mr. Volpe. Mr. Moore, unfortunately, did not survive the accident and prayers go out to his family.

It is not as uncommon as one may think that a driver passes out or falls asleep at the steering wheel while driving leading to a serious car accident. I recently settled a claim for a client under almost exactly the same circumstances. In my case, an elderly man suffered a heart attack on Phenix Avenue in Cranston, drifted over the center lane and struck my client, an elderly woman, head-on. She suffered very serious injuries as a result of the accident.

In these situations, the driver who blacks out or passes out at the wheel, is civilly responsible for the damages sustained in a car accident. Even though they were not actively negligent in causing the accident, and even though it occurred through no “fault” of their own, they will be responsible to the injured party. Every time that we get behind the wheel of a car we are responsible to everyone else on the road and we must ensure that we are physically healthy and alert enough to operate a vehicle. Even if the illness is unforeseeable, the burden remains on each driver to operate their vehicle in a safe and courteous manner at all times. It is not unlike the driver who, despite his or her best efforts, loses control of their car in the snow, or the driver whose brakes fail leading to an accident. In these circumstances, the at-fault driver was not “actively” negligent. Nevertheless, they have breached their duty to operate the vehicle safely and are, therefore, liable for any and all damages. Insurance companies will accept liability under these circumstances and pay the claims.

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