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Maine Is Mad For Motorcycles

Portland Maine Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

motorcycle accident attorneyMaine’s scenic highways are consistently ranked among the nation’s top ten motorcycle routes.  With 3,478 miles of breathtaking coastline, over 60 lighthouses and almost 50 peninsulas to explore, there’s plenty of natural beauty to appreciate as you travel the state’s picturesque byways.

But before you set out on the motorcycle adventure of a lifetime,  it’s important to refresh your knowledge of motorcycle safety.

Mom Was Right: Wear A Helmet

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. A rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to die of a head injury than one who isn’t wearing a helmet during an accident.

Function:  When purchasing a helmet,  go for function and safety over looks.  Novelty helmets do not offer adequate safety protection.  Select a helmet that meets recognized safety standards and regulations.

Fit: Your helmet should fit snugly, and you shouldn’t be able to fit more than a fingertip between the helmet and your forehead. Consider a full face or flip-up helmet,  which offers more protection and also helps protect the rider from road debris, bugs, and the elements. Full face helmets are designed to be more aerodynamic,  which also helps minimize rider fatigue. Make sure your helmet has good ventilation and superior visibility.  Do not buy used helmets,  and replace helmets that have been dropped or involved in a crash.  Experts suggest replacing all helmets every five years.

Smooth Operator: Get a valid motorcycle driver’s license.  If you are a new rider, know your limits and understand how to keep yourself and your bike well balanced and maintained. Give yourself time to get the hang of riding.  Don’t push yourself or your bike past the limits of safety or common sense.

Arrive Alive: Never operate your motorcycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  42% of motorcycle riders who died in a single vehicle crash had blood alcohol levels above 0.08%.  If you are tired, stop and take a rest. Avoid all driving distractions. Save talking, texting and fiddling with the radio and other electronics for rest stops.

Need For Speed: Excessive speed is a factor in 48% of motorcycle fatalities.    You don’t have to go fast to have fun.  Slow down and enjoy the ride. Not only will take in more of Maine’s picturesque beauty, but you’ll also significantly reduce your chances of being injured in an accident.

Look Out Lefties:  38% of fatal traffic accidents (involving two vehicles) occur when a vehicle is turning left in front of a motorcycle (failure to yield). Approach situations where another vehicle should yield with extreme caution, because they may not see you.

Mind the Messes:  Sand, gravel, wet pavement, icy conditions, and fog are all dangerous for motorcycles, which have less traction than automobiles. Avoid driving on the road shoulder, and be extra cautious in construction zones.  If an accident occurs as a result of unsafe road conditions (such as gravel in a construction site or another vehicle leaking oil) it is possible that another party is liable for damages incurred in your accident.

Look Ahead: A good rule of thumb is to assume other motorists can’t see you.  That way,  you’ll learn to anticipate when other drivers make sudden lane shifts, to avoid their blind spots, and focus on keeping a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles.  Never split lanes, speed or drive on the shoulder of the road. In heavy traffic,  keep an eye on the motorist in front of you. Watch their head movements,  not simply their tail lights.  If they look down, slow down yourself (they may be distracted by a cell phone,  other passengers, etc, which you can then anticipate by slowing down yourself). Many motorcyclists are injured when distracted drivers don’t notice them. It’s in your best interest to drive defensively whenever possible.

Safe Gear: Increase your visibility by keeping your headlights on, and wearing bright,  reflective clothing.  Keep yourself safe by wearing high-quality safety gear when you are riding.  Although you may feel footloose and fancy-free hopping on your bike in a t-shirt,  shorts and pair of sandals,  you need appropriate safety gear- unless, of course, you want to be a SQUID (aka Stupid Quick Underdressed Imminently Dead)!

Exploring Maine’s spectacular scenery will be even more enjoyable when you stay safe, alert and don’t become another motorcycle accident statistic.  If you are injured in a motorcycle accident and suspect the other driver was at fault, or if you were injured in a hit and run accident, contact the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  We understand motorcycle personal injury cases and can help assess your case and secure the fair and just compensation you deserve.

Automobile Accidents and Cervicogenic (CEH) Headaches

traumatic brain injury lawyer Maine

headaches after car accidentCervicogenic (CEH) headaches are defined as headaches caused by pain referred from the neck. Although cervicogenic headaches sometimes mimic symptoms of tension, migraine or cluster headaches,  their origins, causative factors and treatment are distinctly different.

‘Cervicogenic’ is a term that refers to the cervical area of the spine, which is located near the base of the skull.  Many patients with cervicogenic headaches have suffered damage, compression or irritation to the first three spinal nerves (C-1, C-2 and C-3). These nerves make up the upper (cervical) portion of the neck, and allow the neck to move and experience sensation.  If the spinal nerves in the cervical area are damaged,  it can lead to headaches or ‘referred pain’ which comes from the neck, and may cause frequent headaches when the patient moves the neck and subsequently ‘triggers’ cervicogenic headaches.

Symptoms

Most patients with cervicogenic headaches have unilateral (one-sided) head pain.  Many patients describe cervicogenic headaches as a steady pain near the base of the skull which sometimes extends to the back and shoulder blades. Some patients also experience pain in the front of their heads (near their eyebrows or forehead).  Unlike other types of headaches (e.g. cluster, migraine, tension),  cervicogenic headaches are not usually described as throbbing and are usually brought on by sudden neck movements (movements can be as minor as sneezing or bending).

Patients with cervicogenic headaches may also:

  • Exhibit sensitivity to light, motion and sound (and may experience nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, etc.) but these symptoms are usually less intense and frequent than those experienced during a migraine and other types of headaches.
  • Experience pain in the same arm and/or shoulder where their headache occurs (but pain sometimes occurs in both arms/shoulders).
  • Exhibit a limited range of motion in the neck.
  • Have their headaches triggered as a result of specific neck movements or pressures on their neck or spine (which can usually be pinpointed by a doctor’s physical examination of the neck and cervical area).
  • Develop an extremely stiff neck during their headache (and may experience near immobility due to neck or head pain).

Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose cervicogenic headaches because their symptoms often mimic other headaches, and the exact cause of a headache is not always immediately clear to the patient or the medical provider.  Diagnostic tests are often inconclusive (x-rays and scans such as MRIs and CAT scans do not show damage to soft tissues,  which often contribute to cervicogenic headaches).

In order to properly diagnose and treat a cervicogenic headache,  your medical provider must first determine that your pain is definitely referred from your neck.  This can be done with a physical examination (which will determine exactly where your pain is coming from,  and what neck movements trigger your headaches). Other tests may include a diagnostic anesthetic blockade, combined with additional diagnostic tests.

Cervicogenic Headaches After Automobile Accidents

CEH Six Years After Whiplash Injury – According to a large study of cervicogenic headaches after car accident and from whiplash injuries  (Department of Neurosurgery, Ullevaal University Hospital, Oslo, Norway), current imaging techniques and electrophysiological tests are not usually able to show the neck damage that causes cervicogenic headaches.  This is a significant finding for victims of automobile accidents, especially victims of low-speed automobile accidents.

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may not suffer “obvious” trauma as a result of an automobile accident.  For example, they may not lose consciousness as a result of their crash or suffer any broken bones.  They may not even suffer visible bumps or bruises.  But that does not necessarily mean they were not injured in the crash

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue is the connective tissue that holds our bones in place and helps maintains their proper alignment.  If the delicate soft tissues that hold our bones in place is being damaged in an automobile accident, it can cause long-term health problems.  Even low-speed automobile accidents (accidents which occur at speeds under 5 mph) have been shown to cause damage to soft tissues and may lead to lasting injury or damage that does not readily show up on radiographic or x-ray studies.

Injuries to soft tissue,  especially injury to the delicate soft tissue of the cervical spinal area,  are often sustained by victims of low-speed automobile accidents when neck flexion and extension causes microtears,  irritation or damage to soft tissues in the cervical area.  But these soft tissue injuries are notoriously difficult to ‘see’ on conventionally available diagnostic x-rays and scans and are often missed by medical providers (especially ER doctors,  who are trained to look for more obvious signs of trauma).

Victims of low-speed automobile accidents may suffer damage to soft tissues as a result of their automobile accident,  but often show no obvious signs of physical trauma.  This is why it’s vitally important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after an automobile accident.

Cervicogenic headaches are just one example of “invisible” injuries that may occur after a low-speed automobile accident.  Headaches after an automobile accident occur immediately following the accident,  or they may show up days, weeks or months after the accident occurred. Doctors and patients may miss or dismiss these symptoms (“I’m fine,  I don’t even have a bruise!”).  This is one reason why it is extremely wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney after an automobile accident. Don’t gamble with your well-being; your long-term health and ability to live a productive and active life are too precious and valuable.  If you have been injured in an automobile accident,  let the Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing assess your case, and help you get the just and fair compensation you deserve.

ADHD, Distracted Driving and Auto Accidents

distractions while driving

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)  is a common developmental problem that affects millions of children, teens, and adults.  It can be difficult to diagnose correctly but is typically characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

distractions while driving

ADHD: Background

According to current estimates:

  • 1 in 5 high school boys has ADHD.
  • 11 percent of school-aged children over-all has a current diagnosis of ADHD.
  • 60 percent of children with ADHD will continue to have symptoms into adulthood.
  • 4 percent of the adult US population is affected by ADHD (roughly 8 million adults).
  • More men are diagnosed with ADHD than women.
  • There is a shortage of psychiatrists who specialize in the diagnosis treatment of ADHD.

Rise In ADHD Diagnosis: Cause for Concern?

In the past decade,  the number of children and teens being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has risen by 66 percent.  Some experts believe this increase is a welcome sign, indicating that the medical community is effectively recognizing and treating the symptoms of ADHD in children and teens who suffer from debilitating symptoms that negatively affect their performance in school.

Other doctors, researchers, and patient advocates, however,  are not so easily convinced.  They see the steep increase in diagnoses as a sign that ADHD is being seriously over diagnosed and over treated with powerfully addictive psychostimulant medications that carry a high risk of addiction and abuse.

While it is true that the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD are not without controversy when children,  teens, and adults who suffer from ADHD do receive proper diagnosis and treatment, they are able to control their symptoms and function more effectively at school, work and home.

More Diagnoses of ADHD Causing Concern – New York Times

Parents whose children receive an ADHD diagnosis are often confused,  and unsure whether the risks of using powerful psychostimulant medications to treat ADHD symptoms outweigh their benefits.  Recent studies indicate that psychostimulants were used in 96 percent of ADHD treatments in 2000 but fell to 87 percent in 2010.  Although the exact reason for this decrease is not clear,  other medications were not used in substitution.  This could mean that children,  teens and adults who need treatment are not receiving the help they need,  but studies have not reached any definitive conclusion on the matter.

Rise In ADHD – Science Daily

Adults and ADHD

Adults who suffer from ADHD typically exhibit difficulty concentrating, organizing tasks, following directions, remembering information and completing work within appropriate time limits.  If their symptoms are not treated,  they can suffer confusing and difficult consequences that affect their social,  emotional, and academic lives.  Their career prospects may suffer. Undiagnosed ADHD can also be at the root of long-standing difficulties relating to co-workers, friends, and family.  Studies show that fewer adults with ADHD are treated for their symptoms because many mistakenly believe that ADHD is a “children’s” disorder.

The consequences of ignoring the symptoms of adult ADHD are serious because it is a disorder that affects so many aspects of adult functioning.  Adults with untreated ADHD are more likely to engage in a variety of risky behaviors and are more likely to have substance abuse problems.  Adults with symptoms of ADHD should consult a qualified physician who can assess and diagnose their condition so that they can receive proper help and treatment.

Adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD are statistically more likely to:

  • Have suspended licenses.
  • Have been cited for driving violations (such as speeding).
  • Rate themselves as having poorer driving habits.
  • Use illegal substances more frequently.

Web MD

Study Shows ADHD Tied to More Traffic Accidents

According to a recent study of Swedish drivers, men with ADHD who were being treated with ADHD medication were 58 percent less likely to be involved in a traffic accident when they were taking  ADHD medication.  Researchers also found that men who were taking ADHD medication were 29 percent less likely to be involved in a serious traffic accident while taking their medication.

No substantial difference in risk for traffic accidents was found for women who were being treated with ADHD medication,  but researchers noted that fewer women were involved in the study overall, so the numbers reflected  by the study may not have been accurate.

For the study,  researchers collected data on Swedish drivers between 2006 and 2009.  During that time frame,  there were approximately 214 serious accidents for every 10,000 men with ADHD  each year.  In that same time frame,  there were about 77 serious accidents per 10,000 men without ADHD.

Researchers suspect that because ADHD typically involves an increase in inattention and impulsivity,  distracted driving and dangerous driving behaviors may increase when drivers are not receiving appropriate treatment for their ADHD symptoms.

Distracted Driving and ADHD

Distracted driving puts all motorists at increased risk for serious traffic related crashes in injuries, and should be avoided at all costs. According to the DISTRACTION.GOV site:

  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing, and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

No driver should engage in any behavior that takes their focus off the road and their driving and endangers other drivers.  AAA notes that distracted driving accounts for 25 to 50% of all traffic accidents.

For teens and adults with ADHD,  it is especially important to avoid distracted driving. Any of the following behaviors can distract a driver,  causes an accident.

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Not all drivers with ADHD are distracted or poor drivers.  But if a driver has ADHD or untreated ADHD, it may cause an increase in distracted driving or impulsivity.  A diagnosis of ADHD should be taken very seriously.  If you suspect you or a loved one has ADHD,  consult a qualified physician for assessment and treatment.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident and you suspect distracted or impaired driving may be a factor,  please call the experienced and caring personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing. Our Maine personal injury attorneys understand how to approach distracted driving cases, answer your questions about insurance companies and get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.  Being injured in a car accident is traumatic and painful,  and not something you need to deal with on your own.  Let the personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing fight for your rights, and get you the just and fair compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.

Ring In the New Year Safely

2014 New Year celebration

It’s hard to believe, but the holiday season whizzed by in a flash and we’re poised on the edge of a new year. New Year’s is a time for reflection when we cast out all things old and ring in a new year with style and sparkle.

no drinking and driving

Sadly,  there is a  darker side to this festive holiday, due in part to the spike in drunk and impaired driving deaths and automobile accidents and injuries which occur on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  We have some important safety tips for party goers and party hosts that may help you stay a bit safer this New Year’s.

Although the statistics vary slightly from year to year, drivers are far more likely to share the road with an impaired driver and be killed or injured in an automobile accident on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day than almost any other day of the year. In 2012, MADD reports that 70 people were killed in drunk driving automobile accidents, which represents over half of all traffic fatalities for that year alone.

So, whether you’re are hosting a New Year’s Eve party or attending one, here are a few safety tips and ideas to keep in mind.

Safety Tips for Ringing In the New Year 

Ideas for Maine Party Hosts:

  • When guests RSVP to your event, ask them whether they plan to drink alcohol. Confirm they will have a sober/designated driver (or another safe plan to get home).
  • Serve food alongside alcoholic beverages to keep guests from drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Have plenty of water and other beverages available (especially non-alcoholic mocktails for the designated drivers) and don’t serve too many salty snacks (which tend to make guests thirsty and apt to drink more).
  • Post the numbers of local taxi services prominently at your front door and have the numbers programmed into your own phone.
  • 90 minutes before your party ends,  stop serving alcohol.
  • Do not rely on coffee to sober up a driver.  Only time can make people sober.
  • If you are serving an alcoholic punch, don’t use a carbonated base. Carbonation causes alcohol to enter the bloodstream faster.
  • Don’t push drinks!
  • NEVER serve alcohol to minors.
  • Plan party games or other activities to keep guests busy and having fun. Alcohol does not need to be the sole focus of your event.
  • A MADD survey showed that at least 73% of adults have witnessed a driver get behind the wheel of a vehicle after having had too much to drink; 19% of those adults did nothing to stop the impaired driver. If you suspect someone is impaired and is therefore not safe to drive, MADD suggests  these alternatives:  be as non-confrontational as possible, but try to  take their keys; offer a ride home; call a taxi; enlist the help of others to convince the impaired guest to seek another safe way home; offer them a place to stay; if necessary, alert the authorities.

Tips for Party Goers:

  • If you plan on drinking this New Year’s, designate a sober driver you can rely on. Leave your keys at home, plan to use public transportation, call a taxi, walk home, spend the night at a friend’s or ask for a ride home with a someone you know is sober. Above all,  do not drink and drive and wear your seatbelt.
  • Refuse to ride in a vehicle with someone who has been drinking. Your life and safety are worth too far too much – don’t turn those precious gifts over to a drunk driver.
  • Program the number of a taxi service and friends you know plan to remain sober on your phone before you go out for the evening.
  • Choose to stay home for the evening. If you drink, then you know for certain that you won’t be getting behind the wheel or be sharing the roadways with impaired drivers.
  • Celebrate New Year’s without drinking.  New Year’s and alcohol don’t have to go together.
  • Ring in the New Year at a party or restaurant within walking distance of your home.

The Maine personal injury attorneys of Hardy, Wolf and Downing want each and every person across our beautiful state of Maine to celebrate a safe, happy and healthy New Year.  So please, wear your seat belts, don’t drink and drive and don’t ride with an impaired driver.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident or have been otherwise injured by a drunken or impaired driver, please call our experienced Maine personal injury lawyers. We will handle your case with the utmost care and concern. Our personal injury attorneys have the skill, knowledge and personal injury expertise required to get you the compensation and justice you deserve.

Stay safe, and have a happy 2014!

Black Ice Causes Multiple Accidents on Maine Turnpike

distractions while driving

Black ice brought traffic to a standstill on the Maine Turnpike Sunday evening.  During the daylight hours,  the roads remained relatively safe.  But between 5 and 5:30 pm,  the sun began to set and conditions changed drastically.  Around 5 pm, a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the northbound lanes of traffic, between Falmouth and Gray, forcing Maine emergency responders to shut down several northbound lanes of traffic.  The Maine Turnpike Authority also reported multiple motor vehicle accidents in the northbound lanes.

driving on icy roads

This winter driving scenario highlights the importance of understanding the dangers of winter driving in Maine,  especially when black ice becomes a factor on roadway surfaces.
All vehicles (such as the tractor-trailer involved in Sunday’s turnpike accident) respond differently to black ice.  It is important to understand how your vehicle responds in snowy, icy conditions before they occur so that you can keep yourself and the occupants of your vehicle safe.

Although good tires and a well maintained vehicle are important safeguards for winter drivers, experts cautions that there are no tires, brakes, vehicles or equipment that can help you stop on black ice if you are driving too fast for conditions.  Excessive speed is one of the biggest factors in deadly winter automobile traffic accidents,  and overconfidence due to four wheel or all wheel drives, anti-lock brakes or other bells and whistles on your vehicle can lead to deadly over confidence when  driving in wintery conditions.  It is vital for your safety and the safety of other motorists to  leave extra distance between vehicles (a minimum of 8-10 seconds between vehicles), and to travel no more than 35-40 mph in icy, snowy conditions.  If black ice conditions exists, speeds of 10 mph may be too fast!

AAA suggests that motorists practice slow speed maneuvers in an empty snow covered parking lot to get a feel for how your vehicle responds in icy conditions. In addition,  it’s wise to familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s breaking system by reading your owner’s manual.  Above all,  remember that no matter how experienced of a driver you are,  no driver is immune to the dangers of black ice, and should therefore always remain vigilant and cautious when driving in  wintery conditions.

Maine.gov-Dangers of Black Ice 

Black ice can form very quickly,  and can be extremely difficult to detect.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration calls black ice one of the deadliest of all winter driving hazards.   Remember: there are no tires or equipment that can help you easily stop or start on black ice – no drivers are immune to this extreme danger. ALL drivers must slow down and take extra precautions on black ice. If you can,  stay off the road when winter driving conditions are forecasted to get ugly.  Better to be at home safe than battling the snow, ice and traffic on the turnpike if at all possible!

Maine drivers must be on the look-out for this dangerous,  deadly hazard so that they can recognize to respond to this dangerous condition by slowing down. The following tips will help you recognize black ice,  and give you some should you encounter icy road conditions or black ice.

Watch for Black Ice In the Following Areas:

  • Areas of road that look wet, dark or like new pavement.
  • Bridges and underpasses.
  • Shady areas, or areas with puddles , standing water or areas that may get run off water from melting snow or rain.
  • Any time the temperature is below 40 degrees.
  • Evidence of other vehicles sliding.
  • If the road surface looks dark or wet, watch the vehicle directly in front of you.  If the vehicle is not leaving tracks or “throwing water” from its wheels, the roadway may be covered in black ice. Proceed with caution!

If You Encounter Black Ice, Remember the Following Tips:

  • Do not use cruise control in icy conditions. You must have complete control of your vehicle in icy, snowy conditions.
  • Slow down, don’t tailgate and leave extra distance between vehicles.
  • Avoid sudden, jerky movements when conditions are icy.  Make smooth, precise movements with your steering wheel,  and don’t slam on the brakes.
  •  Anticipate lane changes, curves in the road, exits, etc.  Don’t pull out suddenly into oncoming traffic.  This will help you avoid skids and emergency situations.
  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • Wear your seatbelt, and insist the occupants in your vehicle buckle up as well.
  • Minimize distractions. Don’t text and drive or drive impaired in any way.
  • Don’t drive when you are fatigued.  Winter driving demands the full use of your faculties and demands a great deal of concentration and attention.

Black Ice Causes Numerous Crashes on Maine Turnpike

Braking Tips:

  • Don’t slam on the brakes.  Use smooth,  controlled movements if you need to hit the brakes or slow down. Anticipate curves, lane changes, and look ahead 20-30 seconds for any moves you may need to make so that you’re prepared.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes,  do not pump the brakes if you need to stop.  Depress the brake completely and hold it. The vehicle’s ABS system should allow you to brake without locking and allow you to slow your vehicle as you steer.
  • If you do not have anti-lock brakes, use the “heel-and-toe” braking method.  Keep your heel on the floor as you use your toes to press the brake pedal firmly without completely depressing and locking the brake. Do this repeatedly until you come to a full stop.  If the brakes lock,  release your foot briefly, and go back to the “heel-and-toe” braking method.
  • If your vehicle begins to skid,  remember to steer in the direction of the skid.  It may also be helpful to shift your transmission into neutral when you are trying to come to a controlled stop on black ice.  Above all,  remain calm.  If possible,  steer away from other vehicles,  into the side of the road and away from trees, girders, etc.

Educating yourself about the dangers of winter driving in Maine is an important way to keep you, your family and other motorists safe.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you suspect the other driver was impaired, driving recklessly or knowingly driving an unsafe vehicle,  please contact the experienced Maine personal injury team at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing.  We have handled thousands of Maine personal injury cases and motor vehicle accident cases, and know exactly how to handle insurance companies, investigators, and what questions to ask to get you the compensation you deserve.  Don’t settle for less than you deserve if you have been injured in an automobile accident due to another driver’s negligence.  Call the personal injury team at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing,  and let us fight on your behalf.

Holidays With Aging Parents – Signs Moms and Dad Need Help

Elderly woman sitting next to Christmas tree

aging parentsThe holidays give busy families a much-needed opportunity to pause and spend quality time together. For adult children with aging parents,  the holidays also provide a golden opportunity to assess how well their elderly parents are managing the routine tasks of daily living.

Whether your elderly loved one resides at home or in a Maine assisted living or nursing facility, the time spent together during the holidays can be used to gather important information about your loved one’s general health and well being.

When you get together with your elderly loved one this holiday season,  be alert for the following signs and subtle indications of decline, ill health or, in the worst case scenario, potential abuse, depending on their particular living situation:

  • Weight loss – can signal depression, hidden medical conditions, physical difficulties (inability to cook or drive to the grocery store) or memory loss (simply forgetting to eat).
  • Weight gain – can also signal depression, underlying medical conditions (diabetes), poor eating habits (such as an over-reliance on convenience foods if cooking or driving to the store has become difficult).
  • Dangers of Elderly Drivers
  • Bumps, bruises and band-aids – may be a serious sign your loved one has been having more falls.  If they reside in a nursing home,  this is a particular cause for concern and reason to ask lots of questions. When, how and why are the falls occurring? Is there enough staff assigned to your elderly loved one? Do they need additional assistance in bathing, dressing or eating? Is their living area safe, clean, well lit and free of tripping/slipping hazards? Are calls for help answered promptly?
  • Refusal to try new activities – if your elderly loved one becomes angry, agitated or withdrawn when you invite them to try a new card game or join in a family sing-along, this may be a sign of early onset dementia (or another emotional or physical difficulty).  New tasks are often extremely challenging and disconcerting for those experiencing early memory loss.  If a loved one suddenly seems withdrawn, depressed or exhibits marked changes in personality, seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.
  • Changes in appearance – if personal grooming habits have fallen by the wayside,  it could mean your elderly loved one is having difficulty bathing,  dressing, getting out for haircuts or is suffering from depression or a serious medical condition.
  • Unopened mail, unread magazines, and newspapers – potential signs that bill paying has become overwhelming and confusing (this can be due to a combination of neurological or physical issues).
  • Clutter around the house – plants or animals that aren’t well tended, broken appliances or spills and stains around the house are often signs that your loved one can no longer keep up with general housekeeping and chores on their own.
  • Signs that your loved one has been staying in the house for days – isolation leads to depression.  This may also mean driving has become a challenge. This is dangerous on many levels.  For example, if your elderly loved one is unable to drive,  they won’t be able to respond in an emergency situation (such as a flood, fire, hurricane,  etc.)
  • 8 Clues Your Aging Parents Aren’t OK
  • Signs of impaired driving – dents/nicks in car, unsafe driving behavior (tailgating, distracted driving, refusal to wear a seatbelt, driving too slow or fast), refuses to follow basic rules of the road (can signal  early dementia), tension while driving (turns off radio, doesn’t want to talk to you while driving).  These are all concerning symptoms,  possibly signaling a much deeper physical, medical or psychological problem.
  • Signs Your Elderly Loved One Is Having Problems Driving
  • General eating habits – take note of the foods your loved one keeps in the kitchen.  Are there lots of items past their expiration dates in the refrigerator or cupboards?  Have they been relying on take-out more often,  or is their freezer stuffed with frozen meals?  Make sure they are eating well,  have access to nutritious foods,  and that they are physically able to shop and cook.
  • Is there any evidence of fire in the house, especially in the kitchen? Scorched pots or pans are a dangerous signal of forgetfulness.  Any evidence of fire in the home is a serious sign that your loved one needs a physical and neurological assessment by a qualified elder care physician.
  • Memory loss– are there signs that your loved one has forgotten how to do routine tasks (such as making coffee, using the phone, dressing) while easily remembering others, is asking the same question repeatedly and or is forgetting the details/dates of important events? These can be subtle and easily missed signs of memory loss and dementia.  However, your loved one may try to mask their difficulties remembering, or they may be unaware they are experiencing problems at all.  In the early stages of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, memory problems may  appear sporadically, or appear as emotional problems.  A qualified medical professional or neuropsychologist can give you an accurate picture of  your loved one’s cognitive and emotional well being, and give you strategies and recommendations for dealing with their particular challenges.
  • 10 Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
  • Changes in demeanor and attitude – if your loved one becomes irritated easily, shows signs of depression, agitation or tension,  seek professional help.  These are often signs of underlying age related medical, cognitive, physical and emotional issues that should not be left untreated.
  • If your loved one seems “off” – talks about dying, has an abnormal number of fears (excessive concern about their pets,  grandchildren,  loved ones, world events, etc), seek professional help.  They may be crying out for help,  and it is our duty to answer that call.

When spending time together this holiday season,  be sure to give your elderly loved ones extra care and attention.  As we age,  it can become difficult to express  unmet needs,  feelings and emotions.  So it is up to friends and family members to be the eyes and ears and voices for our elderly friends and family members. Watch carefully for subtle signs that your elderly loved one needs extra help,  or is at risk in any way.  Talk with your elderly friend or family member.  Make an appointment with a qualified medical professional to ensure that they stay safe.  Make sure they are getting the excellent care they deserve,   whether they live at home, in an assisted living or a nursing facility.  Do not take their silence or assurances of “Oh, I’m fine” as an answer if you sense in your gut that something is wrong.

The attorneys at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing want you and your family to share the very best of times together during this holiday season.  Our firm is dedicated to protecting the elderly.  If you suspect elder or nursing home abuse,  please contact the personal injury attorneys at Hardy,  Wolf and Downing immediately.  We are experienced personal injury attorneys who know how to handle nursing home abuse cases with the sensitivity, skill and expertise required to win cases and secure justice for seniors.

Maine Parents Tirelessly Advocate for Trucking Safety After Son Killed In Highway Crash

Maine truck accident lawyers

effects of fatigueTwenty years ago,  Daphne and Steve Izer received news that would change their lives forever.  Their son, 17-year-old Jeff Izer,  had been killed in an accident on the Maine Turnpike.  While parked in the breakdown lane,  a tractor-trailer rolled over on Jeff’s small vehicle.  The accident killed four teens,  including Jeff’s girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Angie Dubec.  A fifth teen was seriously injured.

Inaccurate Initial Investigation, Falsified Driving Log

In the aftermath of the tragedy,  Jeff’s parents spent several days believing that their son had only partially pulled into the breakdown lane prior to being hit by the truck driver.  Investigators noted that the tractor-trailer left no skid marks before running into the teen’s vehicle and that there were no readily apparent signs of evasive maneuvers before the impact.  This led to a false conclusion about the true cause of the accident and left Jeff’s parents believing that his vehicle had been parked incorrectly in the breakdown lane.

But within a few days,  the grieving parents learned the truth about their son’s fatal accident.

Jeff’s car was parked as it should have been in the breakdown lane,  off of the busy Maine Turnpike.

The true cause of the accident was the driver of the truck who hit Jeff’s vehicle, who had fallen asleep behind the wheel of his tractor-trailer.  A thorough investigation into the truck driver’s log book later revealed that he had falsified his records and driven more hours than was advisable or safe.

Four beautiful,  promising young lives were lost that day on Maine’s Turnpike,  all because a truck driver was too sleepy to drive safely.  Then, in an effort to mask the truth,  his driving hours were falsified.

After their son’s tragic death,  the Izer’s became tireless advocates for highway safety.  They founded an advocacy organization one year after their son’s tragic accident, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.).  PATT went on to form a partnership with The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Foundation.  Now,  both foundations work together under the national umbrella of the Truck Safety Coalition.

Truck Crash Fatalities Increase

The tireless work of the Izer family and their safety coalition is an important effort to raise public awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving,  not only for other motorists but for hardworking tractor-trailer drivers themselves.  Unfortunately, fatigue among our nation’s truck drivers is a trend that is increasing rather than decreasing.

Current studies show that truck crash fatalities have increased for the third consecutive year.   A 2012 National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) study indicated that truck crash fatalities increased in 2012 by 3.7%.  This marks a three-year trend of increased risk of truck crashes;  the overall increase included a 9% increase in truck occupant fatalities.  This alarming trend demonstrates that large trucks are indeed a serious safety hazard,  not only to other motorists but to truckers as well.

  • Studies by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) reveal that 65% of truck drivers have reported that they sometimes or often feel drowsy behind the wheel.
  • Over half of the truck drivers surveyed admitted that they had actually fallen asleep behind the wheel in the previous year.
  • The FSCMA estimates that truck driver fatigue is responsible for at least 13% of fatal crashes.  This number,  however,  is likely a gross underestimation.  Drivers may not be aware that they are fatigued,  or may not report their fatigue to police.

Legislation Regarding Hours of Service for Truck Drivers

MAINE MOTHERS URGE GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE MICHAUD TO RECONSIDER COSPONSORING ANTI-TRUCK SAFETY LEGISLATION: TRUE ACT WILL PROMOTE TRUCK DRIVER FATIGUE

Izer’s foundation is working hard to keep Maine highways safe and continues to fight for legislation to keep fatigued truck drivers safely off the road.  Their organization recently raised an alarm when hours of service (HOS) that truck drivers are permitted to drive was slated to be increased.  According to the organization founded by the Izer’s, “…the TRUE Safety Act (the Act), H.R. 3413, will lengthen the already excessively long hours that truck drivers work each week and will promote truck driver fatigue.” The Izer’s note that an increase in the number of hours tractor-trailer drivers spends behind the wheel endangers the lives of motorists,  along with the hardworking drivers of the trucks themselves.

As the economy continues to improve,  more and more tractor-trailer drivers are expected to travel our nation’s highways. Traffic fatalities due to drowsy truck drivers will likely increase unless police and legislators do everything in their power to stop truckers from driving when they are overtired.

Fatigued Driving in Tractor Trailer Accidents Can Be Difficult To Detect

Driver fatigue is notoriously difficult to detect because it is self-reported.  There is no reliable test of “Breathalyzer” to indicate if a driver was drowsy at the time of an accident.  Additionally,  truck drivers may underreport or lie about their fatigue,  the number of hours they have driven,  or simply be unaware that they were too tired to drive at the time of an accident.  But let there be no doubt: drowsy tractor-trailer drivers are the cause of many fatal traffic accidents.

If you or your family has been injured in an automobile accident with a tractor-trailer, and you suspect drowsy driving may have been a factor,  please contact the experienced personal injury team at Hardy, Wolf and Downing.  Our personal injury attorneys know what questions to ask,  how to ask them and have the experience necessary to properly assess your case.  With confidence, compassion, and personal injury expertise,  the Hardy, Wolf and Downing team will help ensure that your family receives just and fair compensation you deserve.

An accident with a drowsy or fatigued truck driver can change your life forever.  You deserve a legal team who will protect your right to fair and just compensation for your injuries.  Rest assured, the Maine Hardy,  Wolf and Downing personal injury team will fight hard for the rights of your family.

Keeping Your Teen Driver Safe During the Holidays

teen safe driver

This holiday season,  the personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want your family to stay safe, happy and healthy.  Sitting down with your teen driver to review safe driving practices can make the difference between a holiday full of magical memories and one marked by tragedy.

teen safe driver

Teen Drivers: Sobering Statistics

All parents would like to believe that their teen driver is safe and makes good decisions behind the wheel.  But statistics show this simply isn’t the case.  Teen drivers account for less than 3% of Maine’s licensed drivers,  but they account for at least 12% of automobile accidents resulting in serious injuries.  Every week,  at least 60 teenaged drivers are injured on Maine’s roadways.  15 to 24-year-olds compromise roughly 13% of all licensed drivers in Maine,  yet they are involved in 36% of all motor vehicle fatalities.

These are indeed sobering statistics.  But there are effective ways to help your teen driver stay safe this holiday season.  Safe teen driving begins with good education and frequent reminders about safe driving practices.

Review Safe Driving Practices With Your Teen 

Parents should not assume that teen drivers know (or remember) how to drive in icy, snowy or wintry conditions.  Review safe winter driving practices with your teen at least once a season (just be prepared to ignore the eye rolls you may get in return).  Their safety is paramount,  so instructing them on safe driving practices is well worth the “Mom,  I already know that!” comments you’ll likely endure.

Tips for Parents: Keep Teens Safe At the Wheel  (safecar.gov)

Parents should also stress these 5 tips from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Your teen should NEVER use a cell phone while driving.  This rule includes texting and making phone calls. Be prepared to take away a teenager’s cell phone and/or car keys if they aren’t abiding by this critical safe driving rule.
  • Teens should not have any extra passengers in the car with them.  Passengers are dangerous distractions to inexperienced drivers.
  • Drive the speed limit.  Allow extra time to reach your destination,  and obey all traffic laws.
  • Never drink and drive.  Reinforce that you will always come to pick your child up should they need your help or find themselves in a bad situation with others who are drinking.  Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen can make the difference between a teen who gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking,  or one who makes the right choice and calls a parent rather than getting behind the wheel as an impaired driver.
  • Wear your seatbelt each and every time,  whether as a passenger or driver.  Absolutely no exceptions.
  • Excess speed was a factor in almost 40% of fatal traffic accidents involving teen drivers. Parents can stress that driving the speed limit protects not only your teen’s life but the lives of other motorists on the road.
  • Driving home the importance of wearing a seat belt is also critical.  Half of the teens who died as a result of a car accident were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash.
  • Finally,  take time to print off this safe driving contract with your teen.  Make clear what the consequences will be if your teen doesn’t show good judgment behind the wheel,  and stick to your guns if your teen breaks or ignores safe driving practices.

The personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want each and every Maine family to enjoy the winter holidays.  Parents who educate and monitor their teen safe driver help keep the roadways safer for all Maine residents,  and protect one of their most precious assets: the lives of their children.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident involving an impaired or negligent driver,  please contact our experienced personal injury attorneys.  We can help you assess your case and understand your options.  Our personal injury team has been working to get Maine families the compensation and justice they deserve for many years,  and we’ll work just as hard for your family.

Further Reading and Resources on Safe Teen Driving

Teen Safe Driving

CDC: Stay Safe Holiday Driving Tips 

Guide for Reducing Teen Automobile Crashes

Maine: Teen Driver Safety

 

Ways to Protect Yourself from Maine’s Uninsured Drivers

uninsured drivers

uninsured driversMaine’s Motor Vehicle Insurance Laws: Coverage Amounts and Uninsured Motorist Supplemental Policies

In Maine, drivers are required by law to carry a minimum of $50,000 in insurance coverage per person, and $100,000 per accident. If a motorist is stopped by police and can not show proof of insurance, they are fined. Maine drivers are also required to purchase supplemental uninsured motorist coverage. In the event that they are involved in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver, that supplemental uninsured motorist policy allows accident victims to recover insurance money from their own insurance company.

Despite strict laws concerning uninsured motorists in Maine, it is estimated that 42,000 of Maine’s 930,000 drivers remain uninsured.  According to a recent Bureau of Motor Vehicles statistic, 3,614 Maine drivers failed to provide proof of insurance during a one year period. These drivers were subsequently convicted of uninsured driving when they did not show proper proof of insurance within a twenty-day grace period. Keeping uninsured motorists off the road isn’t as easy as many of us would like to believe.

Maine’s Uninsured Drivers: Sobering Statistics 

Although there is a substantial fine for motorists who fail to provide proper proof of insurance, (along with a suspension of their license), many Maine motorists continue to flout the law and drive without insurance coverage. Motorists drive without insurance for many reasons; none of them are acceptable under the law. In some cases, they simply can’t afford to pay their insurance bill, but continue to drive despite the fact that they are clearly breaking the law and endangering other motorists. Other drivers are uninsurable because they have had their license suspended or taken away, often as a result of their involvement in serious automobile accidents where they are deemed to be the at fault/negligent driver. Or, they may be faced with an extremely high insurance premium which they can’t afford after being involved in one (or more) at fault accidents.

The latter categories of uninsured motorists are often the most dangerous because it includes drivers who have lost their legal right to drive due to impaired/drunken driving, or other negligent driving offenses which may have caused serious motor vehicle accidents and injuries. Although Maine has lower rates of uninsured drivers than many other states, the number of uninsured motorists still poses a serious threat to the state’s lawfully abiding, properly insured drivers. Maine police estimate that 225 drivers are injured every year by uninsured drivers. That number may seem low,  but if you ask a properly insured driver who has been injured by an uninsured driver, that “relatively small number” is a cold comfort indeed.

Supplemental Uninsured Motorist Policies

Maine is an “at fault” insurance state. This means that if you are involved in an automobile accident with another driver who is determined to be “at fault”, the at-fault driver is liable for your injuries and medical costs.  As long as the motorist has cooperated with Maine’s automobile insurance laws and carries the minimum coverage, the at-fault motorist’s insurance company usually pays the injured motorist for any damages incurred. However, if the damages you suffer exceed the at-fault motorist’s total insurance coverage, the negligent driver is responsible for the excess amount and must make up the difference using personal assets.

Unfortunately, many negligent drivers without insurance coverage don’t have enough assets to cover those excess damages (underinsured drivers). Maine drivers should always carry proper motor vehicle insurance, including uninsured motorist protection. It may be wise to carry additional uninsured motorist coverage in the event that your injuries are serious (some experts suggest additional supplemental coverage of $500,000 per accident, especially in cases where an at-fault motorist was underinsured).

If you are injured in an automobile accident, medical and rehabilitation bills can easily exceed the minimum amount required by Maine’s standard uninsured motorist policy. If your injury prevents you from working, substantially changes your quality of life and the type of medical care you’ll need in the future, you deserve to be compensated for lost wages, emotional suffering and long-term care. But remember, the minimum uninsured (or underinsured) motorist policy typically won’t cover even a small portion of those expenses.

If you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, it is wise to contact an experienced Maine personal injury attorney to review your case. Even if you carry supplemental uninsured motorist coverage, you still have a legal right to file a claim against the negligent driver. The Hardy, Wolf and Downing personal injury team is highly effective in helping victims of uninsured, underinsured and negligent drivers obtain the compensation they deserve. Remember: hiring an effective, experienced personal injury attorney who understands cases involving uninsured and underinsured at-fault motorists can significantly improve your chances of obtaining the just and fair compensation you deserve.

Thanksgiving Travel in Maine: Stay Safe in Wintery Weather

distractions while driving

Thanksgiving is a busy time for holiday travelers. United States Department of Transportation statistics show that long-distance trips (50 miles or more) increase by 54% during Thanksgiving.  AAA estimates that  43.5 million Americans will hit the road for the holiday this year, and 90% of them will make their treks in automobiles (as opposed to air, train or bus travel).

Contrary to popular belief, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is not the heaviest long-distance travel day of the year. Thanksgiving Day is the heavier long-distance travel day, and therefore one of the most dangerous days to traverse Maine’s roads and highways.

safe driving tips

Holiday Travel Statistics

Unfortunately, this year’s Thanksgiving travelers will face heavy rain, high winds, ice and snow as they make their way across the state.  As any holiday traveler knows, slick road conditions combined with heavy traffic volume mean long, slow trips.  Most drivers who have traveled Maine’s winter roads know all too well the white-knuckled driving that accompanies a fierce, unpredictable Maine winter storm.

The large storms hitting the country have already been blamed for at least 11 fatal car accidents across parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas,  and this powerful storm is headed for the East Coast.

Congested highways,  backed up with holiday traffic and winter storms means Maine drivers must prep themselves and their vehicles to ensure the safety of their loved ones.

Sadly, the highways aren’t just full of happy travelers heading to grandmas.  Some of the drivers you’ll share the road with are Impatient, drowsy or even inebriated.

These dangerous drivers are a major cause of fatal traffic accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday.  According to the NHTSA, 40% of fatal Thanksgiving automobile accidents involved drunken driving in recent years.  A 2009 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute concluded that Thanksgiving is one of the four most dangerous US travel days (including New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Veteran’s Day.)

Stay Safe this Thanksgiving with Tips from the American Red Cross

The personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing want your Thanksgiving trip to be as pleasant and safe as possible.  Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate in our beautiful state of Maine, the following tips from the American Red Cross will help ensure your safety on one of the heaviest travel days of the year.

  • Check your vehicle carefully before you leave –  fluid levels,  tire air pressure and windshield wipers.
  • Wear your seatbelt!
  • Leave extra time for travel and observe the speed limits.
  • Be a calm and courteous driver.
  • Don’t drive impaired. Designate a driver who will remain sober.
  • Use caution in work zones and don’t tailgate.
  • Travel on a full tank of gas, and stop frequently for rest breaks.
  • Drive with your headlights on for increased visibility.  In darkness,  don’t “overdrive” your headlights.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, such as cell phones, GPS systems, and even passengers!
  •  Don’t text and drive.
  • Do not use your cruise control in bad weather.
  • Stock your vehicle with winter weather supplies, such as an ice scraper, blankets, sand or kitty litter, and a shovel (for extra traction if you’re stuck).
  • Review winter driving safety tips.  (Driving Tips, Safety Information and Accident Prevention
  • If you develop car trouble, pull off the road as quickly as possible.

Going home for the holidays is a cherished tradition.  Even if the Maine weather challenges this year’s travelers,  it is possible to travel more safely in an effort to avoid traffic fatalities. Follow the above safe driving tips.  Know that your loved ones are looking forward to seeing you this Thanksgiving, and don’t rush or drive distracted or impaired.  Buckle your seat belts.

Don’t become another traffic fatality – slow down, be careful and follow the law.  Your loved ones, along with your fellow Maine travelers, will thank you!

If you or a loved one is involved in a traffic accident,  please contact the caring, experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing. Our team will work hard to see justice done and to earn you the compensation you deserve.