A 57-year-old man died just two miles from home in a Maine snowmobile accident after striking a snow drift and suffering ejection. Authorities are investigating the deadly snowmobile crash, and unfortunately bracing for more, as the state’s 14,000 snow trails have been busy in recent weeks. With 800,000 registered snowmobiles in the state, this $300 million-a-year industry in Maine is popular, but rife with hazards. Many Maine snowmobile registrations are held by those who don’t reside here, but come solely to ride. (No trail passes are required, but all residents and non-residents must register for ride permission.)

One study published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research revealed there are an estimated 200 deaths and 14,000 injuries a year attributed to snowmobile accidents, with excess speed, alcohol, driver inexperience and poor judgment the leading causes indicated.

In the experience of our Maine snowmobile injury lawyers, the biggest factor in deadly snowmobile accidents has been speed. These 660-pound vehicles can reach top speeds of 100 mph, and too often, riders push those limits. Perhaps part of the problem is Maine has no designated speed limit for those on snowmobiles.

New Year’s Eve signals the end of a year, but too often and for too many on Maine roads, it signals the end of life. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, nearly half of motor vehicle fatalities are attributed to alcohol-impaired drivers, compared to the annual average, which is about 30 percent. That’s according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – and it doesn’t include the number who survive, but may suffer permanent, disabling injury. Our Portland drunk driving injury attorneys encourage all drivers to be safe and sober this holiday, especially given our state ranks No. 9 for the most drunk driving deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

Complicating matters this year is the fact voters in 2016 approved legalized recreational marijuana sales (now codified in IB 2015, c. 5). Although implementation of the law has moved at a snail’s pace and there is no business yet approved to sell the drug commercially if it’s not for medicinal use, it is legal for one adult to give it to another. (Some marijuana dispensaries in Portland and elsewhere in Maine have used this loophole to “give” away marijuana, yet charge a delivery fee – the legality of which under state law is questionable, as reported by WGME 13.) The bottom line is that more people in Maine – and thus more drivers – may be under the influence of marijuana.

One recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found traffic accidents have risen about 6 percent in states that have legalized recreational marijuana compared to neighboring states that still outlaw the drug. Random roadside tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that about 22 percent of motorists showed evidence of drug use. In Washington state (which, along with Maine, is one of eight that has legalized recreational marijuana), one-fourth of all traffic deaths in 2016 involved drivers who mixed drugs and alcohol – most commonly alcohol with marijuana, the latter of which is known to slow driver reaction times, impair visual perception and blunt cognitive judgment.

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

Data released from the Maine Medical Research Center indicates Lyme disease in Maine may be dropping off a bit due to hot, dry weather over the summer. However, this comes, as our Portland medical malpractice attorneys know, after a record-breaking 1,852 cases for the year in 2017. So far this year, 1,069 cases were reported, according to health officials.

Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease remains a cause of substantial consequence. Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by ticks, can be cured if treated very aggressively, particularly with early intervention. The hot, dry summers have resulted in lower numbers of ticks this year, which is good news. Unfortunately, people who are misdiagnosed for years suffer extensive health problems – up to and including death. Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease or delayed diagnosis denies a person critical medical intervention necessary to effectively fight the disease.

Misdiagnosis, or an overlooked diagnosis in general, is the most common type of medical malpractice in Maine. It’s important to point out that failure to diagnosis may not in and of itself be the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is when this failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis results in delayed treatment, improper medical care or no treatment at all – something that worsens a patient’s medical condition and prognosis – that can make such action (or inaction) potentially worth pursuing a Maine medical malpractice lawsuit. Continue reading

A fatal car accident in Prospect resulted in the deaths of two men and, now, the felony conviction of a man suspected – but not proven – to have been the negligent driver of that vehicle. Bangor car accident attorneys know the case represents some unique elements from a wrongful death litigation perspective, due to the fact the person who was driving was not conclusively decided.

According to The Bangor Daily News, the 2016 crash involved a pickup truck on North Searsport Road on an afternoon in September 2016. What authorities know for certain is there were three occupants in that vehicle at the time the truck slammed into a utility pole, causing the truck to roll over several times, ejecting all three from the vehicle. Investigators determined speed was a major factor in the crash, but several crash scene reconstruction experts called to investigate for the prosecution and defense were unable to determine who was driving at the time of the collision – the 33-year-old surviving defendant or one of the two men who died, ages 59 and 35. Defendant, who suffered serious head injuries in the collision, cannot remember who was behind the wheel. Investigators know that defendant had been driving at other times during that day. Blood found on the driver’s side airbag was determined to belong to the surviving defendant, prompting serious felony charges of manslaughter and other crimes. However, an expert later determined the blood on the airbag most likely came form the person sitting in the center, not the driver. The more serious charges were dropped, but defendant was still charged with operating without a license as a habitual offender (resulting in a 3.5 year prison sentence) and violating conditions of his release (six months, to be served concurrently).

As for a Maine wrongful death lawsuit, a case where the driver cannot be identified poses some challenges. Still, our Bangor wrongful death car accident attorneys know there may be a number of potential options for compensation.

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

Last year, officials reported record-breaking traffic on New England roads over the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 2.2 million people in this region make a turkey day trek more than 50 miles, representing a 3.5 percent increase over a year ago and the biggest boost in volume since 2005. It’s not clear exactly how many of those were in rented vehicles, but we know it’s common. There was also an uptick in air travel, with some 36,000 people flying out of Portland International Jetport, many opting for rental vehicles while in town.  Nationally, it’s estimated some 51 million people traveled over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday period from Wednesday through Sunday (with Wednesday being the busiest day).

Maine car accident attorneys in Bangor know that when a collision involves a rented vehicle, there may be some unique elements to consider with regard to auto insurance and liability coverage.

Prior to 2005, victims of car accidents could take legal action against rental car companies, holding them liable for the negligent actions of the person driving a vehicle owned by the rental company. This falls under a special type of law called “vicarious liability,” meaning it’s not necessary to show the person you’re suing for injuries directly did anything wrong. Rather, motor vehicles are inherently dangerous and so the owner was responsible for negligent use of that dangerous tool by someone else if the owner gave that person permission.

But then Congress passed the Graves Amendment, part of a larger federal transportation bill, which largely released rental car companies from liability when a renter crashes a car. However, that does not mean they are entirely off-the-hook. They can still be held liable for direct negligence. For example, if a causal factor in the crash was worn tire tread, that could be the fault of the rental car company. If the brakes were old or the car hadn’t been maintained, that could be evidence of direct negligence by the rental car company.  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

The town of Kittery is now facing nearly half a dozen Maine injury lawsuits following a van crash in which nearly a dozen children, ages 7 to 9, were injured when the driver, employed by the town, crashed due to a medical emergency. Plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for medical expenses incurred in the weeks following the crash.

Injuries included a fractured leg, head injuries, facial scarring and emotional trauma. According to The Portland Press-Herald, the driver, 21, did have a commercial license, but had disclosed in a previous court case (which was public record) that he suffered from epilepsy and seizures, and he also had an extended history of previous criminal driving infractions. An internal review by the town revealed officials there did not check the man’s prior driving record before he was hired.

This case raises a number of legal issues, some of which, like the sudden emergency doctrine, we touched on previously. However, it also raises the common issue in Maine crash case which is one of respondeat superior, or employer liability for employee negligence.

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