Car accidents which occur in parking lots are actually extremely common and come with a host of unique problems and complexities that need to be understood. If you have been involved in an accident which occurred in a store or other parking lot, hopefully the following information can be of assistance.

For most auto accidents that occur on a public road, determining who is at fault is much easier than in a parking lot accident. On a public road there are traffic controls, stop signs, and well understood rules of the road. Violating a rule of the road or ignoring a traffic signal will put one at fault for the car crash. In a parking lot, a determination of fault is not always as easy.

Why is it Tricky to Determine Liability in a Parking Lot?

A recent Supreme Court decision from the State of Maine brings to light some interesting considerations for accidents involving commercial work trucks and insurance coverage. The case, State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance v. Estate of Carey, stems from a tragic auto accident that claimed the life of James Carey. Mr. Carey was struck and killed by Roger Linton who was an independent contractor and former employee of Jennings Masonry. Linton was driving a large commercial truck owned and insured by Jennings but was not working at the time of the accident. State Farm insured the truck involved in the loss.

Linton was not currently an employee of Jennings, but was in the past. He also frequently drove Jennings vehicles with permission. On the date of this accident, he was again driving in a Jennings truck but did not return the vehicle when he completed his work. Instead, Linton took the truck to several friends houses and a tavern. It was during this “excursion” that the fatal auto accident occurred involving Mr. Carey. Linton was legally drunk at the time of the accident and arrested.

Quickly, State Farm petitioned the Court for a declaratory judgment stating that they had no obligation to insure or defend Linton. Their position was that he did not have “permission” to use the vehicle at the time of the accident and was not using it for work purposes, and therefore, he was not legally operating the vehicle at the time of the collision. If he did not have the permission of the owner to operate the vehicle at the time of the accident, State Farm, would not be required to cover the loss. (As a side note, if that sounds unfair because it could leave the owner of Jennings Masonry holding the bag – you are correct. If an insurance company can avoid paying they will regardless of the harm it might present to their insured).

Some States with mandatory insurance coverage have taken the position that since the lawmakers intended all vehicles to carry liability insurance, that they would be inclined to find coverage in a situation like the one at hand, so long as permission was given, at any time, to operate the vehicle. This is the so called “initial permission” rule. The Maine Supreme Court did not accept this approach and instead held that the trial court would have to reconsider the case under the minor deviation rule. The minor deviation rule has long been the standard for determining whether an employees actions are covered under the employees policy. Clearly, an employee acting on behalf of his employer at the time of an accident is covered by the company’s policy. Under the minor deviation rule, an employee who makes a slight or minor detour, such as stopping for lunch, while using a work vehicle will be covered. A major deviation, however, such as the one taken by Linton are unlikely to be covered because it was so far outside of the scope of his employment and work related use of the vehicle, that a jury would conclude that he did not have his employers permission to use the vehicle in that manner.

Auto accidents involving commercial trucks are very serious because of the size and weight of the vehicles involved. The injuries sustained can be catastrophic, or as in the case of Mr. Carey, fatal. It is imperative that you speak with an experienced truck accident attorney right away to ensure that you receive all of the compensation that you deserve.

Continue Reading

Abortion rights and wrongful death law seem not to have much in common, but a new federal lawsuit in Nebraska may have an interesting effect on both abortion laws and wrongful death laws across the country. The lawsuit stems from a tragic auto accident in which a Maryland couple was killed with their two children when a tractor trailer struck their stationary automobile. It turns out that the woman was also pregnant with the couple’s third child. The estate brought the action for wrongful death on behalf of the entire family and cited a 2003 Nebraska law which extends legal protections to an unborn fetus. This is the first case to raise such a statute, but it appears that the law should also give wrongful death rights to the unborn fetus.

Readers can now probably see why this law is problematic when viewed in the light of Roe v. Wade and its subsequent cases. If an unborn fetus is considered a child in the eyes of the law, so that it can be granted legal rights, then it will legally (rather than morally) be murder to terminate the pregnancy. I assure you I am making no stance on the topic here.

Most of the States that have enacted laws similar to the one in Nebraska are right wing leaning States such as Utah, Florida and Nebraska, which are keen on stronger abortion laws and restrictions. The Rhode Island Supreme Court in Amica v. Miccolis held that a nonviable fetus could not maintain a cause of action for wrongful death because it is not a person within the meaning of the wrongful death statute. If this auto accident occurred in RI, the fetus would not have an individual cause of action. If the child, however, could have been delivered (by C-Section for instance) and then died from the injuries sustained in the automobile accident, then a cause of action for wrongful death could proceed.

It will be interesting to follow cases like this one as they unfold. It’s mark on federal law could be wide reaching and may cause more States to enact similar liegislation.

Continue Reading

This blog has always focused primarily on questions of personal injury and pain and suffering recovery, yet there is another important part to an auto accident claim that is often not discussed. That is the property damage – the repair to your vehicle, replacement of a total loss and placement in a rental vehicle immediately following an auto accident.

I have previously written posts about low bodily injury settlement offers from insurance companies if you do not have a personal injury attorney. But even when it comes to property damage, the insurance company’s main objective is to cut costs and limit your total recovery. Since you need immediate help following a car crash, it is imperative that you call an experienced car accident attorney right away, so there are no delays or problems with the repair of your vehicle.

car-crash.jpg

What if my vehicle is repairable?

After three years of maintaining this blog and drafting hundreds of blog posts, I sometimes wonder what questions I can answer, or what information is left to be shared with my readers. Today I was thinking about some of the less common personal injury claims and I was reminded of a few cases of mine stemming from sporting events. If you (or your child) was injured either playing a sport, or while attending a sporting event, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.

Were you or your child injured while playing a sport?

More than three million under the age of 14 are treated for sports related injuries each year. The vast majority of those are not candidates for a personal injury claim. We all understand that injuries occur in sports, particularly contact sports such as football, hockey or rugby. I know – I played rugby for ten years! Because we are aware of the danger, we accept the risk simply by playing. Similarly, parents sign waivers so that their children can play organized sports. Personal injury claims do not exist in such “normal” or “expected” types of sports injury.

Negligence can occur, however, that causes injury and which is not part of the “accepted risk” of playing a sport. The most common causes of preventable sports injuries are:

  • Inadequate or defective equipment;
  • Inadequate or defective playing surfaces or fields;
  • Abusive coaches or trainers;
  • Training or practice that is excessive for a child’s age and experience.

Most sporting organizations carry insurance for these types of negligent acts that lead to injury. The most common types of injuries to young athletes are muscle sprains/strains and fractures. More serious injuries, such as spinal injuries, head injuries, permanent muscle damage, paralysis and even death, can and have occur from the playing of sports. Injured persons are entitled to compensation and should contact an experienced sports injury lawyer right away.

Were you or your child injured AT a sporting event?

Much like playing sports, we accept a certain amount of risk everytime that we go to a game. We understand that foul balls will enter the stands and may injure spectators. Public address announcers warn several times that hockey pucks, baseballs or other objects might fly into the stand. They even agree to refund your ticket if you are unwilling to accept such risk.

Again, like playing sports, there are some injuries that spectators sustain that was not foreseeable or preventable. These types of injuries may be compensable under a personal injury claim. Some examples of injuries at sporting events that might be covered:

  • Assault by another intoxicated spectator (maybe a rival fan). Much like restaurants and bars have an obligation to not over serve customers, so too do sporting venues;
  • The protections meant to prohibit injury the stands are inadequate or defective;
  • Slip and fall at the venue.

Continue Reading

This is an unfortunate story that seems unable to run out of steam. A nationwide outbreak of meningitis is being linked to a specialty pharmacy company here in Massachusetts. Every day the Center for Disease Control has increased the number of victims who have caught a deadly strain of meningitis after receiving a tainted steroid shot intended to relieve back pain. The current number stands at 119 cases of meningitis with 11 documented deaths related to the tainted steroid injections. The cases of reported illnesses has spread to ten States.

The company voluntarily recalled the steroid that was sent to clinics in 23 States after a tainted vial was found on their own premises. They have since expanded the recall to include everything they have distributed.

While there are no confirmed cases of meningitis here in Rhode Island, the Department of Health continues to notify potential victims of the possible exposure. An additional 50 patients have been notified of the link today. Victims who have contracted meningitis from the tainted injections will have a strong product liability case against the manufacturer who clearly released an unsafe and defective product into the market.

My office has represented many injury victims who were struck by a car while crossing a street, or simply walking along the road. These injuries are almost always traumatic and frequently result in broken bones, head injuries, scars, etc. Providence has seen a recent surge in pedestrian accidents over the past couple of months including two pedestrians struck this weekend alone. Most recently, Stephen Petrick, 19 of Providence, was struck and hit by a vehicle while crossing a crosswalk near Providence College.

Pedestrian accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. Distracted driving may be one of the leading causes of the increase in pedestrian accident frequency. Distracted driving, most typically while using a smartphone to text, read emails, check Facebook or Twitter, is possibly the greatest danger on the road right now, more dangerous even than drunk driving. Drivers who use their smartphone while driving their vehicle are completely distracted for an average of 5 seconds at a time. That is sufficient time for a vehicle to travel several hundred feet.

If you or a loved one is struck by a vehicle while walking or crossing a street, it is absolutely imperative that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Even though, pedestrians have little control over these types of accidents, insurance companies will look at every possible reason to find you at fault. If you have been injured in this type of accident, you will be entitled to medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The story that Progressive Insurance defended the person “responsible” (I put this in quotes and will explain the legality further on) for the death of a policyholder is completely taking over Twitter and the news circuits following a series of blog posts, tweets, and other correspondence between Progressive Insurance and the family of the deceased, Kaitlynn Fisher, nicknamed Katie.

I have tried to learn as much about this story as possible but there are some conflicting reports. I apologize to those intimately involved with this case, in advance, for any errors or misunderstandings.

The Facts of the case

Approximately four million Bumbo Baby Seats have been recalled from the manufacturer due to increasing safety concerns. This story from Boston.com was sent to me by a friend and I took notice because both of my children have used and enjoyed the Bumbo seats. My wife and I have always been very careful with the Bumbo seats because there is no seat belt or other restraint to protect our kids and we were aware of the chance of injury. After reading this report, I am not surprised to find that dozens of cases have been reported of children suffering skull fractures and other very serious injuries after falling out of or escaping from Bumbo Baby Seats.

Bumbo Baby Seats were recalled once before several years ago when increased warning labels were placed on the units. While the unit has long since warned parents not to leave children unattended, the new warnings advised parents to never use the Bumbo Baby Seat on a raised surface, such as a kitchen counter, for fear that the child could fall a great distance. Unfortunately, even with the increased warnings, at least 50 known cases have been reported of children suffering very serious injury after falling from a raised surface. Following this new recall, the company that makes the Bumbo Baby Seat is voluntarily providing a free repair kit that includes a safety belt restraint.

If your child was injured while using a Bumbo Baby Seat, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, both current and future, and any pain and suffering that your child has experienced or will experience in the future. The reported skull fractures are obviously a very serious injury and can also result in long term permanent brain damage. The compensation may be made by filing a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Bumbo Baby Seat, and potentially the many retailers selling the product.

I have previously written posts about the extreme danger of head-on auto accidents and the increased likelihood of serious injury and death. Today, I came across an article discussing a report from the Institute for Highway Safety which highlights the fact that partial overlap front end crashes may be the most dangerous of all collisions. These accidents which may occur on indirect frontal crashes or accidents with a pole or tree, greatly compromise the integrity of the vehicles body and can result in extremely serious personal injury.

Despite great advances in highway safety from the automobile industry, over 10,000 people per year are killed as a result of a car crash. A quarter of such fatalities may come from these so-called partial overlap accidents. Manufacturers score highly for direct frontal collisions, but according to this most recent study, only 3 out of 11 mid and high end vehicles (foreign and domestic) scored “good” or “acceptable” on the partial overlap collision test. The video included in the report is frightening.

The institute points out that on direct front end accidents, the force of the impact is spread across the entire front end of the vehicle allowing it to compress and protect the interior passengers. On a partial overlap accident, the entire force of the impact is isolated in a much smaller area and cars are simply not designed to absorb such dramatic force. The passengers inside experience the most serious of injuries: broken bones, scars, head injuries, paralysis and even death.

A serious auto accident requires a serious law firm. If you have been seriously injured in a front end collision you must retain an attorney who nows how to fight for you and win every dollar available for your case. You do not need an attorney looking to make a quick settlement. If you were involved in an auto accident resulting in a serious or catastrophic injury, contact this office right away for a free consultation.

Continue Reading