Articles Posted in Car Accidents

textingincar-c-300Here is another reason for Massachusetts and other states to consider passing laws which ban handheld cell phone use by drivers. A new study reports one in four drivers who crashed was using a cell phone within the previous minute. Cambridge Mobile Telematics released the study last week to coincide with April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Our country needs a reminder this year. Motor vehicle accident deaths are on the rise, as the National Safety Council reported nearly 40,000 deaths in traffic crashes last year. In fact, the period from 2014 to 2016 saw the largest two-year increase in more than 50 years.

Meanwhile, this year has already seen hundreds of deaths across the U.S. Just last month came a horrific accident in Texas. A driver in Uvalde County, who was texting while driving his pick-up truck, crashed into a church bus, killing 13 people. Texas is one of 5 states which do not ban texting while driving.

Motorcycle riding down open roadMotorcycle season is almost here. For riders, this means goodbye snow and cold; hello to the open road.

Good pre-season preparation is essential for motorcyclists. Take some time to inspect your motorcycle and helmet and review the Massachusetts driving manual. Review your auto insurance as well; most drivers and motorcyclists do not carry enough insurance.

Wear a Helmet. Under Massachusetts law, motorcyclists must wear helmets which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets save lives so make sure yours is in good condition. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or fall, replace your helmet.

Car accidentUnder the law, Massachusetts drivers must purchase auto insurance before they get behind the wheel. But this is not always cheap. A new study reports auto insurance has become too expensive for 19 million Americans, making it important to shop around so you can find the most coverage for your budget.

The report, “Study on the Affordability of Personal Automobile Insurance,” was released in January by the Federal Insurance Office of the United States Treasury. The Federal Insurance Office (FIO) was created by Congress with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The office is charged with monitoring consumers’ access to affordable insurance products.

The report found basic liability automobile coverage is unaffordable in 845 zip codes where 19 million people live. Households in those areas had average auto insurance costs which exceeded more than 2 percent of average household income.

Driving on U.S. roads became more dangerous in 2016. Preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 6 percent increase from 2015.

  • This was the first year more than 40,000 people have died in traffic accidents since 2007.
  • According to The New York Times, 2015 and 2016 saw a 14 percent increase in traffic deaths, the largest two-year increase in more than half a century.

reza-breakstone-webAttorney Reza Breakstone writes about the legal ramifications of self-driving cars in an article published in the Winter 2016-2017 edition of The Litigator, the official publication of the Capital City Trial Lawyers Association in Sacramento, California. Attorney Breakstone co-authored the article with Attorney Paul Hoybjerg of Roseville, California. In the article, “The Self Driving Car: Science Fiction Becomes Reality, Creating a Legal Quandary,” the authors write the time has come for the self-driving car.

“The self-driving car is no longer a distant dream of an imagined future. It is here, it is now, and it is reality. There already exist automated functions that come standard on vehicles: anti-lock brakes, self-parking, cruise control, and crash avoidance cameras. Automated cars will affect more than simply your ability to tie your tie or apply your make-up on the way to work. They stand to completely change the automotive industry, insurance world, legal market, public transport and city planning, while redefining the American culture of feeling “freedom” behind the wheel.”

The article explains the current levels of automation among vehicles on the market, investments in the industry and ramifications for auto insurers and plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury cases.

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“The less thrilling ramifications may be to the bottom line of auto insurers and the plaintiffs’ and defense bars in personal injury cases. Currently, auto insurance premiums account for $200 billion nationwide. The insurance industry, with decreased vehicle ownership and decreased liability issues on the part of the user, will find itself cut out of the equation. Allstate Corp. Chairman Thomas Wilson predicts that driverless cars will have “the most detrimental impact on auto insurance” and one “we don’t want to wait” to figure it out.”

The article says questions of liability and specifically who will be responsible need to be resolved and there must be uniform laws that states are willing to adopt.

“The self-driving car brings with it the hope of decreased fatalities and the excitement of a new horizon of transportation. The technology is closer than most realize. Multiple players, from automakers, insurers, and lawyers must be aware of the change or be left in the dust. While the technology is rapidly gaining steam with the help of major corporations and bright minds, there is still much that must be sorted out before the self-driving car is ready for the road. Or, maybe, before we are ready for the self-driving car.”

Read the full article.

About Attorney Reza Breakstone
Attorney Reza Breakstone joined Breakstone, White & Gluck as an associate in 2015. He has earned a reputation as a tough and tenacious litigator helping both individuals who have been personally injured and burgeoning companies who have had insurance and contract disputes. More on Reza Breakstone.

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We are reprinting a Letter to the Editor which ran in today’s Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. The letter was written by Attorney Reza Breakstone of Breakstone, White & Gluck in Boston and J. Paul Hoybjerg of Sacramento, California.


reza-breakstone-webTo the editor:

The Oct. 3 page 1 story “PI bar eyes ‘driverless’ technology carefully” raises important questions regarding the future of auto injury claims and the potential impact on tort lawyers.

One of the central questions is: Should all auto injury claims involving a self-driving car be treated as product liability claims? Our contention is no; tort law will be perfectly suited to address claims involving self-driving cars.

Although self-driving cars seem like an imminent reality, they are, in fact, still many years away from hitting the roads en masse. The technology will be phased in like other automatic features on cars. Responsibility for control of vehicles will diminish gradually.

Even after cars become more autonomous, humans will remain involved in many aspects of the operation of the vehicles. For example, there will be times when a person must take over the car or bring it to a stop. One must also keep the car in good condition, not permit operation in adverse weather conditions, and maintain the vehicle according to manufacturer recommendations (i.e., it may be negligent to make after-market changes such as lowering a vehicle or installing a new exhaust or programming chip to increase the speed).

Although product liability claims may be appropriate in certain instances, we are confident that the common law of negligence claims will evolve with the technology. A wholesale transformation of the practice is unnecessary. It is wise to look to trends to predict disruptions in the practice. But the self-driving car need not be that disruptive.

As long as humans are involved in the operation, maintenance, modification or repair of autonomous vehicles, tort jurisprudence will apply.

Reza Breakstone
Boston

J. Paul Hoybjerg
Sacramento, California

Read the Letter to the Editor here or it is available on Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly with subscription access.

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Boston Personal Injury Attorney Ronald E. GluckAttorney Ronald E. Gluck recently reached a $1.25 million dollar settlement in a case involving serious injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident which occurred in Massachusetts.

Attorney Gluck, who has successfully represented seriously injured motorcyclists for over thirty five years, obtained the full insurance liability policy limits for our client from the defendant’s insurance company.

The motorcycle accident occurred when the offending driver of a sedan made a sudden left turn in front of our client’s motorcycle, cutting off his path of travel and leaving him no room to stop. As a result he crashed into the side of the sedan, and suffered life altering injuries.

Entourage Livery Service limousine

The tragic limousine accident in East Boston on August 21, 2016, in which one woman was killed and one woman was injured, is not the first serious accident involving the Entourage Livery service. Although Entourage Livery’s general manager issued a statement claiming, “We have been in the business since 1999, with no accidents ever on our record,” the company has actually been involved in at least one previous serious accident.

In 2012, Entourage Livery was found liable for a March 2010 accident. In that case the driver negligently discharged his limousine passengers across the street from their destination in a driving rain.

One young woman was seriously hurt when she was struck by a car as she attempted to cross the street. The case was handled by attorney Marc L. Breakstone of Breakstone, White & Gluck. The client recovered $697,000 for her damages. The following is a summary of that case.

In March 2010, our client, a 25-year-old woman, was a member of a bachelorette party that rented a limousine from Entourage Livery, Inc. for a night of barhopping and celebration. The group had purchased a “VIP Package” which entitled them to door-to-door service. At the time of the incident, the air temperature was in the mid-thirties. There was a wind-driven rain blowing at about 25 miles per hour. None of the women had rain gear, jackets or umbrellas, as they had expected door-to-door service. Immediately prior to the incident, the Entourage Livery, Inc. limo driver deposited the group across the street from the bar to which they were going. Each of the women got out of the limo and darted across Dorchester Avenue.

CarPlaintiff was the sixth woman to run across the street. Unfortunately, she did not make it. She was struck by a car driven by the co-defendant as she ran across Dorchester Avenue. She sustained massive facial lacerations as her head struck the windshield of the vehicle.

Plaintiff testified she looked but did not see the vehicle until her face was planted in its windshield. The driver testified he never saw plaintiff in the roadway until she was on his hood. Neither saw the other due to the severe weather and poor visibility at the time of the crash.

Plaintiff suffered severe facial lacerations to her mouth, chin and cheeks. Miraculously, she only suffered a non-displaced tibial fracture which required no treatment. She underwent three laceration repair/scar revision surgeries and was left with moderate facial scarring.

Entourage Livery, Inc. had an online training manual which stated that its drivers were never allowed to drop passengers in a place which would require them to cross the street to get to their destination. The manual stated that the driver should maneuver the vehicle so that passengers were dropped directly in front of their desired venue. Entourage Livery, Inc. claimed this was a customer service rule, not a safety policy.

Entourage Livery, Inc. moved for Summary Judgment on the theory that the company owed plaintiff no duty of care once she was discharged in a “place of safety,” namely, on the sidewalk across the street from their destination. The Court denied Entourage Livery, Inc.’s motion for Summary Judgment.

Plaintiff and Entourage Livery, Inc. agreed to submit the case to binding arbitration. Plaintiff settled separately with co-defendant operator of the vehicle which struck her for $25,000.00. Following a one-day arbitration which focused heavily on Entourage Livery’s legal defenses on scope and duty of care, the arbitrator found for the plaintiff, awarded $750,000 and reduced that amount by the 20% for plaintiff’s comparative negligence. Prior to the arbitration, the parties negotiated interest of 12% on the award. After adjustments for plaintiff’s comparative negligence and the 12% interest, the award totaled $672,000. Plaintiff’s net recovery totaled $697,000.

Read the case report on our website.

About Attorney Marc Breakstone
Boston Attorney Marc BreakstoneMarc L. Breakstone has established a reputation as one of the top medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers in New England. His record-setting settlements and verdicts have earned him the distinction of being selected as one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in New England and Top 100 Super Lawyers in Massachusetts. He has also been selected by his peers as one of the top medical malpractice plaintiff’s lawyers in the Super Lawyer balloting. In 2002, Attorney Breakstone was honored as one of ten “Lawyers of the Year” by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. More on Marc Breakstone.

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DW-250.jpgDuring prom and graduation season, students should be enjoying their friends and last days of high school. But this time can turn painful if you or your teenager allow underage drinking in your home.

Breakstone, White & Gluck cares about the safety of teenagers on the road and offers these tips and reminders about the Massachusetts Social Host Law, M.G.L. c. 138, § 34.

“Very few parents realize just how much is at stake when they allow underage drinking in their home,” said Attorney David W. White of Breakstone, White & Gluck. “You may have to live with the painful knowledge that you contributed to a car accident which caused serious injury or death. Plus, you may have to serve jail time and could even lose your home to a lawsuit.”

Fox 25 TV has reported the driver who hit and killed a Massachusetts state trooper has left the hospital. He is scheduled to appear in court and be criminally charged, but has not been formally charged yet.

David Njuguna, 30, of Webster, is expected to appear in Dudley District Court in about a month and be formally charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stay within marked lanes and speeding, State Police told the news station. He is currently out free without court bail conditions, though his driver’s license has been revoked.

marcbreakstone_125.jpgFox 25 TV asked Attorney Marc Breakstone, who has represented car accident victims in Massachusetts for 30 years, why criminal charges have not been filed already.