Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court recently decided a medical malpractice case resting on a claim that a man’s original misdiagnosis delayed his treatment and caused serious complications. According to the court’s opinion, in August 2012, the plaintiff had had a polyp surgically removed from his colon less than a week before he went to the emergency room at a Maine hospital complaining of abdominal pain. He was seen by the on-call surgeon, who ordered a CT scan. The next morning, a radiologist reviewed the results of the scan and found there were no findings that suggested an anastomotic leak. Later that night, based on the plaintiff’s condition, another surgeon decided emergency surgery had to be conducted, and in the course of that surgery, discovered a small anastomotic leak. The plaintiff was hospitalized and intubated, developed deep venous thrombosis, and had a stroke during his hospitalization.

The plaintiff and his wife filed a medical malpractice claim against the radiologist who interpreted the CT scan, the first on-call surgeon, and the hospital. They alleged that if the anastomotic leak had been identified and treated the night he went to the hospital, he could have avoided many of the resulting complications. A trial court found that the plaintiffs could not prove the claim against the hospital and the radiologist, and a jury found in the surgeon’s favor, and the plaintiffs appealed. They argued that the court should not have found in favor of the radiologist and that a jury could have found that the radiologist was negligent in reading the CT scan, and that his negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

To prove the elements of a medical malpractice claim, the court explained, a plaintiff must show that the defendant departed from a recognized standard of care, proximately causing the plaintiff’s injury. To establish proximate cause in the medical malpractice claim, the evidence must show that the defendant’s’ conduct played a substantial part in causing the injury, and the injury was either a direct result or a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the conduct. The appeals court found that the record was devoid of evidence showing what role the radiologist’s reading of the CT scan played in the development of the man’s complications. Therefore, there was no evidence linking the radiologist’s conduct to the injury that related to the delay in time and the complications he suffered. For that reason, a verdict would have been based on mere speculation in finding that the radiologist’s conduct was the proximate cause of the man’s injuries.

Summer is in full swing, but lawmakers in Maine recently had their minds on the winds of winter when they debated a bill that would have penalized motorists who failed to remove ice and snow debris from the roofs of their cars before traveling at faster speeds. It’s already a requirement of motorists in numerous other states, including nearby New Hampshire with Jessica’s Law. Our injury lawyers have learned that the Maine bill, S.B. 1527, has died in committee. This is unfortunate given that the measure had bipartisan backing, and with vigilant enforcement, might have made a notable difference in Maine roadway safety this upcoming winter season.

Had S.B. 1527 passed, it would have amended Sec. 1. 29-A MRSA §2396, sub-§5 (pertaining to unsecured loads) to include a provision fining $250 to any motorist traveling 40 mph or faster on a public way with a “load of solid precipitation on the motor vehicle.” Solid precipitation was defined to include snow, ice, sleet and hail. Exceptions were to be made for “minor amounts” of solid precipitation where a reasonable effort had been made to remove the load, but otherwise, having a lump of snow on the roof of your car would be grounds for a steep fine under the act which would have doubled for second or subsequent offenses. The one major weakness in the measure was that it exempted commercial vehicles, very often the culprit in these cases.

Why Snow and Ice on Cars is So Dangerous

Car accident lawyers know public opinion on car snow and ice removal is somewhat split. Obviously, there are those who say daily snow and ice removal from one’s vehicles is a major hassle. On the flip side, those clumps of debris and shards of ice can cause serious accidents. For example, Jessica’s Law in New Hampshire is named for a teenager who was struck and killed in 1999 by another driver who lost control on the highway when a huge chunk of ice that flew from a box truck smashed his windshield. This January in Wells, Maine, a driver’s entire front windshield was shattered when a hunk of solid ice came flying off another vehicle. In another similar incident that same month in Freeport, a woman and her three daughters narrowly escaped injury when ice from a box truck hurtled their direction and shattered the windshield. In February, a New Hampshire DOT worker was hurt when ice from atop a box truck flew off the back and slammed into the windshield. Continue reading

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

Summer camp operators, and in some case property owners, have a special duty to consider the safety of campers in their care. Although summer camps generally aren’t expected to guarantee an injury-free experience, they are responsible for exercising reasonable care to avoid situations that are foreseeably risky. Camp operators must also take into consideration that children by nature do not practice the same level of care as adults when it comes to avoiding injury. Counselors, trainers and program organizers should take extra care to prevent contact with certain hazards with campers that, for adults, would be considered open and obvious. Failure to do so could lead to a claim for liability from any resulting injuries. Personal injury attorneys in Maine can help parents determine these claims.

Summer Camp Statistics

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), an estimated 14,000 camps operate in the United States. This is an $18 billion industry, employing 1.5 million people, with more than 14 million children and adult campers. Of ACA-accredited camps, about 45 percent offer specialized programming for individuals with disabilities. Roughly 80 percent say enrollment has either increased or stayed about the same in recent years.

The tragic death of a 26-year-old sailor stationed at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base adds to the growing concern about the safety of mopeds, scooters, e-scooters, and e-bicycles, as well as other alternative forms of transportation in Maine.

The Kitsap Sun referred to the vehicle on which the submariner crashed as both a “scooter” and a “motorcycle,” although the Yamaha Chappy, produced in the 1970s and 1980s, would be characterized as a moped under Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles because it has a motor that reaches up to 50 cc’s (compared to a scooter, which doesn’t exceed 25 cc’s). Most mopeds top out at speeds of 40 mph, but some larger models can go faster.

Although mopeds haven’t historically been a common way of getting around cities like Portland and Bangor, that does seem to be changing. Traffic safety officials and Maine injury attorneys are paying closer attention.

Workers injured on-the-job in Maine are almost all entitled to no-fault workers’ compensation benefits in accordance with Title 39-A of Maine Revised Statutes. With very few exceptions, those hurt in the course and scope of employment can receive compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and vocational training. Survivors of employees who die of these injuries can collect death benefits.
As Portland workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, this was all part of the “grand bargain” struck between labor unions and employers in the early 20th century, in exchange for strictly curtailing, in most cases, a worker’s right to sue an employer for such injuries. However, employee advocates say benefits are insufficient and too difficult to obtain, thanks to years of legislative efforts (the biggest push being in 1992) favoring insurance companies and big industry. This, they say, combined with a twenty-six percent cost of living increase in Maine, makes the current situation untenable for injured workers.
State legislative committees have scheduled hearings, where workers and their families are slated to testify, arguing that reform is necessary because the state’s current workers’ compensation framework is unfair and causes undue hardship. State lawmakers are considering more than two dozen bills that would amount to sweeping reform of Maine’s workers’ compensation system. The objective, say supporters, is to balance the scales. The system was overhauled roughly 25 years ago by those who insisted the state’s approach – the most expensive in the nation – put the entire system on the verge of collapse.

A new study by researchers at Rutgers University Medical School reveals that outcomes in medical malpractice lawsuits vary significantly depending on where in the U.S. the claim is filed. Published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the study analyzed federal litigation data from 43,000 facial trauma medical malpractice cases with payouts totaling $3.8 billion for allegations pertaining to inadequate care in diagnosis, treatment or surgery.

The researchers discovered physicians have the statistical advantage in medical malpractice cases no matter where a person lives. However, the likelihood of success varied significantly by region. For example, in the South, only ten percent of these claims were successful. In the Midwest, courts affirmed 40 percent of these same claims. Researchers concluded there were a few possible explanations, including a “proclivity for Southern judges to dismiss claims.”

Although this might seem discouraging, our Bangor medical malpractice lawyers note that of those cases decided by a jury trial, plaintiffs overwhelmingly did win. Roughly 40 percent of claims analyzed were decided by a jury, with awards ranging from $14,500 to $1.8 million.

With spring in full swing and summer almost here, we’re seeing more bicyclists take to the streets in Maine cities like Bangor and Portland. Our Bangor injury lawyers are encouraging all drivers to use extra caution and remember that Maine Bicycling Law affords bicyclists most of the same rights, and responsibilities, as any motorist.

State law also requires those behind the wheel maintain a three-foot distance when passing bicyclists and to use extra care if they observe a child bicyclist.

It’s easy sometimes to forget how dangerous Maine roads can be for bicyclists, thanks to drivers who are careless, distracted or drunk. May is National Bike Month, and the National Safety Council reports a nearly 30 percent increase in collisions during the last eight years. There were more than 1,000 bicyclist deaths in 2017, nearly 700 of those involving motor vehicles.

Unfortunately, many who cause bicycle accidents – even serious ones – are often given a slap on the wrist. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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