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.

With age comes wisdom. But other, less desirable changes, also begin to appear as we grow older. Some of these changes can have a negative impact on our ability to drive safely. Minor concerns, such as slightly-diminished vision, can be remedied by wearing driving glasses or by avoiding driving at night. However, some more serious physical and cognitive issues can make driving extremely dangerous. How do you know when it’s time to hang up the keys for good?

A Difficult Conversation

For many people, driving is synonymous with independence, the freedom to come and go as we please. As such, the decision to stop driving can be highly emotional, especially when that decision isn’t initiated by the driver but by a friend or family member. Telling your parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle that it’s time to hand over the keys can be a traumatic, and anxiety-inducing experience.

But the conversation needs to happen. Many lives are lost every year, in Boston and across the country, because people couldn’t bring themselves to have this difficult conversation with their elderly loved one. In some cases, the driving challenges are strictly related to age, such as deteriorating vision or severe arthritis. However, other issues may be related to medications. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about how his or her medications may affect the ability to drive safely.

Simply being over a certain age does not mean an individual can no longer drive safely. Most elderly drivers are good drivers with a low rate of accidents. Individual circumstances are important to consider. For example, the vision of an 80-year-old man may be significantly better than that of his 55-year-old son. But, in general, our ability to see well and react quickly diminishes over time. For that reason, it is crucial to look for danger signs if you suspect that your elderly loved one is having difficulty driving safely. Watch out for the danger signs below – your vigilance will help keep Massachusetts roads safer for everyone.

Signs of Dangerous Driving Behaviors

  • Dents and scratches on the vehicle
  • Loved one becomes easily lost, even in familiar areas
  • Complaints from other people
  • Loved one has lots of “close calls”
  • Sudden increase in traffic tickets
  • Loved one seems frustrated, angry, or agitated after driving
  • Loved one has difficulty judging distance between vehicles, or on exit and entrance ramps on the highway
  • While driving, loved one becomes easily distracted or has difficulty concentrating

In some cases, simply changing driving habits may solve the problem. A good first step is to reduce or eliminate night driving, driving in adverse weather, and driving on the highway. In other cases, taking the keys away for good is the only safe option. The most important thing is to have the conversation with your loved one before it is too late. Continue reading

College is an exciting time for young people from all walks of life to gather, learn and grow into the primes of their lives. Boston is filled with a number of world class universities.  College campuses, in an ideal world, would be bastions of safety, where the aspiring leaders of tomorrow can feel comfortable regardless of the scenario. Unfortunately, as with every other aspect of society, people do horrible things that can have life-altering consequences.

Sexual assault on college campuses is an increasingly prevalent problem in American society. According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while they are enrolled in college. Women in college are also three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than average.

What is more heartbreaking, though, is that 90% of victims who are assaulted while in college do not report the crime. Researchers have hypothesized that part of the reason for the lack of reports is due to the shame, negative stigma and possible backlash that can follow as a result of going public with a sexual assault incident.

Rape culture: Prioritizing silence and shame over justice

“Rape culture” refers to an aspect of American culture that shames victims of sexual assault into not reporting the crime. Whether it’s due to fear of not being believed, fear of being blamed or shamed or just wanting to try to forget that it happened. One need look no further than the most recently publicized college sexual assault case involving Brock Turner, a standout swimmer at Stanford University who digitally raped a 22-year-old female student after she fell unconscious, to see how twisted the sociological climate regarding rape is.

Two eyewitnesses saw the crime occur and actually intervened to stop it from going further, and despite a good amount of physical evidence and a possible sentence of 14 years for felony sexual assault, Turner was given only six months in a county jail and three months of probation. He only served three months of that sentence, and is currently living at his family home on probation, sparking widespread outrage across the country.

Although Turner was convicted guilty, and some legal minds have defended the judge’s verdict as being reasonable considering the circumstances, the public’s furious response nevertheless indicated how people are becoming more and more fed up with sexual assault on college campuses. It was seen as a slap on the wrist, preferential treatment being given to someone because they were an aspiring athlete. Meanwhile, the victim he assaulted has to deal with the repercussions of that night forever.

“Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me,” said the victim in a powerful impact statement during the trial. “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” Continue reading

Electronic cigarettes became available in the U.S. in 2007, and they quickly skyrocketed in popularity. Just seven years later, there were about 2.5 million e-cigarette smokers in this country, and more than 400 brands on the market. When demand for any product grows too quickly, problems can arise. E-cigarettes are no exception. These devices are linked to multiple serious health risks, including conditions as ominous-sounding as “popcorn lung”. Recently, however, the spotlight has been on e-cigarette explosions, and lawsuits are starting to add up.

In 2015, the American e-cigarette industry was estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion. Despite the associated risks, this figure is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2017. The most concerning aspect of e-cigarette sales is the misconception that they are somehow safer than traditional cigarettes. For starters, e-cigarettes are linked to multiple health risks. But the unknown risks are the most troubling. Until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created production and marketing restrictions in 2016, production, marketing, and sales of these devices were barely regulated. Due to this lack of regulation, many people have been harmed by e-cigarettes.

The Risk of Explosion

Although rare when compared to the number of e-cigarettes in use today, these devices can explode and leak harmful substances. Between 2009 and 2014, a total of 25 separate explosion incidences was reported. Apparently, an e-cigarette’s Lithium-ion battery is prone to leaking, especially when contained in a particularly small cylinder, such as an e-cigarette. When this fluid leaks, it can result in a buildup of pressure. This combustible and flammable fluid, when combined with an overheated e-cigarette, can cause the device to explode.

Multiple injuries have been reported due to exploding e-cigarettes. These include:

  • Damage to the face
  • Damage to the tongue and mouth
  • Property damage
  • Severe burns from fire
  • Severe burns from chemicals

The Harvard study found that 47 of the 51 tested e-cigarette flavors contained diacetyl.

Tips to Avoid E-Cigarette Explosions

The plethora of online “tips to avoid e-cigarette explosions” further emphasizes the risk.

  • Buy American made e-cigarettes
  • Buy a trusted brand
  • Read the instructions carefully
  • Avoid an overheated atomizer
  • Keep your e-cigarette away from water or liquid
  • Only use the charger that came with your device
  • Only charge your device in a clutter-free area
  • Do not charge your device for longer than necessary

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Infotainment systems, devices known for providing entertainment and information content to users, are not awfully new technologies for automobiles, but they are new to motorcycles.  Earlier this week, Polaris Industries, the owner of Indian and Victory brand motorcycles, revealed its new 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system dubbed “Ride Command,” which will provide riders with easy navigation, the ability to sync their smartphone to the system, and additional features such as locating the nearest gas station when the motorcycle’s fuel tank is low.  The system will come standard on all of Indian’s new Chieftain and Roadmaster bikes.  Steve Menneto, president of motorcycles at Polaris, expressed the company’s excitement about the feature, saying, “We’re really pumped up about this. We’re opening up a huge part of the market for ourselves.”  In reality, Polaris is not the first bike company to introduce a feature like this.  BMW debuted its Navigator V device on its bikes back in 2013, and Harley-Davidson released its Boom! Box technology a year later.  These companies are all competing for the most popular infotainment system, but is this really such a good idea?

Motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than automobiles.  They require much more attention and coordination than maneuvering a car.  According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die in an accident than motorists.  In 2013 alone, 4,7000 motorcyclists were killed, and 88,000 were injured.  In recent years, crash rates have decreased, perhaps due to improved brakes and better rider education.  It is surprising that this decline also coincides with the introduction of such infotainment systems.  Supporters claim that as long as the systems are used correctly, they can increase safety for motorcyclists.  In terms of navigation, using a hand held phone or a paper map can be more distracting than a device mounted within the handlebars of the motorcycle itself.  Additionally, the units can help the riders avoid traffic, beat up roads, and stormy weather while also providing the rider with mechanical alerts about his or her vehicle.  BloombergTV reporter, Matt Miller, believes his BMW infotainment unit saved his life after warning him about a rapidly deflating tire while he was cruising on the highway.  Continue reading

Traumatic birth injury  occurs when the mother suffers severe injuries during the birthing process. In a recent case involving an Alabama woman who sustained injuries during her 2012 labor and delivery, the jury awarded $16 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Caroline Malatesta claims she was severely injured during the birth process due to medical negligence and reckless fraud. Instead of the “natural birth” process she wanted, Malatesta was forced to labor on her back and remained hooked to monitors the entire time. Instead of allowing her to walk around and labor on her hands and knees, the on-duty nurse pushed the baby’s head into Malatesta’s vagina until the doctor arrived. This use of force resulted in excruciating pain and the development of a condition called pudendal neuralgia that will likely plague Malatesta for the rest of her life.

“I’m Rarely Totally out of Pain”

“Pain is fatiguing because you spend so much of your energy fighting the pain,” said Malatesta. “I’m rarely totally out of pain. I try to take only the amount of medication that will make it bearable, because otherwise I’ll fall asleep. It’s a daily balance.” Since the 2012 injury, the previously active mother of four now spends much of her day resting or taking baths. Her sex life has also suffered, and the injury has made her unable to have more children. “I have to pick and choose and be very intentional about what I choose to spend my limited amount of energy on,” she remarked.

According to Malatesta’s doctor, her injuries are likely permanent. But she remains hopeful.

“I refuse to say never,” she said. “I’m holding out for a miracle.”

When to Sue for a Traumatic Birth Injury ?

Injuries occur during childbirth, even when no one is at fault. In order to justify bringing a legal claim against another party, as with any injury, the victim must be able to show negligence or reckless behavior on the part of the defendant. This can be an extremely complex process, and the help of a personal injury lawyer with experience in traumatic birth injury cases is crucial to the outcome of your case. You attorney will review medical records, conduct witness interviews, and interview hospital staff.

If it can be shown that the conduct of the medical staff did not meet the accepted standard of care, you likely have a personal injury case on your hands. The compensation for injuries will be directly related to the severity of your injuries. For example, in Ms. Malatesta’s case, the award was significant, but so are her injuries. She will likely require ongoing medical treatment and pain management, and her quality of life has been severely impacted. Continue reading

A dram shop is an American legal term that refers to a bar or vendor of alcoholic beverages, named after certain institutions in 18th Century England where alcohol was served by the spoonful, also called a dram.  Dram shop liability involves the series of laws regarding the liability of alcohol vendors such as bars, taverns, liquor stores, restaurants, nightclubs, country clubs, athletic and sports venues, and fraternity organizations.  Under dram shop liability laws, such establishments can usually be held liable in cases where visibly intoxicated individuals or minors are served alcohol and subsequently, these individuals cause serious injury or death to a third party.  The particular liability laws vary depending on the state.  It may seem unfair that bars can be held accountable for accidents and injuries caused by a customer at their business, but the law requires you to be aware of over-consumption of alcohol by your patrons if you own a bar.  Most states also require your staff be trained to recognize over-consumption as well.  It is possible that if one of your patrons injures or kills someone else due to intoxication after visiting your establishment, you can be found just as liable as the patron.  In certain states, continuing to serve alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated can result in criminal charges.

Some states allow injured people to sue alcohol vendors for damages through a civil claim under dram shop laws, but Massachusetts does not.  The state does have several laws in place that restrict the irresponsible sale of alcohol.  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, Section 69 prohibits vendors from giving alcohol to an “intoxicated person”.  This requires waiters and bartenders to take note of the typical symptoms of alcohol intoxication such as slurred speech, slowed or delayed reaction time, aggression and other common symptoms.  In past cases, vendors who violate this law have been found negligent following a civil lawsuit.  In order to successfully prove a vendor liable in such a case, the injured person must prove the patron was visibly intoxicated while the vendor continued to serve him or her alcohol.  The injured person can only file a personal injury claim in this context, meaning against a vendor of alcohol.  An injured person would not be able to file a personal injury claim against a social host who provided alcohol to guests after they were visibly intoxicated.  Social hosts can face criminal charges, however, if he or she provides alcohol to a minor under the legal drinking age while on the host’s property.  Continue reading

Warm weather and sunshine means more time spent outdoors, on the road, and in the water. School is back in session for many kids, but summer isn’t over yet. With Labor Day weekend around the corner, and several weeks more of warm, sunny weather, it’s wise to take precautions against these common summer injuries.

Frequent Summer Injuries

  • Motor vehicle accidents: Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, more young people are killed in auto accidents than at any other time. More people are on the roads, driving long distances to beach and lake houses. Young people often don’t have the skills and experience to handle the surplus of anxious, distracted drivers. To make things worse, drunk driving also increases during the summer. If you have a teen driver in the family, they should stay off the roads late at night and should never have more than two passengers with them at all times.
  • Dehydration, heat stroke, and sunburn: This summer has been an exceptionally hot and humid one for MA. The temps may be starting to fall a few degrees, but we are likely to experience more extreme temps before the cooler weather sets in. In the meantime, it’s important to get enough water when you spend any length of time outdoors. Stay in the shade, wear breathable clothing and a hat, and use a mineral-based sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn.
  • Pool and natural water accidents: Most pools are open until at least Labor Day, and if the weather stays warm, people will be swimming and boating even longer. Make sure that young children are always wearing life jackets while boating or swimming. Adults should also wear life jackets when boating. And never, ever leave a child unsupervised in or near water. Not even for a minute.
  • Motorcycle and bicycle accidents: Summer and early fall are prime motorcycle and bicycle season. These seasons are also prime construction season. Construction debris, loose gravel, and other construction-related obstacles can be especially dangerous. Use caution. Motorcyclists and bicyclists should also wear a helmet at all times and follow the same rules of the road as car and truck drivers.
  • Food poisoning: Here’s some good advice for your upcoming Labor Day picnic. It’s fun to grill and eat outside, but perishable foods such as meat and dairy should not sit under the sun until they are ready to be eaten. If perishable food has been sitting out for more than 30 minutes, toss it. Food poisoning will ruin even the best Labor Day picnic.

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For many people, riding a motorcycle is more than just a hobby, it’s a way of life. When motorcyclists utilize safe riding practices, they dramatically reduce their risk of serious injury and death. But the fact is, motorcycle riding is a risky business. Without the enclosed protection of a car or truck, motorcyclists are significantly more vulnerable to injury in an accident. Motorcycles are also much less stable than their four-wheeled counterparts. Adult riders assume these risks every day, but what about children? Is it unsafe, or even irresponsible to ride with a child? According to experts, it depends. Contact a Boston Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today.

Studies show that about 60 percent of riders with injuries that require hospitalization are under the age of 16. This means that – at least in most cases – they were passengers on motorcycles operated by adults. Although it is not possible to eliminate the risk of injuries, there are steps you can take to ride safely, and responsibly, with your child in tow.

Safety Tips for Riding with a Child in Tow

  • Children should always wear a properly fitted helmet. Serious head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are the greatest risk child and adult riders face when on a motorcycle. TBI can result in permanent disability and can severely impact a child’s development, social skills, and life expectancy. A well-fitted helmet reduces the risk of TBI and should be worn by all riders at all times.
  • The proper safety gear can be the difference between life and death when it comes to child passengers. Protective clothing can protect against cuts and lacerations. Even better, a harness or belt helps to keep the child safely on the bike. It’s safer for children to ride behind the adult, but there is still a risk of falling. A harness or belt prevents a child from falling off the back of a bike.
  • Never ride with a child in front of you. This makes it challenging to control the bike, and it is actually easier for a child to fall off the front of the bike than the back.
  • Education is crucial, for both you and your child. Any child that rides on a motorcycle should first be taught the basics of motorcycle safety. These lessons include how to get on and off a motorcycle, how to ride as a passenger, and how to adjust the helmet.
  • Always drive defensively and never drive distracted. Do not assume that other motorists can see you. The small size of a motorcycle makes it “disappear” easily behind other vehicles. Obey traffic signs and follow all traffic rules.

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Amidst all of the excitement of the upcoming summer months, tragedy struck back in June at Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida.  While visiting the park with his family, 2-year-old Lane Graves was grabbed by an almost 7 foot long alligator and dragged into the Seven Seas Lagoon.  The boy and his father were playing in less than a foot of water located just outside the popular Grand Floridian Hotel.  Hours later, the boy’s body was discovered less than 15 feet from where the alligator had snatched him.  An autopsy later proved the cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries.

This incident came as a major shock to the Walt Disney World community and to the entire country.  Every year, an estimated 17.2 million people travel through the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World resort.  Ever since the park opened in 1971, it has been a popular destination for families with children of all ages.  Therefore, when this 2-year-old boy was drowned by an alligator, millions were disturbed.  In response to the heartbreak, Walt Disney World has implemented several changes, both to make the park safer and to demonstrate its sensitivity to the incident.  The first step Disney took was to place warning signs along all bodies of water on the park’s property.  These signs warn guests to stay away from the water and not to wade in because of the potential presence of alligators.  Previous signs around the lagoon had said, “No Swimming” but did not warn of the potential presence of alligators.  Search teams also captured and euthanized five alligators found when they were searching for the body of the boy.  One of these alligators was the animal that attacked Graves.

Since the incident in June, Disney has also completely eradicated all references and depictions of alligators and crocodiles from its attractions at the Magic Kingdom.  There are no long alligators or crocodiles in any shows or parades and a more than 50-year-old warning sign telling parents to watch their children or “the crocodiles will” was removed from the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom.  In addition to purging all alligator/crocodile references from the park, Disney is also building a stone wall around the Seven Seas Lagoon where Graves was killed.  Immediately following the accident, Disney set up a series of ropes and nets around the water to keep guests away, but now the corporation is making the safety measures much more permanent.  The wall will essentially be four to five feet of rocks that will make it nearly impossible for anyone to reach the waters edge.  Officials from the park told the Orlando Sentinel that the wall is only part of a new security plan that the park will be executing.  Continue reading

With the start of school less than two weeks away in many areas, it’s the perfect time to discuss back to school safety. Whether your children take the bus or you drive them to school every day, there are steps you can take to reduce their risk of serious harm on their way to and from school. As the official Back-to-School Safety Month, August is a great time to remind drivers to use extra caution when commuting to work or transporting kids to school.

Children 14 and Under Most at Risk of Pedestrian Injuries

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a pedestrian is injured every 7 minutes in the United States. In 2013, about 76,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic-related accidents. With the upcoming surge of children walking to and from school and busses, it’s crucial to pay extra attention on morning and afternoon commutes. Children under the age of 14 are most at risk for these types of injuries and deaths due to their lack of experience and small size. The CDC reports that nearly one in five traffic-related deaths for children under 14 are pedestrian deaths.

Back to School Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Use extra caution, and low speeds, in school zones and residential areas
  • At intersections, double check for children before accelerating
  • When entering and exiting driveways, drive slowly and use extra caution
  • When driving during early morning and afternoon school hours, look for children on and near roadways
  • Do not drive distracted; put down your cell phone and keep your focus on the road at all times

Back to School Safety Tips for Kids

  • Until children are at least 10 years of age, they should always cross the street with an adult
  • Children should always cross the street at corners, and use crosswalks when available
  • Remind children to never run out into the streets
  • Never walk between parked cars
  • When entering or exiting the bus, always walk in front of the bus
  • Tell children to always make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. It’s never wise to assume a driver can see you
  • Before crossing a road look left, right, and left again

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