Under Maine premises liability law, landowners and occupiers generally owe a duty to ensure that their property is free from dangerous conditions that could result in unreasonable harm to lawful visitors. Unlike other states, which rely on the classification-of-status approach to premises liability, Maine determines liability based on the injury victim, the cause of the injury, and if the property owner did anything to prevent the damage. This framework applies to landowners, retail stores, some recreational areas, and private individuals. It does not apply to trespassers except if an attractive nuisance is involved. Further, Maine law provides landowners with specific defenses to liability that may limit a plaintiff’s recovery.

Maine’s comparative negligence principles allow plaintiffs to recover for damages even if they were partially responsible so long as they were less than 50% responsible. Defendants will frequently assert comparative negligence defenses by claiming that the dangerous condition was so “open and obvious” that the landowner should not be liable. However, exceptions exist in circumstances where the landowner should anticipate the harm despite the obviousness of the danger. Determinations regarding open and obviousness require a thorough and in-depth analysis of the specific condition.

For example, a state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case hinging on whether a hole in a parking lot of a shopping center was an open and obvious danger. In that case, a woman parked in a parking spot next to a landscape island that was surrounded by a curb. As she exited her vehicle, she noticed that someone left a shopping cart partially on the island, and she walked around the island to get the cart. As she was dislodging the cart, she stepped back, and her heel went into a pothole, which caused her to lose her balance and fall backward, resulting in serious injuries. The woman filed a lawsuit against the shopping center alleging negligence and wantonness because they failed to warn invitees of hidden dangers. The trial court found that the risk was open and obvious and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Many people suffer injuries at the gym. Maine gym injuries can range from mild, such as pulling a muscle, to more serious injuries causing lifelong disabilities. These injuries can have serious consequences and can result in long-lasting financial, physical, and psychological damages. Individuals who suffer injuries at a Maine gym, yoga studio, fitness club or CrossFit club should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and potential remedies.

Before becoming a member, gyms often require individuals to sign a liability waiver. Waivers typically favor the gym and serve to protect the gym’s financial interest and general reputation. Many Maine fitness clubs do not allow members to join unless they sign a liability waiver; however, these waivers do not always bar lawsuits against the facility. The first step an injury victim should take is evaluating what type of waiver they originally signed. The three most common waivers in gym contracts are total waivers, waivers for negligence, and waiver of liability for intentional acts. These waivers provide different levels of protection to the gym, but each waiver and case is unique, and injury plaintiffs may still be able to hold the gym liable.

For example, recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion stemming from injuries a woman suffered while using a weight machine at the gym. The woman filed a lawsuit against a personal trainer at the gym, alleging that the trainer improperly instructed her on how to use the machine. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, reasoning that the woman signed a waiver releasing the gym and their agents from liability. The woman appealed the ruling and asked for reconsideration based on several issues. The appellate court found that there are issues surrounding whether there was an agency relationship between the personal trainer and the gym. Further, the court found that there were issues regarding whether the membership agreement and waiver extended protection to the personal trainer. Ultimately, the court found in favor of the plaintiff and remanded the case for further proceedings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that car accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths in the United States. Approximately six teenagers between the ages of 15-19 die from injuries related to a car accident every day. Parents of teenage drivers and those that suffer injuries after a collision with a Maine teenage driver should understand their rights and remedies, because these car accidents often result in serious bodily injury and property damage.

For example, recently, three teens died and two suffered injuries in an accident on an icy Maine road. According to one news report, three children died after the car they were traveling in went into an “uncontrolled skid” after entering an icy stretch. After spinning out of control, the vehicle slammed into a large pine tree. When emergency personnel arrived, they found a 15-year-old boy and two sisters aged 14 and 12 lifeless inside the sedan. Two other victims, including the 16-year-old unlicensed driver, were transported to a local hospital. Police reported that the sedan was mangled, and there was an array of car parts and fast-food containers strewn across the road. The police spokesperson indicated that the accident was still under investigation, but inexperience and speed were likely the two main reasons for the accident.

There are many reasons teen drivers are more likely to cause Maine car accidents and suffer serious injuries. The primary reason is inexperience. Teen drivers, especially those that do not possess a driver’s license, do not understand how to operate a vehicle. Their immaturity, in conjunction with a lack of skills and experience, can have deadly consequences. Next, teen drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving. Teenagers are often more concerned with their cellphones and what is going on in their cars, rather than on the road. Drunk driving is also one of the top five causes of teen driving accidents. Recent studies indicate that 15% of drivers between 16 and 20 years old had a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08%. The CDC also reports that teenagers are more likely to speed and swerve in between vehicles. Finally, teenagers have the lowest rates of seatbelt use, which can exacerbate injuries.

Recently, the Maine Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with the Bureau of Highway Safety and the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT), released crash data that was compiled over the past ten years. This report may serve as an essential resource when Maine car accident victims try to collect damages from an at-fault motorist. The crash data provides safety officials and motorists with valuable information regarding common causes of Maine car accidents. The report evaluates relevant contributing factors such as time of day, day of the week, type of driver, type of vehicle, and driver behavior.

For ease of use, the report reflects five-year annual averages and only covers the most frequently requested crash information. Generally, the report found that after seeing a dip around 2010, Maine crash rates have steadily increased over the last five years. Over this time, there have been over 8,000 crashes resulting in severe injuries and over 150 fatalities. Most serious injury crashes occurred on Fridays, Thursdays, and Wednesdays. Whereas, the majority of fatal car accidents occurred on Saturdays and Fridays. Interestingly, both types of accidents occurred mainly between 9 pm and 2 am, even though this is generally a low traffic volume time of day.

The report included crash rates by driver age, but did not differentiate between fault. However, drivers between the ages of 16-24, and then 65-69, seem to be involved in the majority of the crashes. They also evaluated the number of drivers with suspended licenses, finding that about, on average, 2.5% of car accidents involved a driver with a suspended license. The report also provided detailed information regarding the number of vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, ATVs, and snowmobiles involved in these accidents.

After a car accident, most injury victims file an insurance claim to recover for their damages. Indeed, insurance companies play a critical role in most Maine car accident cases, and it is essential that these companies responsibly, accurately, and lawfully review claims. Insurance companies who fail to settle claims, unduly delay compensation, or improperly deny claims can cause injury victims to experience significant physical, financial, and emotional consequences. Maine has several complicated and specific statutes in place to hold insurance companies liable for engaging in this behavior. However, these remedies are often hard to effectuate and require a comprehensive understanding of Maine’s insurance laws.

Under Maine’s insurance laws, anyone who owns or operates a vehicle in the state must carry the minimum amount of coverage required by law, which is $50,000 per person or $100,00 per accident for bodily injury liability, $25,000 for property damage, and $2,000 per person in medical payments coverage. Additionally, motorists must purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) of at least $50,000 per person and $100,00 per accident. This crucial coverage protects drivers and their passengers if the at-fault party does not have insurance or has inadequate coverage. Although, these amounts may seem high, they are often not enough to cover the damages caused by a serious Maine car accident.

Maine drivers naturally purchase motor vehicle coverage with the belief that the insurance company will provide them with financial protection. Generally, insurance companies must engage with their policyholders in good faith. This means that the law requires insurance companies to fairly and meticulously review a policyholder’s claim and attempt to settle claims against the insured. When an insurance company acts in bad faith by unlawfully failing to approve or settle a claim without a reasonable basis, they may face legal consequences through a Main bad faith insurance claim.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Maine public health and regulatory officials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have expanded a hardboiled egg recall to include eggs sold in Maine. The hardboiled eggs were primarily sold to grocery stores and restaurants for use in prepared foods; however, some products were sold directly to consumers. Public health officials, following the CDC warning, issued the recall after discovering the strain of listeria during a routine inspection of a Georgia food manufacturing plant. An investigation into the bacteria revealed that the strain is identical to one found to be responsible for several foodborne related hospitalizations and deaths. The CDC advises consumers who have purchased boiled egg products to return them to the retailer or throw them away. Many of these products are marked with sell-by dates of “March 2, 2020”. Although the CDC issued a recall, some retailers and foodservice operations may fail to remove all of the affected products appropriately.

Food manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants must ensure that their food products are safe for consumption. This includes abiding by all food safety regulations, conducting periodic inspections, properly sanitizing, packing, and transporting food items. In some instances, food preparers at grocery stores and restaurants may not realize that they are using contaminated food products. These parties must ensure that they are up-to-date on all warnings and recalls that the CDC issues. Further, companies must train their employees on how to handle food items safely and advise sick employees to remain home.

The failure to do this can result in serious injuries to consumers. Bacteria such as, salmonella, E.Coli, norovirus, and listeria monocytogenes can result in various foodborne illnesses. The symptoms of foodborne illness often begin with an upset stomach and evolve into severe stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains, and fever. These symptoms can be deadly to vulnerable individuals such as newborns, pregnant women, and older adults. In some cases, individuals suffer longterm effects of food poisoning such as brain damage, arthritis, and organ failure.

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents. Cell phone use leads to over 1.5 million crashes and close to 400,000 injuries. Maine drivers who engage in this risky behavior may be liable for any resulting injuries and damages.

Driving while texting or talking on the phone exponentially increases the likelihood of an accident. In addition to other distracted driving such as, adjusting music, arguing with passengers, and tending to children or pets in the backseat can have potentially fatal consequences and account for almost 30% of accidents in the United States.

In response to these startling statistics, Maine legislators enacted a hands-free driving bill. This recent law prohibits Maine drivers from using hand-held devices or cell phones while driving. Before this law, Maine banned texting and operating a motor vehicle; however, police officials expressed the challenges they encountered trying to discern texting drivers from those engaging in other similar behaviors. This law is designed to allow police officers to apprehend drivers who are using their phones in any manner while driving.

Individuals who suffer injuries because of contaminated food may hold the restaurant or food manufacturer liable for the damages that they suffered. Food-borne illnesses can have severe and long-lasting consequences for an individual, especially for someone who is young or otherwise immunocompromised. Maine product liability lawsuits based on food-borne diseases can be challenging to establish and require a thorough understanding of the state’s product liability laws.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 125,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die each year because of exposure to contaminated food. Many of these deaths and injuries are preventable if food manufacturers follow appropriate and safe food processing standards. However, despite strict regulations, many companies continue to value quick processing times over consumer safety.

A food-borne illness is any illness that results because of exposure to food contaminated with unsafe chemicals, bacteria, or other pathogens. Similarly, injuries can occur if food products contain foreign, dangerous substances, such as glass, metal, and plastic. For example, in a recent state appellate decision, a woman filed a lawsuit against a popular yogurt manufacturer after she consumed metal fragments in the yogurt.

The winter storm season in Maine is among the most intense in the United States. Indeed, Maine residents can see upwards of 110 inches of snow per year, depending on which part of the state is their home. Needless to say, all this snow creates a serious hazard for Maine motorists. According to the most recent state government statistics, there are over 6,000 Maine car accidents each year caused by winter driving conditions.

Maine drivers face many potential hazards in the winter, including snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain, as well as potholes, snowplows, obscured road markings, other motorists driving too fast for the conditions, and uncleared roads and parking lots.

In Maine, motorists have an affirmative obligation to make sure that they are safely operating their vehicles at all times – regardless of the weather conditions. For example, Maine speed limits are designed to be used as a guideline during ideal road conditions. However, during periods of reduced visibility, when it is snowing or raining, or when the temperatures are below freezing, motorists should slow down below the posted speed limit. If a driver fails to reduce their speed according to the weather conditions and causes an accident as a result, they may be liable for any resulting injuries.

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Self-driving cars are gaining traction among many drivers across the United States. Although manufacturers of these vehicles emphasize their safety, these vehicles still pose significant risks of Maine car accidents. The popular electric car company Tesla uses an autopilot feature to allow drivers to let go of the wheel while driving. According to developers, the cars work faster than humans and work by collecting vision, sonar, and radar data to process driving conditions. The autopilot feature helps cars stay in their lanes, match speed conditions, shift lanes when necessary, and self-park. Despite these features, Tesla urges drivers to remain alert while operating these vehicles and keep their hands on the steering wheel.

This warning seems to contradict many of the company’s claims regarding the safety and reliability of their cars. However, Tesla’s CEO posts videos of drivers engaging the system without their hands on the steering wheel. In response to safety concerns and accidents involving these vehicles, Tesla continues to stand by their position that its autopilot feature is a safer way to drive.

Tesla claims that its autopilot feature is almost 40% safer than driving without this system. However, safety experts argue that Tesla’s statistics are flawed and do not accurately reflect crash data. In fact, Tesla’s autopilot feature was engaged during three fatal collisions in the United States. More recently, Tesla’s autopilot feature was engaged when a car rear-ended a police vehicle in Connecticut. According to a news report, after the accident, the driver told the police that he was tending to his dog in the backseat when the car collided with the police vehicle. Fortunately, the police car was disabled, and no one suffered injuries; however, images show substantial damage to the vehicle. Police cited the driver with a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving and endangerment. If the car were occupied, the driver would likely face civil liability claims as well.