Published on:

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently affirmed a judgment favoring a bicyclist struck and run over by a bus driver, dismissing defendant’s argument that the cyclist’s own actions prevented her from obtaining compensation.bicycleshadow

At issue in Semian v. Ledgemere Transportation, Inc. was 29 – A M.R.S. § 2070 (6). This statute allows that a bicyclist may pass a vehicle on the right in certain situations, but does so “at their own risk.”

Because of this provision, defendant bus company argued it could not be held liable for injuries sustained to a bicyclist who was attempting to pass on the right.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court disagreed.

Our Portland bicycle accident lawyers know state courts in Maine recognize the modified comparative fault system, with a 50 percent bar. Pursuant to 14 M.R.S.A. 156, damages attributed to defendants will be reduced by a plaintiff’s own negligence – up to 50 percent. If a plaintiff’s negligence is found to be anything above 50 percent, the claim is barred.

But what this means is just because a plaintiff may have shared some blame for what happened does not mean he or she has no right to collect anything.

And that’s essentially what defendants in this case had hoped to establish through this statute. It didn’t work.

According to court records, the incident giving rise to this claim occurred in June 2010, when a 20-year-old cyclist was traveling on Route 1 in Ogunquit, where she encountered a school bus owned and operated by a private company (defendant) and its employee. The bus driver stopped at an intersection, but was straddling the right and center lanes. After a complete stop, the bus began to pull forward. It then stopped again.

The cyclist believed the bus would continue straight, and thus began to pass on the right. However, instead of continuing straight, the driver of the bus turned right.

The cyclist was unable to stop. She was struck by the bus and fell underneath, suffering severe injuries when the vehicle ran over her torso.

Following a five-day trial in which she asserted negligence against both the driver and the bus company, plaintiff prevailed with a judgment in her favor. The jury did find, however, plaintiff to be 25 percent negligent. The defendant held the remaining 75 percent of negligence.

Total damages incurred by plaintiff were $1 million. However, because of her comparative fault, that award was reduced to $750,000.

The bus company appealed, citing the statute that indicated the cyclist was operating at her own risk when she chose to pass the bus on the right. Therefore, the company should be absolved of all liability.

But the state high court ruled this was not the intent of the legislature, and further, the statute doesn’t insulate a driver from liability, particularly in these circumstances.

The court did concede the statute might be ambiguous as to the issue of liability. Generally, though, the legislature’s adoption of the comparative fault model supplanted defense of assumption of risk.

There are very specific instances in which a defendant can claim assumption of risk as a bar to liability, but those include things like skiing, equine activities and agritourism. In these cases, lawmakers assigned legal responsibility to participants when it’s clear they knowingly assume the risk of an inherently dangerous activity. The assumption of risk defense can be invoked in other circumstances, but only when it’s clear the participant has been notified of the inherent risks and the limitations of the other party’s liability.

The law the bus company attempted to rely on here is structurally very different from the one involving assumption of risk. Most importantly, it does not expressly protect drivers against liability to passing cyclists. It references only the conduct of the cyclists. No statement is made regarding the effect of that conduct on a motorist’s liability.

Therefore, the jury’s judgment award was affirmed.

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:

Semian v. Ledgemere Transportation, Inc. Dec. 16, 2014, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:

Maine Trucker Distracted Driving Endangers Motorists, Nov. 22, 2014, Portland Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

Law enforcement agencies have long struggled with the issue of drunk driving. The approaches have been varied, ranging from the initiation of sobriety checkpoints to enhanced patrols to even teaming up with bars, restaurants and advocacy groups to raise awareness and offer alternative transportation. light3

Now, a new study indicates increased traffic enforcement appears to be the best way to stop impaired drivers.

As reported by Maine Public Broadcasting, the study by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation was published in the online journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

As our Portland DUI injury attorneys understand it, study authors analyzed nearly three dozen communities and corresponding law enforcement agencies employing varying measures of response to DUI.

In places where the number of traffic stops were significantly higher, the rates of impaired driving were substantially lower. Alternatively, in places that had relatively few traffic stop, the rate of drunk driving was much higher. In some cases, drunk driving rates were double in those communities with lax enforcement.

The same was also true in places that had more drunk driving arrests. In places where there were a higher number of arrests, there were in fact fewer drunk drivers on the road.

The primary study author reports the logic is simple: Word of mouth is quickly spread. When those in a community recognize DUI laws are not only stiff but also enforced strictly, they are more apt to refrain from getting behind the wheel. They know there is a better chance they’ll be caught.

Not only are their friends, relatives and neighbors spreading the word, people can see it for themselves. They pass as people are pulled to the side of the road. They can see the sobriety tests taking place. That drives home the point that violation of DUI laws won’t be tolerated.

Still, researchers say there is more that could likely be done. One place to begin exploring would be a reduction of legal blood-alcohol levels for drivers. As it now stands, a person is considered impaired when his or her blood-alcohol level reaches or exceeds 0.08 percent. For a 170-pound male who has had nothing to eat, that’s four alcoholic drinks in a single hour.

Meanwhile, in many other countries in Europe and Australia, motor vehicle drivers are deemed drunk if their BAC is at or above 0.05 percent. For that same man, that would mean about 2.5 drinks in an hour.

While such proposals have been made by state legislators in the U.S., so far none of those proposals has been adopted.

Drunk driving has decreased nationally by 43 percent since 1982, with officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association crediting a number of approaches, including tougher laws, increased enforcement and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving raising awareness and making it personal for people.

Yet problems continue to persist. Consider just recently a woman in Bath was arrested after slamming into a police cruiser whose lights and sirens were activated while the officer was en route to an alarm call. Although neither driver was injured, both vehicles were badly damaged. The woman who struck the officer was charged with operating under the influence.

Authorities throughout Maine do routinely hold various counter-DUI operations. Perhaps it’s time to increase those efforts.

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

Additional Resources:

Traffic stops persuade people to avoid drinking and driving, Dec. 30, 2014, By Patti Neighmond, Maine Public Broadcasting

More Blog Entries:

Maine DUI Deaths, Injuries and Arrests Spike During Holidays, Dec. 20, 2014, Portland DUI Injury Lawyer Blog

Published on:

The new year began in Maine with a series of tractor-trailer accidents along icy roads throughout the state. semitruck1

According to state troopers, crashes on Route 9 and on Interstate 95 shut down traffic for many hours – and in one case, until the next day – while crews worked to clear the wreckage. Amazingly, no serious injuries were reported, though one driver had minor cuts and bruises and 20 other passenger vehicles sustained damage. Additionally, a 30-foot section of guardrail attached to a bridge on Bond Brook overpass was decimated.

While icy, snow conditions are nothing new for Maine drivers, tractor-trailers are known to be less maneuverable. They start more slowly, they take more time to stop and they are especially susceptible to adverse road conditions. Considering the average 18-wheeler commercial truck weighs about 25 times that of a regular car (in some cases, up to 40 times more), the risk of serious injuries and death in tractor-trailer collisions is high. In fact, crashes involving large trucks account for one-eighth of all traffic fatalities.

Our Bangor trucking accident lawyers know this time of year, truck drivers and their employers must take special care to prevent accidents. That means not only driving with extra caution, but being sure not to overload or pressuring drivers to make unrealistic deadlines that may encourage them to speed or stretch federal drive-time laws.

In the recent cases, authorities are still analyzing which factors may have played a role in the specific crashes.

On Route 9, troopers reported three tractor-trailers skidded off the road on separate patches of the roadway in Hancock County. In Augusta, two other accidents involving semi-trucks occurred on I-95.

When the first crashes started to occur, around 4:30 a.m., the road was described as “slick.”

In one of the cases, a 22-year-old tractor-trailer driver was operating a flatbed tractor-trailer that was empty when she lost control on an icy patch of the highway and struck the guardrail. The impact not only destroyed the guardrail, it ripped the front axle off the truck, which fell onto the road below. The fuel tank of the truck was also damaged, and fuel was spilled all over the roadway, creating additional hazards for other drivers.

In another case, a semi-truck driver swerved to avoid a pickup truck whose driver braked in front of him. A collision was reported, but the truck driver’s efforts to avert a direct impact minimized the damage. Still, a crash of that nature indicates the trucker was likely following to closely or traveling too fast to start.

Many of the passenger vehicles were damaged when chunks of ice and snow were sent flying off both trucks and other cars and sport utility vehicles. Troopers urged all drivers to ensure ice and snow were removed from their vehicles before taking to the road.

While taking care when driving in adverse conditions is always advisable, it is especially important when sharing the road with large trucks. Use special caution when entering the highway from a ramp to merge, as large trucks in icy conditions may not be able to slow down in enough time to avoid a collision.

 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:

Icy roadways across Maine lead to multiple tractor-trailer accidents, Jan. 5, 2014, By Ryan McLaughlin, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine DUI Deaths, Injuries and Arrests Spike During Holidays, Dec. 20, 2014, Bangor Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

Falls in nursing homes are not all that uncommon, but they are generally preventable – particularly when they involve a patient falling out of a window. openwindow

According to The Bangor Daily News, state health officials in Frenchville launched an investigation into a nursing home in late November, following the death of an elderly female resident who apparently suffered a fall from second-story window of the facility Nov. 14. She died at a nearby hospital.

In following up with the center just five and six days later, state investigators witnessed a series of deficiencies in care that rose to the level of serious, meaning patients at the site were deemed to be in immediate danger.

Our Bangor nursing home neglect attorneys recognize all too often, safety concerns and serious dangers are not uncovered until something tragic occurs. A patient’s greatest advocates are family and friends who come to visit. It’s imperative they speak up if something doesn’t seem right. If injury results, seek legal counsel to explore your options.

In this case, employees at the center in question reportedly noted the woman was missing from her room sometime around 8 p.m. A search was conducted, with employees finally realizing a door to a nursing office had been locked from the inside. Someone retrieved a key, and when they entered, they found an empty wheelchair in front of an open window. The office was on the second floor.

The patient was discovered lying on the pavement, some 12 feet below the window. An emergency medical crew was summoned and transported the woman to a nearby hospital, where she died of massive head trauma.

Investigators noted an employee took an air conditioning unit out of that window several weeks earlier. However, the worker failed to replace a screen and one of the pins to ensure the window was secure. Investigators determined this was an indication workers failed to make sure all modes of egress accessible to residents was properly secured.

Even though this was an employee office where patients were not expected to be present, they clearly had means to enter. What’s more, patients with dementia are known to “wander” into areas or places where they aren’t necessarily designated to be. This patient in particular had a known history of such behavior. In fact, before this incident, she previously left the building on two other occasions. Another time, she was nearly successful in exiting the building through an open dining room window.

In order to avoid suspension or termination from Medicare and Medicaid programs, the facility has been ordered to adhere to a correction plan, which will involve keeping nursing doors locked after hours and developing new care plans for those patients known to be at risk of “elopement” or wandering.

The nursing home maintains the efforts requested by the state would likely not have had an impact on the outcome of this particular situation, but expressed a willingness to implement what they called “simple remedies.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1,800 nursing home residents die every year in the U.S. due to fall-related injuries. Even those who survive are often left with disabilities that are permanent or significantly reduce their quality of life.

Many complaints of abuse and neglect of nursing home residents are made in December and January, as this is when many family members make a point to spend more time with loved ones for the holidays.

If you are concerned about a case of potential nursing home neglect in Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Safety studied at Frenchville nursing home after resident dies after fall from window, Dec. 4, 2014, By Jessica Potila, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

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

 

Published on:

On Thanksgiving morning, a man in Bangor had to be extracted from his vehicle by firefighters using the jaws of life. The painstaking recovery occurred as the 32-year-old was leaving a nearby restaurant close to 1 a.m. on Bangor Mall Boulevard. The snow was wet and heavy, and it was the second major storm since winter season has taken hold. beerhand

Officials say the vehicle was so badly damaged, there was no way to get to the seriously injured man except with heavy equipment. Although details of exactly how the crash occurred haven’t yet been released, we do know it was a newer-model vehicle that took a sharp turn, struck a stone and flipped onto its side.

The driver, who suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, has been charged with operating under the influence. It’s believed he previously consumed alcohol or drugs or possibly both before getting behind the wheel. It was the only serious accident to reportedly occur in city limits amidst the storm.

Still, he’s lucky.

Our Bangor drunk driving injury lawyers know these cases often don’t end as well. In far too many cases, the driver is killed. Worse, innocent passengers or other motorists or pedestrians may be the victims.

Serious and fatal crashes spike markedly from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend through New Year’s Day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an average of 36 deaths occur on American roads on any given day as a result of alcohol impairment or drug impairment by drivers. However, that number soars to 45 deaths per day during the Christmas holiday and 54 during the New Year’s holiday.

This has for years prompted law enforcement officials to respond with a series of targeted efforts to fight back. These include enhanced, roving patrols specifically seeking drunk drivers during peak times. It also includes sobriety checkpoints at various thoroughfares at any given point.

These efforts have the effect of more arrests. But of course, so does the fact that more people are drinking and driving during this period as well. Unfortunately, far too many don’t seem to be getting the message.

Just recently in southern California, officials reported a drunk driver left more than a dozen people injured when he careened into a group of friends walking through a residential neighborhood to admire holiday lights. The 28-year-old driver was reportedly under the influence (and has a history of prior convictions for this offense) and also a suspended license. He slammed into two vehicles before barreling into a crowd of 13 who were standing on a sidewalk looking at Christmas lights.

At least one of those individuals remains in intensive care.

And in Illinois recently, a man was sentenced to three years in prison following a fatal DUI crash on Christmas Eve in which his own 8-year-old daughter – a passenger in his vehicle, traveling to her grandmother’s home – was killed.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is promoting its annual “Tie One One for Safety” holiday campaign, urging those who will imbibe this season to plan ahead for a safe way home.

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 rescued with jaws of life, charged with OUI after flipping car near Bangor Mall, Nov. 27, 2014, By Mario Moretto, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Drunk Driving a Costly, Risky Chance in Maine, Aug. 1, 2013, Bangor Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

Published on:

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

 

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

Published on:

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

 

Published on:

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