Massachusetts Skateboarding Death Shows How Dangerous This Sport Really Is.

Much of life can be cruel, and even ironic. So it was that a 17 year-old boy, who was only weeks away from getting his much-awaited driver’s’ license, was killed last Thursday while skateboarding in Taunton, Massachusetts. Nicholas Silva-Thomas was killed by a car driven by a hit-and-run driver, as yet unidentified.

The youth was skateboarding on Bay Street in Taunton, after leaving Watson Park with other skateboarding friends to go to a pizza shop. At about 9:40 PM, as Silva-Thomas was skateboarding on a street he hoped to be driving on in the near future, he was struck by a driver who fled the scene and abandoned the youth, lying in the street with a fatal head injury. Witnesses said that not only did the driver leave the scene, he or she turned their lights off while doing so, to make the license plate on the car harder for any witnesses to see. No one was able to identify the license plate as the car sped away. Hopefully, there really is a thing called hell, and hopefully, there is a spot reserved for people like this driver.

This is a tragic story, but if it can do any good at all, let it illustrate the enormous and grave dangers connected with not only skateboarding as a sport, but skateboarding and Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents. I am fully aware that skateboarding has become very popular in recent years. When I was a kid, in the 1970’s and ’80’s, skateboarding was popular, then it fell out of vogue. In the past ten years or so, it’s come back with a rage. Michael J. Fox made it popular in 1986’s “Back To The Future” – though his skills were computer-animated. I understand the thrill of sports like this, and I understand kids (like many adults) want thrills. The problem is that seemingly all caution is thrown to the wind with so many of these activities: A reminder: No matter how adept at using a skateboard, no one can navigate, turn, or stop on these things with the same precision as even a bike. In an emergency, you cannot evade or escape a collision with anywhere near an “acceptable” margin of safety while on a skateboard.

Even worse, very few skateboarders wear protective helmets. Tragically, Silva-Thomas wasn’t wearing a helmet, either. (Now that it’s summer, I see this “derring-do” attitude all the time at the beach by kids with skim-boards. Ever see that “sport”? – A user throws an ultra-thin boogie board, about 3 feet long, into the water washing up on the sand. Once on a thin film of water, the person runs toward the board, jumps on it, and “slides” as the board flips forward, usually in the air. I’ve seen more kids flip upside down and land on their backs and necks than I can believe. This “sport” is an open invitation to a Christopher Reeve-like broken neck.)

As a plaintiffs’ product liability lawyer, this makes me think of a very similar summer/seasonal toy that was manufactured in the 1960’s: The “Slip and Slide.” Following several successful lawsuits following the often-serious injuries this toy caused, it was gratefully taken off the market. This was one of the first product liability lawsuits against toy manufacturers.

Making matters even worse for the family of young Silva-Thomas, is the fact that, as the driver who hit the youth has not yet been found, any auto insurance coverage that might be available to compensate for this fatality would be limited to the uninsured or under-insured driver benefits that would be provided by any car owned and insured by the youth’s parents or family. Unless optional coverages are purchased, this coverage is usually limited to $20,000 per person, or $40,000 per accident.

This tragedy again illustrates these maxims: 1) All Massachusetts drivers should carry “Bodily Injury Caused By An Uninsured Auto” coverage of at least $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident (Part 3 on your policy Coverage Selections page); and 2) All Massachusetts drivers should also carry “Optional Bodily Injury To Others” coverage of at least $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident. The first of the above, (1) protects you if are injured by either a hit-and-run driver or a driver that carries only the minimum standard coverages of $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident, but you have damages that exceed the standard minimum coverage of $20,000/$40,000; The second of the above, (2) protects you if you injure someone else with your car, and the victim’s damages exceed $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident. All this is further explained in detail on my web site, on the Massachusetts Car Accidents Page. If you accidentally injured someone with your car or have been injured by another driver, or if you just have some general questions, contact us for a free initial consultation. We can answer your questions and provide you with the best guidance possible in this area of law.

My thoughts and sympathies go out to the Silva-Thomas family.

POST-SCRIPT: As of the time this post is being published, (Sun., 8/7/11, 11:30 PM,) I have learned that authorities in the Taunton Police Department have made an arrest in this case. Paul Baran, 55,of Taunton, was arrested earlier today (Sunday.) Baran faces a charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Police say they developed necessary information Saturday night that led them to the vehicle that struck young Silva-Thomas, and to Baran. As an attorney who is also a Dedham criminal defense lawyer, I should say here that Baran must be presumed innocent until he is either proven guilty or pleads guilty to this offense. But if either of these outcomes occur, he will not only have to deal with the law, he will have to deal with his conscience.

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