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.

April 14, 2015

Patients Injured By Defective Hip Implants Should Seek Experienced Massachusetts Defective Hip Implant Law Firm

Almost everyone these days knows someone who has had a hip replacement; this type of surgery has become very common.

The problem is, many of the hip implants that were manufactured for this surgery, were defective and caused unwitting patients to suffer serious complications. Certain implants were recalled due to patient safety issues, and class action litigation on behalf of injured patients was commenced a couple of years ago against the manufacturer of these defective hip implants, known commonly as “Stryker implants.” The corporate name of the manufacturer is Howmedica Osteonics Corp. (“Stryker.”)

Last November 3, 2014, Stryker announced the formation of a National Settlement Program for affected patients who had received selected Stryker implants, and who met certain criteria. Stryker invited patients who had received the “Rejuvenate” and “ABG II” hip systems to participate in the settlement program, but also required that substantially all other eligible patients participate. Stryker offered the settlement program only to patients who have had their Stryker implant removed prior to November 3, 2014; who registered with the program online by December 16, 2014; and who enroll in the program by a deadline was extended to March 30, 2015.

The problem with Stryker’s program is that it is far too confusing for any patient to participate in, who is not represented by an experienced defective hip implant law firm. There are many patients injured by these defective hip implants who may not be aware of their legal rights and options, and dealing with a multi-billion dollar medical device manufacturer alone, without an experienced medical device attorney by your side, is a prescription for disaster. Because of the very complicated legal issues and procedures involved in this type of defective medical products litigation, any patient who has received a Stryker hip implants should immediately seek legal advice and counsel from an experienced defective hip implant attorney. This includes hip implant patients who:

1) May not yet be not eligible for this settlement program because they have not yet had their hip replaced;
2) Mistakenly believe that they have forfeited their rights to receive damages because they did not yet register or enroll in the program; or
3) Who have claims that need to be evaluated by a competent Massachusetts defective hip implant law firm, in order to determine whether they can receive damages under the settlement program.

Because of the manner in which Stryker has announced this settlement program, there are many patients who are still not aware of this defective hip implant recall. Other eligible patients may have been led to believe that their Stryker hip implant will not have to be removed, when it may need to be. Many patients may have substantial damages claims and require an experienced Boston defective hip implant law firm to represent their legal interests. These patients must speak with an expert Boston defective hip implant law firm before the statute of limitations prevents their claims from being acted on.

If you or someone you know has received a Stryker Rejuvenate or ABG II hip implant, please contact us by calling (617) 285-3600, or by emailing us by clicking here. We’d be glad to advise you as to your legal options, and what they involve.

February 20, 2015

Massachusetts Distracted Driving: You Snooze, You Lose

In my work as a Boston car accident lawyer, I have seen firsthand the devastation that is caused by accidents – everything from distracted driving to drunk driving. Texting, talking on cellphones, eating, applying makeup – these are all threats to everyone’s safety, when done when you are sitting in the driver’s seat.

But now, an auto manufacturer - one of the most upscale - has come up with a new feature in their cars, that is almost certainly going to make drivers fall asleep at the wheel. I’m not kidding.
Mercedes-Benz has designed a new car so that it creates a spa-like experience while you drive. My jaw has dropped as I read about this. I have represented people who have fallen asleep at the wheel, and trust me -- it isn't pretty. The new Mercedes-Benz S550 4-Matic was designed by German engineers to become a spa-like escape on four wheels. To me, this is the very definition of distracted driving.

Scent is pumped into the car, in four different aromas, and it turns off and on intermittently, so that your senses are not dulled to the smell. Some of the heated seats have a seat back that inflates and deflates, massaging your shoulder blades to lower back. Yes, that’s right – you get a relaxing, "mini massage" as you drive. In my opinion as a Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, heated seats and massage chairs lead to one thing: Dozing off. Falling asleep. And in this case, if you snooze, you really lose. Your life.

Other parts of the automobile are also heated – the armrests, door rests and even the steering wheels. Isn’t all of this car marketing just another way of turning the driver’s seat into a comfy bed? The only thing missing is a blanket and turndown service with chocolates.

I’ve heard of luxury car marketing, but this idea pushes corporate irresponsibility to its limits, and borders on automobile product liability.

Auto manufacturers should be creating safety features that help you to wake up and be alert behind the wheel. If you’re going to pump in fragrance, make those scents in coffee or sweet-orange oil to wake you up and energize you . Massage chairs for drivers' seats should be against the law. Heated massage chairs only want to make you snuggle up and snore.

For Heaven’s sake, please stay awake at the wheel and don’t fall for marketing that does NOT have your best interests at heart.

February 14, 2015

Don't Cause A Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Accident: Clear Snow & Ice From Your Vehicle!

We've all been there. You’re driving your car after yet another snowstorm. Traffic begins to move, and both the cars in front of you as well as yours, pick up speed. And then suddenly, from the vehicle in front of you, a totally unexpected block of snow or an “ice missile” smashes into your car windshield.

Like most motor vehicle accidents, it happens in the blink of an eye – you barely have time to react. You may not have even seen where the snow or ice came from. 9 times out of ten, it was from a vehicle in front of yours – and not necessarily the one immediately in front of yours: Depending on the speed of the vehicles in motion and the wind speed, that flying chunk of snow or ice may have come from two or even three vehicles ahead of yours. Most times, the snow dislodges from the roof, the hood or trunk lid of a vehicle. Why? Because the driver of that vehicle in front of you didn’t remove the snow from the hood, the roof or the trunk lid of his vehicle. It doesn't take an engineer to figure out what happens when a large amount of snow or ice is left sitting on a vehicle that's heated inside and is moving at any speed faster than 10 MPH: Driven by the wind speed produced by the car’s movement, that snow and ice will come off the vehicle - either in a blinding cloud of snow, or a huge piece of snow and ice,crashing into someone else's windshield.

The result? The startled driver slams on the brakes, swerves into another lane, loses control of the vehicle and either crashes into another vehicle or something like a tree, pole, or worse. These are the kinds of circumstances that can cause a fatal Massachusetts car accident. As a Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer, I've seen too many of these otherwise preventable accidents. Many drivers don’t realize that when they don’t remove snow from their car roofs, they’re creating extremely serious safety hazards on Massachusetts roads.

If an accident occurs because you did not clear the snow or ice from your vehicle, you can, be cited for either of two Massachusetts motor vehicle offenses: One is legally called "Driving with an Unsecured Load," which carries a fine of up to $200.00. This other is called "Driving To Endanger”; This is a more serious, criminal offense (as opposed to receiving a civil fine.) Either way, it's going to cost you. Connecticut passed an “ice missile law” last year, and police in that state enforce it vigorously. The Boston Globe previously ran an editorial exactly a year ago in February 2014, urging the Massachusetts Legislature to pass an equally specific law; click here to see that clip.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you. But if your vehicle is struck by snow or ice because another driver didn’t remove snow or ice from his or her vehicle, and you are injured in a resulting Massachusetts motor vehicle accident, you're going to need an experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation for your injuries, based on the damages involved.

As a Dedham, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I hope this post reminds all Massachusetts drivers to take the time to clear snow & ice off their vehicles, before they hit the road. We all have enough to worry about when driving in this awful winter weather, without having the unnecessary anxiety of never knowing if a flying avalanche will come crashing down and cause another Massachusetts car accident.

Use your head. And your hands, to clear that snow & ice off your car.

January 30, 2015

Reducing Massachusetts Liquor Liability Injuries: When Will Colleges Here Ban Hard Liquor on Campus?

If you've ever seen the movie Animal House you know the havoc that is wreaked from too much drinking, and the hazing that tragically still goes today on at many college fraternities around the United States.

It's always been pretty much acknowledged, at least tacitly, that this movie was based on the drinking culture that has for many years been reported at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, one of the world’s preeminent Ivy League colleges. Perhaps you’ve heard the nickname for Dartmouth's location? No, not Hanover, but Hangover, New Hampshire.

We’ll all that reported alcohol abuse may be at least slowing down, as Dartmouth College this past Thursday announced that it will ban hard liquor on campus. It will also forbid pledging at Greek sororities and fraternities – an event that usually entails binge drinking – and the college will require all students to undergo a special four-year program designed to prevent sexual violence.

As a Boston, Mass. liquor liability lawyer, I applaud Dartmouth College for taking the lead to curb drinking on its campus. Dartmouth is to be admired for its stance and having the courage to speak out and make sure that their school does not further tolerate excessive drinking on campus. The plan is called “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” and is designed to reduce dangerous behavior on campus.

I’m a Boston personal injury attorney, and I have seen firsthand the problems and tragedies that result when people drink too much. The script is usually all too familiar: Before you know it they get behind the wheel of a car and injure someone else – or kill them. Or their behavior gets out of hand – and they commit a sexual assault – or become the victim of a sexual assault. Or they simply wind up doing stupid things – like jumping off a roof – and permanently injure themselves by suffering a spinal-cord injury. The list goes on and on, and I’m glad that Dartmouth is enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on this issue. Though it should be noted that altruism is not likely the sole motivator behind this toughened campus policy: Liquor liability laws can hold colleges and fraternities liable for injuries caused to persons by students who become intoxicated on campus, and resultantly injure innocent persons. When a person becomes intoxicated at someone's home and later injures a third party because of that intoxication, a similar liability can attach to the person who hosted the gathering where the alcohol was served. The law that applies in that type of circumstance is called social host liability.

Dartmouth’s restrictions start at the end of this March 2015, and ban the possession or alcohol consumption of alcohol that is 30 proof or stronger than that. The Ivy League college will also create what they call a “consent manual,” which is meant to specifically outline what is acceptable – and not acceptable – in terms of sexual behavior, to reduce all "ambiguity." Not that I think "ambiguity" is a problem when it comes to sexual assaults.

Other colleges that ban hard liquor on campus include Colby, Bowdoin, and Providence colleges.
I hope that Massachusetts colleges will soon follow suit.

January 19, 2015

Massachusetts Texting & Driving Accidents: How To Stop Them? Part Two of Two

In my previous post on this subject, I discussed how Scott Tibbitts, a chemical and space engineer who previously designed motors and technology for NASA, formed a company named Katasi to find a way to tackle the problem of preventing people from texting while driving. Mr. Tibbitts devoted his time and energies to this task, following the death of a colleague who was killed by a driver who was texting while driving. This is a dangerous behavioral problem that has vexed public safety professionals for several years now.

Tibbitts and his team did it! Their answer is Groove: A small device that plugs into a port that’s located just under any steering wheel (these ports are located in most car models made after 1996): Once plugged in, the device connects the car to the Internet. Each driver of the vehicle must first be registered with Groove. Once that drive plugs his device into the port under the steering wheel, within seconds of the car moving, Groove determined who that particular driver is and immediately notifies that person's smart phone carrier (AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, etc.,) allowing the carrier to block all incoming distractions (such as texts) before they reach the phone. No worries about the texts being lost: After the ignition is turned off, Groove again notifies the carrier, and all messages and texts that were blocked while the car was on and moving, come rolling right in, so no messages are missed.

Obviously, the key link in making Groove work effectively and seamlessly is the cell phone carriers: Katasi is now working actively with two major U.S. carriers to deploy Groove in 2015, Tibbitts knows this is not enough. "Our goal is to have every carrier on board with Groove, providing the capability to limit distractions before they get to the phone when a subscriber is driving" he said.

Dave Sueper’s widow, Diane Misgen, told Couric that she was both honored and hopeful that Groove will make a huge difference, and prevent needless tragedies of the kind that took her husband from her. Speaking to Couric, she said "It was so reassuring to me that this was going to save so many lives. And I think for my kids, it's also heartwarming to know that someone else who had nothing to do with our family took on that challenge in honor of their dad."

As a Boston Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, my message in today’s post is to ALL of the wireless cell phone carriers in the United States: Get on board and be part of this incredible SOLUTION to this deathly epidemic. Stop dragging your feet in the name of expenses and corporate profits. Get off your butts and work with Katasi to make this a universal reality across this country, now.

To know more about Groove and find out whether it is available to you, visit katasi.com.