Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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

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.

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