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COVID-19 continues to sweep through Massachusetts nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. As of May 2, 2020, there are 66,263 COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, and there have been 3,846 deaths. The rate of confirmed cases per capita is the third highest in the United States, and the death rate per capita is the fourth highest in the country.

Massachusetts state officials recently began posting a list of assisted-living facilities with two or more confirmed coronavirus cases, along with nursing homes. However, it does not include an actual number of confirmed cases, but rather a range of cases. More than half of the assisted-living facilities have at least two cases. Many have 30 or more cases.

As of May 2nd, there have been 12,574 COVID-19 cases among residents and healthcare workers of long-term care facilities. Three hundred twenty long-term care facilities have reported at least one case of COVID-19 at a facility and there have been 2,284 COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities. According to these numbers, the majority of coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts have occurred in these facilities, underscoring the extent to which they are at the center of the public health crisis in Massachusetts. There are 17,000 residents in assisted-living communities across 260 facilities in the state and about 38,000 nursing home residents. Outbreaks were reported in facilities in the Boston area, including Sunrise of Arlington, Goddard House in Brookline, and The Falls at Cordingly Dam in Newton.

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.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts wrongful death case involving the effect of a waiver that the accident victim signed before his death. Ultimately, the court concluded that wrongful death claims are derivative of the accident victim’s claim, rather than independent. Thus any waiver signed by the accident victim can preclude a subsequent wrongful death case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, a scuba diver drowned while participating in a promotional event that was sponsored by the manufacturer of a “dry suit.” During the event, an instructor was to lead dives for those who were interested in purchasing a dry suit. Before the event, the diver signed two documents: a release from liability and an equipment rental agreement.

The release of liability stated, among other things, that the diver was giving up “valuable rights, including the right to sue for injuries or death. The text was in capital letters and clearly visible. The equipment rental agreement contained similar language, purporting to limit the diver’s ability to sue the manufacturer in the event of injury or death.

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Recently, a Massachusetts appeals court affirmed a lower court’s judgment in a dispute between a property owner and an insurance company. The facts indicate that the homeowner purchased insurance for a property he owned in Massachusetts. The terms of the insurance policy included an agreement that the insurance company would protect the homeowner from property damage and personal injury claims against him. However, the agreement provided an exclusion for bodily injury claims stemming from the homeowner’s properties that were not included in the policy.

The man filed a claim with his insurance company when his two children and their friends died at an uninsured cabin he owned in Maine. The property was seasonal, and was generally only used during the summer months. The man obtained a building permit for this property but did not apply for or receive an occupancy certificate. The property was “off the grid” and only had a wood stove and a microwave. The man used a generator on the property when he needed to charge his power tools. During these instances, he would sometimes power the microwave, as the generator was already in use.

On one occasion, two of his children and their two friends went to the cabin to celebrate a birthday. After they arrived, they plugged a mini refrigerator into the generator to cool their drinks. However, they did not open any windows, and they all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The families of his children’s s friends filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man, claiming that he was negligent for failing to teach his children how to use the generator safely. The court awarded damages to both families and, in response, the man filed a claim with his insurance company.

Bicycling is popular amongst Massachusetts residents, both as a means of transportation as well as for leisure. The state has created and fostered a sense of community amongst bicyclists by designating more bike lanes and designing laws to protect cyclists. However, despite, caution on the part of bicyclists, they are often involved in serious accidents with drivers with whom they share the road. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there have been over 500,000 bicycle injuries and 8,000 fatalities in the last ten years. Many of these serious injuries and deaths occur in heavily populated and dense urban areas, such as Boston. In many Massachusetts bicycle accident cases, the bicyclist is not at fault, and may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault party.

Some common causes of Massachusetts bike accidents are inattentive driving, failing to provide cyclists with enough room on the road, or otherwise violating traffic laws. Further, cyclists may also suffer injuries because of defective bike parts such as faulty brakes or tires. Additionally, poor road conditions, inadequate road signs, or defective traffic control devise may result in a Massachusetts bike accident. Finally, one of the most common causes of bike injuries is from “dooring accidents.” Dooring accidents occur when a driver opens their car door onto a bike path. Massachusetts has specific statutes designed to protect against these accidents. However, despite these laws, dooring is the cause of almost 20% of all bike accidents.

These accidents can have serious and life-altering consequences for cyclists. Accident victims often suffer broken bones, soft tissue injuries, brain injuries, fractures, amputations, spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even death. For example, recently, a local Boston news report described the tragic death of a bicyclist hit by a car. According, to the attorney general’s office, three bicyclists were hit when they were riding their bikes in Ipswich. The man was airlifted to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries; the other two cyclists are still recovering.

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.

Semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles pose a serious danger to Massachusetts motorists. These trucks are large vehicles capable of causing enormous damage. Indeed, each year in Massachusetts, there are over 30 people killed in Massachusetts truck accidents on average. Of course, this does not include the thousands who are injured as a result of these accidents.

Notwithstanding the old adage “accidents happen,” the truth is that most accidents are preventable. Truck drivers have a legal duty to operate their rigs safely and responsibly, following all traffic signs and laws. When a truck driver engages in dangerous or negligent conduct, and someone is injured as a result, the injured person can pursue a Massachusetts personal injury claim against the truck driver. In some cases, it may also be possible to bring a claim against the truck driver’s employer, the owner of the truck, and potentially other parties who were legally responsible for the accident. Common causes of truck accidents include distracted driving, drunk driving, and drowsy driving.

Pursuing a truck accident claim is not always straightforward, even if the accident clearly seems to be the truck driver’s fault. Depending on the nature of the accident, the insurance company defending the truck driver may contest the trucker’s responsibility, or may question the amount of damages an accident victim sustained. In either case, an accident victim’s total compensation can drastically be reduced, or even eliminated. Those who have been injured in a Massachusetts truck accident should reach out to a dedicated personal injury attorney for immediate assistance, as these claims must generally be brought within three years from the date of the accident.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts slip and fall case that was filed against the town of Leicester (the Town). The opinion highlights the importance of complying with all procedural rules when dealing with a government defendant. In this case, because the plaintiff failed to ensure that the Town was served with timely notice of her claim, the court concluded that the plaintiff lost her right to a remedy.

Under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA), before a citizen files a claim against a public entity, that person must send a “claim in writing to the executive officer of such public employer within two years after the date upon which the cause of action arose.” This is known as a presentment letter. Unless a plaintiff sends a presentment letter, they cannot pursue a claim against the government entity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was picking up her son from school on January 19, 2016, when she slipped and fell while on school grounds. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered a fractured knee and wrist. Exactly two years later, the plaintiff sent a presentment letter to the Town. The Town received the letter on January 22, 2016, and issued a formal statement denying liability on February 7, 2018. The next month, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit.

Under Massachusetts law, individuals who suffer a fall on another’s property may be entitled to compensation for the injuries they sustained. However, Massachusetts slip and fall lawsuits are rarely as straightforward as they may seem. Plaintiffs in these cases must meet their evidentiary burden to recover against the negligent property owner.

Generally, plaintiffs possess the burden of proof in Massachusetts personal injury cases, and defendants do not need to prove that they are not liable for the victim’s injuries. Massachusetts premises liability law provides that property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for lawful visitors. As a threshold requirement, plaintiffs who want to recover against a property owner must be able to establish negligence. Slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to show that the property owner owed the visitor a duty of care, they breached that duty, and that breach caused the victim an injury.

Massachusetts slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the property owner violated their duty based on the general public’s views regarding acceptable behavior. Premises liability cases often vary depending on the type of property, visitor, and accident. However, regardless of the circumstances, most plaintiffs face challenges when trying to prove that the property owner did not take “reasonable” steps to keep their condition in “reasonably” safe condition. Issues often arise because reasonableness can be subjective, and the existence of a duty to act reasonably does not necessarily amount to negligence. Further, the law does not impose a burden on landowners to maintain their property in a way that ensures absolute safety for unforeseeable events.

Massachusetts premises liability law provides injury victims with a way to recover for injuries they suffered because of a landowner or occupier’s negligence. Generally, the law requires that property owners take reasonable measures to maintain a safe environment. Liability for injuries depends on the type of accident, visitor, and whether the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition.

The most common types of accidents that lead to a premises liability lawsuit include injuries related to slip and falls, trips on broken steps or stairs, dog bites, inadequate lighting or maintenance, and swimming pool accidents. The duty a property owner owes to the injury victims may vary depending on whether the visitor was an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Finally, in most cases, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.

Premises liability against negligent landlords can be challenging because landlords will often claim that they were not aware of the dangerous condition. However, landlords may be liable if the plaintiff establishes that the defective condition was under the landlord’s control, the landlord negligently or carelessly made repairs, or they concealed a dangerous situation. For example, according to a recent news report, a landlord in nearby New York state was sentenced to prison and will likely face civil charges for knowingly concealing a gas line that caused a deadly explosion. The gas company notified the landlord that a proposed gas line was unsafe and would not be approved; however, the landlord continued to rent units by siphoning gas from a neighboring building. The landlord instructed workers to turn off the gas when the gas company inspector was visiting. Moments after the gas company left the premises, the workers turned the gas back on, resulting in a huge blast causing two buildings to collapse and several injuries and deaths.

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