Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Readers of both this blog and my Massachusetts criminal law blog, , know that I’ve written a great deal recently on the subject of the 3 deaths that resulted last month from a car crash in Cotuit Massachusetts, that followed a high-speed police car chase of a criminal defendant who was out on probation at the time. In fact, I wrote a 3-part post on that subject, which dealt with the criminal law aspects of that case and probation issues.

Today’s post here deals with potential civil liability of the Town of Mashpee Police Department, for engaging in a high-speed chase of that suspect, who according to police reports was driving at speeds of 100 MPH or faster. To its credit, the Mashpee Police Department issued a public statement just a couple of days ago, publicly acknowledging that the police should have broken off the high-speed chase in the interests of public safety. Readers will likely have two questions: 1) Can the Police Department here be held liable for the 3 deaths that resulted – one of whom was Kevin P. Quinn, a 32 year-old Afghanistan combat veteran who was killed by the speeding driver being pursued by Mashpee Police – even worse so – after he had just left the hospital where his wife had given birth to his and his wife’s newborn son? 2) Why would a police department call off a pursuit of a criminal suspect?

First, as to whether a municipal police department can be held civilly liable (i.e., ordered to pay monetary damages) for the injuries or death of someone caused by a high-speed chase by its officers, the answer is: Yes – depending on the specific circumstances involved. The legal test is one of negligence, and in order to determine if the police were negligent under the factual circumstances that were present, a number of factors will need to be weighed as evidence, including but not limited to:

I don’t know how many of my readers were aware of this at the time it happened, but five months ago, last February 2018, two Needham High School students were killed when two separate vehicle drivers hit both students as they were walking across Webster Street, in the town just next door to me here in Westwood. It was a stunning tragedy that took the lives of Talia Newfield, age 16, and Adrienne Garrido, age 17. Both were Juniors at Needham High School.

February 10, 2018 was a Saturday – not even a school day. The weather was uncomplicated, in fact rather warm for that day of the year (approximately 50 degrees). Yet, in a freak accident that still begs for comprehension, both friends were struck as pedestrians by two separate cars. Just a day ago, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey’s office released news that the drivers of those two cars, Robert Berry, 65, of Needham, and Dania Antoine-Guiteau, 52, of Wellesley, have been indicted by a Norfolk County grand jury on criminal felony homicide charges: Mr. Berry was charged with motor vehicle homicide and two counts of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Ms. Antoine-Guiteau was indicted on charges of manslaughter and negligent motor vehicle homicide. Now, beyond the grieving families of these two young students, two more families will suffer even more grief, knowing that their family members have been criminally indicted on Massachusetts motor vehicle homicide charges. Continue reading

The media has been doing a lot of broadcasting and publishing recently – very justifiably – on the subject of the Massachusetts Legislature’s shameful failure to act promptly in passing a revised distracted driving bill in this state. In the meantime, the lives of millions of drivers on the roads of Massachusetts remain at heightened risk due to people using their cell phones while behind the wheel. Distracted driving – whether talking on a phone, texting, or surfing through apps – is killing people every month that state government fails to crack down – as in, “Big Time.’

When is this Roadshow of Russian Roulette going to cease? Continue reading

I’m posting this very brief piece on Thanksgiving Day, a day I wouldn’t normally be working.

But as I was thinking last night of all that I have in this life – many things that others less fortunate than I don’t have – the idea of loss struck home as I noticed a news item that I had placed on my “To Do” list.  That item was the fact that, just 3 or so blocks from me here in Westwood, a six year-old boy was killed last Sunday, November 19.  The boy’s name was Edward “Eddie” Thomson.  He died two days after being hit as a pedestrian in a crosswalk by a car at around 3:00 PM  at the corner of Pond Street and Lakeshore Drive.  Westwood police have commented that the incident appears to be accidental.  I’m not surprised:  the At that time of day at this time of year, the sun is very low in the sky, and even if a driver isn’t heading west, at the angle that the sun sets at this time of year, at 3:00 PM it can blind you easily.  As I said, the corner of Lakeshore Drive and Pond Street is only about three blocks from where my wife Debbi and I live.  News like this hits home, when it happens five minutes from your own life.

Life can be so fragile.  As an attorney who specializes in auto accident cases, I see tragic accidents like this far too frequently.  It’s easy to think that these awful, fatal accidents happen mostly on the highway – out on Route 128 or the Mass. Pike – but they don’t just happen on high-speed roads.  Fatal pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents can happen in a neighborhood, as happened here – and lifelong injuries and yes, death, can result – from a vehcile traveling as slow as 10 or 15 MPH.

How does this picture look to you?  Pretty scary, huh?  Well, you’d be surprised how often I see these types of Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents, caused by distracted driving.  That’s code for “Using a smart phone when behind the wheel.”

Mass Pike rollover
Despite the gravity of this problem, some would say that this subject is a classic battle between civil libertarians vs. law-and-order types.  I prefer to call it Realists vs. Members of the Flat Earth Society.

Because, as a Massachusetts car accident attorney, it’s my opinion that one would have to believe the earth is flat, to conclude that the time is long past due to ban the use of all hand-held devices while driving any motor vehicle.  An anemic attempt to address this massive problem was enacted in 2010, banning drivers aged 16 and 17 from using the devices while driving – but not adults.   The assertion at that time that this was “really a youth problem” was pathetic, and driven largely by special interest groups that didn’t want to interfere with “adult use” of these accident-causing devices.  Predictably, that embarrassing excuse of an effective public safety statute did little to stem this deadly, and growing, problem.

My previous post on this subject talked about how a lot of drivers end up driving around with too little of some very important types of auto insurance.  I ended the last pointing out that many drivers who have been injured in Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents can suffer not only devastating physical injuries, but suffer financial losses as well due to the “other driver” not carrying enough bodily injury insurance to pay for all of your damages.

This can happen in two principal scenarios:

  • The other driver who caused your injuries was driving illegally without any insurance, and has no assets you can attach to pay for your damages.

Or

  • The other driver does carry the compulsory minimum Bodily Injury To Others coverage of $20,00 per person/$40,000 per accident, but your (and/or your occupants) damages exceed that amount.

Continue reading

OK, folks.  Time to talk about something that may not be sexy or on the average person’s radar screen, but if you drive a car in Massachusetts (and over 85% of residents here do,) it’s far more important to everyday life than you think.

I’m talking about your auto insurance coverages – specifically, uninsured motorist coverage – called “UM coverage”, and underinsured motorist coverage – called “UIM coverage.  Why so important?  Because your statistical chances of being injured by another driver, or you injuring someone else, are very high. If you don’t know enough about your auto insurance policy, you could find yourself in real legal and financial trouble.

I’ll make this explanation as easy to understand as I can.  Note:  If you have easy access to your auto insurance policy right now, getting your policy out and looking at your Coverage Selections Page, otherwise called your “DEC Page” (for “Declarations,”) will make what I’m going to talk about a lot easier to understand.  If you don’t have your policy in easy reach, keep reading because you’ll still learn valuable information that can protect you, legally and financially.

Many people as of now have heard about the wrong-way collision earlier this week on Route 496 in Middleborough, which killed all occupants of both vehicles – 5 people in total.  They included the 31 year-old drive of the vehicle driving the wrong way on Route 495, and the 4 occupants of the vehicle that she hit.  Those 4 occupants were college students from schools in the Worcester area.

There’s been some talk lately about how, on a statistical level, wrong-way motor vehicle crashes or head-on car crashes are fairly rare.  On a purely statistical level, that’s true:   These type of motor vehicle accidents amounted to just 3 percent of crashes on divided highways recently, killing about 360 people every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.)  But while those numbers may not seem so high, here’s another truth:  These types of motor vehicle accidents are, statistically, far more fatal than other types of car accidents.   In my long career as a Massachusetts highway accident attorney, I’ve seen the reality of this on an up-close, more often than I care to say.  The reasons for this are just a few, but very powerful: Continue reading

I’ve posted about the lunacy of texting & driving repeatedly.  Here’s a link to some of my previous  recent posts on this subject.

Most of what I have had to say on this subject, is, of course, in written format in this blog.  But despite my efforts and the efforts of many other professionals in the legal and public safety fields, this problem continues, unchecked.  Thinking that perhaps people just can’t or don’t get the important message of not texting or using a cell phone when driving, by only reading something, I thought readers might get the point more viscerally, through a video.  As a Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer, I know first-hand how important it is that people cease this insanity – yesterday.    Therefore, take 3 minutes to watch this video on the insanity – and even cruelty – of texting while driving:

First, I hope that my readers and friends have had a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day. Given the fact that this is one of, if not the most, high motor vehicle traffic days in the year, staying safe on the roads can be a challenge.

Right now, I’m vacationing with my wife Debbi on Maui, Hawaii (Note: If you’re a current or prospective client, don’t worry: All my cases are being covered by my colleagues!) When most people get away on vacation, they usually don’t think of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. You’re on vacation, right? What can go wrong? The answer: Plenty. In fact, more than you think – and the reasons are obvious: Problem #1 – “How Do You Work This Thing?”: When traveling a long way from home (vs. locally,) most people are driving a rental car. Rental car drivers are not familiar with the vehicle they’re renting, so the risk of operator error increases substantially. Problem # 2 – “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” – The layout of the roads, the terrain, directions, are all strange and unfamiliar – and this increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident even more. Problem #3 – “I need some sleep”: Travelers driving rental cars are probably quite tired from the stress of travel – and this too, increases the risk of a car accident. Problem #4 – “Get Outta My Way:This is probably the worst one: Our impatient and often insensitive, inconsiderate culture. So many people these days just don’t care about consideration and civility toward other drivers. So many people will cut you off in a heartbeat, just to get a couple of car lengths ahead of you; just to ‘beat the light” ahead of you. This behavior is, of course, what earned Massachusetts drivers the nickname “Massholes” – and unfortunately, as a Boston Massachusetts motor vehicle accident lawyer, I can regrettably attest to the truth of this term. Continue reading

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