Boston Injury Lawyer Blog
Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

In Boston warmer winters often mean icy conditions. Melted snow or daytime rainfall collects in pools and puddles that may freeze when temps fall at night. Unfortunately, these icy surfaces can spell disaster, especially in public parking lots, when unsuspecting patrons or visitors walk to or from their vehicles. During mild weather, people are less likely to anticipate icy surfaces. The majority of a parking lot may be covered in melted water, but an area shaded by trees or a building’s shadow may be a sheet of ice. What are your rights if you slip and fall on an icy surface? Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

Property owners are responsible for exercising reasonable care with regard to ice and snow removal. It is their duty to remove ice from public parking lots, sidewalks, and walkways. While the property owner doesn’t have to be the individual actually removing the ice and snow, he or she is still responsible for making sure it gets done. Many property owners contract with snow removal companies to keep their sidewalks and parking lots clear. However, if a third-party contractor doesn’t show up to remove ice, and a patron slips and falls, the property owner will most likely be liable for any injuries or property damage. That is, unless the property owner can prove that he or she exercised reasonable care.

What is Reasonable Care?

When it comes to snow and ice removal, reasonable care refers to what is reasonable to expect of a property owner. For example, if heavy freezing rain has been consistently falling for five hours, it is impossible to expect that a parking lot or sidewalk can be kept entirely free of ice accumulation. This is what is known as the ‘natural accumulation’ rule. As long as the property owner doesn’t interfere with the natural accumulation, he or she is generally in the right. However, once ice and / or snow accumulation subsides, it must be removed within a certain period of time.

Much of what is considered reasonable is dependent on where the ice and snowfall is occurring. What is reasonable in northern Florida, for example, is much different from what is reasonable in Boston. This is because members of the public also have a duty to exercise reasonable care when it comes to icy and snowy surfaces. If a patron drives into a parking lot in Florida, he or she is probably not expecting to step out onto an icy surface. However, if a patron drives into a Boston parking lot after several hours of freezing rain, he or she will be more inclined to assess the parking lot’s surface before stepping out of the car.

Document Everything

Weather conditions can change rapidly. An extremely icy surface at the time of the incident may be no more than a pool of mud when you return to take pictures. If you have a smartphone on you at the time of the accident, take as many pictures as possible. If there are any witnesses when you fall, ask for their contact information in case you need to reach them at a later date. Jot down any details you notice at the time of the accident; the time of day, contact info of witnesses, and any other circumstances or details that might be relevant. The more information, the better. Continue reading

Car accidents can result in a long list of expenses, such as property damage and medical bills. But the financial toll doesn’t always end there.  Pain and suffering, both physical and mental, can result in long-term complications, including anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, and even the inability to return to work. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may be able to recover damages for ‘pain and suffering.’ Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today.

Multiplier Method Vs. Daily Rate Method

Following an auto accident, insurance companies use several methods to determine the value of an injury claim. These calculations typically include actual medical expenses, lost wages from time off work, and a certain amount for pain and suffering. There are two methods of calculating the compensable amount of a personal injury claim. They are:

  1. The Multiplier Method: used to be a common method of calculating pain and suffering damages, the actual damages are multiplied by a specific number, traditionally the number 3. For example, if the cost of your medical bills was $8,000, your pain and suffering damages would be $24,000. However, most insurance companies now use advanced software programs to determine the number that the damages will be multiplied by, and it’s rarely 3 these days. The designated number depends on multiple factors, including the severity of injuries, length of recovery, and aggravating circumstances. For example, the number designated to a case involving minor injuries in a fender bender will be significantly lower than for someone who has both legs broken in a serious car accident. The multiplier may be 1 in the first case and 4 in the second case. Aggravating circumstances, such as whether the at-fault driver was intoxicated, also come into play when determining pain and suffering compensation.
  1. The Daily Rate Method: Another method of calculating pain and suffering damages is one in which a specific amount of money is assigned to each day of suffering. Lost income is the most common base for determining the daily rate method. For example, if your average income is $150 per day, this will likely become the amount assigned to each day that you are unable to work. Therefore, if you miss 60 days of work, you would multiply $150 by 60 days to reach a figure of $9,000. Other costs can factor into that daily rate, but you have to be able to justify your reason for reaching a certain number. Simply saying, “My suffering is worth $300 a day,” won’t cut it.

Are You Likeable? Are You Credible?

Most personal injury lawyers will use a combination of these two methods to estimate what your requested damages should be. Once a ballpark figure is reached, you can adjust the figure based on multiple factors, including the severity of your injuries and any aggravating circumstances. Before moving forward with a claim for pain and suffering, it is important to consider the value of your claim. All of the following questions will play a significant role in the success of your claim: Continue reading

It is common knowledge that fatigued or drowsy driving increases the risk of a crash. Unfortunately, drowsiness is a symptom of several medical conditions and a side effect of many prescription medications. For this reason, medications that cause drowsiness typically have a warning label, cautioning patients against driving or operating heavy machinery while on the drug. But what about other medical conditions that increase the risk of having an accident? New studies have revealed that conditions from Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to restless leg syndrome may impact an individual’s ability to drive safely. Contact a Boston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Today.

Medical Conditions That Increase the Risk of a Crash

ADHD: Up until recently, ADHD was not commonly associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accident. However, new research has shown that the link may be significant. Between 2006 and 2010, a Swedish study examined 17,000 men and women with ADHD, as well as a group without the disorder. The results revealed that approximately 6.5% of male drivers with ADHD and 4% of female drivers with ADHD had been involved in at least one crash, compared to only 2% of those without the disorder. However, it is important to note that the risk of crash is reduced by about 58% when subjects with ADHD take proper medication. As one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in young people, this is of significant concern. Although individuals with ADHD may have a tendency to be impulsive or easily distracted, it is not yet clear if these are the causes of the increased accident risk.

Pregnancy: Being pregnant significantly increases a woman’s risk of being involved in a traffic accident. This risk is especially high during the second trimester. In fact, the risk of a serious accident increases by 42% during the middle months of pregnancy. Although research isn’t entirely clear on why, it is likely due to a combination of factors. During this stage of pregnancy, women may be nauseous, fatigued, and / or distracted. Statistics show that approximately one out of every 50 pregnant women will be involved in a traffic accident during their pregnancy.

Epilepsy: This condition is characterized by different types of seizures, and the increased risk of being involved in an auto accident is largely dependent on the frequency and kind of seizures the patient experiences. If a seizure results in loss of control or awareness while driving, it can be extremely dangerous. For most individuals with epilepsy, driving privileges will be restricted until they have been seizure-free for a minimum amount of time.

Dementia:The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease, but there are many types and varying levels of this cognitive disorder. When an individual has dementia, even in the early stages, the risk of having a motor vehicle accident increases substantially. Because dementia is a progressive disease, the risk will only grow as time goes on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone in the early stages of dementia cannot drive safely. However, once an individual has been diagnosed with dementia, his or her driving abilities should be closely monitored. Continue reading

Although Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia, many older Americans without Alzheimer’s have another form of dementia. In fact, according to reports from the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of every three seniors dies with some level of dementia. All types of dementia are irreversible, progressive cognitive disorders. The disease typically begins by affecting a person’s memory and thinking skills. Eventually, dementia affects the ability to complete even small tasks. Unfortunately, in addition to the emotional, cognitive, and physical challenges of dementia, there is another concern. Nursing home residents with dementia are significantly more susceptible to abuse and neglect. In fact, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), approximately 47% of nursing home residents with dementia have suffered mistreatment. Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today.

Dementia and Abuse Statistics

About half of all people over the age of 85 and more than 5 million people age 65 and older have dementia, according to the NCEA. The University of California Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect recently published a fact sheet outlining the problem of elder abuse as it relates to dementia. Here is what they found:

  • About 7.7 million people will have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2030
  • About 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s Disease by 2050
  • The rate of abuse of dementia patients is between 34% and 62%
  • In a survey of elder care workers, 20% said they feared becoming violent with their dementia patients
  • Up to 10% of elder care workers admitted to being physically abusive to dementia patients
  • One study found that 60% of elder care workers had been verbally abusive to dementia patients

Signs of Abuse in Dementia Patients

If you are concerned that a loved one who has dementia is the victim of abuse or neglect, the following list provides common signs of abuse. If you notice any of these signs, they should be reported immediately. If you suspect abuse, it is also in the best interest of your loved one to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer right away.

  • Cuts or bruises
  • Marks on wrists (this may indicate excessive use of restraints)
  • Burns
  • Bedsores
  • Broken bones
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Unsanitary living area

Is My Loved One at Risk?

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of elder abuse and neglect for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. These include:

  • Severity of the disease
  • Caregiver’s relationship to the patient earlier in life (family member, associate, friend, or stranger)
  • Elder’s use of verbal or physical aggression
  • Isolation (typically seen in at-home care)
  • Caregiver substance abuse
  • Caregiver depression

Continue reading

With this year’s first big snow storm on its way, the risk of car accidents, property damage, and slip and fall accidents increases substantially. However, by taking proper precautions, these risks can be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Being prepared for heavy snowfall, below freezing temps, and ice can prevent everything from burst pipes to fatal car accidents. Spending a few dollars and a little bit of time preparing your home and vehicle can save you thousands of dollars in property damage and medical bills. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Tips for Protecting Your House in Winter

In New England, frozen pipes, power outages, and downed trees are a common winter occurrence. All of these unfortunate circumstances can result in thousands of dollars in property damage, and can even create dangerous situations. Utilize the following safety tips to protect your family and keep your home safe and secure in severe weather this winter:

  • Trees within close proximity to your house and power lines should be trimmed back
  • If you use oil or propane for heating, make sure your tanks are adequately full
  • Check heating vents to make sure that heat is reaching all of them
  • Have a backup heat source, such as firewood or a generator, in case you lose power
  • If a backup heat source is not possible, make sure that you have plenty of heavy blankets, warm clothes, coats, hats, and candles on hand
  • If you lose power, let spigots run at a slow trickle to prevent freezing pipes
  • Insulate and heat pipes in crawl spaces and cold basements to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting
  • Clear your roof of significant snow and ice accumulation
  • Ensure that all walkways, sidewalks, and entrances are clear of snow and ice by shoveling and using ice melt or sand

Winter Car and Truck Safety

If you must drive during winter weather conditions, make sure your car is prepared. Use the following safety tips to reduce your risk of accident or injury:

  • Inspect tire tread and air pressure prior to setting out on icy or snowy roads
  • Make sure that your gas tank is always at least half full
  • Store emergency supplies, such as bottles of water, sand, a flashlight, blankets, an ice scraper, a shovel, and jumper cables in your trunk
  • Make sure that windshield wiper fluid is full and that wipers work
  • Consider using a de-icing wiper fluid during winter months
  • Clean all snow and ice from your car, including from the roof
  • If you must drive on snowy or icy roads, keep ample distance between your car and the car in front of you, avoid excessive speeds, and drive defensively at all times

Continue reading

Warming blankets used on patients during certain knee and hip surgeries have been linked to serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. The 3M Bair Hugger warming system helps to regulate a patient’s body temperature while under anesthesia. Unfortunately, many patients have developed deep joint infections after using these warming systems. As a result, some patients have required additional surgeries, including removal of hip and knee replacements, and others have become permanently disabled. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Since its approval by the FDA in 1998, the forced air warming blanket manufactured by Arizant Healthcare, Inc., has been used during millions of knee and hip replacements. Vents allow heated air to circulate around the patient, including in the area beneath the operating table. This warmed air helps to reduce bleeding from incisions and may result in faster recovery periods. However, recent findings show that the warming system may also spread bacteria, leading to infections and other serious complications.

Warm Air May Transfer Germs and Bacteria to Surgical Incisions

The Bone & Joint Journal conducted a study of the warming blanket system in 2013. Their research revealed that the blanket could recirculate contaminants it comes in contact with, including MRSA and sepsis. Germs and non-sterile air under the operating table can be transferred to the sterile surgical site through convection currents created by the warmed air. In August 2013, an article was published in Anesthesia & Analgesia warning patients about the risks associated with the 3M Bair Hugger system and other similar warming blankets. When bacteria and germs are blown into surgical incisions, the risk of infection increases substantially. Possible complications associated with this risk include:

  • Additional surgeries
  • Removal of hip or knee devices
  • Amputation of affected limb(s)
  • Death

Many of the lawsuits against 3M and its manufacturer Arizant Healthcare, Inc. allege that the device was not adequately tested prior to its release. Follow-up testing may have also been insufficient. Even the device’s inventor, Dr. Scott Augustine, has expressed his concerns about the device’s safety.  Had proper testing been conducted, multiple patients may have been spared unnecessary pain, additional surgeries, and debilitating injuries. One patient in particular required five additional surgeries following the initial surgical procedure using a warming blanket.

Symptoms of Complications from Warming Blanket

If you develop any of the following symptoms after a surgical procedure using a warming blanket system, contact your physician immediately:

  • Excessive pain
  • Redness around surgical incision
  • Warmth around incision
  • Drainage from incision
  • Joint swelling
  • Fever

Any of the above symptoms may indicate a serious complication. Although surgeries typically come with minor pain and discomfort, pain that feels excessively intense should be reported to your health care provider without delay. An untreated infection can lead to additional surgeries, amputation, and can even be fatal. Continue reading

Last month we wrote about the rise in safety and health violations at several Synergy Health Center-owned nursing homes in Massachusetts. One of the facilities in particular, Woodbriar Health Center in Wilmington, has been cited by state inspectors for multiple problems since it was purchased by Synergy. The problems include substandard care resulting in bedsores and medication errors, and issues with the facility itself, including crumbling plaster and broken tiles in almost half of the inspected bedrooms. Up until this point, the violations have only resulted in citations and some controversy. However, a recent violation may have led to the death of 83-year-old Woodbriar resident, Mary Meuse. Contact a Boston Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Today.

On Christmas Day, one of Woodbriar’s certified nursing assistants used a mechanical lift to transition Meuse from her bed to a wheelchair, without the help of another staff member. In doing so, the employee violated an important safety rule. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at least two people are required to safely operate most mechanical lifts. When the 21-year-old aide attempted to move Meuse onto the lift, the patient fell to the ground, breaking both legs. Despite the severity of her injuries, and the fact that Meuse was on blood-thinning medication for a heart condition, she was not sent to a hospital until the following day. Unfortunately, it was too late. Meuse, who was bleeding internally, died in the hospital on December 27.

Wilmington Facility Understaffed Since Opening

Synergy owns 11 facilities in Massachusetts, several of which have received citations since the company began buying MA nursing homes in 2012. Nursing home licensing laws in the state have changed drastically over the last year. However, when Synergy applied for Woodbriar’s license, it received little public scrutiny. Woodbriar is one of four Synergy-owned nursing homes that most likely would have been denied a license under the current, stricter licensing regulations.

Since Synergy’s purchase of Woodbriar last March, the facility has been understaffed, according to two former employees who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions. In addition to this most recent tragedy, Synergy’s nursing homes have been cited for many other potentially-life threatening violations. These include poor infection control, inadequate training, and unhygienic practices, among other concerns.

According to the father of the nursing aide involved in Meuse’s accident, Woodbriar was understaffed on Christmas Day and his daughter had to work because the nursing home was desperate for staff. In fact, the young woman was asked to work a second shift immediately following the first. However, she was traumatized by the accident and left work at 3 p.m. In addition to the excessive hours, the young woman’s father said that she was also asked to care for more patients than is typical for a normal shift.

Woodbriar’s Serious Fall Injuries Nearly Twice State and National Averages

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,800 nursing home residents are killed in falls every year. However, Woodbriar’s record of falls resulting in major injuries is almost twice that of the state and national averages. According to reports, between October, 2014 and June, 2015, about 5.9 percent of Woodbriar’s residents suffered a major injury after falling, compared to only 3 percent of statewide nursing home residents. Continue reading

Slip and fall accidents account for about 25% of all personal injury claims per year, and 15% of all accidental deaths per year. Slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere, including in the home, outside, or on-the-job. The information below provides tips and guidelines for preventing slip and fall accidents at home and at work. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Falls in the Bathroom

In the home, most slip and fall accidents occur in the bathroom and most victims are over the age of 65. Utilizing the following safety precautions can help reduce the risk of bathroom falls:

  • Remove all clutter from the floor, including hampers, trash cans, and rugs. Consider installing wall-to-wall carpet, or flooring with a non-slippery surface, such as textured tile.
  • Install grab-bars near the toilet and on the inside and outside of the bathtub or shower enclosure.
  • Replace a standard soaking tub with a walk-in shower, or install a bench that straddles the tub. This will make it much easier to get in and out of the tub safely.
  • Install an adhesive non-slip mat on the tub or shower floor.
  • For elderly individuals with difficulty getting on and off the toilet, consider installing a toilet riser.

Falls in the Restaurant

Of the nine million annual workplace slip and fall accidents, approximately four million occur in the foodservice industry. Spilled liquids, grease, dim lighting, and a chaotic, fast-paced environment all contribute to restaurant and kitchen falls. To reduce the risk of serious injury in a restaurant slip and fall accident, follow these safety guidelines:

  • Mats should be strategically placed throughout the kitchen and restaurant in places where they are most needed. For example, front doors, beverage and cooking stations, and areas near ice machines should always have a mat.
  • Choose the right mat for the job. High traction mats with sloped edges are necessary for high traffic areas. Low traction mats can curl and buckle, resulting in trips and falls.
  • Mats should be properly cleaned on a regular basis. Especially in commercial kitchens, mats can accumulate dirt, grease, and grime in a short period of time. In order to prevent slick mats, and the transfer of grime throughout the kitchen and restaurant, mats should be cleaned on a daily basis.
  • Clean up spills as soon as they happen, and walkways should be kept clear of clutter and debris at all times.

Continue reading

Distractions aren’t just dangerous while you’re driving. Texting, emailing, and talking on your cell phone while walking can result in serious injuries. In fact, a 33-year old Indiana man recently plummeted to his death when he failed to notice the edge of a cliff in coastal California. And it’s the same story nationwide. Take a stroll through Boston any day of the week and look around. Zombie-like pedestrians seem to be on autopilot as they cross busy intersections, walk under construction scaffolding, and even push strollers, all while staring at their phone screens. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Distracted walking has become so dangerous that the National Security Council has recently added it to its annual injury report as a new category. There are seemingly endless videos of distracted walking accidents on the internet, typically uploaded to garner laughs. However, many accidents related to distracted walking are quite serious. Distracted pedestrians have been struck by bicyclists and motor vehicles, have walked off train platforms, and have fallen into swimming pools. Being distracted also increases your risk of being mugged, or otherwise assaulted.

Distracted Walking E.R. Visits Skyrocket

Certain municipalities have tried methods of reducing distracted walking-related accidents, such as Idaho’s no-texting ordinance at crosswalks, Delaware’s painted crosswalks, and London’s padded lampposts. However, the problem keeps growing. Technology continues to improve and cell phones come out with more features every year. Added features increase our dependency on our cell phones, and this translates to more screen time. For many of us, city-dwellers especially, walking and subway commutes are the perfect time to communicate with friends, complete work tasks, send emails, and take care of online errands. Although it may seem convenient to kill two birds with one stone, it is important to do so wisely. Always remove your eyes from the screen when you are crossing any street or intersection. Emergency room visits for distracted walking-related accidents have risen sharply in the last five years.

Distracted Walking Statistics

There are approximately 1,500 annual emergency room visits for injuries related to distracted walking.

The number of distracted walking-related emergency room visits doubled between 2005 and 2010.

Millennials ages 21-25 are most at risk of distracted walking injuries.A recent study showed that people veered off course 61% of the time when distracted by their phone.

Falls cause 80% of distracted walking injuries.

More than 50% of distracted walking accidents occur in the home.

University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor, David Schwebel, studies what is happening to the brain when a person is texting and walking. According to Schwebel, “Walking actually involves a fair amount of complexity. Our brain has to work hard to make sure we walk safely, especially near traffic. Our brain also has to work hard to text message. It has to think about who you’re reading, how to respond, how to type. Brains can only handle so much. If we give the brain too much to do, mistakes can happen.” Continue reading

There seem to be more bicyclists on Boston’s roads every year. Considering the health and environmental benefits of bicycling, this is great news for everyone. But there is a flip-side. Unfortunately, there is as much controversy surrounding bicyclists as there is praise for their healthy way of life.They often get little respect from car and truck drivers who feel that they intentionally take up extra space on the road, leaving drivers no choice but to drive slowly behind cyclists or swerve into oncoming traffic to maneuver around them. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

Certainly there are rude bicyclists on the road, but the vast majority are extremely respectful of drivers, other cyclists, and road rules in general. In order to mitigate the risk to cyclists, several new bills aimed at protecting them will be the focus this week at the Statehouse’s first public hearing of the year. According to Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike, the bicycling advocacy group hopes to hear testimonies from “the families and friends of victims whose lives and limbs may have been spared if these laws had been in place,” at Wednesday’s hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Side-guards on Large Trucks May Save Lives

In 2014, Boston passed an ordinance that requires the installation of side guards on large vehicles such as tractor-trailers. According to bicycle safety activists, over half of all bicyclists involved in fatal collisions with large trucks are swept underneath after first hitting the truck’s side. The installation of side guards may help to reduce fatalities by blocking cyclists from being pulled beneath the wheels of a large truck.

Bicycling advocates want to see more steps taken to ensure the safety of cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike. They are pushing to see the introduction of a bill at Wednesday’s hearing that would require drivers to leave 3 feet of space between their vehicle and a bicyclist, even if doing so requires crossing the center-line. This bill would add bicyclists to the category of “vulnerable users,” which includes police and other emergency personnel, pedestrians, and construction workers.

Bill Proposes Fine for Parking in Bike Lanes

Another bill on the table would impose a $100 fine on drivers who stop or park in any designated bike lane. These lanes are typically marked with painted lines on the street. When drivers block these lanes, it can force bicyclists to veer into traffic to avoid hitting a parked car.

 

At Wednesday’s hearing, in addition to the above bills, cycling advocates hope to see a fourth bill come up that will require motorists to yield to pedestrians and cyclists who are in the crosswalk section of a bicycle path. The current law states that bicyclists should get off their bikes and walk through bicycle path crosswalks with other pedestrians. However, cycling advocates claim this is unrealistic. Continue reading