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Five people were hospitalized and a sixth injured following Maine car accident recently when the driver of a truck, apparently distracted, rear-ended the truck ahead of it, causing it to be pushed into oncoming traffic, where it was struck by a sport utility vehicle head-on. The driver of the second truck was trapped inside and had to be extracted by firefighters. carkeysandphone

None of the injuries are classified as life-threatening, though it’s not yet clear whether the injuries sustained will be debilitating.

Authorities haven’t given great detail about the at-fault drivers actions in the moments before the wreck, but they have said he was “momentarily distracted” just before impact.

Our Bangor accident lawyers know a moment is all it takes to change lives forever. Throughout the holiday season, there are numerous distractions that tempt driver’s eyes and attention away from the road – often with deadly consequences.

Allstate reports that even seemingly minor engagements can have a great impact on our ability to drive safely. For example:

  • Those who text and drive had reaction times that were 37.4 percent slower (Note: people who were drunk driving had reaction times slowed by 12.5 percent);
  • Those who eat while driving had a 22 percent slower reaction time and were 18 percent more likely to have poor lane control;
  • Of those who were distracted before a crash, 47 percent of women and 71 percent of men reported the distraction was caused directly by people in their vehicle, including adult passengers, children and especially infants;
  • Unrestrained pets are believed to cause tens of thousands of crashes every year, as they engage in such behaviors as chewing on seats, whining for attention, getting car sick, putting paws on the steering wheel or trying to climb into the driver’s lap;
  • An estimated 3,000 crashes annually are attributed to other distractions, such as grooming, watching videos, using a GPS device, adjusting the radio or reading a map.

Legislators in Maine have taken this issue seriously by enacting laws intended to curb distraction behind the wheel. Among those statutes are a ban on all cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers, a primary law banning texting by all drivers and a measure that specifically outlaws distraction behind the wheel.

Still, there are many who believe these actions don’t go far enough. The editorial board for the Portland Press Herald penned an opinion piece recently advocating for distracted driving penalties more in line with those received for operating under the influence.

Right now, a person caught texting while driving will incur a mandatory 30-day license suspension – but only if it’s their second offense in the last three years. Meanwhile, a first-time drunk driver will face a mandatory 150-day suspension plus a $400 fine. First-time offenders who refuse a blood test upon request by law enforcement get not only a 275-day license suspension, but also a 96-hour jail stint.

The writers noted that in Maine alone, 41 people have died over the last three years in crashes where distracted driving was listed as a cause. The actual number is probably far higher, as distraction is not as easy to discover as impairment.

Safety advocates encourage drivers to plan ahead for each trip to avoid delays and avoid last-minute calls and texts to make arrangements while driving. Be prepared for roads that are congested and possibly in poor condition due to icy, snowy weather. Remember, a moment’s worth of distraction can cause a lifetime of heartache.

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:

Maine Crash Injures Five, Nov. 15, 2014, By Douglas Cobb, GLV Maine

More Blog Entries:

Maine Trucker Distracted Driving Endangers Motorists, Nov. 22, 2014, Bangor Accident Attorney Blog

 

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The front half of the vehicle could barely be recognized as such, following a recent single-car collision into a utility pole, by a 16-year-old driver police believe was both drunk and speeding. brokencar

Phrases like, “lucky to be alive” were exchanged by investigators at the scene, who also described the wreck as “violent.” The impact into a utility pole caused the pole to break and tore the engine from the frame of the car, which overturned multiple times before landing on its wheels.

Amazingly, the teen suffered only minor injuries and was not even treated at the hospital following the Gardiner crash. He reportedly had just dropped off a friend minutes earlier, and no one else was inside the vehicle at the time.

Our Portland accident lawyers hope other area teens see this as a wake-up call. While the teen miraculously evaded serious injury, the outcome could have been so much worse. Particularly as we approach a harsh winter season and long breaks from high school and college classes, drivers are more likely to encounter danger on the road. Not only are teen drivers inexperienced (an especially dangerous situation when the ground is covered with ice and snow), they are more likely to be distracted, driving recklessly/speeding and possibly impaired.

Any one of these could pose serious danger. A combination is likely to end in severe injury or even death.

While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the summer holiday to be the deadliest of all for teens and teen drivers, the winter holidays are also especially dangerous. Starting with the day before Thanksgiving and stretching through New Year’s Day, people in general are more likely to drink, be traveling more extensively and have more free time.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports 40 percent of all traffic-related deaths between Christmas and New Year’s Day involve drunk drivers. That’s 12 percent higher than any other day in December. While the average number of traffic deaths in a given day is pegged at around 36 at any given time of the year, that figure jumps to 45 each day during the Christmas holiday and up to a staggering 54 deaths every day around New Year’s.

The Bangor Daily News reported earlier this year on a study revealing teenagers who had been in vehicles with other impaired drivers were more likely to get behind the wheel drunk or drugged themselves. The more times they have been driven around by an impaired driver, the more likely they are to engage in risky driving habits themselves.

The Pediatrics study involved surveying 2,500 10th and 12th graders over a period of time, finding about 14 percent admitted to driving impaired themselves and another 38 percent riding in a vehicle with an impaired driver over the last year.

Study authors speculated teens who rode with intoxicated drivers came to find the idea of drinking and driving normal and acceptable.

This is where parents can play an important role in reversing that thinking. Teens must not only be advised of the dangers of impaired and reckless driving, they must also have good role models. Because teen drivers learn from example too, parents should make sure to obey all traffic laws, always wear a seat belt and never drink and drive – especially not with teens in the car.

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

Additional Resources:

Police: No charges yet in “Violent” West Gardiner Crash, Nov. 24, 2014, Staff Report, Kennebec Journal

More Blog Entries:

Maine’s First Winter Storm Packs Wallop for Drivers, Nov. 22, 2014, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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An early blast of winter dumped more than a foot of snow across Maine recently, effectively ushering out autumn with bitter cold, strong winds and widespread flurries. snowcoveredcars

News reports indicated winds reached speeds of up to 50-miles-per-hour, while more than 135,000 households were without power. The Portland Press Herald reported numerous roads were impassable, which slowed recovery efforts in some areas. In some instances, Canadian crews were even called upon to come help as Gov. Paul LePage declared a limited emergency. This allowed utility crews to work overtime.

Throughout the state, roads were slick and treacherous. Reports were numerous vehicles careened off the road in Freeport and Brunswick. Trees fell on thoroughfares in Scarborough. There were also several crashes with injuries, including a collision between a sport-utility vehicle and a minivan in Falmouth that led to seven people hospitalized. Authorities would later say the SUV driver was traveling the speed limit, but it was too fast for road conditions.

In Bangor, there was a record for the earliest double-digit snowfall days, previously set back on Nov. 15, 1962.

All of this occurred approximately seven weeks before the official start of winter.

While some forecasters are predicting a respite from such conditions, at least for a few weeks, our Portland auto injury  lawyers see this as a good opportunity to point out that motorists must adjust their driving behaviors in the midst of winter weather.

It’s not enough to simply travel the speed limit or give yourself just enough time to get to your destination. Drivers need to significantly reduce speed, ensure their vehicles are in good working condition and provide themselves ample time to get where they’re going in order to avoid rushing.

Generally speaking, bad weather is not going to excuse negligence behind the wheel. All motorists have a legal duty to drive safely at any given time, with full consideration of the conditions. The fact is, most winter crashes are avoidable when drivers are practicing safe driving habits and take those few extra precautions.

We recognize there is a curve of adjustment as drivers again become acclimated to winter road conditions. However, they may still face liability for negligence if they don’t adjust their driving to the weather conditions, fail to service their car in preparation for winter conditions or drive in a manner that displays overconfidence in vehicle safety features (like four-wheel drive).

You can’t control the weather, of course, but if you live in Maine or travel through it, you can expect to encounter inclement road conditions throughout the winter season. AAA recommends motorists consider the following as they prepare to head out:

  • Make sure tires are properly inflated, and that radial tires aren’t mixed with other types
  • Avoid if possible using the parking brake in cold, rainy or snowy weather
  • Avoid use of cruise control while on an icy or wet road surface
  • Always look and steer where you want to go
  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly and with extra caution
  • Driver more slowly in general
  • Become familiar with your own brakes
  • Don’t try to power up icy hills
  • Stay home if you can help it (even if you’re extremely cautious, you can bet at least one other driver you encounter will not be so careful)

If you are injured as a result of a weather-related crash in Maine, contact an experienced attorney for advice on how to obtain 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:

Maine says goodbye to fall, digs out of brutal storm, Nov. 3, 2014, By John Bacon and Doyle Rice, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

Portland Truck Crash Kills Maine Woman on Turnpike, Oct. 1, 2014, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Authorities have issued a summons for a tractor trailer driver who was allegedly distracted while operating his rig on Interstate 95, causing him to wreck into several trees in the median. truck1

Although no other vehicles were involved and the 26-year-old, who had been hauling wood chips was not injured, troopers who arrived on scene were placed in danger. They arrived to find the fuel tank of the vehicle submerged in mud and leaking.

According to media reports, the crash in Island Falls was precipitated by the trucker reaching to find the switch to heat his mirrors. He reportedly had never driven this type of truck before and was not familiar with the controls. That no one was injured is cause for gratitude, as crashes involving such large trucks have the potential to result in serious and permanent injuries and even death.

Our Portland truck accident know that this case highlights two major issues with regard to large truck safety: Distraction and inexperience. In either case, both the trucker and carrier could be held liable in the event an accident causes injury to other motorists. A theory of vicarious liability could be asserted solely on the fact that he was employed by the parent company, even if the firm engaged in no wrong act or omission. However, there could also be an assertion of negligence due to inadequate training of the driver.

By entrusting this massive machine to a worker, the carrier is promising to have taken reasonable measures to protect the safety of both the driver and others with whom he shares the road. Failing to train him on how to operate the vehicle would be a major omission.

The distraction issue is less subtle. We tend to think of distraction as typically involving smart phones or GPS devices. But any action that tears one’s eyes away from the road is a danger, and this is a good example.

Further illustrating this point is a 2009 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on the impact of driver distraction in commercial motor vehicle operations. What researchers found was troubling. They analyzed 60,000 hours and 3 million miles of continuous data. Of 4,450 “safety-critical events” (i.e., crashes, near-crashes and unintentional lane deviations), study authors learned that drivers engaged in non-driving tasks in 71 percent of crashes, 45 percent of near-crashes and 61 percent of all safety-critical events.

Unsurprisingly, tasks that took driver’s eyes off the road (as opposed to, say, carrying on a cell phone conversation) were associated with higher crash rates.

The agency reports an average of 413,000 large trucks are involved in crashes each year, resulting in approximately 4,800 deaths.

In Maine, the governor’s office reports 8,000 crashes and 41 traffic deaths were attributable to distracted-driving from 2011-2014. That is likely a low estimate, considering distraction is not easy to track and not always greatly reported. This is particularly true of commercial drivers, who may have incentive to avoid reporting their own distraction, lest they face professional consequences.

Some large truck carriers in Maine have agreed to spread the message regarding the dangers of distracted driving by plastering anti-distraction messages on the side of rigs. We can only hope those inside the cabins heed those warnings as well.

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

Additional Resources:

Tractor Trailer Operator Summoned for Distracted Driving, Oct. 27, 2014, New Desk, WABITV-5

More Blog Entries:

Two Die in Fatal Maine Crash, Distraction Blamed, Nov. 3, 2014, Portland Truck Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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Nearly three years ago, two Paris teens were killed and two others injured after the driver (one of those hurt) had been drunk and texting behind the wheel when she lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a cluster of trees. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now, that driver has been convicted of two counts of manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Now 21 and the mother of a 1-year-old, she faced 30 years of incarceration on the manslaughter charges.

At trial, witnesses testified the driver was drunk when she arrived at the party. She continued to drink. She laughed off a crash that happened just a few hours earlier, when she was turning her car in circles in the driveway and slammed into a tree stump. She was drinking up until a half hour before the fatal crash. She refused to let anyone else drive the vehicle.

Our Bangor car accident lawyers understand parents of the teens who were killed were dissatisfied with the criminal punishment in the case. Of course, no sentence was going to bring their children back. However, the gravity of the loss warranted a greater penalty.

The survivor and families of the 16-year-old and 19-year-old killed may seek civil action in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the benefit of such action would need to be weighed in light of the kind of insurance the driver carried.

A young single mother without a college degree and a now with a felony record is unlikely to have much that is monetarily recoverable by the three other families. However, her (or her parents’) auto insurer likely would cover damages to a degree. If the insurer refused to pay the policy limits, that firm might be named defendant in the lawsuit.

Another method of recovery might be one’s own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of the decedent’s parents. Even though they weren’t behind the wheel, the policy may cover them for such incidents. This is likely to be a viable option, considering even if defendant was insured her liability policy limits probably wouldn’t cover the extensive loss suffered by each of the three families involved.

There could also be the possibility of a Dram shop/social host liability action. The Maine Liquor Liability Act, codified in Maine Revised Statutes Title 28-A, Chapter 100 holds that either a licensee or non-licensee who negligently or recklessly provides alcohol to a minor under 21 or an intoxicated person may be held liable if that person goes on to cause harm to another. In this case, attorneys should look at how the minors obtained alcohol – where it was purchased, who served it, who was throwing the party, etc.

Dram shop/social host liability actions in Maine must be brought within 180 days of the incident. Damages for medical expenses under this law are unlimited, but all other damages are capped at a maximum $350,000.

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:

Driver sentenced to 18 months for crash that killed two teens, Oct. 1, 2014, Staff CBS 13

Additional Resources:

Maine Car Accident Attributed to Older Driver’s Inattention, Sept. 26, 2014, Bangor Car accident Lawyer Blog

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There is perhaps nothing more devastating than losing a child.

Another mother in Maine now knows that pain, as well as the guilt of knowing she might have prevented the crash that killed her son, a high school football player, if only she’d been paying attention behind the wheel.lastjourney

Authorities say the mother was driving in Bridgton when she reportedly drifted left of center because she was distracted in an exchange with her son in the back seat. When she realized she drifted, she swerved right and slammed on the brakes, causing her to lose control of the car, which careened off the road and into a patch of trees. Not only did her 16-year-old son die, but her 35-year-old boyfriend was killed.

Investigators believe she may have been speeding as well.

Our Portland accident injury lawyers realize this tragic case illustrates that while cell phone distraction deservedly receives much discussion, there are other in-vehicle demands for our attention that can be just as dangerous.

Although a new study released by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates talking while driving is safest when the driver is speaking to someone in the vehicle who can see what they see, the Bridgton case shows this is not without exception. Researchers asserted that when a passenger can see what the driver sees, they are likely to react to the traffic in a way that allows the driver to maintain safety. For example, they could stop speaking when something unexpected occurs or point out something dangerous the driver may not have noticed.

Still, this case shows distraction of any kind has the potential to be deadly. In this case, the boy’s aunt said the teen was fidgeting with a mirror on the outside rear of the vehicle. His mother was demanding that he close it. She turned to address her son, and soon after, her boyfriend, in the front passenger seat, called out her name to warn her they had crossed into the opposing lane. She reportedly over-corrected and lost control.

Both the woman’s son and boyfriend, a father of three, were killed on impact.

Police have not yet said whether they intend to bring charges against the woman, whose driving record is marked by multiple offenses, including a license revocation in 2005 for being a habitual offender after she repeatedly drove following suspensions for speeding and drunk driving. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in this crash.

Maine law forbids drivers under 18 from talking on cell phones and all drivers from texting behind the wheel. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that numerous other kinds of distraction can have serious consequences. A few listed include:

  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating and drinking
  • Reading (including maps)
  • Grooming
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting the music

Although drivers in their 20s comprise 27 percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes, other age groups may still be susceptible.

The federal agency estimates 421,000 people are injured annually in distracted driving crashes and more than 3,300 die.

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

Additional Resources:

Driver in fatal accident says she was distracted, Oct. 22, 2014, By David Hench, Portland Press-Herald

More Blog Entries:

Portland Truck Crash Kills Woman on Maine Turnpike, Oct. 1, 2014, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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An elementary school student was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle while boarding a bus in Sedgwick recently. The child was later transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Coincidentally, the accident occurred just days before National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 20-24. schoolbuswithchild1

According to the Maine State Police, the crash occurred as the child was boarding the bus to school around 7:30 a.m. The bus slowed with its yellow flashing lights to indicate it was preparing to stop to pick up the girl. However, she was not standing outside as usual, so the driver pulled to the side of the road and turned off the yellow flashing lights, an indicator that through traffic was allowed to pass. As a 64-year-old driver was passing the bus, the girl raced out into the street, thinking the bus was stopped for her. (It was, but the absence of yellow flashing lights meant it wasn’t safe for her to cross.)

The private busing company that provides service to the school district declined to comment.

Our Bangor personal injury attorneys understand the driver of the car is not expected to face any charges, as neither speed nor alcohol is believed to have been a factor in the crash. However, it’s possible the bus company and/or driver could face some degree of liability if protocol was not followed in some way.

It’s almost certain the girl would be assigned some degree of comparative fault for running out into the road when she was not designated to do so. However, that might be mitigated by the fact that she is a child and the bus driver would have had a duty to anticipate potentially unexpected and unsafe action from a student passenger. The key will be determining what policies or protocol, if any, the bus driver may have breached.

Maine follows a 50 percent modified comparative fault model in injury cases, meaning the claim will not be barred so long as plaintiff’s fault is not more than 50 percent.

Most school bus related accidents occur before or just after a student gets on the bus, while waiting at the stop, crossing the street, or while preparing to board or exit.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association reports an average of 19 school-age children die each year of bus-related traffic accidents. Of those, 14 – or 74 percent – are student pedestrians, as opposed to student occupants. About one-half of those killed were between the ages of 5 and 7. The majority of crashes happen just after school, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

According to the Maine Department of Transportation, approximately 80 percent of Maine’s students are transported to school via school bus. Nationally, the rate is just 50 percent. In total, that’s about 152,000 Maine pupils who rely on school bus transportation every day. There are approximately 2,800 school buses operating throughout the state on any given school day, and collectively, those buses travel nearly 30 million miles a year.

The theme for this year’s national school bus safety week is, “At my stop, you stop.”

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety offers the following tips for children near school buses:

Always walk 10 feet in front of the bus and never behind it. If you can’t see the driver, the driver won’t be able to see you.

If you drop something in front of the bus, tell the driver before going to get it.

Keep arms and heads inside the bus at all times.

Watch for motorists as your cross the street, board the bus or wait at your stop. Keep in mind they may not always be able to see you, so act defensively.

If your child is the victim of a Bangor school bus accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Sedgwich student struck by car while getting on the bus, Oct. 16, 2014, By Faith DeAmbrose, The Weekly Packet

More Blog Entries:

Howe v. MMG Ins. Co. – Dangerous Dog Bite Liability in Maine, July 27, 2014, Bangor Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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What began as a fun way to kick off the fall festivities ended in tragedy recently when those aboard a haunted hayride in Maine were dragged by an out-of-control Jeep towing a trailer with nearly two dozen passengers down a steep hill. forestpathinautumn

All 22 injured passengers and the driver were thrown when the Jeep struck a tree. A 17-year-old girl was killed. Although police in Mechanic Falls are still investigating the exact cause, they suspect brake problems with the 1979 Jeep are to blame.

From a personal injury and wrongful death standpoint, there are numerous individuals and entities that are likely to find themselves named as defendants. The driver would be one. The owner of the vehicle, if different than the driver, would likely also be named, as would the event organizers. The land owner or possessor also may face premises liability claims if there is reason to believe the property was in an unsafe condition and there was no warning.

Our Portland personal injury lawyers understand this incident has highlighted the fact that in most states, these kinds of seasonal businesses tend to face very few safety regulations.

To start, there is no agency that oversees hayrides. In Maine, the state fire marshal’s office is responsible for inspection of amusement park rides. However, there is no state licensing requirement for hayrides.

Unfortunately, the injuries sustained in hayride accidents tend to be significant due to the fact that you have a large number of people crammed unsecured onto a large trailer traversing rough terrain, often in the dark. Though operators tend to move more slowly than vehicles on an average road, the sheer weight and size of these vehicles makes serious injury a real possibility in the event the vehicle crashes or overturns. Falls are another common risk.

In some places – Tennessee, for example – people on hayrides are specifically exempt from the legal requirement to wear seat belts. Others, such as Wyoming, Texas and Connecticut, grant exemptions for people to ride openly in the back of a flatbed or pickup truck if they are on a hayride, actions that would otherwise be deemed illegal.

But of course, the reason those actions are illegal in the first place is because they are dangerous. Stuffing the back of the trailer or truck bed with hay and pumpkins doesn’t make it any less hazardous.

Regulation is largely left to the discretion of local municipalities, which means it’s generally inconsistent and often non-existent.

What happened here in Maine was not an isolated incident. Earlier in October, a 35-year-old woman from Missouri suffered serious injury when she fell off the fender of a tractor while on a hayride and was run over by the tractor. In Minnesota, a 59-year-old man died in September after falling through two hay racks tied together to be pulled by a tractor for a hayride. Last year, nine people were hospitalized in Michigan after a hayride tractor overturned. The driver in that case was later charged with reckless driving, his blood-alcohol level found to be just shy of the legal limit. And in July of last year, 11 children were hospitalized in Florida after the trailer became detached from the tractor, sending the trailer full of children careening backward into nearby trees before tipping over.

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

Additional Resources:

Hayrides in many states face few regulations, Oct. 13, 2014, By Ryan Adair, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

Dangerous Property Poses Hazards for Maine Tenants, Oct. 10, 2014, Maine Injury Lawyer Blog

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Tenants in a downtown apartment complex in Brunswick were evacuated from their homes recently when fire department officials deemed the rampant code violations a threat to their safety. According to the Bangor Daily News report, those conditions included:

  • Blocked emergency exits;
  • Non-functioning smoke-detectors;
  • Inadequate fire doors;
  • Lack of sprinkler systems over the building boiler. firealarm

Officials report the property owner was in the midst of making changes, and indicated it wouldn’t be long before residents could move back in. What’s surprising is not that these conditions existed, but that they were caught before no one was seriously hurt.

Property owners in Maine owe a duty to protect their business invitees and licensees from an unreasonable risk of harm. We’re all familiar with cases of “slip-and-fall” or “trip-and-fall,” where property owners knew about the existence of a slippery substance or crack in the floor and failed to clean it up or fix it and someone fell and got hurt as a result. While either of these scenarios could make a property owner vulnerable to litigation, it may not break any laws.

However, when a hazard is created to guests, tenants and business invitees due to direct safety code violations, this is an egregious form of negligence. Plaintiffs in such situations could make a strong case that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the danger (a key element in premises liability lawsuits). Additionally, if there had been multiple warnings about a specific hazard that was illegal, never corrected and later results in injury, our Bangor premises liability attorneys know that might be grounds to pursue punitive damages.

Contrary to compensatory damages, which are intended to make plaintiffs whole, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter such egregious action in the future. Most courts are reticent to allow the pursuit of punitive damages in all but the most serious cases. But if a plaintiff can show blatant and repeated disregard for the law and public safety, it’s tough to get much more egregious.

Officials in Brunswick are especially sensitive to this issue, following a horrific fire in a Maine Street apartment building three years ago. That structure, too, was known to have numerous safety violations, and fire officials were slow to force tenants out if they didn’t have to do so. They kept trying to work with the landlord. But then disaster struck in the form of a three-alarm blaze, destroying a landmark building, leaving 17 people (including a 6-month-old baby) homeless and decimating at least three small businesses.

Of the most recent evacuation, the fire chief was quoted as saying he’d rather be questioned on “Why are you doing this?” then later asked, “Why didn’t you do more?”

He said officials have been working with the landlord for several months, but changes have been slow to come. Fire officials decided tenants’ safety could no longer be risked.

Aside from fire hazards, older buildings often require a greater degree of maintenance in general. Property owners need to take great care in assuring:

  • Stairwells and common areas are properly lit;
  • Stairs are even and sturdy;
  • Flooring is chipped and carpet isn’t bunched;
  • Roofs are in good repair to prevent leaking, which can lead to slippery floors;
  • Entryways and sidewalks are kept in good repair and free of cracks;
  • Any holes or uneven steps are clearly marked until they can be repaired;
  • Wiring is kept unexposed and in good working condition.

A deficiency in any one of these areas can result in serious injury to you or a loved one.

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

Additional Resources:

Tenants forced from building by safety violations likely to return within a week, Sept. 25, 2014, By Peter L. McGuire, The Forecaster, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Teen Killed by Bicycle Accident, Struck by Truck, Aug. 15, 2014, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog

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A tractor-trailer truck driver hauling recycled paper lost control of his vehicle recently on the Maine Turnpike in Kittery, and slammed through a steel guardrail, before crossing over the median and colliding head-on with a sport-utility vehicle driven by a Rhode Island woman.trucksontheroad

The 59-year-old SUV driver was killed instantly, according to media reports. A spokeswoman for the Maine Turnpike Authority called it one of the most severe she’d ever seen. While some truck accidents had been precipitated by tractor-trailer drivers taking out up to 800 feet of guardrail, few actually crossed over the median, she said.

There is no evidence the trucker tried to brake in the moments before impact, which usually suggests one of a few things: Extreme fatigue, intoxication, a medical event or a mechanical defect.

Authorities have identified the driver as a 58-year-old from New Hampshire, employed by a trucking company based out of Massachusetts. He was driving southbound on the turnpike when he crossed over the median and struck the SUV in the northbound lane.

Law enforcement officials say they are examining all possibilities for cause. In today’s fast-paced world, they also have to anticipate the possibility the trucker was distracted, possibly with text messaging or social media. They will analyze his phone to see if that was the case. (Although it’s more often the case with younger drivers, older drivers aren’t immune either.)

Next officials say they will examine the trucker’s log books  to determine how many hours he was on the road, to give them an idea of whether he may have had excessive road hours, which would point to driver fatigue.

Additionally, investigators have taken samples of the man’s blood and will test them for intoxicating substances. They will also delve into his medical history to see whether he maybe suffered a stroke or heart attack that led to the crash. Finally, detectives will have his rig checked out, to see whether any mechanical problems precipitated the crash and may have caused him to lose control or prevented him from braking.

Our Portland truck accident attorneys know whatever information they find will be pertinent not only to whatever criminal investigation may follow, but also to the likely civil lawsuit that will follow.

The Maine County Department of Transportation conducted a five-year study of truck crashes in the state, ending in 2010, and found 8,451 total occurred in that time, with 1,800 of those resulting in injury and 96 in fatalities. While most were reported to be in normal physical condition, those involved in fatal crashes were disproportionately fatigued or at fallen asleep.

Drivers who are tired are often pushed by employers to work more hours than they physically should or are legally allowed.

When mapping out a possible civil lawsuit following a large truck crash, you would first consider what role the company had. The legal doctrine of vicarious liability holds that employers can be held responsible for the actions of their employees simply because they were overseeing the worker’s action at the time – even if the employer hadn’t done anything inherently wrong. However, the employer might be directly negligent if it encouraged falsification of log books or overloading of trucks to encourage bigger loads to get to destinations faster.

Usually, employer insurance will cover employee accidents, but there have been plenty of cases where employers allege drivers are “independent contractors,” and therefore aren’t covered. This is where a lawsuit over a simple crash could get especially complicated. Individual truck drivers may carry their own insurance, but the limits tend to be far lower than what commercial carriers have, so it’s important that employers are held accountable in these circumstances.

Our crash injury lawyers are dedicated to helping truck accident victims pursue the best course of action.

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

Additional Resources:

Tractor-trailer crosses median in fatal Maine Turnpike crash, Sept. 18, 2014, By Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries:

Maine Car Accident Attributed to Older Driver Inattention, Sept. 26, 2014, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog