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.

High-level falls can occur from any multi-story building, but when a building has old or broken railings on balconies or stairwells, the risk is particularly high. And high-level falls commonly result in serious injuries, including traumatic brain and spinal injuries.

Railings are generally anchored to a building to keep them in place, but railing systems can loosen over time, increasing the risk of failure. Without proper maintenance and regular inspections, old railings – which provide a false sense of security – can be deadly. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Defective Design

In some cases, railings are obviously old and worn, but even a railing that appears intact may be faulty or defective. And railings don’t need to be loose to fail; when a person falls through or over a railing because of poor design, they can be just as seriously injured. A little boy fell through a space in the railings of a Virginia hotel balcony in 2013, suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was awarded $10.9 million in damages.

Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of a property owner to ensure that railings are safe if their properties are open to the public. This is also true of homeowners who invite guests onto their property. If Sara decides to have a party on her deck despite the loose, dilapidated railings, for example, she is likely to be liable if someone is injured when the railing fails. If, however, Sara just had a brand new railing installed, and someone is injured because of a design defect, the responsible party may be the designer, manufacturer or retailer.

Is the Railing Up to Code?

Landlords and business owners have an even greater responsibility to ensure that their railings are safe.They have a duty to maintain their property in a safe condition, which includes ensuring that deck, balcony, porch and stairwell railings are properly installed and compliant with local building codes. For example, railings must be a certain height to prevent adults from tripping and children from climbing over, and spaces between slats must be a certain height and width to prevent a child from trapping his or her head between them.

According to the CDC, nearly two million people are seriously injured or die from traumatic brain injuries annually, and many of these are due to falls. In fact, falls are the leading cause of TBIs, accounting for more than 35 percent of the injuries. And many fall injuries are the result of faulty railings or missing handrails in stairwells.

Sadly, the problem doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. There are an estimated 50 million wooden decks and balconies in the U.S. alone, and the majority are more than 25 years old. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, he or she may be at greater risk of elder abuse and neglect now that the new administration has relaxed nursing home accountability for these injustices. Nursing home industry reps lobbied the administration, claiming that current laws are too focused on “catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve.”

Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association, a nursing home industry trade group, wrote a letter directly to Trump, asking him to provide nursing homes with “relief” from overly-harsh investigations and fines.

Among the most commonly reported, serious nursing home violations are: falls, neglect, mistreatment, and bedsores. During the four-year period between 2013 and 2017, approximately 40 percent of federally-regulated nursing homes nationwide were cited for at least one “serious violation.”

A Slap on the Wrist

Under the new guidelines, nursing homes that are first-time offenders may get off with a simple warning, even if the violation results in the death of a patient. Further, even repeat offenders will likely receive lower fines for their violations than previous years.

Much of the nursing home abuse in this country already goes unreported or underreported. Advocates for elder safety fear that these relaxed regulations will only exacerbate an already serious problem. A MA nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if a loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

Elder Abuse Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is “any

abuse and neglect of persons age 60 and older by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust.” Elder abuse doesn’t always occur in a nursing home facility; it also happens with in-home care, and a family member is often the one responsible for the abuse or neglect. However, nursing home abuse and neglect are most common in understaffed facilities with poorly-trained workers. The statistics below shed some light on the severity of this growing problem:

  • The actual rate of elder abuse is nearly 24 times greater than what is reported.
  • The most common type of elder abuse is psychological, which is typically more difficult to detect or prove than physical abuse.
  • In the state of New York, at least 260,000 elderly adults have reported some type of abuse.
  • The “National Elder Mistreatment Study” revealed that up to 10 percent of those surveyed had suffered some type of abuse in the 12 months leading up to the study.
  • A 2000 study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that of 2,000 nursing home residents surveyed, 44 percent had suffered abuse, and 95 had suffered neglect, or had witnessed someone else being neglected.

A Boston nursing home abuse attorney can help you recover damages if a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. Continue reading

Roman Catholic priests keep making headlines, for all the wrong reasons. In 2003, Thomas O’Brien, who was bishop of the Dioceses of Phoenix at the time, admitted he had sheltered dozens of priests who had been accused of sexual abuse. Beyond just sheltering them, however, he allowed them to work with children. In 2016, O’Brien himself was accused of sexually abusing a young boy.

In the early 2000s, the Roman Catholic diocese exposed a handful of priests as abusers, two of whom fled the country and are still at large. Another 60-or-so lawsuits are currently pending against priests across the nation, some of the alleged sex crimes dating back seven decades. The most recent involves Louisiana Rev. F. David Broussard, a 51-year-old former pastor who was charged with 500 counts of possession of child pornography. Broussard remains free, on administrative leave.

Mark A. Broussard, a former priest who is not related to F. David Broussard but presided over a neighboring Louisiana parish, was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and 50 additional years for molesting and raping altar boys in the 1980s. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse.

Is Justice Being Served?

Today’s Catholic Church is responding much differently to sex abuse scandals than the Catholic Church of the past. During the first half of the 20th century, priests accused of sexual abuse were often simply reassigned to different parishes. Today, the likes of Mark and F. David Broussard are turned over by Bishops who say they now follow the Catholic Church’s mandates to protect children, including requiring criminal background checks for anyone who has contact with children.

Although progress is definitely being made, you don’t have to go back to the early 1900s to see the Catholic Church turning a blind eye to sex abuse. In 1986, former priest Gilbert Gauthe was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he admitted to raping 37 children, also in Louisiana. But despite having abused more than 100 people, Gauche was released after only 10 years.

And in 2002, during the Boston archdiocese child sex abuse scandal, decades of covered-up child abuse in Wilmington, Delaware began to surface. By 2011, more than $110 million was distributed to 152 adults who had been sexually abused as children by Catholic priests in the Wilmington area. Dozens of priests were involved. A MA injury attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused.

Statute of Limitations

Most civil and criminal cases have a statute of limitations, a window of time within which a claim or lawsuit must be filed. With regard to sexual abuse cases, the statue of limitations varies from state to state. In MA, it’s 15 years. However, in light of the recent surge of sex abuse scandals involving Catholic priests, private schools, and even celebrities, some of these statutes of limitations are being lifted. In Minnesota, for example, a 2013 law temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for victims age 24 and under, giving them unlimited time to file a lawsuit. Anyone over 24 was given a new, three-year window. When that window ended in 2016, more than 800 claims had been filed against state churches and schools, and the Boy Scouts. Continue reading

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, a naturally-occurring fiber commonly used in building for decades. Before the dangers of asbestos were known, construction workers and other professionals often spent hours working with this toxic substance every day. As mesothelioma is a particularly slow-growing form of cancer, it’s not uncommon for people who were exposed more than 30 years ago to just now be diagnosed with the disease.

Mesothelioma begins as small tumors that form on the lining of the abdomen or lungs. Symptoms don’t usually become apparent until the tumors begin to press against the abdominal cavity or chest wall, which usually occurs around state III or IV.

In addition to slow growth, mesothelioma is commonly overlooked or misdiagnosed because its symptoms often mimic those of less serious conditions. Initial symptoms may include pain in the chest or abdomen, shortness of breath, dry cough, and bloating.

Most Common Mesothelioma Signs and Symptoms

If you ever worked with asbestos and have developed any of the following symptoms, it may be in your best interest to speak with your doctor as soon as possible. Of course, all of the symptoms below can be related to other, less serious conditions. But when it comes to your health, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Wheezing
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Hernia
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pleural effusion (when fluid forms around the lungs)
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing

In most cases, mesothelioma is first detected by accident through a routine blood test or X-ray. Anyone who worked with asbestos for an extended period of time should inform their physician and request cancer screenings to improve the chances of an early diagnosis. If you have developed mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, a MA work injury attorney can help you recover damages for your injuries.

Misdiagnosis

There are two main types of mesothelioma – pleural and peritoneal. Pleural affects the lining of the lungs, whereas peritoneal affects the lining of the abdomen. Both types of mesothelioma are frequently misdiagnosed. The pleural form is commonly misdiagnosed as COPD, pneumonia, or a bronchial infection, while doctors often think the peritoneal form is irritable bowel syndrome or ovarian cancer.

Is Mesothelioma a Work Injury?

In most cases, an individual’s asbestos exposure occurred at work, years ago. As such, resulting injuries are work injuries. Most work injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, but mesothelioma is typically an exception. Since symptoms of this deadly cancer often fail to show up until 20 or 30 years after exposure, few people still work at the employer responsible for their exposure. Many of these employers don’t even exist anymore. This is why it is so critical to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure. Continue reading

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of U.S. homeowners insurance claims in 2014. That adds up to more than $530 million. Further analysis conducted by the I.I.I. revealed that the average per-claim cost had increased by 15 percent compared with the previous year.

“The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing,” said III vice president, Loretta Worters.

Shockingly Common

And dog bites are more common than most people think. Each year in the United States, about 800,000 dog bite injuries are serious enough to require medical attention. These attacks range from minor flesh wounds to life-threatening injuries, and even fatalities.

In Massachusetts, there are a number of laws relating to dog bite injuries, and the state’s dog owners and keepers are “strictly liable” for damages caused by dog attacks. If you suffer injuries caused by a dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to compensation.

Statute of limitations in MA

Statutes of limitation are laws that set time limits for filing civil lawsuits. In Massachusetts, most liability claims have to be filed within three years of the date of injury, including cases involving dog bites.

With statutes of limitations, it is important to know when the clock starts ticking, as well as when the time runs out. If you don’t file your claim before the deadline, you will likely be barred from bringing your case to court. The statute of limitations timeline on dog bites begins at the time of injury. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a dog attack.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute

When it comes to dog attacks, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. This means that the injured victim is not required to prove negligence to collect damages. As long as the victim can show that the injury was caused by the dog, and the injury meets other state requirements, he or she may be eligible to obtain compensation. Further, the injury itself does not necessarily have to have been caused by the actual bite. The victim may file a claim even if the injuries were caused by tripping and falling over the dog, for example, or if the dog ran into the road, causing a bicycle or motor vehicle accident.

Compensation for Injuries

If you are attacked or bitten by a dog, the first thing to do is get medical treatment and make sure that the dog’s shots are up-to-date. As is the case with any personal injury claim, the value of dog bite or dog injury claims depend on multiple factors, including:

  • the severity of the physical injury,
  • the duration of your symptoms,
  • and any potential damages caused by the injury (lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, etc.).

In Massachusetts, dog bite and attack injuries are usually covered by homeowner’s insurance, which should compensate the victim for bodily injury and damages. If the owner/keeper has no insurance coverage, the victim may have to seek direct reimbursement for any damages. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s dog. Continue reading

With the snow and ice of New England winters comes an increased risk of winter weather-related slip and fall accidents. If you fall in a public place, due to snow or ice, what are your rights?

Most snow and ice-related slip and fall accidents occur on sidewalks and in parking lots. Property owners must exercise reasonable care in keeping these areas well maintained at all times, including during wintry weather conditions. A business or property owner who fails to promptly remove snow and ice may be liable if someone is injured. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident.

When it comes to public businesses, such as malls, grocery stores, and restaurants, property owners often contract with snow and ice removal companies to maintain their parking lots and sidewalks. Ultimately, it is up to the property owner to ensure that these areas are safe. If, for example, the contractor doesn’t show up with a plow during a snow storm, the property owner must still figure out a way to remove the snow. It might be time to call another contractor, or the property owner may just need to pick up a shovel.

Reasonable Care

All of that being said, customers and the general public must also use reasonable care when walking or driving in a snowy or icy area. If a customer – who wants to quickly get inside the warm store – sprints across the parking lot during a snow storm, he is not exercising reasonable caution. A Boston slip and fall accident attorney can help you recover damages if you have been injured by another’s negligence.

Natural Accumulation

It is difficult, if not impossible, for a parking lot to be kept entirely clear of snow during a blizzard. A property owner’s responsibility, therefore, is not to keep walkways and parking areas free of snow and ice, but to keep them “reasonably” free of snow and ice. Some states have what is known as the “natural accumulation” rule, which holds that a property owner is not liable as long as she did not interfere with the natural accumulation of snow. This was also the case in MA until 2010, when the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) overturned a 125-year old rule, replacing it with the “reasonable person” standard.

The SJC made the following statement: “If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect against the danger.” 

Take Pictures

If you are injured in a slip and fall accident, it is crucial to document your case in as detailed a manner as possible. Photographs provide some of the most compelling evidence, and they should be taken as soon as possible following the accident. This is especially true when snow and ice are involved, as weather conditions can change quickly and without warning. If you have been injured, photograph your injuries and the scene of the accident. With today’s smart phones, most of us have a good camera at our fingertips at all times. If you are unable to take pictures, ask a witness if he or she could do so on your behalf. Also, be sure to ask any witnesses for their contact information, in case you need to ask them a question about the accident at a later date. Continue reading

In order to recover damages following a slip and fall accident, you will have to prove that your injuries were caused by another’s negligence. As such, the more evidence you can collect, the greater your chances of a successful claim. One of the most compelling types of evidence is pictures. In the past, getting pictures of an accident scene immediately following the accident was dependent on one of the witnesses having a camera. However, with today’s smartphones, just about everyone is equipped with a high-quality camera at all times.

Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents

Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere and at any time. Common causes include:

  • Ice or snow
  • Uneven steps or flooring
  • Debris or clutter in walkways
  • Poor lighting
  • Exposed wiring
  • Cracked pavement
  • Wet or slippery flooring
  • Missing handrails
  • Holes in flooring
  • Lack of warning signs
  • Worn carpet
  • Broken tiles

Types of Slip and Fall Injuries

According to the National Safety Council, slip and fall accidents send nearly nine million people to the emergency room each year. Some of these injuries are minor, but injuries can be serious, and even fatal. Common slip and fall injuries include:

  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Bruises
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Broken hips
  • Back and spine injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Elderly people have a significantly higher risk of being seriously injured in a slip and fall accident, but all ages are at risk. A Boston personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident.

Was Negligence a Factor?

If your slip and fall accident was a result of another’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. But to do so, you have to prove negligence. Collecting solid evidence to substantiate your claim is the best way to prove negligence. Read on for more information about collecting evidence.

Take Pictures

If you are immediately able to take pictures, do so. Photograph any visible injuries, such as bruises and scrapes, as well as the accident scene and all surrounding areas. Did you slip on a spilled substance? Photograph it. Take pictures from multiple angles to show other potential factors. For example, did staff fail to place a “wet floor” sign next to the spill? Is there a visible clock on the wall showing the time? The more pictures you take, the better.

Ask a Friend to Take Pictures

If you do not have a camera on you, or you are physically unable to take pictures, ask a friend, relative, or witness to do so for you. It is important to get pictures before anyone alters the area in which the accident occurred – by placing a “wet floor” sign after the fact, for example. This is especially true of ice and snow-related slip and fall accidents. These conditions can naturally change within minutes. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident. Continue reading

Child product manufacturer Fisher-Price recently recalled about 65,000 of its motorized infant soothing motion seats because of their potential to catch fire. According to reports, there have been more than three dozen cases in which the seats have overheated. One device actually caught fire. Fortunately, no injuries have occurred, but the recall serves as a reminder that infants and small children should never be left unattended, even in a child “safety” seat.

Product Liability

If you have been injured by a dangerous or defective product, you may be able to recover damages by bringing a product liability lawsuit against the responsible party or parties. When it comes to determining responsibility, the fault can lie with any party in the product’s distribution chain. Parties can include the product’s designer or manufacturer, the manufacturer of component parts, the product assembler, the wholesaler, or the retail store that initially sold the product.  A Boston product liability attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a dangerous or defective product.

Types of Defects

In order to win a product liability case, the plaintiff must be able to show that the injury was caused by a defective product, and that the product was made unreasonably dangerous by the defect. The three types of product defects are:

 

  • Design defects – These defects are present even before the product is manufactured.
  • Manufacturing defects – These defects occur during the product’s manufacturing or assembly. The design may have been perfectly safe, but an error in production caused the defect.
  • Marketing defects – When improper labeling or lack of safety instructions causes someone to get injured, this may be considered a marketing defect.

 

As mentioned earlier, the defect must make the product unreasonably dangerous. What does this mean? Well, consider a butcher knife. A butcher knife is dangerous by necessity. In fact, it would be made useless if the blade was too dull to injure someone. Although a knife is a dangerous product, a reasonable person would understand the inherent dangers. The knife would likely come with appropriate safety warnings, but it would be up to the consumer to use the knife responsibly and keep it out of the reach of children, for example. If a child injured himself on a such a knife, it would be difficult to argue that the injury was the fault of the knife’s manufacturer, designer, or retailer.

Possible Defenses

Product liability is a complex and constantly evolving area of the law. You might feel confident that a product defect caused your injury, but the manufacturer might argue that you altered the product once it was no longer under the manufacturer’s control. Another potential defense might be that your misuse of the product caused your injuries, and that the manufacturer couldn’t have anticipated this type of misuse. A MA product liability lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a dangerous or defective product, pharmaceutical, or medical device. Continue reading

Last week, three people were killed and dozens more were injured when Amtrak’s 501 Cascades high-speed locomotive derailed on its inaugural journey between Seattle and Portland. Excessive speed was a factor. More disturbing, however, was the fact that the automatic braking system (ABS) was installed on the tracks and train, but was not functioning. Such a system would have likely prevented this deadly accident from occurring.

Since 1969, train safety advocates have been pushing for the installation of ABS. According to an Associated Press analysis, since that year, more than 6,700 have been injured and 298 have been killed in accidents involving train derailments. Congress mandated the implementation of “positive train control” (PTC) on all trains by 2015. PTC is a communications system for passenger trains that includes ABS. Despite this mandate, most passenger trains in the United States are not equipped with PTC features. A Boston train accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a train derailment-related accident.

Train was Clocked at Nearly Three Times the Posted Speed Limit

Just before the accident, the train was estimated to be traveling at over 80 mph, nearly three times the legal limit. Occurring to investigators, the train cars were tilting as they rounded the curve with a 30 mph speed limit, and it appeared that the engineer was applying the brakes.

Passengers who were being interviewed shortly after the accident were stunned. Emma Schafer, who was traveling to Portland for the holidays, was napping when her train car fell onto the highway below.

“Have you ever been on a 3D simulator where it shakes you around a pod? It was like that,” said Schafer.

“It felt like the end of the world, like we’d stepped out of a nuclear bunker amid the wreckage,” she continued. “It’s hitting me in waves. I’m suppressing some of it. Tonight is probably going to be rough.”

Amtrak said there were seven crew members and 77 passengers on board at the time of the accident. More than a dozen people suffered serious injuries, some of whom required surgery, and more than 100 people were rushed to the hospital.

Train Accidents are Relatively Common

More than 3,000 train accidents occur in the United States annually. Although not all of these accidents result in injury or death, most involve some level of property damage. The most common railroad accidents involve collisions with other trains or passenger vehicles, derailment, mechanical failure, poorly-maintained tracks, driver fatigue, and driver inexperience. Continue reading

If you are having a New Year’s Eve party to ring in 2018, there’s a good chance you’ll be serving alcohol. Although there’s nothing wrong with guests enjoying a few adult beverages, it may be your responsibility to ensure that they do so responsibly, and that they are of legal age.

Most people are well aware that the national drinking age is 21, but did you know that you can be liable if an underage guest drinks alcohol at your party? This is true even if you didn’t serve the guest, and even if you were unaware that a minor was drinking. Commercial establishments, such as pubs and restaurants, have an official “duty of care” to patrons who consume alcohol on the premises. In the case of a house party, that duty is transferred to the host of the party (a.k.a. the social host). A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver.

As stated in the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 138 Section 34: