A record-breaking number of Maine pedestrian accidents in recent years is vexing traffic safety officials.  Maine Public Radio reported pedestrian accident deaths nationally last year were the highest they had been in 30 years. In Maine, officials recorded a 24-year high in 2017. This year is not shaping up to be any safer.

The biggest factor, as noted by numerous traffic safety officials and our own Portland pedestrian accident lawyers, is distraction. Smartphones are the most ubiquitous example, with the average adult spending four hours daily on their phones. A recent comprehensive data analysis by Zendrive reveals distracted driving is 100 times worse than government data reports. These statistics illustrate the real risks when it comes to walking on Maine roads.

Maine Pedestrian Accident Injuries and Deaths Reported Last Three Months

If recent headlines in the Portland Press-Herald and Lewiston Sun-Journal are any indication, it’s unlikely the trend will ease anytime soon. Among those incidents:

  • In April, a 40-year-old woman was struck and killed in a pedestrian accident reportedly caused by a drunk driver on Yarmouth Road. The 58-year-old driver was arrested. Her 11-year-old daughter was also in the vehicle.
  • A few weeks earlier, a 21-year-old woman walking on Franklin Street was struck by a 23-year-old male driver. The Portland pedestrian accident resulted in serious but not life-threatening injuries.
  • In February, a woman was struck and killed in a Turner pedestrian accident involving a truck on Route 4.
  • Also in February, a 36-year-old woman in Lisbon was struck by a box truck while jogging on Route 196. She told police she tried to jump out of the way when the truck veered toward her, but the vehicle nonetheless knocked her to the ground. Although it was early morning, the woman was wearing an illuminated running vest. The 25-year-old driver reportedly did not stop and is facing criminal charges.

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Maine has one of the lowest rates of uninsured drivers in the country. That’s great news for Maine’s road users, who get cheaper uninsured motorist coverage for injuries caused by a hit-and-run/unidentified driver. Still, it doesn’t show the full picture. Many drivers have the minimum mandatory auto insurance coverage. Currently, that rate is $50,000 per person/$100,000 per crash in bodily injury liability, $25,000 in property damage and $2,000 in medical payments. This might sound like a lot, but as your Portland injury lawyers will tell you, it’s often inadequate to reimburse for total losses following a serious Maine car crash. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage makes up the difference – between the policy limit of the at-fault driver and your UIM limit.

Don’t assume, however, that when the time comes, the insurer will acquiesce automatically to your requested UIM compensation. Auto insurers actively seek ways to deny or reduce payments – even to their own long-time, safe driver customers. An experienced Portland UIM attorney can advocate for your right to receive full and fair compensation. We can also identify potential acts by insurers – such as vastly undervaluing a legitimate claim or refusing to tell you why they are denying a claim – that might amount to bad faith. If proven, bad faith insurance violations under the Maine Insurance Code can result not only in full crash injury compensation but also attorney fees (which would otherwise come out as a percent of your damage award), court costs AND a penalty of up to 150 percent of that amount.

Although disputes over UIM coverage can often be settled through negotiation (avoiding the time and expense of a trial), it wasn’t long ago a UIM coverage case found its way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The case, Wallace v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co., involved the question of how an “underinsured motorist” is defined. This is an important technicality of which to be mindful because the definition can differ depending on policy language and it can have a big impact on how much your insurer is required to pay you. Continue reading

The manufacturer of a popular infant jogging stroller model was the subject of a Washington Post investigation shedding light into how the company resisted a product recall despite more than 100 reports of serious stroller injuries (adults, infants and children) over six years, along with U.S. regulators demands that the manufacturer warn consumers and remove the product from shelves. As longtime Bangor child injury attorneys, such revelations are deeply troubling, but not wholly surprising. The report indicated that shifting federal policies toward more relaxed regulatory standards have the potential to allow manufacturers of dangerous products to go unchecked by public and consumer safety agencies for longer stretches at a time.

Our Maine defective product attorneys help equalize the playing field between huge corporations with an army of defense attorneys and individual consumers harmed by unsafe, defective products. It’s important to note: a product doesn’t have to be recalled in order for someone to file a lawsuit, particularly when there is an extensive on-the-record pattern of severe injuries involving similar causes over a period of time, as was allegedly the case here.

Often one of the biggest issues in these cases is whether a defendant adequately warned the public about a danger they knew/reasonably should have known about. If they actively tried to conceal it, this can even be grounds for punitive damages (intended to penalize a defendant for egregious wrongs, versus compensatory damages intended solely to make a person “whole” for losses sustained).

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The death of a state police detective in a Maine trucking accident on I-95  in Hampden was initially called a “bizarre” and “freak accident,” but is now under greater scrutiny by traffic homicide investigators after the motor carrier’s safety record revealed a troubling history of safety violations. As Bangor truck injury lawyers, we’d say while it’s fair to assert the exact circumstances leading to the detective’s death were uncommon, the term “freak accident” insinuates it wasn’t something that could have been stopped. But if a “freak accident” is even partially the result of poor truck maintenance, improper repairs, overloading or inadequate road safety checks, that can be the basis for a Maine negligence lawsuit against those responsible.

According to local news, the 31-year-old detective was assisting a disabled motorist on the snowy highway when two  wheels of a passing tractor-trailer suddenly came unhinged, flew off in either direction, with one fatally strikng the officer, a husband and new father. The driver of that tractor-trailer reportedly failed to stop at the scene, and his actions/sobriety are under investigation.

Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in January released early 2018 national truck crash statistics, which seem to indicate increasing road risks. The percentage of all fatal crashes involving at least one large truck increased from 11.1 percent in 2015 to 12.4 percent in 2017. Transportation Topics reported deadly large truck crashes were up more than 3 percent in one recent year. Occupant fatalities rose 24 percent in two years. 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

Language barriers in health care can be a catalyst to providing health care that fails to meet the accepted standard for that specialty, which Bangor injury attorneys know is how we measure medical malpractice. Maine is not known for being especially diverse, but gains over the last 50 years have been steady, including more than 700 refugees from African countries like Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as migrant workers (primarily from Latin America) and France/Canada. As noted by researchers with Bowdoin College, Portland historically has had the most concentrated population of immigrants, though rising housing rates have meant many new immigrants are settling in newer areas in southern Maine. Although many hospitals are striving to become more culturally and medically competent in order to care for new immigrant patients, the reality is English proficiency and literacy has a big impact on a person’s ability to access health care – from setting up appointments to using public transportation to understanding preventative care.

A study published a few years ago by the University of California, Berkley School of Public Health and the National Health Law Program, reported at least 2.5 percent of medical malpractice claims involved a language barrier that was partially or substantially related to failure to provide appropriate language services. The cases identified involved patients who either died or suffered irreparable harm. Of those who died, two were children and three were adults.

In 32 of the 35 total cases wherein a language barrier was causal in a medical malpractice case, it was alleged the health care providers did not use competent interpreters. Several used family or friends as interpreters, including minor children.  In one instance, it was the decedent child who served as an interpreter before suffering respiratory arrest. In another case, it was the 16-year-old sibling of the child who died who served as an interpreter. At least a dozen of the medical malpractice claims involved alleged failure to help translate important documents. Another child suffered major organ damage, an adult underwent an unnecessary leg amputation and another was rendered permanently comatose.

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.

One of the best lines of defense in preventing youth sports injuries are certified athletic trainers, per the American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. An athletic trainer is someone who is certified and licensed in the health care field of sports medicine, and has been recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied health care professional since 1990. Portland injury lawyers in Maine know that while it’s generally difficult to hold a school district liable for an athlete injury, courts have identified a number of areas of potential liability in the context of organized athletic events at the high school level.

A 1997 ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in Searles v. Trustees held that colleges, private schools and public schools owe a legal duty to exercise reasonable care toward their students. This duty encompasses the responsibility of coaches and athletic trainers to exercise reasonable care for the health and safety of their students, which means conforming to the standard of care required of an ordinary and careful trainer.

But what if there is no certified athletic trainer at the school? A recent report by The Portland Press Herald revealed Maine is behind other states in New England and nationally for hiring athletic trainers to help prevent serious student injury. Of 143 public and private high schools in the state, only 51 have full-time athletic trainers attending after-school practices (where 40 percent of student athlete injuries happen) and games. The problem is most acute in school districts that are rural because they lack funding and also student participation is lower. Of the 33 schools that don’t have an athletic trainer, sports enrollment is at less than 150 each.

A 28-year-old woman seriously injured as a passenger in a Maine motorcycle accident was awarded $2.5 million for life-changing injuries, according to the Bangor Daily News. The claim was against a 78-year-old driver. Another claim for damages against the motorcycle operator had been previously settled for an undisclosed sum. The case proceeded to trial after plaintiff rejected defendant’s settlement offer of $9,500. At trial, defendant driver was found to be 20 percent liable, meaning she is responsible for $400,000 of the damages.

According to news reports of the case, plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle operated in Kennebec County by a 30-year-old in June 2015. Defendant driver reportedly swerved suddenly to the right in order drive into the parking area of a bagel shop. This prompted the motorcycle operator to attempt to illegally pass the driver on the right. The two vehicles collided. The motorcycle operator suffered minor injuries, while plaintiff was seriously injured. After skidding 60 feet along the asphalt, she suffered road rash on 50 percent of her body and sustained fractures to both her left arm and hand. Her hand and arm are now disfigured and scarred, and she’s been left with residual weakness in both the hand and arm, with medical bills totaling $50,000.

Motorcycle Accidents on the Rise Nationally

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports Maine’s motorcycle deaths comprise 11.2 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state, despite the fact that motorcyclists comprise just 3.6 percent of all motor vehicle registrations. State totals ranged from accounting for 7.1 percent of deaths in Alaska to nearly 23 percent in Nevada. Maine motorcycle accident deaths spiked 33 percent from 2016 to 2017 (based on preliminary numbers) from 18 to 24.

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