Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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

Horse injury lawsuits in Maine have been an uphill battle ever since a 1999 change to the state’s equine liability law. M.R.S.A. Title 7, Part 9, ch.743 s.4103-A on Liability for Equine Activities limits the liability of any horse activity sponsor, professional or anyone else engaged in equine activity for personal injury or death of participants or spectators that result from inherent risks of such activities – other than specific statutory exceptions. It’s incumbent on participants to be responsible for knowing their own limits in managing, caring for or controlling a horse, and they’re responsible for heeding all warnings and must refrain from doing anything that might cause or contribute to an injury.

Still, as noted in a 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Maine, “There does not appear to be any legislative history to suggest that the current version of the Maine Equine Activities Act, which was amended in 1999, was meant to repudiate any possibility of a negligence action arising in the context of equine activities.” In other words, just because Maine injury lawsuits filed as a result of horse-related activities are now more difficult, it does not mean the possibility of prevailing is altogether eliminated. An experienced Bangor injury lawyer should be able to further discuss your legal rights.

Recently, the Bangor Daily News reported on a Maine injury lawsuit filed by parents of a New York girl against a farm in Maine, accused of negligence in running a horse-riding tour that during a 2016 visit caused the girl to be thrown from a horse. She suffered a broken skull and spine. It was the girl’s first time riding a horse. The family alleges medical bills have exceeded $680,000 and she continues to suffer physical and mental impact. Continue reading

Learning good sportsmanship is one of the primary purposes of youth sports. Yet all over the country – and right here in Maine – serious injuries are reported when parents, players, coaches and fans engage in violence both on and off the field.

Our Portland injury lawyers just recently read about a girls soccer field punch during a playoff game at Lisbon High School, a half hour outside Portland. A video clip (viewed more than 73,000 times on social media before it was removed) shows one player swinging at an opposing player after a scored goal. Later in the game, the clip shows that same player attack again, punching the same girl in the face. The victim fell as she tried to dodge the punch and apparently wasn’t seriously hurt, according to the Portland Press Herald. The video is being reviewed by school officials and no criminal charges have been filed. Less than a week later, the Press Herald reported yet another violent attack at a youth sports game, this time at Scarborough High School, where a 20-year-old resident allegedly stabbed a 15-year-old student in the parking lot during a soccer game half-time.

As Maine injury lawyers know, there may be few remedies available for youth sports players who suffer certain injuries in the course of the game. Depending on the nature of the sport, those injuries may be considered the inherent risk one assumes in playing. (Not always, though, so it’s best to at least discuss your rights with an attorney.) However, when an assault or battery occurs at a sporting event, either among fans or between players or even parents, coaches or referees, parties may be found liable under either negligence or intentional tort law. Continue reading

A worker who suffered a drug overdose on the job is suing his former employer, alleging his co-workers committed gross negligence by failing to call 911 and instead placing him in a cold shower. Bangor Daily News reports the 30-year-old man is now confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for himself.

The case is unique in the fact that in most Maine work injury cases seeking coverage of medical bills and lost wages from an employer, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy, as explained in the general provisions of 39-A M.R.S.A. §104. The law says an employer is exempt from civil action for either negligence or intentional conduct resulting in an employee’s injury or death, and also that a fellow employee is exempt from a Maine injury lawsuit arising out of the course of employment.

As a no-fault system, the employee is not required to prove negligence and the employer loses the right to assert most common-law defenses that would ordinarily address an injury lawsuit. The worker does need to show he or she was acting in the course and scope of employment. Although employees can (and should, if available) assert third-party liability claims against non-employer defendants whose negligence caused or contributed to their injuries, it’s very rare for an employee to succeed in a negligence lawsuit against an employer for injuries sustained in the course and scope of employment. This doesn’t apply to independent contractor workers, only those who meet the definition of “employee.”  Continue reading

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.

Rabid wildlife has attacked two Brunswick residents and two dogs in recent days. While references to Stephen King’s “Cujo” will no doubt abound, the fact remains summer is already the most dangerous time of year for Maine dog bite injuries; confirmed cases of rabies in the area will only serve to increase the risks. While Stephen King’s 1981 classic depicted the horror faced by a mother and son held captive in rural Maine by a rabid dog, the truth of the matter is that mandatory pet vaccines throughout the majority of the country have drastically reduced the risks.

However, Maine is among the states that still report the most cases each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports rabies is a preventable disease of mammals, transported most often through the bite of another rabid animal. The vast majority of reported cases each year occur in wild animals, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. Untreated, the virus infects the central nervous system and leads to brain disease and death. Death occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

In the Brunswick case this month, the Bangor Daily News reports a 72-year-old woman was bitten by a gray fox. A 27-year-old neighbor was also bitten while trying to detain the fox for authorities. In a separate incident, two dogs were bitten by a rabid skunk. As of June, Maine has had 18 confirmed cases of rabies reported statewide.

Continue reading

A rash of fatal snowmobile accidents this month has authorities preaching caution through the remainder of the riding season.

The most recent incident claimed the lives of a father and son in Hermon. The Maine Warden Service says a 33-year-old man and his 10-year-old son were killed in a crash about 1 a.m. after their snowmobile collided with a tree at the edge of a field. Authorities also reported the death of a 53-year-old man in a separate incident. Speed is being cited as a contributing factor in both accidents.

As we recently reported, Title 14 Part 1 Chapter 7 159-A provides added protection for many landowners. The law limits liability for recreational activities by limiting a property owner’s duty of care for permissive uses. Essentially, what this means is if a farmer or other landowner permits recreational activity on owned land, the landowner does not owe visitors a higher duty of care as a customer or invited guest, which would otherwise be owed under Maine premises liability laws.

Recently, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) posted on her Facebook page that she had suffered a fractured ankle that required surgery after she suffered a slip-and-fall accident at her home. Although she didn’t realize any details about exactly how the fall occurred, she indicated the ankle was broken in two places, but the surgery was successful. 

Slip-and-fall accidents like the one Collins suffered are an increasing occurrence in Maine during the winter months, when accumulations of ice and snow make walkways and entrances especially hazardous.

Of course, brutally cold, icy, and snowy conditions are just a part of life here in Maine, which makes almost any way of traveling potentially dangerous. The state has gone so far in the past as to issue travel bans during blizzards, but those apply to motor vehicle traffic. Still, property owners owe a common law duty of care to keep their sites reasonably free from potentially slippery conditions for workers, customers, and other types of guests.

When seven were injured and one killed on a state fair ride in Ohio, officials with the Bangor State Fair initiated additional safety checks on a ride similar to the one that malfunctioned, to ensure there were no future tragedies. In fact, the Freak Out ride in Bangor is manufactured by the same company that made the ride in Ohio. A specialist is slated to check the ride before the fair opens, the operator told The Bangor Daily News, and the Bangor fire marshal’s office inspectors were dispatched to check all mechanical rides. 

Fair injuries are not unique to Ohio. Right here in Maine, four children were injured in two separate incidents two years ago at the Waterville State Fair. In one incident, the Dragon Wagon ride resulted in three child injuries. The very next day at the same fair, a rider in a mechanical swing wasn’t properly secured in the ride, and fell out of the chair during the ride. Two people were later charged criminally in those incidents.

Deaths on carnival rides are relatively rare, but the problem, as noted by experts quoted in USA Today, is there are not enough safety regulations and too few inspectors. From now through mid-September is considered peak fair season, with state fairs popular in Maine and many other states. But the inspections may not be adequate to catch all the potential problems. For example, Ohio reportedly has eight inspectors in charge of permitting some 3,700 rides annually. The question then becomes how many hours of inspection does each ride get? One expert opined a thorough ride inspection takes between one and three days because the inspector must examine x-rays of the joints and welds.  Continue reading

Auto insurance policies generally cover sudden or unexpected injuries that involve an automobile. This doesn’t always necessarily mean that the only incidents that would be covered would be those involving a vehicle-on-vehicle collision while at least one of the cars is in motion. However, neither can it mean, according to a recent Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion, a Maine dog bite that did not specifically arise from the use of the automobile.

A similar case arose in 1987, with the same court deciding in Union Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Commercial Union Ins. that a gunshot wound incurred when a weapon in the back of a vehicle was accidentally discharged was not covered under the auto insurance policy.

In the more recent case, the dog in question was co-owned by two unmarried individuals. While the female co-owner of the dog had an auto insurance policy that covered her and her vehicle, the male co-owner was operating one of his employer’s cars to meet the plaintiff, who had purchased an old pickup truck from the dog owner’s son. The dog owner brought his dog with him in the car. While transferring the pickup truck, someone (it is disputed who exactly it was, but the issue isn’t material) opened the door to the vehicle with the dog in it. The dog, without leaving the vehicle, bit the plaintiff in the face.

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