Bliven Law Firm, P.C.

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Serving all of Montana for over 25 years

Bliven Law Firm, P.C. is a Montana personal injury law firm located in Northwest Montana serving all of Montana. A group of experienced, dedicated professionals who care about their clients’ needs. Our Montana personal injury attorneys have over 25 years of experience in aggressively pursuing the goals of our clients.

Month: November 2011

FIRST WINTER SNOW CAUSES FLATHEAD VALLEY CAR ACCIDENTS

downloadThe Montana Highway Patrol stated they responded to 18 car accidents in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish and the rest of the Flathead Valley, Thursday.

Kalispell Fire Chief Dave Dedman said drivers need to slow down.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident in the Flathead Valley, or elsewhere in Montana, contact the law offices of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation. Bliven Law Firm, P.C. has two Kalispell lawyers to answer your questions and help you receive the compensation you deserve.

FIVE TIPS FOR PRESERVING A CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM

Call the Police

If you have been hit in an auto-accident, call the police. The responding officer should help gather witness names, compile a report and take pictures. That information will be essential in establishing liability. Failing to contact the local authorities can result in disputed liability. Someone who may want to “take care of an accident” without the police or insurance, may deny liability later.

Obtain Witness Contact Information

If someone else saw the accident, obtain their contact information. Independent witnesses can provide valuable information and help establish liability.

Take Pictures

If you are able to take pictures of the scene of the accident, do so. Many phones are equipped with cameras. Photographic evidence is a useful tool to document damage to your vehicle as well as to your body. If you have lacerations, broken bones or bruises, photograph it. The strength of a personal injury claim is often dependent on the available evidence. Taking photographs of the accident, scene, damage to your vehicle and bodily injuries will provide support and evidence for your damages.

If Injured, Seek Medical Attention Immediately

One of the biggest mistakes that an unrepresented personal injury claimant makes is refusing to seek medical treatment after an accident. Even low speed accidents may cause significant, permanent, or long-term injuries. Failing to seek medical attention can adversely effect your long-term health. In addition, an insurance company may refuse to pay for medical treatment sustained in an auto accident in Montana, if the claimant does not receive treatment until weeks or months after the accident. If you feel you have sustained injuries from an auto accident, seek medical attention immediately.

Contact an Attorney

If you have been injured because of the negligence of another, in an auto accident, seek the legal advice of an attorney. He or she can advise you as to your rights under Montana law. He or she should also represent your best interests to see that you receive proper medical treatment and care. If you have been seriously injured in an auto accident, you may miss days, weeks or months from your job. An attorney will help you receive funds to cover your medical expenses, lost wages and to obtain sums for future medical expenses and other related damages.

Additional Resources

If you have been injured in an auto accident in Montana, call the law offices of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. at (406) 755-6828 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Firm has been helping personal injury and wrongful death victims for 25 years. We care about the community and helping injured victims.

FIVE REASONS TO CALL A LAWYER AFTER A MONTANA CAR ACCIDENT

downloadIf you or a family member has been injured in a car accident, here are five reasons why should give Bliven Law Firm, P.C., a Kalispell law firm, with three  Montana attorneys, a call to start working on your case.

1.     Accident, Injury and Disability Consultations are always FREE.  There is no fee unless we recover money for you.  Ask us to explain contingent attorney’s fees.

 2.     Delays in gathering evidence and filing your claim can hurt your case. Let us get started.

 3.     We work for YOU, not corporate shareholders.

4.     The Insurance companies have lawyers working hard on your case.

5.      An experienced, full service, injury and disability law office can put the law on your side.

MONTANATOP 10 FOR BAD DRIVERS

Montana Drivers were ranked as the eight worst in the United States according to a report published by carinsurancecomparison.com.

Montana Roads are also the most dangerous according to the same source. For every 100 million miles driven, there are 2.12 fatalities, the highest in the nation.

Icy roads and treacherous conditions in the winter time can further exacerbate the problem and cause more car accidents in Montana. Although studded tires, four-wheel drive and traction devices may help during the winter time, sometimes defensive drivers are hit by others who are less prepared.

For over 25 years, Bliven Law Firm, P.C. has helped innocent victims of car accidents recover the compensation they deserve. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, call Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.

MONTANA AUTO ACCIDENT LAWYER ADVISES AGAINST CHOOSING AN INSURANCE AUTO BODY REPAIR SHOP, THE LAW SAYS YOU CHOOSE.

Wrecked-Cars-300x224As a part of our service to our clients who are victims of automobile or motorcycle accidents we handle the property damages portion of the claim without charge when we also handle the personal injury claim.  We have received recent complaints that “preferred insurance” auto body shops are being suggested by several insurance adjusters.  We have also received reports of adjusters threatening to cut off or take away a rental car if the vehicle is not towed to a certain shop.

However Montana Law is very clear on this.  Sec. 33-18-224 Designation of specific automobile body repair businesses prohibited.  “An insurance company including its producers and adjusters, that issues or renews a policy of insurance in this state covering, in whole or in part, a motor vehicle may not:

(i)            require that a claimant under the policy use a particular automobile body repair business or location for an estimate or a repair; or

(ii)          engage in any act or practice that intimidates, coercers or threatens a claimant or that provides an incentive or inducement for a claimant to use a particular automobile body repair business or locations .

(c)             Upon request, the insurance company shall provide, without prejudice or bias, the claimant with a list that includes all automobile body repair businesses or locations that are reasonably close or convenient to the claimant . . .

Many times insurance companies will in even subtle ways suggest a preferred shop or recommend a shop.  This is strictly prohibited.  If you have a auto damage claim in Montana your interests are in finding the best possible repair shop available.

In my 18 years of experience as a Montana Personal Injury Lawyer in Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls I have found a few shops that work with the insurance company and repeatedly overlook certain items which cannot be seen such as transmission damage, frame damage, engine damage.  They may also use inferior parts or techniques, which are not up to industry standards.  While, all of the auto body shops in Flathead County, Montana say they guarantee their work, I have received repeated complaints about having to bring the vehicle back for extended time periods without the problem being fixed, or being told its not covered.

In fact there are some excellent, high end auto body repair shops here in the Flathead Valley that pride themselves on a reputation of excellence.  If an item is questioned by the insurance adjuster, they give the claimant the benefit of the doubt and fix it.  Their goal is to do a great job as their manner of advertising to their clients.  Also as part of our full service philosophy we help guide our clients to the best available shop for their needs.  We don’t care about the insurance companies only our clients.  You are entitled to a comparable rental vehicle.  Therefore if you had a pickup truck that was wrecked in an auto accident the insurance company has to pay for a similar vehicle such as another pickup truck.

You do not have to get three estimates, nor do you need to chose the lowest.

Many people believe they have to get three comparative estimates.  Some insurance adjusters lead them to this belief in the hope that you will chose their shop which will cut corners to get the insurance company business.  Montana Law allows you to pick which shop to take your vehicle to for repair and you do not need to get any comparative estimates.

There are many things that can substantially decrease the value of an insurance claim.  Often it starts out with a recorded statement where seemingly harmless questions come back to haunt you.  If you have been injured in a Montana Automobile accident we can help.  We will take care of the statement for you and coordinating the vehicle damage settlement, repairs and rental car.  If you have been injured we offer these services without charge when we handle your injury case.

TRAFFIC SAFETY CONCERNS ABOUT HIGHWAY 93 WHITEFISH WEST PROJECT RAISED BY LOCAL PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY

whitfishwest-300x191Last night on the drive to Whitefish from Kalispell on the relatively newly completed 4 lane Highway 93 North “expressway” to Whitefish during rush hour, on an icy surface, raised concerns.  The concerns include the Highway West Project, overall Montana Highway Safety and auto accident prevention planning.

All four lanes of Highway 93 North to Whitefish, were packed car to car, truck to car, without a barely a car length between each traveling at the brisk speed of 70 miles per hour + on an icy road.  I observed vehicles with bald tires and can only presume a fair number of uninsured drivers constituent with Montana DOT statistics. In an attempt to slow down to the speed limit of 65, I was tailgated and practically run off the road.  One deer or car crossing the road at Happy Valley would have caused in my opinion at least an Eight-vehicle pile up, with likely fatality.

Granted it was 5:30 p.m. rush hour.  Nonetheless this raised questions.   I recall when two lanes from Kalispell to Whitefish were more than sufficient and seemed safer.  As a result I looked into the population statistics and found that the population of the City of Whitefish has grown an astounding 45% since 1990.  This does not even include the out of city, growth areas.

My family has lived in the Flathead for 18 years.  We live close to Whitefish.  Our family and children are involved in the Whitefish community, along with family relatives.  I have been helping Whitefish families and individuals by providing representation as a personal injury attorney along with business and family matters.  We handle many insurance claims from Whitefish due to our Whitefish family and involvement in the community.

For a change I wanted to try express my own concerns about the crowding conditions on highway 93 North in Whitefish and the trends that my research seems to indicate are occurring.  My family drives on Highway 93 North to Whitefish almost every day of the week.  I want to bring awareness to the dangers of the high-speed rush hour before the wrongful death or serious injury case of a friend, relative or client.

While our accident lawyers have recovered Millions in settlements including Whitefish Auto Accident Injury victims and those injured by Drunk Drivers in and around Whitefish, Montana Law only compensates personal injury victims with money damages.  It does not reverse the serious permanent injuries or wrongful death that results from dangerous road conditions.

The first factor I looked at was population increase.  There is a steady trend for the Whitefish area having the highest population growth in the County.  Second I factored in the Montana Department of Transportation road safety information about Highway 93 North in the Whitefish area.

Due to the alarming incident of automobile accidents and motorcycle accidents in the Highway 93 North corridor between Kalispell and Whitefish the Montana Department of Transportation has designated this area a “High Crash Enforcement Corridor”.  Montana DOT Drunk Driving Accident report for 2010 indicates there remains a substantial drunk driving problem for the Whitefish Highway 93 North corridor, which was also considered in the designation.  The map and more information may be located athttp://www.mdt.mt.gov/publications/docs/brochures/safety/current_chsp.pdf

The final factor I considered in my analysis is the Whitefish West Project which has resulted in a Whitefish downtown traffic juggernaut.  However, when completed it will result in another 5 mile expressway from downtown Whitefish out to Twin Bridges Road, milepost 133.

Over the years as I have traveled Highway 93 North and based anecdotally as a Whitefish accident lawyer I have notice that after the expansion initially traffic was very light.  It is my belief that the improved road brought access to greater growth in the Whitefish area due to its connection to the higher paying jobs in Kalispell.  With the expansion under the Whitefish Highway 93 corridor it would seem that further subdivision and growth will, over time result in more traffic accidents and serious accident injuries.

I enjoy visiting friends and family in Whitefish.  Our family enjoys the community activities and we do our best to give back to the community. However, we have lived in Columbia Falls since starting my Montana Personal Injury practice 25 years ago, which is now Bliven Law Firm, P.C., Montana Trial Attorneys.  I truly believe that Whitefish is a wonderful destination for Flathead County residents to enjoy the activities, visit relatives and participate in the community.  I do not believe that you have to live there to be involved or enjoy all that Whitefish has to offer.

My primary concern as a Whitefish Injury Lawyer is that people are moving into Whitefish and the Whitefish area to enjoy the amenities.  The result will be a much more dangerous highway 93 North and Whitefish West expressway.  I do not want to see anymore, friends, relatives or clients from Whitefish killed or injured on a dangerous highway.

With all of the construction occurring and roadblocks I am beginning to avoid the frequent trips to Whitefish, which are for recreational activities.  My final thought which is much less important than Montana Highway accidents and injuries, was whether, too much growth, will divert other Flathead Residents to competing communities with similar amenities.   Only time will tell whether too much of a good thing will spoil the small old west town atmosphere Whitefish has offered in the past.

FDA WARNS CONSUMERS NOT TO EAT FROZEN OYSTERS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to eat certain ASSI Brand frozen oysters from Korea following an outbreak of illness in Washington state caused by norovirus.

• The frozen oyster meat (shucked; not in shell), is packed in 3-lb bags . Each bag is labeled  ASSI Brand “INDIVIDUALLY QUICK FROZEN OYSTER” with a “Better if Used By” date of “2013.02.232.”  Each bag identifies Central Fisheries Co. Ltd., as the packer and Korean Farms of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., as the distributor. Korean Farms has voluntarily agreed to recall these oysters.

• The individual bags are shipped in boxes of 10 bags each with the lot number C-110223, appearing on each shipping carton , along with a “SHUCKED DATE: 2011.02.24.

• These oysters, which were served in a Washington state restaurant and were eaten by three people who became ill, have been sampled and tested positive by FDA for norovirus genotypes I and II.

Norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). The most common symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. The illness often begins suddenly and norovirus can make people feel extremely ill with frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Most people get better within 1 to 2 days. Dehydration can be a problem among some people with norovirus infection, especially the very young, the elderly, and people with other illnesses.

For more information click here

KALISPELL MAN DIES IN HEAD-ON CRASH

Flathead County Deputy Coroner Jordan White says that Joel Lewis Coyle, 57, of Kalsipell was pronounced dead at the scene of the two vehicle wreck that happened at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

Two trucks collided head on Highway 2 east, near Birch Road. Coyle’s pickup  apparently crossed the divider and two lanes of traffic before colliding head on with a silver Dodge pickup. The driver and passenger in that vehicle were both rushed to the hospital.

“He apparently died on impact,” said Undersheriff Jordan White. “We’re continuing, in cooperation with the Highway Patrol, to figure out the circumstances around this and to determine if alcohol or medical factors or anything else contributed to this crash.”

ICY ROADS CAUSE SEVERAL CRASHES IN BOZEMAN

Icy Roads were to blame for causing 27 crashes in Bozeman on Saturday. At least nine of those were hit and run car accidents according to Bozeman Police.

For over 25 years, Bliven Law Firm, P.C. has been helping innocent victims of Montana Car Accidents including those caused by icy conditions. Even if you have been the victim of a hit and run, you still may be able to recover insurance proceeds.  If you have been involved in a hit and run, or icy road accident in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Missoula, or Kalispell or anywhere else in Montana, contact the law offices of Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation.

ACCUSATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AGAINST GLACIER HIGH SCHOOL MONTANA, HOW CAN CIVIL LAW PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

811asu055a-300x184Back to School Law:  Accusations of assault and sexual assault on a Glacier High School bus, how can Montana Civil Law protect students?

There are many harmful school yard incidents that seem to be on the increase right here in Montana, including Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish. This leads to vulnerability among the younger students along with escalating risk of injury or harm.

The focus of this article is student upon student assault and sexual assault along with the duties of the Kalispell School District under Montana Civil Law.  Strong anti-bullying and anti-hostile student environment policies are important but do not help if not properly enforced in a prioritized common sense manner.  While I have no specific evidence of failure to enforce policies in the Glacier High Bus assault case, one student accused of serious assault has already been returned back to school.  While possession of tobacco or marijuana merit immediate suspension and expulsion it appears that allegations of sexual assault and assault do not.

It is my opinion that assault and sexual assault upon another should warrant the suspension and if proven after investigation, expulsion on a much higher priority basis.  If the local Flathead County School Districts fail to prioritize their enforcement of harassment policies, then the more serious incidents will result in severe injuries. In this case, physical and permanent emotional harm to the victims of the alleged assault and sexual assault likely occurred all on a supervised Glacier High School Football Team bus trip.

The parents of Students according to the Daily Interlake and other unnamed sources state their opinion that the Glacier High School officials are trying to “make this go away” or “sweep it under the rug”.  In my effort to be fair to our hard working teachers here in Kalispell and the Flathead, I contacted Kalispell School District Superintendent Darlene Schottle, who refused to respond.

Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan has filed some criminal charges in the case.  Under Montana Law, pending investigations and other criminal investigative information is confidential under the Montana Confidential Criminal Justice Act.  Therefore, Flathead County Attorney, Ed Corrigan would be limited in any substantive comment he could make until the matter moves to trial.  Further charges may be on the way since investigations are ongoing and are confidential until the charge is filed.

Therefore, I will examine how our Montana civil justice system may assist in protecting the most vulnerable of our students through an examination of Montana and Federal Civil School Law.  Once again, the focus of this article is student upon student, harassment and assault.

In most cases involving civil suits against a school district, its employees and agents are provided under our United States Constitution protection from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  This comes from the common law where the State is considered the “King” and a subject may not sue his “King.”  States may waive this immunity under the tort claims act and statute.  The legislature has provided as follows:  Every governmental entity is subject for its torts and the torts of its employees, §2-9-102 MCA.  There are exceptions for police officers and others. The Montana Legislature decides these issues.  As a result of the above statute, tort claims for negligent supervision, violation of policy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and Negligence among other claims may be asserted against Glacier High School. The agents and employees would not be personally liable but if a suit was successful, the Kalispell School District would have the duty to defend and pay the damages in the case of any judgment based upon negligence theories.

The Seminal Case on this subject from the Montana Supreme Court is the case of S.M., et al. v. R.B. an individual, and Missoula School District No. 1., 261 Mont. 552.  The facts of this case involved a four year old special education student who suffered sexual assault by the hands of a third party bathroom aide.  The Court ruled that the legal issue involved whether the teacher or other school personnel knew or should have known of the sexual assault.

To apply the fact to this case, one must speculate as to what may be developed in a civil suit through discovery.  This process involves investigation, taking statements and depositions.  If the facts showed that coaches on the Glacier High School bus knew the other members of the Glacier Football Team had engaged in hazing and harassment of the younger freshmen previously, then it would be reasonable they protect against assault or sexual assault may occur.  The Kalispell School District could also be liable for violating its own harassment policy, even if a prior hazing event were less severe.

The Kalispell School District may also be liable for the Glacier Bus Assaults on the grounds of simple negligence.  The standard for negligence is what actions a reasonable person would under the circumstances to protect physical or mental injury to children.  All of the coaches sat in the front of the bus.  If the coaches were aware of hazing or harassment in the past, it would seem unreasonable not to separate the coaches on different areas of the bus for supervision.  To leave freshman members of a football team with older students on a bus without chaperone may be considered negligent, if school employees knew or should have known something inappropriate would happen.  In my opinion, if a harassment policy were followed, then the escalation would not have occurred.   Therefore the Kalispell School District may be held liable for negligent supervision and negligence.  If found liable, substantial damages for physical and mental injury may be awarded by a jury or judge.

The Glacier High bus assaults may also implicate Federal Law under Title IX.  Title IX is part of the civil rights act, which requires equal protection and due process.  The Courts are split on this particular situation, student upon student assault.  Several Courts around the County have held, “a safe school environment includes the absence of sexual harassment and discrimination.”  Citing Lenz School Security on Student Harassment and Bullying.  Under Title IX, a student, through his parent, may make a claim and receive remedial action and damages along with attorney’s fees.  Moreover, a Complaint to the Federal Department of Education may result in a review of the Kalispell School Districts Title IX funding.

As a counter argument, the facts may conclude that there were no prior incidents, nor any reason to believe that such behavior would occur.  All of the students may have been well behaved at all times in front of staff.  If no reports were made then the assaults may not have been foreseeable.  This is an issue for a jury to decide.  It is unfortunate that our hard working teachers are taking a lot of heat for the tortuous actions of other children whom they supervise.  Only a thorough proper and neutral investigation will sort this out.

As a result of the Title XI funding issue, there may be a high degree of incentive to just “make this go away” quietly.  The silence from Superintendent Darlene Schottle is deafening.  Nonetheless, all students and staff in the Kalispell, Columbia Falls and Whitefish School districts should be on notice that this behavior on a bus is foreseeable and there must be proper supervision.  This again brings us back to priorities.  While tobacco is very bad and should not be allowed, investigations of assault, sexual assault and harassment should take precedence over behavior which does not involve the immediate physical and mental harm of our students.  I would also suggest that when assault is alleged, that a thorough third party neutral investigation takes place promptly, without delay.  Hopefully through this article, and the collective action of the citizens of Flathead County, such an investigation with its results will be published without delay.