November 27, 2014

Massachusetts Car Accidents: Be Thankful If You Aren't In One On Thanksgiving Weekend.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted to this blog in a while; the combination of too much work, and a little too much travel.

So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday? You must have a list, and for many, the short list probably includes being thankful that some kind of family argument didn’t erupt with a relative during Thanksgiving dinner. That, or you’re grateful you probably don’t have to work on Friday.

If you get to where you’re going and back without being in a Massachusetts car accident this weekend, you should definitely add that one to the list. Why? Because Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel holiday of the year, with an unbelievably high number of vehicles on the road all over the country. In Massachusetts, all the major highways will be jam-packed over the weekend – especially Thursday and Sunday. Those highways include the Mass. Pike, Route 128, Routes 3 & 92, and Interstate 95. Thank God I’ll be nowhere near them!

But what do you do if you’re one of the unlucky ones, and are injured in a car accident? As a veteran Boston Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I’ve put together a list of what you should do if this happens to you: Here’s a brief list:

1) Pull Over, Immediately. Assuming your vehicle is still drivable, under Massachusetts law, you must stop at once if your vehicle hits another motor vehicle, including a motorcycle or bicycle, or a pedestrian. Note: The same law applies if you hit an animal, or if your vehicle hits another person’s property. Don’t even think of driving away, or you’ll expose yourself to a Massachusetts criminal charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

2) Dial "911." Call the police at once on your cell phone. If you don’t, your insurance company might deny coverage, and in the worst case you could be prosecuted if you do not report a collision.

3) Accept Medical Treatment. Even if you don't feel immediately injured - be sure to accept any medical evaluation that EMT’s offer. Far too often, car accident victims discover a few days later, that they in fact suffered serious injuries. These are called “soft tissue injuries, because no fractures or lacerations may be immediately involved. These injuries typically worsen over time.

4) Cooperate With Law Enforcement. As a Quincy, Massachusetts car accident law firm, we strongly recommend that you refrain from admitting any guilt in connection with your collision. Do not talk to the other drivers or passengers involved in the crash, except to exchange contact information.

5) Take Notes. If you can, jot down notes about the accident as soon as possible. By doing so, you will be prepared with as much evidence and documentation as possible, without later forgetting this critical information when it will be needed by your attorney.

6) Take Photos With Your Camera Or Smartphone. If you can't take photos immediately, return to the scene as soon as possible to do so, or ask a friend to do so. Photograph any obstacles, obstructions, adverse road conditions, signs, trees, vegetation, and any other relevant information.

7) Call A Family Member or Friend. You should call someone as soon as possible to let them know what has happened to you, and to inform them of your whereabouts.

8) Contact Your Insurance Carrier and Your Attorney. As soon as you can, call your insurance carrier - but only to report that the accident occurred. Do not answer any other questions about the accident other than the date, time, and location of the accident. Do not speak with anyone else involved in the accident or their insurance company, without first obtaining legal advice from an experienced Massachusetts car accident law firm.

And remember - don't drive until the tryptophan wears off. Doing otherwise is being a real turkey.

October 16, 2014

Massachusetts Distracted Driving Accidents: The Scary Truth

You think Spooky World is going to scare you this Halloween?

As a Boston Massachusetts distracted driving accident lawyer, I can tell you three frightening stories of what happens when you practice distracted driving on the road. Texting and driving are two words that should never, ever be spoken together – and certainly never practiced in tandem. It’s a recipe for disaster. The Massachusetts Anti-Texting Law, otherwise known as the "Safe Driving Act," also prohibits drivers from texting, emailing, and reading from handheld devices such as Smart phones, and devices such as iPads, when on the road. That should be enough warning for us all. But for some people, it's not. For some shock value, consider these three horrific stories of how some people think they can "drive safely."

My wife Debbi Kickham has told me three absolutely true horror stories about people she has met in her lifetime, who told her about what they do when they drive. Each story is so unbelievable, that Debbi never forgot them. And when I heard them, my jaw dropped.

An old friend of Debbi's, who was in medical school, once drove from Massachusetts to California. Care to know what this obviously bright person did as he drove? He propped a medical textbook in his lap, and glanced down from time to time to read, to break up the monotony of driving from one coast to another. This dangerous behavior goes beyond the pale. He probably ended up in a Hospital Emergency Ward - horizontally, and long before he thought he would.

Another one of Debbi’s colleagues, who owned a bridal shop on the side, told her that when she drove home after working 9-5 every day, she did something that made her feel like the ultimate multi-tasker during her commute. She sewed hems on bridal headpieces as she was driving. We are not kidding, folks. She told this to Debbi with pride, and with a laugh. It's unbelievable.

And here’s the kicker: A story so terrifying it will curl your hair. One of Debbi’s friends recently told her that her Mom has an unusual beauty routine: She curls her hair with her curling iron, plugged into the cigarette lighter, as she drives. (No, not as a passenger.) Now that you've picked yourself up off the floor after hearing that, can you believe how shocking it is? And you thought that women putting on makeup as they sat in the driver’s seat was bad. While these stories might seem like they take the cake, there are even worse stories of distracted driving out there.

We don't know if those terrible driving stories ever led to a Massachusetts car accident -- and we hope that they never did. But practicing such distracted driving is like playing with fire.

I am urging everyone who reads this blog post to stop, pay attention to the road, and never, ever, do anything else while driving except keep your eyes glued to the road. Driving and being out on the road is already dangerous enough – Reminder: You're driving over one ton of steel and glass - which can kill at just 5 MPH, never mind typical road speeds. Use your head: Don’t do anything that could ultimately kill you – or any number of innocent victims.

October 10, 2014

Fall In Massachusetts: Nice, Just Don't Slip and Fall on Wet Leaves

So many people love the Fall season. I'm just not one of them. For many people, it’s a time for apple-picking, football games, Halloween and clean, crisp air. For me, it's a time for longing the warm summer air and beach days that have left us. It’s also the season for leaf-peeping, which here in Massachusetts, people do in droves.

But did you know that autumn leaves, while beautiful, can pose a threat and can precipitate a Massachusetts slip and fall injury? “Fall” is the operative word here. Think about it: Dew falls during the nights and mornings, and it rests on leaves that have fallen everywhere. Aside from dew, rain also can pour down on leaves. The result? Moist leaves that are as slippery as a banana peel – or a sheet of ice, in winter. People certainly know how dangerous snow and ice are, but are probably not as familiar with how dangerous wet leaves can be. A Massachusetts slip and fall injury caused by simply wet leaves can be very serious.

Wet leaves can pose a problem at private homes -- especially on walking surfaces like driveways, stairs and porches. At public places and at businesses, wet leaves that are not raked away or that simply pile up can be very dangerous, at entrances and exits, and on stairwells. One false move, and you’re on the ground with a broken wrist, a twisted ankle, or far worse - and when and where you least expected it. If that happens, you will need a Boston slip and fall attorney.

When slip and fall injuries are caused by someone else’s negligence – such as by someone not raking their leaves, or letting wet leaves pile up by an entrance, for example -- you as the victim deserve to be compensated for your physical pain and suffering, as well as economic harm the injury has caused you. You could very possibly find yourself with large hospital bills, and may need to take time off from work so that your injuries can heal. As a Boston personal injury attorney, I can assure you that you do not have to become victimized by these events, without legal recourse. Under Massachusetts law, you have legal rights when you are injured due to someone else’s negligence. A Massachusetts slip and fall injury that is caused by wet leaves falls under the heading of "premises liability," and an experienced Massachusetts injury attorney can help you obtain the financial damages you deserve.

September 2, 2014

Dangerous Boston, Massachusetts Apartment Buildings: Students & Parents Beware

Recently here in the Boston area, the media has paid a lot of attention recently to the subject of dangerous off-campus housing for college students – and justifiably so.

Boston is the College Capital of the Nation, and there are more undergraduate and graduate students here than in almost any other part of the country. Against this massive student population, there are only so many campus dorm units - i.e., on-campus housing facilities. Universities here knowingly accept more students than they have the capacity to house on campus. Why? Tuition revenue. The student overflow ends up in apartment buildings in and around the greater Boston area – and these numbers have increased over 30% since just 2006. What’s the problem with this? A huge percentage of those apartment buildings and rental units are located in shoddy, dilapidated, over-crowded and dangerous buildings. Many of them are flagrant examples of numerous Building Code violations relating to both safety and health. Translation: Dumps and fire traps. More than 45,000 students live in these apartment buildings and houses – 99% never having lived on their own previously. Can you say “lambs to the slaughter?”

A great many of these apartments are located in the Allston/Brighton section of Boston – near Boston University and Boston College. Allston is so bad when it comes to dilapidated housing that it has earned the nickname “Rat City,” for the reputation it has for vermin in that part of Boston. Who owns the vast majority of these buildings and apartments? Many of them are absentee landlords – also known as slumlords. Whether it’s old, creaky stairwells that can collapse, causing a dangerous Massachusetts stairwell fall injury, or old, rotted exterior porches and decks that can result in a Massachusetts porch collapse injury, or old, out-of-code electrical wiring that can cause a Massachusetts apartment building fire, the risks are numerous and very serious.

Here in the greater Boston area, the last week in August and the first few days of September always see the massive wave of incoming students and their parents, dropping them off to college. Unless their kids have on-campus dorm housing, parents who bring their kids here to college should think twice and be extremely careful about the off-campus rental housing they let their kids move in to. As a Boston apartment injury lawyer, I’ve seen far, far too many examples of students (and others) being seriously injured in these types of old, out-of-date, dilapidated apartment buildings. Whether in a large building or a three-decker, the vast majority of these apartments are unsafe and, frankly, downright disgusting.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team (the paper’s investigative division,) recently ran an entire series on this problem: “Shadow Campus.” That investigative series - nine months in the making - revealed shocking safety code violations, as well as health code violations, running rampant throughout certain parts of Boston: Allston, Brighton, The Fenway, and Mission Hill. Relying on government to fix the problem? Don’t even think that the City of Boston Inspectional Services Department, the city agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing safety and health code, will address these problems: Reasons?: 1) Students who intentionally over-crown these houses and buildings, in order to lower their individual share of the rents, will never report these conditions. 2) Students are also reluctant to report health code violations - like rats and insects – for the same reasons. 3) The landlords involved (slumlords) obviously aren’t going to say a word; and 4) The city doesn't have anywhere near enough staff to deal with these problems.

Result? The perfect storm for dangerous and even deadly Boston off-campus student housing conditions. If you haven’t clicked on the link above for the Boston Globe Spotlight Team Report on dangerous Boston off-campus housing, "Shadow Campus," I suggest that you do so now. In the very unfortunate event that you or someone you know has been injured in a Boston apartment accident, you should contact an experienced Boston apartment injury attorney. These types of cases can become very complex, and require substantial expertise to successfully represent an apartment injury victim.

August 27, 2014

New Massachusetts Jury Selection Law: Fairness for Plaintiffs - Finally

Something happened recently on Beacon Hill, and while it didn’t receive a great deal of buzz or media fanfare, it will substantially level the playing field for plaintiffs in Massachusetts injury suits. Governor Deval Patrick earlier this month signed legislation that will give attorneys the ability to question potential jurors in Massachusetts Superior Court cases. Surprised that this wasn't always the case? You’d have every reason to be. How has it been handled in the past? Read on.

First, a definition: The process of questioning potential jurors in a case, before a jury is finally selected and empaneled, is called "Voir Dire." The process is intended to ‘weed out’ potential jurors who may be biased in one way or another. For 'eons' in Massachusetts, judges have retained the sole power to conduct voir dire questioning of potential jurors. While judges tended to pose questions that attorneys in the case provided to them, they were never obligated to ask any particular questions that an attorney wanted. Judges retained sole control over the process.

In trying to assess whether a potential juror was biased or otherwise unacceptable to serve, attorneys were limited to reviewing the answers provided in a one page questionnaire given to potential jurors. Stunningly, no verbal exchanges or discussions were allowed between attorneys and potential jurors! Exactly how was an attorney to make an accurate assessment of a potential juror, without engaging in a direct, brief discussion about that juror’s views of the type of case they might serve on? For the plaintiffs’ attorneys involved, the whole process of juror selection was based on speculation and guess work. Care to know just how archaic and outdated this jury selection system in Massachusetts really was? 39 other states – including all of the other New England states – allow attorney-conducted voir dire (make that ten states, now.)

Another stunning fact that this new law corrected: In the past, civil plaintiffs in Massachusetts were not allowed to state a specific damages figure they were requesting from a defendant. So how did juries – in the relatively rare event that a jury would find in favor of an injured plaintiff, that is – reach a particular damages figure? Sheer guesswork. Yes, you read that correctly. Justly, this new law corrects that ridiculous and awful rule. Also justly, it requires plaintiffs to prove their damages claim – as they should – but at least in the future, plaintiffs’ attorneys can argue specific damages to a jury.

In Massachusetts tort cases and Massachusetts injury litigation – in particular Massachusetts motor vehicle accident cases – it was the plaintiffs who suffered in this archaic process of not allowing attorneys to directly question potential jurors and not allowing specific damages figures to be requested in trials, not defendants. Why? Because most people who serve on juries have been tricked into believing that almost every Massachusetts personal injury plaintiff is a malingerer and a liar – someone who’s just looking to “cash in.” As a Boston injury attorney, I can guarantee you that this is not true. The injured clients I have represented in my career have suffered very serious injuries that can change someone’s life forever. These types of cases can vary widely, and just a few examples include:

Massachusetts Car Accident
• Massachusetts Slip &Fall accident
• Massachusetts Wrongful Death Case
• Massachusetts Construction Site Injuries
• Massachusetts Dog Bite Case
• Massachusetts Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse
• Massachusetts Liquor Liability

The two chief bar associations in Massachusetts, The Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys actively supported the bill, arguing correctly (and for the ‘ump-teenth’ time over many years,) that the change will produce both lower court costs and fairer juries. Superior Court judges, however, fought the bill aggressively, claiming that attorney-conducted voir dire would increase court costs by increasing the time it takes to select a jury and by requiring a larger pool of jurors. Apparently, many of these judges never stopped to consider what the primary purpose of the courts and the civil justice system is: Justice and fairness, not economies of scale. With the passage of this new law, plaintiffs’ attorneys will soon be able to actually question some jurors who they suspect might harbor biases against their clients. Imagine that!

This change – long overdue in Massachusetts – will produce fairer juries and much more just outcomes.

August 15, 2014

Another Fatal Massachusetts Motor Vehicle-Pedestrian Accident: 12 Year-Old Brockton Boy Killed.

Birthdays, especially for kids, are supposed to special days; days of happiness, a present or two, and carefree thoughts. They are cause for celebration, not mourning. Tragically, all that became reversed yesterday, when a 12 year-old Brockton boy by the name of Nazair Nunes-Escobar was killed when a tractor-trailer truck hit and killed him. Making matters worse, was the fact that the boy was killed while using the roller-blade skates that he had received just moments before, as a birthday present.

Young Nunes-Escobar was about to begin the seventh grade at the Oscar F. Raymond Elementary School in Brockton in September. “He was a very nice kid,’’ said Jocelyn Meek, a spokesperson for the Brockton public school system; “He had a very nice smile and a great sense of humor. They are very sad at the Raymond (school) today.’’ Neighbors and friends placed candles and flowers at the accident site, creating a makeshift memorial at 35 Brattle Street in Brockton. Several persons familiar with the boy described him as a cheerful presence at the Roosevelt Heights apartment complex where he lived. One neighbor said young Nunes-Escobar, so active at just 12 years old, would have one day become a great athlete.

The Brockton Police Department and Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz’s office are investigating the accident, but at this point in time no criminal charges have been filed. However, Cruz’s office said that the driver of the tractor trailer, identified by Massachusetts State Police as a 33-year-old Hanover man, has not presently been charged with any crime or cited for any violations. The tractor-trailer unit is reportedly registered to M.J. Cimildoro Trucking in Hanover. However, the company that owns the trailer that was being hauled, Spiegel South Shore Scrap Metal of Brockton, was cited by State Police Friday for excessive air loss rate from the truck’s brake system, and a cracked lift hinge assembly frame, according to a Massachusetts State Police spokesman. State Police also reportedly notified Spiegel and the driver of other violations, including three inoperable lamps on the trailer and an inoperative horn. It’s also unclear whether those citations were a factor in the accident.

These issues are important legally, because they will help determine whether or not a successful liability claim can be brought concerning this young boy’s death. Thinking about a lawsuit at this point in time may seem heartless to think about following this boy’s tragic death, but the reality is that if key evidence relating to the accident is not preserved, and if important legal steps are not taken promptly to maximize the chances of a successful liability claim against the owners/and or operators of the truck and the tractor-trailer, then the prospects of recovering perhaps substantial damages for this boy’s family may be compromised or lost entirely. Liability insurance, which the owners of the truck and the trailer must by law carry, exists to provide for compensation following tragedies such as this.

Most people might ask: What kind of damages could be recoverable in a case like this, where a 12 year-old child is killed in a Massachusetts truck-pedestrian accident? First, any case would need to be brought by the boy’s next of kin, or legal guardian. This person is known legally as the “Personal Representative” of the victim’s estate. How can a 12 year-old child leave an “estate”? The word “estate”, legally, does not mean what many people think it means: Lots of money and wealthy real estate. Loosely translated, it simply means “whatever the person owned” – and this could be as little as $10.00.

Damages recoverable in such a case could include pain and suffering that the victim suffered prior to death, loss of society and companionship for the boy’s parents and/or family, as well as other possible damages too lengthy to adequately discuss here. As a Boston Massachusetts motor vehicle-pedestrian accident attorney, I’ve seen many of these types of cases: They can be complex, and a very experienced Massachusetts truck accident law firm is needed in these cases, because the damages in them tend to be very high. Car-pedestrian accidents are dangerous enough, but when Massachusetts truck-pedestrian accidents come into our office, it’s not uncommon that fatalities will be involved. The reasons for this: Trucks cannot stop as fast as cars; they are more unstable, the driver’s field of vision is not as wide and blind spots are worse; and, of course, they weigh far, far more than a typical sedan or similar motor vehicle.

Parents and care givers of children should never allow their kids to “just go rollerblading” or playing in the streets, unsupervised. As you can see, the results can be horrific.

My sympathies and condolences to young Mr. Nunes-Escobar’s family.

July 25, 2014

Massachusetts Nursing Home Patient Negligence: When Will This Industry Learn How to Improve? Part One of Two

A couple of events occurred recently that bring about this post and another post to follow on the subject of Massachusetts nursing home abuse. The first occurred just a couple of days ago, when a Middlesex County jury returned a verdict against a nursing home in a shocking case of patient neglect and abuse. While the amount of damages awarded in the verdict was shocking, what was even more shocking were the underlying facts that prompted the verdict against the nursing home, and the damages that were awarded to the plaintiff’s family: $14 million. This is the largest nursing home-related verdict in Massachusetts in at least ten years, according to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which reports on such verdicts.

Powerfully illustrating the shocking level of patient neglect and abuse in this case, $12.5 million was for punitive damages – damages that a jury or judge awards to punish the defendant for the particular wrongdoing alleged. Of the $14 million awarded to the plaintiff’s family, $1.5 million was earmarked for compensatory damages – to compensate the victim for pain and suffering.

Who was the victim in this story? An old woman by the name of Genevieve Calandro. Of course, she was once a young woman, vibrant and in full. Perhaps beautiful; perhaps passionate; perhaps funny; perhaps witty. But not when she was a patient in the now-defunct nursing home: Radius Health Care Center, once located in Danvers. There, she was a frail, weak, vulnerable old woman. She needed the dedicated and gentle care of the “nursing home professionals” that had been paid to care for her. And what happened instead was, literally, a nightmare.

Aside from many other indignities she suffered, Mrs. Calandro was left alone in her wheelchair often, until one day she fell out of it. Rushed to a hospital after the fall, Emergency Ward doctors were shocked at what they found:

• A severe, festering pressure sore on her back
• Acute appendicitis
• A urinary tract infection so poisonous that it had invaded her blood stream, creating a raging fever
• Kidney failure
• Uncontrolled diabetes
• Severe dehydration.

Can you imagine suffering from just one of these untreated conditions? Think about that for a while. Notwithstanding treatment by hospital doctors, the sum of all these physical ravages to her body prevailed, and this 90-year-old woman died several weeks later, in August of 2008. Garry Calandro, Mrs. Calandro’s youngest son, told reporters Wednesday that no amount of money could compensate the family for the pain and suffering that his mother was subjected to by this nursing home, but he held out hope that the unusually high verdict against the nursing home would cause the nursing home industry to re-think about patient care, treatment and safety. “That is the only way to send a message, or to punish people, and somebody in that business certainly needs to look at it with a more serious manner than just as a big money-making business,” he said.

What an awful way to die. What an awful way to live one’s last days. I pray that never happens to me or someone I love. As a Boston nursing home neglect and abuse lawyer, I have made it one of my primary practice areas to represent abused and neglected nursing home patients. I fight incredibly hard for these clients, as does the admirable law firm that represented Genevieve Calandro. Nursing home residents are among the most, if not the most, vulnerable members of our society. They are our mothers, father, aunts, and uncles. They were our teachers; our elders; those who helped, in one way or another, to make this world a better place – and we owe it to them to make sure that the companies that operate nursing homes and promise to care for these patients, DO just that: Care for them – not just warehouse them. They need to hire competent, well-trained and capable caregivers – not just low-wage “health aides,” without about all the qualifications and talents of a Walmart worker.

As long as I’m practicing law as a Massachusetts Nursing home abuse attorney, I’m going to make sure that this industry gets the message: Treat these patients the RIGHT WAY, or face the consequences legally – and financially.

July 6, 2014

Massachusetts Lawnmower Accidents: Among The Meanest Cuts Of All

Just about everyone who lives in suburbia has a lawnmower. It is as commonplace as a driveway. But that’s where things can get a little deceptive. What most people don’t realize is that lawnmowers are extremely dangerous. This year, more than 70,000 people will be injured due to a lawnmower accident of some kind. Yes, that beautiful summer day when you decide to manicure your lawn, under a warm sun and gentle breeze – can turn into a nightmare of the worst kind. Proven by an unexpected trip to the Emergency Room.

Here are some unbelievable statistics:

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, more than 235,000 adults and 17,000 children in the U.S. were injured by lawn mowers. And here’s where gender counts: Boys usually have 80% of lawnmower injuries, which most often occur on their arms or their hands.

What is even worse: Riding lawn mowers can cause more injuries annually than push mowers. Why? That’s because they can tip and roll over, placing a child - or a pet -- at risk of being run over and severely injured. Each year, according to CPSC statistics, about 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors, which typically back over them or tip over.

As a Westwood, Mass., lawn mower accident attorney, I’ve seen my share of lawnmower injuries. Also, many years ago, someone I know had a five-year-old nephew whose fingers were amputated by a lawn mower. This tragic incident is forever in my head every time that I cut my own grass. Yes, most people would acknowledge that lawnmowers are dangerous – but they typically have no idea of just how deadly they are. Typically, a mower’s steel cutting blade spins at more than 2,000 revolutions per minute. Worse, the blade tip may move at 200 mph.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, whose members care for lawnmower accident victims every day, reiterates these facts. The organization has estimated that the energy that is transferred by a typical lawn mower blade is almost the equivalent of being shot in the hand with a .357 magnum pistol. The results are horrific.

And to be more graphic: Here’s more bad news. An injury from lawn mower blade is typically not a “clean” cut. Usually, the wound is filled with grass, dirt, and other bacteria. The blade speed can also turn rocks, sticks, and other debris into deadly projectiles.

An engine mower is also dangerous; it can get so hot that it can ignite the gasoline, causing third-degree burns. More to worry about.

Mow The Lawn And Toe The Line

How can you protect yourself?

1). Check out the condition of your lawnmower before you use it. When something breaks, have it repaired - immediately.

2). Don’t ever use the mower without its safety equipment functioning properly. Most walk-behind mowers come with a special switch, called a “dead-man.” It shuts off the mower and applies a blade brake when the operator releases the handle. Don’t ever remove this switch or tie it down.

3). Also, most lawnmowers are equipped with a guard on the discharge chute. This plastic directs the mower discharge down and into the ground. If the mower hits a rock, the chute can keep it from shattering a window or striking someone. If the chute clogs while you are mowing, shut the mower off and use a stick to clear it – NOT your hand.

3). When you fill the gas tank, shut off the mower and let it cool before filling the tank.

4). Never mow the grass while barefoot or wearing sandals. Sneakers are probably best, as they protect your feet and also provide traction. Also wear close-fitting clothing that can’t be caught in the engine or in the gears.

5). Perform your due diligence. That’s “lawyer-speak,” but what it means is that you should check your lawn, before you mow the grass, to make sure there are no sticks or stones that might turn into projectiles by the lawnmower, and cause someone serious harm.

6). Keep children and pets as far away from the lawnmower as possible. Optimally, keep children and pets inside when you mow the lawn.

7). Whatever you do, don’t ever give a child a “fun ride” as a passenger on a lawnmower.

As I said above, every year, hundreds of children are run over, or have a limb or finger amputated when they have been “passengers” on a riding mower. Also, remember that it is prudent to make sure kids are at least 12 years old before they operate a push mower, and 16 years old before they use a riding mower.

If the nightmare of nightmare happens – and you or someone you love is injured in a Massachusetts lawnmower accident, promptly get in touch with our offices at (781) 320-0062 or (617) 285-3600. Our legal team can assist you in making the wisest legal decisions at this excruciatingly painful time.

April 18, 2014

Massachusetts Distracted Driving Accidents: This Kind of Stupidity is Global

I've blogged here repeatedly about the dangers of texting and driving. So today's post isn't so much about the inherent and obvious dangers of texting and driving - or phoning and driving - or web surfing and driving - or any form of distracted driving. For anyone who still doesn't get it, those dangers are OBVIOUS, and I don't need to restate them here.

No, today's post is about arrogance and shallowness and vapidness. And of how those far-too-prevalent personality characteristics pervade this world, even outside the United States. Click here to see a video story from the Huffington Post about this type of stupidity, from as far away as Australia. Note: If you can appreciate an impression of how a vapid young woman talks, you'll really like this.

Stunning, isn't it? But unfortunately, not exactly unwitnessed here in the good 'ol USA: As a Boston, Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, I see the sad and tragic effects of distracted driving all the time. The injuries that result from Massachusetts distracted driving violations are very often extremely severe - occasionally resulting in death. Whether due to texting and driving, phoning and driving, or web surfing and driving, the effects of a ton of steel and glass hitting someone else remain the same.

The message, once more: Use your head, and get OFF the (not so smart) phone.

April 1, 2014

Massachusetts Backover Accidents May Lessen Due To New Safety Rules

Anyone who has has been involved in – or responsible for – a Massachusetts automotive backover accident knows all too well the horror that ensues from such a terrible event. First comes the shock of knowing that you have actually backed over an adult – or a child – with your car. Then comes the emotional pain of possibly being responsible for such a terrible accident – and one that seems so highly preventable. As a Boston backover accident attorney representing injured parties, I know all about the recriminations plus the guilt and grief that responsible parties experience, in the wake of backover car accidents.

But nothing can compare to the tremendous serious personal injuries -- and deaths -- that affect the victims of Massachusetts backover car accidents. The devastation that vehicle backover accidents experience can be overwhelming. You can only imagine the pain, suffering and deaths that occur when tons of steel hit a human being. Children are especially vulnerable as victims of car backover accidents, as they do not understand the danger of playing near a car. In addition, their small size makes it difficult for drivers to see them in the rear-view mirror. The elderly are also vulnerable. If you were to be hit by a car – even one going only five miles per hour or less -- you would suffer broken bones, possibly a broken neck or back – and in many cases, death.

The most recent statistics, from 2010, indicate that every year more than 210 people die, while 15,000 more people are injured, in car backover accidents. These figures come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the NHTSA has just issued a ruling to try and reduce those statistics. The new NHTSA ruling requires all light vehicles – which includes cars, trucks, SUVs and vans -- to have “rear-view visibility systems,” which essentially means that these vehicles must have backup cameras. These cameras must afford all drivers a view directly behind the vehicle, measuring 10 feet by 20 feet. This rule would become final in the next two months or so, and would begin a two-year phase in period in 2016, becoming universally effective in 2018.

The NHTSA says that perhaps up to 69 lives will be saved annually, due to these new rear-view systems. Due to consumer demand, many automakers have already begun offering these new devices as standard or optional features. But there are still many vehicles on the road without such cameras.

Do you have a rear-view camera in your car yet? As a Dedham, Massachusetts backover accident lawyer, I cannot stress enough how important it is to still drive carefully and defensively, even if your vehicle is already so equipped. My advice? Always stay alert. And drive safely. And if you don’t have such a device in your car yet, when you are backing up your vehicle, always make sure to do so S-L-O-W-L-Y and with great caution. No matter the case, you can never be too careful when you put your car into reverse, with or without a backup camera installed in your car. You just might spare someone’s life.

March 22, 2014

Defective Products Recalls With GM & Toyota: Are You Safe?

Over the past few days, a lot of people have asked me about “What’s going on with all these automotive safety recalls?” There’s been a lot of media buzz about this subject, so let me give you a quick explainer.

Both GM and Toyota have been the subject of government and consumer organization investigations into deaths and injuries caused by defects in its motor vehicles. The defects in GM’s motor vehicles surround ignition switches, and with Toyota the defect involved driver’s side floor mats that caused a sudden acceleration in the vehicles. These types of product safety defects are legally known as defective product cases or product liability litigation. The deaths and injuries that were caused by these defects have occurred in several states. What makes this such a big deal, you might ask? Do manufacturing mistakes not happen, innocently? No large manufacturing organization is perfect, is it? Yes, innocent mistakes do happen, to everyone. And true, no corporation is perfect. But it’s not those points that are making the news with GM and Toyota.

No, it’s the same-old, same-old: Big business trying to cover up its mistakes, while unknowing consumers who buy the products that the company knows are defective, become injured or worse. You see, it’s become apparent, so far at least, that both GM and Toyota separately knew about the respective defects in certain of its cars, yet said and did nothing. Why? Why did Ford say nothing in the 1970’s when it knew that its now-famous Pinto model was a rolling time-bomb, with a defectively designed and shockingly unsafe gas tank? Why did the tobacco companies say nothing when they knew they were manufacturing a dangerously unsafe product with their addictive cigarettes? While many words can answer this question, one word strikes to the heart of it: Profit. These huge corporations quietly conduct their own cost-benefit analyses, and they determine that if they go public and release information about the defect, they will suffer more revenue losses in decreased sales, than they will if they’re sued here and there. So they say and do nothing.

Think I’m being perhaps a little too cynical here? You’d be wrong about that. As a Boston, Mass., defective products lawyer, I have seen so many cases of shockingly immoral corporate behavior when it comes to defective products cases and Massachusetts product liability cases, that it would stun most people. They say a leopard never changes its spots. When it comes to corporate misconduct, that expression could not be more apt.

Perhaps some minor, and very initial, credit should be given here to GM's new chief executive, Mary Barra. She has placed herself at the front of GM’s efforts to take responsibility for mishandling the defective ignition switches. A day after assuring her employees that GM is revising internal procedures to correct safety issues more rapidly, she appointed a director of global safety, Jeff Boyer, who is a longtime company engineer. Barra met with reporters this past week for the first time since last month’s recall, which is speedier than past automotive company presidents have done. But notably, she did not affirmatively say that GM would compensate the families of victims killed in crashes caused by its vehicles’ defective ignition switches. ‘‘I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,’’ she said. That’s a good start, but I suspect that this initial, out-front response may be a spin control effort to stem any threat to GM’s reputation and sales figures.

As for Toyota, this story is even worse: Following an extensive criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, Toyota has agreed - finally – to pay $1.2 billion (yes, that’s a “b,”) to settle that investigation, which surrounded deaths caused by the sudden acceleration of its vehicles. Don’t giver Toyota too much credit: It didn’t do so quickly, and it didn’t do so freely. Making the announcement earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed that the penalty was the largest in its category levied against an automobile company. The four-year criminal investigation resulted in Toyota admitting to misleading consumers and government regulators by assuring them that it had safely corrected the acceleration problem arising from its defectively designed product - its floor mats. When it made these safety “assurances,” Toyota knew that it had not recalled other vehicle models vulnerable to the very same problem. Toyota also deliberately concealed from government regulators a separate acceleration danger related to a faulty pedal. To quote Attorney General Holder, ‘‘In other words, Toyota confronted a public safety emergency as it if were a simple public relations problem.”

As I said, a leopard never changes its spots. Especially the very large corporate leopard.

P.S.: Update, Mar. 25 2014: If anyone wants to know the devastating, life-changing impact that kind of corporate deception (legally speaking, "nondisclosure,") can have on a person or family, see this story on GM's actions in The New York Times. Makes the point, doesn't it?

March 15, 2014

Liability Insurers Still Fighting Boston Marathon Claims, Almost One Year Later

As if we here in Massachusetts haven’t spent the past 11 months being inundated with the media’s (especially The Boston Globe’s) nonstop dead-horse-beating of last year’s April 2013 Marathon bombings, the media here is now gearing up to re-hype the whole thing all over again. Talk about both sickening and pathetic …

When this happened last year, the first thing I thought of was the direct victims of this event. However, the second thing I thought of, being a Boston injury lawyer, was the liability insurance claims that would follow the event, from affected businesses and individuals. The claims I’m referring to aren't injury claims, but instead property/casualty claims. They’re filed by businesses and individuals that suffered both physical property damage to stores and facilities, as well as economic losses from the events of that day. Claims submitted to insurers for economic losses generally arise from loss of revenues due to the fact that the businesses could not operate for several days or weeks after the bombing events. That type of claim is made pursuant to a special type of coverage known as “Business Interruption Insurance.”

Within all this renewed news media “coverage,” a little factoid has made its way out: I know this will come as a shock to many readers of this blog, but guess what? Many business in the Boylston Street, Dartmouth Street and Newbury Street areas of the Back Bay, are still fighting with their insurance companies because their coverage claims have been denied. Yes, even almost one year later. According to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, the state’s largest property /casualty insurers have paid a total of $1.9 million in bombing-related claims. First of all, as an attorney who works with liability insurance companies all the time, I can say that’s not a very high figure, given the number of businesses involved. Second, according to reports from The Boston Globe, insurers have rejected nearly half of all bombing-related claims connected to losses from business interruption. Third, insurers have also rejected payment for just fewer than 50% of claims for commercial property damage.

Of course, insurance industry officials insist there are valid reasons for all these rejected claims. Their answer, essentially: “It’s complicated.” Funny, I thought that was the name of a B-rated comedy film released in the past year…

As a Boston Massachusetts accident lawyer, I can assure you that this is par for the course when it comes to insurance companies. I see it every day in my Boston injury law firm. Whether it involves a Massachusetts car accident, a Massachusetts bus accident, a Massachusetts liquor liability claim, a Massachusetts Nursing home neglect case, a Massachusetts slip & fall claim, a Massachusetts negligent security claim, a social host liability claim or a Massachusetts wrongful death claim, it’s always the same story: If you don’t have a talented and experienced Massachusetts injury law firm at your side, insurance companies will take you to the proverbial cleaner. Their business model has always been the same – it’s remarkably simple, actually:

• Take in as many premium dollars as possible with slick and even humorous advertising (do Geico’s talking Gecko and Progressive’s Flo and ring any bells?)
• Invest premiums in the highest investment vehicles available, to generate maximum investment income.
• Deny as many claims as possible, using every legal and technical maneuver possible, to keep as much of money as possible.

Sad, but true. If you’ve been injured in a Massachusetts accident and wish to make any kind of a liability insurance claim, make sure you are represented by an experienced Massachusetts injury law firm.