Articles Posted in Personal Injury

While some accidents are solely the cause of one party, it is not unusual for multiple parties to share responsibility for an accident. One of the most common questions Maine personal injury victims have is whether they can pursue a claim for compensation if they were partially at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries. The answer, as is often the case with legal questions of this nature, is “it depends.”

Maine courts employ the doctrine of modified comparative negligence when it comes to determining which injury victims can recover for their injuries. In many jurisdictions using a comparative negligence system, a partially at-fault plaintiff can recover for their injuries; however, a plaintiffs’ recovery amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Thus, if a plaintiff suffered $400,000 in personal injury damages but was found to be 25 percent at fault by the jury, the plaintiff’s total recovery amount would be $300,000.

Under Maine Rules of Civil Procedure section 156, as long as the injury victim is less than 50% percent at fault for the accident, they are legally permitted to recover for their injuries. However, unlike other jurisdictions, Maine courts “instruct the jury to reduce the total damages by dollars and cents, and not by percentage, to the extent considered just and equitable.” In so doing, juries should consider the plaintiff’s share of responsibility, but should not strictly rely on percentages when reducing a plaintiff’s award figure. In addition, the court must instruct the jury that their award amount will be the final verdict in the case and that there will be no further modification by the court.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Maine personal injury case discussing the state’s equine statute. Specifically, the court had to determine if the equine statute precluded the plaintiff’s case against the parents of a ten-year-old girl who struck the plaintiff while riding a horse. As the court notes, this case was the first time the Maine Supreme Court heard a case requiring the court to determine the breadth of immunity provided by the equine-immunity statute.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was observing children race horses at an arena. While there was a designated area for spectators, the plaintiff observed from an area that was closer to the exit. The plaintiff watched as a ten-year-old girl rode around the track several times. However, on the girl’s fourth circuit around the raceway, the girl’s horse collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell, seriously injuring her wrist, and later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the girl’s parents (the defendants).

In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendants claimed Title 7 Chapter 743 Section 4103-A of the Maine Revised Statutes provides the defendant’s immunity from the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Specifically, that statute provides that any “person engaged in an equine activity is not liable for any property damage or damages arising from the personal injury or death of a participant or spectator resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.”

A new federal inspection report shows nursing home neglect and abuse has been pervasive at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the country, including Augusta, Maine. Residents have been denied medication, trapped in wheelchairs for hours and have sustained wounds rivaling those they suffered in combat. Inspectors reported spotting nurses sleeping on-the-job, and other nurses unable to respond to distress calls because patients had no functional call light.

An estimated 40,000 veterans are residents at VA nursing homes throughout the country at any given time. A joint report by USA Today and the Boston Globe revealed that in a VA nursing home in Maine’s capital, veterans, without enough medication, spent hours clearly in pain .

The reporting team first revealed that private contractor inspectors investigated the VA system nine months ago, but until recently their actual reports weren’t made public. The reports painted a picture of abysmal care of aging and vulnerable veterans and revealed that of 99 VA nursing homes inspected, 55 were cited for care deficiencies that resulted in actual harm to veterans. In three of those cases, inspectors discovered that the health and safety of veterans was in immediate jeopardy. Continue reading

A new report detailing the vast expanse of dangerous bridges in the U.S. from coast-to-coast is startling, especially if you live in Maine, where 352 of 2,450 bridges were identified as having serious structural deficiencies. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent bridge inventory analysis classified more than 47,000 bridges nationally “structurally deficient” and “in poor condition.” The American Road & Transportation Builders Association notes that if we were to lay these structures end-to-end, they’d stretch from Houston to Chicago.

Bangor car accident attorneys know that when someone is injured or killed because of dangerous transportation infrastructure, the question of liability may be complicated. You’ll need an experienced, well-resourced law firm to help you untangle the question of who is responsible – and further to hold them legally accountable for damages.

The Scope of U.S. Decaying Traffic Infrastructure

TheTrucker.com’s report on the new data estimated more than 178 million trips are made in cars, school buses, tractor-trailers, and motorcycles across these defective roads and bridges daily. Continue reading

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.

The Portland Press Herald recently published a report regarding a new smartphone app that allows users to bypass legal services and file a civil lawsuit with just a few clicks. A quick, “Swipe right to sue” allows for claims of up to $25,000. One might expect any long-time Maine injury lawyer to express objections. However, the problem is less that lawyers aren’t being paid for legal services and far more that Maine injury claimants may not obtain the compensation they deserve.

If you’re injured in a car accident or hurt by use of a defective product, it’s important to recognize that a smartphone app – no matter how smart – is not going to provide you with the personal and professionalized service of an experienced injury attorney. Perhaps there is an argument to be made about using it for a minor traffic ticket. However, if you’re injured – or even think you may be – you may be cheating yourself by not at least making sure your case isn’t worth more than you initially assume.

For example, the app asks users, “How much do you want to sue for?” giving consumers the option of deciding how much their injury claim is worth. This is problematic because this is actually a very complex question – one that shouldn’t be answered with a mere guess. There is extensive time and research that goes into consideration of how much a Maine injury claim is worth. There is no place to indicate whether the damages you’re claiming are compensatory (identifiable and concrete damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, etc.), general damages (including pain and suffering, future income losses and future medical care) or punitive (limited in application, but significant and intended to penalize egregious negligence by a defendant). Continue reading

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