Slip and fall accidents can be notoriously difficult to prove liability, especially if there are no eyewitnesses to the fall. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts all residential and commercial insurance policies will cover personal injury damages for a person hurt in a slip and fall, if the owner of the house or commercial property is responsible for the fall. There are three common ways to prove that the owner of a property is liable for your injury:

  • That the owner of the house or commercial property, or an employee of the owner, caused the spill or other defect that caused the fall;
  • That the owner or an employee of the owner, knew or should have known of the defect and did nothing to treat the problem;
  • That the owner should have known of the defect because a reasonable inspection of the property would have identified the problem.

Following a fall your first concern should be to obtain necessary medical care. If, and only if, you are able to look for witnesses, try to find someone who may have seen the fall and obtain a name and phone number. If you are in a place of business, try to find a manager and see that an incident report is made. Also, if you are carrying a digital camera or smartphone able to take pictures, take as many pictures of the scene as possible and, in particular, the defect that led to the slip and fall.

Also, it is important to remember that in Rhode Island, a fall which occurs on city and State property must be reported within sixty days or you will be barred from bringing the lawsuit. The notice must include specific information and be submitted in an exact fashion so it is imperative that you speak to a Rhode Island personal injury attorney for such cases.

Continue Reading

Massachusetts has joined a growing number of states, including Rhode Island, in addressing the danger of cell phones in cars. Today, September 30, the Massachusetts Safe Driving Act goes into effect. I wrote a similar post when Rhode Island officially banned text messaging while driving and I pointed out the immense dangers of texting while driving. In fact the distraction caused by using a cell phone is potentially more dangerous than drunk driving. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood poignantly described the danger of text messaging while driving:

If you’re looking down at your texting device for four or five seconds, you drive the length of a football field in a 4,000 pound unguided missile

Among the numerous provisions of the statute, most important is that teenage drivers, aged 16 and 17, can not use a cell phone at all while driving in Massachusetts. Teenage drivers are notoriously the worst drivers on the road and frequently in auto accidents. The combined inexperience on the road and distraction of cell phones while driving is a recipe for disaster.

text drive.jpg

Drivers over the age of 17 can still use a cell phone while driving but can not use the phone to send text messages. Of course, police will have a tough time determining whether a vehicle operator was dialing a phone number or writing a text message. Therefore, enforcement of this new Massachusetts law will be difficult.

Under the new Massachusetts law, a first texting offense for adults comes with a $100 fine. For drivers under 18 years old, the first offense for using a cell phone comes with a 60-day license suspension and $100 fine, plus required attendance at an “attitudinal retraining” course. The second-offense penalty is a $250 fine and a 180-day license suspension.

Continue Reading

I have to thank a colleague for bringing this information to my attention. Rhode Island currently has seven nursing homes with outstanding citations and violations for substandard care. Those homes are Charlesgate, Woodpecker Hill, Harris Health Center, Summit Commons, Cortland Place, and Steere House. If you have a loved one at any nursing home, including those listed above, it is imperative that you keep in constant contact with your loved one to make sure that they are receiving proper care.

Nursing homes are notoriously under staffed and poor and negligent treatment can become quite common particularly for patients who do not have actively involved family members. Some of the common injuries and problems that can occur due to nursing home negligence include: Bed sores, neglected injuries or illnesses, improper and incorrect medication, verbal and emotional abuse, falls due to improper care and monitoring, etc.

The elderly and sick of this Country are vulnerable to nursing home abuse and neglect and the best defense is to keep active in your family members life so that the facility is aware of your involvement.

Continue Reading

I have discussed in previous posts how the statute preventing tractor trailers from crossing the Pawtucket River Bridge on Interestate 95 is a money making juggernaut for the State of Rhode Island so they are unlikely to repair the bridge or remove the law preventing commercial trucks from passing any time soon.

Many commercial transportation companies from out of State are shocked to find themselves hit with a $3000 bill just for crossing a bridge. I have appeared on behalf of many companies and saved my clients thousands of dollars at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. I may be able to have your citation dismissed as I have done for some previous clients. Even if I am unable to have the ticket thrown out of Court, I will be able to reduce the fine considerably saving you and your company a great deal of money.

If you or your company has been handed a hefty $3000 ticket in Rhode Island, contact my office right away so that I can begin to assist you.

Three years ago, a 22 year old Cape Cod woman, Laura Hope Smith, died following an abortion procedure. The estate of Ms. Smith is represented by a Boston medical malpractice attorney and there will surely be a civil lawsuit for her wrongful death. What makes this case interesting is that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is charging the obstetrician, Dr. Rapin Osathanondh, with manslaughter.

Medical malpractice, generally, is a civil action between the injured party and the doctor who failed to treat the patient with the necessary care. If the plaintiff can prove that the doctor was negligent, he or she may collect personal injury damages. In this case, the care offered to Ms. Smith was so far below the necessary standard of care that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts believe it was criminal behavior and have charged the doctor with felony manslaughter. The prosecutors allege that Dr. Osathanondh’s negligence was “willful, wanton, and reckless.”

The board (of medicine) said Osathanondh did not have any means of monitoring Smith’s heart, and did not have oxygen or a functioning blood pressure cuff in the room during Smith’s abortion. The board also alleged that he “failed to adhere to basic cardiac life support protocol” and did not call 911 in a timely manner.

Osathanondh was also accused of deceiving staff members by claiming he gave Smith oxygen during the procedure and by saying that Smith was monitored by a pulse oximeter during her procedure. Neither step was taken, the board said.

Dr. Osathanondh, or his insurance company, will most likely pay the Estate of Ms. Smith for her unfortunate loss. It is quite uncommon for doctors to be charged with criminal cases in addition to the civil lawsuit by the family, so this will be very interesting to follow. To add another twist to this case, the defense must be careful to select jurors who will listen to the facts of the case and not find Dr. Osathanondh guilty of manslaughter because he performs abortions.

Continue Reading

It is quite common for my clients to complain that there are a lot of mistakes in the police report from a car accident and that the report is in error. Minor mistakes in accident reports are quite common and usually do not warrant concern. If the report has minor typographical errors or has your wrong birth date or license plate, etc., it is not a problem worth concerning yourself. Personal injury attorneys and insurance companies are both accustomed to dealing with inaccurate police reports.

scpst1_t300.jpgIf, however, you feel that the accident description does not accurately reflect the facts of the crash, or if the report fails to acknowledge passengers in your vehicle, it may be worth contacting the responding officer to fix the mistakes. Police officers will rarely make assumptions about how an accident occurred unless they were an eyewitness to the crash. Rather, they will talk to both drivers and and summarize their statements in the report. It is for this reason that police often do not give out citations after an accident. Unless the officer actually witnessed a driver speeding, he or she is unlikely to cite the driver for speeding even if the damage suggests excessive speed.

In general, police reports are only a starting point for investigating an auto accident and are most useful to identify all the involved parties and insurance companies. The statements are, essentially, inadmissible at trial, and are less important than detailed statements or depositions.

Therefore, to make a long story short, do not let an inaccurate police report cause you too much unrest. Only if there is a fatal or damaging flaw in the report should you take the effort to contact the reporting officer. He or she will not change the initial report anyway and will only add your subsequent statement as an attachment to the original report.

Of course, all cases are unique and you should raise any question or concern with your car accident lawyer right away.

Continue Reading

A Federal Court in California has ruled in favor of Eminem, by stating that digital downloads from Itunes.com do not qualify as purchases, but are rather “licensed” by the “buyer”. The import of this decision is that there is a dramatic difference between record sale royalties and license agreement royalties.

A recording contract generally pays royalties between 7% and 20% to an artist, depending on their popularity and ability to generate sales, for each album and/or single sold. The same recording contract might allow for 50% of royalties for the licensing of a song, such as to a TV show, commercial, or movie.

As a result of this ruling, artists such as Eminem, will now receive the much higher licensing royalty percentage than the lower record sales royalty. It could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for artists as popular as Eminem. Even for much smaller artists this is a major decision since Itunes is becoming the leader in music sales while CDs begin to disappear.

Rest assured, however, that record label attorneys are running to their keyboard to make appropriate amendments and soon recording contracts will have a special “licensing” provision for Itunes which brings the royalty down to the intended amount of royalty for record sales. Nevertheless, this decision is a boon to recording artists currently working on a contract who have no such provision.

Continue Reading

Another hurricane is upon us and as a lifelong Rhode Islander, I like you, am skeptical that this storm will amount to much, and here’s to hoping that it doesn’t. That said, it is going to be a very difficult weekend for driving and rain is expected to reach several inches in some parts of the state. Please be careful when driving and only drive if absolutely necessary.

If you are in an accident related to the storm, be sure to contact our office right away. Weather and storm related auto accidents have several unique problems that require investigation to determine who is at fault for the car accident and who is responsible for paying. During storms: cars can become disabled in the middle of roads, cars hydroplane and drift on the water, and most of all, visibility is extremely poor. These factors lead to a heavy increase in the frequency of auto accidents.

While Earl is not a name that often strikes fear, we must prepare for the worst. Be safe everyone!

It has been a tough year for the auto industry. This year alone Toyota, Ford, and GM have recalled over 15 million vehicles for various safety related issues! Technological breakthroughs might helps sell new cars, but the single most important characteristic of a vehicle is it’s safety record.

It is important to understand that if you or a family member have been seriously injured or killed in an auto accident that resulted in a rollover or post-collision fire, that you may be able to pursue a product liability claim in addition to the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. if the vehicle’s design either caused the accident (i.e. the sudden acceleration accidents caused by Toyota’s) or made the injuries worse (i.e. bursting into flames after impact) then you may be able to seek damages against the manufacturer.

Rollover Accidents

Every car designer will accept that at a bare minimum a car on pavement should never flip over. The introduction of SUVs in the past few decades, however, showed that top heavy vehicles may, in fact, rollover in certain collisions. If a car rolls over, an investigation may be warranted to determine if a flawed design made the vehicle unstable. In addition, since it is well known that a vehicle might rollover in certain accidents, car manufacturers need to prepare for the possibility. That means that the roof should be able to withstand a certain amount of pressure without collapsing and crushing the occupants inside. Doors, windows, and safety glass should be designed in such a way as to limit or reduce vehicle ejection (being thrown from the car).

Safety Device Failure

We rely on seatbelts and air bags to save us from serious harm in an accident and even if a car is nine years old we expect that these safety devices will work. If a seat belt fails or an airbag fails to deploy it may be caused by faulty design or installation. Without these safety devices in place, a relatively minor accident can become extremely serious.

Post Collision Fires

Vehicles igniting into flames after an accident is not a very common occurrence following the disastrous Pinto and the massive lawsuits that Ford faced. If you recall, the Ford Pinto had a gas tank dangerously close to the rear bumper which caused Pintos to burst into flames after a simple rear-end accident. Today, designers are very aware of the need to protect and insulate the gas tank from impact. However, modern cars have complex gas combustion engines and fuel lines criss-cross up and down the length of the car. Inappropriate positioning of any of these lines or the breach of a line in a simple accident might cause a preventable post-accident fire.

It is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with product liability cases and who can see potential cases when a car accident has caused very serious injury. If you feel the vehicle you were in failed to keep its occupants safe, do not hire an attorney who stops short at the auto insurance policy.

Continue Reading

A surprisingly large number of personal injury and auto accident attorneys will only handle the personal injury portion of a claim and not handle the property damage to your car. I do not understand this procedure and I assure you that I will personally handle your entire auto accident claim including property damage.

Property damage refers to the entire process of repairing your vehicle, acquiring rental cars, towing, and resolving total losses, if applicable. It is an important part of an auto accident and needs prompt attention to make sure you are not without a car for long and that your family car is quickly and efficiently repaired.

I feel that car accident attorneys, such as myself, have a duty to represent you for the entire claim. Here are several reasons why:

  • It is inappropriate for you to speak with the opposing insurance company even if it is only about the property damage.
  • It takes quite a few phone calls to organize all of the parties involved… insurance companies, auto bodies, rental car companies, property adjusters, etc. This is not work that you should have to do while recovering from a serious personal injury!
  • If your property damage is not dealt with in a satisfactory way, it must be resolved through litigation and only an attorney can prepare for that possibility.

It is always important to hire a personal injury attorney when hurt in an auto accident. In return for his or her services you are going to give up 1/3 of your total settlement. That is a good deal of money and you should be sure that your attorney is going to handle your ENTIRE case!

Do not hire an attorney or law firm that asks you to handle all the headaches and sacrifice all the time necessary to resolve a property damage claim. If you are hurt following an auto accident, your only concern should be recovering, not calling an auto body to find out when your car will finally be fixed!

Remember – I used to work for an auto insurance company and I know how the entire process works. If you have been injured in a Rhode Island or Massachusetts accident, let my office make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible!

Continue Reading