Posts tagged with "serious injury"

Texting and Driving Dangerous and Illegal

Texting and Driving: Dangerous and Illegal

While it is safe to say that everybody knows that using a mobile device for texting while driving an automobile or other vehicle is illegal, thousands still engage in the act every day. In fact, current statistics state that at any given time in America, nearly 700,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while driving.

Texting while driving falls under the Distracted Driving umbrella, and is the cause of over 1,000 daily accidents resulting in injuries and unnecessary and unfortunate deaths. So why is it that even when everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous and illegal, drivers still do it? Most likely because the majority of people who text or use mobile devices while driving do not realize the inherent dangers.

Additionally, the majority of those texting while driving are younger drivers; teens and those in early to mid-twenties. This generation typically rationalizes that they won’t get in an accident. Even powerful statistics, such as the one that states nearly 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015, seem to have little power to sway those who regularly text and drive.

 

A Loss of Focus

Distracted driving is not a new term—it essentially refers to any activity that diverts a driver’s focus from the road and other drivers and objects around them. Before rampant cellular phone use, distracted driving could have referred to eating while driving, applying one’s makeup, adjusting the car radio, fiddling with a GPS or turning one’s focus away from the road to speak to passengers.

Any of the above activities is an unsafe distraction, but in recent years, it has been determined that texting while driving is actually the most unsafe and dangerous driving distraction of all. What people don’t seem to realize is how far they actually travel along the road while sending or reading a text for just a few seconds. Traveling at 55 mph for only 5 seconds, a driver can traverse the length of a football field. Distracted driving is the equivalent of driving with your eyes closed, and driving across an entire football field with your eyes closed provides lots of opportunity for accidents.

 

Texting While Driving: Illegal in Massachusetts

Some states have banned all cell phone use while driving. In Massachusetts, it is not illegal for drivers to use their cell phones to make and receive calls while driving, although hands-free devices are preferred. However, texting while driving is strictly prohibited. Additionally, junior operators of a vehicle are prohibited from using mobile devices or other handheld electronic devices at all, except for navigation systems and emergency assistance controls. Bus drivers are also prohibited from using mobile phones completely while driving.

Massachusetts State Law will levy fines for the first and additional repeated offenses, and junior operators will also have their license suspended for a period of time. And because the texting while driving law in Massachusetts is considered a “primary law”, a police officer can pull you over simply for witnessing or appearing to witness texting while driving. The act is also completely illegal even if the car is stopped in traffic, so it is both a wise and safe idea to simply wait until some point that you can pull over and stop the car to read or send messages.

 

Practicing Safe Driving in the Cell Phone Age

No one can deny that cell phones are a major part of our lives, and we are all guilty of interrupted anything we might be doing to glance at our mobile devices whenever we hear those telltale tones indicating a call, email or text message alert. But the one place where you need to strive to avoid cell phone use is behind the wheel of a car.

In fact, in April 2017, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month was declared, and a “Drive Present” campaign was launched, focusing on teaching drivers to be more engaged in the driving moment, and less distracted by other actions and objects, especially mobile phones.

In order to cut down on accidents, injuries and fatalities related to distracted driving, and more specifically texting while driving, drivers are encouraged to follow certain guidelines when getting behind the wheel of a car.

  • First and foremost, the best thing to do is to simply turn off the phone when driving, or at the very least, turn the sound off so that you aren’t distracted by any tones that alert you.
  • If you are expecting emails, texts or phone calls, then when you do receive them — find a place to pull over. It will only take a few minutes of your time to pull over and review and send any messages, while it only takes a few seconds to wind up in an accident resulting in injuries or death.
  • If you are driving with a passenger, ask them to handle any messaging for you so that you can continue to focus on the road.
  • Because many often use their mobile phones as a GPS navigator as well, prepare your maps and directions before you start driving, or, if possible, use the phone voice commands to get directions, rather than using your hands.

Remember, anything that takes your eyes and concentration from the road, pedestrians and other drivers is a potential hazard. It simply isn’t worth it to risk your life and the lives of others to answer a text that can certainly wait.

 

We can help

Have you or a loved one been injured by a distracted driver? Give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your rights and possible next steps.

Summer Camp Negligence – What to Watch for

There are two usual reactions parents have when seeing their kids off to summer camp: One is a relief that everyone will have a fun vacation, especially the parents who can focus on unwinding and having more time to themselves. The other is fear and worry, as their children could be in danger and they won’t be able to help them.

Without exception, it’s more fun to be in that first group, but the parents in the second group have a point: When you sign up with a summer came, you are giving control of your child’s safety over to the staff, and if that staff isn’t prepared to take the problem seriously, then you should be worried.

What A Safe Camp Looks Like

 

If you want to stay in the happy, carefree first group, look over the camp in person when the camp counselors are there. Make sure there are enough people old enough to show maturity and responsibility, instead of a pack of young teens who are going to have their eyes on other counselors the entire time.

Are there enough counselors to look over all of the kids, is there a nurse on staff who can treat any minor injuries that do occur? Does the camp have a good reputation with other parents? These are all important questions to answer before the summer begins.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a day camp or an all-summer camp: Your kids will be under the care of someone else, and there will be chances where a negligent person could fail to keep them safe. It’s no different than a daycare center, where children don’t go overnight but can still be at tremendous risk if not looked after carefully.

Camps needs to have the correct safety gear for the activities they promised they will perform. It would be pretty egregious to take kids out on a boat without life jackets, and fortunately, safety regulations are so well known on that subject that we’re not aware of anyone who has done that. You should be more concerned about games of tackle football played without helmets and pads.

Negligent behavior, where summer camp staff fail to protect kids from common, preventable risks are the makings of a lawsuit. Some injuries, like a twisted ankle, are fairly hard to prevent and would generally not be appropriate for a civil suit.

Now, What Can You Do?

 

If someone from your family has been hurt at summer camp, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your rights and possible next steps.

 

Can I Sue for my Child’s Brain Injury During Sports?

Organized sports can be an extremely positive experience for adolescents and teens, where they practice setting personal goals, cooperating with a team, and competing with rivals. Unfortunately, youth sports can also lead to serious injuries and even death. What happens if your child is injured while playing a game in an organized school sport? Can you sue your public school?

In a word, no.

High school sports like football are known to be dangerous, and injuries including concussions are a foreseeable risk that players and their parents are aware of when they choose to participate. It’s expected that cheerleaders may take an unexpected tumble now and then. Both minor and serious injuries are risks people accept when they play.

What’s more, Massachusetts protects its public institutions, including schools, from lawsuits. This is because municipalities could go bankrupt if enough lawsuits were resolved, and the state legislature wanted to prevent that from happening.

 

Serious Injuries From Other Causes

 

What happens if the injury was caused by a faulty piece of equipment, such as a helmet that failed to protect a player’s head? That is a potential product liability case, but from our experience, those cases are difficult to win.

Here’s another scenario: A high school pitcher gets mad and throws a baseball at his own dugout, walloping a teammate in the head. The victim gets a serious injury. Can his family sue the pitcher’s family?

This is a little tricky. As we’ve written before, civil suits are not for harm caused intentionally such as an assault. Those are criminal matters, and theoretically, this would be a criminal matter and not grounds for a lawsuit.

It’s rare that someone would admit he threw the ball and tried to injury another player. Most likely, he would say he never meant to hit anyone, or he lost control and didn’t realize what he was doing. Still, it’s difficult to find a firm that would take that case.

Here’s another scenario: The coach is driving a student home from practice and gets in a car accident. The player is injured. This could be grounds for a lawsuit, against the driver or of another person who causes the accident, but this isn’t really a school sports scenario anymore. There’s nothing inside the game you can sue for, but we’re not outside the game and into the world at large.

 

What can you do?

Every case is unique. If someone in your family has been hurt in any scenario, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your options.

‘Reckless’ chase by local police at core of $2.5M case

The following was originally published in the Dec. 2, 2007 issue of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly. It has been reprinted with permission.

On the night of Feb. 19, 2004, the driver of a gold Ford Taurus was identied by a Providence police officer as a member of a local gang. A chase ensued but was quickly terminated by the police when it became apparent that the driver was determined not to stop.

The motorist crossed into Cranston where a police officer in that community began pursuing the Taurus. The chase escalated to the point that four police cruisers were traveling behind the suspect, who was observed driving south on Route 9S at a high rate of speed and with his headlights off. At one point, he was seen making a quick U-turn and then driving the wrong way into oncoming traffic; three of the pursuing police officers reportedly did likewise.

The suspect proceeded onto Route 10, again traveling the wrong way and still trailed by several police cruisers, and drove his car headlong into a vehicle being driven by Natasha Valley, a Cranston resident and mother of three who was returning home from training to become an emergency medical technician. Last month, a settlement was reached in which Valley, 29, now a paraplegic, is to receive $2.5 million. Lawyers Weekly reporter Barbara Rabinovitz spoke last week with Milton, Mass., attorney Dino M. Colucci about how he achieved that result for his client.

Q.You say that the central question in the case was whether your client could prove that the defendants – the city of Cranston and the individual police officers involved – were reckless, not merely negligent. Given the dramatic testimony that was taken in deposition, was this a challenge for you or a slam dunk?

A. It wasn’t by any stretch a slam dunk. In fact, before we took the case, several law rms had turned her away because they didn’t believe such a suit could be successfully maintained. In honesty, we took the case on faith in the hope that we could make something good come out of such a tragic set of circumstances …. Fourteen depositions were taken; we obtained broadcasts of the police communications that night as well as their [police-chase l training policy. e suspect that they were chasing was eventually apprehended, and we went to jail to try to interview him. We were actually able to meet with him for 15 minutes in a holding cell to get whatever information he was willing to impart to us.

Q. Rhode Island has a $100,000 cap on recoveries for police negligence. Would that have applied in this case? What would have been your strategy for getting around it?

A. It was an open question as to whether or not the cap would apply once all the evidence was presented at trial. The burden would have been entirely ours to prove – that the conduct of the Cranston Police Department rose to a sufficient level of recklessness – in order to avoid the cap …. The city [of Cranston] continues to maintain that they did nothing wrong; they’re not accepting liability in any sense.

Q. You say that this may be the first case to apply the law established in the May 2005 case of Seide v. The State of Rhode Island, which permits citizens to bring actions against a police department for violations of a police-chase policy. Could you have achieved the same result without the Seide decision?

A. It was fortuitous for us that that case was decided by the Supreme Court of Rhode Island about six months after we took Natasha Valley’s case [in December 2004]. We took it in hopes that we could set a precedent given the facts in our case. is may be the first application of that decision … that the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case was incorrect.

Q. You’ve said that several law rms had declined to represent your client, in the belief that such a claim could not be successfully maintained. Why did you take the case in the end?

A. First and foremost, we felt great empathy for this woman. She was a young woman with three kids and, through no fault of her own, she found herself a paraplegic. Secondly, she’s a very inspiring woman. While most people would sit around and feel self-pity about their situation, she was so optimistic about her future and the life that she wanted for her kids that it was inspiring for us. So, we couldn’t walk away.

Q. What has this case accomplished with regard to police chases?

A. It won’t set a precedent because we mediated the case and reached a settlement, so nothing’s been adjudicated …. In my experience, every case really needs to be examined on its own merits. The police have a very difficult job, and we’re sensitive to that. Very often they find themselves in the midst of chaos, and they have to make immediate judgments on what to do. But Cranston had a [vehicle-chase] policy that was formulated years before this accident, and it was our position that this policy served as a foundation, or a guideline, so that officers can apply the logic contained in the policy when they’re out amidst the chaos. And we don’t believe that was done here.

Q. You gathered quite a bit of evidence for the mediation – an interactive audio- visual program, which synthesized an animated map of the chase route, broadcasts from the police, photos of the collision and so forth. Do you think that was instrumental in getting the defendants to settle?

A. I do. In my opinion, it synthesized many of the critical points that served as the foundation of our case. It brought together, in dramatic fashion, the conduct of the police, the route that they took in pursuing the suspect.

We were able to hear their actual broadcasts, and we were able to see the relevant portions of the Cranston chase policy. And in my opinion, the juxtaposition of these various elements really bolstered our case …. These were experienced [defense] lawyers we were dealing with; they did a good job for their clients. But I thought that the audio-visual portion of the case had very real impact.

Q. Where is your client now, and what is her condition?

A. She’s still in Cranston. She’s confined to a wheelchair. She’s the mother of three and a very nice woman, and I’m just very pleased that her future will be at least a little less uncertain.

Massachusetts residents injured in fatal crash

We recently mentioned that severe weather conditions are contributing to accident, but the weather fluctuates, and it is not always so cold as to freeze roads. With this in mind, it is important to remember that just because the weather is not extreme does not mean that there are no dangers on the road. Even in normal weather, the roads are still a dangerous place, and any number of factors could contribute to a devastating car accident.

One such accident occurred recently in Rhode Island, when a young man allegedly caused an accident while driving the wrong way down I-95. The young man has been charged with drunken driving, which may have contributed to his car crashing into an oncoming pickup truck. The accident claimed the life of his passenger, and caused serious injury to one of the two Massachusetts residents in the pickup truck. The young man driving the other vehicle escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.

It is an unfortunate but necessary risk that nearly all people must take at some time or another. We cannot simply stop driving; we still have to go to work and buy groceries, but being on the road automatically makes you at risk for accident. Even if you are a defensive driver who has never been ticketed or gotten into an accident, you cannot control the other drivers on the road. What you can control is what happens after the accident.

If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, you will likely be facing large unexpected medical costs. You should not have to pay for the negligence of another, which is why the law allows you to recover compensation for your injuries. A successful lawsuit can ensure that the person who caused the accident pays for the fallout, not the person who was victimized.

Source: Boston Herald, “Police: 1 killed, 3 hurt in wrong-way Interstate 95 crash,” March 8, 2015

Massachusetts drunk driving accident endangers children’s lives

Now that St. Patrick’s Day is lurking around the corner, drunk driving accidents may become more common across the nation. What is so frightening about this is that even though you practice all safety measures while driving, meeting a careless or drunk driver along the road can result in a serious accident. The results of such an accident can be devastating. This can get much worse if you have children inside the car, whose lives might be endangered because of the negligence of another driver.

A woman allegedly responsible for a car accident in Massachusetts is now facing multiple charges for sending a minivan crashing into a pond. The woman’s 3-year-old child was in a car with her while she allegedly was driving under the influence of alcohol. Thankfully, the child was properly strapped in the car seat and did not sustain any injuries.

However, the four people trapped within the minivan, three children and an adult, were taken to a hospital but are now considered to be in good condition. Authorities further noted that the car accident could have ended much more tragically had the minivan plunged into the deeper part of the pond.

Being involved in an auto crash can be very traumatic, not just for you but also for any children you may have. In cases like the one above, the drunk driver was charged for child endangerment, operating under the influence and failure to yield. This coming St. Patrick’s Day, it is good to know that you have rights if ever you become involved in a similar accident that results in damages and serious injury. Just compensation should be given to you and your family for the trauma and medical expenses incurred.

Source: CBS Boston, “Two-Car Crash Sends Minivan Plunging Into Milford Pond, One Driver Faces OUI Charge,” March 2, 2014