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Legal News GavelTeen drivers are among the most high-risk drivers when it comes to fatal car accidents. At the Law Offices of Michael O. Smith, we pride ourselves on providing zealous and dedicated legal counsel to individuals who are involved in car accidents with teen drivers. Our Boston car accident lawyers can help you navigate the unique issues involved in teen driver accidents and ensure that you are treated fairly at each step of the litigation.

In a recent appellate decision, the Massachusetts appeals court considered the allocation of liability in a tragic teen driver accident involving multiple fatalities. Two cars of teenage friends were traveling to a common destination. One young man and a young woman were in a sedan that was leased by the young woman’s parents for her use. The other car was driven by a second young man and contained three passengers. The second young man lost control of the car while attempting to pass the sedan and hit a tree. Two of his passengers were killed as a result of the crash, and the third was injured severely.

Multiple claims were filed following the accident. The representative of one of the decedents filed a lawsuit against the young man driving the sedan, seeking compensation for negligence and loss of consortium. The lawsuit also filed a claim against the parents who leased the vehicle. The lawsuit also included a claim for negligent entrustment against the young female passenger of the first car. The mother of the other decedent brought a similar action against the driver of the first car, containing similar causes of action. The insurer for the leased sedan filed for a declaratory judgment, seeking a determination that it was not required to indemnify or defend the young man in the litigation.

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Legal News GavelIf you are involved in a serious accident with another motorist, there are several different ways that you can obtain compensation for your damages and injuries. One of the most common methods that parties use is a settlement. This is a quick and efficient way to resolve the legal dispute and avoids the arduous and costly process of having to go to trial. When it comes to settlements, however, there are many specific rules that the parties must consider and follow in order to ensure that the agreement is valid. These rules may also affect whether seeking a settlement is the best option for dealing with your claim. The dedicated and experienced Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of Michael O. Smith are prepared to help you determine a strategic course of action for recovering compensation after an accident.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently considered a case in which the estate of a car accident victim was ordered to make payments to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, otherwise known as MassHealth.

In the underlying dispute, the estate and the at-fault driver reached a settlement agreement. The plaintiff was an elderly woman who suffered from dementia at the time of the accident. The accident caused a serious aggravation in the plaintiff’s condition. She died before the matter was resolved, and her estate brought a lawsuit against the defendant, seeking damages. Before her death, however, MassHealth made payments exceeding $18,000 for her treatment and injuries. Once the estate and the at-fault driver reached a settlement of $250,000, MassHealth asserted an $18,000 lien against the settlement amount to reimburse it for the medical expenses that it paid.

Legal News GavelCar accidents happen for many reasons, including defects in the vehicles themselves. It can be nearly impossible after a car accident to know what or who was to blame, which is why having a seasoned Boston car accident lawyer on your side can make all of the difference in ensuring that you maximize the recovery that you obtain. There are many legal theories from which you may have to choose when determining the best course of action for your recovery. A recent appellate opinion demonstrates the importance of selecting your legal theories prior to commencing the litigation.

In the case, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries that rendered her paralyzed in a one-car accident. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the accident was a direct result of a sudden loss of steering in the vehicle. The plaintiff’s husband had a degree in mechanical engineering and conducted an investigation regarding potential defects. The husband concluded that the defect resulted from two parts in the vehicle that were defective as a result of tampering by the car manufacturer.

The plaintiff’s lawyer refused to pursue this theory and instead pursued a theory alleging that operator error and a malfunctioning airbag were the direct cause of the injuries that the plaintiff suffered. Although the plaintiff sought new counsel, they decided it would be unwise to change legal theories during the litigation. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the auto manufacturer. The plaintiff appealed, and the reviewing court upheld the verdict. The plaintiff’s post-trial motion alleging fraud was also denied, and her case was dismissed.

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Legal News GavelOne of the most complicated aspects of a car accident case is ensuring that you will receive the treatment that you need and deserve for your injuries. While your insurance company may provide coverage, the policy provisions can be complex, and when multiple insurers are involved, disputes can arise regarding which insurer must provide reimbursement to your doctors for your treatments. If the parties are unable to reach a resolution regarding payment, you may find yourself receiving a hefty bill. As seasoned Boston car accident lawyers, we have assisted many victims with ensuring that their insurance coverage is applied fairly and appropriately to their claim and that they receive the reimbursement that they deserve.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court discussed a dispute between insurance companies regarding payment for treatments that a car accident victim received in 2010. The victim had a Massachusetts auto insurance policy and a health insurance policy from two different insurers. From the period of the accident until 2011, the victim received treatment from the plaintiff’s office, which offered chiropractic treatment. During each treatment, the plaintiff was billed for multiple treatments, including a hot and cold pack treatment. The parties did not dispute that the treatments that the plaintiff received were medically necessary.

The auto insurer paid the first $2,000 of the medical expenses that the victim suffered, and thereafter the auto insurer instructed the plaintiff to provide the medical treatment payments to the health insurance provider for payment. The health insurance provider made partial payments to the plaintiff but denied reimbursement for all of the hot and cold pack treatments. According to the health insurer’s payment policy, these were expressly excluded from coverage. The plaintiff did not object to the health insurer’s decision in this regard.

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bus-300x169A man from the Texas area  alleges he was struck by a driver of a vehicle after exiting a school bus. The complaint was filed against the bus company alleging negligence as well as the operator of the vehicle that struck him.  He sustained substantial bodily injuries, medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.  He also alleges he sustained an ongoing permanent impairment.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that he was exiting the bus and was injured when he was struck by the defendant’s vehicle, who carelessly attempted to pass the stopped bus. He alleges he suffered serious physical injuries that resulted in medical care expenses, pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of earnings and mental anguish.

The plaintiff is also alleging the bus driver and his employer is responsible because the bus driver allegedly failed to activate or properly operate the bus’s stop lights and negligently stopped the bus in an unsafe place to unload passengers.  Then the second defendant also acted negligently and failed to stop for the bus and struck the plaintiff pedestrian causing him substantial injuries, damages, medical treatment, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Legal News GavelMassachusetts requires drivers to maintain an insurance policy. This means that if you are involved in an auto accident, you will probably have to deal with your insurance company, the other party’s insurance company, or both. There are certain practices and procedures that an insurance company must follow in order to treat the involved parties fairly. As experienced Boston car accident lawyers, we have seen that many insurers attempt to cut corners in bad faith or to ignore these rules entirely in an effort to save money.

In a recent appellate case, the court examined whether an at-fault party’s insurance company made a reasonable settlement offer before the matter proceeded to a jury trial. The underlying accident involved in the appeal occurred when a woman was struck by a motorist while walking. The insurance company for the motorist deemed the woman more than 50 percent at-fault for her injuries, based on information suggesting that she stepped out from between two vehicles during the early morning hours and while wearing dark clothing. A witness to the accident stated that he saw a car driving at what he described as an excessive speed and that the car left the scene after the impact. The driver indicated that she circled the block after the accident and did not leave the scene. She also stated that she was not given a citation by the police.

The injured pedestrian made a demand for the plaintiff’s policy limits, but only if the parties entered into a settlement before filing a lawsuit. The motorist’s insurer offered $5,000 to settle the claim, instead of the $100,000 available under the motorist’s policy. The injured pedestrian filed a personal injury lawsuit against the motorist. The driver’s insurer attempted several times to take testimony from the witness but was unsuccessful until reaching him immediately before trial. After the close of evidence, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff $414,500 in damages and assigning 35 percent of the fault to the plaintiff. The driver’s insurance company paid the policy limit of $100,000.

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Legal News GavelUnderstanding the types of evidence that you need to present in a car accident lawsuit can be confusing. There are many different categories of evidence that you can present, and there are unique rules that apply to certain types of evidence. Although it may seem like liability is clear, it is still essential to present sufficient evidence to meet your burden of proof and to show the jury that you are entitled to relief. As dedicated Massachusetts car accident lawyers, we have assisted numerous accident victims with protecting their legal rights.

A recent appellate opinion demonstrates the necessity of being thorough when presenting evidence in your lawsuit. The plaintiff was driving his vehicle along the Massachusetts Turnpike when a vehicle being transported on a flatbed trailer fell from the flatbed and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the car that slid off the flatbed truck and the individuals who were transporting the car on the flatbed. The lawsuit proceeded to a trial, and the jury returned a verdict for one of the defendants.

The plaintiff appealed the lower court’s entry of judgment in favor of the defendant on several bases. First, he argued that the defendant’s attorney made inappropriate statements during opening argument and that a mistrial should have been granted as a result. Next, he argued that the jury should have been given an instruction about a legal doctrine called res ipsa loquitur. This principle holds that the occurrence of some types of events implies that negligence was involved. The plaintiff can offer circumstantial evidence to show that the harm would not typically have occurred without some negligent conduct. Finally, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion for a new trial.

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Legal News GavelIf you are involved in a car accident with a motorist who does not have sufficient policy limits to cover your damages, you may be able to make a claim for underinsured motorist benefits with your own insurer. As seasoned Massachusetts car accident lawyers, we have handled numerous legal actions that involve insurance issues, including underinsured motorist coverage disputes. This coverage is typically optional, and many appellate opinions have discussed whether a party has rejected an underinsured motorist policy explicitly. In a recent opinion, for example, a mother and son were injured in a car accident. The mother sought policy benefits for her son’s injuries, but her insurer denied them. The mother and son appealed the trial court’s decision finding that the insurer was not required to pay benefits to the son. The mother and son filed a timely appeal.

On review, the appellate court first examined the scope of the mother’s insurance policy. In its opinion, the court cited a specific provision in the policy that provides benefits to “any household member . . . while occupying an auto not owned by [the insured].” The provision further provided that the household member was required to be a relation through marriage, blood, or adoption.

In response to the plaintiffs’ claim, the insurance company had provided medical documents, a lease showing that the son did not live in the same apartment unit as his mother, and a driver’s license. The insurance company also referenced a discussion that the mother had with one of its representatives before she purchased her insurance policy. According to the insurer, in that discussion, the mother indicated that her son did not live with her but that he lived in a separate unit downstairs from her unit.

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Legal News GavelThe expenses that are involved in a car accident can add up quickly. Even if the person who caused the collision to take place has a car insurance policy, the policy limits do not always cover the full cost of your expenses, which can include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. If you have your own underinsured or uninsured motorist policy, you can use this coverage to make up the difference. Whether it is your own insurer or the at-fault party’s insurer, insurance companies often make decisions that are in their own best interest and try to interpret their own policy terms to minimize the amount of compensation they are required to pay. If the insurer fails to play fairly, you can bring an Unfair Claim Settlement Practice claim against the insurer in civil court. A dedicated Massachusetts car accident lawyer can assist you in navigating this process.

A recent appellate opinion demonstrates how this process works. The plaintiff suffered injuries in a car accident. The other driver’s liability was not at issue, and the plaintiff accepted the at-fault driver’s policy limit of $25,000 to settle her claim. She then filed an underinsured motorist claim with her own insurer, but the insurer did not offer a settlement. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit, seeking an order to compel the insurer to proceed to arbitration regarding the amount of damages that she sustained in the crash, as well as a claim for unfair settlement practices as a result of the insurer’s failure to offer a settlement. The court compelled the insurer to proceed to arbitration about the damages issue, which was adjudicated to be $50,000.

The matter proceeded to a bench trial regarding the unfair settlement practices claim. A bench trial is a trial that proceeds before a judge without the assistance of a jury. The parties waived their right to a jury trial in this instance. After hearing evidence regarding the unfair settlement practices allegations, the trial court first noted that the plaintiff provided substantial evidence about her accident-related damages, but she did not offer any evidence about the insurance company’s investigation or evidence about the type of negotiation discussions that happened between the parties. It also concluded that the plaintiff did not sufficiently demonstrate which damages were linked to the insurer’s failure to offer a settlement promptly. The plaintiff responded by arguing that the trial court erroneously granted the insurer’s motion to exclude three witnesses that the plaintiff wanted to examine who were employees of the defendant. The trial court reached this conclusion based on the plaintiff’s late disclosure of her intention to present and examine the witnesses.

Legal News GavelThere can be several different complications and unexpected events that arise in a personal injury lawsuit, and it’s not uncommon for defendants to attempt to use these situations to their advantage. Some of the most complex issues that arise involve evidence, including identifying witnesses and establishing that the offered evidence is appropriate and should be submitted to the jury. As dedicated Boston car accident lawyers, we are well versed in how to handle these situations so that your right to recovery is protected. A recent appellate court opinion discusses how evidentiary issues can become complicated.

The plaintiff sustained injuries during a car crash in 2014. He filed a negligence lawsuit against the operator of the large semi truck that hit his vehicle and against the company that employed the driver and that owned the semi truck. According to his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the truck rear-ended his vehicle, causing him to lose control and causing him to strike the median.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff filed an opposition brief. The defendant filed a motion to strike the plaintiff’s statement of facts in the plaintiff’s opposition brief. The defendant also asked the court to strike two reports from experts attached as exhibits. The magistrate granted the defendant’s request, finding that the plaintiff did not comply with a local procedural rule that requires the party opposing a motion for summary judgment to include a concise statement of material facts in the record. The trial court ultimately granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

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