Articles Posted in auto accidents

Serious injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, or disc herniations requiring back surgery, are not uncommon experiences following an auto accident or slip and fall.  Serious injuries like these can require surgery, sometimes multiple surgeries, and extensive rounds of physical therapy and rehabilitation.  Even after all of the treatment, cortisone injections and rehab, an injury may not be fully resolved.  Pain and symptoms will often remain and can remain for months, years, or a lifetime.  Such permanent injuries require an aggressive injury attorney and a plan to fight for every dollar.

A common question I hear in these types of cases is: What if I never get better?  Do I have to wait for years of treatment to finish before we can try and resolve the claim?  In many cases, such as when hardware has been installed to repair a fracture, or when surgery was required to fuse vertebrae in the spine, the injury is clearly permanent and the pain life long.  In these instances, we will request a letter of opinion from the treating physician or expert.  Their letter will identify the length and nature of an injury, the potential need for future surgery or treatment and the cost of such treatment.  These letters of opinion can be used as part of a demand package to the insurance company or as part of the evidence at trial.  With this information in hand, you can attempt to settle and resolve your claim even though you are not technically at an “end point” with your injury.

Retaining an expert comes with a cost and requires additional effort and work from your attorney but it adds considerable value to your case.  Discuss potential experts with your attorney and make sure there is a plan for long term success.  Shortcuts have no place in serious injury cases.  If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in an auto accident or slip and fall, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

My firm has to deal with Progressive Insurance hundreds of times per year because they are the largest auto insurer in RI.  Unfortunately, except for maybe Allstate, they are one of the most difficult insurance companies to work with.  Some body shops won’t take their cases and attorneys groan when they know they are involved.  One could argue that from the insurance perspective, that they are doing their job if body shops and attorneys don’t like them…. But it is not so simple.  An insurance company’s obligation is to protect their insured from lawsuit and damages.  Often times, Progressive’s decisions mean that their insureds are unnecessarily sued and brought into Court.

In just the past few months, I have experienced Progressive: arguing liability when my client was rear-ended by their insured (they alleged my client stopped short without cause… as if that matters. To their defense they did drop that ridiculous argument); I have been told that the emergency room bill for my client, a pedestrian who was HIT BY A CAR was excessive; and, they have denied a claim on behalf of my clients simply because their insured said no one was in the parked car.  On that last one, it is worth noting that my clients who WERE seated in the parked car are the ones who obtained their insured’s license plate after she ADMITTED to striking the car and fleeing the scene.  So, in other words, the testimony of a woman who admits to breaking the law by hitting a car and fleeing the scene, carries enough credibility to deny damages for a poor woman who was sitting in a parked car waiting for her kid to come out of school.  But as long as they don’t have to pay… they’re happy.

BUT WHY I AM I WRITING THIS? HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOU? You should know that if you pick up a police report following an accident and find out the at-fault driver has Progressive, that you are in for a battle.  You not only need an attorney, but you need one ready to fight and go the distance.  My office settles less than half of our cases with Progressive without having to file arbitration or a lawsuit.  If you’re attorney isn’t willing to fight, you are going to be disappointed.  If you try to work with them without an attorney, you are likely to be disappointed.

I have spent several years writing about every aspect of personal injury law in Rhode Island and in so doing I have connected with many clients… and  I hope helped many more people with answers to their questions.  But every business is a results oriented business and for now, I will from time to time discuss some of our great results.  I haven’t done this in the past, even though our office has helped recover over ten million dollars in our first five years, but I think it is helpful to see results from different cases, some of which might bear a resemblance to your own.

Just this past week I settled a case for the policy limits that was long in litigation.  This young man who was involved in a serious roll over accident came to me after two years of trying to negotiate on his own with the insurance company.  He sustained a serious shoulder injury that was likely to be permanent, but did not require surgery.  The insurance company seriously undervalued the case and offered only $18k to my client.  He realized this was a ridiculous offer and decided to hire me to represent him.  We immediately filed a lawsuit.  It was a long and arduous battle.  The insurance company rejected our arbitration award, refused to mediate and closed the door on us at every opportunity. Undeterred, we prepared for trial and our expert witness was ready to demolish their case.  Finally, on the eve of trial, the insurance company caved and offered over 4x times their previous offer.  My client was very happy with the result and he was rewarded for his patience and determination.

There is no question that it can be difficult to wait so long for justice and satisfaction but it is worth it!!  My client could have accepted 18k a few years ago but decided to fight for what was right and ended up with over 80k as a reward.  Our office does not leave money on the table.  If you have been seriously injured, think carefully before settling.  Whether you have an attorney or not, if the offer is far too low for your serious injury, think about a lawsuit and willingness to fight.  Call our office today for a free consultation.

I was fortunate enough to spend part of the holiday season in New York City and while there, I like most others, used Uber to get all over town.  Its simplicity and ease to get around town quickly and affordably are unmatched, so it is no surprise that the company and service has become a phenomenon.  The probability of being involved in an auto accident in an Uber vehicle is no lower than in your own vehicle, and I have often heard questions about how auto accidents work when Uber is involved.  The short answer is that nothing really changes and you will likely be entitled to any and all damages entitled to had the accident occurred in your own vehicle.  As with any type of auto accident, those damages include past and future medical bills, past and future lost wage earnings, and pain and suffering.

If you are a passenger in an Uber vehicle then you have a suite of protections.  First, liability can not be in question against you since you weren’t driving.  Whether it was the Uber driver or the other car that caused the accident, we know for certain that you, as passenger, did not cause the accident because you weren’t driving.  So, whether the claim is brought against the Uber driver or the driver of the other involved vehicle, you will be able to make a claim for full damages.  Second, Uber requires all drivers to maintain insurance in their State.  This should help offer you protection should the Uber driver be at fault for the accident.  Uber also maintains additional supplemental insurance that may cover some of the loss or costs if the Uber Driver’s insurance is insufficient. Third, it the Uber driver was not at fault then you can proceed against the at-fault drivers insurance for all damages.  In Rhode Island, a negligence free passenger can go after EITHER at fault party if liability is split or not entirely clear.  Finally, you can look to your own insurance policy which may cover some or all of the damages depending on the circumstances (if not covered by any other applicable coverage described above).

While I have had people express concern to me after being involved in an accident with a ride share program such as Uber and Lyft, as you can see from this analysis, you are very well protected and covered.  I would recommend contacting a personal injury attorney right away.  If you try to process your claim with the assistance of Uber or the driver of the Uber vehicle, they may not be looking out for your best interest.  Only an experienced auto accident attorney can ensure that your rights are protected and the claim handled with your best interest in mind.

Between our auto accident inquiries and my criminal law partner, Richard James, inquiries for moving violations and other vehicle related crimes/tickets, we sometimes get accident scenarios where the client looks at fault or clients seriously injured in car accidents but were given a citation or even arrested for reckless driving.  When this happens, and it has happened quite a bit recently, we always separate the parts of the case and attack them individually.  Then we see what happens.  Sometimes, as with the cases below, we can turn lemons into lemonades.

RECKLESS DRIVING / SPEEDING / LANED ROADWAY VIOLATION

Rich signed up a client who was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving and multiple moving citations following a very serious auto accident on Route 95 near Westerly.  He was very badly injured in the accident including an airlift by rescue with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung.  The police completed an accident reconstruction but in so doing jumped to conclusions and used junk science to show our client was speeding and driving recklessly.  We retained our expert witness, an accident deconstructionist, who was able to prove that the science the police used during their reconstruction was completely false.  With his help we were also able to show that while our client was driving too fast, the accident was caused because the other vehicle changed lanes, sideswiping our client and causing him to lose control of his vehicle.  Even though the police report was completely against our client we were successful in reducing the charges against him and able to obtain a personal injury settlement against the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash.

Many people may be unaware of a very helpful statute in RI which requires insurance companies to submit to arbitration before a lawsuit is filed.  According to RIGL 27-10.3-1, any insurance policy written in the State of Rhode Island must include a provision for arbitration if the case is valued under $50,000.

This statute is incredibly helpful for difficult personal injury cases that don’t have a particularly high value.  In Rhode Island, it can literally take years before a lawsuit is reached for trial and if you go the whole distance the costs can skyrocket into the thousands or tens of thousands.  For that reason, it doesn’t always make sense to file a lawsuit, particularly on cases that are worth 15-25k.  For these types of cases, this arbitration provision can be a lifesaver.  If the insurance company is disputing liability or just making a low-ball offer, then filing statutory arbitration may be the best bet.

Our office uses this tool a great deal.  When insurance companies like Allstate, Progressive and Liberty Mutual (these 3 in particular) want to make ridiculous low-ball offers by cutting the lost wage claim, cutting the medical bills and reducing the pain and suffering, my office often moves right to arbitration.

There is no single question that I receive more often than… “What is my case worth?”  Often, that is very tricky to answer, especially early on.  The fact is that only a verdict from a jury after trial is a final and true determination of value.  But so few cases actually go all the way to trial that your attorney must rely on his experience and skill to obtain as much for you as possible.  There are a number of factors that go into determining the value of your case.  Foremost, the severity of the injury and the extent of the treatment required.  Additionally, the value of your medical bills and lost wages (if any).  Also, are you willing to file a lawsuit and wait for more money or would you prefer to settle quickly for less.

So you see.. “What is my case worth” is a rather loaded question.

It may come as a surprise to many readers but another important factor in determining the value of your case is… which insurance company is involved?  Especially early on during initial settlement talks, the insurance company on the other side makes a big difference.  One company can value a case at 25k while another offers 12k.  How can that be you ask? If my case is worth 25k it is worth 25k.  Well, it is not so easy as that.  Several insurance companies will “low ball” your initial offer.  They want to see if your attorney is willing to file arbitration or file a lawsuit or rather just encourage you to settle for a quick payout.  In most cases, the attorney accepts these low settlement offers and insurance companies continue to get away with paying less than they should.  In Rhode Island, you have to be particularly careful of Progressive Insurance, Allstate Insurance and Liberty Mutual.  These three companies (at least in my experience) are notorious for making low, sometimes insulting, offers of settlement.  They justify this by cutting down your medical bills (claiming that treatment received was too expensive or unnecessary) and they will cut down your lost wages (suggesting you could have gone back to work earlier than you did) and they will offer you relatively little in pain and suffering.  In the end, you get an offer way below your own valuation of your injuries.

A cranston school bus veered off the road yesterday in a single vehicle accident.  Approximately 13 children were on board the bus when the accident occurred and while they did not initially complain of injury, many students went to urgent care facilities or hospitals in the evening with complaints of pain.  Apparently the police or bus driver did not feel it necessary to call any ambulance to the scene.  I find this very surprising.  Even if the accident was not terribly bad and no child immediately complained of pain, isn’t precaution the better option here?  A child can’t be expected to make important health decisions at the scene.

The cause of this school bus accident is still unknown.  This particular bus was not a city bus but rather a school bus outsourced to First Student, a private corporation.  Turnto10.com has reported that the driver was wearing a blue tooth head set in her ears which is absolutely prohibited.  The driver claims to have hit a patch of sand which caused her to veer but a witness directly behind the bus indicated that the bus made no evasive maneuvers or attempts to avoid the accident.  I am certain that the police will be taking a close look at this drivers cell phone records to see if it was in use at the time of the incident.

School bus accidents can be particularly dangerous to children because they are not buckled and they do not have the added protection of airbags.  Often children are standing or turned around in their seats which can cause dangerous and uncertain falls when a school bus collides with another object or runs off road.  Luckily, in this instance, it appears none of the injuries are serious.

Ive long discussed the difficulties and complications following a diagnosis of concussion after an auto accident.  Minor traumatic brain injuries can occur in many serious car accidents.  It is not necessary that you black out following an accident or strike your head with serious force to sustain a concussion.  The diagnosis will likely be determined at the emergency room based on either diagnostic testing or a review of the objective and subjective symptoms.  Some diagnosed with a concussion may never exhibit symptoms while others will experience intense post-concussion syndrome.  Headaches, tiredness, forgetfulness, dizziness, nausea, emotional swings are all just a few of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

While obviously not a doctor myself, I always suggest to my clients who have been diagnosed with a concussion or are exhibiting signs of post-concussion syndrome to follow up with their primary care physician or a neurologist.  Too often I feel that diagnoses of concussion are taken too lightly and inadequately investigated.  The long term implications are serious.  For one, any sufferer of a minor traumatic brain injury is at an increased risk to have another concussion.  In other words, the more concussions you have sustained the easier it is to sustain a concussion.  Today, I came across an article articulating another long term risk of concussion.  The report revealed that while it has been long established that serious head injuries increase the likelihood of suicide and suicidal thoughts, so too may a minor brain injury, or simple concussion, increase the risk of suicide over time.

The test looked at hundreds of thousands of patients who had sustained a concussion in the past twenty years and found that 667 had committed suicide.  This number is roughly three times higher than the suicide rate in the general population. Worse, the study also supported that those with multiple concussions had yet an even higher suicide rate.  The lead physician of the study stated that mild concussions “although invisible at the time of the incident, could be dangerous later on.”

News today reports that a RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transit Authority) bus was involved in a pretty serious accident with a tractor trailer.  The accident which happened Tuesday at the corner of Church and Pine Streets disabled both vehicles and sent at least two bus passengers to the hospital with several others complaining of pain.  This follows accidents  in March involving a pedestrian very seriously injured when struck by a RIPTA bus and several other high profile accidents in the past few months.

In this case, the RIPTA investigation (unsurprisingly) claims fault is with the truck driver who allegedly ran a red light.  Both drivers may argue fault in this matter and debate who had the right of way.  Fortunately, passengers on the bus are entitled to compensation no matter who is at fault.  Joint and several liability holds that anyone who carries no negligence (passengers clearly can’t be at fault since they were not in control of either vehicle) are entitled to obtain compensation from one at fault party, or the other, or both.  In short, either the truck driver or RIPTA will be paying the claims to these injured passengers.

RIPTA in general is notoriously difficult to work with and very rarely settles cases for fair value without a lawsuit.  RIPTA is also self-insured meaning that they settle all of their claims “in house” and attorneys do not deal with a traditional insurance company.  My office has handled a number of RIPTA cases, and honestly, we just file suit right away.  There is little point in trying to negotiate directly with RIPTA especially in a case like this where they are alleging the other party is at fault.  If you have been hurt in an accident with a RIPTA bus or while riding as a passenger on a RIPTA bus, be sure to talk to your attorney about his or her experience in dealing with RIPTA and hire an attorney who has a record of success against RIPTA and who is prepared to file the often necessary lawsuit.  If you have been injured in this accident or any other bus accident, contact our office right away for a free consultation.