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Residential Pool Owners are Wise to Be Safety Conscious

July 13th, 2015 No comments

With summer in full swing nothing sounds better than having a swimming pool in the backyard to enjoy. However, before you buy the new home with a pool or install one on your current property there are some liability issues to consider.

A homeowner can be held liable in some circumstance for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of a backyard pool. This can include people that you have invited onto your property but you can also be held liable when someone in injured or drowns while you are away and the person did not have permission to be on your property. This is particularly true in the case of a trespassing child.

There is case law and statutory law in Massachusetts that creates a duty on the part of landowners to make safe any artificial conditions existing on their land that might attract and ultimately injure children, even trespassing children.

The theory behind the attractive nuisance doctrine is that children, because they are curious and inexperienced, will be drawn to these potentially dangerous conditions, but will not be able to appreciate the danger.

Homeowner liability stems from a failure to do what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. Homeowners are expected to protect guests and prevent unwanted visitors with security measures and by keeping the pool and the area around the pool in good condition.

In Massachusetts, cities and towns have statues regarding construction and maintenance of residential swimming pools, including requirements for special covers, locked gates and fencing. For example, in Hanover, MA the town requires that “All pools must have a fence at least four feet high surrounding the pool area with self-latching gates that are inaccessible to small children. Above ground pools may not need separate fencing on the ground however an enclosure fence with self-latching gate is required at the ladder.” Homeowners are required to provide the manufacturers information sheets showing fence type, gate and locking device. In addition, doors leading directly from the house to the pool need a pool door alarm.

With the stakes this high homeowners are wise to incorporate every safety precaution for backyard pools.

Significant Steps Forward for Personal Injury Clients in Massachusetts

September 9th, 2014 No comments

There has been the mistaken belief over the years that people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident, dog bite case, slip and fall and/or construction accident that their attorney could stand up in front of a jury and ask that jury for a specific number that represented what they believed he and/or she was entitled to for their injury.  However, this was not the case until August 6th when Governor Deval Patrick signed an amendment to Chapter 254 of the Massachusetts General Laws (Judicial Procedures in the Superior Court) so that not only is there a right now for attorneys to request jury voir dire prior to trial in the Superior Court they can now suggest a specific monetary amount for damages at trial.  A written procedure for attorneys to question a jury about potential biases along with suggesting a specific dollar amount to a jury represents two significant steps forward for victims of personal injuries in Massachusetts.  If you and/or a loved one has been the victim of a personal injury, call Scott J. Clifford at Epstein, Lipsey & Clifford, P.C. 781-829-9100.

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Bicycle Accident

August 7th, 2014 No comments

It certainly seems that more adults are taking up cycling as a hobby and a way to stay in shape. Bike lanes are popping up on roads across Boston and a bike share program is well used in town. Charitable events such as triathlons and the Pan Mass Challenge bring together large numbers of bicyclists. It is great exercise and great fun.

With the rise of bicycles on the road comes the risk of accidents. A bicyclist is no match for a car or truck, so the injuries can be quite severe. Even with helmets a bicyclist is vulnerable to a substantial injury.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2010 in the U.S., almost 800 bicyclists were killed and there were an estimated 515,000 emergency department visits due to bicycle-related injuries.

The most frightening injuries from bicycle accidents can be brain injuries.  A brain injury can have devastating and lasting effects on the victim and their families and can be very costly to treat. Unfortunately, bicycle accidents leading to brain injury frequently occur because drivers fail to share the road in a safe way with bicycle riders. When a driver is to blame for causing a brain injury, he becomes responsible for compensating the victim or his family members for the economic and non-financial costs of the injury.

Damages that may be available will typically include medical costs, lost income or wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Since Massachusetts is a no fault state, the initial $2,000 in medical costs should be covered by the driver’s automobile insurance coverage.

You must then meet a legal definition known as “tort threshold” defined by Massachusetts law in order to file a personal injury claim. In order to meet the tort threshold, you must show that you’ve had a brain injury, been permanently scarred or disfigured, that you’ve broken bones, that you’ve sustained damage to the eyes or to your hearing, or that you have incurred more than $2,000 in medical bills and costs. This personal injury protection rule applies only in car accident cases and does not prohibit your right to sue others responsible such as a government entity or other party responsible for road design and maintenance.

It can be complicated and difficult to get the compensation that you need for the medical and life changing conditions caused by a bicycle accident. Legal assistance is recommended as early as possible in the process to ensure that you receive the medical treatment and support that you and your family need.

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Steps to Take After You Have Been Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident

July 14th, 2014 No comments

If you have been involved in an auto accident and sustained injuries you are going to need to be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, and related expenses. Taking the following steps after an auto accident will help to protect your interests and make sure that the responsible party is held accountable for the accident.

1) Call the Police from the scene

Even if you do not believe you are injured at the time, it is imperative that you call the police from the scene of the accident, and later obtain a copy of the official police report.

The official police report will contain several details and often will include a police officer’s description of how the accident happened from both parties involved.  This information can useful if the other party decides to change their version of the accident.

2) Document the Auto Accident Details

This is where a cell phone comes in handy, as soon as you are physically able, take photos of the scene and the damage to both vehicles. Also you should begin to take notes about the accident, including as many details as you can. You should also document all accident-related expenses, to include repair and medical expenses.

3) Be Seen by a Medical Professional

Often times people do not experience pain at the scene of the accident but later the physical effects of the accident become apparent.  It is very important that if you start to experience physical symptoms related to the accident that you get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible.

4) Hire an Attorney

Due to the complexity of the insurance regulations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is very important to hire an attorney early in the process so that the attorney can handle all the paperwork and deal with the insurance companies on your behalf.  This is especially true if you have been injured to make sure that all of your medical bills are paid by the proper insurance company.  Because the coordination of benefits between your auto insurer and health insurer makes the process even more complicated having an attorney involved early in the process will dramatically reduce the potential for you paying medical bills out of your own pocket.

It is in the insurance company’s best interest to pay out as little as possible in a settlement. Hiring a personal injury attorney increases your chances of receiving a fair settlement from an insurance company.

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Distracted Driving and Personal Injury

June 26th, 2014 No comments

Although modern technology has brought us many positive capabilities, most of the time it also leaves us more distracted.  And being distracted on the road is a sure gamble with the safety not only of the distracted driver, but of any other drivers (or pedestrians) around.

You can control your own distractions, by avoiding texting or cell phone use while driving, as well as avoiding reading (that includes maps), eating and drinking, grooming, and relying too much on other auto technologies (including back up cameras and sensors, GPS and satellite or iPod radio).  Yet despite your best efforts, it’s practically impossible to control the distractions of other drivers nearby.

If you are involved in an auto accident that leaves you injured, securing legal counsel is not only the smart thing to do, but can be very reassuring as well.  When you’re hurt, your focus should be on getting well – our law firm can focus on the legal details involved including making sure your medical bills are paid promptly.  And even if it seems like both parties are cooperative and willing to do the right thing, it’s always better to have representation early on – especially so that if interactions move from cordial to confrontational, you’ll have a record of details starting at the initial incident, as well as someone to champion your cause on your behalf. 

While distracted driving-related accidents are on the increase, auto accidents caused by a multitude of reasons can unfortunately happen at any time.  When they do, it’s important to know what your rights and responsibilities are, especially if the accident caused injury to you or another person involved.

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Dog Bites are Not Uncommon

June 13th, 2014 No comments

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dog bites are common, with more than 4.7 million people suffering injuries from dogs each year. Under Massachusetts law, a dog owner is strictly liable for his or her dog’s actions (except in the case of someone tormenting, teasing or abusing a dog), regardless of whether the dog has ever shown signs of aggression before. Dogs can cause serious injuries and even death very quickly; therefore, it is up to dog owners to take various steps to reduce the risk of a dog bite or attack, such as properly training or socializing the dog, keeping the dog on a leash, fencing in a yard or even keeping the dog away from other people.

Certain situations should be avoided to prevent dog bites:

  Never leave an infant or toddler alone with any dog breed

  • Do not approach a chained dog, especially if it is male and unaltered
  • Avoid a pack of loose dogs, known or unknown to you
    • Never leave an infant or toddler along with any dog breed
  • Do not inserting yourself into a dogfight
  • Do not approach a vehicle with a dog inside (or in the bed of a truck)

    Additionally you should remember to follow these safety rules and teach them to children:

  • Do not pet a dog without first letting the dog see you
  • Do not lean your face close to a dog
  • Do not tease a dog, especially if it is chained
  • Do not startle a sleeping dog
  • Do not bother a dog that is eating
  • Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies
  • Do not turn your back on a dog and run away

    When a dog bites or attacks a person, the most common injuries are to the hands, neck, and face and can range from abrasions and lacerations to tissue loss, nerve damage, and infections. Dog bite injuries also commonly result in scarring, and in some cases, a victim suffers emotional distress after the attack.

    Depending on the severity of the attack, victims or surviving family members may be left with significant physical and emotional injuries that require long-term treatment. Victims and their families may be able to obtain financial compensation from the negligent dog owner for a variety of damages, including:

  • Medical care
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Psychological counseling
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral costs
  • Medical devices
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Boating Safety and Liability

June 9th, 2014 No comments

As we move into summer we can all look forward to enjoying the outdoors and here in the Boston area many include boating in our beautiful lakes, ponds, harbors and ocean. However the water, boating, jet-skiing, and swimming all offer additional threat of injuries and liability.

First and foremost in summer safety is prevention. Everyone who drives a boat should take a safety course and include periodic refresher courses. The boat operator should perform a safety check before every outing and should brief all passengers on safety basics and provide every passenger with a life vest. Everyone should be checked on how to properly wear the life vest before you launch. If it is a smaller craft, discuss how to evenly distribute weight. The United States Coast Guard notes that the rate of accidents is directly related to lack of recent safety training. And it goes without saying that there is a direct correlation between the number of water accidents and alcohol consumption.

As with operating a motor vehicle, never operate a boat if you are drinking alcohol. This includes not allowing your passengers to take the wheel if they have been drinking. Your boat registration and personal liability may depend on it.

Always obey boating safety recommendations and navigational rules. As with driving a car, one can imagine the mayhem that would ensue if everyone disregarded traffic laws. Overall, operator inattention, carelessness/reckless operation, operator inexperience and excess speed are leading contributing factors of all reported accidents. Don’t invite a collision by going faster than is prudent. Stay on top of the weather forecast while boating and heed all weather and storm advisories. Carry flares at all times.

Unfortunately even the best boat operator or vigilant passenger can be affected by others not following the rules of the water. If you are injured because of someone not following the rules it is always prudent to consult an experienced personal injury attorney for expert advice.

 

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Think Twice – You get what you pay for!

April 21st, 2010 No comments

Everyone has seen those catchy ads for auto insurance where you can go on-line and save $500.00 on your auto insurance by picking and choosing your own coverage. The problem is that most of us do not know what we are picking. As an example, I have met with three clients in the last month who all in an attempt to lower their cost of auto insurance chose an $8,000.00 PIP deductible (two of the three did this on-line). Well they certainly saved some money on the cost of their annual auto insurance bill. However, what they did not realize is these minimal annual savings would cost them thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills if they were involved in an automobile accident regardless of who was at fault. Sure enough, each was involved in an automobile accident and sustained some minor injuries. As a result of their choice of this PIP deductible, each was then required to pay their own medical bills despite the fact that each and everyone one of them had some form of health insurance. Before, you make a change to your automobile insurance coverage contact us at sclifford@elclaw.com to discuss what your short term savings may cost you long term.

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Does Social Security Have a Lien on 3rd Party Settlements?

February 8th, 2010 No comments

If a person receives SSDI payments as a result of being disabled in a motor vehicle accident and then receives a settlement from the driver responsible for the accident, does Social Security have a lien on a third party settlement?

Based on current regulations and statutes, Social Security does not have a lien, however, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(2) (“The Medicare Secondary Payer Act”) provides that Medicare beneficiaries are required to reimburse Medicare for injury-related medical expenses paid by Medicare on a conditional basis for which recovery has been made as legal settlement with a third party. As of January 1, 2010, third party insurers will be obligated to inform Medicare any individual who is seeking a third party settlement who may be entitled to Medicare. Therefore, it is very important to identify at the beginning of a case whether or not their will be a potential Medicare recovery so that we can properly coordinate which Medicare paid medicals are related with the third party insurer and so that proper funds can be paid to Medicare at the time of settlement.

Massachusetts Auto Policy – Underinsurance

February 2nd, 2010 No comments

Most of us never really look at the contents of our automobile policy until we need it, and then it’s too late to change it. One important part to look at is the UNINSURANCE category – part 3, and the UNDERINSURANCE category part 12. These protect you and, in most instances, your family from the bad drivers out there.
It’s important to note that you cannot protect yourself more than you protect others from you. That means you cannot have more un/underinsurance than you have OPTIONAL BODILY INJURY – part 5. Your limits on UN/UNDERINSURANCE parts 3 and 12 should be the same limits as OPTIONAL BODILY INJURY – part 5. Remember OPTIONAL BODILY INJURY protects the world from you. UNINSURANCE and UNDERISURANCE save you from the world.

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