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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently sided with the parents of a 16-year-old killed in a 2009 car accident, allowing them to move forward in their quest for underinsured motorist benefits.curvesahead

The core issue was the content of a verbal agreement that took place when the teen initiated the purchase of a $900 truck from a private owner, less than two weeks before he was involved in a fatal crash in that truck. His parents subsequently sought underinsured motorist coverage from three separate insurance companies.

Bangor car accident attorneys know that the issue of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in Maine is one that has vexed many car accident victims. The whole point of these statutes is to ensure that the victim can recover as he would have had the at-fault party been insured to the same extent as the injured party.

But these proceedings can be increasingly complex when it comes to “stacking” policies. That is, one person (or estate) is allowed to collect from multiple UM policies on the same accident. However, sometimes the way individual policies are written, the degree to which victims can collect may be limited.

Of course, insurance companies are always seeking ways to limit their own liability, so it is to be expected that they will vigorously fight UM claims.

In the case of Estate of Lewis v. Concord Gen. Mut. Ins. Co., the victim’s mother, on behalf of the teen’s estate, attempted to collect on her policy, the policy of the boy’s father and the policy of the person from whom the truck was purchased. That last one created the most confusion, as there was ample dispute over whether the transaction was in fact completed, and the matter went all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

According to court records, the teen had met with the owner of the truck after calling the telephone number listed on a “For Sale” sign on a truck sitting by the road. The parties agreed to a $900 price tag and the teen later returned with his friend and an envelope of cash.

The truck owner gave the teen a signed bill of sale, the keys, the title and the truck’s maintenance history. He did not sign the assignment of ownership section on the title, and he didn’t complete the odometer disclosure statement. The original owner also left his insurance card in the glove box, and his plates on the vehicle.

The friend would later contend that the owner agreed to allow the teen to use his insurance until he got his own, though the original owner disputes it.

The teen and the original truck owner had no further contact. Eleven days later, the teen was killed in a crash while driving the truck. At the time, the teen had not registered or insured the vehicle.

The truck owner would later call to cancel the insurance policy on the truck retroactive to the date the teen had paid him the money, but it’s not clear if he did so before or after he learned of the wreck.

The driver of the other vehicle was underinsured, but paid the estate $100,000. Each of parents had UIM policies for $100,000, which they contended covered the teen as a household resident/family member. They also sought UIM coverage from the truck owner’s insurance.

All three denied UIM coverage, and the estate filed suit against each for breach of contract. While the trial court denied defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the Superior Court granted it.

However, the Supreme Court vacated that judgment, holding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the sale had been completed on the truck at the time of the accident. The answer to that question would determine whether each company would be required to pay.

The case has been remanded back to lower courts for further proceeding.

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:

Estate of Lewis v. Concord Gen. Mut. Ins. Co., March 4, 2014, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:

Deadly Teen Crash Has Maine Investigators Searching for Clues, March 26, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A number of crashes involving pedestrians have been reported in recent weeks, prompting a reminder from our  pedestrian accident lawyers that motorists must be more cautious of those traversing the roads by foot. walking

Officials report that a 75-year-old pedestrian in Portland suffered serious injuries after being struck by a vehicle on Forest Avenue. The man was struck as he crossed Forest Avenue by a 26-year-old driver. The crash remains under investigation.

A short time later, a pedestrian accident in Farmington left a 26-year-old jogger wounded after she was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 25-year-old man. Authorities say the pickup truck was likely traveling too fast and began to slide on the icy road. The driver tried to swerve to avoid the jogger, but ended up hitting her anyway before slamming into a snowbank. Wind and freezing rain conditions meant the LifeFlight helicopter was unable to make it to the scene. The victim was driven by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where she was recently upgraded to fair condition.

The Maine Department of Transportation released a report not long ago detailing the trend of pedestrian accidents throughout the state. In the five years detailed in the report, Cumberland County tallied the most pedestrian accidents – 402 out of 281,674 crashes total. Penobscot County ranked No. 2, with 165 pedestrian crashes out of 153,923 total. In York County, there were 200, Androscoggin County 152 and Kennbec County reported 102. The rest all tallied fewer than 40 each.

Almost all of Maine’s 1,292 pedestrian crashes during the 2006-2010 time frame were either injury-causing or fatal. Of those, 1,226 resulted in personal injury and 56 resulted in death. Only 10 of those resulted solely in property damage.

Nationwide, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that on average, a pedestrian is injured every eight minutes.

In 2011, a traffic safety study indicated that approximately 69,000 pedestrians were injured, with 11,000 of those being children. That same year, there were a total of 4,432 pedestrian fatalities.

Last year, the NHTSA made available some $2 million in pedestrian safety grants to those areas with the highest rates of pedestrian deaths. Around the same time, that agency joined the Federal Highway Safety Administration in launching the “Everyone is a Pedestrian” campaign, offering tips for city planners, school officials and parents.

More recently, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that after years of increases in pedestrian deaths nationwide, there appears to have been an 8.7 percent decline, at least in the first half of 2013 compared to the first half of 2012. However, Maine was one just a handful of states where the figures remained unchanged. In  2012, Maine officials reported 9 fatal pedestrian accidents.

While anyone who takes to the road on foot is potentially a victim, there are a few groups that tend to be overrepresented in the crash data. One of those is the over-70 crowd, which has the highest per capita death rate for pedestrians.

Also, evening and late night hours tend to result in the highest number of crashes. In 2012, 44 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Another 25 percent happened between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Several recent initiatives have been introduced in Maine to help combat the problem. City officials in Portland recently announced intentions to incorporate a “Complete Streets” model,  a multi-modal approach to construction, renovation and maintenance of city roadways in a way that accounts for all users – not just motor vehicle drivers. Renovations have already begun on Franklin, Congress and Spring streets, as well as on Forest Avenue.

If you are the victim of a Portland pedestrian accident, contact us at 1-800-490-5218.

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Two young drivers collided with on another recently on an icy road in Calais, about two hours northeast of Bangor.Snow street

Both drivers suffered injuries, but thankfully survived. This might not have been very noteworthy, but for the fact that the two turned out to be siblings – an 18-year-old high school senior and her 20-year-old brother. She had been on her way to a cashier job, while he was returning home.

Our Bangor car accident attorneys understand that the crash, on U.S. 1, occurred in large part due to the snowy, slushy conditions that rendered the roads slick. She crossed the center line in her Pontiac Grand Prix and slammed into her brother’s Dodge Ram pickup truck. The sister would later relay to a reporter that when she stepped out of the vehicle, she had trouble walking because the roads were so icy.

While we are all more than ready for spring after such a long and brutal winter,  here in one of the northernmost states we may continue to see the occasional snowstorm and ice-slicked roads. And spring bring its own unique risks, including rain, standing water and flooding.

On the first of day of April, officials in Portland reported that icy roads made for a tough commute, and resulted in several wrecks. On Jordan Spring Road, there was a vehicle overturned on its roof. On Route 237, another vehicle flipped over the guardrail. Several others were reported also, though no major injuries were reported.

Officials say even snow melt can create its own hazard on the roads. Black ice can form from refreezing snow melt. Then, residual rainwater coats the roads with a thin layer of ice. The combination can send cars spinning and sliding. This can be especially treacherous on bridges, overpasses, secondary roads, exit and entrance ramps. Plus, when the snow isn’t consistent, street crews are less likely to be out in full force with salt and sand trucks, increasing the chances that the roads haven’t been treated.

This means drivers need to use extra caution anytime they venture out shortly after temperatures rise above freezing. Too many accidents happen because motorists think spring has sprung and so let their guard down.

While many drivers have their vehicles checked prior to the beginning of winter season, it’s also important to ensure your car is in good working condition after enduring such a tough winter. In particular, it’s important to check the tires traction and tire pressure, brakes and wiper system. All of these can take a beating in winter.

Beyond that, it’s important that drivers continue to maintain slower speeds, even as the weather continues to warm. Be prepared for an occasional ice slick or slippery road by driving slowly and leaving yourself plenty of room to stop suddenly if necessary.

If you do need to make an abrupt stop, gently apply the brakes in order to avoid skidding.

Finally, take this opportunity if you haven’t already to talk to your teen driver about the appropriate way to react while driving wet weather. In the Calais crash, the sister, who was deemed at-fault, was later quoted as saying that she “completely panicked” and “was so scared, I didn’t know what to do.” She simply covered her face with her arms to brace for impact.

Thankfully, the siblings suffered only minor injuries – scrapes, bruises, a sprain and a concussion. But it could have been far worse.

It’s imperative that all drivers practice the utmost care as we continue to see through the end of this winter weather season.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact us at 1-800-490-5218.

 

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Allowing teenagers to drink alcohol in your home doesn’t make you a “cool” parent or friend. Neither is it particularly smart because there is a good chance you could be jailed or face civil liability if one of those teens goes on to hurt themselves or someone else after drinking alcohol you supplied.

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Just ask a 24-year-old Stacyville man, who was arrested not once – but twice for the same offense, even though the first incident reportedly resulted in a crash.

Our Bangor car accident attorneys want to drive home this message, especially as we approach prom and graduation season. Teens may be eager to celebrate, but being the one to supply the drinks or host a booze-filled party can land the involved adults in serious trouble.

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Sheriff’s deputies in Warren know this much: An 18-year-old driver’s pickup truck crossed the center line of Route 1 shortly before 7:30 a.m., slamming head-on into a sport utility vehicle driven by a 38-year-old woman.

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The SUV driver was killed instantly. Her 18-year-old son and his 18-year-old girlfriend were seriously injured.

The driver of the pickup? Investigators say he was also seriously hurt, and has no recollection of the crash. Authorities have concluded texting did not play a role, but they aren’t sure what did. Given that it was so early in the morning on a weekday, alcohol wasn’t likely involved either, but toxicity reports are still pending.

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It was shortly after 5:30 p.m. when a 74-year-old Bangor man was struck by a tractor-trailer as he crossed the street, headed to an early evening Sunday service in Brewer.

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The man suffered critical injuries as a result of the impact, which rendered him unconscious, though he continued to breathe and maintained a heartbeat in the immediate aftermath. Large gashes to his head, knees and elbows were visible to first-responders.

It’s accidents like this that Portland officials are looking to combat with a bid for some $10 million in transportation funding for projects to revamp city streets, intersections and pedestrian pathways. These projects would ideally incorporate smart road designs that would make them safer for everyone who travels in the area.

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The elderly are more susceptible to injury-causing falls, which is why nursing homes and other assisted care facilities have a duty to ensure that preventative measures are in place and that proper treatment is offered should one occur.

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However, our Bangor wrongful death lawyers recognize that it is not enough in a civil trial to prove liability simply by showing that an injurious fall occurred while a patient was in the defendant nursing home’s care.
In these cases, what must be proven under the Maine Health Security Act is professional negligence. The recent case of Estate of Boulier v. Presque Isle Nursing Home, reviewed on appeal by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, reveals how this threshold of proof can be difficult to meet – underscoring why you must trust your case to an experienced attorney.

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A spate of Maine snowmobile injuries – and two crashes resulting in deaths – have prompted the state warden service to issue a formal warning urging caution, adherence to safety practices and a plea to slow down.

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According to the Bangor Daily News, at least eight serious snowmobile crashes occurred in a single weekend, resulting in numerous injuries – including those sustained by an 8-year-old boy.

Primarily, authorities say, these crashes involved either inexperienced drivers or drivers who were traveling at excessive speeds. The crash involving the 8-year-old boy occurred while his grandfather was driving the vehicle. In Athens, a 15-year-old boy suffered a head injury when he was thrown from a snowmobile driven by a friend. Several others suffered broken legs or other fractures.

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More than once every half hour, a child suffers a shopping cart injury in Maine.
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In fact, it’s a problem across the country, despite voluntary safety standards that were adopted by the industry back in 2004.

A new study, conducted by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio and published in the journal “Clinical Pediatrics” in January, reveals that concussions and closed-head injuries resulting from shopping cart use has increased over the last several decades.

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Given the astronomical price of prescriptions drugs, it is no wonder that Maine residents sought relief through cross-border imports. In fact, people have routinely secured out-of-country prescription medications since the 1950s.
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However, the problem has always been that such transactions were technically illegal under state and federal law, even if they weren’t strictly enforced where individual sales were concerned. From a defective drugs lawsuit standpoint, it meant that people had little recourse if the drugs they received were not made and transported safely.

Then late last year, Maine became the first state to legalize the direct purchase of mail-order drugs from certain foreign pharmacies – companies out of Canada, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. Even so, it’s still not clear what legal liability these firms might have if their drugs turned out to be defective or harmful.

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