Committed to Justice in Boston and Beyond
Justia Lawyer Rating

hit and run

Photo credit: Chaikom / Shutterstock.com

Massachusetts motorists must stay at the scene of a crash to provide their information to injured parties—the failure to do so carries serious civil and criminal consequences. Under Massachusetts law, the crime of leaving the scene of an accident involves leaving the scene after “knowingly colliding with or otherwise causing injury” to another vehicle, person, or property, or “to avoid prosecution or evade apprehension” after a collision resulting in death, and without stopping and providing the driver’s name, residence, and vehicle registration number.

Massachusetts car accident victims may be able to use another driver’s act of leaving the scene as evidence of that driver’s negligence in a subsequent civil lawsuit. A criminal conviction for leaving the scene of an accident might be used to show the driver was at fault for the crash or as other evidence. Even for drivers that fear the consequences, leaving the scene is illegal and is never a good idea. Police are often able to track down hit-and-run drivers through video and witnesses.

manhole cover

Photocredit: terekhov igor / Shutterstock.com

In a recent case before Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court, the court was asked to clarify under what circumstances an injury victim was required to provide 30-day notice in cases involving road defects. In that case, the plaintiff was injured when he was riding his bike and hit a utility cover that was not completely aligned with the road. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the city, but the city claimed that an energy company was responsible for the misaligned cover. The plaintiff then brought a negligence claim against the energy company. However, a judge dismissed the plaintiff’s case for failure to provide notice to the company within thirty days of the plaintiff’s injury, as required by statute. The plaintiff appealed.

Under M. G. L. c. 84, § 15 of the Tort Claims Act, the statute generally imposes liability on the county, city, town or “person by law obliged to repair the same” for injuries caused by a defect “in or upon a way.” If a person’s claim falls under § 15, the plaintiff is required to give notice before bringing a claim. Under § 18, a person must provide notice within thirty days of the injury to the county, city, town or “person by law obliged to keep said way in repair.”

Massachusetts personal injury cases involving more than one potentially liable party can become complicated when it comes to determining each party’s liability. A defendant’s negligence does not need to be the sole cause of a plaintiff’s injury for the defendant to be legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injury. As long as a defendant’s negligence contributed as a proximate cause of the p

motorcycle accident

photo credit: Shutterstock.com/osobystist

laintiff’s injury, the defendant is liable. In a Massachusetts negligence case,  joint liability is appropriate when two or more parties negligently contribute to the injury of another through their acts, which operate concurrently, in a way that the damages are inseparable. In such cases, the parties are jointly and severally liable.

pedestrian

Photo Credit: Anastasios71 /Shutterstock.com

Whenever someone is injured in a Massachusetts car accident, they can pursue a claim for compensation through a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit. When the allegedly at-fault party is a government employee, however, certain additional rules apply.

Historically, government entities were not able to be sued by private citizens. However, over time, lawmakers realized that this rule led to unfair results in that accident victims were denied compensation for injuries that were clearly due to the wrongdoing of government employees. Thus, lawmakers across the country passed laws called “tort claims acts,” which waived government immunity in certain situations.

Anyone who has lived in Massachusetts over the winter season knows that the state gets it fair share of winter weather. Whether it be snow, freezing rain, or black ice, Massachusetts roads can get ugly between December and February, increasing the likelihood of a Massachusetts car accident. These conditions can present a challenge to motorists who may not have a choice but to brave the conditions to get to work or take their children to school.

Winter highway

Photo Credit: Robsonphoto / Shutterstock.com

Under Massachusetts law, all drivers must operate their vehicle at a speed that is “reasonable and proper”. In areas where there is a posted speed limit, the posted speed limit is considered the maximum speed that is reasonable and proper. Thus, if a motorist causes an accident while speeding, the fact that they were traveling in excess of the speed limit at the time of the accident creates a rebuttable presumption that they were not traveling at a reasonable and proper speed. However, there are certain situations where traveling at the posted speed limit would not be reasonable and proper, and motorists must adjust their speed accordingly.

wrongful death

Photo Credit: designer491 / Shutterstock.com

In an important decision for Massachusetts wrongful death claims, a federal appellate court asked the Massachusetts Supreme Court to consider whether wrongful death claims brought by the decedent’s heirs can be bound by an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent or by someone else on the decedent’s behalf.

According to the court’s opinion, the resident was admitted to a nursing home, and upon her admission, her daughter signed an arbitration agreement on her behalf. The agreement stated that it was not required for admission to the facility and that the agreement could be revoked within 30 days of signing it. The agreement stated that any dispute covered under the agreement must be resolved through alternative dispute resolution, which includes mediation, and if not successful, arbitration. The agreement further stated that it applied to the resident, as well as, to any person “whose claim is or may be derived through or on behalf of the Resident, including any next of kin, guardian, executor, administrator, legal representative, or heir of the Resident, and any person who has executed this Agreement on the Resident’s behalf.”

After her mother’s death, the daughter brought a wrongful death claim as a personal representative of her mother’s estate. The nursing home sought to compel arbitration of the wrongful death claim brought by the representative of a resident who died at the facility. The daughter argued that her wrongful death claims were not subject to the agreement to arbitrate because a beneficiary’s claims are independent of the decedent’s claims. The nursing home argued that beneficiaries of wrongful death claims in Massachusetts are derivative of the decedent’s wrongful death claim, and therefore, the agreement to arbitrate is binding on the derivatives.

Continue reading

medical malpractice

Photo Credit: vchal / Shutterstock.com

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently issued a decision discussing whether a plaintiff could file an asbestos claim beyond the time period set forth in the statute in cases involving diseases with extended latency periods. In this case, the claim was filed after a man died in 2016 of mesothelioma after he was exposed to asbestos when he working on the construction of two nuclear power plants in the 1970s. If you or a loved one was similarly exposed, reach out to a Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff came into contact with asbestos between 1971 and 1978, and received his diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma in April 2015. In August 2015, he filed a claim alleging that General Electric had negligently exposed him to asbestos. General Electric designed and manufactured certain parts in the plant, and used insulation materials containing asbestos.

Under Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 260, section 2B, there is a six-year statute of repose for tort claims arising out of a deficiency or neglect in the design, planning, construction, or general administration of an improvement to real property. The statute states that tort claims cannot be filed more than six years after the earlier of the following dates: 1) “the opening of the improvement to use,” or 2) “substantial completion of the improvement and the taking of possession for occupancy by the owner.”

Continue reading

construction hat

Photo Credit: Alex Kosev / Shutterstock.com

In a recent federal appellate case, a man was badly injured while he was operating a machine at work in Lakeville, Massachusetts. Evidently, the man mistakenly hit the foot pedal on the machine, causing the machine to activate, crushing his left hand. The machine was manufactured by Schechtl Maschinenbau, a German company, and was sold to the man’s employer by MetalForming, Inc., an American company. The man sued Schechtl and MetalForming in Massachusetts. Schechtl argued that it could not be sued in Massachusetts because there was no personal jurisdiction.

The Concept of Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s ability to exercise power over the parties in a case. In order for personal jurisdiction to be established, a defendant must have certain “minimum contacts” with the state. To show sufficient contacts with the state under the applicable law, a plaintiff must show that: 1) the claims directly arise out of or relate to the defendant’s activities in the state; 2) the defendant’s contacts with the state constitute a purposeful availment of the privilege of doing business in the state; and 3) that jurisdiction is reasonable.

Personal Jurisdiction in the Case

In this case, the court decided that there were sufficient contacts to find personal jurisdiction. The court found that the claim was related to Schechtl’s contacts with the state, and that jurisdiction was reasonable. The main issue was whether Schechtl purposely availed itself of the privilege of doing business within the state. In finding that it purposely availed itself, the court considered whether the exercise of jurisdiction was foreseeable to the defendant.

Continue reading

slippery steps

Photo Credit: riopatuca / Shutterstock.com

Some laws can lead to harsh results, but when courts apply these laws they generally do so because of an honestly held belief that they are enforcing the law exactly as it is written. In a recent slip-and-fall case before a Massachusetts appeals court, the court dismissed the claim even though the plaintiff claimed she could not have known who the responsible party was within the allotted time.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff stepped on an uneven depression in a road in Boston and seriously injured her left foot. She notified the city of her claim within thirty days, and almost three months later, the city denied liability and claimed the Boston Gas Company was the responsible party. The plaintiff sent notice to Boston Gas the next day, and later filed a complaint against the city and the gas company.

Evidently, Boston Gas moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that the plaintiff failed to timely file notice of the claim. In this case, it was undisputed that the plaintiff did not notify the gas company within thirty days. However, the plaintiff argued that her failure to comply with the notice requirement was excusable because it was “virtually impossible” to know that the gas company was the responsible party within the thirty-day period.

Continue reading

car insurance

Photo Credit: Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

Massachusetts personal injury victims can suffer devastating consequences if an insurance company rejects their claims for coverage. In a recent case before the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, the court had to determine whether the plaintiff was considered a “household member” in order to be eligible for coverage.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a serious car accident while he was a passenger in a vehicle. The plaintiff was hospitalized for four days, and incurred medical bills of more than $40,000, as well as a long-term disability. The plaintiff accepted a settlement with the driver for the full extent of the driver’s insurance policy of $100,000.

Evidently, at the time of the accident, the plaintiff lived with his girlfriend and their minor son in a home with his girlfriend’s mother and stepfather. The mother and stepfather had an insurance policy that covered two cars used by residents of the plaintiff’s home. The policy provided $250,000 of coverage per person in underinsured motorist coverage for damages caused by a person who does not have sufficient insurance to cover someone’s damages. The plaintiff filed a claim under this policy.

Continue reading

Contact Information