Over the past several months, I have written several in depth articles concerning the various provisions of personal injury law in Rhode Island. As I penned these comprehensive posts regarding liability, negligence and accident laws in RI, I realized that Rhode Island appears to be a very favorable environment for Plaintiff’s and their RI Personal Injury Attorneys.
I never gave any thought as to how Rhode Island and Providence Plantations stacked up against other states across the United States until I started reviewing commentary from injury attorneys and car accident lawyers nationwide.
I had an exchange with one of the top car accident lawyers in Indianapolis, William Bill Hurst and he seemed surprised and perhaps a bit envious of some of the tort law provisions in RI law. Top Los Angeles California wrongful death attorney Steven Sweat stated “Rhode Island appears to have a number of significant negligence law provisions which appear favorable to injured victims.”
The tort, statutory and common law provisions in Rhode Island that appear to be the most pro-plaintiff are:
a. Subsequent remedial measures are admissible in Rhode Island to prove Liability in a premises liability, slip and fall and personal injury case. In other words, if the defendant puts up a warning sign, lighting or fixes the defective condition, such actions can be used against him in Providence Superior Court to prove he or she was at fault for the accident. In most states and pursuant to the federal rule of evidence, rule 407 ,subsequent remedial measures can be used only for “impeachment or—if disputed—proving ownership, control, or the feasibility of precautionary measures” (As amended Apr. 11, 1997, eff. Dec. 1, 1997; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec.1, 2011.) http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/rules/rules-evidence.pdf” http://www.ripersonalinjurylaw.com/ri-allow-subsequent-remedial-measures-prove-liability/
b. Rhode Island has adopted “pure comparative negligence”. This means that injured victims who are mostly at fault for a car accident, slip and fall or motorcycle crash can still be compensated for their injuries, lost wages, permanent disability and pain/ suffering. For example: a cyclist is speeding over 90 miles an hour, around a curved street and does not see a flashing red caution signal and is killed in a fatal motorcycle accident when a pick-up truck driver is making a left hand turn causing a collision. If the jury, after a personal Injury trial, found the motorcycle operator 95 percent at fault but determined the damages at 2 million dollars, then the RI wrongful death attorney will be able to recover $100,000 for the estate of the deceased motorcyclist. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title9/9-20/9-20-4.HTM
c. The Asermely decision is the icing on the cake in Rhode Island. In Asermely, The Rhode Island Supreme Court sitting in the Capital city of Providence set rules concerning the obligations insurance companies owed to their insured to act in good faith. If a Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney sends a demand for settlement within the policy limits of the insured’s liability policy and the Insurance company rejects such a demand, then the insurance company is on the hook for any excess judgment.
The RI Top Court stated: “If the insurer declines to settle the case within the policy limits, it does so at its peril in the event that a trial results in a judgment that exceeds the policy limits, including interest. If such a judgment is sustained on appeal or is unappealed, the insurer is liable for the amount that exceeds the policy limits, unless it can show that the insured was unwilling to accept the offer of settlement.” ASERMELY v. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY 728 A.2d 461 (1999). http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ri-supreme-court/1403678.html
d. The state of RI has not adopted any tort reform concerning RI car accidents, medical malpractice caps or the like.
e. RI has nearly strict liability law for rear end accidents. If a motorist rear ends another car, truck or motorcycle than the automobile which caused the rear-ender is almost always responsible for the auto collision.
f. RI has adopted a texting while driving prohibition which broadly defines texting as also reading, composing or sending a text message. ““ (b) No person shall use a wireless handset to compose, read or send text messages while operating a motor vehicle on any public street or public highway within the state of Rhode Island.” http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE31/31-22/31-22-30.HTM”
g. Tortfeasors are responsible to pay 12 percent interest on all judgments as a result of a car, truck, bike or other motor vehicle accident going back to the date of the car crash. http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title9/9-21/9-21-10.HTM
h. Dog Bite and Dog attack Accident in RI: The Ocean State has strict liability for dogs causing injury outside of the dog’s enclosure. The old adage that “every dog gets one free bite” does not apply in Rhode Island when a dog causes injury outside of its enclosure!