Party buses and vans have grown increasingly in popularity for over a decade now taking business away from standard limousines for group functions. Bachelor, bachelorette parties and other group outings often rent a party bus for the evening. In one regard, it is much safer because it hires a designated driver for people who know they will be drinking. On the other hand, the lack of standard seating and the impetus to dance and walk around the party bus can make them dangerous even without an accident occurring.

One such company out of California which has rooftop access has been sued by a woman who claims she was struck by an overhanging tree branch causing significant injury to her face. The lawsuit claims that the company failed to monitor the overpass clearance for patrons standing and partying on the rooftop. The poor woman who was visiting New York at the time of the accident suffered a fracture of her orbital socket and numerous other facial injuries. Shockingly, this horrific accident came only one week after a young man was killed while riding on the top level of a party bus. In that case the poor victim struck a concrete overpass. This demonstrates disregard for patron safety, lack of awareness of safe and proper routes, and poor training for the bus operators. It is also important to note in this case that no warnings of any kind were given to the patrons.

Operators of sightseeing and party buses, particularly those with upper level access, have to apply strict safety standards even if it is contradictory to their intended purpose of fun.

In what is probably the least surprising story of the year, the NY Times has reported that Tracy Morgan has filed suit against Walmart for the deadly truck accident he was involved in near Atlantic City. Anyone not living under a rock for the past few months knows that the actor and comedian was very seriously injured in the accident caused by a Walmart tractor trailer, which also killed comedian Jimmy Mack.

Commercial trucking accidents, like this one, are often very serious because of the sheer size and mass of the trucks and the load they are carrying. Tractor trailers crashing into a common car are absolutely no match and result in serious accidents such as those sustained by Tracy Morgan.

The NHTSA and other organizations sets standards by which commercial truck drivers should operate. In addition to having a specialty license, the CDL, commercial truckers must operate within a particular set of safety standards. For instance, speed must be controlled and drivers should not drive for more than 8 hours at a time. Drivers need to take frequent breaks and get enough sleep on the road else they are prone to lapses in concentration that lead to tragic accidents. In this case, it has been reported that the driver had not slept in over 24 hours and was driving for 13 hours straight. These are pretty serious violations of safety standards. Truck drivers are responsible for meeting deadlines and in some cases get paid by the mile so it is financially lucrative for them to drive even when tired to make sure the delivery is on time and they are maximizing profits. This, however, runs contrary to known safety standards.

This story not only seemed appropriate for the blog, but also struck close to home for me. A bar owner in Brighton, Mass, is facing criminal charges for covering up and hiding evidence about an injury sustained at his bar, Roggies. It struck close to home for me since every Boston College Law student in the past 10-15 years spent some time at Roggies, including myself. In a way I am sad to see the owner in such trouble, but the details of the case are truly shocking.

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Apparently, a 20 year old Irish exchange student was seriously injured after falling down a flight of stairs at Roggies Bar. When the bar owner found out about the injury, he allegedly told his employees to take the victim to the back parking lot and call the police. The cops, however, were never called and the victim sat in the back parking lot with serious injuries for over a half hour until a passerby noticed him and alerted police. He finally arrived at the hospital with life threatening injuries and is lucky to be alive. To make matters worse, the owner of the bar allegedly offered to pay off witnesses regarding the incident.

It is not clear what caused the young mans fall but it likely due to negligence on the part of the bar else they would not feel the need to hide the incident. it is possible that the young man was sober and fell down a faulty stairwell, or it could be that the young man was highly inebriated when he fell down the stairs. This latter scenario would cause considerable problems for the bar since the young man was under the legal drinking age. Even for adults a bar can be held responsible for injuries sustained if the victim is over served and his or her inebriation is a direct cause of the accident or injury. When the victim is under the legal drinking age, however, any drinks served to him is negligence.

Our office would like to wish everyone a happy and SAFE 4th of July! Between fireworks and drunk driving accidents, its far from the safest day on the calendar so be sure to keep yourself safe.

Not dissimilar to the asbestos trust created for victims of asbestos related diseases, GM is now creating a fund to pay out claims stemming from auto accidents in recalled vehicles. GM has indicated, rightly so, that it will not matter if the accident occurred before or after the safety recall so long as it can be proven that a defect caused or contributed to the injury sustained.

GM has been hit very hard with safety recalls in the past year with over 20 million cars affected by some form of recall. This compensation fund is intended to directly address the 2.6 million defective small cars with faulty air bag switches. GM has come under very heavy criticism regarding these defects which they allegedly knew about for over 11 years without taking proper action. GM is offering settlements based on the severity of injury if the air bag’s failure to deploy caused or contributed to the victims injury. Wrongful death claims will be compensated by at least 1 million dollars.

Creation of a fund like this does not limit a persons civil right to bring a product liability claims but it creates a means for settlement while limiting the extensive costs of a product liability claim. If you or someone you know was injured in an automobile accident with a GM vehicle and the airbag either failed to delpoy or improperly deployed, contact our office right away for a free consultation.

A fascinating study released this week from a Canadian research team suggests that pregnant women, particularly those in their second trimester have a much higher likelihood of being involved in auto accidents. In fact, the numbers are close to women who suffer from sleep apnea. There is no clear indication as to the cause of the spike in auto accidents for women during the second trimester, but it is suggested that increased hormones may be causing distraction or fatigue which results in car accidents.

Anytime a woman is involved in an auto accident while pregnant it is very serious. The babies safety is paramount and hospitals will generally place the expectant mother on a fetal monitoring machine for 24 hours to ensure no harm to the baby. Expectant mothers are limited to what prescriptions they can take and often have to endure tremendous amounts of pain and discomfort following an accident because they can take nothing more than tylenol.

Our office has represented many pregnant women who were injured in car accidents. Some of the more serious cases require emergency Caesarean section delivery of the baby and in some cases the unborn child has also been harmed. These can be immensely complex and serious personal injury cases and requires an experienced personal injury attorney.

A potential settlement in Federal Court will create a 100 million fund for victims of the Meningitis outbreak caused by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company. The outbreak of meningitis caused by a tainted steroid has sickened over 700 people and killed 64 according to the Center for Disease Control. Victims were from over twenty states with Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana the hardest hit.

The pharmaceutical company filed bankruptcy soon after the outbreak hit. Under federal bankruptcy laws, the company would not have to pay their civil lawsuits and debts. As part of the agreement to enter bankruptcy, a trust fund worth approximately 100 million has been created to aid the victims.

Meningitis is a very serious illness which inflames the lining of the spinal cord and brain. It can result in paralysis and death. If approved the money will be set aside to pay the victims much like the multi-billion dollar trust created for asbestosis/mesothelioma victims created by the manufacturers of asbestos.

Many of you may have seen the surprising news that Wal-Mart plans to start selling auto insurance in many of its stores. There is a precedent for this. Sears and Allstate insurance had a similar relationship for decades (at least while Sears was still relevant). While there are plenty of reasons to attack Wal-Mart, and I’ll leave that for another post, one thing you most certainly do NOT want at a cut-rate is auto insurance. The cheapest possible policy is almost never the best answer and I’ll tell you why.

First, if you buy the absolute cheapest policy available you may not be covered for damages that you cause or which are caused by storms or floods. You may not be covered for hit and run accidents or if you are struck by someone who does not have insurance. In RI, you would be surprised by how many people are driving without any insurance at all. Also, you may not have enough coverage if you seriously injure someone in an accident you caused or if you total someone else’s Mercedes. If you do not have enough auto insurance coverage, then you may be personally liable and are subject to having your wages levied or house attached.

Second, I do not trust Wal-Mart to pay enough money to someone educated enough to tell you about insurance. In other words, do you want to take insurance advice from someone making a cashier’s hourly wage?

An increase in the number of pedestrians killed in auto accidents has spurred the Department of Transportation to increase spending on grants for safety and education. In 2011, over 4000 pedestrians were killed in auto accidents. This represents a nearly ten percent increase from 2009. Furthermore, this increase occurred during a time period where road safety was actually increasing with the overall percentage of fatalities in auto accidents dropping.

It goes without saying that pedestrians are extremely vulnerable on the roads. A man or woman serves little chance against a 2 or 3000 pound vehicle. Pedestrians do not wear helmets or safety equipment and have absolutely no means to protect themselves from an impending accident. Broken bones, scarring, head injuries, and internal injuries are quite common in pedestrian vs. auto accidents. Unfortunately, as the DOT here reports so is death.

Accident frequency is on a high lately mostly due to distracted driving. Earbuds in the ear listening to music, smartphones with email, twitter, text or Facebook have all led to an increase in the number of distracted drivers who are more likely to fail to see a pedestrian. Of course, pedestrians also bear some responsibility. The DOT report also states how frequently, especially in urban areas, that pedestrians jaywalk. Pedestrians must understand the risk they face in the streets and act with due care and caution.

The Rhode Island State Health Department has ordered that Charlesgate Nursing Home can not take in any new patients following the death of a resident a little over a week ago. According to news reports, which are not releasing the name of the deceased, a woman was brought to the hospital on July 20 after she was found to have a very high body temperature. She ultimately passed away with a body temperature of 107 degrees. While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, one can safely assume the extreme temperature contributed to her untimely demise. Further, the nursing home stated that the woman, who had lived at the home for over a year, was in good overall health and her death came as a surprise.

This unfortunate incident occurred during the heat wave Rhode Island experienced during that week. A spokeswoman for the facility stated that air conditioners were operational and that all residents had fans in their rooms. Unfortunately, the victim lived on the fourth floor of this facility which happens to be the only floor without air conditioners in every room.

It is early to speak on the matter, and I am certainly without all of the facts, but this sounds like a tragic event that could have been avoided. I am certain that during the heat wave, Charlesgate must have been aware of the condition of the fourth floor and something could have been done to avoid this tragedy.