Articles Posted in Personal Injury

little girl swimming in poolBy now, many children are ready to trade in school days for pool days. Who can blame them? Summer in New England is the best time of year.

For parents, grandparents and caregivers, the transition to summer comes with responsibilities. Talk to each other and your children about the rules for pool safety now. Make your plan for watching children and keeping them safe. 

This is the most important of all planning. Drowning can occur quickly and silently, within a matter of seconds. Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1-14, claiming the lives of three children every day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are others who survive but are left with severe brain damage and long-term disabilities.

Make sure your family is ready for the pool:

  • Pool Fence and Lock. If you have a pool of your own, there are state requirements you must meet. First, your pool fence should be at least four feet tall and be self-closing and self-latching. It must open outward. Read more tips on keeping a safe pool fence. Another idea is a pool alarm that notifies you about activity near your pool. A pool alarm is required if you have a pool that is surrounded by three walls of fencing and your house serves as the fourth.
  • Layers of Protection. Think how you can slow down young children heading to your pool, beyond just your pool fence. You could add an extra lock, an extra fence or shrubs.
  • Never Leave a Child Unattended In or Near Water. Supervising your child in the pool is your most important job this summer. Bring your cell phone to the pool in case of emergency, but set it aside and focus solely on your child. Buy a watch you can keep with you at the pool to check the time.
  • Watch for Fatigue. Make sure your child does not become tired and vulnerable to drowning or injuries. Take a few minutes of rest or leave the pool for a while.
  • Swim With Your Child. For young children, keep them in your arms and just let them get exposed to the water. As they get a few years older, you can practice “touch supervision” with them, where they are never more than an arm’s length away. Put a life jacket on young children who do not know how to swim.
  • Swim Lessons. Sign your kids up for swim lessons so they are familiar with the water and learn the important life-saving skills they need to protect themselves. At the same time, sign yourself up for a CPR training course.
  • Baby Pools. Empty and turn over baby pools after use. Put them away. If you don’t, a young child could easily climb and fall in.
  • Inspect Pool Area. If you have a home pool, take a glance around. Is the fence in good condition? Is there any glass out (glass bottles or even glass furniture) that could break and cut someone? Also look for broken equipment, such as pool ladders. Walk around the entire pool area at the end of each day and remove anything that may harm a child or any other swimmer.
  • Keep Away from Pool Drains. Keep children away from all pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments. Make sure your children are not wearing any loose jewelry, hair accessories or clothing that could get caught in a pool drain.
  • Diving Boards and Slides. Diving boards and slides cause a large number of swimming pool injuries. Do not install them and consider uninstalling them to make your pool safer. If you have them, make sure you have the recommended level of water in your pool to support them. Put out traffic cones around them and tell kids they are only for certain times, such as when you have more adults at the pool.
  • Friends’ Pools. If you drop your child off at a friend’s house, always ask if the family has a pool that is fenced off and look around at neighbors’ homes. Tell the parents who are supervising your child that you prefer the kids play in the sprinkler when you are not there.

Continue reading

Boy at a crosswalk, holding a grown-ups' handAs we approach summer, the message for Massachusetts drivers is to please slow down. Last month, in a matter of days, several car accidents seriously injured or killed pedestrians, some in crosswalks.

On May 19, just after 7 a.m., an Acton 8th grader was struck by a van in a crosswalk at the intersection of Main Street and Hayward Road. She suffered serious injuries, leaving the scene by medical helicopter.

On May 22, a minivan crashed into two elderly women in Sandwich. The women, ages 70 and 88, went into cardiac arrest and later died at Cape Cod Hospital. At the time of impact, the women were in the crosswalk at the intersection of Route 6A and Merchants Road.

Improper food preparation can lead to food poisoning.

Improper food preparation is one source of food poisoning.

Chicken & Rice Guys shutdown restaurants and food trucks in Boston and Medford earlier this month for more than a week, after 14 people became ill with E. coli. Ten people had to be hospitalized. Given the widespread food poisoning outbreak, it is likely that there will be liability claims against Chicken & Rice Guys for the poisonings.

According to The Boston Globe, the illness was caused by the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157:H7, the most common strain of E. coli in the United States. The Mayo Clinic reports a person can contract this type of E. coli through:

Boston Attorney Marc BreakstoneAttorney Marc L. Breakstone was quoted as a legal expert in a Boston Herald article titled “In Driver’s Seat With Insurance” (March 31, 2017). NuTonomy, the self-driving car company now testing its hands-free technology in Boston, has taken out a $5 million insurance policy to guard against lawsuits. Earlier this month, a self-driving Uber vehicle was involved in a car accident in Tempe, Arizona. Police found the Uber vehicle was traveling at 38 mph, below the speed limit, when the collision occurred and was not at fault. While there were no serious injuries, the accident has raised concerns.

Attorney Breakstone was asked whether the City of Boston could be held liable if there is an accident involving NuTonomy. He said no, but read his full answer.

Attorney Reza Breakstone has written on the topic of self-driving cars and the legal questions they raise. In 2016, he co-wrote an article titled, “The Self Driving Car: Science Fiction Becomes Reality, Creating a Legal Quandary,” for The Litigator, the official publication of the Capital City Trial Lawyers Association in Sacramento, California.

Continue reading

Motorcycle riding down open roadMotorcycle season is almost here. For riders, this means goodbye snow and cold; hello to the open road.

Good pre-season preparation is essential for motorcyclists. Take some time to inspect your motorcycle and helmet and review the Massachusetts driving manual. Review your auto insurance as well; most drivers and motorcyclists do not carry enough insurance.

Wear a Helmet. Under Massachusetts law, motorcyclists must wear helmets which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets save lives so make sure yours is in good condition. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or fall, replace your helmet.

Britax stroller which was recalled in February 2017As the weather turns warm, parents will be reaching for the outdoor toys and children’s equipment again. Baby strollers are one of the first products to come out.

Before you use a stroller, check if there are any loose or worn parts. Then check if the stroller has been subject to a product recall and caused anyone injury. You can check online now on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Baby Stroller Recalls. We started with baby strollers because there have been several baby strollers recalled in the past year, including Britax, Aria Child and Phil & Teds strollers. Britax has actually issued two sets of recalls over the past 15 months, one for 60,000 strollers in January 2016 and another for more than 700,000 strollers in February 2017.

Driving on U.S. roads became more dangerous in 2016. Preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 6 percent increase from 2015.

  • This was the first year more than 40,000 people have died in traffic accidents since 2007.
  • According to The New York Times, 2015 and 2016 saw a 14 percent increase in traffic deaths, the largest two-year increase in more than half a century.

2017-heating-300During these cold and frigid days of winter, some of us are reaching for space heaters. If you can, first try to keep warm other ways: reach for blankets or an extra layer of clothing. But if you must use a space heater, use it with caution and make sure you use it properly. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are involved in 32 percent of home heating fires and 79 percent of home heating fire deaths in this country. They are the second leading cause of home fire deaths behind smoking.

There have been several heartbreaking stories this winter. In Baltimore, six children were killed in a devastating fire last month. Officials are still investigating, but say it may have been sparked by a space heater. Just a few days ago, a 50-year-old Fall River woman tragically died after a space heater fire ignited her home.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s office, Massachusetts fire departments responded to 133 space heater fires from 2006 to 2015, resulting in 9 civilian deaths and 22 civilian injuries. Some 31 fire service members suffered injuries.

The Today Show aired a segment this morning, which shows just how quickly space heater fires can ignite. We encourage you to watch it.

Safety Tips for Properly Using a Space Heater

Three Feet Rule. Keep space heaters 3 feet away from all furniture and people. Put them in the center of the room.

Plug in to Wall. Plug space heaters directly into the electrical socket on the wall. Many extension cords cannot handle the strong level of electricity passed on from a space heater.

Beware of Automatic Switches. These switches are helpful, but are not a substitute for you turning off your heater yourself, unplugging it and putting it away.

Turn Space Heaters Off Properly. Turn off space heaters before you go to bed when no one can monitor them. Turn it off anytime you cannot supervise it.

Keep Space Heaters Away from Water. Do not use space heaters near sinks or in bathrooms.

Create a Fire Escape Plan. Family members should all know how to properly evacuate the home and be aware of all the routes.

Check Your Fire Alarm Once a Month. This is always a good idea, but extra important during the winter months.

Inventory Your Home. Because half of all home heating fires occur during December, January and February, now is a good time to walk through your home and look for hazards. Look outside, too. Make sure your home’s outside furnace vent is clear of snow. A blocked vent can put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take Extra Precautions if Children Are in Your Home
Take extra precautions if you live with children. Establish a child-free (and pet-free) zone if you set up a space heater. Keep children as far away from the space heater as possible at all times. Also keep toys away. When finished, turn the space heater off and unplug it. Put it in a safe place which it out of reach of children.

Continue reading

Man flying a droneMore than a million drones were sold this holiday season. If one happened to land in your pile of presents, remember that taking to your neighborhood skies comes with responsibilities. We offer a few reminders about insurance and protecting yourself from financial liability if there is injury or property damage. As a drone operator, you want to make sure that you will be able to pay for damages or personal injury that was caused by your negligence.

Homeowners and Renters Insurance. Start by reviewing your homeowners and renters insurance policies. Then speak to your insurance agent to learn if drone-related accidents are covered.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, drones are most likely covered under these policies. The liability portion of your homeowners insurance may cover you in lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage. Your policy may also provide no-fault medical coverage if someone is accidentally injured by your drone. But there are limits; medical bills for you and family members may not be covered by no-fault medical coverage.

Another reason to have insurance for your drone: If your drone causes bodily injury or property damage, and a claim is brought against you, proper insurance will not only cover the damages; the insurance company will also provide a lawyer to defend the claim against you.

Check with your insurance agent. The insurance industry is actively discussing this topic. Already, some insurers may exclude drone-related accidents from homeowners insurance policies. Others may choose to do so in the future.

Car Insurance. Your auto insurance policy may cover property damage resulting from crash landings or related accidents. Ask your auto insurance agent.

Commercial Users. If you operate a drone for business (even for a part-time business), you should ask your agent if you are covered. This would not typically be covered under your homeowners insurance policy.

Safety Reminders. Never use your drone recklessly and always follow current safety regulations. Drone owners are required to register drones with the FAA and fly at or below 400 feet. Failure to do so could result in a fine. To learn more, watch this safety video from the FAA.

Theft. Consider theft insurance if it make sense. Some drones are small and can be easily stolen. But remember many homeowners have to pay a deductible if they file a claim. If you own an inexpensive drone it will likely be less than your deductible. Maybe it was time to upgrade to the fancier drone anyway.

Memberships. If you do not have adequate coverage, consider your options. You may be able to buy more insurance coverage from your carrier or research other insurance carriers. You may also qualify for coverage if you belong to a membership organization or club. The New York Times reported the Academy of Model Aeronautics offers group liability coverage as part of its $75 per year membership. This may pay for damages after your homeowners insurance policy is exhausted.

Time to Get Started
If you are a drone owner, we hope you take the time to check with your insurance agent so you understand your potential liability. Drone crashes can happen on your property or a neighbor’s property and you want to be prepared.

Here are two resources:

“Getting a Drone as a Gift? Check Your Insurance,” New York Times.

“Going Drone for the Holidays? Make Insurance Part of Your Pre-Flight Check,” Insurance Information Institute.

Continue reading

Attorney Marc L. Breakstone was quoted in a front-page Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article about common law liability for injuries caused by sidewalk defects. The current common-law standard dates back centuries and prohibits many plaintiffs from recovering compensation for injuries. But a recent Appeals Court ruling may have finally set the stage for change.

Attorney Breakstone welcomes the idea. “I think that the common law is a living body of principles that has to evolve as social conditions and the realities of life evolve,” he said.

20161128_sidewalkdefectEarlier this month, the Appeals Court ruled in the case of Halbach, et al. v. Normandy Real Estate Partners, et al., concurring that a Superior Court judge had correctly granted summary judgment to the defendant, 100 & 200 Clarendon LLC, which operated, leased and maintained the John Hancock Tower and a neighboring garage in Boston.