Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Halloween has come and gone for 2016 in Lynnfield, Saugus and throughout the North Shore.  October 31st is an exciting day for children across the U.S. to dress up and trick or treat.  There is no better place for goblins and witches to roam the streets than nearby Salem, the home of the Witch Trials in the 17th Century. However, all goblins and witches must beware of the dangers of traffic accidents on this popular night.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mAccording to The Salem News a Beverly man was arrested in a hit-and-run accident that seriously injured two children and one adult in Salem.  He was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury.  Halloween is a dangerous night throughout the North Shore due to impaired drivers. In 2015, over half (52%) of all highway fatalities across the nation on Halloween night involved a driver or a motorcycle rider with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher, according to Traffic Safety Marketing.

There’s nothing scarier on Halloween, or really on any night, than a drunk or impaired driver.

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Under the current law in Massachusetts, marijuana may be legally prescribed by a doctor to the patient. There are more than 12,000 people in the Commonwealth who are allowed, under State law, to purchase the drug. Yet it remains a defined controlled substance, illegal under federal Law.  To seek State approval to acquire marijuana for medical purposes, one must meet with a MA State certified doctor who has been approved for prescribing the drug. There are about 108 approved doctors statewide. The nearest marijuana distribution center serving the North Shore, including the cities and towns of Lynn, Lynnfield, Danvers and Peabody, is in Salem and there is an application pending for a second dispensary in Saugus.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mTo get started you select a clinic or approved Doctor. You must have a “debilitating condition”, for example anxiety or chronic pain, and the certifying Doctor must agree that you will benefit from medical cannabis. You will then get a PIN and a logon and can register in the state’s gateway.  Next is a 15 step process through the gateway to formally register. Once approved you will get a card in the mail and can then go to the dispensary for your medication. https://www.boston.com/culture/health/2015/09/23/how-to-get-medical-marijuana-in-massachusetts

This November a ballot question seeks to expand marijuana use to legalize it for recreation purposes.   The Massachusetts Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Question 4 is on the November 8, 2016 ballot in Massachusetts as an indirect initiated state statute.

  “yes” vote supports this proposal to legalize marijuana, but regulate it similar to alcoholic beverages.
“no” vote opposes this proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, keeping only medical marijuana legal.[1]

If ballot question 4 is passed and then becomes law, individuals over twenty one years old will be allowed to grow, possess and use marijuana (subject to Federal law).  https://ballotpedia.org/Massachusetts_Marijuana_Legalization,_Question_4_(2016)

According to experts, this may have a significant effect on automobile safety, accidents and personal injuries. “Marijuana use in driving is a growing, contributing factor to fatal crashes,” said Jake Nelson, the director of traffic safety advocacy and research at the American Automobile Association (AAA) said. “It’s a highway safety problem that we should all be concerned about.” http://www.livescience.com/54693-high-drivers-double-after-marijuana-legalization.html

Studies have shown that in those states where marijuana has become legal, the number of drivers who had traces of marijuana in their blood and were involved in fatal accidents, has doubled. More research needs to be done to determine if there is a safe level of THC in the blood stream, what will be defined as impaired driving, and how to accurately and fairly test the level to protect society, yet respect privacy and prevent unwarranted searches.

Blood level of alcohol is an accurate measure of impairment and with properly calibrated equipment or a blood test, can be reliably measured. The state is able to define limits for acceptable levels of blood alcohol and when one is impaired. Unfortunately the same is not true for defining or measuring impairment with marijuana (THC).

Alcohol and THC are different drugs, each of which react in the body differently. To try to use breath test or blood test similar to the one that measures blood alcohol content will not yield accurate information as to driving impaired, or not, under THC. Currently, in states that have legalized marijuana, authorities are using a combination of field sobriety tests, blood tests and evidence from drug impairment experts to identify and define drivers who are impaired by THC. A growing body of thought is to reverse the burden once THC is found in the blood system. It would require the driver accused of operating impaired, to prove that he was not. This would be a dramatic shift in burden and raise potential issues of constitutionality.

The outcome of ballot question 4 may have a significant impact on safe driving and auto accidents and injuries in the years to come.

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There are a large number of limousine company’s on the North Shore, in cities such as Lynn, Lynnfield, Saugus and Danvers.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mA recent news article published in the Boston Globe entitled, Two passengers fell out of party bus window concerns a limo company and details the tragic death of a woman in East Boston.  According to the report, a group of 20 friends retained a limousine “for a night on the town” on August 21, 2016.  The group went to an area beach and was returning when the emergency window opened and two women fell out and were subsequently hit by another vehicle leaving one injured and one fatally wounded.  A question has arisen as to the negligence of the limousine company and if they are responsible for the wrongful death of a young woman and the serious injuries of another.

In Massachusetts, wrongful death is governed by M.G.L. Ch. 229, Section 2 which states that a person or company may be liable for the wrongful death if the person or company causes the death of another by:

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It’s summer fun and sun and vacation time.  Vacationers from Peabody, Danvers, Saugus, Salem, Lynn and Wakefield are taking their activities outside to enjoy the balmy breezes and dry pleasant air.  Kids of all ages are pedaling the bike paths and rail trials all over the North Shore. Motorists are enjoying the scenery, taking day trips to the beautiful sandy beaches and strolling the outdoor shopping centers, such as the Lynnfield Market Street.  The North Shore in the summertime is abundant with tourists and residents appreciating all that Massachusetts and the North Shore have to offer.  Unfortunately, along with the crowds enjoying outdoor activities, comes the potential for accidents.  If you are injured while participating in a summer activity, you should consider speaking with an experienced injury lawyer.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mBicycle accidents, car accidents or slips and falls can cause serious injuries, medical expenses and lost time at work.  Talking to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney could go a long way towards getting you a fair settlement for your injuries.  If you have severe injuries, expensive medical bills, or significant loss of wages because of your injuries from an accident, you should consult with a lawyer who practices in the areas of accident and injury law.  Some personal injury lawyers may focus on one area of personal injury in particular, such as slip and fall accidents or car accidents or wrongful death.  One good way to find an experienced accident attorney is by referral, another is to speak with family and friends or search the internet to see what other people have to say about the attorney that you are considering.

If you have an injury from an accident and seek compensation from the wrongdoer, you can expect them to have a lawyer or trained claim handler to review and respond.  This person is not looking out for you.  Rather, they may be trying to trick you into saying something that can be misinterpreted or taken out of context and then be used to reduce or deny your claim.  Level the playing field, don’t wait, get your own skilled lawyer to help as soon as you can.

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“By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” (Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44–49).

Salem, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, is the ideal place for celebrating Halloween.  Throughout the North Shore more and more people are enjoying the autumn weather and Salem has become an increasingly popular destination for those wishing to celebrate the traditions of Halloween.  During the month of October, the history of the Salem Witch Trials collides with the hauntingly spectacular traditions of costumes and trick or treating. There is even a lawsuit just filed in the Essex County Superior Court in Salem where a witch is suing a warlock!

commerce-acts-books-477966-mMeanwhile, children and adults alike are looking forward to donning their costumes for Halloween and heading out to the neighborhoods of the North Shore for some trick or treating fun.  When out and about on October 31st be sure to take precautions and keep the night safe and avoid accidents for yourself and the little goblins out there.

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Uber is a ride-sharing service; rapidly replacing taxis.  Everyone with a smartphone can download the Uber app and then use the phone’s GPS to match location and the nearest available driver.  The app provides your driver’s name and car details so you know exactly who to look for and it commerce-acts-books-477966-mtracks your driver’s location or will text you when your driver has arrived.  Uber is becoming increasingly popular and replacing taxis because of its simplicity and cost advantage.  Unlike a taxi, you determine exactly how much your trip will cost with Uber in advance.  Uber is also desirable because Uber will automatically charge your credit card on file and will email you a receipt.  No need to carry cash or a credit card.  If you are out with friends and you take an Uber together, you can even use the app to split the fare!

Uber is uber convenient.  Yet there may be risks lurking for both the driver and the passengers.  Car insurance companies stress that personal car insurance is for private cars only and not for use by Uber drivers driving customers (Insurance could make road bumpy for Uber and Lyft, Stefanie Friedhoff).  So using Uber for your trips around the North Shore of Massachusetts (Lynn, Lynnfield, Saugus for example) to get to and from work, to take the kids to school or soccer practice or dance lessons or even grocery shopping at Market Basket, could mean no available car insurance if there is an Uber accident.  Check that your Uber driver has a commercial car insurance policy.

According to a recent Boston Globe article, the insurance problem affects only UberX drivers.  Uber requires all other drivers to carry commercial insurance policies and licenses but UberX drivers only have access to commercial coverage after they have picked up a customer.  Also in Massachusetts, insurance companies are changing personal insurance policies to expressly exclude coverage for ride-sharing activities.  Right now it’s a free-for-all.  Each State decides what ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, must provide for insurance coverage.  For example, California requires all ride-share companies to provide insurance for drivers from the moment they access the ride-share app.  California passed this law as a result of the death of a 6-year-old girl.  On New Year’s Eve in 2013 a 6-year-old girl was walking with her mother and brother when she was struck and killed by an Uber driver.  The Uber driver was logged into the Uber phone app but did not have any passengers in his car.  Uber denied responsibility for the incident, stating that because the driver did not have any passengers at the time. The injured girl’s family argued that Uber should be held responsible because the driver was logged into the app and was available to provide rides for customers.  Massachusetts insurers seem to be following California and soon, probably all ride-share drivers and companies will be required to have sufficient insurance from the get go.

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One of the reasons we work hard is to be able to take a great summer vacation.  Many families and young professionals on the North Shore are preparing for family vacations before it’s time to go back-to-school or the cold weather sets in again.  From day trips in Essex County or Middlesex County, such as strolling in Gloucester, climbing Ward Hill or enjoying the nightlife in Cambridge, to bigger trips up Route 93 or 95 to a tranquil lake in New Hampshire, or Hampton Beach or even Niagara Falls; can be awesome, relaxing or exciting—as you choose.  Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of possible accidents, hazards or injuries while away from home and what you can do to be prepared.

Car Accidents

commerce-acts-books-477966-mDriving to new places can be exciting, but dangerous.  Navigating unfamiliar roads while taking in new scenery can be distracting and hazardous.  Studies show that almost 20% of people get sick or are injured while on vacation.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among healthy travelers and “each year, 1.3 million people are killed and 20–50 million are injured in motor vehicle crashes worldwide”.  When visiting new places or new countries, tourists may be unsure of traffic rules and regulations.  For example, in Bermuda or London driving on the left side of the road as opposed to the right side.  From 2011 through 2013, 621 Americans died in road traffic crashes abroad (25% of all non-natural deaths to US citizens abroad) (Yellowbook, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

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“…Ignite the light and let it shine Just own the night like the 4th of July ‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework” –Firework by Katy Perry

Independence Day celebrations were a “blast” this year (pun intended). The sky cleared by sundown and the excitement of celebrating the birth of this great nation was underway. There were parades, fishing contests, cookouts, music, races, and all types of family fun all over Massachusetts and the North Shore. Once the sun set, the fireworks began. From all reports, the local fireworks were spectacular this year. The crowds were treated to a great show watching the fireworks over Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, at the beaches in Marblehead, and the Lynn Red Rock Park, according to all reports. The night sky lit up with explosive, bright colors and loud booms. A wonderful way to remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence – the document that created our nation.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe next day or two revealed some of the dangers of celebrating too hard. News reports discussed a story from Maine where a young man died as a result of attempting to light a firework off the top of his head. Witnesses said the man placed a fireworks mortar tube on top his head and then it was set off.  The young man was instantly killed when the firework exploded. What a bizarre and sad story.  Another news story showed that in Dorchester two boys were severely injured by a firework accident with one of the boys losing a hand.

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On the North Shore, bicycle riding is a very popular mode of transportation during the summer months. Some choose to take the opportunity to bike to work while others use a bicycle for more leisure activities. Perhaps pedaling along the ponds, rivers, streams or beautiful beaches that line the coast of the communities we live in. It is a great way to enjoy a sunny summer day with friends and family, while taking in the breathtaking Massachusetts views. Not to mention it is a great physical work out! However, biking can be a dangerous activity. According to an article on the Insurance Journal website highlighting the findings of a report published by the Governors Highway Safety Association, Spotlight on Highway Safety: Bicyclist Safety, the number of bicyclists killed on U.S. roadways is trending upward.  According to the report there were 722 bicyclist-motor vehicle fatalities in 2012; up from 621 in 2010.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mIn a 2014 study conducted by the Boston Globe, the reporter found that collisions involving bicycles in the Greater Boston suburban area increased by 9 percent from 2010 to 2012, while statewide the number jumped 13 percent during the same three-year period. That same study showed that nearly 70 percent of the crashes resulted in injuries. In many situations collisions are caused by automobile drivers who fail to follow the basic rules of the road ignoring basic safety precautions. Further, the Globe report states that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation used a $461,851 federal grant to help train and educate police about the bike law in some Massachusetts communities including Lynn and Salem, as these cities were targeted because of the number of bike crashes. When a driver of an automobile is negligent and is responsible for causing an accident with a bicycle rider, the driver can be held accountable for the bike rider’s injuries.

There may also be additional claims against the driver’s employer or owner of the vehicle if the accident occurred during the commission of the driver’s employment. According to media reports, in 2013, Alexander Motsenigos was struck and killed by an 18-wheel truck while riding his bike in Wellesley. Motsenigos had been training for a triathlon and at the time of the incident he was lawfully riding a specialized bike with his helmet on. As he was riding he suddenly was stuck and pulled under the truck. The driver was hauling crushed concrete from Cambridge to Natick and according to police, drove off after the collision. The driver when later questioned by police, denied that he hit the cyclist. After criminal charges were not filed against the driver, Motsenigos’ family filed a civil suit in Norfolk Superior Court naming the driver of the truck, as well as his employer, C.J. Mabardy and Truck Leasing Family Limited Partnership, which owned the truck. The accident lawsuit alleged that the driver recklessly and negligently tried to pass Motsenigos when it was not safe to do so, despite the driver being familiar with the roads. The civil suit also alleged that the driver was an “extremely dangerous driver who should not have been behind the wheel of a truck” as apparently the driver had three decades of motor vehicle infractions and a seven page driving history with 19 license suspensions. The case is scheduled to go to trial in late 2015.

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Driving gets more risky all the time. Here in Massachusetts and across the nation, accidents from distracted drivers are more common than ever.  Hundreds of thousands of people are injured each year in vehicle accidents related to distracted driving.  According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 alone 424,000 people were hurt in these types of crashes.  In fact, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that one in four motor vehicle accidents now involve cell phone use!  If you are in a car accident because another driver was texting instead of paying attention, contact an experienced injury lawyer without delay to make sure your rights are protected.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe explosive growth of cell phone use and texting while driving has caused state after state to adopt new laws to address this important safety issue.  The Governors Highway Safety Association has recognized the devastating impact distracted driving can have – Massachusetts and forty-five other states ban text messaging for all drivers.  That is, at no time is it lawful or safe for you to text message while you are operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts.  In addition, while cell phone use is not banned in Massachusetts, it is prohibited by school bus drivers and junior motor vehicle operators (drivers under eighteen years of age).  However, even though laws are in place, it does not mean that everyone is following them.

In distracted driving cases, where injury or even death has occurred, similar descriptions are all too often heard– “It was only for a split second”; “If I could take it back I would”; “I just glanced at my phone”.  There seems to be a common sentiment – a negligent or distracted driver did not intend to harm anyone, but those seconds of inattention, can have devastating consequences.