Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Here it is Thanksgiving Day 2019, and I thought I’d post these thoughts before sitting down for dinner.  Actually, I’ve made it a practice to contemplate on what I’m grateful for almost every day of the year that I can:  It’s a smart habit to form.

On a professional level, as a Massachusetts car accident attorney, I’m grateful that – finally – a ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving has been signed into law.  I’ve been publicly advocating for this for a few years now, and Gov. Charlie Baker finally signed the measure into law this past Monday.  Very briefly, the new law’s provisions:

  • Use of hand-held electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle – importantly, whether cell phones or otherwise – is banned beginning February 23, 2020. That’s 90 days after the law was signed by the governor, but the law provides a grace period through to March 31, 2020, which means that drivers who are cited for violation of the law prior to March 31, will receive a warning, not a fine.  As a Boston injuries attorney who has seen far too many preventable injuries caused by driver cell phone use, I thought that this additional grace period was unnecessary, and represented too much of a politics-based concession to the members of the Flat Earth Society who claimed that drivers would “need time to adjust”.  My response:  Please.   At any rate, from April 1, 2020 forward, violators will be hit with fines, as discussed further below.  Aside from my observation above about the unnecessary ‘grace period’, inside each of the additional bullets below are my thoughts as an attorney who deals every day with accidents and injuries that are caused by Massachusetts distracted driving accidents.

In Part One of this two-part post, I outlined how seven U.S. war veterans were killed, and three other individuals seriously injured, when a Massachusetts truck driver plowed into them while allegedly high on illegal drugs. Making this tragedy even worse was the fact that several other states had issued written warnings to Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles officials, that the truck driver responsible for these motor vehicle fatalities, had been previously arrested in several other states for drunk and drugged driving offenses. Upon receipt of this kind of notice, Massachusetts DOT and RMV officials were required to immediate suspend that truck driver’s Commercial Drivers license (CDL), but they didn’t. Why? An investigation revealed that thousands of similar such notices from out of state police departments and DMV’s had been – literally – stuffed into boxes in a storage facility in Quincy, un-acted on. The envelopes of these out of state arrest notices were never even opened by RMV staff.

Words are begged for an adequate description of this story. “Mismanagement” doesn’t describe it. “Incompetence” doesn’t come close. Additional media reports about this literally unbelievable story, have revealed that Massachusetts RMV officials knew that these out-of-state license suspension notices, sent in writing to the Massachusetts RMV, were stuffed into dozens and dozens of storage boxes – never acted on – and stored in a state facility. All the while, well over 1,000 dangerous Massachusetts drivers, whose Massachusetts licenses should have been suspended by the RMV, remained on the road, every day. Death and carnage just waiting to happen. As of today’s date, media reports indicate that almost 870 additional Massachusetts drivers have been identified by the RMV as drivers that should have previously had their licenses suspended due to various driving offenses, but never did. That pushes the total of recently suspended Massachusetts drivers licenses, to nearly 2,400. That level of negligence is outrageous. Continue reading

By now, almost everyone in Massachusetts, as well as people around the country, have learned of the operational disasters inside the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (“Massachusetts DOT” below) and Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (“Massachusetts RMV” below), which led to the simultaneous deaths of seven motorcyclists in June in New Hampshire in one horrific accident. Almost all of the victims of this tragedy were war veterans who had served overseas, when they were all struck by a truck driver whose Massachusetts driver’s license was not suspended as it should have been by Massachusetts DOT and Massachusetts RMV officials, due to multiple prior out of state driving violations that the RMV had been notified of, but never acted on. Aside from the seven persons killed in that crash, three other persons were very seriously injured. The truck driver who hit these people was not injured. When the accident occurred, that truck driver was on Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, driving a black 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck towing an empty car carrier trailer, when he veered into the motorcyclists, members of the “Jarheads Motorcycle Club” (“Jarheads” is a term that is often used to refer to soldiers.) Continue reading

For years in Massachusetts, electric scooters, as a means of transportation (vs. recreation), were illegal in almost all cities and towns. In the past few months, however, the Boston City Council (not a body known for its intellectual acumen or common sense), voted to allow a pilot program that allows these “vehicles” into Boston. So has the town of Brookline, at least for this summer.

Under the program in Boston, officials there can issue ‘pilot licenses’, can supposedly limit the number of licenses granted each year, and can supposedly control how many vehicles can be utilized at a given time. So far, two scooter companies have injected themselves into the metropolitan Boston area:  Bird and Lime.  Other provisions supposedly require companies owning these vehicles to submit ‘safety plans’ (whatever they are), and supposedly detail how those scooter companies plan to communicate safety information to people riding these things. Did you notice how many times I wrote “supposedly”? That’s because the introduction of dangerous items like small, electric scooters, is an example of how some ideas, in a theoretical context, cannot be effectively managed in a practical context. Call it the “theory-practice” divide – and the idea of hundreds or even thousands of people all over the Greater Boston area whizzing around on these things – with no direction signals on them and no operator’s licenses being required to use them, is a disaster just waiting to happen.

Exhibit ‘A’: In the town of Brookline, where I grew up and was previously an elected Town Meeting Member, a scooter operator was injured on the first day of that town’s pilot program allowing the use of these death traps. Why do I call them “things” and “death traps”? Let me count the ways:

Welcome to the New World of transportation. A taxi?  What’s that? Most people now turn to their smartphone for an Uber (or Lyft) ride. Actually, the New World of ride-sharing services (“Transportation Network Companies”, as they’re known legally), have been around since about 2016 or so. While many people are familiar with how they can summon and pay for a ride-sharing service on their smartphones, very few people know how the legal system works in Massachusetts if they are injured either while a passenger in an Uber or Lyft ride, or hit and injured as a pedestrian by an Uber or Lyft driver. This is a really important topic.

Actually, “old-style” taxis and cabs, are a good jumping-off point to discuss the legal and liability insurance differences with ride-sharing services. I’ll try not to bore you here, so here’s the short version: Because of the powerful political influence that the conventional taxi industry carried on Beacon Hill for many, many years, taxis and cabs in Massachusetts were only required to carry bare minimums in bodily injury liability insurance coverage on their vehicles – a paltry $20,000 in liability coverage. An amount that low would barely cover the bills and expenses that a person injured in a Massachusetts taxi accident would likely face: Hospital & medical bills, lost wages and compensation for pain & suffering. For many years, if you were injured in or by a taxi, you’d have to hope that your damages were very low.

Thankfully, that liability picture has changed with the explosion of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Now, if an Uber driver in Massachusetts is negligent and causes an accident that results in someone’s injury, passengers and pedestrians have expanded legal options in seeking compensation for their injuries. The Massachusetts Ride Sharing Bill, which became law in August 2016, created the state’s first regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber. Under this law, such drivers must now carry at least $50,000 of coverage for bodily injury claims per individual, a minimum of $100,000 of coverage for bodily injury claims per accident and $30,000 of coverage for property damage, uninsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection. (We can explain all those to you  when you call us.) The transportation network company must pay for excess insurance coverage, above those limits. The cost of this liability insurance coverage is shared by both Uber corporate and individual Uber drivers. A massive improvement from the measly $20,000 of coverage that the taxi industry got away with for years, no? That’s great news! As Massachusetts Uber accident lawyers, that enables us to obtain far higher financial damages and compensation for clients injured in Uber accidents.

Following up on my previous post on this topic, not only is not clearing one’s vehicle of ice and snow before your drive foolish, inconsiderate, and potentially deadly, in Massachusetts it’s illegal.  Not because our myopic legislators have had the motivation to enact a specific stature mandating removal of snow & ice from the hoods, roofs and trunk lids of their vehicles (that would be too sensible, after all.)  It’s illegal due to a handful of other motor vehicle operation statutes – and police departments across the state have shown they are very willing to cite drivers for violations of those statutes, which are as follows:

  • M.G.L. Chapter 90, Sec. 13, which addresses safety precautions for proper operation and parking of vehicles. This law prohibits anything on or in a vehicle that interferes with proper operation of the vehicle.  And yes, snow and/or ice on car’s surfaces – especially the roof and hood – meets this definition.
  • M.G.L. Chapter 85, Section 36, addressing unsecured vehicle loads. Violation of this statute imposes fines of up to $200 – and if an accident were part of the vehicle stop and a driver was cited with this violation, that citation will put the driver cited at a serious disadvantage in any civil liability case that followed as a result of any Massachusetts motor vehicle accident.

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shattered windshieldWhether it’s politically correct or not, I have to say it: Some people really amaze me with their level of foolishness – or downright stupidity. These days, people just seem to lack ordinary, run-of-the-mill common sense. Whether it’s (literally) racing to supermarkets, to (again, literally) raid the shelves for food if a weather forecast involves a mere 2-4” of snow, or in general acting like brainless idiots, so many people truly amaze me. Here in the greater Boston area, depending on one’s location, somewhere between 2-4” or perhaps 3-6” of snow was forecast this past weekend. Result? Madness on the roads, everywhere (even though not a flake had yet fallen). The shelves of nearly every supermarket, were emptied of anything that could be reached. I noticed one very haggard-looking checkout clerk in a supermarket, and commented that she must have been exhausted from the day. She looked at me and said (with much insight), “For a few inches of snow. People are insane these days.”   She captured that thought pretty well.  One person told me that he went to get gas at a local Costco gas station this past weekend. There were so many cars at that Costco, (thousands, as he recalled it), that it took him over 2 ½ hours to get gas and leave.

Because 2-4” of snow had been forecast (of which 1” actually fell; not unusual).  Amazing.

Care to know what else is amazing? The fact that in winter (which in Massachusetts, we’re now in the pit of), people will clear their vehicle windows of snow & ice, but won’t clear the snow & ice from their vehicle hoods and roofs. Result?  Once the vehicle heats up, and speeds of as low as 20 MPH are reached, huge chunks and layers of that snow and ice will become airborne missiles, hitting cars and trucks behind them as though they were giant boulders. Large chunks of snow & ice, once airborne, accelerate to the force that snow-making guns throw at ski resorts. The larger the chunk, the heavier it is, and these large, heavy chunks of snow & ice can hit a vehicle behind it with as much speed as hitting a small deer.  Even with smaller chunks of snow & ice, these size projectiles can hit your vehicle with the speed of a baseball pitch. Apparently, these clueless drivers think the snow & ice on their hoods and roofs are cemented there until spring, when an auto mechanic will remove them with special equipment.

Tragically, it happened again yesterday: Another death from a bicyclist being hit by a motor vehicle – in this case, a dump truck. Given the large number of bike riders on the traffic-congested streets in and around the Boston area, it was only a matter of time. And worse, it will only be a matter of time until the next such Massachusetts pedestrian-motor vehicle accident happens.

According to media reports including The Boston Globe, the bicyclist who was killed in the collision was named Meng Jin, and he was a 24 year-old Boston University graduate student from Shanghai.  Boston University’s official news site, BU Today, also released this information. Technically, the collision occurred in Cambridge, but it was only feet from the Boston city line and the Science Museum, at the intersection of Monsignor O’Brien Highway and Museum Way. Massachusetts State Police reported that the young man was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead due to his injuries. Continue reading

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