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.

An outbreak of norovirus at the RI landmark restaurant, Wrights Farm, has shocked many and injured as many as 30 people.  The RI Dept of Health has confirmed that the recent outbreak is linked to Wrights Farm in Burrillville and has caused a number of illnesses.  So many members of the Bryant College lacrosse team were made ill that a game had to be rescheduled.  There is no word yet where the outbreak came from or how it occurred but the restaurant has placed a self-imposed closure until March 24th while it effectuates a thorough clean-up and investigation.

Norovirus is a common food borne illness and can range in severity from cramps to severe dehydration and pain that might even require hospitalization.  Vomiting and nausea are the most common symptoms.

My office has represented many victims of food poisoning including some of the most recent high profile outbreaks including, Uncle Sushi Restaurant, DeFusco’s Bakery and most recently the Chipotle outbreak. If you required a hospital visit and were diagnosed with norovirus after eating at Wrights Farm Restaurant, contact our office for a free consultation.

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.”

An outbreaking of food poisoning of epic proportions has struck my alma mater and old stomping grounds in a big way.  The Cleveland Circle Chipotle has been linked with at least 80 claims of food poisoning hitting boston college students particularly bad.  The situation has gotten so out of hand that the Boston College Basketball team might need to cancel a game.

The Chipotle food poisoning crisis that started out on the west coast has moved East and struck with some force.  The situation was so bad that the news now reports that the store will be permanent closed.  It is believed that E.Coli from vegetables on the Chipotle menu are to blame for the outbreak.

Food poisoning of this type can range from relatively mild symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting to very serious symptoms requiring hospitalization.  Victims of food poisoning are entitled to damages for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.  The timing of this outbreak could be extremely difficult for the students of Boston College effected because they are facing final exams for the semester.  Should their illness effect their final grades it creates a very unique set of damages difficult to assess, but nonetheless valid.  A drop in grades due to accident or illness is a loss.  It could effect future earnings, position, job or internship opportunities.

Personal injury attorneys are well skilled at discussing cases people find reprehensible.  If I had a dime for ever time someone mentioned the McDonald’s Coffee Case to me, I could probably stop practicing law and retire.  That case, like many others, was far more interesting and complex than the headline of “Woman sues McDonalds over hot coffee”.  If you are interested in what I am saying, I suggest you watch the fantastic documentary Hot Coffee.

There are other cases that people like to bring up, including some that are just fictional creations of the tort reform lobby.  And my purpose for this post is not to launch an argument against tort reform… rather I want to talk about the “new Coffee case”.  Namely, the awful Connecticut woman who sued her 12 year old nephew for hugging her!!!  My Facebook feed has been littered with friends mocking and insulting this woman with real vitriol!  I can already hear you saying, “Joe, you’re not possibly going to defend this woman or her lawsuit?!?”  Yeah, I am.  And, I’ll explain the reasoning behind it.

Of course the headline of this case is reprehensible.  What kind of awful person could sue someone who loves them for an act of love??  The answer might be that she had no choice.  The simple reality is that the civil justice system is designed to shift costs.  We can not take away injuries once they occur.  We can not hit a rewind button seconds before serious injury is caused in an accident.  Nor, can we put a price on a broken bone to make it go away.  All that we can do is compensate the injured person financially to assist with the disability, the lost wages and medical bills.  In the end, that is all our personal injury system is designed to do.  The person who rear-ended you likely is not an awful person who meant you harm, rather he or she made a mistake.  Their mistake, however, cost you in medical bills and pain and suffering.  So while they did not mean to harm you, their insurance will compensate you financially because that is the best that we can do.  And in this case, the 12 year old boy is not an awful person who meant harm.  But nevertheless, he hurt his Aunt breaking her arm racking up a hefty medical bill.

Bryant University in little Rhode Island made national news this week for some horrible and unfortunate reasonings.  The news reported that a new construction at Bryant intended for athletics collapsed and fell mid construction.  At least six workers, some of whom were from out of state, were injured in the collapse.  The severity of the injuries vary, though, fortunately no one was killed in this accident.  A few of the workers remain in the hospital at this time recovering.  The cause of the collapse was not immediately known and OSHA has indicated that a full report on the cause of the collapse could take months.

These workers, or others injured in a construction site accident, are entitled to workers compensation at a minimum.  This will cover medical bills and lost wages while they are unable to work.  Workers Compensation may also allow for a small settlement amount, but workers comp does not cover pain and suffering such as is available in a personal injury claim.  The law is clear that an employee can not sue his/her employer for injury.  The workers compensation system is intended to protect injured workers hurt while working on behalf of their employers.  On construction sites, however, there are potentially dozens of different companies (or subcontractors).  Depending on who is at fault or who contributed to a workplace accident, an injured construction worker may still be able to bring a personal injury claim against one of the OTHER employers or companies.  This will allow for much greater financial compensation including pain and suffering.

For instance, early reports have suggested that a crane operator for the steel company is at fault for this accident.  Any of these injured workers who do NOT work for the steel company (i.e. they are employed by the general contractor or a plumbing company, etc.) can bring a personal injury claim against the steel company.  (I am not familiar with the investigation into negligence and I am only citing what I have read on turnto10.com.)  The investigation into negligence on an incident like this could take quite some time (As OSHA has indicated) and an experienced construction accident attorney will need to dig deep and find out who caused the incident and for whom do they work.

I have seen an avalanche of new medical malpractice inquiries coming to my office regarding overdoses caused by prescription painkillers, most notably fentanyl.  Just during July I received three inquiries from families of people killed while using the fentanyl patch.  It may come as a surprise to most readers of this post to find that an FDA approved drug has caused so much disaster.  The fact is prescription painkillers killed over 16000 people in 2013.  Heroin?  Just 6200.  I will leave it for a different blog and more analytical political observers to ask why drugs that kill tens of thousands of people are approved by the FDA while marijuana (which killed zero, yes 0) people in 2013 remains illegal.  (check out drugwarfacts.org for more information and the total chart of which drugs kill people.)

Just because a drug is FDA approved does not mean that an overdose or death caused while using the drug is not a case of medical malpractice.  After all, if legally prescribed and used, where is the negligence?  Quite the opposite, there is a strong chance of malpractice.  I have handled these cases in the past and I am quite familiar with the power of this drug.  Fentanyl is shockingly strong and intended for use only for the most severe cases such as dying cancer patients in hospice.  Prescription of the patch outside of its recommended use or for the wrong patient can be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.  In other words, a person with a marginal history of back pain should not legally be prescribed such a powerful drug.  Fentanyl patch overdose can often be caused because it is prescribed to the wrong person or the person is not properly informed how to use the patch.

The patch itself can cause an overdose but it is particularly dangerous when paired with other drugs, particularly anti-anxiety drugs.  This interaction can be fatal and it is graded as a moderate drug interaction, meaning that it should be avoided and only used under close observation.

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.

Todays local news bring the tragic story of a young Coventry couple killed in a motorcycle accident following collision with another vehicle.  While details are still scant at this moment, it is a bitter reminder of how dangerous riding bicycles and motorcycles can be.  The warm weather has brought out cyclists of every kind and the accidents the come with them.  Already this year, I have seen many new cases come into my office including a motorcyclist who shattered his knee when forced to drop to the ground when cut off by a vehicle turning left.

Drivers must be aware that this weather brings out thousands of bicyclists and motorcycle riders.  They are not able to maneuver or stop in the same way in which a car can.  More importantly, minor contact with little physical damage can cause serious personal injury to the operator.  Bikers can be thrown from a bike causing head injuries, broken bones, road rash and other serious injuries.

Motorcyclists are by nature defensive drivers because they simply need to be, as drivers of motor vehicles sharing the road, we need to be defensive as well.

I read this tragic story this morning out of Alabama.  A young boy was shopping with his mother at a Publix supermarket and asked for a cookie in the bakery section.  The boy suffers from a very serious allergy to tree nuts of all kinds.  As many as two percent of all children today suffer from this allergy which can range in severity from mere annoyance to fatal. Unfortunately, for this young man, he had a fatal allergy.  The family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the supermarket.

The cookies in the market were not marked as containing nuts of any kind.  Aware of the seriousness of her sons allergy, the victims mother specifically asked the girl at the counter if there were any nuts in the cookie.  She was told “no.”  The boys mother even tried the cookie herself first but did not notice any nuts in the ingredients.  Horribly, after just 2-3 bites the boy knew something was wrong because his mouth was on fire.  Despite the use of benadryl and an epi-pen, the boy still passed away on route to the hospital.

This story is all the more tragic because it was absolutely unnecessary.  With great credit to the boys parents they claim that this lawsuit is not about money but about awareness.  Even though the country is pretty aware of the existence of peanut allergies and many schools now forbid nuts of any kind, there remains far too much ignorance on the subject.  It is, as it was here, literally a matter of life and death.  Supplying an allergic boy with a cookie containing (even trace amounts of) nuts is the equivalent of handing any one else a cookie containing cyanide.  Hopefully this lawsuit can have their desired effect of informing the public just how important it is to be aware of the presence of nut allergens.