The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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What is the statute of limitations to file a car accident lawsuit in Rhode Island?
If you suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, you should understand the basic laws that govern your case, so you can protect your legal rights. These include the types of compensation you are entitled to, what you need to prove the other driver’s negligence, and how your own partial fault in causing the wreck could impact your case. Another crucial law to know is the statute of limitations.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Civil Lawsuit After a Car Crash
The statute of limitations is the deadline you have to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. In Rhode Island, the rules are:
- A personal injury lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.
- If a victim died as a result of the wreck, a wrongful death action must be filed within three years of the person’s death.
Failing to comply with the statute of limitations deadline can have harsh consequences for your claim. You will be most likely barred from pursuing your lawsuit, and your complaint would be dismissed by the judge.
Don’t Wait to Retain an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Even though you have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit, it would be a mistake to wait before contacting an experienced car accident attorney. Ideally, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible after your collision. This will allow him to obtain evidence that may be lost if you wait too long, including third-party witness statements and surveillance video that may have recorded your crash. In addition, he can handle all your communications with the insurance adjuster and help you avoid common mistakes that victims often make when they delay hiring a lawyer.
You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from the negligent driver who caused your injuries. Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Call our office today to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Can a parent be liable for the costs of an accident caused by a teenager?
Rhode Island is a “fault” state in car accident cases. This mean, the person who is legally at fault for the accident is responsible and must pay for damages or injuries resulting from the crash. But if the person who caused the crash is under 18 years old, who is responsible for paying for medical bills and vehicle damage?
Parents May Be Liable for the Cost of a Teen’s Car Crash
Under Rhode Island parental responsibility laws, parents can be held financially responsible for injuries or damages caused by minor children. While the state sets the age of majority at 18, teenagers may be granted full licenses when they are 17 years old and six months. If the accident occurs in the months before the teenager’s 18th birthday, victims could potentially sue the parents of a child responsible for the crash.
A parent may be forced to pay the costs for a teenager’s accident due to:
- Malicious acts. Rhode Island General Laws Section 9-1-3 provides that parents can be liable if their unemancipated minor “willfully or maliciously” causes damage to a person or property. As long as it is established that the minor would be liable for the accident if he had been an adult, the parents can assume that liability. However, parental liability is capped at $1,500 for any single act.
- Insurance coverage. The car insurance required by Rhode Island law may be in a parent’s name with the teenager as a “named insured,” forcing the parent’s insurer to pay for the costs of the crash. This may be in addition to collecting the $1,500 under Section 9-1-3.
- Claims against the minor. Under the law, parents are jointly and severally liable with their child for causing harm and property damage, so a victim can seek damages from the parent and child collectively, as well as individually. Victims can file a claim again the minor for any unpaid losses not covered by insurance or the claim against the parents. In many cases, minors do not have the funds to cover these costs, forcing the parents to assume liability.
If you were in an accident with an at-fault, underage driver, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.
Will I still get child support from my first spouse if I remarry?
While alimony payments to a spouse are unlikely to continue after a supported spouse’s remarriage, the same is not true of child support payments. Under Rhode Island law, a former spouse must continue his financial obligation to his children whether or not either spouse has remarried. However, there are instances when remarriage could change the amount of these payments.
Courts May Modify Child Support Orders Based on Remarriage
The Rhode Island family courts use certain guidelines to determine how much child support a parent must pay, but they are allowed to order a different amount of support based on all relevant factors in a case. Remarriage may be considered relevant to a support order, especially if the new marriage includes:
- The birth of new children. In the past, children in a new marriage were not considered a valid reason for changing a support order for children from a prior relationship. Today, Rhode Island courts may consider the increased costs of new children when deciding on an amount of child support.
- Increased expenses. Marriage can increase a couple’s income, but it can also increase their expenses. A parent who remarries and takes on shared debts (such as house and car payments) or provides care for a new spouse with a disability may see a change in the amount of income available for child support.
- A new spouse’s income. Although Rhode Island courts agree that a new spouse has no duty to support children from a prior relationship, they have ruled that a new spouse’s income may be considered in some cases. For example, if a parent paying child support remarries, the new spouse is likely contributing financially to household bills, utilities, and groceries. This essentially causes an increase in income for the parent and leaves more of his income available for child support.
In order to change the amount of child support after remarriage, a parent must petition the court for a modification of the order. It’s up to the court to decide whether remarriage has resulted in a significant change in circumstances needed to make the modification. If you need help with your divorce, custody, or child support order, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Will my alimony payments continue if I remarry?
Although it is possible for spousal support payments to continue after remarriage, it is extremely rare. Unlike child support payments, spousal support may be discontinued for any number of reasons, including the recipient’s reliance on a new spouse. In most cases, the best option for divorcing spouses is to secure an amount during the separation that will last the rest of their lives, whether they decide to remarry or not.
Collecting Alimony Payments After Remarriage
Alimony is supposed to provide rehabilitative payments to a spouse who may not have the ability to earn a sustainable living. These payments are meant to offer temporary support, allowing a spouse to get a degree, search for a job, or otherwise become self-sufficient. As a result, Rhode Island law states that a spouse’s obligation to pay alimony terminates when a recipient spouse remarries, since the new spouse would presumably be able to offer financial support.
While a property settlement agreement created during a divorce may allow alimony to continue after remarriage, this can create further difficulties, including:
- Tax considerations. Alimony is taxed differently than other payments received from a former spouse. After remarriage, spousal support payments do not qualify as “alimony” and are no longer eligible for federal tax benefits.
- Ability to pay. If an ex-spouse loses the financial ability to continue to provide alimony, a court may find that the obligation is not necessary and discontinue payments.
- Other concessions. A provision in the property settlement agreement securing future alimony after remarriage may come at a cost such as relinquishing family heirlooms, investment accounts, or other items of value.
Since alimony payments depend on so many unpredictable factors, the most effective method of protecting your future is to make provisions during the divorce that end your reliance on your former spouse. If you need help determining how much you are owed or drafting a fair property settlement agreement, fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Is it legal to ride in a truck bed in Rhode Island?
Federal laws have standards in place to protect people from injuries in a car crash—seat belts, crumple zones, head rests, and air bags. However, those laws do not apply to cargo areas such as beds of pickup trucks. If a person is riding in a cargo area unrestrained, he may be thrown from the vehicle even at low speeds. In order to ensure safety, states have their own laws governing where and how people must be restrained while traveling in a vehicle.
Rhode Island Laws: Riding in Truck Beds and Cargo Areas
Under Rhode Island law, seat belts are required to be worn by all drivers and passengers age 18 and older. However, there are circumstances when a person may ride in a truck bed, delivery van, or other area of a vehicle that was designed to carry cargo.
Riding in the cargo area of a truck is permitted in the state for:
- People over 16. People may only ride in the back of a pickup truck if they are over age 16. In addition, passengers are restricted to the cargo area itself and are prohibited from riding on hoods, roofs, fenders, or other parts of the vehicle not designed for passengers.
- People under 16. People under age 16 may only ride in a truck bed if they are secured by a passenger restraint.
- Pets and animals. Rhode Island law specifically prohibits carrying animals in the cargo space of an open-air motor vehicle unless the animal is in an enclosed area, is under the direct physical control of a person other than the driver of the vehicle, or is safely restrained and harnessed using a method other than a neck restraint. Violating this law is cause for a fine of $50 to $100, which increases to $200 for each subsequent offense.
If you need help understanding your rights after a car accident or injury, we can help. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation with an injury attorney at no cost to you.
Is there a time limit for filing an injury case in Rhode Island?
All states set specific time limits for filing different types of lawsuits to ensure all evidence and witness testimonies in the case remain as reliable as possible. In Rhode Island, injury victims have up to three years after the date the injury occurred to file a lawsuit against the negligent party.
After this time limit—called the statute of limitations—expires, the victim forever loses the right to file a case related to the accident. However, there's an important exception to the time limit on Rhode Island injury laws known as the "discovery of harm" rule.
How the Discovery Rule Affects a Rhode Island Injury Case
In most injury cases, the victim’s suffering can be traced back to one specific date—for example, the date of a car crash or slip and fall accident. However, some injuries manifest slowly over time, and victims may be unaware of the progression until years after the causal event.
Under the discovery of harm rule, the statute of limitations “clock” for a victim who was unaware of the injury at the time of the accident starts on the date that the victim became aware of the injury.
Cases involving discovery of harm have their own unique challenges, including:
- Length of time between event and injury. The longer the time between the onset of injury and the lawsuit, the more likely evidence will be lost or no longer reliable.
- Evidence of knowledge. The discovery rule allows that a victim can bring a delayed lawsuit if he or she knew or “should have known” about the injury. The “should have” language is important, since any evidence that points toward a victim’s knowledge—such as a recorded statement after an injury—can be used against the victim.
- Reasons for delay. Even if a delay in discovery occurs, the reason for the delay must be understandable under the circumstances. If a person suffers back problems for years after a slip and fall accident but refuses to go to the doctor, the person will likely not be justified in bringing a case against the property owner after the back injury is finally diagnosed.
As you only have a limited window to bring an injury case, it's a good idea to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
What actions should I take after a slip and fall accident?
If you’ve suffered an injury due to a slip and fall, there are many things you may do that result in underpayment for your injuries and even outright denial of accident compensation. It’s important to know how to avoid missteps in your injury claim.
Protect Your Case After a Slip and Fall
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Not only does seeing a doctor help to identify severe injuries, it allows juries and insurers to see that you were acting responsibly and took your injury seriously. It also creates a medical record immediately after the incident, establishing that your injuries were a direct result of the fall.
Even if you went to the emergency room and follow your doctor’s orders, your injury claim could still be at significant risk if you:
- Fail to report the accident. It is vital that you report the accident to the property owner as soon as possible after the accident. The owner (or an employee) will likely ask you to complete an incident report with the date, time, and location of the fall. While you are advised to report the fall, you should never discuss details of the accident with anyone or speculate on what might have caused your fall.
- Post on social media. It may seem easier to tell your friends and family about the accident by posting on Twitter or Facebook. However, anything you post can be used as evidence against you. Even a simple assurance such as “I’m fine” can cause an insurer to undervalue your claim, since it implies that you were not seriously injured.
- Give a recorded statement. You must notify your insurance company of the accident if you are planning on making a claim for your injury. But insurance company representatives for the responsible party often call victims to “clarify” details of an accident in a recorded statement. Anything you say in these conversations can be used against you, so it is best to decline giving a statement.
- Accept a settlement. Victims are often eager to move on after an accident, and insurance companies know this. They may pressure a victim into accepting a low settlement quickly, making it impossible for the victim to recover additional damages later. If you have been offered a settlement, you should always consult with an attorney before you accept.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, we can gather surveillance video, witness statements, and other vital evidence to maximize your compensation. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.
How are drunk driving crashes different from other motor vehicle accidents?
Filing a drunk driving accident claim is different from a claim for a motor vehicle collision not involving alcohol. Drunk driving claims are different in important ways that can affect your right to compensation and can increase the value of your claim.
Key Differences Between Drunk Driving and Other Motor Vehicle Crash Claims
The basic laws governing motor vehicle accidents also apply to drunk driving wreck claims. For example, in both types of cases, you are entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In addition, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit will most likely be the same. However, here are crucial differences in drunk driving cases to be aware of:
- Proof of negligence. While you still must prove the other driver’s drunk driving caused your accident, negligence may be easier to prove. For example, you can use the blood alcohol content (BAC) test results and the driver’s arrest as strong evidence that his intoxication was the cause of the crash.
- Criminal case. In a drunk driving case, the driver may also face criminal charges. If he pleads guilty or is convicted of drunk driving, this may be considered negligence per se—negligence would automatically be proven—and can provide strong evidence in your civil case.
- Punitive damages. In cases where the driver’s actions are especially negligent, the victim may be entitled to punitive damages to punish the liable party. You are much more likely to be awarded punitive damages in a drunk driving case than another type of motor vehicle accident.
- Dram shop claim. Under Rhode Island’s dram shop laws, you may have a claim against a bar, restaurant, store, or other business for providing alcohol to the drunk driver.
- Insurance company. The drunk driver’s insurance company may take your claim for compensation more seriously if there is clear evidence that the driver was intoxicated. While settling your claim could still be complicated, the insurance company may be more reluctant to take your case to jury trial.
You Need an Experienced Attorney for Your Drunk Driving Accident Claim
If you were injured in a drunk driving accident, you need an experienced attorney who has handled drunk driving cases. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options and how we will fight to obtain the compensation that you deserve.
What should I do after a car accident caused by a drunk driver?
If a drunk driver caused your automobile crash, you could suffer serious injuries such as back injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, or traumatic brain injury, and these could require you to be off work for months or longer while you recover. There are important steps to take if you want to hold the intoxicated driver responsible for your injuries, build a strong case, and receive the full value of your claim.
Important Steps After a Drunk Driving Wreck
You may have a strong case against a drunk driver, but you must still prove your right to compensation. Taking these steps will help with your case:
- Obtain medical care. If you or any other victims suffered apparent injuries in the crash, call 911 for immediate medical assistance. Even if you believe your injuries were “minor,” you need to be examined by a doctor within a day or two of your wreck. The symptoms of some injuries such as traumatic brain injury or back, neck, or spinal injuries may not develop for days or weeks after your accident. You can protect your health and avoid disputes with the insurance adjuster by seeing a doctor right away.
- Obtain police report. You need to call the police at the scene of the wreck, and obtain a copy of the police report. The report will contain the other driver’s statement, the officer’s conclusions as to the cause of the wreck, and other helpful information to prove the drunk driver’s negligence.
- Take pictures and videos. Take pictures and videos of the accident scene, damage to any vehicles involved in the crash, your injuries, and anything else that could be helpful to your case. If you are too injured to do so, ask a passenger in your vehicle or witness to do this for you.
- Collect contact information. Collect the contact information for the drunk driver, his insurance company, and any witnesses. You should not rely on the police to obtain contact information for witnesses. Get this essential information yourself before it is lost.
- Do not give a recorded statement. A recorded statement is a tape-recorded question and answer session between the insurance adjuster and you. You are not required to give one to settle your claim, and you could say something that inadvertently hurts your case.
- Don’t settle too quickly. You want to avoid accepting the first settlement offer from the insurance company as it will most likely be for far less than you deserve. You should never settle a drunk driving accident claim without first consulting with an experienced car accident attorney to be certain you receive a fair settlement.
- Contact an attorney. One of your first steps following a drunk driving accident should be to retain an experienced car accident attorney. He can guide you through the process of filing your claim, investigating your accident, and negotiating your settlement for you.
Were you injured in a drunk driving accident? Our experienced legal team is here to help. To discuss your accident and your legal options for compensation, call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
Can the family sue for wrongful death if their loved one received workers’ comp death benefits?
Rhode Island workers’ compensation statutes guarantee benefits to injured workers regardless of fault, which is beneficial to both workers and employers. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, an injured employee is prohibited from suing an employer for any costs related to the accident. However, there may be exceptions to this rule for the survivors seeking compensation after the wrongful work death of a loved one.
How Survivors Get Compensation After a Wrongful Work Death
If your spouse or loved one died in a wrongful work death, you may experience many different kinds of loss. You may face economic problems caused by lost income and financial difficulties due to medical bills and funeral costs. But surviving family members may obtain compensation through:
- Workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation should pay for any medical bills that were incurred due to a work-related death. In addition, workers’ comp death benefits provide up to $15,000 to the deceased employee’s dependents to help with funeral and burial expenses, as well as weekly wage payments to the deceased employee’s spouse. However, workers’ compensation does not allow for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and punitive damages.
- A lawsuit against a negligent employer. Workers’ compensation death benefits often provide far less than the surviving family members need to recover. For this reason, Rhode Island law allows family members to sue employers in cases where an employer directly or deliberately caused the action that resulted in their loved one’s death. These kinds of cases take extensive legal knowledge to win, since survivors must prove that a company deliberately and knowingly placed their loved one in unreasonable danger.
- Third-party cases. If you are barred from suing your loved one’s employer, you can still sue another party whose negligence contributed to the death. These third-party claims involve someone other than the employer (such as a property owner, maintenance company, project manager, or defective product manufacturer), and there are no limits on the types of damages that may be collected.
If your loved one died in a work accident, our attorneys can gather evidence on your behalf and help get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation at no cost to you.