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Study Reveals Abuse Among Residents of Nursing Facilities

Adult son out for a walk with his father, who has alzheimers disease.

elderly patientA recent report published in renowned journal Annals of Internal Medicine reveals a growing problem of elder abuse within nursing facilities being committed by fellow residents of such communities. According to researchers, roughly 20 percent of those residing in these types of care facilities suffer some sort of abuse from another resident. (more…)

Officials Report a Projected Increase in Traffic Fatalities

car accident front end collision

car accident front end collisionIn 2015 alone, 35,200 people in the U.S. lost their lives after becoming involved in car accidents. This statistical projection, recently publicized by the U.S. Department of Transportation, demonstrates an increase of 7.7 percent compared to the total traffic fatalities that occurred in 2014.

That year, the figure stood at 32,675 deaths. It’s important to keep in mind that the 2015 figures are projected statistics, but if they are realized, it will be the most number of traffic fatalities in one year since 2008. That year, more than 37,000 people lost their lives on the nation’s roadways. (more…)

Investigation Underway over Brake Failures in Harley Davidsons

motorcycle accident

Brake Failures Investigations in Harley Davidson - Hardy Wolf & DowningAn investigation has ensued after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received 43 complaints of faulty brakes on certain models of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Riders reported that both the hand and foot brakes suddenly failed to work, resulting in three crashes and two injuries.

The investigation includes more than 430,000 Harley Davidson motorcycles with model numbers between 2008 and 2011. All of the bikes in the inquiry have an anti-locking braking system that is supposed to prevent riders from losing their grip in situations where they must brake hard. Riders said the brakes in these systems suddenly froze without warning, leading to potentially dangerous situations.

The NHTSA noted that these particular models of motorcycles were required to have the fluid in the brakes replaced every two years. If replacement was not done properly or in a timely fashion, the old fluid left in the brake system could corrode some of the parts. However, the agency also made a point to say that even with neglect of the brake system fluid, the fact that brakes suddenly stopped working without any warning “is a concern.”

The official investigation was opened on July 6 and Harley Davidson told ABC News that the company was cooperating with the NHTSA throughout the inquiry. The investigation comes on the heels of a 2014 recall by the motorcycle manufacturer that involved more than 60,000 bikes. Brake malfunction also led to the recall. However, in the 2014 recall, riders reported their brakes suddenly engaged without warning.

Motorcycle fatalities in Maine

Motorcycle fatalities are typically relatively low in Maine, compared to other areas of the country. In 2014, the state saw just 11 fatal motorcycle accidents. Four of those riders were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. The highest number of crashes between 2008 and 2012 occurred in Cumberland County.

However, 2015 saw an alarming upsurge in motorcycle deaths, prompting many to question the reason behind the uptick. According to the Portland Press Herald, there were 28 fatalities by the middle of September of that year. More than half – 19 riders – were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Helmets are not legally required in the state, except for riders who are 18 years or younger, riders with learner’s permits and those with first-year licenses.

The report attributed the increase in fatalities, at least in part, to the summer weather that brought more bikers out on the Maine roadways. Warm temperatures and lack of rain have allowed more riding this year than is typical for a Maine summer. However, other factors may have contributed to the increase as well, including speed, alcohol and the lack of safety equipment (particularly helmets).

No information was available in 2015 for the possibility that manufacturing defects in motorcycles contributed to the increase in crashes. Those factors could change this year, in light of the new information about brake defects associated with Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Liability in motorcycle accidents

In the meantime, those who suffered property damage or injuries as a result of brake issues with Harley Davidsons could be eligible for legal damages if this investigation determines manufacturers are liable. The current investigation is likely to reveal evidence that will either support or refute claims against the motorcycle manufacturer.

If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, or you lose a loved one in one of these tragic events, legal help is available. Contact the law firm of Hardy, Wolf & Downing today at 1-800-INJURED to speak with a veteran motorcycle accident lawyer in Maine. The case review is free and there are no legal fees unless we win compensation on your behalf.

Death of Whitewater Rafter Highlights Amusement Park Risks

Whitewater raft ride

whitewater raft rideThe death of an 18-year old visitor to the U.S National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, has drawn renewed attention to the safety of amusement parks and other attractions throughout the United States during this busy summer season.

Officials reported that the young woman from Westerville, Ohio died of an infection caused by a rare, brain-eating fresh water amoeba.

Death brings scrutiny to Whitewater Center

A renowned recreation and training facility for rafters, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts, the U.S. National Whitewater Center has attracted significant scrutiny following the death of Lauren Seitz last month. Visiting the center with members of her church group, Seitz encountered Naegleria fowleri, a one-celled amoeba known for causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, a condition that is almost always fatal. It is thought that she was exposed to the organism when her raft overturned.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) visited the center to conduct on-site water testing, later revealing that all 11 of the samples taken tested positive for the deadly amoeba. Dr. Jennifer Cope of the CDC deemed the UV filtration and chlorination systems present at the facility inadequate to protect its visitors, setting into motion a comprehensive review by state public health authorities who will determine what sorts of preventive measures are necessary going forward.

Safety standards far from clear

The incident at the U.S. National Whitewater Center has prompted many to question just how safe amusement parks and similar attractions throughout the country truly are. The frightening fact is that such facilities are generally under no uniform standards of inspection or reporting, and there are several states in which the safety of park rides and activities are subject to no state or federal regulations whatsoever, with matters of inspection and review left to the discretion of local agencies.

Authority over amusement park oversight was taken away from he U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1981, when the aptly-named “roller coaster loophole” was passed by Congress. This eliminated the federal government’s ability to inspect fixed site attractions. The state-by-state patchwork of regulations that remains has created significant inconsistencies and gaps in standards as well as what many see as a lack of transparency with regard to accident reporting.

While amusement park lobbyists suggest that there is no evidence indicating that increased federal involvement would produce noticeable safety gains, victim advocates decry what they view as a blatant absence of essential supervision over potentially dangerous endeavors in which negligence can and does prove deadly.

Amusement park liability & victims’ rights

When a serious injury or death occurs at an amusement park or other tourist attraction, the prospect of filing a lawsuit can seem extraordinarily daunting. Considering that litigation of this type can involve numerous areas of the law such as product liability, premises liability, general negligence and more, it is important to secure the aid of an amusement park injury attorney who is able to fight for maximum compensation.

Victims and their families need to know that they are not alone in seeking payment for things such as pain, suffering, medical bills, lost wages, physical therapy and more. The aftermath of an incident of this type can be extremely confusing and fraught with uncertainty, and the assistance of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can make all the difference in a time of crisis.

Advocating for Mainers since 1976

If you or a loved one have suffered a profound injury while visiting an amusement park or similar attraction, the attorneys of Hardy, Wolf & Downing are prepared to fight hard to secure the accountability and financial recovery you deserve.

For a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with trusted Maine accident lawyers, please call 1-800-INJURED.

Tips for Staying Safe this Fourth of July

fourth of July celebration

4th-of-JulyFourth of July is right around the corner and with the holiday comes concerns over how to stay safe in the midst of the fireworks frenzy.

The personal injury attorneys at Hardy Wolf & Downing want to wish all of our fellow Maine residents a safe and happy Fourth, which is why we are providing a few fireworks safety tips in anticipation of the big day.

Keep it legal

Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before purchasing or lighting them. If you are allowed to use fireworks in your community, only purchase those that have been approved. Beware of fireworks that come in plain brown paper bags. This is often a sign the fireworks are commercial-grade and should only be used by professionals trained in firework handling.

Watch the kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of the thousands of individuals treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to fireworks every summer, a large portion of those patients are between the ages of 10 and 14. Some injuries led to missing digits or limbs, while others caused vision loss. Young children should never be allowed to handle fireworks, even sparklers. Sparklers get to a temperature hotter than what is required to melt glass and can be very dangerous for short little arms to hold.

Nix the pets

Fourth of July is a tough day for dogs and cats, as the loud noises of fireworks can lead to terror in those four-legged friends. Never bring pets along for fireworks, whether setting them off privately or heading to a public display. Instead, keep pets safely shut indoors where they will not be able to run away or get into harm’s way.

Protect the eyes

The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that there were 1,300 eye injuries from fireworks treated in emergency rooms in 2014. That number was double what was seen just two years prior in 2012. Eye injuries can occur both to those handling the fireworks and spectators. It is very important to stay a safe distance away when fireworks are shot off and to wear safety goggles when handling fireworks directly.

Safety steps

When handling fireworks, keep a bucket of water and a garden hose nearby. Never try to relight a “dud” firework (one that did not ignite) and keep the face away when setting off any type of firework. Never light more than one firework at a time and douse all fireworks with water after use. Store them in a metal trash can away from other flammable items for at least 24 hours before disposing of them.

Stick with public displays

For the safest Fourth of July, stick with public displays handled by professionals in the field of pyrotechnics. Observe all of the rules in regards to where to stand to watch the display and never pick up fireworks off the ground after the show is over.

If you are injured in a fireworks-related accident due to negligence, manufacturing defect or another reason out of your control, legal recourse may be available.

The team at Hardy, Wolf & Downing helps victims of firework accidents pursue damages for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

To get a complimentary case evaluation, contact our office today at 1-800-INJURED.

Sidney Woman Killed in Head-On Collision

car accident on highway with ambulance

car accident ambulanceA head-on accident on West River Road took the life of a 47-year-old Sidney woman the night of June 15. Laurie Garland was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, after her vehicle crossed the center line of West River Road and collided head-on with a vehicle containing two juveniles. Both of the juveniles suffered minor injuries and one was taken to the hospital for observation.

The crash was reported at 9:48 p.m. the night of June 15 and closed the road for more than three hours while officials investigated. Alcohol was found at the scene of the accident, but officials have yet to disclose whether it might have played a role in the incident. Blood alcohol levels were taken as a matter of procedure. The Kennebec Journal reported that Garland had a history of driving offenses, including driving under the influence in 2013.

Numerous officials were on hand to help with the accident scene, including police from Oakland and Winslow, firefighters from Sidney and an ambulance from Delta. At this time no charges have been filed.

Maine fatalities by the numbers

The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety reports that as of June 9, 2016, 54 traffic fatalities have occurred on state highways. The total is slightly higher than the previous year, which saw 48 fatalities by the same date in 2015. Of that number, three involved motorcycles and five involved pedestrians. One crash involved an on-road ATV and another involved a bicycle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 131 fatalities on Maine roads in 2014, the lowest number in 70 years. The Bangor Daily News reported early last year that state officials attributed the decline to a combination of changes in traffic laws, crackdowns on motor vehicle violations and education of Maine drivers to the potential dangers of driving in the state. The declines even came at a time when more commercial vehicles were allowed on the roads and speed limits increased in some areas.

One of the top factors in fatal crashes in Maine during 2014 and other years has been speeding. However, an increase in the number of speeding tickets issued appeared to be curbing that problem somewhat. Seatbelt use was also up in the state, thanks to public education and enforcement. Lauren Steward, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety told the Bangor Daily News in 2015 that the state had reached an 85-percent observed usage rate for seat belts.

Liability in Maine car accidents

Despite the strides made by the state to curb road crashes, they do still occur. Victims of head-on collisions, as well as surviving family members, may be eligible for compensation for medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses and other non-economic losses. Proving liability in these incidents is the key to getting damages needed to put lives back on track and allow healing to take place.

If you are injured in a car accident in Maine or you lose a loved one in an unspeakable tragedy, proper legal representation can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.

To get a free legal review and answers to all your questions, contact Hardy, Wolf & Downing today at 888-674-5762.

Fatality Marks Fifth Motorcycle Death in Maine for 2016

two men on motorcycles during the summer

MotorcycleAnother motorcycle accident in Maine has claimed an innocent life. 36-year-old Robert Locke, from Lynbrook, New York, died after being thrown from his motorcycle on Alfred’s Route 111. According to state police, the victim had joined a group of friends for a trip to New Hampshire when the accident happened. Police say that Locke swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle that was turning onto Clark Road when he lost control of his bike and was flung onto the roadway.

He was taken to Southern Maine Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Locke was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. This recent tragedy marks the 5th motorcycle death in Maine this year.

Motorcycle crashes in Maine on the rise

With summer in full swing, more avid bikers are taking to Maine roads than ever before. But operating or riding a motorcycle comes with inherent risks, making this mode of transportation exceedingly dangerous. According to the Maine Department of Public Safety, the rate of fatal motorcycle crashes in Maine has been steadily climbing, with 17 deaths recorded between January 1 and August 3, 2015. By contrast, during the same period in 2014, only six motorcycle crash-related deaths were reported.

Although alcohol, speed and not wearing a helmet contribute to a number of these fatalities, others argue that distracted drivers and a lack of motorcycle safety training are also to blame.

Take Mark Wild, a 53-year old Brunswick resident who been riding motorcycles most of his life. “I ride pretty often, and I see so many people on cellphones,” he told Bangor Daily News. “If you are distracted driving — it may be a cellphone, it may be a touch screen in a car — that is a potion for disaster for motorcyclists. It’s just making it even harder for them to be seen.”

Lack of safety training another issue

The coordinator of the Motorcycle Safety Program for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, John Kohler, offers a different perspective on growing numbers of motorcycle accidents, opining that a lack on hands-on training is associated with the lion’s share of fatal crashes. “Our attitude is, once people have been riding for a number of years, they get complacent.” Maine has set up a number of training schools across the state that offer experienced-rider courses free of charge. The courses, which are subsidized by a grant from the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, are designed to help motorcyclists drive more defensively, teaching bikers how to swerve or brake suddenly without skidding and losing control.

When crashes are caused by negligence

In the aftermath of a serious motorcycle accident, the personal injury lawyers of Hardy, Wolf & Downing will investigate your case, establish liability and assist with all insurance claims. As veteran Maine accident attorneys, we will also diligently fight for the maximum accident settlement to account for pain and suffering, medical expenses, psychological injuries, long-term rehabilitation, lost wages and future earnings.

Don’t settle for less than you deserve; contact our offices at 1-800-INJURED for a free legal consultation to find out if you are eligible for compensation. There are no upfront fees until we secure a verdict or settlement on your behalf.

Five Overlooked Hazards that Present Summer Safety Risks

little girl in a float in a swimming pool

Child-safety-around-the-swimming-poolSchool is finally out and the summer is on its way. Along with the graduation parties, barbecues, and summer recreation, the sunny season brings a rise in injuries.

Sources ranging from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to hospital emergency rooms confirm that accidental injuries swiftly increase during the summer months, and many of those are preventable.

Common summertime injuries

Children are the most likely to get hurt in the summer months but adults are not immune. Kids often roam with less supervision once school is out while many adults switch into vacation mode, exercising less caution or enjoying an alcoholic beverage while kicking back at seasonal gatherings.

Examples of the most common summer injuries from the CDC include:

  • Swimming pools – drownings spike every June and July. The rise is greatest in children but the number of adult drownings rises as well. Life-changing diving injuries also increase; these make up nearly 5% of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Playground equipment– kids naturally use playgrounds more in the summer, having more free time and agreeable weather draws flocks of children to the jungle gym. The biggest prevention is to only let kids play on playgrounds while supervised, and to first check that the equipment appears safe and in-tact.
  • Bicycles – there is a reason children and adults alike should wear a helmet on a bicycle. Riding a bike puts one in the perfect position to sustain a traumatic head injury. Broken bones such as wrist fractures are also common.
  • Lawn mowers – A lawn mower may not be a first guess as a summer injury hazard but emergency room personnel see a definite hike in mower-related injuries in the summer months. Children too often treat a riding mower as a ride-on toy. Adults suffer cuts or amputations when they mow the lawn while wearing sandals or the mower hits an object like a rock.
  • Sun exposure – From severe sunburns that can cause cancer to heat stroke or dehydration, exposure to the hot summer sun can lead to serious injury. The risk can be minimized by covering up with sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat, limiting the time spent in the sun, and drinking plenty of water.

Free consult with accident lawyers in Maine

Sometimes accidents just happen. Other times, someone or something is at fault. If a person or business is obligated to do or not do something but breaches that obligation, they may be negligent if the breach leads to injury. If a product has a defect that contributes to the damage, its manufacturer or distributor may be liable under product liability laws.

In cases of negligence, victims have rights and may be entitled to compensation that can include reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages as well as payment for emotional distress, lost companionship, and pain and suffering. Every accident has its own story that affects the victim’s right to compensation.

The best way to know if you are eligible for compensation is to contact a Maine personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. Hardy Wolf & Downing has been fighting for the rights of injury victims in Portland and throughout Maine for the past 40 years. For a free consultation, 1-800-INJURED.

Head-on Collision in Orrington Injures 3

Firefighter and paramedics taking victim out of crashed car Firefighter and paramedics taking victim out of crashed car

A head-on collision in Orrington last week sent three people to the hospital, according to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department. Officers have not yet released the victim’s names, but report that the accident happened on Route 15, near Pleasant Hill Lane.

The collision, which involved a motorcycle and a passenger car, is being investigated and witnesses are being interviewed to help determine a cause. Reconstruction experts are also working on the case to establish what happened in the minutes leading up to the crash.

The Sheriff’s Department confirmed that three people were transported to local hospitals, two with “serious” injuries, and the third with non-life threatening injuries.

Sergeant warns about safety during motorcycle season

Now that the temperatures are warming up, droves of motorcycle riders have been taking to the streets to enjoy recreational rides free of snow and ice. With more bikers on the road during the summer months, Maine motorists need to place extra attention on staying alert to surrounding traffic and sharing the road safely with motorcyclists, who have little in the way of protection in the event of an accident.

“This time of year, motorcycles are coming out. It’s nice weather. Operators of motor vehicles need to be cautious and aware that motorcycles are coming out and at an intersection, take that time to do a double look. Look twice. Look for the motorcycle riders,” cautioned Patrol Sgt. William Birch.

Severe injury, death more likely in motorcycle crashes

Nearly half of all fatal motorcycle accidents are the result of a bike colliding with a passenger vehicle, according to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An estimated 80 percent of motorcyclists suffer serious injury or death in auto-motorcycle crashes, compared to just 20 percent of car drivers and/or their passengers.

The NHTSA also reports that based on the average number of miles traveled, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely than occupants in a passenger car to die in a crash.  Given these disturbing statistics, it pays for motorcyclists to heed safety precautions like:

  • Wearing a helmet
  • Wearing bright, reflective clothing
  • Ensuring their bike is in good working order
  • Anticipating road hazards
  • Never driving while impaired

Legal recourse for motorcycle crash victims

Even the most experienced and cautious motorcylists are at risk for catastrophic injury when they hit the road. Distracted drivers who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings may fail to register the low-profile of a biker at an intersection, and each year thousands of motorcycle riders are killed because of reckless drivers who turn in front of them.

If you were harmed in a crash by a negligent driver, the Maine motorcycle accident lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing have the resources and expertise to help. We will work hard to recover the compensation you rightfully deserve, whether through an insurance settlement or filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Potential liable parties include negligent drivers, the municipality in the event of poor road repairs, or manufacturers of defective parts.

Our Maine personal injury attorneys represent clients in Portland, Bangor, Lewiston and all of Southern and Central Maine areas. Call us at 1-800-INJURED for a free, no-obligation case review.

When the Unthinkable Happens: Liability in Swimming Pool Accidents

beautiful woman catches little girl jumping in pool against sea

woman catches little girl jumping in pool against seaDrowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children between the ages of one and four, according to the CDC. Swimming pools cause the greatest risk of submersion injury for children in this age group. When the unthinkable happens and a child is the victim of a swimming pool accident, who is liable?

Whether the pool is located on public property, in a private club or a personal residence, liability for pool accident can fall on the owner of the pool. In most cases, premises liability rules will determine who can be held responsible for the accident and the subsequent damages.

Pool accidents and premises liability

When the accident occurs in a public pool or a pool owned by a private club, product liability and negligence may also be factors in a pool accident. Product liability may be cited if there was an actual problem with the pool or pool equipment that contributed to the accident. Negligence refers to an action that may have contributed to the accident. This could apply to someone that built or serviced the pool or employees of the pool that are responsible for ensuring the safety of patrons.

If premises liability is the rule that will apply, the law will next determine what type of “entrant” used the facility. Invitees are those that paid to use the pool, which is typically the case of a patron that visited a public pool. Licensees are usually referred to as guests that were invited to use a private pool. The third category of entrants is trespassers and they are not typically covered under premises liability laws. The possible exception might be a young child who got into the pool because there were not sufficient barriers to keep him safely out, such as fences or alarms.

Not all accidents at pools will be the responsibility of the pool owner. For example, if a guest decides to run along the slippery ledge of the pool and falls and injures himself, the pool owner would not likely be held liable for the accident. Likewise, if a visitor dove into the pool from an inappropriate location and became injures, the pool owner would probably not be held responsible for the guest’s injuries.

Responsibility of swimming pool owners

On the other hand, pool owners may be held responsible for accidents due to lack of proper safety equipment or improper upkeep of the pool. Failure to post proper warning signs about potential hazards or in some cases, failure to provide adequate supervision like lifeguards can also make the owners liable for some pool accidents.

Residential pool owners may also be held liable for accidents involving children if they fail to provide appropriate barriers around the pool to prevent access. The specific rules governing those barriers vary from state to state, but fences around the pools, gates with locks and alarm systems are all potential features that might be required under state law.

If you or someone you love is injured in a pool accident, the process of navigating the liability laws can be too complex to attempt on your own. Experienced attorneys can help determine if you are eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit against the pool owner or another third party.

The team at Hardy, Wolf & Downing has been representing victims of swimming pool accidents for more than two decades. If you would like a free assessment of your case and answers to pressing legal questions, contact our Maine accident lawyers at 1-800-INJURED.