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hit and run

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Most arrests for drunk driving occur after a traffic stop. The officer initiates a traffic stop, detects signs of intoxication, conducts field sobriety tests, and typically concludes with a preliminary breath test (“PBT”). If the driver has consumed enough alcohol that a PBT demonstrates his or her blood alcohol content (“BAC”) is over the legal limit, the officer will arrest the driver for drunk driving. Upon reaching the police station, the driver will be subjected to additional breath tests, using a more sophisticated equipment.

Given the amount of evidence created in this chain of events, a successful defense is challenging. However, there are several key events occurring during the arrest which can be attacked. This blog focuses solely on the traffic stop itself, which implicates the Fourth Amendment constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

As a general matter, the manufacturers and sellers of goods can be held legally responsible if a product is defective or unreasonably dangerous. While there are three general types of Massachusetts product liability cases, the most common type of claim is a breach of warranty of merchantability.

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Zolnierek

The warranty of merchantability is a warranty that attaches to any good that is sold. This warranty is implied, because it attaches regardless of the language the manufacturer includes on the packaging or any warning given by a salesperson. The warranty of merchantability ensures that a product will perform as expected for the specific purpose for which it was sold.

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Under Massachusetts law, landowners have a general duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition for invited guests. When a guest is injured due to some dangerous condition on another’s property, the injury victim can pursue a Massachusetts premises liability lawsuit against the landowner seeking compensation for their injuries.

To succeed in a premises liability case, a plaintiff must be able to establish that the landowner breached a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. Additionally, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach of that duty resulted in their injuries. A recent federal appellate case from the First Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates the type of evidence necessary to prove a premises liability lawsuit.

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In the event of the tragic death of a loved one, the surviving family members can bring a wrongful death claim against the person who they believe to be at fault for the accident. Massachusetts’s wrongful death statute allows a plaintiff to bring a claim against a defendant who negligently causes a person’s death, or who, “by willful, wanton or reckless act” causes the person’s death in a way that would have allowed the person to recover compensation if the person were still alive.

Under the statute, the following people can recover damages from a Massachusetts wrongful death claim:

hit and run

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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