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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

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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

 

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A three-car crash on Route 2 in Canaan, a half hour outside of Bangor is being blamed on driver inattention on the part of a 70-year-old motorist.crashedcar1

Bangor car accident lawyers understand two people were transported to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries, while traffic on the highway was snarled for more than an hour. According to reports from The Bangor Daily News, the at-fault driver failed to notice or yield to a motorcyclist stopped in a construction zone.

The 62-year-old motorcyclist and his 55-year-old passenger were tossed into the rear of a boat trailer, being hauled by a 24-year-old pickup driver. The motorists were stopped in a line of traffic awaiting the go-ahead from a flagger working with the construction crew.

The pickup driver wasn’t injured, but both people on the motorcycle and the at-fault driver were hospitalized. They are expected to recover, but the case raises questions regarding the older driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.

Authorities made no mention of the driver texting or talking on his cell phone, changing the radio or eating while operating his vehicle. It appears he simply wasn’t paying attention to the road ahead.

This could be a sign the motorist’s age and accompanying ailments may have been a factor in the crash. This is a delicate issue we will be facing with growing frequency in the years to come.

We are not asserting that 70 is too old or even that the driver’s age in this case necessarily was a factor in the crash. However, it is certainly an element that should be explored, as it is undisputed that the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle without restriction diminishes significantly as we age beyond a certain point.

One example was reported recently in Portland, where an 88-year-old wrong-way driver narrowly avoided a collision with another vehicle on I-95. The crash was only avoided when a state trooper, who received a report of a wrong-way driver, raced to the scene and placed his cruiser in the path of oncoming traffic with lights flashing. Later, when the elder driver was asked why he didn’t take an exit, he responded, “What exit?”

A national traffic safety report released in 2012 by nonprofit transportation researchers with TRIP in Washington D.C. ranked Maine No. 4 in the country for percentage of fatal crashes involving drivers over the age of 65. We also ranked No. 9 in terms of licensed drivers in that age bracket.

Members of the Maine Senior Driving Coalition say we are one of the oldest states in the country, and we will continue to gray as the baby boom generation gets older.

The group indicated there were 5,750 fatalities associated with drivers over the age of 65 in 2010. Although those drivers account for just 8 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, they account for 17 percent of traffic fatalities. Maine has nearly 190,000 licensed drivers over age 65, comprising about 20 percent of the total.

The Maine Department of Transportation has reported this cohort experiences more fatal crashes per miles driven than any other age group, except for 16-year-olds. They are nearly twice as likely to be involved in a crash resulting in serious injury or death than drivers between the ages of 25 and 64.

Another part of what makes this so problematic in Maine is that we have many rural areas and not enough public transportation options.

State officials have taken some initiative to address the issue by requiring drivers 65 and older to renew licenses – which requires passage of a vision test – every four years, as opposed to every six, as required of the general population. There are also license restrictions that include things like only allowing driving within 25 miles of home or strictly during daytime hours.

One of the main indicators that family members should intercede on these matters is involvement in a crash, even if it’s minor. Other red flags might include citations for infractions like failure to yield, driving the wrong-way on a one-way, getting lost or any issue with driving that was not problematic until recently.

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:

Three-car accident on Route 2 blamed on driver inattention, Sept. 10, 2014, By Ryan McLaughlin, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Teen Driver in Fatal Maine Crash Convicted, Sentenced, Sept. 10, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A number of serious motorcycle accidents involving Maine residents has raised concern for authorities as we head into the fall riding season.

Our Portland motorcycle  accident lawyers always advocate for the rights of riders. Too often, drivers of larger vehicles simply don’t pay attention. This failure can result in catastrophic injuries, and sometimes even death.motorcyclestunter

That was sadly the case for Stuart “Toby” Pennels, 55, a combat veteran and Republican candidate for state Senate against Democrat Bill Diamond. Pennels lost control of his motorcycle after being struck by a pickup in Sandy River Plantation on Route 4. He was wearing a helmet, but suffered severe injuries to the chest and shoulder. He was transported to a hospital in Lewiston. The retired U.S. Army colonel who survived two tours in Iraq and one in Bosnia died one month after his motorcycle crash, leaving behind a wife and three adult children.

Although this may have been the most prominent motorcycle crash in recent memory, it certainly was not the only one. In Bangor, a hospital trauma team treated a 35-year-old man whose Harley Davidson was struck by a car in Trenton. Authorities say the 26-year-old car driver was turning left onto Route 3, but her line of sight was blocked by the vehicle in front of her. She didn’t see the motorcycle until seconds before impact. The 35-year-old motorcyclist suffered head injuries, while his 34-year-old passenger sustained extensive scrapes and bruising.

In South Portland, a 27-year-old motorcyclist and his passenger suffered head injuries and broken bones after crashing on Broadway Street. The two had to undergo surgery, but were expected to survive. Officials were exploring whether impairment and speed may have been factors.

And in Winthrop, police said a mechanical malfunction is believed to have contributed to a crash that involved a 58-year-old motorcyclist. He was reportedly exiting a driveway on his 1980s-model motorcycle when the bike accelerated due to a throttle malfunction. It darted onto the street and into the path of a car, which struck him.

Determining whether a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is in order following a motorcycle crash will depend heavily on the facts. For example, a product liability lawsuit may be more appropriate in the case of the motorcycle with malfunctioning equipment. Generally, though, anytime another motorist is at-fault for a crash resulting in injuries, our attorneys can help negotiate insurance companies for fair settlements and, if necessary, take the case to court.

The Maine Department of Transportation reports that between 2006 and 2010, there were 100 fatal motorcycle crashes, more than 2,400 with injuries and 455 with just property damage. Nearly 85 percent of all motorcycle crashes resulted in either an injury or fatality, which is far worse than for other motor vehicle operators.

The vast majority of those happened in June, July and August, though 21 percent occurred in September, October and November, collectively. Of those injured or killed, 45 percent were between the ages of 40 and 69.

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

Additional Resources:

Republican Maine Senate candidate from Casco succumbs to motorcycle crash injuries, Sept. 4, 2014, By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

More Blog Entries:

Maine Motorcycle Accidents A Spring Risk, May 12, 2014, Portland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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A 17-year-old from Bucksport entered the equivalent of a guilty plea in juvenile court to a manslaughter charge after her engagement in a drag race resulted in a crash that killed her 15-year-old friend. The vehicle veered out of control and struck a tree.carcrash1

The victim, a popular student and cheerleader at Bucksport High School, was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to the hospital. The incident occurred last October, just minutes after the friends left a dinner hosted for student cheerleaders and football players. The driver, then 16, was seriously injured, but survived.

Our Bangor car accident attorneys know this crash, as horrific as it was, has the potential to serve as a stark reminder of the dangers teens face behind the wheel – an especially timely message as we enter the school year. Many students are entrusted for the first time with regular use of a vehicle to go back-and-forth to classes and various after-school functions. It’s imperative that parents remain involved, and ensure teens are following their own rules, as well as the law.

In this case, the 15-year-old should never have been in the vehicle in the first place because the driver only had her immediate driver’s license. According to Maine’s graduated driver’s license law, that meant the driver was not allowed to be accompanied by any passenger who was not an immediate family member, unless that passenger was over the age of 20 and had a valid driver’s license for at least the last two years.

For teens, especially new drivers between the ages of 16 and 17, the risk of a crash substantially increases with every additional passenger, as recently reported by the Bangor Daily News. According to figures from the AAA Foundation for traffic safety, the crash risk for this cohort jumps by 44 percent when there is one passenger under age 21 in the vehicle. It doubles when there are two passengers under the age of 21. When there are three or more passengers under 21 in the car, the chances quadruple.

Also noteworthy, the risk of crash drops by 62 percent when there is a licensed adult over age 35 in the car with the teen.

The Bucksport case is just one example. Just two weeks later, a 16-year-old Hiram girl was killed after she struck a tree. Her two teen passengers were injured, but survived. Two weeks after that, two of three teen boys were seriously hurt after the car they were in also struck a tree.

The Bucksport teen, after an admission of guilt before a juvenile court judge, was sentenced to 30 days in a juvenile detention center (with all but 10 days suspended), and she will be required to remain on juvenile probation until the age of 19. There is a possibility she will have to return to jail if she violates her probation. Additionally, her driver’s license is suspended for the next five years.

At the hearing, the teen for the first time acknowledged she had been drag racing with two teen boys who had also just attended the same dinner. The four were all headed back to the 15-year-old girl’s home, which was just five miles away from the high school. An accident reconstruction team concluded the vehicle was traveling 75 miles-per-hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone at the time of the crash.

The teens initially denied they were racing.

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:

Bucksport teen gets 10 days in manslaughter case for 15-year-old classmate’s death, Aug. 29, 2014, By Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News

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Bangor Injury Lawyers Must Often Fight for Uninsured Motorist Coverage, July 17, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Noting dire consequences when motorists fail to focus behind the wheel, Gov. Paul LePage has vowed legislation and a series of other awareness initiatives intended to put the brakes on distracted driving.  He noted fines are an ineffective solution, and vowed to introduce a measure that would result in license suspension instead. metal

While he works on introducing a bill in that vein, the Maine State Police have teamed up with trucking firms to launch a public education campaign. The sides of big rigs will be emblazoned with messages such as, “One text or call could wreck it all.” Meanwhile, state troopers will be upping enforcement against distracted driving on the highways.

Our Bangor car accident lawyers know Maine is not among the 12 states with a prohibition on cell phone use, which is unfortunate because numerous studies have indicated that talking on one’s phone – even using a hands-free device – is extremely dangerous. Dialing, texting, reaching for the phone and talking sharply raise the risk of a crash or near-miss – especially for younger drivers. State lawmakers do forbid novice drivers from using cell phones, so that is a start. So too is the ban on text messaging, which is considered a primary offense for which officers can stop a vehicle. However, many say those efforts don’t go far enough.

Indeed, the fine for a first-time driving-while-texting offense is $100. It rises from that point, but that’s assuming one is spotted, stopped and ticketed. Enforcement has been lagging, so effectiveness of the law has been questioned. Last year, state police issued a total of 800 distraction-related tickets to drivers. Included in this figure were citations issued for offenses like failure to maintain control of a vehicle.

LePage said that in addition to increasing penalties for distraction behind the wheel, he plans to introduce a bill banning cell phone use by drivers unless it is a hands-free device. He said that since January 2011, when he was first sworn into office, he has not driven a vehicle – which has given him the unique opportunity to closely observe other motorists. From applying make-up while steering to texting on the highway, he called the level of distraction “amazing.” One trooper noted that during a recent patrol, officers observed a man playing guitar while driving. The governor insisted drivers need to start practicing safer habits.

Prior to taking office, the governor said he used to believe fines were a sufficient means of tackling the problem. He no longer thinks so. He believes the the laws must be stricter.

To offer a scope of the problem, in the last three years in Maine, there have been 8,000 crashes resulting in 41 deaths directly attributed to distracted driving. Officials say 3,000 of those crashes occurred in 2013, accounting for 12 deaths.

The Maine Department of Public Safety, in highlighting the seriousness of the problem, noted that same year, 78 people were killed in traffic due to speeding, and 45 were killed because of the recklessness of drunk drivers.

In addition to the messages located on the sides of trucks, the DOT plans to post notices at visitor centers. State police vowed to patrol intersections, where people tend to wait to text while at a red light. Even this is illegal (though generally more preferable than texting while in motion).

There will also be bold yellow “no texting” signs posted within work zones, where authorities report approximately 500 crashes annually.

The campaign is being funded by a $600,000 federal grant from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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 launches effort to curb distracted driving, Aug. 5, 2014, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries:

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

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Police in Augusta responded to a multi-vehicle pile-up in both the north and southbound lanes of Interstate 95, caused initially by one 20-year-old driver who failed to slow down in time to avoid a collision with a tractor-trailer ahead. This set off a chain reaction of events, which included several vehicles slamming into the wreckage. One of those vehicles contained a loaded gun. When that vehicle caught fire, a gun inside exploded, causing 40 bullets to explode within a 10-minute time period. $ Car- Ching $

The crash resulted in numerous injuries, and a mass of mangled metal that closed the interstate for hours while authorities worked to aid the injured and clear debris. Authorities were still investigating, but anticipate filing charges in relation to the crash.

Undoubtedly, the incident will also give way to a flurry of auto insurance claims, and potentially some civil lawsuits if those agencies aren’t forthcoming in paying those claims. Our Bangor car accident lawyers recognize that one of the elements that can complicate situations like this is the question of singular versus multiple occurrences.

Here’s why it matters: Most auto insurance policies cap coverage on a per-accident or per-incident basis. That means if the per-incident cap is $300,000, that’s the most everyone is going to receive, collectively. However, if it is determined there were multiple incidents in the course of this event, the payout per injured party is going to be significantly higher.

Generally, insurance companies will argue against a theory of multiple occurrences in a multi-vehicle crash, and it’s often necessary for injured parties to take the claim to court. In weighing such a case, courts will need to consider whether the injuries resulted from a continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions. The judge is going to look at whether there was one, uninterrupted or continuing cause that led to all the injuries.

Generally, crashes with multiple vehicles will constitute one occurrence when they occur nearly simultaneously or are separated by a very short period of time, and the insured does not maintain or regain control of his vehicle between crashes. Such cases may be considered multiple occurrences when the crashes are separated by a period of time or when the insured maintains or regains control of the vehicle prior to a subsequent crash.

Maine case law is not extensive in this regard, so judges are often given broad discretion.  In 1983, a Maine District Court adopted the “cause” test with regard to multiple occurrences in Honeycomb Sys., Inc. v. Admiral Ins. Co. In that case, the court ruled there must be continuous, repeated exposure to conditions which proximately resulted in the damage in order for an occurrence to be considered singular. Separate proximate causes will be closely analyzed.

So for example, while the 20-year-old in this case may be responsible for the initial crash, other drivers who may have been speeding or failed to yield or were intoxicated may have proximately caused the subsequent crashes on the highway that day. This is true even if the initial wreck was a contributing factor.

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:

Forty bullets accidentally go off during six-car pileup on I-95, state police say, Aug. 7, 2014, By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

More Blog Entries:

Speeding Crackdown in Construction Zones Aims to Prevent Bangor Traffic Collisions, Aug. 8, 2014, Bangor Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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One teen was killed and another seriously injured recently in Waldoboro, after a box truck struck the pair as they were stopped in the southbound lane speaking to some pedestrians. childbicycle

According to authorities, the refrigerated lobster truck struck the back of the bicycle ridden by the 15-year-old, who was thrown from the bike, landing on the shoulder. His bicycle then struck his 14-year-old friend, who suffered a leg injury. The older boy was flown by helicopter to a nearby trauma hospital, but later died of severe head injuries. The 24-year-old driver of the truck insisted he did not see the boys until it was too late to stop.

While the investigation is ongoing, our Bangor bicycle accident lawyers hope this tragedy will spark an ongoing discussion between parents and children regarding safe bicycle riding practices. The lesson will be especially important as the school year begins, with many children in early fall choosing to ride their bicycles to school.

Riding in the darker, early morning rush hour poses special hazards, though some teens are likely mature enough to do so – if they learn how to follow the rules of the road and operate a bicycle safety in traffic.

This is critical because, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association’s 2013 report, the number of fatal bicycle accidents nationwide has been on an upward trend. In 2011, nearly 700 bicyclists were killed and another 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. These figures represented a nearly 10 percent increase from the previous year.

While Maine has historically had a relatively low number of bicycle fatalities, mostly due to the general lack of ridership during colder months, that is fast changing. The Bicycle Coalition of Maine hosts riding events well into the fall, including rides intended to promote safe bicycle travel routes to and from schools.

Just last month, an 11-year-old boy was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Portland with serious injuries after he was struck by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle. The sixth-grader was traveling downhill on his bicycle with a friend. Witnesses say the boy’s bicycle brakes appeared to not be working, and he was unable to stop as he barreled toward the intersection and into the path of the ruck. The boy’s mother later told reporters he was expected to survive.

Young riders especially must be equipped with the proper gear, functional equipment and a working knowledge of what they should wear and how they should behave on the roadway.

Maine’s Department of Transportation offers the following tips to promote child bicycle safety:

  • Wear a properly-fitted helmet.
  • Make sure the bicycle is adjusted to the child’s fit, with 1 to 2 inches between the rider and the top tube for road bikes.
  • Before riding, make sure the brakes work and the tires are properly inflated.
  • No matter whether it’s daytime, dusk, dawn, nighttime or inclement weather, one must make sure they are properly seen. Wearing bright, neon or fluorescent colors and reflective lights, tape or markings can be invaluable.
  • Always keep at least one hand on the handlebars, with other items such as books, in a backpack or bicycle carrier.
  • Avoid riding in the dark, if at all possible. It’s always harder for drivers to see cyclists at night.
  • Be predictable. Ride in a straight line and signal your moves to others.
  • Always remain alert. That means not only watching for hazards, but listening too. Avoid wearing headphones when riding.

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

Additional Resources:

Teen dead after truck-bicycle accident over weekend, Aug. 4, 2014, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Injury Lawyers Must Often Fight for Uninsured Motorist Coverage, July 17, 2014, Portland Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog