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.

Riding horses can be an enjoyable and healthy – albeit expensive – hobby. Although less dangerous than many other sports, horse riding is not without risks. Jenna Tatoulian knows this all too well. In 2014, the experienced equestrian was thrown from a horse during training. As a result, she suffered multiple fractures to her tailbone and pelvis, and is now suing the riding club that she says is responsible for her injuries.

Tatoulian claims that a water truck at California’s Paddock Riding Club backfired, spooking her horse. She filed a lawsuit against the club, her trainer, and one of the club employees in Los Angeles Superior Court. The employee, Javier Del Angel, was driving the club’s water truck when it backfired. According to Tatoulian, the loud noise frightened the horse, causing the large animal to gallop off. She was thrown to the ground.

Working around horses, the club and its employees should have known that sudden, loud noises can spook horses. At least that’s what Tatoulian alleges in her lawsuit. She also claims that the club was negligent in employing the inexperienced Del Angel, who Tatoulian says was unfit to work there. A MA personal injury can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a horse.

$7.8 Million Awarded in Horse-Related Wrongful Death Case

Another recent equine-related injury occurred in Pennsylvania, at the Parx Casino and Racetrack. Mario Calderon was killed when the horse he had been exercising dragged him and repeatedly kicked him in the head and torso. According to the family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the track, the horse was startled by chickens that were permitted to roam the track. The victim’s family was awarded $7.8 million when it was revealed that Parx had known the chickens were an issue before Calderon’s death. In fact, Calderson himself had already been injured in a similar incident.

How to Determine Who’s at Fault

Horse-related injury claims can be extremely complicated; who’s at fault – if anyone – depends on multiple factors. If any of the scenarios below are present, someone will likely be liable for any resulting injuries or property damage.

  • If damages occurred when a horse was running loose, the owner may be at fault for improper or inadequate fencing.
  • If the horse has previously injured another person, or has exhibited aggressive tendencies such as biting or kicking, the owner may be at fault if the victim wasn’t properly warned.
  • If the injury or property damage occurred on a road or another space not designated as “open range,” the owner may be liable because of improper fencing or gate locks.
  • If the horse’s owner was negligent in caring for or handling the horse, he or she may be liable if the horse “acts out” and inflicts injury or property damage.

 

Of course, the scenarios above are not exhaustive. There are multiple conditions in which a horse owner, trainer, or riding club or staff can be at fault for equine injuries. In many circumstances, horse owners believe that their homeowner’s insurance will cover any liability, but this is rarely the case. Even if it does, insurance companies will look for any loophole possible to excuse themselves from paying a dime. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a horse. Continue reading

When it comes to motorcycle accidents, myths and misconceptions abound. Those who ride motorcycles are often perceived as unlawful rule breakers with no respect for other motorists. Of course, these stereotypes are rarely accurate. Motorcycles provide an enjoyable and economical (when compared to cars and trucks) way to commute. Although daredevil motorcyclists certainly exist, the vast majority utilize safe riding practices at all times. Read on for more information about motorcycle accident myths and what to do if you’re involved in an accident involving a motorcycle.

Myth #1: When a motorcyclist crashes and no other vehicles are involved, it must be the motorcyclist’s fault.

Due to their “bad rep,” motorcyclists are often blamed for single-vehicle accidents. It’s assumed that they must have been speeding, driving recklessly, or maybe even that they were drunk. The reality is, single-vehicle accidents can happen for a variety of reasons that are not the fault of the rider. Potholes, loose gravel, a malfunctioning bike part, and animals darting in front of the bike can all lead to a single-vehicle motorcycle crash.

Myth #2: If you weren’t wearing a helmet, don’t even try to recover damages after an accident.

This is simply not true. Motorcycle helmets save lives, but not wearing one doesn’t exclude you from obtaining compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. For starters, helmets protect your head, not the rest of your body. But even if you sustain head injuries, you may still recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. That being said, it’s always a good idea to wear your helmet. Helmets are approximately 67 percent effective at preventing injuries to the brain and 37 percent effective at preventing death. A Boston motorcycle accident lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident.

Myth #3 – Lane splitting is safe if done correctly.

In some states, such as CA, lane splitting is now legal. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Lane splitting is the practice of maneuvering through narrow spaces to pass cars and trucks when stuck in congested traffic. While it may allow motorcyclists to pass through congested traffic and reduce travel time, it also reduces maneuvering space and the reaction time of passenger vehicles. Legal or not, lane splitting is dangerous. And FYI, in MA, it is not legal.

Fact: Motorcycles are more dangerous than cars.

Remember that motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than cars and trucks because of their small size (less visible to other motorists), and lack of stability. Further, when motorcyclists are involved in a crash, they don’t have the protection of four sides and a roof. As such, motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than drivers of other motor vehicles. You can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death by always wearing a helmet and utilizing safe riding practices at all times. A MA motorcycle accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident. Continue reading

Most people know that cars and passenger trucks have blindspots, so it’s no surprise that tractor-trailers do as well. However, large trucks have more blindspots than their passenger vehicle counterparts…and they’re much bigger. This is basically due to a truck’s large size, but tractor-trailers are not equipped with a rear view mirror either. As such, the visibility of large trucks is extremely limited in the front and back, and on both sides. Read on for more information about tractor-trailer blindspots, and how you can avoid being injured in a related accident.

In some ways, a truck’s height is an advantage. However, low-riding cars and vehicles close to the truck’s front and back can easily disappear into a very dangerous blindspot. This is equally true of motorcycles and bicycles. As stated above, trucks don’t have rear view mirrors. They rely solely on side mirrors to see their surroundings.

No-Zones

At first glance, this might sound like a silly question – how can shopping carts be dangerous enough to result in a personal injury lawsuit? But studies show that about 24,000 kids are injured by shopping carts every year. Injuries are most prevalent during peak shopping hours and peak shopping days (a.k.a. Black Friday). If your child is injured by a shopping cart inside our outside of a store, who do you sue?

Elements of a Personal Injury Claim

For a personal injury claim to be successful, you have to show that another’s negligence caused your injuries. When it comes to accidents involving shopping carts, the following four elements must be present:

  • The other shopper had a legal duty to use the shopping cart with reasonable care, or the store employee had a legal duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances.
  • The shopper or store employee breached that legal duty.
  • The breach of duty caused the injuries.
  • Actual damages occurred, whether property or bodily, or both.

Is the Store Responsible?

In some cases, the store itself may be responsible for damages. You can sue the store under three legal theories. These are:

  • Premises liability: This occurs when the store owner or property manager knew about, or should have known about, a dangerous condition.
  • Negligence: This may be a factor when, for example, an employer fails to properly train or supervise employees.
  • Vicarious liability: Under certain circumstances, a store can be held liable for the negligent actions of an employee.

Shopping Cart Injury Statistics

The questions of if, how, and who to sue following a shopping cart injury can be difficult to answer. The help of an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer is essential to a favorable outcome. Although shopping carts don’t seem particularly dangerous, young children actually have a relatively high risk of injury in a shopping cart. Between 1990 and 2011, more than 65 children ended up in emergency rooms with shopping cart-related injuries every day. Among them, most were under the age of four, and more than 80 percent of the injuries were to the head, 15 percent to the upper extremities, and six percent to the lower extremities. In order of frequency, cart injuries were caused by:

  • Children falling out of carts
  • Carts tipping
  • Children running into a cart
  • Extremities becoming trapped in the cart

In 2004, voluntary shopping cart standards were introduced. However, the frequency of injuries has not dropped. “The take-home message is that the standard can be strengthened and we can do much better,” said Dr. Gary A. Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “These injuries can be prevented.” A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a shopping cart. Continue reading

Most people think that elder abuse is something that occurs in bad nursing homes. While this is true, elder abuse happens outside of nursing homes too; the family home is no exception. The purpose of Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to educate people on ways to identify elder abuse so that it can be stopped. A Boston elder abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed if a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect.

Types of Elder Abuse

There are many types of elder abuse; it’s not always physical. The main types to look for include:

  • Physical abuse: This type of abuse encompasses everything from hitting and using excessive force to sexual abuse. Signs of physical abuse include injuries such as bruises, broken bones, rope burns, welts, and burns. The victim may appear depressed, withdrawn, or fearful.
  • Financial Abuse: This type of abuse usually involves an individual who misuses the victim’s financial benefits or assets as his or her own. It’s often a family member. In some cases, financial abuse can involve an unknown person who tricks the victim into handing over money. This can be done in person, over the phone, or online. Signs of financial abuse include an unexplained depletion of assets, and unexplained missing personal items such as jewelry, furniture, and even hearing aids.
  • Neglect: This type of abuse occurs when an elderly person is neglected or abandoned by someone who is supposed to provide their care, such as nursing home staff, a home-health aide, or a family member. Signs of neglect include malnourishment and dehydration, poor hygiene, bed sores, linens and clothing that smell of urine, medical needs not being met, over-sedation, and depression.

Who is Abusing and Who is Being Abused?

Elder abuse can occur anywhere, but the vast majority of elder abusers are family members. Consider the following statistics:

  • 90 percent of elder abusers are family members.
  • Of that 90 percent, approximately 50 percent are children and about 20 percent are partners.
  • More than 50 percent of elder abuse victims are over the age of 80.
  • Two-thirds of victims are women.
  • 60 percent of victims have dementia.
  • 40 percent of victims suffer from depression.

How to Stop Elder Abuse

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused or neglected, it’s important to know how to stop it. In some cases, involving the authorities is necessary. Tell at least one person – law enforcement, a social worker, or a healthcare provider. It’s not uncommon for an elderly person to conceal abuse or neglect out of fear of retaliation from the abuser. A MA elder abuse lawyer can review your case to determine the best legal strategy for moving forward. Elder abuse cases can be complex, and how they are handled varies widely. Financial abuse and sexual abuse cases, for example, will likely be approached in very different ways.

You can also look for signs of abuse by watching the suspected abuser. If a care provider seems to be attempting to dominate your loved one, is verbally abusive, handles your loved one “roughly,” is continually concerned about money, or if you suspect that he or she has substance abuse or mental health problems, you might want to take a closer look. Any of the above may be cause for concern. Continue reading

When it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts is a “strict liability” state. That means that dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their dogs, even if they had no reason to believe the dog would cause such an injury. However, there are some exceptions. If the statute of limitations has passed, or if the victim was provoking the dog at the time the injury occurred, the owner may be off the hook. A Boston dog bite injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been attacked or bitten by a dog.

Dog Bite Laws in MA

In MA, a dog bite victim has three years to file a personal injury claim following the date of the injury. In Chapter 140, Section 155 of the Massachusetts General Laws, a dog’s owner is liable if:

  • The dog causes injury or damage to personal property, and
  • the victim was not provoking the dog or trespassing on private property.

And this law doesn’t only apply to bites; any injury caused by a dog may be covered. For example, if a dog knocks you over and you are injured in the fall, the dog’s owner may be liable. Further, when a dog causes property damage, such as breaking a fence, chewing on other people’s belongings, or injuring livestock, the law also applies.

Dog Bite Statistics

Dog bites can result in serious, long-term injuries, and even death. In the United States, approximately 1,000 people visit the emergency room every day for serious dog bite injuries. About 9,500 dog bite victims are hospitalized annually. The information below provides greater insight into this problem, and how to avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Dog bites are the fifth most frequent cause of ER visits among children.
  • Children, mail carriers, and the elderly account for the majority of dog bite victims.
  • In 2015, dog bites resulted in more than 28,000 reconstructive surgeries.
  • The average cost of dog bite-related hospitalization is $18,200, compared to $12,100 for other injury-related inpatient stays.
  • About 77 percent of dog bite victims are the owner’s family members or friends.

Never approach an unfamiliar dog without first asking the owner if it’s okay to do so. If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. If the dog attacks or knocks you over, curl into a ball, tuck your head into your body, and cover your neck and ears with your hands. Never run from a dog, or disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating. And never allow young children to play with a dog unsupervised. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog. Continue reading

When a person is injured due to another’s negligence, he or she may choose to file a personal injury claim to recover damages. But what if the injury occurred out of the state in which the victim lives? If I live in Massachusetts, my injury occurred in Oregon, and the company responsible for my injury is headquartered in California, where do I file the lawsuit? The answer may have just gotten a bit more complicated.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that a railroad company based in Texas couldn’t be sued in Montana for injuries sustained in a third location. This decision will likely impact future injury cases, nationwide. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Two unrelated injury lawsuits were brought against the BNSF Railway Company; the first by Robert Nelson, a former truck driver for the company and resident of North Dakota who claims that he was injured in a work-related slip and fall accident, and the second by Kelli Tyrrel, a resident of South Dakota who claims that the company is responsible for her late husband’s fatal kidney cancer. Nelson was injured in Washington State, and Tyrrel’s husband was allegedly exposed to carcinogenic substances in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

Despite the company’s location in Texas, and the injuries occurring in four other states, both plaintiffs sued in Montana, where nobody lived, worked, or was injured. This is because Montana is considered to be a friendlier venue for plaintiffs. The lawsuits alleged that filing in Montana was appropriate because BNSF conducts business in the state frequently, employing thousands of Montana residents and investing more than $400 million in the state over a four-year period. But the Supreme Court didn’t agree.

Doing Business In-State is Not Enough

The Supreme Court ruled that to exercise jurisdiction over a company, simply doing business in-state is not enough. Specifically, the ruling stated that the circumstances of the two BNSF lawsuits did “not suffice to permit the assertion of general jurisdiction over claims like Nelson’s and Tyrrell’s that are unrelated to any activity occurring in Montana.” Basically, this means that in order for state courts to hear injury claims, the companies must be based in the state, or the injuries must have occurred there.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was not unanimous. Justice Sonia Sotomayor believes the ruling will benefit large multistate and multinational corporations and cause further harm to the already-injured victims. “It is individual plaintiffs,” wrote Sotomayor, “harmed by the actions of a far-flung foreign corporation, who will bear the brunt of the majority’s approach and be forced to sue in distant jurisdictions with which they have no contacts or connection.”

What are “Minimum Contacts”?

If you have been injured, you must file your personal injury lawsuit in a court that has jurisdiction over the claim. In addition, the state in which you’re filing the lawsuit must have jurisdiction over the person, business or entity responsible for your injuries. Suing where the injury occurred is the most straightforward way of ensuring proper jurisdiction, but this may not be the easiest option for you, especially if your injury occurred far from home. If the person or entity responsible for your injuries has minimum contacts in your home state, you may be able to file the lawsuit where you live. To pass the “minimum contacts” test, the person or entity should meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • A company that conducts business in your state.
  • A person who has a home in your state.
  • A company or person who is party to a contract that was formed in your state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to make injury claims more complicated. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a large corporation, especially if the injury occurred out of state. Continue reading

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 88,000 people were injured in motorcycle accidents in the United States in 2015. Of course, motorcycle accidents can occur anywhere. But certain areas pose a much greater risk. Read on for more information about the most dangerous areas for motorcycles and how to reduce your risk if you find yourself in one of these places. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident.

Busy intersections: Intersections are dangerous for motorcyclists, whether or not they are busy. And the heavier the traffic, the greater the risk. Intersections are often riddled with a confusing combination of motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorcyclists, all traveling in different directions and crossing each other’s paths. Five and six-way intersections are even more dangerous. A mix of complex traffic patterns and congested traffic can spell disaster for an inexperienced, distracted, or reckless motorcyclist.

Avoid busy intersections until you have completed adequate training and feel extremely comfortable on your bike. Practice safe riding practices and never allow yourself to be distracted when in, or approaching, a busy intersection. In addition to the risk faced by all motorists in an intersection, a motorcycle’s small size makes it harder for other motorists to see. Use extra caution in these situations.

Congested roads: If you find yourself on a heavily-congested roadway, it is crucial to employ safe riding practices and give your full focus and attention to your surroundings. Motorcyclists can find themselves boxed into small spaces with little room to safely maneuver their bike. In these situations, it can be tempting to squeeze through small spaces, weaving in and out between cars and trucks that are stopped or driving slowly. Avoid this temptation. For starters, the practice of “lane splitting” is illegal in MA. But more importantly, it’s extremely dangerous.

Drivers, who are also frustrated with the congested traffic, rarely expect a motorcyclist to suddenly appear beside them. For this reason, cars may quickly attempt to switch lanes when they see ample space in the next lane. This sudden movement could be disastrous for an unassuming motorcyclist zooming in and out of small spaces. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident.

Areas with low sight distance: When approaching sharp turns, or driving on curvy roads, it may be difficult to see what lies ahead. This inability to spot road hazards, stopped vehicles, animals in the road, and approaching cars and trucks can be deadly. When your sight distance is low, travel at a slower rate of speed, and avoid even the smallest distraction. Also, be prepared for whatever you may encounter on the other side of that sharp turn or curve.

Greater Risk Requires Greater Caution

It’s unfortunate but true – motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than other motor vehicles. This is mainly due to their small size and lack of a protective enclosure, but the “recreational” aspect of motorcycles also adds to the danger. We use cars and trucks to commute, not to have fun. Going for a ride, however, can be fun and exciting. It may be tempting to take the curvier roads with the breathtaking scenery, to weave in and out of congested traffic, and to speed on open stretches of road. But beware. These practices can be fun, but they can also be deadly (and often are). The risk of death in a motorcycle accident is 35 times greater than the risk of death in a car accident. Continue reading

Boating season is upon us in Massachusetts. If you are planning to take to the open water this summer, you have a responsibility to help prevent accidents by using safe boating practices. Boating tragedies occur with shocking frequency, but nearly every accident is easily preventable. Read on for more information about boating accidents, and how to avoid becoming a statistic.

Boating Accident Statistics

  • According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2013 approximately 77 percent of boating-related fatalities were caused by drowning.
  • Among those drowning victims, about 84 percent were not wearing life vests.
  • Of the victims, 22 were children under the age of 13.
  • The main causes of boating accidents include operator inexperience, operator inattention, faulty machinery, and the use of excessive speed.
  • In 2013, alcohol was the main contributing factor in boating deaths.

That same year, the five leading types of boating accidents were:

  • Collisions involving recreational vessels – 947
  • Flooding – 430
  • Collisions with other objects – 427
  • Grounding – 399
  • Accidents involving water skiing – 332

Tips for Preventing Boating Accidents

Any person operating a boat should be licensed to operate the vessel, and should have completed a boater safety course. By following the tips below, you can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death in a boating accident. A MA boating accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

  • Establish a “float plan” and leave it with a friend or family member before leaving dry land. A float plan should include identifying information about the boat, where you are headed, and the names and contact information of everyone on board.
  • Ensure that your boat is equipped with an adequate number of personal flotation devices, and wear a life vest while on the water.
  • Keep a safe distance between your boat and other vessels at all times.
  • Avoid using excessive speed.
  • Monitor weather conditions. If a storm is approaching, it is safest to head back to shore until the storm has passed.
  • Use extra caution when towing a water skier. Prevent water skiers from getting too close to other boats, swimmers, or fixed objects.
  • Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even a low blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can be deadly.

Tragic Boating Accident in Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor made the headlines in 2015, when a gruesome boating accident resulted in severe injuries to a young woman. Alexander Williams, a 26 year old OUI attorney, pleaded guilty to charges of negligent operation of a boat and furnishing alcohol to minors, among other charges. As a result of the accident involving Williams’ boat, the Naut Guilty, 19-year old Nicole Berthiaume lost her right arm. A MA injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a boating accident. Continue reading

The leading cause of death for young children is motor vehicle crashes. For this reason, the use of child safety seats is crucial to the safety of your child. However, an improperly installed or defective safety seat can be even more dangerous than using no seat at all because it provides parents with a false sense of security. To reduce the risk of serious injury or death to a small child, thoroughly review seat features and customer ratings prior to purchase, have your installation of the seat base professionally checked, and regularly monitor for recalls or product safety reports to determine if your seat has a potential defect.

Earlier this month Graco, the leading manufacturer of safety and convenience products for children, recalled more than 25,000 child safety seats due to a concern that an important feature of the seat may break in a crash. Webbing on the harness that restrains children in a collision is the culprit. Shockingly, despite the harness being one of the most important components of a child safety seat, Graco claims that it’s safe to use seats while waiting for a replacement kit. A Boston defective products lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a faulty or dangerous product.

Recalled Models

If the webbing of the My Ride 65 Graco seat breaks in a crash, the entire harness system could malfunction, resulting in improper restraint of the child. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards regulate the design and safety features of child restraint systems; the My Ride 65 Graco child safety seat did not meet these standards. As such, a total of eight models produced between May and August of 2014 are being recalled. The model numbers included in this recall are:

  • 179433
  • 1813015
  • 1813074
  • 1853478
  • 1871689
  • 1872691
  • 1877535
  • 1908152

If you have a My Ride 65 with one of these model numbers and a code tag of 2014/06 on the webbing, Graco will send you a free replacement harness. A MA defective products attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a defective or dangerous product.

Child Safety Seats Save Lives

More than 650 children age 12 and under died in car crashes in 2011, and more than 148,000 were injured. Of those children, a whopping 33 percent were not restrained. Despite these sobering statistics, a one-year CDC study revealed that more than 618,000 kids between infancy and age 12 rode without proper safety restraints at least part of the time.

How to Use Your Child’s Safety Seat Correctly

Safety seats only save lives when they are used correctly. Studies show that up to 84 percent of these restraints are being misused. It is extremely common, for example, for children to be in a seat that is not suited to their age and weight. Other common problems are improper attachment to the vehicle’s seat, and a loose harness. Incorrect use of a safety seat more than triples your child’s risk of serious injury. So how can parents ensure that their safety seat is properly installed?

  • Prior to installing your child safety seat, carefully read the instruction manual provided by the manufacturer for the seat. In addition, review your vehicle owner’s manual for instructions on how to install child restraint systems in that particular vehicle. Every seat and vehicle is different.
  • Child safety seats should be placed in the back seat of your car or truck.
  • Place your child in the seat to properly adjust harness straps. Ensure that the belts and harness fit your child comfortably and securely.
  • Regularly check the fit of the belts and / or harness as your child grows. You may also have to adjust them seasonally, to accommodate for heavy winter coats and layered clothing, or the removal of these items.
  • Ensure that the base or seat (depending on whether you are using an infant seat or a booster) is tightly and securely fastened to the vehicle’s seat using the vehicle’s safety belts.
  • Children should remain in a rear-facing seat until the age of two years.
  • Have your seat’s installation professionally inspected by a certified technician.

Continue reading