Articles Posted in Catastrophic Injuries

Although it’s not exactly sparkler season (the biggest fireworks in November perhaps being the elections), the impact these explosives can have on lives lasts well beyond the Fourth of July. Bangor injury lawyers know this has been especially true since 2011, when Maine state lawmakers passed a law allowing legal sale and possession of consumer fireworks for adults over 21. Their use is restricted to certain holidays (July 4th and December 31st) and those weekends immediately before and after.  This spurred a new wave of retail outlets, peddling mostly Chinese products that are not only powerful, but if defective or used improperly, incredibly dangerous. Lawmakers passed a measure in 2012 and another in 2017 allowing both cities and plantations in Maine to adopt their own consumer fireworks ordinances, which is exactly what they’ve been doing.

Recently a man in Laconia, New Hampshire (about 2 hours from Portland, Maine) filed a lawsuit alleging a 19-shot AA firework cake and one of its charges struck him in the eye, causing him to lose his vision in that eye. Initially, he told investigators the firework, which was consumer-grade, may have had a “quick fuse.” He’s now suing the manufacturer of that firework for product liability, saying the fuse was defective. Authorities on scene noted the firework had been anchored properly to the ground, spectators were a safe distance away and there was a hose on the ground nearby.

Last October, a man in Sabattus, Maine died as a result of a fireworks explosion after he lit a firework inside a cinder block at his son’s home. He was standing roughly 15 feet away, but the force of the explosion sent fragments of cinder block flying, causing several pieces to strike him and resulting in fatal injuries. There is no word yet on whether his surviving family intends to take legal action. Continue reading

The recent injury of a Sanford girl in a UTV accident highlights the risk of these and other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) as we head into autumn.About 500 people a year are killed in ATV accidents, according to federal statistics, and more than 100,000 are injured seriously enough to seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms. About 25 percent of victims are under 16 years of age. In all, nearly 15,000 riders have been fatally injured since ATVs became popular in the 1980s.

CBS13 reports hundreds participated in a Sanford fundraiser for the 8-year-old girl, who broke her neck and jaw and suffered numerous skull fractures after falling from her UTV. The local Maine ATV Club sponsored the event.

Autumn is the most dangerous time of year for accidents involving utility and all-terrain vehicles for various reasons. Experience and familiarity bring more aggressive riding, often on newer, larger, and more powerful ATVs. The ground is hard, and vegetation is reaching maximum growth, which reduces visibility and creates hazards of its own.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently granted partial summary judgment in a case against a Portland High School after a mother alleged her teenage son fell and struck his head while apparently tussling with an older boy at a school sporting event.The court dismissed the claims against the older boy’s parents. The case against the defendant teen and the school district will proceed separately from this ruling.

The mother claimed the incident occurred at Cheverus High School in Portland, where a number of youths had been attending a sporting event. She filed an injury lawsuit against the school district, as well as the older boy and his parents, bringing counts for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The defendant parents requested summary judgment for both negligent infliction of emotional distress and causes of action under state negligence laws.

Summary judgment is a legal term that means a plaintiff has failed to bring a case in which there is a genuine issue of material fact for a jury to decide, so the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Essentially, this means a plaintiff failed to bring a case sufficient for a jury to decide upon matters of fact, and the defendant otherwise prevails as a matter of law. Summary judgments are frequently filed by law firms defending corporations and large insurance companies. It means an unprepared injury attorney could find his case over shortly after making it to the courtroom.

Last summer, a 14-year-old boy from Berwick and his 16-year-old sister were passengers in the back seat of their father’s vehicle. They were headed for a camping trip for Father’s Day. Suddenly, while on a highway in Hampton, NH, another driver rear-ended them. The impact was severe. The driver had been distracted. 

The girl suffered serious head and neck injuries, and the boy suffered severe head injuries. Doctors told the children’s mother he “wasn’t hopeful.” The boy had to undergo an emergency craniectomy, removing part of his skull to relieve the swelling. The teen who struck them, meanwhile, was charged with following too closely. He told WCSH-6 recently that he thinks about the crash every day, wishing he could go back and make different choices. He was just a kid, he said, and it was all a “complete accident.”

That doesn’t change the fact that the 14-year-old he hit is now in a state described as “minimally conscious.” He is unable to walk, talk, or eat on his own. No one is able to say when he will recover or if he will ever recover. All of his hopes and dreams and aspirations are, in all likelihood, dashed because someone took a moment to look at their radio. He now requires nurses, home health aides, and physical therapists. He is unable to communicate.

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The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has addressed a blind spot in case law regarding which victims may claim a defendant’s money and assets in a case involving multiple individuals who are equally harmed. 

The case of Estate of Summers v. Nisbet stems from the deadliest fire in Maine in over 40 years. The blaze broke out in a two-unit home in 2014 in Portland. Six people were killed.

In the aftermath, it was alleged the landlord was negligent in maintaining the property in safe condition, which played a central role in the fire. Soon after, families began filing wrongful death lawsuits against the landlord, who also faces six criminal counts of manslaughter.

The family of one man, Steven Summers, was the first to file a claim for damages in court. However, his widow, as personal representative of his estate, did so by filing what is known as an ex parte attachment. It is a claim that is not made public until after the defendant – here, the landlord – goes through a process of challenging that attachment. It’s a secretive process intended to block a defendant’s assets without warning, to prevent the defendant from concealing property or money to avoid having to part with it to satisfy the judgment.  Continue reading

A Tennessee man is facing charges of manslaughter following a Maine truck accident that resulted in two fatalities in March. Now, the Bangor Daily News has revealed the driver had a safety record that was much worse than the national average. 

This matters, particularly for his civil case, because it could be grounds to assert direct liability – and not just vicarious liability – against the trucking company that employed him. It may also be grounds to seek punitive damages, which could greatly increase the damage award for plaintiffs.

The newspaper reported that the 54-year-old trucker was hired by a carrier based in Tennessee. The company’s owner told a reporter he had no idea the driver’s license had been suspended in Louisiana and revoked in Virginia. At that point, he directed questions about the crash to his attorney, though he failed to provide the contact information for that individual.  Continue reading

The family of a motorcycle accident victim who died after falling six stories from his hospital room window says he was not suicidal. Disoriented? Yes. He was suffering from brain injuries, his daughter said. He wanted to go home. 

But the hospital had a duty to make sure he was safe and not a danger to himself.

Determining whether his fatal injuries were the result of general negligence or medical malpractice will be part of what the family’s recently-hired injury lawyer will be exploring.  Continue reading

A man driving a car on a rural road in Waterville was reportedly blinded by bright sun when he rear-ended a horse-drawn hayride recently, injuring seven people – one critically. 

According to the Bangor Daily News, the collision happened on Christmas Day when the operators, S&S Carriage Rides, were offering rides to volunteers and guests of the Waterville Elks Lodge.

The force of impact was such that a 56-year-old woman was knocked off the back of the wagon and onto the road, where she was then run over by the car. The seat in which the 42-year-old wagon operator was sitting was broken, though the horses were not hurt. The 73-year-old car driver wasn’t hurt. Seven people in total were taken to the hospital, though the 56-year-old woman had to be flown by helicopter to a health care facility in Portland.  Continue reading

Following the death of a teen girl on a hayride last fall, Maine lawmakers are searching for way to tighten amusement park regulations and restrictions, to ensure similar tragedies never happen again.

Recently, the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee weighed testimony from one lawmaker sponsoring a bill named after the teen that would enhance protections for those who pay money to go on amusement park rides in this state.

The measure, “Cassidy’s Law,” is formally titled LD 1057, An Act to Increase the Safety of Amusement Park Rides. It bears the name of the high school junior who was killed in Mechanic Falls when a 197os-model Jeep hauling a trailer with 20 people on it careened off the trail and into a cluster of trees at a “haunted” hayride offering at a local farm festival.

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.

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.

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