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The world of civil liability law in Massachusetts, or tort law as attorneys call it, is changing.  And as with most change that takes place within society, there are opposing forces to change; one that supports the change; one that doesn’t.  If that doesn’t exactly excite you, if you’re a homeowner you might want to know that one such major change in the area of Massachusetts tort law that was seen in recent years, was the Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) ruling on the subject of whether or not homeowners could be held liable for slip & fall injuries occurring on their property due to snow and ice not being removed from the property in a timely fashion.  The legal upshot:  They can now.

Years of legal principle in Massachusetts had generally insulated homeowners from such liability, applying an arcane and often little-understood idea previously known as the “unnatural accumulation” principle.  This convoluted theory held that unless the offending snow and ice that caused the injuries in question was the result of “unnatural accumulation” – i.e., previous shoveling or plowing – then the homeowner was not liable.  As a Boston, Massachusetts slip and fall attorney, I can assure you:  This often confusing rationale usually resulted in unjust rulings and verdicts, and in fact discouraged homeowners from shoveling or removing snow & ice from their property.  That no longer results, as homeowners can now be held liable for injuries due to snow & ice on their property, regardless of how it ended up there.

Now, the subject of sidewalk liability is about to become the next area of legal review by the SJC – and people in this state may be in for quite a change in this area of liability law.  The obvious reason?  This is New England.  Slip and fall injuries taking place on municipal sidewalks that covered with either snow or ice are inevitable, and even though businesses could in rare circumstances face liability for such injuries, they usually don’t.  Resident property owners almost never do.  The reason for this is that at common law, a duty to remove snow or ice only existed if the defendant owned the sidewalk. Because neither businesses nor homeowners own public sidewalks, there is no duty to clear the snow and ice.  Thus, the legal responsibility for maintaining them has always fallen on the city or town, not the business owner that the sidewalk abuts, nor the homeowner that the sidewalk abuts.

When you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s important to speak with a lawyer – a very qualified, experienced Massachusetts injury attorney.   It’s important for anyone who’s been injured in an accident to know that the legal process doesn’t simply involve walking in to a courthouse and asking for damages.   Before then, There’s vital information about the accident that your attorney will need before he or she can begin representing you.  Having this information ready before you first meet with your attorney, will assure that the entire process moves as fast – and legally productive – as possible. Continue reading

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 been around Massachusetts awhile.  I was born and raised in Brookline, and educated in the Boston area.  I’ve never really lived anywhere else but this area, and I’ve watched it change a lot over the past 20-25 years.  While a good amount of construction and development has changed the face of Boston and its suburbs, one of the biggest changes has nothing to do with the skyline.  It has to do with the streets – specifically, what’s on them now, that wasn’t on them to any near degree that it was 20-25 years ago.  What is that?  Bicyclists.  There are more bicyclists on the roads in Boston and the suburbs in the Route 128 Belt, than were ever seen as recently as the early 1990’s. Continue reading

Readers of this blog know that I carry a special torch for nursing home residents in general, and for victims of Massachusetts nursing home neglect or abuse in particular.  Of the several types of legal wrongs that can bring me to my feet, elder abuse and nursing home patient neglect are among the strongest.

On August 1 2016, I posted that the federal Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) was conducting hearings on changing an especially onerous and unconscionable provision (clause) that is presently in almost all nursing home contracts and long term care facility contracts.  That provision is known as a ‘pre-dispute arbitration clause,’ and what is essentially did was to force families and patients who entered nursing homes and long-term care facilities, to agree in writing to this clause, or the patient would not be admitted to the facility.  It’s also referred to as “nursing home forced arbitration.” What did this clause – often referred to as a “hammer clause” – mean?  It required – on day one, long before any dispute about care of the patient even arose – that the matter be submitted to forced arbitration – instead of the matter being decided in court. 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:

In my previous post on this important topic, I noted how plaintiffs who suffered injuries due to slipping and falling at Massachusetts retail stores, usually had a tough time even getting their cases in front of a jury.  This was because store owners could often get the cases dismissed due to the high evidentiary standard that an injured plaintiff would have to meet, in order to prevent the case from being dismissed. Continue reading

Slip & fall accidents can be a lot more serious than many people think. No, scraped palms and knees don’t make up the bulk of the injuries that result from these events:  As a Boston slip & fall attorney, I can assure people:  Broken limbs, herniated spinal discs and concussions are most often the types of injuries that result from these events.  When people around age 70 or older are the victims, broken bones become even more common.  A good deal of my injury law practice involves representing these types of injury victims, and I’ve seen more serious injuries result from these types of events than I can discuss here.

So it was very positive news when a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) case was recently decided, which basically expanded the liability of retail business operators for slip and fall injuries.  This type of case falls under an area of law known as “Premises Liability.” (There’s an entire section on Premises Liability at our website, which you can get to by clicking on the “Website” tab, above.)  Explaining on a technical, legal level precisely why this decision expanded liability of retail stores for these types of injuries, would likely take a long time here and probably cause you to doze off. (I understand – for non-lawyers, these court decisions are pretty dry.)  But – very briefly – I’ll try to explain the legal reasons for this decision: Continue reading

As I think many of you know, a good deal of my injury law practice involves representing victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. In this post, I’m asking you to prioritize just a few seconds in making a very time-senstive, important statement now to the federal government, on the subject of nursing homes across the United States. Believe me, the issue at stake here is anything but “unimportant” or “boring” -especially if a loved one or you needs to go into a nursing home. So I’ll try to make this quick, easy to understand, and importantly – easy to have your voice heard on.

The problem: Whenever anyone enters a nursing home for the first time, almost all nursing homes require the patient or family member to sign what is called a “Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clause.”

What these clauses say and do: They force the patient or family member to agree in advance that any problem or dispute concerning the care of the patient, will be decided by private arbitration, and not by the court system. Most of these types of claims involve patient neglect or abuse that often involves horrific harm, broken limbs, medication errors, dehydration, body ulcers, and untreated pain.

Politics is often a sickening business.  A place where honesty, ethics, the public interest and conscience take a back seat to money, expediency, self-interest and cowardice.  Money talks in politics – it is the fuel that drives it.  And individual career interests are almost always the hands on the steering wheel, directing where something a given bill ends up.  The realistic know this in the present; the idealistic will in the future.

But when the effort that is scuttled is a bill that would have increased the financial penalties that the state could slap scofflaw Massachusetts nursing home operators with – thus abandoning the weakest and most vulnerable members of the public – that is beyond sickening.  You see, the Massachusetts Legislature seemed all set – in both the House and Senate – to include an amendment to the annual state budget, that would have empowered the state to do just that.  The amendment was drafted and admirably lobbied for by state Sen. Mark Montigny of New Bedford.  As a Massachusetts nursing home abuse attorney, I can assure you that he is to be hailed for that effort.

When Sen. Montigny attached the amendment a few months ago, appropriately named “Preventing Patient Abuse in Nursing Homes,” no one on Beacon Hill openly opposed it.   Strategically, this is how it works – because any elected (or even appointed) official opposing such a laudable measure probably wouldn’t last too long in public life.   But there were those in the legislature who opposed it – lurkign behind the scenes.  They just kept their mouths shut until the “right time,” when they would act on behalf of their moneyed masters, otherwise known as nursing home lobbyists.

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