Tourism in Maine has reached an all-time high the last several years, with the Maine Office of Tourism reporting an uptick of 8.8 million annual visitors from 2012 to 2018. These tourists spend billions of dollars, support thousands of businesses and more than 105,000 jobs in the state. Among those businesses supported by travelers: Hotels, motels, resorts and rental properties. These property owners owe a duty of care to those on their property. Our Bangor personal injury attorneys note some of these duties may include the responsibility to provide:

  • Adequate security.
  • Safe walking surfaces.
  • Safe ingress/egress.
  • Repair of conditions that might be dangerous (i.e., a broken step, poor lighting, unsafe deck).
  • Adequate lighting

Property owners who fail or don’t regularly inspect conditions on-site to ensure they are reasonably safe for guests may be held responsible in court under the theory of premises liability. Although historically the Maine judicial system set standards for duty of care on the basis of guest designation (i.e., invitee, licensee, trespasser), the 1979 Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision in Poulin v. Colby College changed how property liability is determined. In that case, plaintiff sued a college for injuries sustained in a fall on campus. He was considered a “licensee” while the person he was dropping off at the campus was considered an “invitee.” Justices held that, “It no longer makes any sense to predicate a landowner’s duty solely on the status of the injured party as either a licensee or invitee. Perhaps in rural society with sparse land settlements and large estates, it would have been unduly burdensome to obligate an owner to inspect and maintain (the property)…” but such immunity wouldn’t be justified in an industrialized society. Continue reading

Dog bites in Maine can have serious consequences for victims, resulting in lifelong injuries, scarring and emotional trauma. Last summer, effective Aug. 1, 2018, Maine’s law pertaining to dangerous dogs changed, making it easier to hold negligent dog owners accountable. As our Portland dog bite injury attorneys can explain, L.D. 858, codified in MRSA s. 3907, sub s.12-D, raised the fine and expanded penalties imposed for owning a nuisance or dangerous dog and also for failing to follow a court order related to that dog.

The law defines a “dangerous dog” as a canine (wolf hybrid or dog) that either kills or inflicts serious bodily injury on a person, pet or other domesticated animal (assuming the subject of the attack wasn’t trespassing on the dog’s or its owner/owner’s property). But a dog doesn’t need to bite in order for this designation to apply. A dog can be found dangerous if it causes a “reasonable and prudent person,” who is not on the dog/owner’s property and isn’t acting in any way aggressive, to fear imminent serious bodily injury of themselves or someone else. Excluded in this are law enforcement K-9s, dogs protecting their owners/property or dogs that seriously injure or kill a person committing a crime against an individual or property owned by the dog’s keeper/owner.

Nuisance dogs, meanwhile, are defined as a dog/wolf hybrid that causes bodily injury (other than serious bodily injury) to an individual or domesticated animal not trespassing on the dog or the owner/keeper. Just like Maine’s new dangerous dog designation, a dog that puts a person in fear of bodily injury can be given a nuisance designation.

One of the best lines of defense in preventing youth sports injuries are certified athletic trainers, per the American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. An athletic trainer is someone who is certified and licensed in the health care field of sports medicine, and has been recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied health care professional since 1990. Portland injury lawyers in Maine know that while it’s generally difficult to hold a school district liable for an athlete injury, courts have identified a number of areas of potential liability in the context of organized athletic events at the high school level.

A 1997 ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Searles v. Trustees held that colleges, private schools and public schools owe a legal duty to exercise reasonable care toward their students. This duty encompasses the responsibility of coaches and athletic trainers to exercise reasonable care for the health and safety of their students, which means conforming to the standard of care required of an ordinary and careful trainer.

But what if there is no certified athletic trainer at the school? A recent report by The Portland Press Herald revealed Maine is behind other states in New England and nationally for hiring athletic trainers to help prevent serious student injury. Of 143 public and private high schools in the state, only 51 have full-time athletic trainers attending after-school practices (where 40 percent of student athlete injuries happen) and games. The problem is most acute in school districts that are rural because they lack funding and also student participation is lower. Of the 33 schools that don’t have an athletic trainer, sports enrollment is at less than 150 each.

A 28-year-old woman seriously injured as a passenger in a Maine motorcycle accident was awarded $2.5 million for life-changing injuries, according to the Bangor Daily News. The claim was against a 78-year-old driver. Another claim for damages against the motorcycle operator had been previously settled for an undisclosed sum. The case proceeded to trial after plaintiff rejected defendant’s settlement offer of $9,500. At trial, defendant driver was found to be 20 percent liable, meaning she is responsible for $400,000 of the damages.

According to news reports of the case, plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle operated in Kennebec County by a 30-year-old in June 2015. Defendant driver reportedly swerved suddenly to the right in order drive into the parking area of a bagel shop. This prompted the motorcycle operator to attempt to illegally pass the driver on the right. The two vehicles collided. The motorcycle operator suffered minor injuries, while plaintiff was seriously injured. After skidding 60 feet along the asphalt, she suffered road rash on 50 percent of her body and sustained fractures to both her left arm and hand. Her hand and arm are now disfigured and scarred, and she’s been left with residual weakness in both the hand and arm, with medical bills totaling $50,000.

Motorcycle Accidents on the Rise Nationally

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports Maine’s motorcycle deaths comprise 11.2 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state, despite the fact that motorcyclists comprise just 3.6 percent of all motor vehicle registrations. State totals ranged from accounting for 7.1 percent of deaths in Alaska to nearly 23 percent in Nevada. Maine motorcycle accident deaths spiked 33 percent from 2016 to 2017 (based on preliminary numbers) from 18 to 24.

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Bangor personal injury lawsuits don’t typically stem from high school dramas. However with an increased awareness of bullying and a number of school districts embracing “zero tolerance” policies, the question becomes to what extent is a school responsible for a student-on-student attack? What preventative action should be considered “reasonable”?

Two high school students in Maine didn’t like each other. They started exchanging texts that insulted one another. It ended in a physical confrontation into which the older brother of one teen inserted himself, resulting in a head injury to the other student. This led to more than 200 students of the school engaging in a walk-out and rally – in support of the teen whose older brother carried out the assault. Although the older brother faced criminal charges, the Bangor Daily News reported he’d been defending his brother from being bullied for his sexuality. But questions still remain about exactly who was bullying whom.

The parents of the student who suffered a head injury are suing the school district as well as the parents of the other teen and his older brother. In that lawsuit, plaintiffs allege their son, who had special protected status as a result of a disability  (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety) was not granted the occasionally necessary “quiet space” to help him ward off anxiety attacks. His parents had also requested other changes to his education plan in light of fear to address the “growing concerns for his physical safety.” Since middle school, he’d purportedly been the subject of taunts from the other student (who identified as homosexual) on the basis of his perceived non-conformance with certain gender stereotypes and norms. The two started exchanging text messages and other students joined in, with much of it being offensive.  Continue reading

Drunk driving in Maine isn’t limited to any one night, but the night of the Super Bowl is known as one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. The festivities this year led to a Maine drunk driving crash in York. A 29-year-old man was arrested for operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor, according to The Bangor Daily News. The incident, in which the driver crashed into three parked cars along Route 1, occurred soon after the Super Bowl ended.

An analysis conducted by Scram Systems (a personal alcohol-monitoring device) found that drunk driving violations by repeat drunk drivers who are court-ordered to stay sober spikes an average of 22 percent on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to typical Sunday violation rates. This was based on data analysis from 530,000 DUI offenders who are on probation or parole and court-ordered to wear the alcohol monitoring bracelets, usually on their ankles.

Violations reportedly spiked the last 9 of 11 Super Bowl Sundays. Not all areas were equally problematic, though. For example, when the Patriots played in 2015, drinking violations in New England soared to two times higher than the rest of the country and more than 100 percent higher than a usual Sunday for that given region. And when the Denver Broncos were in the Super Bowl, Colorado offenders, who comprise 4 percent of the monitored populations, were responsible for 13 percent of the violations on game day. The analysis further discovered it seems as if the winners tend to drink more than the losers. On average, violations among offenders who represented the champions’ fans were approximately 75 percent higher than those whose residences were home to the losing team. Continue reading

Concert season is warming up, and it’s a good time to point out that festival and concert injuries can sometimes be compensated via Maine premises liability claims, which assert negligence by venue owner, promoters and sometimes even the entertainers themselves. Portland injury attorneys in Maine know that while most people go to concerts for a good time, it can unfortunately end badly when patrons are injured.

One such incident in Maine occurred last October, when a Portland concertgoer was injured at State Theatre during a show by Dirty Heads. Authorities confirmed the victim was stabbed and 2,000 people inside were evacuated. The theater has a “No Weapons Allowed” policy, so it’s unclear how someone was able to smuggle a knife inside.

Maine injury attorneys know many times what contributes to concert injuries and festival injuries is the combination of large crowds in a tight space, an atmosphere that is emotionally-charged, performers pushing the limits to ever-more-risky displays to wow crowds and the common presence of drugs and alcohol. There have also been issues with unstable pavilions and railings, inadequate security, etc. Not all injuries that occur at concerts will necessarily result in a valid personal injury claim. For a person who is injured while engaging in an activity they know to be risky (like diving in a mosh pit), it may be difficult to prevail in making a claim, unless the venue or promoters have had ongoing problems with such injuries and fail to take reasonable action to mitigate the risks.  Continue reading

After Maine traffic homicide investigators concluded that a 25-year-old set off a chain reaction motorcycle accident which turned deadly during an I-95 charity ride in September, two other riders are suing his estate for personal injury damages. The collision occurred in 2017, during an annual charity ride to collect Christmas toys for children throughout the state.

Our Maine motorcycle accident attorneys know that while group motorcycle rides can be fun and have commendable goals, they also seem to be more prone to these type of collisions. Chain reaction crashes usually occur when a cluster of vehicles are traveling too close together. When motorcyclists are riding in a group, the riders try to stick together. Primarily this is done for the social advantage, the feeling of solidarity, purpose and camaraderie. There might also be some advantages safety-wise to sticking together; too many drivers don’t look twice for motorcyclists in their blind spots, but a group of riders rumbling together down the road is harder to miss.

However, riders packed closely together are at risk of causing a chain reaction motorcycle crash that might harm fellow riders. Making matters more complicated is that it can often be difficult to parse who the at-fault party is or, if there are multiple parties, how much fault to assign each person.

After a 30-year-old roof worker fell to his death on a job site in Portland, local media began digging into his employer’s past with work safety violations. The Portland Press Herald reported that the roofing and window installation firm had been slapped with repeated fines for failing to protect workers from job site perils that put them at risk for serious injury and death. Portland workers’ compensation attorneys know that while this won’t necessarily give rise to an additional compensation for the man’s surviving family (who will likely already be entitled to Maine workers’ compensation death benefits), it may expose the company to additional fines.

In the last seven years, the company has been ordered to pay nearly $45,000 for not meeting fall protection safety criteria as outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is now launching another investigation into the worker’s fall-related death. The incident occurred at a three-family home on Congress Street, where the worker reportedly fell from the third story. Safety records indicate federal safety regulators fined the company twice during inspections in 2012 – once for not providing adequate fall arrest systems for workers on a low-sloped roof and again for lack of guardrail systems or safety nets for workers on steep roofs. Then in 2015, federal inspectors said the company had not met the minimum fall safety standards for workers toiling 6 feet or more above the ground, requiring that if workers don’t have a personal fall arrest system, the site needs to be equipped with guardrails, netting or safety harnesses. Then last year, the company was found to be in violation of another worker safety standard requiring ladders extending beyond three feet to be secured safely to the ground. That violation, which is still pending, resulted in an OSHA-recommended fine of nearly $25,000.

In a 13-month period ending March 2018, eight people have died on Maine job sites. One of those in October 2017 involved a worker who fell from a roof when it collapsed. The worker fell to the ground, suffering a neck injury.

Maine hospitals, nursing homes and other care providers are struggling to staff enough nurses to provide quality care to patients – something our Portland, Maine medical malpractice lawyers have seen lead to serious and even fatal medical errors. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that facilities with high patient-to-nurse ratios had higher risk-adjusted patient death and failure-to-rescue rates than those who had more nurses. Nurses who worked at poorly-staffed facilities were more likely to experience burnout, fatigue and job dissatisfaction, which also increased the number of medical errors they were prone to make.

Maine Health Care Facilities Seek Solutions to Nursing Shortage That Threatens Poor Medical Care

Recently, the Portland Press Herald reported a number of hospitals in Maine are getting creative with recruitment efforts, using staffing agencies to draw nurses from overseas, including countries like Jamaica, Nigeria and Ireland. Within the Eastern Maine Healthcare System (more recently changed to Northern Light Health) more than a dozen international nurses have been hired. More than two dozen are still working on a contract basis through a nurse staffing agency, and there is the possibility they’ll be hired by the hospital system after about two years. A dozen more are set to arrive in Maine in the coming months.

Meanwhile, other hospitals are hiring student nurses, giving them a job inside the hospital so they can “earn while you learn,” the idea being they’re more likely to stay in school and complete their degrees if they can earn a living while they’re completing their studies. Summer internships at Maine General, meanwhile, pay student nurses to shadow those working in nursing homes, cancer care units and surgical centers so they are exposed to a wide range of specialties within their field. The same facility allows nurses time to take on quality improvement projects, such as tackling a unit’s problem with patient falls or bedsores, paying them $3,500 to $5,000 upon completion.

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