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Wrong-way car accidents occur when one or more vehicles travel in a lane opposite to the flow of traffic. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), wrong-way accidents do not occur as frequently as other types of accidents in Massachusetts. However, these accidents tend to result in more serious injuries and fatalities. These collisions are typically more severe because the wrong-way driver is usually unaware that they are traveling in the wrong lane. As such, the oncoming driver may be driving at high rates or erratically while drivers in the proper lane usually have little to no time to safely avert the impending collision. Wrong-way accident injury victims may be able to recover for their losses under Massachusetts personal injury laws.

Massachusetts wrong way car collisions usually occur because the negligent driver is intoxicated, under the influence of illicit or prescribed medication, distracted, or fatigued. Further, some of these accidents occur because the road conditions are unsafe or the weather presents motorists with obstructions related to fog, heavy rain or snow. The NTSB reports that these accidents are amongst the “most serious types of highway accidents.”

For instance, recently, a local news report described a harrowing Massachusetts wrong-way accident. Law enforcement responded to the scene of an accident in Somerset, Massachusetts. According to reports, an SUV driver was driving east on the highway’s west side when it slammed into a sedan. The sedan burst into flames, and the 21-year-old driver died at the scene of the accident. The 50-year-old SUV driver from Rhode Island, survived, but suffered serious injuries.

New England winter weather can be treacherous, especially for those who do not have experience handling inclement conditions. Although October is the month that sees the highest number of Massachusetts car accidents, winter weather generally increases the likelihood of car accidents, slip-and-falls, and other types of personal injury. In Massachusetts, those that suffer injuries in a car accident or other incident because of another’s negligence may be able to recover for their damages. However, snow and ice-related accidents can present many challenges to injury victims as the circumstances surrounding these accidents may not be clear. It is important that injury victims consult with an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies in these cases.

Many premises liability accidents stem from snow and ice slip-and-falls, trip-and-falls, and step-and-falls. These accidents may occur when a property owner fails to remove snow or ice from their home or business. The failure to make a property safe may result in serious injuries to a visitor or guest. The most common injuries from a snow or ice accident are broken bones, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and organ damage. In many cases, these injuries require both emergency and long-term medical treatment. Even with insurance, these medical treatments are often costly and may deter the victim’s ability to continue gainful employment. In these cases, victims should pursue damages against the negligent party.

In some snow and ice accidents, liability may be evident, especially in situations where it is clear that a property owner failed to make their property safe, or an at-fault driver was acting negligently in operating their vehicle. However, cases are rarely straightforward, and defendants may blame the victim and avoid liability under the state’s comparative negligence or assignment laws. For example, an at-fault driver may argue that the injury victim suddenly braked their vehicle, thereby causing the rear-end driver to slam into them. Moreover, a property owner may try to attribute liability to a third-party hired to remove snow from the owner’s business or home. However, despite the legal theories that defendants may purport to avoid liability, winter weather can lead to disastrous accidents.

The death of a loved one in a tragic Massachusetts accident can have life-long devastating impacts on the victim’s family. Under the law, when another’s negligence played a part in the victim’s injuries or death, the surviving family members may be able to recover damages. Massachusetts law permits family members to recover for their losses under the state’s wrongful death statute.

A wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of the negligent, wrongful, or reckless conduct of another party. Typical defendants in these cases include individuals, companies, government agencies, or other similar parties. Wrongful death actions follow the same general theories as personal injury claims, except that they are deceased. However, wrongful death claims differ from survival actions. Under Massachusetts law, a spouse, partner, or child of the victim can file a wrongful death lawsuit. On the other hand, survival actions are generally brought on behalf of the victim’s estate to compensate the person who died.

Massachusetts wrongful death claims may follow a variety of different incidents. For example, many wrongful death claims arise from assaults, birth injuries, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian collisions, recreational activity accidents, and defective products. However, Massachusetts maintains several exceptions to the wrongful death statute. For example, in some cases, employers may not face liability for an employee’s wrongful death if they died while on the job. However, family members may be able to pursue a legal claim under a different legal theory.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), traffic accidents are a public health concern in the United States, and a serious issue in Massachusetts. Car crashes are among the leading causes of severe injuries and death, killing nearly 100 people every day. Although fatality rates are improving slowly, it is still considerably higher than other developed nations. Many factors contribute to the outcome of a Massachusetts car accident. These factors include the driver and passenger’s age, the use of seat belts and restraints, the driver’s impairment level, and whether the accident involves pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

In the last full reporting year, CDC data indicates that 400 people died in a Massachusetts car accident. In 2020, there has already been close to 76,000 reported crashes and 286 fatalities. Nearly 1000 of these accidents involved pedestrians, and 824 involved bicyclist collisions. Although the overall number of accidents decreases slightly, the rate of fatal accidents remains similar to past reporting years.

The majority of these accidents involve motorists between the ages of 25 and 34, followed by those between 35 and 44. However, there is a significant number of crashes where the driver’s ages are unknown. Over 2000 passenger vehicle occupants died in a Massachusetts motor vehicle accident in the last reporting year. Many fatalities occurred because the driver or passenger was not wearing a seat belt or other restraint. Massachusetts law and policymakers encourage and require motorists to use these safety restraints, as they are a proven way to reduce an accident’s severity. Wearing a seat belt and buckling children into age and weight appropriate booster seats can reduce the risk for severe injury and death by 50%. In Massachusetts, seat belt laws are secondary, and cover drivers and passengers over 13 years old. Further, child restraint laws require that children seven years old and younger are buckled in a car or booster seat.

Massachusetts’ wrongful death statutory framework provides the circumstances under which family members can obtain compensation for the death of their loved one due to negligence or recklessness of another party. The state’s wrongful death statute is complicated and contains many restrictions and procedural requirements. For example, employers may not be held liable under Massachusetts wrongful death law for an employee’s death, even if their death resulted from the employer’s negligent, wanton, or reckless acts.

While workers’ compensation benefits may be available in certain circumstances, these benefits are often woefully insufficient to fairly compensate a family for the loss of a loved one.  However, in some cases, an employee’s injuries or illnesses result from a liable third-party. These are referred to as third-party personal injury claims. An example of a Massachusetts third-party claim would be a case against the manufacturer of a defective product or machine that was responsible for the employee’s injuries. Another example of a third-party claim would be if a delivery driver was struck by another motorist while making deliveries. Given the complexities of these cases, it is essential that injury victims contact an attorney to discuss their rights, as many workplace accidents can have long-term and potentially fatal consequences.

For example, recently, a news report described an accident that resulted in an MBTA worker’s death. The worker died after an accident near the Charleston Bus Yard. Evidently, he was struck by a vehicle as he was walking to bus. Transit police indicated that the worker suffered fatal injuries around 5 a.m. but stated that an investigation was ongoing. The agency expressed its collective mourning for the accident. The accident is still under investigation.

Under Massachusetts law, parents maintain the legal duty to ensure their child’s safety and well being. Inherent in this duty is parental responsibility for their child’s negligent conduct. Massachusetts parental liability laws provide that a parent may be held financially responsible for injuries and property damage that their child causes. In some cases, parental liability may extend to certain criminal acts their child engages in as well, such as vandalism. However, the most common situation where a parent may be held responsible is motor vehicle accidents.

These cases often fall under one of two main legal theories, vicarious liability or direct liability. Under vicarious liability, a parent may be responsible for injuries and property damage even though they did not have direct involvement in the situation. This typically applies in situations where a parent is the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident. In these situations, the parent would be liable for their teenager’s acts while they were driving the parent’s vehicle. Whereas, under direct liability, a parent may be responsible if they failed to control their child when they knew that their child would engage in negligent or reckless conduct.

For example, recently, a Massachusetts news report described an accident involving five teenagers. According to state law enforcement officials, the single-vehicle accident occurred shortly after midnight. The police department stated that the collision involved five individuals who ranged from 13 and 15 years old. Three of the juveniles were ejected from the vehicle and were transported to a local hospital. The other two occupants exited the car after the accident and did not require immediate medical attention. Video footage shows that the white jeep rolled over, and the roof was completely crushed.

Pedestrians, such as daily commuters, runners, hikers, and those traveling by stroller or wheelchair, are among the most vulnerable type of road users in Massachusetts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) classifies these groups of people, along with young drivers, bicyclists, and school bus occupants as “higher risk transportation system users.” These individuals tend to suffer the most significant injuries and damages when they are involved in an accident. The NHTSA’s most recent data indicates that these users accounted for over 50% of the nearly 400 traffic fatalities reported to the state.

The rate of pedestrian fatalities occurs more frequently during colder months (October-February) than warmer ones (March-September). Research suggests that these rates coincide with low visibility, unsafe roadways, and judgment errors. Although motorists have a higher duty to act with reasonable care for others’ safety, pedestrians must also abide by a similar duty of care. Both motorists and pedestrians must take steps to prevent foreseeable danger to themselves and others. When a party fails to adhere to this standard, their right to damages may be reduced or barred.

Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault model. Under this model, an injury victim who is more than 51 percent responsible for their injuries will be ineligible to collect damages. However, if the plaintiff is less than 51 percent responsible, their recovery will be reduced by their share of liability. Massachusetts pedestrian accident victims may face a reduction in their damages in cases where they unsafely enter the roadway, fail to use crosswalks, or otherwise violate traffic rules.

According to recent National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data, over 60 million children in the United States are involved in traffic accidents every year. In fact, Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children 14 years old and younger. Other causes of death are bicycle accidents, injuries related to incidents at school or after school programs, and dog bites. Although many safety agencies have implored the public to use child safety seats and other restraints, these accidents and injuries continue to occur, and the outcomes can be devastating.

When a child suffers injuries or wrongful death in a Massachusetts accident, their loved ones must understand the child’s rights and remedies. Although the evidentiary burden is typically the same, whether the victim is a minor or an adult, there are some differences between these lawsuits. First, under the law, children cannot bring their own lawsuits. Anyone under 18 years old is considered a “minor.” The law requires that these lawsuits are filed by the child’s “next friend.” Usually, this is the minor’s parent or legal guardian. Settlement agreements for $10,000 or higher must receive approval from the Court. A judge will review the settlement and ensure that the representative understands that the funds must be used for the child’s benefit. Finally, the statute of limitations is different in cases involving children. In typical accident cases, the statute of limitations expires three years after the date of the incident causing the injury. However, the statute of limitations in minors’ cases expires three years after reaching their 18th birthday.

Accidents involving children are particularly tragic and can result in serious permanent disability or death. For instance, a recent report indicates that a 10-year-old girl suffered fatal injuries in a multi-vehicle accident in Massachusetts. An initial investigation reveals that the children were passengers in a Subaru driven by a 29-year-old woman. The woman made contact with the back of a Toyota SUV, and both drivers pulled over to assess the damage. They stopped in the left lane and decided to address the damage later; as they were about to continue driving, a JEEP crashed into the Subaru, causing it to slam into the Toyota. The young girl died in the accident, and six other people suffered serious injuries.

Massachusetts is among the growing number of jurisdictions that require bicyclists and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Policymakers designed these laws to increase road safety and protect vulnerable road users from serious injuries. In addition to traffic citations, those that violate Massachusetts’ helmet laws may suffer serious brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helmets save nearly 2,000 lives every year. Additionally, helmets reduce the likelihood of head injuries by nearly 70%. However, it is essential to note that bicycle injury victims who failed to wear a helmet may still hold a negligent motorist liable for their injuries and damages.

Under Massachusetts law, bicyclists and bike passengers 16 years old and younger must wear an approved helmet. Approved helmets are those that meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards. Additionally, cyclists should ensure that they wear their helmets correctly. A narrow exception to this rule applies if the passenger rides in a trailer or sidecar that protects the rider’s head.

Bike injury victims must understand that not wearing a helmet does not automatically preclude a biker from holding other parties responsible for the injuries they suffeed in an accident. Specifically, the law states that the other party cannot use a biker’s helmet usage as evidence of contributory negligence in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. However, a rider’s failure to wear a helmet may result in a reduction in the amount of damages they are able to obtain, if the defendant can prove that the motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet contributed to their injuries.

Massachusetts pedestrian accidents often result in life-threatening injuries. Despite common misconceptions, individuals who are hit by a car are not automatically entitled to compensation. Pedestrian injury victims wishing to recover damages must establish that the other party was negligent. In many cases, the party who hit the pedestrian may dispute liability, and insurance companies may deny coverage. In addition to threshold tort issues, pedestrian accident victims must abide by strict filing and notice requirements and the state’s statute of limitations.

Under Massachusetts law, injury victims must prove that their injuries meet the minimum criteria to file a tort action against the responsible party. If a victim cannot meet the threshold, they may recoup losses through their Personal Injury Protection coverage. Victims who wish to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, must be able to establish that they suffered more than $2,000 in medical expenses related to broken bones, eye or ear injuries, or permanent scarring or disfigurement.

Pedestrians may recover economic and non-economic damages for their injuries and losses. Economic damages are generally objective, quantifiable losses such as lost wages and medical bills. Whereas, non-economic damages are subjective and include losses related to loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship and consortium. Unlike many other states, Massachusetts only allows punitive damages, which are designed solely to punish the wrongdoer, in cases of wrongful death where the defendant acted willfully or with wanton disregard of another’s safety. Injury victims must file their damages claim within three years of the accident—however, certain narrow exceptions exist, such as when the victim was a minor when the accident occurred.

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