Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

Losing a loved one in any type of accident is a tragedy that words cannot adequately describe. While nothing can bring back a loved one who was senselessly lost as the result of a preventable accident, family members may be able to ease the financial burden associated with such a loss through a Maine wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death claim is very similar to a traditional personal injury case in that the plaintiff, the deceased accident victim’s loved ones, must prove that the defendant was legally responsible for their loved one’s death. To prove a Maine wrongful death case, a plaintiff must show that the defendant owed their loved one a duty of care and that the defendant’s actions violated that duty. Additionally, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s violation of this duty was the legal and proximate cause of death. Wrongful death cases in Maine must be filed within two years of the accident victim’s death.

If a plaintiff is successful in a wrongful death claim, they can recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include the out-of-pocket expenses associated with the plaintiff’s loss, including medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages include “loss of comfort, society, and companionship of the deceased, including any damages for emotional distress.” Notably, non-economic damages are generally limited to $750,000. In some cases, punitive damages can be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to punish the exceptionally egregious behavior of the defendant and are capped at $250,000.

Recent video footage shows a troubling crash in which a Tesla car crashes into the top of an overturned truck laying on its side, according to one news article. The vehicle also failed to brake for the truck driver who was standing in the lane redirecting traffic. Thankfully, the truck driver jumped out of the way before he was struck. The driver of the Tesla stated that the car was in autopilot mode when the crash occurred. The driver did not manually brake until it was too late to avoid the collision. Those who are injured in a Maine car accident may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries they sustained in an accident.

Assuming that the autopilot was on, as it appeared, the footage raises questions of why the autopilot feature did not recognize a large obstacle in the road and why the car’s emergency braking system did not perceive the pedestrian. Even if autopilot was not on, the vehicle’s emergency braking and collision warning systems would not usually be off, unless it is manually disabled.

Although Tesla’s autopilot requires drivers to pay attention to the road at all times, it does not track their gaze, as some cars do. It is possible that the car failed to perceive the overturned truck because it was not used to seeing an overturned truck. But that does not explain why the vehicle failed to brake for the pedestrian. Tesla declined to comment on the article.

Like many states, Maine maintains a “dram shop” law that allows injury victims to recover compensation from a host or alcohol vendor who provides alcohol to an intoxicated person who ends up causing an accident. Maine’s “Liquor Liability Act,” provides that vendors who are licensed to sell or serve alcohol may be liable for recklessly or negligently providing alcohol to someone who is intoxicated or under 21 years old.

Negligent alcohol service occurs when the server should have known that the patron was intoxicated or under the legal drinking age. Recklessness occurs if the server served alcohol and knew the person was under 21 years old or drunk, and they disregarded a substantial and apparent risk of harm to the individual or another person. In these cases, the vendor may be liable for the intoxicated person’s negligent or reckless conduct towards another individual. Typical vendors in these cases are restaurants, bars, and pubs.

For example, a news report recently described an incident where a 19-year-old driver lost control of his vehicle, hitting a curb and flipping his Subaru onto its side. The driver did not suffer injuries, but two of his passengers were taken to a hospital for treatment. The teenager was speeding, under the influence of alcohol and failed to obey road signs when the accident occurred. In a case like this, a social host or vendor who served the underage driver may be liable for the passengers’ injuries and damages.

Apportioning liability and recovering compensation in Maine hit and run accidents is typically challenging, and these lawsuits contain unique legal issues. The legal ramifications of Maine hit and run accidents are more serious than a typical traffic accident. Generally, all motorists must exhibit a standard of care when operating their vehicles. When they breach this duty and cause injuries, negligent drivers must take steps to ensure the other party’s safety and mitigate potential damages. When a negligent motorist fails to do this, they may face serious criminal and civil penalties under Maine’s hit and run statutes.

If a Maine driver is involved in an accident resulting in serious personal injury or significant property damage, at a minimum, they must contact law enforcement and emergency services. The driver must also provide the other driver or police with their identifying information, such as their name, contact information, and driver’s license information. Maine classifies leaving the scene of an accident as a “Class C” crime, and hit and run drivers may face driver’s license suspension on top of other fines and penalties.

In addition to potential criminal penalties, Maine hit and run drivers may face significant civil penalties as well. The victim or their loved one may be able to recover damages for their injuries and losses. Although, Maine courts rarely award punitive damages, some plaintiffs may be entitled to these damages in situations where the defendant engaged in intentional malice. Unfortunately, these cases often contain challenges because it may be difficult to locate the negligent motorist, and this can delay proper treatment and financial recovery. Victims of these accidents should contact an attorney to discuss their case and assist with an investigation to ensure that their rights and remedies are effectuated.

Nine months ago, tragedy struck in Norridgewock, Maine, when a car crash on the Fourth of July killed two people. According to a recent news report, a 51-year-old Norridgewock man, was driving his dump truck southbound down Ward Hill Road when he collided with a Pontiac Torrent driven by an 85-year-old woman from Madison. The crash killed the woman in the Pontiac, as well as her passenger, her 80-year-old husband. The driver of the dump truck was taken to Redington Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan but had no life-threatening injuries.

Now, months later, the driver is being charged with Class A manslaughter for recklessly or negligently causing the deaths of the elderly couple. The District Attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties said that the charge was brought against him after her office reviewed the police’s investigation and the results of an accident reconstruction. In Maine, Class A manslaughter convictions can lead to a maximum of 30 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. The defendant, who pled not guilty, is being represented by counsel. In a statement, his lawyer said that the tragic accident was just that, an accident, and that his client tried to stop when the car pulled out in front of him.

The outcome of the case is still unknown; while a court date will be set in the near future, it is currently being postponed due to court shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic. However, the criminal charge, while it may provide comfort to those who were close to the two victims, does very little to actually help them through the grieving process.

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.

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.

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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