Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Fidget spinner missing a piece in boy's hands

Fidget spinners have been one of the most popular gifts of 2017, but the small pieces can fall out and cause a child to choke.

By now, the children in your life have probably sent you their holiday toy wish lists. But just as important is the holiday “don’t buy” list.

W.A.T.C.H. released nominees for its “10 Worst Toys of 2017” list in mid-November, leading with Hallmark’s “Ittys Bitty” Baby Stacking Toy. This toy was recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in August. The fabric hats and bows on the Disney characters can detach and cause a young child to choke. This toy also has no safety warnings or age recommendations.

Toy 2: Tolo’s Tug Along Pony. This toy is marketed for children 12 months and older. It has a 19-inch cord, which is permitted for pull-along toys. But W.A.T.C.H. says this toy poses a strangulation hazard and does not carry any safety warnings.

Toy 3: The Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword. This toy is recommended for children age 6 and up. Before you buy, note that the sword is large and sharp enough to cause facial or impact injuries. The packaging also gets a failing grade. It encourages children to “fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.”

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Thanksgiving week traffic jam in Boston

Driving to your Thanksgiving destination can be demanding. Read our tips to help you get there safely with a little less stress (if that’s possible).

We all want to know the secret to beating the Thanksgiving week traffic out of Boston. To help, we have put together a few travel tips. Please travel safely, be patient and enjoy this special time of year with your family and friends.

Traffic Apps and Resources. Here are a few websites for travelers: Boston.com/Traffic or Mass511.com. Traffic apps: Google Maps, Waze, AAA or GoTime.

Boston’s Worst Traffic Bottlenecks. AAA is reporting on the Boston region’s 10 top traffic bottlenecks for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. They include several locations along Interstate 93, Interstate 95 and the MassPike (Interstate 90).  Read the full list now before you drive. Try to avoid them if you can.

Check Your Car. Whether you drive your own car or rent a vehicle, spend a few minutes in the driver’s seat before you leave. Make sure you know how to use key features such as the blinkers, headlights and the heating system. Many new vehicles now have complex infotainment systems. Decide now what features you need to use for this trip – and which are distractions.

Essentials. Make sure your motor vehicle registration is in your glove compartment and that you have your health insurance card (or cards if you are a parent traveling with children).

Choose the Best Travel Times. AAA predicts a 3 percent increase in holiday travel this year, so we know to expect more traffic. Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon will be the most challenging time, according to Waze. Another busy travel time is Thanksgiving Day between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Plan to Stop. Take a break to fend off fatigue and let kids burn off energy. Stop once every two hours.

Gas Up and Emergency Kit. Always start your trip with a full tank of gas. Then, make sure you have a strong emergency kit, with jumper cables, a quart of motor oil, coolant, a first aid kit and a toolkit. Find your auto club membership, a safety vest, a flashlight with extra batteries and a roadside flare. Finally, pack warm clothes, blankets and your cell phone charger.

Commit to Use Your Cell Phone Safely. Our best tip for you is to turn your phone off. If you are traveling with someone, ask them to hold your cell phone and receive occasional phone calls or traffic alerts for you.

When traffic is heavy, a driver can cause a multi-car pile-up with a single glance at a cell phone – and that’s on any given day. The traffic is much worse during the Thanksgiving Week. That is why texting while driving is banned in Massachusetts and 46 other states, and why many are pushing to see Massachusetts ban all cell phone use by drivers.

No Drinking and Driving Accidents. Drunk driving accidents increase during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving week. Always, always travel with a designated driver who agrees not to drink. Or do not consume alcohol. No one ever regrets making this decision the next morning.

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Black dog bites at a woman in Massachusetts

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners who own certain dog breeds.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners based on their dog’s breed.

Rep. Jack M. Lewis (D-Framingham) is the sponsor of H.554, which would ensure dog owners can buy insurance to provide compensation to anyone injured by their pet.

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Parking lot serving the MBTA Commuter Rail Station in Waltham. The parking lot is on Carter Street, which the city may upgrade in coming years.

Some of the region’s most dangerous roads and intersections are about to be redesigned in Waltham.

The City of Waltham released its 180-page transportation master plan last January. Some of the steps will drastically change the roads – for example, removing a traffic lane on Lexington Street, acquiring land to expand a road and a “super crosswalk.” The goal is to reduce Waltham car accidents and make it easier to travel the city. This is a 10-year master plan, but some changes have already been made.

Over the summer, the city removed a lane of traffic on Lexington Street, from Curve Street to Lake Street. The city’s goal was to reduce car accidents caused by speeding. The speed limit is 30 mph, but drivers often travel 40 to 45 mph.

The street was repainted with two southbound lanes and one northbound lane. Over the first few days, there was a lot of confusion. Some drivers continued to travel on the old lane –  head-on into traffic in the new lane – putting vehicles at risk for a collision, according to a news report.

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20141118_crosswalkPedestrian safety was the focus of several NBC Boston reports last night. One segment was called “Boston’s Crosswalk Crisis” and another was called “Cro$$walk Crisis: Private Funding for Public Ways.” They are worth viewing for anyone who lives or works in Boston. A few figures from the reports:

  • Pedestrian deaths rose 15 percent in Boston in 2016.
  • Nine pedestrians have died this year, up 30 percent from this time last year.

College student and moving box

Many college students heading to Boston will be living in off-campus housing. The attorneys of Breakstone, White & Gluck share safety tips and resources.

College students are just days away from starting the Fall semester. In Boston and Cambridge, we urge students to make time for an extra lesson on safe housing. Make sure you understand your rights as a tenant and your landlord’s responsibility to maintain a safe property.

Boston and Cambridge have more than 40 colleges and universities. Because of a shortage in dorm space, many students end up in off-campus housing. Unfortunately, some find themselves dealing with unresponsive landlords who want to collect rent, without doing the work to maintain a property. If you are in this situation, it is important to remember that if a landlord is charging you rent, you have the right to a safe and sanitary apartment.

When a landlord is unresponsive and negligent, it can lead to many problems. It can result in sanitary issues, such as mold, rodents or a bug infestations. It can also lead to broken equipment (for instance, a broken smoke alarm, which needs to be addressed right away).

Porch collapses and fires are two of the most common and serious types of premises liability accidents. As a result of landlord negligence, over the past 10 years, five college students have died in off-campus fires in Massachusetts, according to the state’s website.

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ATM skimming

Take the right steps to protect yourself from ATM skimming. Many Massachusetts consumers have been targeted.

You insert your ATM card and out comes cash for the week. Simple, right? Next time, pay closer attention. Many Massachusetts consumers are being scammed – or skimmed – for their financial information, at a tremendous price.

ATMs – automated teller machines – are a convenient way to get cash or make deposits. Unlike banks, they are always open and accessible.

But they are vulnerable to ATM skimming, when thieves install hidden electronic skimming devices on an ATM to record a consumer’s financial information. Massachusetts has seen several recent cases.

Just this week, Cambridge Police issued an alert, seeking a man who fraudulently ran up $800 on a Cambridge woman’s ATM card. Police say he may have skimmed her financial information at an ATM in Boston. ATM skimming rarely claims just one victim, though. In June, the Lowell Sun reported on two men who pled guilty after ringing up over $100,000 on 100 credit card numbers they skimmed in the Boston area.  Other stories have also been reported in Framingham, Burlington and on the South Shore

The problem is skimming devices are often small and look like part of an ATM, so consumers may not notice them, even if they are looking.

Use caution at the ATM machine. We suggest the following tips to help you protect your financial information:

  • Examine the card slot before inserting your card. Look for anything loose, crooked, damaged or scratched. If you observe anything suspicious, do not swipe your card. We suggest you read this article, “How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers,” by PC Magazine.
  • Thieves also need your PIN code. They often record your information through hidden cameras. When entering your PIN, cover the keypad with your other hand to prevent your PIN from being recorded.
  • Walk away from an ATM if you notice someone watching you or you sense something is wrong with the machine.
  • Avoid ATM machines with minimal supervision. For instance, try not to use stand-alone ATM machines in convenience stores, bars or parking lots.
  • Also beware of skimming devices when paying at gas stations.
  • If an ATM does not return your card when a transaction is over, report the incident immediately to your financial institution.
  • Never give out your bank account number or the PIN for your ATM card. If someone calls you and asks for your information, hang up and report the call to your local police department.
  • Monitor your account for unauthorized transactions and report them to your financial institution immediately. Most banks offer online access, which allows you to check your statements easily.
  • Set a daily cash withdrawal limit. Ask your bank and credit card company to notify you of transactions—these can be sent right to your cell phone.
  • Check in on senior citizens in your family or neighbors. Tell them you are concerned about ATM skimming. Remind them to check their bank accounts, and also, to never give their financial information out to callers over the telephone.
  • The most important step? Contact police and your bank if you suspect anything suspicious. The sooner police and your financial institution can start investigating, the better for everyone using the ATM machine.

If you do find yourself a victim, remember you have rights. Under Massachusetts law, consumers are only liable for up to $50 if they are the victim of credit card or debit card fraud. But you must report the fraud immediately to avoid any financial losses. Read this article to learn more.

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Cyclists may now ride safer near parked cars, after a recent update to the Massachusetts driver’s manual. On page 109, there is a new title, “The Danger of Open Doors to Bicyclists,” and instructions for the Dutch Reach method of exiting a car.

A common practice in the Netherlands, the Dutch Reach method calls on drivers to park and take three simple steps:

  • Check your rear-view mirror.
  • Check your side-view mirror.
  • Open the door with your far hand, the hand farthest away from the door.

This last step forces drivers to turn their bodies, so they can see cyclists and pedestrians coming from both directions.

A Cambridge man campaigned for the change, which was announced by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on May 30th. According to The Boston Globe, Michael Charney launched the website dutchreach.org following the death of Amanda Phillips, a 27-year-old barista at Somerville’s Diesel Café. Phillips was riding her bicycle in Inman Square in Cambridge when she struck the open door of a parked Jeep. As a result, Philips was pushed into the street and collided with a dump truck.

This is known as a dooring accident or a car-dooring crash. We have represented numerous cyclists in these accidents, which can cause very serious injuries and are more common than you may realize. According to the City of Boston, dooring accidents accounted for up to 13 percent of all bicycle crashes between 2009 and 2012.

Massachusetts is one of 40 states which have passed dooring laws, according to the League of American Cyclists. Under M.G.L. c. 90 § 14, “No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Drivers can be fined $100 for each violation. But the greater penalty is drivers may have to pay compensation to injured cyclists. Read about a recent settlement we obtained for a cyclist injured in a dooring accident in Brookline.

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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.
  • Pool Alarm. Another idea is a pool alarm that notifies you about activity near your pool. A pool alarm is required for pools that are surrounded by three walls of fencing and a 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. If you don’t, a young child could easily climb and fall in.
  • Inspect Pool Area. If you have a home pool, 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. Make it a practice to walk around the entire pool area at the end of each day and remove any hazards. 
  • 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.

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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.