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During the summer in Maine, we inevitably see an uptick of dog bites as more folks are out-and-about enjoying the nice weather. Many are accompanied by their dogs, or they may be more lax regarding their dog’s outdoor enclosures. dogbite1

Portland dog bite lawyers want to point out that Maine is a strict liability state with regard to dog bites. That means if a dog injures another person, the owner or keeper is liable for whatever damages result. M.R.S.A. 3961 holds that any fault on the part of the injured party won’t reduce damages covered, unless the court finds that fault exceeded the fault of the owner.

In instances of dogs biting children, this is rarely an issue because owners are supposed to recognize that children do not have the foresight as adults when approaching and handling dogs.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t track dog bites in Maine,  but on average, 4.7 million Americans suffer dog bites annually. Most of the time, these injuries are covered under the homeowner’s liability insurance.

There are some cases, though, in which the owner of the dog has to fight for the insurance company to defend them. While this might not seem the concern of the plaintiff, it’s important for the insurer to be involved in the process. Ultimately, that is likely who will cover the cost of damages.

Recently, an insurance company’s refusal to indemnify its customer in civil litigation led to a summary judgment in favor of the insurer, which was later vacated by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In Howe v. MMG Ins. Co., the insurer argued it wasn’t liable in the case because the plaintiff sought only equitable relief, or a non-monetary judgment. However, the dog’s owner argued the lawsuit against her also sought monetary damages, and as such, the insurer was obligated to cover those costs.

The dog’s owner lived in one of four condominiums in a complex. In April 2013, the condo association sued her on four counts relating to her dog, including nuisance, negligence and violation of 7 M.R.S. 3952, which bars one from keeping a dangerous dog.

The insurer argued it had no duty to indemnify because the dog hadn’t actually caused anyone injuries or damaged property. Therefore, plaintiffs were only entitled to equitable relief.

The trial court sided with the insurer, finding the nuisance complaint sought only an injunction, the negligence claim made no assertion of injury or property damage and therefore there was no private right of action against the insurer.

The dog’s owner appealed.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in weighing the case, noted first of all that an insurer’s duty to defend is a broad one. Citing the recent decision in Cox v. Commonwealth Title Ins. Co., if any complaint contains an allegation that, if proven, might fall under the coverage afforded by the policy, the insurer has a duty to defend. One needs only show the potential for this, even if the complaint isn’t likely to survive a motion to dismiss.

Here, the complaint did allege that the dog was “vicious, threatening and has bitten people.” The complaint also alleged the dog had bitten, scratched and damaged property owned by the association. It was true the association sought injunctive relief. However, the claim also was clear in its demand for “damages, interests, penalties, costs and attorney fees.”

Based on this, the high court vacated the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the insurer and ordered the insurer to defend the dog’s owner.

If you are the victim of a dog bite, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Howe v. MMG Ins. Co., June 17, 2014, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:

Negligent Supervision in Maine Child Injury Claim, Jan. 10, 2014, Portland Injury Lawyer Blog

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A Bangor man is facing numerous charges following a hit-and-run crash that occurred late one recent weeknight.blackcar

According to the Bangor Daily News, the 32-year-old crashed into a moving van that was parked on Ohio Street. Inside the van, a passenger was injured. By the time police arrived, the at-fault driver had fled. Police then received a tip from a caller who said a man she knew was at her door, covered in blood. He had been drinking alcohol, and she had warned him earlier not to drive. He matched the physical description of the driver who fled. Officers arrived, and the man ran away on foot, but was caught soon after.

Bangor hit-and-run accident attorneys know the plaintiff in this case was fortunate that police were able to catch the man, and further that he was tracked while there was still alcohol in his system. This will allow prosecutors in the criminal matter to make a strong case for OUI, as well as leaving the scene of a personal injury crash.

With regard to the civil case, it boosts the assertion of negligence of the at-fault driver, which may ultimately lead to higher punitive damages, if the court determines such compensation is appropriate.

But perhaps what is most important is that he was identified. That means the injured party will have an opportunity to seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In many hit-and-run cases where the at-fault driver is never located, the injured party must seek uninsured motorist coverage from their own insurer.

Generally, insurance companies tend to be interested in mitigating their own liability, and there are numerous loopholes in the policy language upon which insurers attempt to deny coverage. Our attorneys are experienced in helping to secure damages for our clients.

One case that expanded the circumstances under which individuals may be awarded damages was the 2004 case of Butterfield v. Norfolk & Dedham Mut. Fire Ins. Co., decided by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In that case, neither vehicle involved in the collision wherein the plaintiff’s daughter was killed was insured. The father sought coverage under his own uninsured motorist policy. His insurer denied the claim on the grounds that his daughter was not covered, because while she was a family member, she did not reside with him. This ran contrary to policy language.

The father sued the insurer for breach of contract, asserting he was entitled to damages because the at-fault driver was not insured. A trial court found in his favor, and the high court affirmed this ruling.

The court indicated that because of prior rulings, insurers began adding language in standard policies that limited insurance contracts. In this case, the language of the policy was an attempt to skirt the minimum requirements of the state’s uninsured motorist laws.

Despite two dissenting opinions in that case, the court was clear in saying insurers do have the authority to enact limits to coverage on reasonable grounds. However, the imposition of limits to the point where state statutes requiring such coverage are rendered meaningless won’t be tolerated by the courts.

In a hit-and-run case, there is no guarantee even if the driver is identified that he or she will have insurance – or adequate insurance. In fact, this is one primary reason many of these drivers flee in the first place.

Regardless of the circumstances, we are prepared to fight for your right to just compensation.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bangor man facing multiple charges after leaving scene of accident, fleeing police, June 26, 2014, By Ryan McLaughlin, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Traffic Accidents and the Risk of Higher Speed Limits, June 11, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A large truck crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed one of his colleagues recently spotlighted the ongoing problem with truck driver fatigue. The trucker had reportedly been awake for 24 hours prior to the wreck. Just days before that crash, U.S. Senators – spearheaded by Sent. Susan Collins of Maine -  moved to weaken laws intended to curb accidents caused by tired truckers, which is the root cause in roughly 1 in 7 large trucking accidents. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Add to that the fact that one in every 10 fatal crashes involves a large truck, and this is reason for serious alarm.

In Maine, our Bangor truck accident lawyers understand there have been a series of major crashes involving large trucks just in the last few weeks.

Among those:

  • In Freeport, northbound traffic on Interstate 95 was snarled in a multi-vehicle crash involving two tractor-trailers and several other vehicles.
  • In Moscow, five people were seriously injured after a logging truck driver lost control of the vehicle and overturned on Route 201. The load smashed into an SUV. Authorities believe the trucker’s tire may have blew out as he was rounding a corner. Among those injured was an 11-month-old girl. Four people were trapped in the mangled mass of metal, and had to be extricated by firefighters.
  • In Monson, a 37-year-old St. Albans man was killed and several others were critically injured after a dump truck was struck by a tractor-trailer that jackknifed while rounding a turn on Route 15. The tractor slammed into the cab of the dump truck, crushing it.
  • In Topsfield, a Langrage man was injured when his tractor-trailer drifted from the highway and rolled onto its side.
  • In Danforth, a cement truck driver was injured when his truck rolled over, causing him to become trapped inside.

In the wake of the New Jersey crash and others here locally, Sen. Collins has caught heat from trucking safety advocates, who argue her amendment would suspend portions of the new rules regarding required truck driver rest periods. Specifically, Collins’ amendment, which was approved with bipartisan support, suspends for one year a law requiring truckers to use one 34-hour rest period after working a 70-hour span.

Those challenging this amendment with their own proposal, which goes into effect in October, say Collins’ measure will mean truckers can work up to 12 hours more in a given week – as many as 82 hours, as opposed to the 70-hour maximum currently in place. The ultimate fear is this will push trucking firms to work their drivers harder, forcing them to put in longer hours.

Already, safety advocates say too many protections have been whittled away.

For 70 years, truckers had been limited to 10-hour days. However, in 2003, the Bush Administration increased the limit to 14 hours. That rule is still on the books, along with exemptions in some situations where truckers are allowed to work 14-hour days.

However, the 34-hour rest period requirement was a recent addition intended to help improve highway safety. Suspending it will inevitably lead to more crashes.

In the crash that involved Tracy Morgan, a representative from Collins’ office was quoted as saying that if the initial findings of the investigation are proven true, the trucker would have been in violation of the rules even under Collins’ amendment.

If you are the victim of a Bangor truck accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

High-profile crash pits trucking safety advocates against Collins, June 18, 2014, By Scott thistle, Sun Journal

More Blog Entries:

Truck Accident at Maine Railroad Cross a Reminder of the Risks, Oct. 1, 2013, Bangor Truck Accident Lawyer Blog

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In medical malpractice litigation, Maine is one of 30 states to enact a so called “I’m Sorry” law, also sometimes referred to as an “apology statute.” Essentially, our Bangor medical malpractice attorneys know these laws serve to shield health care providers who extend expressions of sympathy following an adverse patient outcome. The laws indicate those statements can’t be used later against the doctor or hospital as proof of an admission of liability. hidingface

However, as the recent case of Strout v. Cent. Me. Med. Ctr. shows, the law does not offer absolute protection with regard to these admissions. This is an important point to underscore because medical providers will often attempt to reach out to patients or surviving family in the wake of a poor medical outcome in an effort to minimize the damage, and perhaps deter the patient from filing a lawsuit. It’s important for individuals to save this correspondence, as it could later be useful for the case.

In Strout, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court was tasked with determining whether the trial court erred in allowing portions of a letter from the medical center’s president to the patient into evidence weighed by the jury.

According to court records, the plaintiff went to a local emergency room in the spring of 2009 for treatment of severe abdominal pain. A doctor ordered a CAT scan, which showed a significant legion on the patient’s liver. The doctor who evaluated the scan told the patient that more than likely, the lesion was an indication of pancreatic cancer.

The diagnosis was devastating. Even with chemotherapy, the average life expectancy for patients with this disease is one year. Additionally, the doctor indicated the legion was so large that it was almost certainly inoperable. The patient could expect to measure the rest of his life in months.

A tissue sample was taken to confirm the diagnosis.

However, several weeks passed and the test results showed the doctor was wrong. The patient did not have pancreatic cancer, but rather a different type of lymphoma, in which 95 percent of patients survive five years or longer.

The patient filed a complaint with the president of the medical center. The president responded, saying the administrators and doctors were “saddened” by the course of events, and further that the doctor, though he meant no harm, “needed to wait” for the biopsy results to confirm before offering such a definitive diagnosis.

A few months later, the patient filed a complaint for medical malpractice on the grounds of emotional distress, loss of income and loss of life enjoyment.

The medical center moved to exclude any piece of the letter from evidence, asserting that it fell under the state’s “apology statute,” as codified in 24 M.R.S. 2907(2). The attorneys further argued the letter was not admissible because per the state’s formal rules of evidence, it amounted to an offer to compromise and also that its relevance was substantially outweighed by the potential unfair prejudice it would cause.

The trial court allowed that a portion of the letter would be admissible. Specifically, the judge allowed entry of the part of the letter in which the president conceded the doctor should have waited.

In turn, a jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $200,000.

The defense appealed on the grounds that the letter should have been inadmissible. However, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court disagreed.

Justices rejected the argument that the entire letter constituted an apology, when a plain language analysis of it was clear that the president had admitted fault by stating the doctor should have acted differently. Just because an admission of fault is placed within an apology letter, the justices ruled, does not make the entire contents off-limits.

If you are the victim of medical malpractice in Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Strout v. Cent. Me. Med. Ctr. , June 10, 2014, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:

Maine Supreme Court Rules on Child Lead Poisoning Lawsuit, May 19, 2014, Bangor Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

 

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A spate of bicycle accidents throughout the state in recent weeks serve as an important reminder, particularly during the summer months, for drivers and others to be more cautious of those sharing the roads.bicyclist2

Bicycle accident injuries in Bangor can be serious and potentially life-threatening, and they are frequently caused by motor vehicle drivers who aren’t being careful and attentive. We recognize that Maine tends to have fewer bicyclists year-round than many other states, particularly in the Southern region, so many drivers aren’t automatically trained to scan the roads for them.

However, this will not excuse liability in a courtroom, and it certainly won’t make you feel better, waiting helplessly for the ambulance to arrive for victim lying on the pavement. It seems graphic, but we’d rather you be jarred by the mental picture than a real one.

There have been enough of those.

According to the Bangor Daily News, a bicyclist was struck in Old Town by a man driving a sedan on Main Street. The female cyclist suffered minor injuries, and the driver fled.

Even more recently, a 9-year-old boy in Rumford was injured after reportedly failing to yield to ongoing traffic while riding his bicycle in the street. Most traffic safety experts recommend that children under 12 ride on the sidewalk, and that all children who do ride on the street be thoroughly trained in traffic safety rules. The child was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 66-year-old, who will not be charged.

Although the child is expected to recover, residents near where the incident occurred on Falmouth Street said it is the third such incident in as many months. One neighbor feared a fatal crash was on the horizon if more wasn’t done to both educate parents and perhaps redesign the intersection.

Street redesign is at the core of what Smart Growth America teaches. In its recent Dangerous by Design 2014 report, it indicates that over the last decade between 2003 and 2012, researchers mulled over the ways that streets were solely designed for fast-moving, motor vehicles, with little or no thought given to those on foot or sometimes even public transit. Numerous “Complete Streets” initiatives offer federal funds to those local governments who commit to street and intersection redesigns that make roadways safer for walkers and cyclists.

Portland adopted a Complete Streets resolution in 2011, and Lewiston did so last year.

Maine generally has a low number of bicyclist fatalities, mostly because it’s not a year-round activity due to the weather. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Reports that of Maine’s 164 traffic fatalities in 2012.

However, this is not an opportunity to become complacent, particularly as bicycling continues to gain popularity, both as a recreational activity and as a commuting option, especially during warmer months.

Adults cyclists should take care to educate themselves on the rules of the road. Parents of child cyclists need to take the time to teach them about always wearing a helmet, using the appropriate signals, learning the rules of the road (even if you aren’t riding on the road), making eye contact with drivers and ensuring they are always visible to drivers, regardless of the time of day.

Drivers, meanwhile, need to make sure they are alert and always double-checking for bicyclists, particularly at intersections.

If you are the victim of a car accident in Portland or Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Rumford boy, 9, injured in bicycle accident with truck, June 10, 2014, By Terry Karkos, River Valley Sun Journal

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Pedestrian Accidents Increase With Maine Thaw, April 12, 2014, Bangor Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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The father of a young woman on trial for the death of two friends in a 2012 Maine auto accident tearfully testified before the jury about his daughter’s hospital bed confession. road2

As she recovered from the crash that killed both of her best friends, she told her parents why she veered off the road that January morning in Paris: Her cell phone rang. She turned her head and reached to grab it to see who was calling.

Bangor car accident attorneys note teens continue to face higher risks of traffic collisions when riding with other teens. And the more passengers in the car, the higher the risks. In this tragic case, both back seat passengers, ages 16 and 19, were killed. Another passenger in the front seat was injured as was the driver, who was just convicted of two counts of vehicular manslaughter. She faces a maximum 60 years in prison.

Her father did not come to the witness stand willingly. It was only after he was arrested following a failure to appear on a subpoena.

What this tragic case shows is how one poor decision can alter the course of so many people’s lives forever.

It was estimated at the time of the wreck, the vehicle was traveling 75 mph in a 50 mph zone.

While the legislature in Maine has been proactive in barring text messaging for all drivers, the state only forbids novice driver’s with learner’s permits or provisional licenses from using cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. This law includes both handheld and hands-free devices.

However, the fine for a violation is only $100, and it wouldn’t have helped in this situation anyway  – the driver was 19 with an adult driver’s license.

The Oxford County Superior Court verdict in this case is especially timely in that the car full of teens was reportedly leaving a party at the time of a crash. The driver’s blood-alcohol level was technically under the legal limit, but as a minor, she wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all – let alone drinking and driving. She also had traces of marijuana in her system. Although this crash occurred at the tail end of winter break, summer break is the time when the roadways are most dangerous for teens. It’s when teens are more frequently unsupervised for longer stretches, their time is less structured and they have more access to their parents’ vehicles.

The National Safety Council dubs the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” for teens, with some 4,000 being killed nationally during that time over the course of the last five years.

Already this summer, we have seen numerous examples. In Rangeley, a teen from out-of-state who was set to graduate is instead in critical condition in a hospital bed fighting for her life after the 17-year-old driver of the vehicle (reportedly traveling at 90 mph), lost control and rolled on Route 4. She was one of three teens in the back seat, and one of five in the car.

In Hampden, Maine State Troopers report a 17-year-old teen lost control over vehicle and spun out on Interstate 95, careened backward into trees growing in the median. Her injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, but her vehicle was totaled.

These are not scenarios we hope to see repeated throughout the summer.

We encourage parents to speak with teens about responsible driving habits. Those include buckling up, refraining from drinking before driving, limiting the number of teen passengers and avoiding cell phone use. Traffic safety experts also advise parents to have a more structured routine for teens’ summers. Less idle time can mean less opportunity for trouble.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Lowe’s father: Kristina said she was driving, distracted by phone, May 21, 2014, Staff Report, Sun-Journal

More Blog Entries:

Maine Supreme Court Takes on Underinsured Motorist Coverage, April 18, 2014, Bangor Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

 

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In recent weeks, a 21-year-old died after crashing into a tree in Frankfort. Around the same time, a 48-year-old New Harbor man was killed in a Damariscotta crash after losing control of the vehicle and veering off the road. There was also the crash in St. Francis, where a car rolled over and caught fire after the driver lost control. road2

Bangor car accident lawyers know that every one of these crashes had one thing in common: excessive speed. This isn’t especially surprising, considering the National Safety Council’s indicates high speeds or traveling too fast for conditions is a factor in one out of every three crashes in this country.

And yet, Maine’s Transportation Commissioner has announced the approval of a plan to raise the speed limit on large swaths of interstate highway system. Patches of Interstate 395, Interstate 95 and Interstate 295 are going to see a 5-mph boost in speed limits. Some motorists may already have noted the new signage along some of these areas.

In citing his reasoning, Commissioner David Bernhardt said the limits were raised after reviewing crash statistics, as well as factoring the speed at which many drivers were going already. He insisted that raising the speed limit will result in safer roadways because the posted speed will match the operating speed.

Of course, we see a clear alternative that was apparently not explored: Enhanced traffic law enforcement. Drivers will slow down if they know the laws requiring it are being actively enforced.

The NSC reports that every single year, some 13,000 lives are lost as a result of drivers traveling too fast. The ripple effect is devastating. Not only do the immediate victims suffer, but their families, their co-workers, their communities. It’s estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association that crashes caused by speed cost us $40 billion annually. For every minute that a driver “gains” by speeding, it costs the rest of us $76,000.

Raising speed limits may reduce the technical number of violators, but we have serious concerns regarding what impact it will have on our safety.

A similar measure is being weighed in Alabama, which would raise interstate speed limits there to 75 mph. In Florida, the same kind of law was proposed. However, the governor there pledged to veto it if it came to his desk after receiving fierce opposition from the law enforcement community, which coincidentally had just suffered the death of a trooper caused by a speeding driver.

In Maine, the legislature pushed forward with LD 654, An Act to Raise the Speed Limit on Interstate 295, in May of last year. While the bill initially only called for raising the speed limit on 295 to 75 mph, the measure was later amended to grant the commissioner of transportation the legal authority to increase speed limits statewide.

It was a disappointing turn following the 1970s-era reduction of speed limits from 70 mph down to 55 mph by Congress. Later, those limits were increased to 65 mph, and it wasn’t until 1995 that states were given authority to set their own limits.

Commercial truckers and other professional drivers say they are “horrified” by the new legislation, and are deeply dismayed about what this will mean for our motor vehicle fatality rate.

We share their concerns.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Higher speed limits Ok’d on select stretches of interstate highway system, May 28, 2014, By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Teen Drugged Driving in Maine a Serious Threat to Road Safety, May 25, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A man whose son died soon after Bangor police officers used a Taser on him in an effort to wrangle him into custody has filed a lawsuit, naming not only the city police, alleging unnecessary force, but also the maker of the device, asserting the product is inherently dangerous. hand-cuffs

The case of McCue v. City of Bangor et al has been filed in Maine’s U.S. District Court, with the father seeking $6.5 million in damages.

Bangor wrongful death lawyers know that in-custody deaths are often the result of violence, improper use of restraint or failure on the part of the institution to have the proper policies or protections in place. This claim is somewhat unique in that it incorporates a product liability claim as well.

Unfortunately, there is sometimes a stigma associated with deaths that occur in custody. There may be a perception that the victim somehow deserved what happened. However, our justice system is predicated on treating arrestees and inmates humanely. That means avoidance of unnecessary force, the adoption of policies that work to avoid harm and providing swift and appropriate treatment to someone in physical distress.

Another case of in-custody death in Maine recently resulted in the award of $100,000 to the widow of a convicted sex offender who was beaten to death by his fellow inmates in 2009. According to the Portland Press Herald, the widow alleged policymakers within the state department of corrections perpetuated a culture of deliberate indifference regarding violence inflicted on inmates convicted of these types of crimes.

Reports are that the 64-year-old inmate, who was severely diabetic, was recovering from a broken leg when he was attacked by a hoard of inmates. He died days later of numerous internal injuries.

The settlement, paid out of the state’s self-insurance pool, doesn’t require the state to admit wrongdoing in the case. Over the last five years, approximately 1,320 claims have been made against the Maine State Department of Corrections. A total of $4.6 million had been paid out during that time.

Whether the plaintiff in McCue will be successful remains to be seen. According to court records, the plaintiff’s 28-year-old son was shocked by several jolts from the 50,000-volt device while he was high on bath salts. Police eventually handcuffed him, bound his legs and attempted to carry him to a cruiser. It was at that point that his body went limp.

Emergency personnel arrived and began performing CPR. He was transported to the hospital, but died five days later without ever regaining consciousness.

Although an autopsy report does not blame the Taser, asserting instead that the drugs in his system resulted in cardiac arrest, the plaintiff argues in his complaint that the use of the device contributed to death. In an eight-count lawsuit, he alleges the device is inherently dangerous.

More than 1 million of the devices have been sold globally. In Maine, they are used by officials in 130 agencies, including 11 county sheriff’s departments, the Maine State Police and numerous local police agencies, including those in Bangor, Portland and Holden. They are also possessed by officials at Maine colleges and hospitals.

As the popularity of the devices has grown, so too has the criticism. For example, Amnesty International is pressing for stricter regulations regarding their use, following the release of a report indicating at least 550 people in the U.S. have died in custody since 2001 after receiving a Taser shock.

Police in Bangor say the devices have been used in the line of duty nearly 65 times since 2008.

If you are the victim of a Bangor personal injury, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

McCue v. City of Bangor et al , March 18, 2014, U.S. District Court in Maine

More Blog Entries:

Maine Supreme Court Rules on Child Lead Poisoning Lawsuit, May 19, 2014, Bangor Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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Much attention is given to teen drunk driving – and that attention is well-deserved.

What receives less attention is teens driving under the influence of drugs. Road and Travel Magazine reports that, for teens, driving under the influence of drugs is just as common as driving under the influence of alcohol. A recent survey by National Drug Control Policy found that of the more than 750,000 high school students who admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs, 1 in 7 reported “in the car” as the place they were most likely to use. crashedcar

Bangor car accident attorneys know we needn’t look too far for evidence of this locally.

Last month, a 17-year-old girl lost control of her vehicle on U.S. Route 1 in Belfast. Witnesses say she skidded along the guardrail, struck a bridge abutment, careened over a grassy area and then slammed into a truck.

Several Good Samaritans came to her rescue, finding her unconscious, not breathing and without a heartbeat. They began CPR until emergency crews could arrive. She was listed in critical condition. Only early this month did officials say she was expected to make a full recovery. Although the investigation is ongoing, authorities have indicated that drugs were involved. Authorities have declined to say at this point what led them to that conclusion.

Also recently, an 18-year-old was arrested in Portland on numerous charges after he was found slumped over the steering wheel of his vehicle.  He initially attempted to flee from police at a high rate of speed, causing him to lose control of his vehicle at an intersection, slam into two parked cars and then strike a utility pole. Police later found hallucinogenic mushrooms and marijuana in his possession, and he was believed to have been under the influence of those drugs.

These kinds of issues have been on the rise in Maine since the passage of medical marijuana laws in 1999, particularly as cities like Portland have passed measures to legalize the possession of non-medical marijuana. The Maine Department of Transportation reports that for 2009 and 2010 (the most recent years for which data was available), the drug class that includes marijuana was ranked as No. 1 in impaired driving cases where a police drug recognition expert was called to the scene.

A December 2013 survey conducted by the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, indicated 52 percent high school teens reported daily use of marijuana carried little or no risk. That’s up substantially from 44 percent who answered that way in 2011 and 39 percent who answered that way in 2009.

Authorities say it’s not uncommon for teen drivers under the influence of alcohol to also have marijuana in their system.

Regardless of the medical benefits that marijuana can provide when use is prescribed and overseen by a medical doctor, there is no question that the drug impacts one’s psychomotor performance. Maine’s Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services reports that drivers under the influence of marijuana often tend to compensate for impairment by driving slower than normal, which can create a host of its own hazards. There is also the risk of decreased attention, vigilance and dulled perception of time and speed.

Nationally, one out of every three fatally-injured drivers in 2009 tested positive for drugs.

Given that summer is already an especially dangerous time for teen motorists, it’s imperative that parents talk to their children about the potential risks of getting behind the wheel while impaired.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Teenager whose heart stopped in Belfast accident has recovered, police continue probe, May 8, 2014, By Abigail Curtis, Bangor Daily

More Blog Entries:

Maine Teen Drivers Fail to Obey GDL Laws, With Fatal Consequences, April 25, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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When three young children and their parents were exposed to toxic lead in their rented Maine home, they sought compensation through the courts.

After being denied a jury trial on some of the negligence complaints raised, the family lost the remaining claims at trial. paintbucket

But now, the Maine Supreme Court has found clear errors in the way the trial court handed the case, ruling that the burden of proof was unfairly shifted to the plaintiffs. The victims will now have the opportunity to seek a new trial in the case of Bratton v. McDonough.

Our Bangor child injury lawyers know that landlord liability lawsuits can be complex, particularly in cases of toxic torts alleging exposure to harmful substances. As a general rule, property owners are required to keep their premises safe from obvious hazards. Landlord responsibilities for lead control and testing are spelled out in Maine’s Lead Poisoning Control Act, codified in Chapter 292 of state law.

Most homes constructed prior to 1978 in Maine contain lead. Used to make paint more durable, it’s especially prevalent in Maine houses, which tend to skew older. It’s also sometimes found in the soil around contaminated homes. Landlords should assume this is the case unless testing has proven otherwise.

In 2010, the federal government passed a measure known as the Renovation Repair and Painting rule that requires contractors working in residential units containing lead pain to undergo special lead-safe training. Landlords are obligated to test for lead and to hire qualified contractors for any jobs that might include disturbing painted surfaces.

The substance is particularly toxic to children, in some cases leading to permanent learning and behavioral disorders, in addition to disruptions in the development of the nervous system. The Bangor Daily News reported that an estimated 300 children annually are diagnosed with elevated levels of lead in Maine.

The three children in the plaintiff’s claim in Bratton were among them. The family moved into the home in 2004, prior to the birth of a third child. Soon after the move, the children, then ages 3 and 1, tested positive for elevated blood lead levels. This prompted the mother to have home lead tests conducted, which revealed the presence of lead. She then contacted the landlord about her findings, and he assured her there was no lead. Instead, the positive tests were toxins from the diesel trucks that traveled along the major road in front of the home.

With this assurance, the family stayed in the home. Their their child was born in 2006. At age 2, the child tested positive for heightened blood lead levels.

At that point, the Department of Health and Human Services got involved, and arranged for the home to be tested. The results pointed to numerous lead hazards throughout the property. The agency notified the landlord that, pursuant to the law, he was required to relocate the family.

There were numerous setbacks, primarily caused by the fact that the landlord refused to pay for any of it, according to the plaintiffs. Although the state had mandated that he relocate them by December 2008, the move wasn’t initiated until March 2009. In the meantime, the family continued to live in the contaminated home, but had cordoned off some rooms in order to limit exposure to lead paint dust.

Later that year, they sued the landlord, asserting the lead on the property had injured the children.

After an extended discovery process, the trial court prohibited one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses from testifying. The court also granted summary judgment to the landlord with regard to the negligence claims pertaining to the two older children, finding insufficient causal information. The court also granted summary judgment on the punitive damages grounds, finding that the children hadn’t suffered emotional distress.

The court did allow the negligence claim regarding the younger child to proceed, but the burden of proof had been skewed, and the jury sided with the landlord.

Upon review, the state supreme court determined the trial court had abused its discretion in the way it handled a number of issues.

Specifically, the supreme court indicated the trial court was wrong for precluding the testimony of a toxicologist because he did not have a medical degree. The high court indicated that “the majority of federal courts admit the testimony (of toxicologists) as reliable evidence of causation.”

Given the errors of the lower court, the supreme court reversed the earlier findings and remanded the case back to the lower court for another trial.

For premises liability issues in Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bratton v. McDonough, May 6, 2014, Maine Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Maine Dram Shop Laws & Responsibility of Social Hosts and Bartenders, March 31, 2014, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog