Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 01-09-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 PAWTUCKET JANUARY 9-15, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | PAWTUCKET EDITION of windfall lawsuit settlements as a whole. "People are inclined to sue more," he said, and for many insurance companies, it's simply not worth it anymore to try to keep up with the payouts. Promotional efforts reviewed by The Breeze showed attorneys highlight- ing the fact that most personal injury claims never go to trial and the fact that the average slip-and-fall accident costs $30,000 or more in hospital bills. Hunter said anyone can be sued if someone falls on their property dur- ing or after a snowstorm, whether it's a homeowner, business owner or municipality. Once you clear a drive- way, the liability goes up, he said. If a delivery person were to ever fall on someone's front steps and then sue, he said, it would actually be better for that homeowner if they had left the stairs untouched as "virgin snow." Municipal officials are reporting struggles finding plow operators. In Cumberland, Highway Supt. Frank Stowik said the town has lost many vendors due to the increases in insur- ance. The town is still well short of what it needs, he says, and continues to advertise for plowing services. The ultimate impact of this issue will likely be less plowing coverage during storms, said Stowik. More and more private developments are being accepted as public roadways in Cumberland, he said, meaning plow routes are getting longer even as help is falling off. "Hopefully we've got enough (oper- ators)," he said. Other communities, such as Pawtucket, haven't felt the impact as much. Director of Administration Dylan Zelazo said the city hasn't had an issue getting enough plows on the road, but said he has noticed seem- ingly fewer plow drivers around. North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said his community also hasn't had an issue, but said the town also has mostly weaned itself off of outside contractors for plowing. The way insurance works for plow drivers who cover municipalities, said Hunter, is that the operator must provide a certificate of insurance and must notify the city if he no longer has insurance. Municipalities will request that they be listed on the contractor's insurance as an addi- tional insured entity. Someone who is injured will then sue the town and operator, with the operator's insur- ance protecting both entities. The operator has to carry at least $1 mil- lion of coverage. Cote said dropping the Bellingham commercial account was only due in part to the insurance issue. In addi- tion to worrying about insurance, plow operators have many other factors to consider when deciding whether to even take on a client or stay in the business. If someone cares about their customer, they really have to almost babysit the lot during and after a snowstorm, he said. In his case, he was often trying to guess at where the "fine line" of snowy pre- cipitation was, as it could be raining in Lincoln but snowing heavily in Bellingham. He said he's maintained some of his other commercial accounts. Like Hunter, Cote also placed the blame for this issue on attorneys who make plow drivers and insurance companies the natural targets, as well as a society that seems to always be looking for the fast score know- ing that it's easier to settle than go to court. The insurance companies aren't at fault here, he said. "They don't want to lose money," he said. "Accidents do happen, it is what it is. They just want to make sure they're not liable." PLOW DRIVERS From Page 4

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