Articles Posted in personal injury

Individuals hurt in a Boston car accident may find that the at-fault party is a government employee or operating a vehicle owned by the municipal government.  When the driver of a government-owned vehicle causes a collision, the legal doctrine called sovereign immunity takes effect.  Throughout the Commonwealth, the Tort Claims Act is the law that will apply in these lawsuits.The purpose of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act in personal injury lawsuits is to provide protection to state and local governments.  According to the Act, there is a limit to the damages awarded in these types of lawsuits. When the negligence of public employees, or their wrongful conduct, causes injuries or loss of property, the Act sets forth a cap on the damages that a plaintiff can recover in a lawsuit.

When assessing a personal injury claim involving a state or local government, courts will often explain the policy rationale behind the Tort Claims Act. Essentially, to be able to perform their functions and protect the public, local governments must receive some protection from constant legal battles.  This justification has served to uphold the sovereign immunity doctrine. However, this immunity is limited by the Tort Claims Act, since it does provide a way for individuals harmed by state government employees to bring a lawsuit.

According to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, the first step in pursuing a claim involving a government agency is to notify that agency within a specified time period.  Missing deadlines can render the claim moot, and it will not be heard.  After filing a claim with the appropriate agency, they will have an opportunity to review the claim and pay the damages set forth. When a claim is denied or challenged by the government, the claimant may pursue a lawsuit.  When a claim is brought against an allegedly negligent employee, the claim must first be filed with the employer overseeing the employee.

Recently, a Boston Globe article made clear that the city’s “Slow Streets” program will affect select neighborhoods with the effort of eliminating serious Boston car accidents. The neighborhoods selected to participate in the program are Grove Hall/Quincy Corridor, Chinatown, Mount Hope/Canterbury, Highland Park, and the West of Washington Coalition. As a community-based initiative, Slow Streets is a part of Vision Zero. Vision Zero refers to Boston’s plan to eliminate the incidence of serious traffic crashes, including fatalities, throughout the city.Vision Zero makes clear that tackling distracted and impaired driving within Boston is a priority.  Since traffic deaths are preventable, Vision Zero focuses on increasing safe human behaviors to reduce vehicle collisions.  According to state law, when drivers are distracted, and their conduct behind the wheel leads to a crash, they can be held at fault for the resulting harm.  The significance of the Vision Zero initiative is that it recognizes the impact of human error and poor driving behavior.

Through Vision Zero, efforts are made to reduce the speed limits throughout Boston, for example, from 30 MPH to 25 MPH.  Focusing city resources on reducing the incidence of serious vehicle collisions comes at a time when the city recognizes there has been a rise in pedestrian injuries and fatalities.  According to statistics set forth on the Vision Zero website, compiled by the Boston Police Department, a majority of crashes take place when pedestrians are simply crossing or along streets.

Since all drivers are required to meet their duty to avoid causing foreseeable harm to others, when drivers speed or recklessly endanger those around them, they may be held at fault if a crash and resulting injuries take place. Victims are entitled to file a personal injury claim against a driver who has carelessly caused a crash.

Throughout Boston, hit and run accidents take many different forms.  Often, drivers of motor vehicles hit a pedestrian and continue to drive, hoping to attempt to avoid liability.  In other cases, one vehicle strikes another and flees the scene without stopping to provide help or exchange information.  In most circumstances, hit and run collisions leave victims scared, facing property damage and potentially life-altering injuries.  However, there are steps to take that will help victims secure compensation for their damages and injuries resulting from the accident.Hit and run accidents carry potential criminal and civil penalties for those who have caused the collision and left the scene of the accident. Massachusetts law requires drivers to provide information to injured individuals before leaving the scene of the accident.  According to law, there are different crimes associated with hit and run collisions, depending on whether property damage, personal injuries, or death resulted from the crash.

According to the statute, there is an affirmative duty to those who operate motor vehicles.  Failing to stop after a collision can bring dire consequences. Following a crash, or even a minor collision, the driver must stop and provide information to everyone. In fact, both parties involved in the accident have a legal obligation to remain at the scene and to ensure that if anyone requires assistance and medical care, they receive it.

While hit and run collisions can result in property damage, in other cases, they can render victims catastrophically injured.  Massachusetts law provides a remedy for those hurt in a Boston hit and run accident. Victims can file a personal injury claim or a lawsuit that holds offending drivers accountable for their recklessness. As plaintiffs in personal injury claims, victims can recover costs of medical treatment, lost wages for work, and emotional pain and suffering associated with the accident.   In some cases, the victim may also recover punitive damages as a form of punishment for the driver who left the scene.

After suffering injuries in a car accident in Boston or the surrounding areas, individuals have three years to file a case in court, according to Massachusetts law.  This important law, called the “statute of limitations,” is strictly interpreted by courts, and if a case is not filed within this period of time, the plaintiff may be prevented from bringing it to court.  However, it is important to note that this statute of limitations does not affect when an individual may file their insurance claim.Statutes of limitations are determined by the “window” during which the cause of action accrues. Car accident injuries are held to have accrued as of the date of the injury or the date of the collision. Even victims with strong claims for compensation will be prevented from bringing a case after these three years have passed.  For victims pursuing a claim against a government entity, claims must be filed within 30 days of an accident.

Another important legal rule that may affect an individual’s ability to recover damages following a car accident is the doctrine of comparative fault.  In terms of liability, the comparative negligence law makes it important for victims not to admit fault when providing the police with statements. This is because comparative negligence can potentially affect the ability of an injured car accident victim to recover damages in a legal claim against another involved party.

As a “modified” comparative fault state, Massachusetts law holds that accident victims may recover damages if they are less than 50 percent at fault for an accident. According to Massachusetts law, if a victim is found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, they will not recover damages.  The amount of damages that may be recovered will be reduced by the amount of fault the victim shared in the crash.

Determining liability, or legal fault, for an accident is central to a personal injury claim for damages.  Accident victims can hold careless drivers accountable for their actions, but as plaintiffs in a personal injury claim, they carry the legal burden of proving fault.  Many Boston car accident cases are based on a negligence theory of law, which asserts that a driver breached their duty of care to operate their vehicle safely, and this breach directly caused the accident and resulting harm.To be at fault in a car accident, according to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance and the Code of Municipal Regulations (CMR), a driver must be at least 51 percent responsible for causing an accident.  This requirement is based upon Massachusetts’ comparative negligence doctrine.  When a victim plaintiff is determined to be at fault for an accident, this fault must not be 51 percent or more, or they will not recover damages. Provided that the plaintiff is less than 51 percent at fault, they will be able to recover damages, reduced by the amount of their fault.

The CMR includes standards of fault that are determinative or that tend to prove that a driver is more than 50 percent at fault for the accident.  Rear end collisions are included in this section, as are accidents that result when an operator fails to signal before turning or changing lanes, causing an accident.  Backover accidents, when the driver has been in the process of reversing their vehicle and collides with another vehicle, is a circumstance that indicates the driver is more than 50 percent at fault.

Common law typically held that plaintiff victims who caused an accident in any way would not recover damages at trial.  Now, according to comparative fault rules, plaintiffs can still recover.  For example, a plaintiff who is found to be 10 percent at fault for causing an accident would find that his damages are reduced by this amount. If the plaintiff would have received $100,000 at trial, they would receive $90,000 instead.

A Boston car accident attorney is prepared to represent those harmed by the negligent conduct of another driver.  Recently, 1o people suffered injuries when a taxi driver plowed into them outside Logan International Airport.  According to a news report, the incident reflected driver error, rather than terrorist intentions.  The driver mentioned that instead of hitting the brake, he accidentally accelerated into the victims. The victims were mostly other taxi drivers, who had taken a break to socialize.While in this case, the at-fault driver admitted that he had erred, in some car accident lawsuits, the victims will have to prove liability, or legal fault, in order to recover damages in a personal injury claim. In the case of the taxi driver, he admitted that he had not intended to crash into the victims.  Nevertheless, the victims have the right to pursue legal damages against him for their injuries and medical costs.

Proving fault in a car accident, according to Massachusetts law, often requires showing that the other driver was negligent.  Negligence is a failure to meet a legal duty of care. All drivers owe others the duty to avoid foreseeable harm and to operate their vehicle as other drivers would under similar circumstances. To successfully show negligence, the plaintiff would show that the defendant driver breached their duty of care, and this breach directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

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When a vehicle collision occurs, it may be due to the negligence of a driver.  Negligence forms the legal theory of many personal injury claims, and victims can recover damages they have endured for serious injuries after proving the legal fault of the other driver.  To demonstrate negligence, the plaintiff victim would show that the defendant driver owed them a duty of care, breached this duty, and directly caused their resulting injuries and harm.According to the Commonwealth’s model civil jury instructions, negligence is defined as the failure to use the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent person would use, under similar circumstances, to prevent an accident.  Reasonable care is the level of attention that others would exercise in similar situations.  In the case of a driver breaching a duty of care, there are a variety of ways that this breach can take place.

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A recent report issued by the New York Times indicates that for children under the age of 15, the most common cause of death is unintentional injuries resulting from car accidents.  In the majority of fatal crashes, children were not wearing safety belts.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided statistics that supported the research and indicated that from state to state, there were variations in children’s deaths.In Massachusetts, for example, between 2010 and 2014, there were 0.25 deaths per 100,000 children, as compared to 3.23 per 100,000 in Mississippi.  In Mississippi, of the 99 children who died in a car accident during the study period, 56 were not wearing seatbelts or were improperly restrained. Additionally, the study indicated that more deaths occurred on roads that were classified as rural by the Federal Highway Administration. The reasons for this vary and may include the distance to trauma centers, poor lighting on roads, and other factors.

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Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals analyzed whether an automobile insurance company had engaged in unfair practices regarding a car accident victim’s claim for damages.  The plaintiff in this case had been awarded a substantial jury verdict of $818,000 for his personal injury claim against the driver who rear-ended his vehicle.  The insurer had offered to settle for $25,000 and $60,000, both rejected by the plaintiff. In the current lawsuit, the plaintiff had argued that the insurer violated Massachusetts law when handling his personal injury claim. In essence, the issue was whether the insurer had refused to pay the claim without conducting a reasonable investigation.The facts of this case indicate that the plaintiff worked as a tow truck operator and had been assisting a vehicle stuck in a snow drift.  While inside his tow truck, on the side of the road, another driver rear-ended his truck.  He alleged that he was injured and brought a personal injury claim against the driver.  The driver’s insurance company attempted to gather information from the plaintiff regarding his injuries, but apparently there remained doubt concerning his bodily injury claims.

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According to Massachusetts law, in an injury claim following a car accident, evidence that the car involved in the collision was registered to the defendant is prima facie evidence it was being operated and controlled by someone for whom the defendant was legally responsible.  At issue in an appeal before a Massachusetts appellate court was how much weight to afford this statute in proving negligence, particularly when the registered owner of a car involved in a crash had granted permission to the driver to use the car. The court held that permission did not mean that the owner had the right to control the driver’s use of the car, especially when she was completing personal errands.

In a collision that was determined at trial to be an accident and not to have involved the negligence of the defendant, the lower court found the owner of the vehicle involved was not responsible for property damage.  Here, the driver had struck the plaintiff’s traffic signal and arm while borrowing the defendant’s car to run personal errands.  According to the trial court, the car owner had not allowed the driver the use of the car, but his brother had done so.  The lower court found that the driver had not been acting as the agent of the car owner, nor was she advancing his interests at the time of the collision. The lower court entered judgment for the defendant, the owner of the car.

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