Articles Posted in Car Accidents

When a motorist, passenger, or bystander suffers injuries in a Massachusetts car accident, determining fault and apportioning liability is a crucial part of the recovery process. Massachusetts is a no-fault state, which means that an accident victim’s insurance company will cover a portion of their medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses, regardless of who is at fault. However, these benefits do not cover expenses related to pain and suffering, loss of consortium and companionship, or loss of earning capacity damages.

Although a Massachusetts injury victim’s insurance company is generally supposed to pay or reimburse victims for their accident-related medical expenses, victims often suffer substantial damages that insurance will not cover. Under certain circumstances, a motorist may file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver when they meet the statutory threshold. Under Massachusetts law, motorists who wish to sue another driver for their injuries must establish that either their “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses are over $2,000, they suffered broken bones or a loss of hearing or vision, they suffered a partial or complete loss of a body part, or serious disfigurement, or death.

If a Massachusetts car accident victim meets the tort threshold, they must then establish fault before they can recover. The state follows a “modified comparative negligence” system to determine and allocate damages. Car accident victims can recover for their injuries if they are less than 51% at-fault for the accident. If a judge or jury determines that the victim was more than 51% at fault, they will be barred from recovery.

In addition to negligence or recklessness, some Massachusetts car accidents stem from an at-fault party’s criminal conduct. For example, a motorist who causes an accident because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol may face criminal charges in addition to civil claims. Although civil and criminal claims go through two distinct processes, the outcome of a criminal case may affect an individual’s civil suit. Criminal charges or a conviction may help a civil plaintiff’s claim, but they are not necessary to achieve a favorable outcome in a personal injury case.

There are many ways a criminal charge may affect a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit. In cases where a criminal defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by a judge or jury, the ruling can be beneficial to civil plaintiffs. For example, if a motorist admits that he was driving under the influence when an accident occurred, a plaintiff can likely use this evidence to establish liability. However, defendants who are found not guilty are not absolved from responsibility for any civil claims. The outcome of these cases can be different because criminal and civil cases have independent standards of proof. Under the criminal system, the state must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”; whereas, under the civil system, plaintiffs only need to show that the defendant was liable “by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Criminal defendants also retain the right to plead, “no contest.” This means that they are admitting the facts but not admitting guilt. No contest pleas cannot be used against a defendant in civil proceedings. For example, if a defendant pleads no contest in a driving while impaired criminal case, a plaintiff will not generally be allowed to use the conviction to show that the defendant was driving while impaired. Instead, the plaintiff may call arresting officers or present other evidence to establish that the defendant was under the influence.

Massachusetts drivers are required to drive in a safe manner and use sound judgment when on the road. For the most part, motorists do a good job when it comes to staying safe. However, each year, over 350 people are killed in Massachusetts car accidents, and thousands more are seriously injured.

Wrong-way crashes are one of the more common – and deadly – types of Massachusetts car accidents. Wrong-way crashes often result in head-on collisions, which are known to be among the most dangerous collisions. Head-on collisions rarely result in minor bumps and bruises, and more often cause serious, lifelong injuries. Almost always, head-on collisions are caused by driver error. Below are a few of the most common causes of head-on collisions:

  • Distracted driving

Under Massachusetts law, parents maintain the legal obligation to provide for their child’s safety and well being. In that same vein, parents and guardians may also be responsible for the negligent actions of their children. This issue often comes into play when a teenage driver causes a Massachusetts car accident.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately six teens die every day from motor vehicle accidents. These accidents frequently occur during Memorial Day and Labor Day. Compared to the rest of the year, research suggests that the rate of Massachusetts accidents involving teenagers increases over 25% during this time. In these cases, Massachusetts injury victims may hold the teenage driver’s parents liable for their injuries and damages.

Massachusetts car accidents involving teenage drivers are more likely to lead to serious and fatal accidents because the drivers tend to be inexperienced, distracted, negligent, and reckless. Younger drivers are more likely to make unsafe and dangerous choices because they have less experience than older drivers. This inexperience can lead to speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and generally unsafe driving habits. Additionally, according to a safety advocacy group, the majority of car accidents involving teenage drivers were the result of distracted driving. Using cellphones, eating, drinking, and talking to passengers all contribute to distracted driving accidents. Finally, teenagers who operate their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more likely to cause a fatal accident.

Under Massachusetts law, passengers who suffer injuries in a car accident may be entitled to compensation for the damages they endured. Typically, drivers who suffer injuries in a car accident may only seek compensation from other drivers and insurance companies. However, passengers seeking compensation are in a unique position because there may be more than one liable party.

Insurance companies consider passengers as third parties, and the law allows injury victims to file a claim through the driver’s personal injury protection plan or their medical payment coverage. Depending on the amount of fault, passengers may file a claim against one or both of the drivers. If the drivers do not have appropriate coverage to cover the passenger’s losses, the victim may file a claim through their insurance policy’s under/uninsured motorist benefits.

These policies compensate for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages or similar economic damages, but they do not cover pain and suffering. In most cases, passengers cannot receive costs for more than what is necessary for recovery, regardless of how many insurance companies provide coverage. However, there are some exceptions, and it is important that accident victims contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies in these cases.

It is not uncommon for a Massachusetts car accident to involve multiple vehicles and injury victims. In these cases, injury victims may encounter challenges when seeking compensation for their injuries because there may be more than one negligent party. Although the law often provides a presumption that the rearmost driver in a rear-end collision was negligent, this presumption does not always apply. While one driver’s negligence may have started the series of events, there may be several other parties who contributed to the chain of events. These factors often cause injury victims to face the daunting task of filing multiple insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits.

Plaintiffs seeking representation for their Massachusetts car accident must be able to establish that the other party or parties are responsible for their injuries. It is essential that plaintiffs include all potential defendants and not just the individual who, in their mind, caused the accident. After identifying the appropriate defendants, the plaintiff must prove that the parties owed them a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely, and they breached that duty. This typically includes providing proof that the at-fault driver engaged in one of the common causes of chain-reaction accidents. Some of the common reasons for Massachusetts chain-reaction accidents are excessive speed, failure to abide by traffic laws, distracted driving, driving under the influence, and fatigued driving. Plaintiffs can provide evidence of these actions through surveillance footage, police reports, medical records, and witness accounts.

After meeting this burden, plaintiffs must be able to prove that the other parties’ negligence was the direct cause of their injuries and subsequent damages. This is often the most challenging phase of a chain-reaction accident lawsuit. In many cases, the driver who started the chain of events is not necessarily the cause of the following collisions, even if it occurs in the same sequence of events. Plaintiffs must engage in an in-depth and comprehensive investigation of the accidents, including discovery and depositions.

Holiday parties are a popular way for employers to “rally the troops” and boost morale at a time of year when, quite frankly, few people want to be at work. However, over recent years, holiday parties have been the focus of much scrutiny, as concerns about sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and the over-serving of alcohol have come to light. Indeed, there is a noticeable increase in the number of Massachusetts drunk driving accidents during the holiday months, and this is in part due to people getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink at a work holiday party.

Under the Massachusetts dram shop and social host laws, employers often have a legal obligation to ensure that they do not over-serve employees at a work holiday party. If the holiday party is held at a restaurant, country club, or bar, that duty will also extend to the business hosting the event. While establishing liability in a Boston dram shop case can be difficult, it is possible with the help of an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer.

Establishing liability against a social host is slightly different than doing so against a restaurant or bar. Typically, the threshold is lower to prove that a bar or restaurant negligently served or over-served alcohol to a patron. However, if there is evidence showing that a social host knew a guest was intoxicated, but served them alcohol anyway, the host may be liable for any damages that stem from the decision to serve that individual.

After a serious Massachusetts car accident, the chances are that anyone who was injured faces hefty medical expenses. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the at-fault party may be facing criminal charges for their role in causing the accident. If an at-fault party is convicted, they may be fined, placed on probation, or even incarcerated. In some cases, they will also be required to pay restitution to the accident victim.

However, the criminal process is not typically concerned with obtaining compensation for accident victims. Criminal law is designed to punish those who violate the law, rather than compensate those who are injured as a result of the defendant’s violation of the law. While providing restitution to accident victims is one aspect of the criminal justice system, any assistance provided is usually minimal and cannot be relied on.

First, an accident victim has little to no say about whether criminal charges are brought against another driver. The decision to bring charges rests with the county prosecutor, who may not decide to press charges except in the most egregious traffic accidents. Second, a defendant’s insurance company will not cover any restitution damages awarded by a court. Thus, an accident victim relies on a defendant’s ability to pay the restitution on their own, which may take months, years, or may never happen. In some cases, accident victims may be eligible for compensation through a Victim’s Compensation Fund, but even this process is often unreliable.

Winter weather, including snow and ice, is a major cause of Massachusetts car accidents. Each year, Massachusetts gets about four feet of rain and another four feet of snow. On top of that, there are on average 90 days in which the temperature reaches below freezing. As a result, Massachusetts roads can be very hazardous to both drivers and pedestrians during the winter months.

Poor weather conditions can impact road safety in several important ways. Of course, when roads are covered in snow or ice, drivers have a harder time maintaining control of their vehicles. This is especially the case the morning after a heavy storm, when frozen snow or ice has had a chance to melt and then re-freeze as temperatures decrease overnight.

Winter weather can also result in a driver’s inability to evade a hazard that they may otherwise have been able to avoid. For example, just last week there was a 69-car pile-up on a Virginia highway. According to the New York Times, the chain-reaction accident began in the westbound lanes of the highway shortly after 8 a.m. Evidently, the roads were icy and a heavy fog had rolled in that morning.

Car accident victims who hope to recover compensation for their injuries from a negligent motorist must be able to provide the court with evidence supporting their theory of fault and liability. Massachusetts plaintiffs can meet their burden by presenting police reports, medical records, eyewitness accounts, and expert testimony. Whether expert testimony is required (or even allowed) largely depends on the particular facts of the accident and the issues that are involved.

Expert witnesses are a valuable resource in personal injury lawsuits because these witnesses can provide specialized opinions based on technical knowledge that typically goes beyond the scope of knowledge of a layperson. Attorneys frequently utilize expert witnesses in personal injury lawsuits to support a client’s position. Some common types of expert witnesses are accident reconstructionists, city planners, toxicologists, and medical examiners.

Expert witnesses are generally people who possess education, experience, and training in a particular field relevant to the issues at hand. When qualifying a professional as an expert, courts will look at factors such as the individual’s academic background and peer-reviewed publications, as well as their professional experience, recognition, and reputation. Expert witness testimony is presumed to be unbiased based on their specialized knowledge, and courts will permit their opinions as long as they meet certain criteria. Experts’ opinions must assist the judge or jury in understanding the evidence, and an opinion must be based on the facts of the case and research conducted by the expert. Notably, the expert’s methods must be trustworthy, and the processes must have been appropriately applied to the present issue. When an expert is necessary, plaintiffs must retain a qualified expert to ensure that the court permits their opinion.

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