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A manufacturer of chairlifts used in ski resorts in Maine has issued a warning to resorts across the country to check the devices for defects. skiing

Company engineers have conceded there is an inherent design flaw that likely contributed to the recent Portland ski injuries suffered by seven people in a single accident after they fell some 30 feet to the ground.

The accident speaks to the aging infrastructure of the ski resort industry in New England, and the dangers visitors may face.

The Associated Press reports the New York-based firm Partek Ski Lifts is advising any lodges that currently use its lifts, or those made by Borvig, to conduct thorough safety checks, and also to carefully watch for issues related to an electrical switch. It’s believed a malfunction with that component may have been to blame for the accident that resulted in injuries on Sugarloaf Mountain.

There are an estimated 3,500 ski lifts in operation throughout the U.S. Of those, it’s believed about 170 could be effected by this design flaw.

Injuries stemming from this defect could result in litigation focusing on defective design or premises liability. All businesses have a duty to ensure their site is reasonably safe for customers. Although skiing is generally considered an inherently risky activity, skiers don’t generally assume the risk of a faulty chairlift, especially if the ski resort knew about the problem or should have known about it and failed to take steps to correct the problem or warn guests.

That the manufacturer has come out in front of the issue and warned of safety concerns is a positive, though it will not necessarily release the firm from liability in the event injuries result from this issue. As of right now, there hasn’t been a formal recall issued and no chairlifts were removed from service.

Engineers for the manufacturer suggest the firm used the wrong kind of electrical switch on the device, and this caused the system not to lock the chair in place – as it should have – when the device started moving backward in the air with several people on board. The chair itself is 27 years-old.

Sugarloaf is Maine’s tallest ski mountain, and this was the second accident to occur there in the last five years. The other ski accident, which happened in 2010, involved a 25-year-old chairlift.

Here, it appears there was a broken drive shaft in a gear box that resulted in the malfunction of the lift’s main brake system, which should have been automatically activated. The quad moved some 400 feet in reverse before the emergency brake was deployed and finally brought the lift to a halt.

The accidents is still being investigated by manufacturers, the resort, state inspectors and other industry officials. The resort chose to pull that particular lift offline, and it’s replaced the component in question on all its other lifts.

Although this chairlift was made by another firm, Borvig, that company has been out of business for years and Partek took on parts and support for its existing lifts back in the 1990s. The agreement also likely means Partek assumed liability for those lifts as well.

While there has not been a death associated with mechanical malfunction of a ski chairlift since 1993, there have been numerous incidents resulting in injury. This latest Maine ski accident resulted in injuries ranging from mild to severe.

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

Additional Resources:

Ski lift firm issues safety warning after Sugarloaf accident, March 27, 2015, By David Sharp, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Skiing Accident Leads to Death, Jan. 17, 2012, Portland Injury Lawyer Blog

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Anytime a patron of a store lawfully enters that commercial property, he or she has a right to expect the business – and its agents – will act with reasonable care to ensure the site will be kept in reasonably safe condition. That includes making sure shelves are safely stacked, aisles are clear of debris and substances, lighting is adequate, and entrances stairways, walkways and parking lots are in good condition.shoppingcarts

It also means employees must act with reasonable care when carrying out their jobs.

When this does not happen, it’s a form of premises liability. That’s what is alleged in the recent Portland case of Sayed v. Wal-Mart, in which a man says he was strapping his infant son into the front of a shopping cart when an employee of the store negligently rammed a line of shopping carts into his back.

The lawsuits does not allege the child was injured. However, plaintiff asserts he suffered injuries to his back that required hospitalization and ongoing medical treatment. He seeks damages against defendant for those costs, as well as pain and suffering and mental anguish, loss of earnings, loss of earnings capacity and loss of life enjoyment.

There is no indication the employee intended to hurt the patron. Rather, it seems to be simply an accident. But that doesn’t change the fact plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of worker’s conduct and through no apparent fault of his own. (Even if he did share some of the blame, comparative negligence is not a bar to injury claims in Maine.)

This is one example of how a company/employer can be held responsible for actions of workers. The legal theory on which this is founded is called respondeat superior. This is Latin for “let the superior answer.” However, the rule is only applicable if the worker was acting within the course and scope of employment.

That means generally, if a worker was doing his or her job, carrying out the company’s business or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf at the time injury took place, the employer can likely be held liable.

An exception comes into play when it’s determined employees acted either out of entirely personal motives or independently. So for example, if this worker had intentionally rammed the shopper, the store might not be liable.

The purpose of the rule is to hold companies responsible for the cost of doing business, and that includes worker misconduct or carelessness. Intentional injuries or those resulting from a worker doing something that is not related to his or her job are not likely to result in employer liability.

Often in these cases, it’s not necessary to show employer knew employee might cause harm or even that the company clearly did anything wrong. What must be shown is the injury resulted from employee’s actions and that employee was acting in the course and scope of employment.

Alternatively, a person injured by an employee could allege the company was negligent in hiring or retention of that employee, which is to say the company did act wrongly. This pertains to the idea that companies hire or keep a worker even after learning he or she poses a possible danger.

An example might be a nursing home that hired a person previously convicted of a violent criminal act. If that person goes on to harm one of the vulnerable residents, the victim or his representatives could pursue action against the facility on the theory of negligent hiring or retention.

If you injured while patronizing business or commercial property, contact our experienced Portland injury lawyers to learn more about your options to pursue compensation.

Contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine man sues Wal-Mart after employee allegedly rammed him with carts, April 1, 2015, By Darren Fishell, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Ice and Snow Slip-and-Fall Injuries Common, Feb. 4, 2015, Portland Premises Liability Lawyer Blog

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Impaired drivers in Maine have been wreaking havoc on our roads, causing property damage, serious injury and the loss of innocent victims.anger

  • In Lincolnville, a 31-year-old crossed the center line and struck an oncoming vehicle, driven by a 58-year-old woman. The man was ejected from his vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, while the woman was rushed to the hospital with injuries. Police suspect the younger driver was speeding and drunk.
  • In Litchfield, a woman was arrested for her fourth DUI after she crashed her vehicle with her son inside. Authorities say her 4-year-old son was inside when she careened into a cluster of trees. Emergency workers had to use a chainsaw to free them. She has 13 prior license suspensions on her record.
  • And in Bangor, a Hudson man has been charged with the New Year’s Day death of his fiancee after he drove his Jeep into a tree, causing his front-seat passenger to be ejected. He is charged with manslaughter and aggravated criminal operating under the influence.

It’s an appropriate time to highlight these cases now for two reasons. The first — April is Alcohol Responsibility month, a time when safe driving advocates seek to highlight the responsible use of alcohol for adult consumers. Secondly, law enforcement agencies in Maine have announced a commitment to step up efforts to arrest repeat offenders.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more than 1.2 million drivers nationally are arrested for drunk driving.

In Maine, a first offense for OUI (operating under the influence of intoxicants) is merely a $500 fine. The second offense garners a minimum mandatory seven-day jail term, and a fine. It’s only upon the third offense that an offender is charged with a felony and a stiffer jail sentence is imposed.

Consider too that these are merely the instances in which people are caught by police. MADD estimates drivers operate under the influence some 80 times before their first drunk driving arrest.

Two years ago, Maine became the 20th state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law, meaning even first-time offenders must outfit their vehicles with breathalyzers for a set period of time at their own expense if they wish to resume driving.

The state also carries out regular DUI checkpoints in order to screen drivers for impairment.

While criminal defense attorneys deride these consequences “harsh,” such penalties clearly are less effective than they should be. In the view of our Bangor injury lawyers, what’s really harsh is the loss to the innocent victims, those who refrained from such careless, reckless behaviors, and still suffered serious injuries – or worse.

Drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher are the cause of nearly 30 percent of all traffic deaths in Maine. This costs taxpayers an estimated $235 million in emergency response time, medical costs and losses to society.

The impact to individual families is immeasurable.

What families should know is there are likely numerous avenues of compensation. While in many cases nothing will bring back a loved one or fully restore a victim, a civil lawsuit can result in damages awarded for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral expenses, pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

If you have been injured in a drunk driving accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Lincolnville man killed in head-on crash, April 1, 2015, By Stephen Betts, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Recalled Vehicles Often Remain Unrepaired in Maine, March 30, 2015, Bangor Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog

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By now, most motorists have undoubtedly heard about the grave risk posed by faulty airbags, defective ignition switches and unintended acceleration. winterdrive

These issues and more were exposed within the last year by large auto manufacturers that later issued recalls compelling vehicle owners to have the problems fixed. In fact, there were a record number of vehicle-related recalls in 2014.

Companies have rightly come under fire for waiting too long to inform the public of the issues (in some cases, years), despite the very real risk of crash, injury and even death these defects pose. But the other problem is the low response rate for recalled vehicles. Part of it is lack of awareness. Part of it is there are no laws requiring owners or even dealerships to resolve safety recalls or inform buyers of problems prior to sale.

In all, our Portland car accident attorneys note approximately 60 million vehicles were recalled last year. A new study by Carfax, a firm that sells vehicle history reports, indicates about one-fifth of those cars and trucks were never fixed.  Government data indicates the number of recalled vehicles that go without repair is about one-fourth. These defects are potentially fatal.

One used-car specialist was quoted as saying that when these vehicles aren’t repaired, the problems compound over the years. It further increases the risk that parts will fail.

It’s unclear how many of these unheeded recalls result in crashes or injuries, but we do know there is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest it occurs far more than it should. There was the 35-year-old father of two who died in Houston in January after shrapnel from his airbag cut into his neck following a minor accident. That airbag had been recalled in 2011. However, neither the prior two owners nor the independent dealer who sold the vehicle to decedent seven months earlier bothered to get the repair done.

It’s worth noting first of all, a recall notice does not absolve a manufacturer from a defective condition in a vehicle that results in injury or death. That company may still be liable. But in a situation like that, it’s also possible the firm that sold the car may be found civilly liable. That’s because even if there is no legal mandate requiring the dealership complete such repairs, one could reasonably argue the dealership owed a duty of care to its customers to be aware of the potential dangers posed by vehicles it sold and to either address those problems or warn consumers about them.

In years passed, legislators have tried to pass laws that would change the legal requirements and mandate vehicle sellers address recalls before those vehicles can be sold. However, those efforts have stalled every time amid fierce opposition from auto manufacturers, dealers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But a new push is underway. The government has taken away one the No. 1 excuse of these dealerships, which is that they had no way to check whether individual vehicles had undergone recall-related repairs. Now, there is a website that allows both dealership and drivers to scan for recalls by simply entering the vehicle identification number. Dealerships can even scan recall notices for numerous vehicles at once, in order to save time.

The measure being mulled by Congress would bar re-registration of vehicles that have outstanding recall work.

Still, the auto industry continues to oppose these measures.

In the meantime, the roads continue to be less safe as a result.

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:

Ignoring vehicle recall notices puts us all at risk, March 15, 2015, By Rus Van Arsdale, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Seat Belt Law Faces Repeal, Raising Safety Concerns, March 15, 2015, Portland, ME Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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City health and safety regulators in Bangor are only authorized to initiate an inspection of private property when there is a complaint from either residents or landlords. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That could soon change, as a proposal before city council would launch a new program providing for routine inspections of some 6,000 local apartment units. Officials would be scanning the property for dangerous conditions amounting to health and safety code violations.

The goal, according to Bangor’s community and economic development director, would be the assurance that renters are granted the healthy, safe living quarters to which they are entitled.

In November, a horrific multi-unit apartment fire in Portland resulted in six deaths. That was approximately six months after officials there halted proactive, routine fire safety inspections of residential rental properties. Fire officials later discovered not only were the smoke detectors on the property disabled, but critical points of egress were blocked.

Although officials say claims that continuance of safety inspections would have prevented the deadly fire or minimized losses are speculative, the aforementioned issues would certainly have been flagged as violations if an inspection was conducted. It was the deadliest fire in the city in 40 years, and officials in Portland promptly resumed its routine inspection program.

Efforts in Bangor to do the same actually pre-dated that fire, but certainly, it gives city officials fuel to press forward with the measure. The only routine health and safety inspections currently required of residential property are those designated for federal subsidies, such as Section 8. Under federal law, those properties have to be inspected at least once a year.

Our Bangor premises liability lawyers understand it’s the city’s plan to have the program started by early May. Although annual inspections would certainly be ideal, city leaders believe it’s likely they’ll only be able to initiate inspections once every three years.

Still, it’s better than nothing. Fire departments have for many years placed strong emphasis on safety and health inspections on public gathering places. These have included businesses, stores and schools. However, private residences have been mostly overlooked. This is despite the fact that this is where the most fires happen.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports residential fires account for more than three-fourths of all fire deaths annually, and nearly 80 percent of all fire injuries. Private dwelling fires also account for more than half of all annual property losses attributed to accidental fires.

It’s estimated there are more than 1 million fires in the U.S. each year.

Because about half of all residential fires are related to cooking, it is crucial for properties to have working smoke detectors and clear points of exit.

While it’s true that many fires – and other dangers on private property – are not intentional, property owners owe a duty to tenants and guests to ensure the site is free of perilous conditions. Adhering to basic health and safety codes is just the start.

Last year, 25 people died in Maine due to 14 fires. If these routine health inspections help to hold property owners more accountable for their sites, there is no question injuries could be prevented and lives could be saved.

People who suffer injury as a result of fire or another dangerous condition on property should consult an experienced injury lawyer.

If you have been injured in Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Bangor eyes mandatory health, safety inspections of nearly 6,000 apartments, March 13, 2015, By Evan Belanger, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Ice and Snow Slip-and-Fall Injuries Common, Feb. 4, 2015, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog

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Just a handful of days after one of the biggest chain-reaction car accidents in Maine’s history, state lawmakers are deciding whether to repeal the current seat belt law. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Title 29-A, 2081 of Maine Revised Statutes require all passengers in every vehicle to buckle up, so long as there is a seat belt available. Children must be strapped in to proper carriers, car seats or booster seats. Violators face a $50 fine for a first offense. The only exceptions are drivers or passengers with a disability or medical condition that makes it unsafe or impossible to wear a seat belt. Mail carriers are also exempt.

The new bill, LD 112, is entitled the “Act to Eliminate the Requirement That Adults Wear Safety Belts.” The sponsor is Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, a freshman senator who asserts only children should be required by law to buckle up.

Trauma doctors and nurses are slated to testify before the Legislature’s transportation committee in an effort to oppose the bill. They have seen first-hand the carnage that can result when drivers and passengers don’t abide by the current seat belt law. Investigators still sifting through the wreckage of the 75-car pileup on I-95 west have yet to reveal whether those injured were wearing seat belts. However, there have been no fatalities reported, and troopers say that is undoubtedly the result of people buckling up.

“Seat belts likely saved lives,” said a trauma coordinator at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, adding that injuries would undoubtedly have been much, much worse had people not been wearing their seat belts.

But Brakey insists that isn’t the point. Rather, he said, the problem is government should not be interfering with such matters. He said he does hope people were buckled up in the crash, and that people will chose to buckle up every trip. However, he asserts it isn’t the job of the government to make sure they are doing so.

The bill does have support on the other side of the aisle, with Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell) backing the measure as well.

A number of trauma centers are banding together to voice concern about the possibility of the bill’s passage. The Maine Public Health Association issued a statement indicating it’s been proven time and again, over generations and millions of miles, that drivers and passengers who buckle up will be half as likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents.

In actual terms, that translates to hundreds of people in Maine every year who are spared this fate.

EMT professionals – those who are often first to respond on the scene to serious crashes – say they do understand the desire not to be overburdened with regulations and rules. However, this is one of those areas where it doesn’t make sense to compromise. When a person is ejected from a vehicle, they point out, the severity of injury and loss of life is “senseless.”

Airbags can help to minimize the damage, but they won’t eliminate it entirely.

Last year, Maine traffic deaths were reported at the lowest level in 70 years. Authorities say that’s partially a result of cracking down on speeding drivers, but strict seat belt enforcement is a major factor too. Officials say 85 percent of drivers in Maine were buckled up – a marked increase since the law was first passed in 1997. At that time, only about 50 percent of drivers wore their seat belts.

Initially, the law passed as a secondary offense, which meant officers could only ticket drivers after stopping them for another reason. Eight years ago, it was bumped up to a primary offense, and it’s likely no coincidence the number of traffic deaths have continued to decline.

Brakey says the inspiration for the bill occurred when he was stopped at a seat belt checkpoint last year. He questions the wisdom of stopping people and interrupting their day over seat belt violations, especially when “They may have very important business they may be attending to” and they aren’t hurting anyone else.

But here’s what Brakey’s argument overlooks: Motor vehicle accident injuries and fatalities do end up costing us all, in the form of emergency response, medical care and in the loss to society of those who were once contributing members.

Of course, whether a person is wearing a seat belt won’t diminish the amount they are able to collect in damages in the event of a crash, but prevention is always preferred.

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

Additional Resources:

In wake of 75-vehicle pileup, a bill to repeal Maine’s seat belt law, Feb. 26, 2015, By Jackie Farwell, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Semian v. Ledgemere Transp., Inc. – Maine Supreme Court Weighs Bike Injury, Jan. 22, 2015, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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On a snowy stretch of I-95 west, 75 cars, trucks and semis kept “crashing and crashing,” leaving a mangled mass of metal and debris. In total, 17 injuries have been reported, though authorities have expressed shock no one was killed.

The chain-reaction pileup was the worst officials said they’d seen in decades. highwaysnow

“If Hollywood wanted to create a scene, I don’t think they could have created the amount of carnage that was out here today,” said one Maine State Police lieutenant. Some 50 vehicles were towed, many reduced to nothing more than crumpled piles.

As officials focus on clean-up and the injured focus on recovery, insurance companies will soon be stepping in to sort through the tangle of claims that will surely follow. In any chain reaction crash, determining liability can be a major challenge – and that’s with just a few vehicles involved, let alone 75.

Blaming the weather or road conditions is natural. Certainly, authorities believe, it played a significant factory, particularly the slippery, wet conditions. However, the biggest problem is often that drivers travel too fast for conditions. Additionally, many drivers failed to wipe the wet snow from their brake lights, which meant it was difficult for those approaching from the rear to discern that those ahead were slowing down – until it was too late.

Authorities say there is no evidence a single vehicle was responsible for the entire collision. Often in these cases, insurers will break the large pileup into several smaller “mini-accidents” to determine liability and payout.

It’s estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that of the six million auto accidents that occur in the U.S. annually, about one-third are multi-vehicle collisions. Rarely do they reach this level, but insurance companies will often approach these situations in much the same way, regardless of how many vehicles were involved.

The process typically involves a trained accident investigator, employed by the insurance company, to respond to the scene. They will attempt to identify any potentially negligent acts, such as speeding, following too closely, distraction by cell phone, impairment by alcohol or drugs or other relevant circumstances. Often in these situations, there is more than one negligent driver.

The investigator will seek to interview witnesses, passengers and drivers, they will take photographs of the vehicles and the scene, take note of roadway conditions and review drivers’ records.

In the end, fault is usually pinned on several vehicles. If you as the driver are deemed to have shared a portion of the fault, the insurance company could seek to lessen your total payout through the principle of comparative fault. In Maine, which follows a modified comparative fault model, claims are only barred if your fault is 50 percent or more.

Keep in mind that insurance companies are not working for you in this situation. Their goal is to mitigate their own risk and reduce their overall payout. That’s why we recommend injured persons in these situations seek legal representation early on, so that your legal team can conduct their own investigation.

Insurance companies are unlikely to simply pay the policy limits upon request, even when that is the amount to which you are entitled. There is likely to be some back-and-forth negotiation between the insurance company and your attorney. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to ensure our clients receive fair compensation for their injuries.

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

Additional Resources:

‘Everything was just crashing and crashing and crashing’ as 75-car pileup injures 17 on Maine interstate, Feb. 25, 2015, By Amy Calder and Doug Harlow, Kennebec Journal

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Maine Snowmobile Injuries Mount; Feds Issue New Rule at National Parks, Feb. 22, 2015, Bangor Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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When it comes to inclement winter weather, Maine is no stranger. But when accidents result, it’s not typically the weather that is blamed. Rather, it’s the driver reaction to the weather. Most typically, operators of motor vehicles are failing to adjust their speed to the current conditions. snowvan

It’s for this reason state police have  erected flashing highway signs urging drivers to slow down to 45-mph, rather than go the normal 60- or 70-mph that is posted. But here’s the problem, according to a new report by WMTW: Those 45-mph speed limits aren’t legally enforceable. The notice is only a guideline, giving motorists a better sense of what is the safer speed given the conditions. But the black-and-white posted speed signs are the only sign that is enforceable by law.

Last year, authorities in Maine responded to an estimated 700 snow-related accidents. That figure doesn’t include incidents that did not result in injury or cause more than $1,000 in damage.

Speeding is a major problem in any season, but it’s especially perilous in winter, when visibility is reduced and the roads are caked with ice and snow. As one trucker described it, error on a dry road may result in a close call, but in the middle of winter, there’s a much higher potential for a fatality.

That’s why authorities stress adherence to the temporary 45-mph limit when it’s posted.

It’s worth pointing out Maine has some of the highest speed limits in the country. In 1995, Congress repealed the national maximum speed limit, which was 65 mph in rural areas and 55 mph in urban areas. Today, 33 states – including Maine – increased their speed limits to 70 mph. In Maine, the top speed limit was raised in 2011 to 75 mph. At the time, state Rep. Alexander Willette was quoted as saying everyone was already traveling that fast. “Why not make it official?”

The highest speed limit in the country is in Texas and Utah, where it’s set at 80 mph.

Yet, speeding is considered a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The economic cost of crashes involving excessive speed are $40.5 billion annually.

It’s also true, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes, that increasing the speed limit results in a higher number of accidents and deaths. Drivers have less time to react and tend to sustain injuries that are more severe due to the greater force of impact. This is especially true in the midst of a winter storm.

That means just because a sign says you can travel 75 mph doesn’t mean you should. In fact, when the roads are bad, you may be far safer traveling at half that speed.

And while temporary speed limits may not be enforceable, law enforcement authorities warn that it is still illegal to drive recklessly – and that could include traveling too fast for the current conditions.

In addition to reducing speed to meet current conditions, make sure to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you. Keep in mind you will need more time to stop in icy, snow conditions. And when stopping, avoid sudden movements of steering. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, make sure to gently pump the brake.

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:

45 mph restrictions not enforceable, but carelessness is, police say, Feb. 5, 2015, By David Charns, WMTW.com

More Blog Entries:

“Violent” Teen Crash in Maine Attributed to Alcohol, Speed, Dec. 8, 2014, Portland Maine Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A series of recent Maine snowmobile accidents serve as a reminder of how dangerous the motorized vehicles can be – a point well taken by the U.S. Forest Service, which recently issued new policy mandating park managers limit where snowmobiles can travel on federal land. snowmobile

Snowmobiling is permitted in the Park Loop Road system – including up Cadillac Mountain – in Acadia National Park. The new federal rules take effect Feb. 27, and are applicable to all national forests in the country.The move is specifically designed to limit injurious contact between snowmobilers and skiers in national parks. Another goal is to stop the vehicles from tearing up remote areas of pristine powder that were once only accessible by skiers.

In 2013, a federal court in Idaho ruled the Forest Service was wrong to exempt snowmobiles from a plan restricting areas in which wheeled vehicles could travel on certain designated routes. The agency estimates some 4 million people use snowmobiles in national forests, and newer technology has made the vehicles lighter and more powerful – meaning they can reach areas previously inaccessible.

Snowmobiling regulations at Acadia include requirements for vehicles to keep off carriage roads and hiking trails and to maintain a speed of under 35 mph on paved roads and 25 mph on unpaved roads. Additionally, snowmobilers are required to yield to anyone who isn’t on a snowmobile, including skiers, hikers and snowshoers. Headlights have to be on a half hour before sunset until a half hour after sunrise or whenever there is limited disability. Those on snowmobiles are barred from towing people on skis or sleds, and operation of a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. Only those over 14 can operate a snowmobile, and those under 18 are required to wear a helmet.

Our Bangor personal injury lawyers know snowmobile injuries are a serious problem in Maine. The federal agency’s efforts to curtail it may help. However, a number of injurious accidents occur outside federal parks.

Some recent examples include:

  • A 42-year-old father from North Carolina was killed in a crash on the Mount Kineo Trail when he lost control of the machine and was ejected, tossing him into the path of another snowmobile traveling in the opposite direction. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
  • A 25-year-old man was injured on Watchic Lake in Standish when slushy snow caused his vehicle to roll over around 1:30 p.m. The impact caused the rider’s helmet to fall off, and he sustained serious head injuries. Authorities suspect speed may have been a contributing factor.
  • A 24-year-old woman was critically injured in a snowmobile accident in Piscataquis County when she struck a tree and was ejected. She was transported by helicopter to a treatment center in Bangor.
  • A man in Waterville was injured after he was struck by a vehicle while riding alongside West River Road. It is legal in Maine for snowmobilers to ride alongside the road, and authorities say it’s a common site during winter. The rider was not seriously injured.

Success in a snowmobile accident lawsuit requires the aid of an experienced lawyer. Our legal team will explore the contributing factors of the crash to determine whether you have a potential for a claim. We will examine whether the following issues were at play:

  • Lack of experience
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper maintenance and service
  • Manufacturing defects in the vehicle
  • Ice or water hazards
  • Improper maintenance of the area in which crash occurred

Because injuries sustained in snowmobiling accidents tend to be severe, medical bills and other expenses are likely to be significant. It’s important for victims to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to determine avenues for compensation.

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

Additional Resources:

Feds issue new policy for snowmobile use in national forests following lawsuit from skiers, Jan. 28, 2015, By Keith Ridler, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Maine Snowmobile Accidents Spur State Warden’s Warning, Feb. 22, 2014, Bangor Injury Lawyer Blog

 

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As a growing number of companies rely heavily on technology to conduct their business, more and more are allowing workers to telecommute from home (or the local coffee shop or wherever else outside the office they can be productive). treadmill

The American Community Survey reports telecommuting has risen nearly 80 percent from 2005 to 2012, and now comprises more than 2.5 percent of the workforce in the U.S. – or about 3.2 million workers. Some estimate the number of telecommuters could balloon to 30 percent of the workforce at some point in the future.

While this often saves on overhead costs, there is one way in which it might complicate matters: Workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that covers injuries that arise out of and occur in the course of one’s work. But such cases are more complex when one’s office is at home, or when there is no central office space.

Such was the situation before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which recently considered  Sullwold v. Salvation Army, a case pertaining to workers’ compensation death benefits of a worker who died of an apparent heart attack while working at home.

It’s important to note that, typically, a heart attack – even when suffered on a job site – may be considered an idiopathic injury (i.e., owing to an internal condition of the worker, with the possibility of occurring anywhere) and thus not compensable. However in this case, the worker’s widow asserted stress was a major contributing cause of husband’s heart attack and death.

According to court records, he was responsible for overseeing investor relations for the non-profit, which at the time were valued at around $2.5 billion. He had lived in Maine since 2009, but was allowed to telecommute from home after he moved to New York City.

The company supplied him with a home computer, smart phone and other office materials.

On the day he died, he began work at 8:30 a.m. and continued working until 3:30 p.m. At that time, he took a break to walk on the treadmill. Roughly a half hour later, his wife found him unconscious on the floor. The phone was still next to him and his treadmill was still running. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

He had suffered a heart attack years earlier, and at that time, doctors recommended he make lifestyle changes, including better diet and exercise. He did so, and continued to receive treatment for coronary disease. He told his doctor weeks earlier he’d experienced chest pain while walking his dog. Though he had not reported work-related stress to his doctor, he had suffered a recent panic attack. He told his wife and co-workers it was due to being “overloaded,” and colleagues knew he worked long hours, traveled frequently and had much with which to contend.

His widow filed for workers’ compensation death benefits, asserting his heart attack and death were attributable to stress from work. A hearing officer granted her request, finding work stress a major factor in his death.

Company appealed this ruling, which was dismissed, and the grant of benefits was affirmed on the appellate level and again upon review by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The court applied 39-A M.R.S. 327 in holding the death arose out of and in the course of employment. Employer countered attorneys for widow had not met an adequate burden of proof. The court held that where there is a rational possibility of success, claims should prevail.

The hearing officer had found that although worker was walking on treadmill at the time of his death, the injury occurred during work hours in a place the company sanctioned for work and while using a smartphone provided to him for work. Thus, it was held the injury arose out of and in the course of employment.

Injury suffered by telecommuting workers in Maine can prevail. An experienced Bangor workers’ compensation lawyer can help.

If you have suffered a work-related injury in Bangor, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Sullwold v. Salvation Army,Jan. 22, 2015, Maine Supreme Judical Court

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Workers’ Compensation Claims May Stem from Cold Weather Injuries, Jan. 7, 2014, Bangor Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog