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Recognizing and Stopping Elder Abuse

The National Center on Elder Abuse has come out with their most recent statistics and the results are truly staggering. It begins by acknowledging that the “Boomer Generation” effect will continue for decades and predicts that between 2012 and 2050, the United States will experience considerable growth in its older population.  In fact, by 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to rise to 83.7 million souls, which is almost double its current population.  Older women will continue to outpace older men.

The survey concentrates on all forms of elder abuse and ranks the most common in the following order: financial, neglect, emotional, physical and sexual mistreatment.  Low social support is most commonly associated with elder abuse and seniors who are afflicted with dementia are 50% more likely to be exploited than their counterparts.  Approximately half of all people over the age of 85, the fastest growing segment of the population, have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.  In addition, this trend continues to   ascend.  Seniors who have previously suffered domestic violence were found to be at increased risk for emotional, sexual and financial mistreatment and women were at greater risk to be abused in this regard than were men.  Who are the perpetrators?  Surprisingly, family members were identified as most likely to engage in financial exploitation (57.9%) followed by friends and neighbors (16.9%) and home health care aides (14.9%).

Perhaps most alarming, however, are the statistics on abuse by caregivers, the very people who are charged with caring for the elderly.  The particular study cited revealed that 47% of the participants with dementia had been mistreated by their caregivers.  A previous study revealed that 50% of the people with dementia experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of their caregivers.

The study concluded by estimating the associated Medicaid costs of elder injuries at $5.3 billion per annum.

Discouraging elder abuse requires vigilance and action.  As is now a common societal refrain,  “if you see something, say something.”

 

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of nursing home neglect. For many years he has lectured and served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.  He has also been consistently named as a “Super Lawyer” by his peers as published by Boston Magazine.

 

 

 

Hiring an Attorney Is the First Step

Hiring an attorney is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you or a loved one is injured – but it should be.

Hiring the right attorney from the very onset of a case makes all the difference in how your case is handled and ultimately resolved. Evidence isn’t preserved, witnesses disappear, and insurance companies begin building their case as soon as they learn of the injury. Simply put, by not contacting an efficient and effective attorney from the onset of your injury, you’ve put yourself at a serious disadvantage.

Thinking of contacting an attorney from the onset is not insensitive, but it is responsible. At CCMF, we begin the essential steps of your case from the immediate outset. After suffering from an injury, you are not likely thinking about gathering witness statements, taking pictures, or refraining from talking to insurance companies. These are just some of the many pitfalls you can easily avoid that you may not even be aware of had you not contacted an attorney.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country.

 

Who’s Liable When an Autonomous Car Crashes?

With the rise of interest in self-driving cars, two questions commonly comes up – Are they actually safer, and who is liable if a self-driving car crashes?

In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Administration released a 6-level classification system for autonomous cars. Level 0, the lowest level, means the automated system may issue warnings to the driver, but the driver is completely in control of the vehicle. Level 5, the highest level, means that no human interaction is required – the vehicle completely drives itself.

At anything lower than a level 3 autonomous vehicle, the level at which a driver can safely focus their attention on tasks other than driving, a driver is responsible since they clearly need to interact with the car in order to prevent accidents. At level 2, it is required that a driver keep their hands on the wheel and must be ready to intervene should something go amiss with the automated system.

On March 18, a pedestrian in Arizona was killed when she was struck by an autonomous car.  Although it was simply a test run, the car, which was operated by UBER, had an emergency driver in the car.  The victim was walking with her bicycle, and it appeared that the car did not slow down at all prior to striking her.  She was struck at 40 mph.

Later that week, on March 23, a Tesla autonomous vehicle – this one operated by Tesla – slammed into a concrete lane divider on the highway and burst into flames. The driver later died from his injuries.  The driver in the Tesla was repeatedly told by the car’s system that his hands needed to be on the wheel even though the car was on auto-pilot.  In this case, even though auto-pilot was in, the vehicle did state to the driver that auto-pilot is just a driver assistance tool – it is not meant to take the place of an actual driver, and takes care to note that the driver is responsible for their own safety and the safety of others.

Currently, laws have not been able to keep up with technology, and technology has not yet advanced to the stage where level four or level 5 autonomous cars should be on public roads. It is expected that as cars move towards being more and more autonomous, eventually, liability will shift from the driver to the car/its manufacturer.  Autonomous cars in the future may even be programmed not to commit certain traffic offenses, such as speeding, traffic violations, etc. This would mean that autonomous cars might even be the safest option for vehicles in the future – as studies have shown, the vast majority of crashes occur because of human error.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country.

I was injured in a motor vehicle accident by a person who fled the scene (‘hit and run’) or by a person who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover my injuries. What do I do?

Too often, individuals suffer serious and disabling injuries but the person or business responsible does not carry enough insurance to adequately compensate him or her.

For example, our office recently resolved a case where a man was permanently disabled after he was struck by a motor vehicle while he was walking to his car. The at-fault driver fled the scene and was unable to be identified.  This is typically called a ‘hit and run’ accident.  Our client suffered catastrophic injuries, underwent numerous surgeries and could not return to work.  Despite an exhaustive investigation by our firm, (reviewing surveillance video, interviewing witnesses, and working with police) the only insurance available to compensate him for his medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages was the “Uninsurance” coverage in his own automobile insurance policy.  Many people aren’t even aware that this coverage option exists.  “Uninsurance” is coverage that is available from your own insurance policy if the person who injures you is either “un-insured” or can’t be identified, (like a “hit and run” driver).  It is “optional” coverage, however, and will cost you more in premiums—but it is worth it.

In the case described above, our client only maintained $20,000 of “Uninsurance” benefits. This meant that, despite his catastrophic injuries, the most he could recover was $20,000 from his own auto insurer.

How do I protect myself and the other passengers in my car?

When purchasing your auto insurance, the most powerful thing you can do to be responsible for yourself and your loved ones is to make sure you carry optional “Under Insurance” and “Uninsurance” coverage with the highest limits you can afford. “Under Insurance” coverage will protect you if your injuries and damages exceed the insurance coverage of the at-fault driver.  “Uninsurance” coverage will protect you if you are injured by an unidentified person (“hit and run”) or uninsured vehicle.

At minimum, we suggest carrying $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident of Under/Uninsurance coverage. Generally this is referred to as a “$100/$300 policy.”

Finally, we also suggest carrying optional Medical Payments Coverage, which is referred to as “Med-pay”. Med-pay is supplemental medical insurance through your automobile insurance that will pay for medical bills and medical liens.  It is relatively inexpensive.  Generally, $5,000.00 in Med-pay coverage costs around $30 per year.  Consulting a qualified insurance agent is your best bet to find the coverage that’s right for your particular budget.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for personal injury in the country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the country.

Can Social Media Ruin My Case?

In today’s day and age, social media is a large part of everyone’s life. You can tweet, share to “the gram” (Instagram), or share intimate details of your every move on Facebook.  If you’re a party to a personal injury case, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on all of your social media accounts.

If you’re a plaintiff in a personal injury matter, you’re seeking compensation for your injuries, and will have to present evidence that you’re genuinely hurt. Usually, this can be proven by medical records, witness testimony, testimony of those who knew you before the accident and can say how you’ve changed since, and expert testimony.  The defense then puts on opposing evidence, and tries to prove you either aren’t hurt, or that your injuries aren’t related to your accident.

So what if you’re claiming you have a debilitating injury, but continue posting on your social media photos of yourself doing physically strenuous activities? You can bet that the defense will be googling your name to see if any of your social media comes up and whether it is visible or not.  The defense can then introduce that post you’ve made, showing yourself not that hurt, and can use it against you.

Everything you post, tweet, share, etc. can be used against you in today’s world, and can potentially ruin your personal injury case.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country. 

Tales From Our Files: Nursing Home Abuse Is A Crime

A substantial portion of our clients are seniors who have unfortunately been neglected or abused while living as patients in a nursing home.  While the resulting harm may prove to be the same, there is a stark difference between the concepts of “negligence” and “abuse” in a nursing home setting.  Nursing home staff members are considered “negligent” if they fail to employ proper precautions in keeping their residents safe.  This can take many forms: accidentally dropping a patient; failing to dispense proper medication; giving a patient with a recognized choking risk foods that are notoriously hard to swallow, (like a hot dog or “sticky” bun).  “Abuse” on the other hand is a more sinister phenomenon which may also prove to be criminal in nature. One such act of cruelty was recently brought to our attention for redress. Suspicious that aides were abusing their loved one, our client secretly placed a “nanny cam” in their grandmother’s room.  The camera recorded video only, (as recording audio without the express permission of the participants is itself a crime).  Sure enough, the hidden video demonstrated aides brutally manhandling, slapping and pulling the hair of an aged and defenseless Alzheimer patient.  As a result of exposing this reprehensible conduct, the aides were promptly dismissed and criminally prosecuted.  Our clients promptly sought to remove their relative from the facility and we prosecuted a civil claim for money damages as a result.

Do I recommend that hiding a camera is always the appropriate solution?  No.  Nor would most facilities welcome such clandestine efforts. Rather, ordinary vigilance by family members is the key to assuring quality care and a safe living environment. By being intimately involved in the care of your loved one, you serve notice that you are closely watching what goes on.  You are also ensuring that the nursing home staff are taking the proper precautions to keep their residents safe.

If you suspect that your loved one has been abused while a resident of a nursing home, you should promptly consult an attorney to review your options.

Dino M. Colucci, Esquire, is the founder of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C., a law firm dedicated to representing victims of neglect. For many years he has lectured and served as an adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School.  He has also been consistently named as a “Super Lawyer” by his peers as published by Boston Magazine.

 

 

 

Product Liability

There is absolutely no doubt that products are safer today than ever before, and in large part that is due to lawsuits. I know that nobody wants to give lawyers credit for anything, but it is the truth. When a lawyer rightfully sues because a product is defective and hurts someone, they effect change.  Manufacturers don’t want to continually get sued, so when they realize that there is a legitimate problem with something that they’ve designed and put it into the flow of commerce, they address it.  If they do it on their own it’s entitled a “recall”; when they change it because of a lawsuit it is called progress.  It all really makes sense.   Manufacturers make money by putting products into commerce for people to use.  That’s the system we live in and it’s the American way.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.  But when you introduce any item for public consumption, you are silently warranting that that product is safe for its intended use.

We recently handled a case where a 55 year old banker was riding a bicycle that broke. He didn’t hit anything, there was no pothole encountered, there was no rock in the middle of the road.  The frame of the bike simply broke.  A case like that could come down to faulty design, faulty materials, faulty workmanship or owner error. The lawyer’s job is to take the facts and have them analyzed to come up with the most likely cause of the accident.  In that instance we gave the bike to a mechanical engineer at MIT who then performed tests on the metal to see how much stress it could take.  It became a matter of science that the bicycle was woefully inadequate and that the metal simply wasn’t strong enough to deal with the fatigue associated with normal wear and tear.

It’s an unspoken agreement between the consumer and the manufacturer that if a product is put into commerce that it has been designed adequately and tested properly. That the materials chosen are of sufficient strength and that the consumer can use it in an anticipated manner.  Same is true for any product.  Your airbag should not go off for no reason, your toaster should not catch fire and vaporizers should not burn children.  We’ve handled all those cases at one time or another.  If you are injured because of any product, and you were in the course of using the product appropriately, a case probably exists.  If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation please know that there will be two goals:  the first is that you will be adequately compensated for the injuries you sustained; and the second will be that the company will now be on notice that the product is not fit for its intended purpose and that they need to notify people of the danger or recall the product to address the concern.

Texting While Driving is Deadly

Recently in Washington, DC a gentleman stopped his car, got out and tore apart a traffic cam. The theory being that over one million traffic tickets had been given out in Washington, D.C. via these traffic cams raising over $100,000,000.00 in revenue.  I had mixed emotions of this event from a legal perspective. Certainly, if people are breaking the law and it is caught on film it is actionable by the governing body.  I am sure the argument is that the traffic cams are there for safety reasons. In other words, to dissuade people from driving above the speed limit and/or recklessly.  If it is there as a tool to garner revenue from the City, there is something seriously objectionable about that.  However, who would disagree with a camera specifically designed to catch people texting while driving.  I would be all for that as well as any police officer who set up his cruiser in a way to detect who is staring at their phone while driving.

Texting and driving is a scourge that is going to cost thousands of lives across this country. In any random day as I drive a half hour toward work, I rarely pass someone who is not staring at their phone.  It borders on an addiction, but one that is highly dangerous to other people.  Addictions normally endanger only the person addicted.  In this case, it is the public at large that is at risk.  I have witnessed elderly people staring at their phone and slowly trying to tap out a response to a text.  Making it illegal is not enough.  Most people get away with it and pay the $25.00 fee if caught.  This is a public health hazard that needs to be taken seriously and dealt with in a more significant way. I do, though, understand the difficulty in dealing with the situation.  You are permitted to look at any part of the instrumentation on your dashboard, radio, heating and air conditioning system, etc.  However, none of these are written in paragraphs which require attention.  And not one of these require responses that could be more in depth than a mere push of a button.

People should also consider that the felony of vehicular homicide will not cut people slack because they are otherwise law-abiding citizens. If you are found texting and you take someone’s life, you could be charged with vehicular homicide even though it was an accident. People should be more aware of this.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country

 

Not All Falls Are Just Accidents

Falling is a leading cause of accidental death worldwide, and it is a major cause of personal injury. Sometimes, a fall is just an accident, and nothing could have been done to avoid it.  However, that does not mean that one legally can turn a blind eye towards hazardous conditions.

As a general rule, liability for negligence is imposed when a person owes a legal duty to another, and a breach of that duty proximately causes an injury. One such legal duty that is recognized in the common law is the duty of an owner or possessor of land to exercise reasonable care to persons lawfully upon the premises.

That duty includes an obligation to warn visitors of any unreasonable dangers of which the landowner is aware or reasonably should be aware.  Although a landowner is not obligated to warn of open and obvious dangers, that does not mean that a landowner can maintain his or her property in an unreasonably unsafe condition as long as the unsafe condition is open and obvious.  Rather, the landowner’s duty includes an obligation to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk.  Even though an open and obvious danger provides its own warning, a landowner is not relieved from remedying that danger where he or she knows or has reason to know that lawful entrants may not heed the warning for a variety of reasons, including their own failure to exercise reasonable care.

For that reason, it is not always apparent whether a fall was just an accident, or whether it could have been avoided. If there is doubt, there is nothing wrong with asking an attorney whether something could have been done to prevent a fall from occurring.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country.

#MeToo

Recent times have seen a tidal wave of brave men and women emerge to tell their sad tales of sexual abuse at the hands of their bosses, coaches, teachers, doctors and others who were in positions of power, influence and professional superiority. Seemingly gone are the days when the rich and powerful can expect to be insulated from the consequences of their bad, (or even criminal), behavior merely because they are rich and powerful.  This is, of course, how it should be.

Thanks to the courageous and newly vocal men and women who no longer feel obligated to lead lives of silent suffering, there is new hope and encouragement for the many more who still feel the misplaced guilt that attends being victimized by someone who occupied a position of trust.  It’s axiomatic that the world can be an unfair place.

We see it as our job to enforce a full measure of accountability on those who violate the trust of others, particularly the most vulnerable among us.

The law firm of Colucci, Colucci, Marcus & Flavin, P.C. has been recognized by Newsweek.com as one of the Top 10 Best Law Firms for Personal Injury in the Country. Attorney Darin Colucci has also been recognized by Newsweek.com for 3 consecutive years as one of the Top 10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys in the Country.