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It is back-to-school time in Massachusetts! Whether students are going to public or private school, kindergarten or twelfth grade, it is time for parents to rush to the store, buy school supplies, and brush up on their math. It is also time for parents to send their kids off to school on school buses, which means brushing up on school bus safety.

School buses are the safest mode of transportation for students, not only because of their size but also because of how seats are constructed. Like many states, Massachusetts does not require school buses to have seat belts for children. While many parents are concerned about their children riding school buses without seatbelts and many communities can require school buses to have seatbelts, studies have shown that buses with padded seats that are higher in the back and have short front to back seat spacing are safer for young students. Bus drivers are required to wear seatbelts while driving. Continue reading

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After four years of litigation, on July 28, 2016, in Bowers v. P. Wiles Inc., the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), the highest court in Massachusetts, has finally cleared the way for a jury to hear the case between Linda Bowers and P. Wiles Inc. They have expanded the “mode of operation” exception to premises liability of storeowners, making it easier for plaintiffs to prove that storeowners are liable for the injuries caused by the negligence of other customers.

In December of 2011, the plaintiff, Linda Bowers, fractured her hip when she slipped on a wet river stone on the walkway leading to an Agway garden store in Cape Cod. Agway is owned by P. Wiles Inc. Ms. Bowers sued P. Wiles Inc. for negligence, claiming that Agway knew or should have known that other patrons could dislodge stones, creating a fall risk for customers. Ms. Bowers alleges that Agway did not take reasonable steps to prevent customers from tripping and injuring themselves on these stones. After filing her complaint, P. Wiles moved for summary judgment claiming that Ms. Bowers did not have sufficient evidence to show that Agway had actual or constructive knowledge that the stone was there. In fact, Ms. Bowers had admitted that she did not have evidence to show whether the stone was there long enough for Agway to remedy the situation.  Continue reading

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Since its release on July 6th, Pokémon Go has been a party to many injuries, several car accidents and even muggings. So far, injuries sustained have not been fatal. Many players have reported via social media injuries ranging from severe sunburns to twisted ankles from tripping or falling into ditches.Pokémon Go is a new app inspired by a video game originally released in 1995 which was played on Gameboys. Soon after its creation, the Pokémon franchise expanded to the creation of a cartoon, along with playing cards and toys. The object of Pokémon Go is literally to “catch ‘em all!” Players walk around using the app, which in turn uses the camera app. As you walk around, the app tells you where you might find Pokémon, which are then viewable through the app. You then “throw” a pokéball at them to capture them.

Aside from injuries, there have also been muggings associated with the game. In Missouri, a group of teenagers were arrested for robbing several Pokémon Go players by using the app against them to lure them to areas where they could easily be overtaken and robbed. The teenagers were able to lure players by setting up pokéstops to “attract Pokémon” and in so doing were able to attract unsuspecting Pokémon Go players.

The US isn’t the only country with mounting concerns regarding injuries and crimes caused by players distractedly tripping and running into things. Police in the UK have been warning players to watch their surroundings, as having their faces buried in their phones make them easy targets for criminals, as well as prone to accidents such as walking into oncoming traffic.

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Boston has launched a review of protocols at all its summer camps after a young boy was found drowned at a beach after disappearing from a South Boston day camp.

On Tuesday, July 26, 2015, at approximately 7:09 p.m., 7-year-old Kyzr Willis was recovered by police in the water behind the L Street Bathhouse at the Curley Community Center after he wandered away unnoticed from camp.“My heart goes out to the family,” Police Commissioner William B. Evans told reports at the scene.  “This is a tragedy.”

Willis was attending a drop-in summer day camp at the Curley Community Center when he went missing.  The South Boston community center where the camp is held includes a bathhouse at Carson Beach where the boy was last scene at around 2:15 p.m.  He could not be found when his mother came to pick him up less than an                                                                                       hour later.

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On Monday July 18th, 2016 over 50 former professional wrestlers filed a class action lawsuit against the WWE alleging that they each suffered “long term neurological injuries” due to the WWE’s absolute failure to treat them in “any medically competent or meaningful manner.” The lawsuit further states that the WWE had “fraudulently misrepresented and concealed” the nature and extent of injuries sustained while wrestling. The injury alleged in the lawsuit is known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.

CTE was originally discovered in boxers in the 1920’s.  However, recent studies have found CTE in other professional athletes or anyone who has repeatedly experienced head trauma.

This repeated trauma causes brain degeneration which can be seen in terms of memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.  With CTE, symptoms can begin within a few months following the trauma or can begin to develop decades later.

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Amanda Phillips of Cambridge, a 27-year-old bicyclist was killed on Thursday, June 23, 2016 after she was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle through Inman Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The crash is still under investigation.

In a statement made last Friday, Massachusetts State Police stated that a preliminary reconstruction of the crash indicated that Phillips had maneuvered from the sidewalk to the open roadway where she struck the open door of a parked jeep as a person prepared to get out. The impact then pushed the cyclist into traffic where she collided with a landscaping truck.

The crash occurred at around 12:17 p.m. at the intersection of Hampshire and Cambridge streets, in Cambridge’s Inman Square. Inman Square is an exceptionally busy four-way intersection often packed with cars, pedestrians, MBTA buses, and bikers. Following the accident, Phillips was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

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Last week, 2-year old Lane Graves of Nebraska lost his life in a deadly alligator attack at Disney. Reports state that an alligator snatched the boy from the shores of the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where he and his family were vacationing.

While at the Disney Resort, the young boy had been wading close to the shore the lagoon.  The boy’s father desperately attempted to free his child from the alligator while his mother tried to get help from the lifeguard. Tragically, the alligator was too strong and fast for any rescue efforts. The next morning officials reported that they had recovered the body of the boy.  The official cause of death is drowning.

Following the tragic death, Disney released a public statement stating that the company “will thoroughly review the situation for the future.”

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Earlier this month, fifty-year-old Charles Pickett of Battle Creek, Michigan crashed his car into nine bicyclists and then fled the scene.  He is now facing five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing serious bodily harm.

Just minutes prior to the collision, police in the area had received several concerned calls prompting them to search for an erratically driving truck.  According to one eyewitness, he had just narrowly missed being hit by the truck as he was leaving a local park. He further stated that he didn’t have time to warn the bicyclists before the truck collided into the group – ranging in age from 40 to 74.

The bicyclists were part of a group who referred to themselves as the “Chain Gang” and regularly took long rides together. They were just 5-miles into their typical 30 mile ride when Pickett struck the bike-enthusiasts. According to the Kalamazoo Sheriff’s Department, after the truck made impact, Pickett bailed from his truck and fled the scene on foot. Police were able to swiftly find and arrest him.

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Massachusetts’ state and local law enforcement have launched a statewide effort to stop and cite drivers who are texting while driving in an effort to combat accidents, injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving.  Last year 6,131 citations were given to distracted drivers. This was a huge bump from the 1153 given to drivers in 2011, which marked the first full year after Massachusetts passed its ban on texting while driving. Continue reading

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A Georgia man and his wife recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against a teen driver, alleging that the 18-year-old high school student was driving while distracted and speeding because of a popular Snapchat speed filter. Their lawyers state that Snapchat was the critical factor in the accident as the teen was using a filter which clocks how fast the user is going. The Complaint, filed on April 19, also names the company Snapchat as a Defendant.

Distracted driving has become a huge issue in recent years. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. In 2010 the research indicated that during daylight hours approximately 660,000 drivers were using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number which has not changed in the past six years.

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