October 5, 2015

Massachusetts Legislature Should Ban All Cell Phone Use While Driving

I love what I do for work, but sometimes it just amazes me how – sorry to be so blunt – downright stupid some people can be.

How stupid, you ask?

How about driving a car while you’re dialing, talking, or texting on a smart phone? But don’t a lot of people do it, you also ask? Yes. And a lot of people drive drunk, too – which is, in terms of neurological motor skills, functionally about the same as using a cell phone while driving. Yet so many drivers continue to do this – placing not only themselves, but more importantly, their own passengers and other drivers at risk of horrific injuries and even death.

As a Route 128 car accident lawyer, I’ve seen far too many very serious injuries, that one way or another involve the use of a cell phone/smart phone. Once at a stop light, I’ve even saw a driver with ear buds in, apparently listening to an iphone. (Yes, you read that correctly - which caused me to immediately pull over, and call 911 to report the plate number, vehicle description and location. I’d rather see that driver cited, than know that he later killed someone on the road, perhaps because I did nothing to prevent it.) Countless public service advertisements have run, in both print and broadcast media as well as the internet, urging drivers to turn the phone off when driving. Especially admirable have been some of the wireless carriers, including AT&T Wireless’ “It Can Wait” Campaign; they even have an app to alert callers and texters that you’re in “driving mode,”: and can’t speak to them at the moment, but will get back to them soon. Another especially admirable effort has been “End Distracted Driving” – founded, tragically, by a fellow plaintiffs’ trial lawyer, Joel Feldman of Philadelphia, who lost his daughter Casey in a motor vehicle accident caused by distracted driving. Casey was walking in a crosswalk on a beautiful simmer afternoon, when she was hit by a distracted driver. She was 21.

Tragic stories like this are far more common than most people think. I've written about them previously on this blog. Now, after a lot of talk, the Massachusetts Legislature is poised to perhaps do something about this treacherous problem.

Public hearings will begin later today before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, to consider several bills that would require drivers to use hands-free technology such as Bluetooth. (Details are in that link.) Exceptions would be made for emergency situations, and they would be carefully defined to (hopefully) prevent abuse. (Translation: “Emergency” doesn’t mean you need to call the office, or home.) Our neighbor states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York and are alongside 14 states that have enacted hands-free laws. It’s time we in Massachusetts did the same – now. The Legislature passed a law in 2010 banning texting while driving by junior operators, age 18 or younger. Foolishly, the Legislature exempted drivers over the age of 18 from those provisions.

Please click on both of those links, above - the one for AT&T Wireless and End Distracted Driving. Don't just pass over them. The life you save, could be your own - or a loved one.

It’s time to fix this grave problem, now. I urge my readers to contact their state representatives and state senators, to urge enactment of a universal ban on all cell phone use while driving. If you don’t know your representative or senator’s State House phone number, you can get it here: (617) 722-2000. The Chairman of the Transportation Committee crafting this bill is Rep. William Straus, His State House phone number is: (617) 722-2400; email: William.Straus@mahouse.gov.

September 23, 2015

State Releases Names of Massachusetts Nursing Homes Falsely Advertising “Dementia Care", "Alzheimer’s Units.”

Readers of this blog know that I’ve reported previously on the subject of how many Massachusetts nursing homes have been found to advertise that they “specialize” in dementia care and Alzheimer’s Disease – when in fact, they have received no such credentialing from the state, at all. We all have the Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire to thank for exposing this serious problem.

This trend, of course, is little more if anything, other than a craven attempt by many nursing facilities to capitalize on the growing population of elders afflicted with these tragic disorders – and in the process, capture more market share. Now, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has publicly released the names of the Massachusetts nursing home facilities that have been cited for either outright false and misleading advertising about dementia care, or failing to submit required paperwork to prove that they are in compliance with particular state requirements for Alzheimer’s and other dementia-afflicted patients.

The list of these cited nursing homes, and the accompanying Boston Globe story by Kay Lazar, can be found by clicking here.

As a Boston nursing home neglect lawyer, I’m encouraged by this development – but I would caution anyone thinking of placing a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease or other form of dementia into a nursing home, to not fool themselves into thinking that just because such a facility might not be in violation of this regulation, that this therefore means the facility is a “good” one. The Massachusetts DPH may have said at some point in this review process that it will “penalize” the cited facilities and others for non-compliance with this new regulation governing dementia and Alzheimer’s care facilities, but it has not clearly defined what “penalized” means. As a nursing home attornmey with a lot of experience in this field, my guess is that it’s probably a slap on the wrist, relatively speaking.

People must do their own homework and investigation of the nursing facilities that they are considering – yes, investigate: Ask many questions; speak to other residents’ family members - outside the sight or sound of staffers. Notice things. Don’t look the other way. As a Brookline nursing home abuse lawyer, I’ve handled too many cases of nursing home abuse and neglect. And the best prevention is pre-admission investigation of the facility, and post-admission constant vigilance in the form of regular visits, staggered at times difficult for staff to predict, and watching everything very closely.

There are many Massachusetts nursing homes that are reputable, honorable, facilities, that care very much for their patients, and diligently try their best to care for them. Doing so is NOT an easy task - I'm very conscious of that, and very appreciative for the responsible, ethical nursing homes that are in Massachusetts. To the Massachusetts nursing home industry, I say this: I’m not the enemy; and I’m not antagonist. But I am a watchdog for the rights of Massachusetts nursing home residents, and I am a protagonist for their well-being and for constant industry oversight and improvement. And when I find documented, proven cases of nursing home neglect or abuse, I am, legally speaking, a nursing home’s worst nightmare.

I take great pride in that.

September 6, 2015

Massachusetts Pedestrian & Bicycle Accidents: A Growing Problem

If there is one bit of informal advice I’d give to newly-arriving Massachusetts college students, as well as to new grad school students in the Boston area, it’s this: Watch out when you’re traveling on a bicycle adn even walking as a pedestrian: The roads in Massachusetts, in particular the metropolitan Boston area, are anything but easy to navigate or understand. Massachusetts bicyclist-motor vehicle accidents, as well as pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents, are increasing in frequency. Accidents like this tend to spike with the annual late August arrival of hundreds of thousands of new students to the eastern Massachusetts and greater Boston area: Massachusetts is, after all, known (among other appellations) as the “College Capital of the Nation.”

As a Massachusetts pedestrian-motor vehicle accident lawyer and Boston bicycle-motor vehicle accident attorney, as well as a lifelong Massachusetts resident, I’ve seen far too many very serious injuries result from these types of accidents. The problem with the influx of new students, is that it presents the perfect storm for motor vehicle-bicyclist and car-pedestrian accidents: 1) These new students are completely unfamiliar with the confusing way Massachusetts roads are configured; 2) These students are also unfamiliar with the very aggressive – and frankly, discourteous, manner in which many motorists in Massachusetts operate their vehicles (there’s a name that has been earned for such Massachusetts drivers, but I’ll avoid it here); 3) Many young people think they’re invincible, and that serious accidents happen to “other people,” but not to them. All of these factors, and more, can create a lethal mix.

The Boston Globe recently reported about this growing problem. Click here to read that piece. So, to new students, returning students, new faculty, returning faculty, and to the year-round residents who live in Massachusetts, my informal advice is this: When getting around the streets of Massachusetts, whether as a pedestrian or a bicyclist, watch out and be careful. If not, the injuries that you could suffer can be a LOT worse than a skinned knee: As a Boston-area injury attorney, I’ve seen pedestrian-car, and bicycle-motor vehicle accidents, that have resulted in extremely serious, lifelong injuries – including paralysis and death.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a Massachusetts bike-car accident or a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident, after you have attended to first-line medical care, you should seek the professional advice of an experienced Massachusetts pedestrian-car accident lawyer. Depending on the facts of the accident, you may be entitled to receive substantial financial damages for your injuries.

Classroom learning isn’t the only valuable education you’ll get in Massachusetts: You’ll also learn to be very careful on the streets here.

August 26, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Home Advertising Update: “Alzheimer’s Specialty Care," “Memory Care” Advertising Now Scrutinized

In my previous posts on this important subject, I wrote of the growing number of Massachusetts nursing homes that are making advertising and marketing claims that they “specialize” in caring for Alzheimer’s Disease patients and other patients suffering from dementia. They like to use terms such as “Memory Care Center,” “Alzheimer’s Specialty Units,” and similar.

I’ve previously warned my readers not to buy this marketing so quickly. Over 60% of it is pure lies: Gross exaggerations that seek to capitalize on the growing population of people suffering from dementia. This week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Mass. DPH) announced the enactment of regulations that (in theory) prohibit Massachusetts nursing care centers and nursing homes from making these claims, unless they have first complied with certain qualifications.

This action by the DPH follows a July investigation by the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire of this growing trend of false and misleading advertising by Massachusetts nursing care centers. That study determined that over 60 percent of Massachusetts nursing facilities making claims of "specializing" in Alzheimer’s Disease, “Memory Care,” “Dementia Care, “Cognitive Care,” and similar, could produce no proof that these facilities specialized in any of these critical areas. In fact, most had not completed any specialty training, specialty staffing, physical plant design or program changes required to advertise as a nursing facility “specializing” in dementia care. These Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association’s discoveries mirrored those produced by a smaller investigation that The Boston Globe conducted in February 2015.

A letter from the DPH has been sent to all nursing home that states, “A facility which does not operate a dementia special care unit may not include a reference to dementia care or memory care in a list of provided services . . . even with a disclaimer that the facility does not operate a dementia special care unit.”

The Alzheimer’s Association has devoted years to advocating for similar laws, designed to close loopholes that had allowed nursing homes to make these false claims. James Wessler, president of the Alzheimer’s Association, commented that he is pleased with the new regulations, saying “We like to see dementia special care units, but we want to make sure they are providing the quality of care they should be providing.”

As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, so do I. I've seen far too many cases of Massachusetts nursing home patient abuse than I care to know. And I’m glad that these new regulations have been put into effect. But as a Boston injury attorney who is very familiar with nursing home neglect & abuse, I should warn anyone who might be impacted by this serious issue: Do NOT think that just because these regulations have been put into effect, that this “solves” the problem – that Massachusetts nursing homes & nursing care centers will all, immediately and permanently, obey these regulations. The Massachusetts DPH, unfortunately, is notoriously under-staffed and unreliable. You must be your loved one’s advocate, in making sure that whatever Massachusetts long-term care facility that your loved one is in, is providing appropriate care to your loved one. If you’re unsure and need the professional guidance of a Massachusetts elder care attorney, seek out an experienced one. Do not go to a generalist.

Post Script: On related note, I’ve previously written about Synergy Health Systems, an out of state nursing home chain with a horrible reputation for patient care, that’s been buying up smaller, locally owned Massachusetts nursing homes. State investigators have stepped up their investigation of this chain, finding even more disturbing instances of patient neglect than I previously blogged about. One of the more recent examples of this outfit is New England Health Center in Sunderland, Massachusetts. Boston Globe Reporter Kay Lazar recently reported on this she's a solid reporter. Click here to read that story.

August 10, 2015

Many Massachusetts Nursing Homes Claims of Alzheimer’s Care "Specialty Care" Are False – Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this important subject, I discussed how many Massachusetts nursing home centers, have in the recent past begun to advertise themselves as “Alzheimer’s Care Centers,” or claim that they “specialize” in caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. Many will adopt names such as “Memory Care Centers,” and similar. You’re seeing this sudden increase in such advertisements, because of businesses seeking to maximize profits from the exponential increase among the population in the number of people being afflicted with Alzheimer’s and similar memory-related disorders or dementia.

Much of this Massachusetts nursing home advertising is false, driven by nothing more than the never-ceasing corporate desire to take advantage of new profits – at almost any cost (the truth being the least important.) As revealed in my previous post on this problem, the Alzheimer’s Association of Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire recently released a study showing that almost 60 percent of nursing homes make such false claims, and are engaging in false advertising. Worse still, these businesses – many owned by large chains – are flagrantly violating state laws designed prohibiting nursing homes from making false claims about their nursing and patient care services.

As a Boston and Dedham, Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, this news doesn’t surprise me. It sickens me, but it doesn’t surprise me. Sadly, I see it all too often. Some of the worst offenders? Genesis HealthCare, the largest nursing home operator in the nation, owns 34 Massachusetts nursing home facilities. From all present appearances, Genesis HealthCare appears to be violating Massachusetts law with almost half of those nursing homes - 18 of 34, according to the Alzheimer’s Association review. Websites for those 18 nursing homes advertise “dementia care services,” but then state in much less prominent language that they do not have a dementia specialty care unit, as term is defined by Massachusetts law.

Genesis’ response when confronted with this fact? A formal statement claiming that the firm had worked closely with state health department to “ensure that our language was clear and met all state regulations” – then claimed that their “disclaimer language” was added at Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) regulators’ suggestion. The Mass. DPH disputed Genesis’ characterization, stating “A nursing home that advertises itself as providing dementia care would be in violation of the nursing home licensure regulations if it has not met the dementia special care unit requirements, including the filing of a disclosure statement with the department, even with a disclaimer statement that it does not have a specialized dementia care unit.”

The Massachusetts DPH is like many other state agencies that are charged with protecting the most vulnerable of our population, but fail far too often in doing so. (The Massachusetts Department of Children & Families – DCF – should spring to mind on that point.) The DPH is facing a barrage of rapidly increasing complaints from elder care advocates who say the DPH is stalling on several critical fronts and failing to ensure the safety of frail and elderly Massachusetts nursing home patients. I’ve written recently about another nursing home chain operator, Synergy Health Centers, that have come under extensive media scrutiny and criticism for failing to adequately care for its nursing home patients. Synergy Health Centers is an out-of-state, rapidly expanding nursing home chain that has bought 11 Massachusetts nursing homes since December 2012.

Who are Synergy Health Centers, Genesis Health Care and similar nursing home chains buying these nursing homes from? Typically family-owned and run nursing centers, who can’t compete with these large corporate chains, and are offered attractive purchase terms by these deep-pocketed nursing home chains.

As a Boston Massachusetts nursing home abuse attorney, I caution anyone thinking of placing a loved one in a Massachusetts nursing home – whether for Alzheimer’s Disease issues or other reason: 1) RESEARCH the ownership of the corporation that owns the nursing home. 2) Do NOT accept believe advertising claims of “specialty” care for Alzheimer’s patients. 3) Establish a one-on-one, personal relationship with both the General Manager and Director of Nursing at any Massachusetts nursing facility you place your loved one in, and make it very clear that if your loved one is neglected in any way, that you’ll seek an experienced Massachusetts nursing home neglect law firm. 4) Visit your loved one, regularly – and pay close attention to how that person is being care for. 5) Do not rely on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, or any relevant state regulators, to protect your loved one’s medical interests. You simply can’t. You must do this, yourself, with vigilance.

Think of your loved one. And be vigilant.

July 24, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Homes That Claim To “Specializing” in Alzheimer’s Care, Probably Don’t

Make a buck – at any cost. That’s what drives so many businesses, whether it’s product manufacturing or service providers. False or misleading advertising? Means nothing to most businesses.

But it should, especially when it comes to caring for the most vulnerable members of society: The elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Yet, still, it doesn’t. Exhibit “A”: The rapid rise in the number of Massachusetts residents and other Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. As the population ages and lives longer, the increase in elderly people who become afflicted with this horrid disease (and even relatively younger people in their fifties,) is exploding exponentially. And with this explosion of Alzheimer’s victims, comes an economic opportunism that in some cases is even criminal: Nursing homes who advertise that they “specialize” in the care of Alzheimer’s patients - when they don't have any such "specialty." Many of these Massachusetts nursing homes even call themselves Alzheimer’s “Care Centers.”

The truth? Most of them are nothing more than standard nursing homes; warehouses for the near-dead and worse-off-than-dead. I know that there are many nursing homes out there that are better than most; that their owners and operators try their best to provide the best care to their patients that they can. And I wish there were more ethical nursing homes. But as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect & abuse attorney, I can tell you that the sad fact is that the majority of nursing homes, inside Massachusetts and outside, are horrid places. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can't.

This sad fact was brought out in a recent Boston Globe story, which exposed the fact that almost 60 per cent of Massachusetts nursing homes regularly engage in false claims that they provide “special” care for Alzheimer’s patients and other dementia victims. Don’t believe these claims. The Alzheimer’s Association of Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire recently released a review that made clear that at least 60 percent of nursing homes that make such claims, are engaging in false advertising. Reason: They know there’s a fast-growing market out there; there’s cash to be made – and many nursing homes don’t care how they make it. The Alzheimer’s Association studied advertising from nearly 320 nursing homes, and discovered that 114 of them either advertised or suggested that they provide “special” care to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other cognitive impairments -- but provided no proof that they have complied with new “regulations” concerning such nursing home claims.

If you are either considering a nursing home for a loved one, or now have a loved one in a nursing home, don’t rely on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to assure the care of your loved one. The DPH, which oversees Massachusetts nursing homes, has done little if anything to ensure compliance with new laws governing nursing homes and Massachusetts assisted living facilities. They’re under-staffed, and under-motivated. This is despite the fact that the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association fought extremely hard to pass a new law in 2012 designed in part to prohibit deceptive and misleading advertising by nursing homes in this state. James Wessler, president of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association, has stated that “People’s lives are at risk. This is misinformation to the general public, and it’s one of the things we wanted to stop — having nursing homes claiming they have special care and not be in compliance with minimal standards of dementia care.”

State Senator Patricia Jehlen, who chairs the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs and who also cosponsored the 2012 dementia care law, is troubled by the Alzheimer’s Associations findings. “This is wrong,” said Jehlen. “Families need to know this was the intent of the law, that [nursing homes] could not make false claims and there would be some quality standard. People [in the Legislature] are very concerned.”

The unfortunate truth is that this new law is a toothless tiger: It is completely lacking in enforcement – and the DPH itself has publicly acknowledged that its nursing home “inspectors” do not monitor compliance with this law, at all.

Shocking, isn’t it? Though, more accurately, a better term would be “immoral,” “unconscionable,” or “reprehensible.” Take your choice. To learn which Massachusetts nursing homes are among the worst offenders, look for my next post on this subject, is a few days.

Why should you stay informed and active on this subject? Because not only may a loved one of yours one day in the future become a victim of Massachusetts nursing home neglect or abuse. You might, too.

July 2, 2015

Plymouth Massachusetts Construction Site Accident Death A Reminder of Special Dangers in Construction Industry

When it comes to accidents and injuries, most of what we read and hear about in the average news cycle concerns Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents. Obviously, that’s a function of the number of vehicles on the road, and mathematics.

Not so often seen, or written about, are Massachusetts construction site accidents. These types of accidents are often of the catastrophic variety, since they usually involve heavy equipment and dangerous working conditions. When construction workers suffer injuries on the job, they can be extremely serious. Unfortunately, that reality was brought home on Tuesday of this week, when a man who was operating a front-end loader was crushed and smothered to death by an avalanche of sand at a construction site in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. at the P.A. Landers work site on Hedge's Pond Road, according to a statement issued by the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office. Upon arrival, first responders found the driver of the front-end loader apparently trapped underneath almost 150 feet of sand where the loader had been operating. That driver was Charles Pace, 66, of Whitman, Massachusetts. According to investigators, an avalanche approximately 150 feet high came cascading down upon the machine and its driver. Rescue workers tried in vain to reach the victim, but were forced to retreat because as they dug in to the avalanche that had buried the driver, more sand just kept collapsing down from the mountain of sand above them. Rescuers were not able to retrieve the man’s body until 4 hours later. Plymouth Fire Department Chief Edward Bradley commented that Mr. Pace's death was due to “a combination of suffocation with all the weight of the sand. It came cascading down the hill. It's like an avalanche with snow on it except it was all sand."

Mr. Pace was pronounced dead at the scene. According to a son, his father had been working with P.A. Landers for 14 years and had three children and 8 grand-children.

What an awful tragedy for this man, and his family. Initial reports claim that the work site had been inspected a few weeks ago, and reportedly passed. OSHA investigators have been assigned to investigate the accident. Fox 25 Boston provided some photos of the accident scene.

My sympathies go out to Mr. Pace’s children, his family and loved ones. As a Massachusetts construction site accident attorney, I’ve seen terrible construction site accidents like this, too often. Obtaining legal compensation for the survivors of such fatalities takes successful experience with construction site fatalities; the ‘average’ law firm really isn’t suited for this type of specialized litigation. This tragedy underscores once more, that more vigilance must be paid to worker safety, to hopefully prevent future such Massachusetts Construction site accidents.

June 15, 2015

Massachusetts Car Accidents: Hitting The Guard Rail

This post is intended to discuss something that is so prevalent in our society that we just assume is designed to be safe, and never really think otherwise: The guardrail.

Anyone who has ever driven on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Route 128 or Route 495 is familiar with the metal guardrails on the highway; they're even used on side roads. But instead of safety devices, have you ever thought of them as dangerous structures? Probably not.

A guardrail is there for your protection. Its first order of business is to protect your car from dangerous structures or conditions – such as trees on the side of the road – or sharp drop-offs or slopes on the side of the road. They are aslo designed to prevent motor vehicvle impacts with manmade obstacles such as utility poles. Its primary purpose – and perhaps its most important role -- is to deflect your vehicle away from an at-risk area (i.e., a sharp sloping at roadside, a tree or dangerous structure of some kind, or a body of water) if the vehicle comes into contact or impact with the guardrail. Properly-manufactured guardrails are designed to deflect your vehicle away from what is beyond the guardrail, help the vehicle to slow down, and "guard" the occupants of the vehicle from the hazard that the guardrail is protecting vehicles from. Ideally, a well-made gaurdrail will prevent serious injuries or fatalities in Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents.

So you can just imagine the horror of a faulty guardrail that, instead of slowing your vehicle down, malfunctions and spears through your car – slicing off one of your limbs, or impaling you inside the car. The aftermath can be devastatingly horrible.

It’s awful to think about, but just this week, a manufacturer of highway guardrail systems was told by a Texas judge to pay $663 Million for defrauding the U.S. government, for not disclosing changes that had been made to its guardrail system. This manufacturer – Trinity Industries Inc. – was also tied to at least nine deaths, due to its defective guardrails that malfunctioned and pierced through crashing cars. At this writing, Trinity is defending about 20 other personal-injury cases alleging that their ET-Plus guardrail system is defective. Last year, a jury in a federal trial had also found that the Trinity company had cheated the government by not disclosing changes that had been made to the ET-Plus system in 2005.

We all assume that the guardrails are on Massachusetts highways to protect us and safeguard all drivers – but the fact is, you can never know just how safe the guardrail is – until it may be too late. As a Massachusetts guardrail accident attorney and a Route 128 car crash lawyer, I have seen far too often the devastation that is caused by motor vehicle accidents, especially car accidents that hit a guardrail. You can never be safe enough on the road.

With that said, I'll remind all Massachusetts drivers to drive defensively, to drive as safely as possible, and to always stay alert behind the wheel. If you hit a Massachusetts guardrail on a roadway and are injured because the guardrail collapsed or penetrated your vehicle, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts guardrail accident lawyer.

June 6, 2015

Massachusetts Car Accidents Can Happen Anytime

I constantly tell my wife Debbi to be careful on the road. As a Dedham, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I know all too well the danger that lurks on the road – everywhere. And when you least expect it.

Recently, we were traveling from Connecticut back to Massachusetts, after a wonderful family gathering. Debbi was driving, and I laid down in the front passenger seat, trying to get a catnap.

Then the most scary and incredible thing happened. We were somewhere on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and I suddenly was startled – I unexpectedly heard a car fly by us in the left lane, going at least 100 miles an hour. It jolted me awake. I heard Debbi gasp and I sat up and saw the car whizzing by. We were both alarmed by the unexpected appearance of that car speeding in the left hand lane – it came out of nowhere – and the driver was clearly going way too fast. My wife said, “Thank Goodness I was in the middle lane – if I had been in the extreme left lane, we wouldn’t have had time to switch lanes and move over. We undoubtedly would have been one more Massachusetts Turnpike car accident.”

We were visibly shaken by this incident, but the dangers didn't end there. As we later drove on Route 128, Debbi was going about 55 miles an hour in the middle lane – and suddenly there appeared a broken orange cone, smack in the middle of the lane. She was going slow enough that she had time to slightly swerve left and avoid it – but what would have happened if there had been another car directly to the left of our car? We most definitely would have been injured -- or killed.

Route 128 Massachusetts car accidents happen all the time. Many of them produce lifelong injuries, and even death; these tragic stories appear in the news every day. Drivers need to pay attention at every moment and never take their eyes off the road. Of course, I've said and written this many times, but I’ll say it again anyway – NEVER text and drive, which is illegal in Massachusetts. The best rule of thumb? It comes from an old advertising campaign for safe driving from the 1960s: Watch out for the other guy. And drive defensively.

May 18, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Cases Spike With Corporate Acquisition - Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of the disturbing trend of out-of-state corporations buying up smaller and struggling Massachusetts nursing homes – with extremely disturbing - not to mention unconscionable - results. One particularly egregious example of this new practice is found with a New Jersey and Florida company called Synergy Health Centers. They’ve bought up at least ten Massachusetts nursing facilities – almost all experiencing drastic decreases in patient care from the moment Synergy Health took over.

Some examples that state regulators have discovered:

• Elderly left to soak in their own urine and feces (New England Health Center, Sunderland Massachusetts.)
• Sudden spikes in lax infection control – a baseline requirement to any medical facility (Braemoor Health Center in Brockton.)
• Patients developing pressure sores because they weren’t turned or repositioned in bed – and then being neglected for weeks.
• Dishes and eating utensils found floating in dirty water.
• Insufficient staffing of nurses to care for patients in facilities.

Should anyone really be surprised at this unconscionable result? What’s going on with Synergy just reflects the increasing presence of corporate chains in the nursing home business – and the escalating worries of nursing home patient watchdogs. While some of these chains aren’t as bad as most, the fact remains that most are bad – very bad. As a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home neglect lawyer, I've seen this happen so many times it turns my stomach. Their M.O (method of operation).: Buy financially struggling nursing homes at fire sale prices. Slashing staff wages to the bone. Cut quality of products and services provided. And when cited for these unconscionable actions? Deny it. Just as Synergy’s founders have done, dismissing all of the above violations, and more, as “growing pains.” Some patients’ relatives are even afraid to speak to the media, out of fear that their loved ones will suffer even more neglect, as retaliation. The Boston Globe published a story on May 5 2015 on Synergy and its nursing home patient neglect. Relatives of three such residents refused to be quoted by a reporter out of fear that their family members’ “care” would coincidentally decline.

Since my previous post on this subject,The Boston Globe has published another, follow-up story on this disturbing issue: Massachusetts health regulators confirmed last week that officials still have no firm time frame for increasing the investigation of Massachusetts nursing home sales and closings. This despite the fact that the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation 10 months ago, requiring stricter nursing home scrutiny. Worse, this inaction by the state is taking place in the wake of the rapid expansion of Massachusetts nursing home purchases by Synergy Health, and the corresponding decrease in quality of care at those nursing homes.

The admission came as a member of a board that sets state health policy urged regulators to move more swiftly, especially with the increased pace of for-profit companies buying up family-owned nursing homes. Dr. Alan Woodward, a member of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, urged much faster action by the state, commenting, “We have seen some sudden closures, and more of the for-profits coming in, and allegations about their quality of care.” State Senator Harriette Chandler, the Senate majority leader who championed the law passed last year requiring greater scrutiny of Massachusetts nursing home purchases, has stated that she is troubled the new is being effectively ignored. “There are lives that are being jeopardized as a result of not having these regulations,” Chandler said. “That’s why we [passed] the law, so nursing homes would not be bought and sold literally in the dark of night, and nobody would have a chance to comment.”

Had state officials implemented this important law, three of the most recent Synergy Health nursing home acquisitions — in Brockton, Revere, and Wilmington — would have undergone investigation and review before the deals were completed. Roughly 40,000 residents live in Massachusetts’ 420 nursing homes. Their well-being and safety is at risk.

Will anything be done about this shameful problem?

Answer: Not unless the public speaks up and demands that firm action be taken, and now. That means you, and me, and anyone who has ever had a loved one or friend in a nursing home. Call your state representative and state senator: Ph.: (617) 722-2000 – and tell them that you want immediate steps to be taken to make Massachusetts nursing home residents safer, by investigating conditions within these facilities. If you don't know who your state representative or state senator is, click here.

No excuses - Act. Do something positive. In the event you think this isn’t really relevant to you, consider this: You yourself may end up in one of these facilities one day: Even if you aren’t “getting up there” in age, you could be injured or become chronically ill, and find yourself in a place like these, long before you ever thought you might.

May 6, 2015

Massachusetts Nursing Home Neglect/Abuse Cases Jump With Corporate Acquisition

As a Boston injury lawyer, there’s one thing I cannot stomach or tolerate, and that’s the abuse or neglect of a patient in a nursing home, or “skilled nursing facility.” Most people I know dread the thought of visiting the majority of these places – and with good reason: Unless the facility is one of the most expensive, highly-rated nursing homes in Massachusetts, what happens inside these places would likely shock you.

Such as what? Try to think of the following (warning: You’ll need a strong stomach for what follows)::

• Urine-soaked diapers being left on a patient for hours on end. Even worse – feces-soaked diapers.
• Pressure sores – bed ulcers – going untreated for days and even weeks – resulting in wounds so bad they perforate muscle.
• Cold meals that are left in front of patients who can’t feed themselves.
• Patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia disorders being given anti-psychotic drugs – as though they were mentally ill.
• Patients who are strapped into beds and left there for hours on end.
• Patients who are not given medications that are prescribed for them.
• Patients whose calls for help are not answered for hours.
• Poor infection control – making many nursing facilities giant manufacturing plants for bacteria and viruses of all kinds – which end up infecting a near-majority of Massachusetts nursing home residents
• Patients that are physically abused and man-handled as though they were furniture.

How and why does this type of inhuman treatment of other human beings take place? A variety of factors, but Number One on that list is: Corporate greed and indifference - the drive for profit at the expense of morality and decency. Couple that with a lax regulatory enforcement system due to strained state government budgets, and you have the Perfect Storm for this type of abuse to become commonplace.

Exhibit “A” : A company called Synergy Health Centers – a large corporation that has been a recent entry into the Massachusetts nursing home market. Who are they? They’re a business headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. What do they do? They’re a chain that buys up unprofitable nursing home facilities throughout Massachusetts and other states. While they claim to be in the admirable business of providing adequate care to the residents of their facilities, advertising that Synergy provides the “finest in clinical and rehabilitative services,” and “impeccable customer service,” the facts tell a very different, opposing story: A story of patient neglect on a scale that is shocking to even the most veteran regulators and industry-watchers. Synergy essentially buys up existing nursing homes that are struggling financially due to low reimbursements from the federal and state governments (Medicare & Medicaid.) They swoop in, buy these unprofitable “skilled nursing facilties” (don’t let that term ever fool you,) and then cut costs and quality to the bone, at the expense of the patient neglect and human suffering that results in these facilities. Worse, as part of this corporate strategy, these multi-state nursing home chains set up shell companies that they pay “administrative fees” to. Why? To shift the money they make from this human suffering, to subsidiary companies: This practice shields their profits if they are sued due to this rampant neglect. For example, they’ll set up a real estate company, a management company, or a staffing firm that hires the employees. They’ll set up specialized companies for “physical therapy services” and “occupational rehabilitation.” It’s nothing than a shameful (but legal) shell game.

Some examples of what results from such practices:

• New England Health Center, a nursing home operated by Synergy Health Centers in Sunderland Massachusetts, was found by state regulators for leaving elderly soaked in urine, due to cheap, inadequate adult diapers.
• Braemoor Health Center in Brockton, also owned by Synergy Health Cednters, had a blemish-free state review before Synergy took over. After Synergy took over, health inspectors were called to the facility three times in just the past year alone, finding lax infection control, among other serious inadequacies.
• In another Synergy nursing facility, a patient’s pressure sores had been neglected for weeks.
• In yet another Synergy nursing facility, serving dishes and eating utensils were found floating in dirty water, just before being used to serve food.
• In yet another Synergy nursing facility, there weren't enough nurses to care for the number of patients in the facility.

As a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, this infuriates me. But it doesn’t surprise me. State regulator reports have documented the shocking increases in these types of problems that have developed since Synergy arrived in Massachusetts. Tracking this increase in Massachusetts nursing home patient neglect, Synergy's expansion in this state has been extremely rapid — the chain bought 10 Massachusetts nursing homes since December 2012 - a little more than 2 years ago as of this post. Those facilities are located in in Amesbury, Arlington, Brockton (where they own two), Newton, Revere, Sunderland, Watertown, Wilmington, and Worcester.

I’ll report more on this troubling (but predictable) problem- and what people can do about it - in my next post, in a couple of days.

May 3, 2015

Massachusetts Workplace Fatalities: Too High A Number

Most people are aware that there are a high number of fatalities involving motor vehicle accidents and such, but I’ll bet that most aren't aware of the number of people killed on the job in this state. The fact is, Massachusetts workplace fatalities happen more frequently than many think.

A report released jointly a few days ago by two labor groups - the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupation Safety and Health, revealed that fifty (50) workers died due to injuries they suffered on the job last year in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, transportation workers — taxi drivers, bus drivers and truck drivers, figured prominently in the Massachusetts employee deaths report. Equally unsurprising, but troubling still, were too many deaths caused by falls from heights, such as those involved in Massachusetts construction site injuries and Massachusetts scaffolding injuries.

As a Boston Massachusetts construction site accident lawyer, I've seen too many of these types of injuries – they can be horrific. Another fact that might surprise some people is that – yes, people are murdered in the workplace: Three Massachusetts workplace homicides took place in 2014, in just the first three months of 2015, another three took place.

Rule of thumb from an experienced Boston accident lawyer: Don’t ever “assume” that being at your job, can’t get you seriously injured – or even killed. It does happen.