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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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.
Do grandparents have visitation rights after a Rhode Island divorce?
There are many ways a grandparent may be separated from grandchildren after a divorce is final. One spouse may prevent the other spouse’s relatives from seeing the children, or visits with surviving grandparents may stop after one spouse has died. If visitation is suspended, grandparents can petition the Family Court to seek "reasonable visitation rights" for the grandchild.
Grandparents May Request Visitation Rights
No matter who gets custody of a child after a divorce, it is expected that the child will be able to enjoy access to both parents (unless there is some legal reason the other parent should not interact with the child). However, there is no guarantee that grandparents will be able to visit the grandchildren of a divorced spouse. If a grandparent wishes to ensure visitation of a grandchild after a divorce, he must make an official request through the Family Court.
The Court will consider a few factors in order to determine whether the child should be allowed to visit the grandparent(s), including:
- Whether visitation is in the best interests of the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent is fit and responsible to be granted visitation rights
- Whether the grandparent has attempted to visit the grandchild within the previous 30 days before petitioning, but he was prevented from doing so
- Whether court intervention is the only way the grandparent would reasonably be able to visit the grandchild
- Whether the grandparent has clear evidence that a parent’s decision to refuse visitation was not reasonable
Once the Court grants visitation rights to the grandparent, it can also take action to enforce the visitation rights if the parent is unwilling to accept the ruling. In addition, the law requires that any further custody or visitation petitions be provided to all parties that have been granted visitation. This allows grandparents to remain a presence in the child’s life unless the Court issues an order removing visitation rights.
If your visitation rights have been suspended after a Rhode Island divorce, we can help. Fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation with a divorce and family law attorney at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum.
Can I get pain and suffering through a workers’ comp claim?
While the workers’ compensation system guarantees payment regardless of fault, the payments offered are limited to medical expenses and lost wages. Pain and suffering is not considered a covered loss and cannot be collected through workers’ compensation. However, pain and suffering can be obtained by filing a lawsuit against the person responsible for causing the injury.
How Injured Workers May Be Paid for Their Pain and Suffering
Workers’ compensation is known as the “exclusive remedy” against employers for injuries suffered on the job. This means, if an injury qualifies for workers’ compensation, claimants are barred from suing the employer. The only exception is if the employee has suffered workplace discrimination or defamation, in which case the employee is allowed to sue the employer for damages (including pain and suffering).
In some cases, accidents are caused not by the employer, but by the negligence of a third party. Third-party claims can be sought regardless of workers’ compensation status and may include the costs of pain and suffering, punitive damages, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
For example, workers may pursue a third-party claim against:
- A driver of a vehicle (not employed by the same employer) who caused a car accident
- A general contractor or sub-contractor responsible for a construction site injury
- A company who manufactured a defective piece of equipment
- An engineer or designer who created hazardous machinery or working conditions
- Property owners who allowed a dangerous condition to exist on their premises
- Maintenance companies who failed to adhere to cleanliness or safety standards
It is important to note that workers may have to pay the workers’ compensation insurer back if they recover damages from a negligent third party. A successful negligence claim often includes payment for lost earnings and medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering, and employees who have already been paid for some of these costs through workers’ compensation can be ordered to reimburse the insurer. This prevents claimants from being paid twice for the same losses and allows the third party to be held liable for the full costs of the accident.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum know how to properly negotiate the amount you are owed for your injury and will explore all options to maximize the value of your claim. Contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Why shouldn’t I post on social media after an injury?
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family, so it may seem like a good idea to tell everyone about your accident by posting on Facebook or Twitter. However, this common mistake can hurt your chances of obtaining compensation, and it can make it much harder for you to win damages in an injury lawsuit.
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
It’s only natural to want to reassure your friends that you are all right after an injury, but it is important to realize that anything you post online can be used as evidence in your injury case, even if it is unrelated to the accident. Nearly everything you post can be used against you in some way, including:
- What you say. Your own words can easily be used to poke holes in your injury case. Some people cope with trauma by making jokes about the accident, which the defense attorneys may take literally. Even if you post something positive about feeling much better after changing doctors or taking a new medication, the defense attorneys may use it to undermine the seriousness of the injuries you have.
- How you look. Any photos you share—or that others share of you—can be used as evidence. Pictures of you having a drink, attending a party, or even smiling can potentially be harmful to your case.
- Where you are. People who have been severely injured in a crash often take weeks to recover, and it can be a long and frustrating process. While it is a good idea to socialize with friends and visit relatives, any pictures that show you on vacation or out of town recuperating can be used as evidence that your injuries are not serious.
- What you’re doing. Pictures that show any physical activity should be kept off of social media. Obviously, a person who is seriously injured would not engage in skiing or running a marathon, but even necessary or low-impact activities (such as raking leaves or walking the dog) may be seen as evidence that you are not in any pain.
It’s important to suspend your Facebook and social media accounts until after your case is concluded. If you cannot do that, you should adjust your privacy settings, so that only a small number of people can access your account. For more help on your claim, contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum via our online contact form to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Do all estates have to go through probate in Rhode Island?
When a person dies, his property must go through probate proceedings before it can be passed on to named beneficiaries. Probate is typically a long and expensive process, and in some cases, it does not make sense to make heirs wait before inheriting a relative’s property. This is why state law allows some smaller estates to be exempt from probate in Rhode Island.
What Are Rhode Island’s Small Estate Laws?
If a person dies with less than $15,000 of personal property, probate may be shortened under the "small estate" provision. The executor of the estate will have to file the necessary forms with the probate court, but the waiting time for the closure of these estates is typically much shorter and far less costly.
In order to close a small estate, an executor must:
- Complete a schedule of all known assets and the estimated value of each one
- File the decedent’s original will with the probate court
- Present the deceased’s death certificate to the clerk of the probate court
- Pay applicable filing fees
- Make payments from the estate to creditors
- Pay any necessary final medical and funeral expenses using estate funds
- Distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will
The person who is named an executor should be willing and able to discharge all necessary duties that are required to close the estate. If an executor does not perform these duties to the letter of the law, family members may hold the executor liable for mishandling the estate.
Even when the estate is small, probate proceedings can be frustrating and an arduous process. The best way to avoid unnecessary costs and confusion is to enlist the help of an estate planning and probate attorney. Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can help you protect your assets and avoid going through probate in Rhode Island by retitling your assets and creating a living trust. Simply fill out our online contact form today to set up your initial consultation.