Articles Posted in General

OK – The holidays are now over, it’s now officially 2017, and we all (or at least I) face three cold, icy, miserable months ahead until we can hope for signs of spring.  (Sorry to you ski-lovers for this description, but I’m made for summer.)  Cold, ice, snow and slush make for dangerous conditions, whether it’s driving or walking.  A lot of different types of accidents can happen in winter, most notably slip and fall accidents as well as car accidents.  This being so, I thought a “Top Ten List” of what people should do right away if they’re injured, would be helpful, so here goes:

  1. First, get appropriate medical attention: Obviously, this is the most important thing after suffering a serious accident or injury. There are many types of injuries, where physical symptoms do not become immediately apparent, but instead take time to symptomize.
  2. If at all possible, use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene! If you are so badly injured that you cannot take pictures, and but there is a passenger or a witness who can take photos, have them do it.  Also, have several photos taken of yourself, even if you are bleeding, or on a stretcher.  It is extremely important to secure and preserve photographic evidence of an accident scene!   While this may seem gory or extreme at first thought, such photos will become very important later on when the defendant’s insurance company claims that you were not seriously injured (which they almost certainly will.)

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.

What to say today?

That I hope all who read this blog, whether occasionally or regularly, will be spared the suffering of an accident or injury this day and this season. But that won’t happen. In fact, a story of a motor vehicle accident beyond comprehension in its tragedy occurred this very day, Christmas Day, in nearby New Hampshire. I’ll write it about it tomorrow – it’s late and I’m tired. But I am all too conscious that this story could be about me or someone I love.

Never take your eyes off the road. Not for a second. The tragedy that can happen in an instant is beyond words. As a Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer, I know this all too well.

Move over, Big Tobacco. You may be soon joined by Big Football in being named defendants in personal injury lawsuits, as more victims of traumatic brain injuries realize where their injuires came from, and hold the responsible parties legally accountable.

That’s right. There has recently been a new spate of concussion lawsuits filed on behalf of retired National Football League players. Inevitable comparisons are now being made, comparing these concussion lawsuits to those filed by smokers who sued tobacco companies many years ago. An Associated Press review found that more than 2,400 retired football players are now plaintiffs in concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NFL. It includes players, spouses and other relatives or representatives as plaintiffs in the suits. They hope to win settlements that would approach the landmark, $206 Billion settlement that Big Tobacco shared among 46 states almost 15 years ago.

The plaintiffs are saying that the NFL knew that there were correlations between player head injuries and permanent brain injuries, and that the NFL was guilty of negligence and failed to take appropriate action — that they knew that concussions could lead to brain damage, yet hid that information. The plaintiffs are accusing the NFL of negligence and intentional misconduct in its response to the dizziness, headaches and dementia that the plaintiffs suffered. The NFL, of course, denies this, citing as evidence of their “concern”, a “committee” that they formed in 1994 to “study” the issue. Thisi group, the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee , was, in my opinion as a Boston-Dedham brain injury lawyer, a classic public relations distraction strategy: When an organization knows they’ve done something wrong in some serious manner, they immediately follow the standard public relations playbook strategy: Form a “committee” to “study” the issue, which is designed to make observers and the public think that something serious is being done to effectively address the issue, when in fact nothing of any substance is being done, and nor is anything going to be done. It’s a standard “Smoke and Mirrors” evasion & distraction strategy. The proof in this example? I’m aware of no aggressive, responsive, corrective measures taken by either the NFL, or this “Committee,” since 1994. If such aggressive, responsive, or corrective measures were ever taken by the NFL in the last 18 years, I’d be open to hearing about them.

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote about how many people who suffer an injury or accident due to someone else’s negligence, often don’t seek the advice of an attorney experienced in this area of law, because they think their cause “doesn’t qualify.” That’s unfortunate, because the law provides such people with legal rights to in many circumstances seek compensation for their injuries under the Massachusetts laws of negligence.

Another frequently overlooked type of accident, in which people simply “stick it out” without talking to a lawyer – is Massachusetts slip and fall accident. This is one of the most common accidents that people can suffer, and they can occur on someone’s private property (say, at someone’s home) or, more frequently, at a store or a business. There is absolutely no reason that you should suffer often serious injuries from a slip and fall accident, and not try to secure financial damages to compensate you. Broken wrists, fractured ankles, back spasms, nerve damage – these and other kinds of serious injuries can last for years if not a lifetime, and should be viewed lightly.

Many people (of course) also simply do not understand product liability law. This area of law covers almost every product marketed in the United States, whether it’s an automobile (remember the Ford Pinto?), a defective pool slide, or a children’s toy that has dangerous manufacturer’s defects. A skilled Massachusetts product liability attorney will make sure that you receive financial damages you deserve for any injuries you suffer due to the negligence of a person or a business.

As a Boston-Dedham injury attorney, I am always shocked when I talk to people who have suffered a Massachusetts personal injury – and learn that they never brought their case to a Massachusetts injury lawyer. I find the reasons to be sometimes shocking. Most either minimze the importance of their injury or they mistakenly believe that they have to pay exorbitant legal fees, when the fact is that in all injury cases, lawyers are paid on a contingent-fee basis. Thisi means that an attorney is paid only AFTER the attorney wins the case and the client receives compensation for his or her injuries. The contingent legal fee system isn’t “jackpot justice,” as critics of our civil justice system like to call it. Quite the opposite, the contingent legal fee system provides the “Keys to the courthouse” for average Americans who could otherwise never afford to take on large corporate defendants and their liability insurance companies.

I’m here to tell you now about some of the Massachusetts injury cases that can often cause life-long injuries and are important to seek qualified plaintiffs’ legal counsel about.

For example, many people don’t follow up with a lawyer after a Massachusetts car accident, because they erroneously believe that their injury “doesn’t qualify” for a lawsuit. I can assure you that even if you suffer minor soft-tissue damage, it is important to speak with an experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer, because this is a complicated area of law, and the vast amjority of people wouldn’t know what their auto insurance policy says, or what their rights were. The fact is, the majority of soft-tissue type injuries that occur in a car accident, don’t fully develop symptoms for days and perhaps weeks later. Even if you did not suffer broken bones or scarring, you can still seek legal compensation for your damages, after your medical bills exceed $2,000. This $2,000 figure is a “tort threshold” that must be met first before an auto accident victim can file suit for damages in Massachusetts. Even a minor soft-tissue damage injury may involve multiple visits to a doctor, chiropractor, orthopedist, licensed physical therapist, and even muscular massage treatments. All these therapies can qualify in reaching the $2,000 medical expense threshold, and there’s no reason that an auto accident victim should be denied the legal right to seek compensation in court, if necessary. And when a catastrophic injury results in someone being maimed, or when a car accident results in a fatality, the compensation can amount to extremely large sums of money.

As a Boston-Dedham personal injury attorney, I’ve handled a great deal of personal injuries due to many forces, including cases of food poisoning. In fact, most people would be surprised to learn of the number of injuries that can result from improperly or negligently prepared food. In this case, the alleged culprit was somethign we all love: A chocolate chip cookie.

The plaintiff in this case alleged that she sustained injuries to her mouth and teeth from a hard object when she bit into a chocolate chip cookie while visiting her mother at an assisted living facility, called Sunrise. Importantly in this case, the cookie had been given free to the plaintiff by the facility. She did not purchase it. Not a big deal, you say? It is a big deal in the eyes of the law, especially when dealing with Massachusetts negligence claims.

That’s because whehter or not the defendant facility (Sunrise) could have been found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries here, would depend upon whether or not the facility could be shown to have breached something in Massachusetts law called the “Warranty of Merchantability.” This is an implied warranty (which means it doesn’t need to be stated in writing,) dealing with Massachusetts consumer law. Boiling it down to a brief explanation, it states that a particular product that a merchant sells, must be suitable and safe for the purpose it was produced. The legal question in this case? Did the assisted living facility, in providing this free food item to the plaintiff, qualify legally as a “merchant”?

Let’s say you’ve been injured in a Boston car accident, a Dedham slip and fall accident, or a Braintree construction-site accident. You are suffering and you need a lawyer to seek damages for what you believe is negligence on the part of someone who caused you serious injuries. Here’s a little secret that the average person who has never been in this situation doesn’t know:

You can hire a Massachusetts accident lawyer to represent you and pay no upfront fees to that law firm. It will cost you nothing, up front. In fact, you won’t pay ANY legal fees to the Massachusetts personal injury law firm that you hire unless that firm or lawyer wins your case or obtains money for you, to compensate you for your damages. That’s because almost every Massachusetts personal injury attorney is paid on a contingent-fee basis. What this type of fee means, is that if your injury lawyer does not produce a successful outcome for your case by making sure that you are awarded financial damages for your injury, you will not owe him or her any money in professional legal fees. But if the Massachusetts injury lawyer that represents you does achieve a successful outcome, and you are awarded financial damages for your Massachusetts injury, then at the conclusion of the case, the attorney’s firm will be paid a percentage of the gross amount of the award or settlement paid to you.

The standard legal fee that a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer earns in a contingent fee case is one-third (33.3%) of the total settlement or verdict on your behalf. In some categories of high-risk cases, such as products liability or medical negligence/medical malpractice,) the contingent fee can be as much as forty percent (40%,) but that is due to the very expensive nature of these cases, the typically long time it akes to litigate them, and the high risk involved. (For example, medical malpractice cases can be extremely difficult to win, and the attorney representing the plaintiff in such a case bears the risk that he or she will spend an enormous amount of time and money on such a case, and have a jury find against the plaintiff.) In a contingent fee agreement, the attorney will very frequently also agree to advance the costs and expenses of the litigation, which can be considerable. When the case is over, the costs and expenses that have been advanced by the attorney are also dedcuted out of the final award or settlement paid on your behalf.

Crossing a trafficked street is a lot more dangerous than the average person thinks. The risk of serious injury increases with the volume of traffic present, a great deal of Massachusetts pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents happen this way.

This was illustrated in a recent case settlement involving just such an accident, when a 34 year-old man was attempting to cross a street in downtown Boston when he was struck by a vehicle in the process. The victim suffered a fractured eye socket, neck, head and back sprains, and several lacerations to his legs, arms and hands. He also eventually required arthroscopic surgery after extensive physical therapy failed to produce improvement. Measured overall, the victim suffered an 8-percent loss of bodily function on the whole.

Luckily, the victim’s lost wages and medical expenses were paid by workers’ compensation insurance after it was established that he was acting within the scope of his employment when he was injured. In total, he didn’t return to full-time employment until18 months following the accident.

First, let me say to my readers that I’m sorry that I haven’t posted here in a while. I was extremely busy with cases in the first three weeks of December, then went on an extended Christmas & New Year’s holiday shortly thereafter.

Besides that, however, there was another important matter distracting my time: I’ve spent the last couple of months re-designing and re-formatting my website, www.attorneywdkickham.com.

By later this week, it will be complete, and I invite you to take a look at it. While it will contain the same valuable information on Massachusetts personal injury law that it always did, it will feature new and valuable information on a variety of tort and injury topics.

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