Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motorcyclist riding down open road

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. In Massachusetts, the message is critical as motorcycle fatalities are rising.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and Massachusetts has to observe with more caution this year. 

The number of fatal motorcycle crashes rose across the state last year. So did the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents, even as traffic volumes fell statewide with COVID-19. State officials say drivers were speeding down open roads and when accidents happened, they were more likely to be fatal.

Statewide, the number of motor vehicle fatalities increased more than 2 percent, from 336 deaths in 2019 to 345 deaths in 2020, according to MassDOT Crash Data as of May 10, 2021. While there were fewer pedestrian fatalities, the state saw a notable increase in both motorcycle and bike accident fatalities. Motorcycle fatalities increased 20 percent, from 48 fatalities in 2019 (including 46 motorcycle operators and 2 passengers) to 58 motorcycle fatalities last year (55 motorcyclists and 3 passengers). MassDOT also reported 10 fatal bicycle crashes last year, a 100 percent increase over 2019.

Because drivers traveled fewer miles last year, the traffic fatality rate climbed much more than the actual numbers across the country. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, we encourage drivers to refocus and work to travel safely near motorcyclists. We share these safety tips from the National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Motorcycle Safety Tips for Massachusetts Drivers

Motorcyclists Have the Same Rights. Drivers must share the road with motorcyclists. Motorcyclists have the right to travel in the traffic lane and even pass your vehicle, when it is safe to do so. They also have to obey the same traffic signs and signals. You can reduce the risk of causing a motorcycle accident by giving riders extra room and slowing down on your approach.

Recognize a Motorcycle’s Size. Appreciate the difference between a motorcycle and a motor vehicle. Motorcycles may weigh several hundred pounds. An SUV may weigh in at 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. Commercial vehicles carry many times this.

Use Your Mirrors and Look for Motorcyclists. Use your mirrors when you drive. Assume you will be sharing the road with motorcyclists, as well as cyclists and pedestrians. 

Use Your Turn Signals. Activate your turn signal early enough so motorcyclists know you intend to turn.

Never Trust Motorcycle Blinkers. On the other hand, never trust a motorcyclist’s blinkers. Motorcycles may not have self-canceling turn signals. If a motorcyclist forgets to turn their signal off, it may continue blinking. When you approach an intersection and come up behind a motorcyclist, wait until you are certain of their plans to avoid causing a motorcycle turn collision.

Commit Not to Pick Up Your Cell Phone. By committing to this, you are in a better position to safely respond to motorcyclists and other traffic.

Safety Tips for Massachusetts Motorcyclists

If you are a motorcyclist, May is a good time to check in on safety fundamentals.

Check Your Helmet. The best way to protect yourself is to wear a motorcycle helmet. The NHTSA offers tips for choosing a motorcycle helmet

Review Your Auto Insurance. Take a moment to review your auto insurance policy. Another driver may be responsible for your injuries. But the reality is many drivers operate illegally without auto insurance or only purchase the state’s minimum coverage requirements. It is important for you to consider this as you purchase auto insurance. Ask your auto insurance agent for help and read our article on optional auto insurance coverages for Massachusetts motorcyclists.

Sign Up for Motorcycle Training. The Registry of Motor Vehicles offers the Massachusetts Rider Education Program at motorcycle schools across the state. Training classes are designed for all skill levels. At training classes, you have the opportunity to learn and sharpen your skills. You may also qualify for a discount on your auto insurance, savings you can use to buy more coverage.

What to Do If You Are Injured in A Motorcycle Crash

When a driver hits a motorcyclist, victims usually suffer serious and life-threatening injuries. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, we understand a motorcycle crash is devastating and emotional. The motorcyclist, along with their family members, needs guidance from an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer. We have the experience you need at Breakstone, White & Gluck. Read about our past results for clients in motorcycle accident cases.

Contact Breakstone, White & Gluck for a free legal consultation to learn your rights. Our attorneys will review the facts of your case with you and explain if you have a potential claim against another driver. If you have been injured by a commercial truck, it is even more important to contact an experienced lawyer to oversee the full investigation from the start. 

For a free legal consultation, contact our Boston motorcycle accident lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Bicycle riding down a road in the Boston suburbs.Cyclists may get a little more room for safety if lawmakers pass the road safety legislation Gov. Charlie Baker proposed this week.

On Monday, the Baker-Polito administration filed an expansive road safety package, which among other changes, calls for a new primary seat belt law and a controversial measure allowing cities and towns to install red-light cameras. 

One proposal – to be called Haley’s Law – seeks much steeper penalties for drivers who operate with a suspended license. Currently, drivers may face fines and/or up to 10 days in jail for the first offense in Massachusetts per M.G.L. c. 90, § 23. 

With the new legislation, a driver who lets their license lapse, then drives could face up to $1,000 in fines and 5 years in prison for the first offense. Drivers who cause auto crashes resulting in serious injury could face up to 2 ½ years in a House of Correction. There would be a mandatory two-year sentence, and up to 10 years imprisonment, for drivers convicted in fatal crashes.

The legislation is called, “An Act Relative to Improving Safety on the Roads in the Commonwealth,” and was filed as Massachusetts re-opens after COVID-19. The pandemic changed everything on our roads. But despite lighter traffic, our roads were not safer last year. 

According to state figures, Massachusetts saw 334 traffic fatalities during 2020, compared to 336 in 2019. 

Safety Reforms for Massachusetts Cyclists

For cyclists, there are two significant proposals: a 3-foot safe passing distance and a truck sideguard mandate for all state-owned and operated trucks.

3-Foot Safe Passing Distance

When traveling near cyclists, the legislation would require drivers to maintain a three-foot safe passing distance and a safe and proper speed. Drivers would have the same responsibility near cyclists traveling without a protective barrier, such as a protected bike lane with flex posts. 36 other states have safe passing laws, according to the Baker-Polito administration. The proposed legislation would give both drivers and future road projects more direction on how to accommodate cyclists. Massachusetts lawmakers have not acted on similar legislation in previous sessions. 

Most drivers know they must stay at least three feet away as a precaution to avoid bicycle crashes. But currently, Massachusetts traffic laws only recognize that drivers must pass cyclists at a “safe distance.” There is no consistent message on how much room to give cyclists.

Massachusetts traffic laws currently state in, “approaching or passing a person on a bicycle the operator of a motor vehicle shall slow down and pass at a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.” M.G.L. c. 90 § 14. Drivers must “wait for a safe opportunity to overtake” a bicyclist or other vehicle, per M.G.L. c. 89 § 2.

Stronger Truck Safety Equipment Requirements

The Baker-Polito administration is calling for state-owned and operated trucks to utilize safety equipment such as sideguards, convex mirrors and cross-over mirrors. All these state vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds would have to comply by Jan. 1, 2024.

The goal is to reduce the risk of injury and death to pedestrians and cyclists, the most likely victims in truck crashes, according to the Volpe National Transportation Center. 

In Boston, we have seen numerous cyclists killed when truck drivers and companies are negligent. In 2014, the Boston City Council took strong action, passing the first-in-the-nation truck sideguard ordinance. All city-owned and city-contracted trucks must now be equipped with sideguards, convex mirrors, crossover mirrors and blind-spot awareness decals.

Today, as you drive through Boston,  you will see large trucks with sideguards. But Boston – and Somerville and Cambridge have similar regulations – can only influence safety within their city.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Bicycle Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers are experts in helping cyclists who have been seriously injured.  

If you have been injured, our bicycle accident lawyers can review the facts of your case with you and help you determine if you have the right to pursue a claim in Massachusetts. If you have serious injuries, it is important to seek financial compensation to ensure your medical expenses and other financial losses are fully covered.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Wrong way sign alerts drivers they are traveling in the wrong direction and may cause a head-on car crash

Wrong-way crashes are on a dangerous rise in Massachusetts and across the U.S., according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

No one ever wants to hear the phrase “wrong-way crash.” But head-on collisions are frequent and often fatal on Massachusetts highways.

A new traffic analysis reveals the number of wrong-way crashes are rising on divided highways across the U.S. The majority of these auto crashes involve an alcohol-impaired operator. Drivers are exceeding the legal limit in 6 of 10 wrong-way car crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Drunk driving is the leading cause. Yet researchers say other factors, including a driver’s age and driving without a passenger, contribute. For example, 87 percent of wrong-way drivers travel alone. Passengers can be a resource for drivers, giving them an extra set of eyes to catch potential mistakes.

As for older drivers, those between 75 and 79 drive fewer miles and spend less time driving than younger operators. Still, they are more likely to be involved in a wrong-way crash and states are being urged to review how they identify medically at-risk drivers.

How Many Wrong-Way Crashes Are There in Massachusetts Each Year?

In Massachusetts, MassDOT data shows 150 people have died and more than 4,500 have been injured in wrong-way car accidents since 2010, according to CBSBoston.com. Since 2010, there have been 8,200 wrong-way crashes.

Nationwide, wrong-way accidents caused an average of approximately 500 deaths per year from 2015 – 2018, according to AAA. This represents a 34 percent increase from 2010 – 2014.

According to the CBSBoston.com report, the numbers also climbed in Massachusetts, from 19 to 27 deaths on average annually for the same period, a 78 percent increase.

Worcester recorded 366 wrong-way crashes, more than any other community in Massachusetts, followed by Springfield and Boston.

Wrong-Way Crashes Can Also Happen at Local Intersections

The AAA report focuses on wrong-way crashes on divided highways. Drivers can also make dangerous maneuvers resulting in wrong-way accidents at local intersections. From 2015-2018, the Federal Highway Administration reported roughly 400-450 wrong-way crashes at intersections.

Crashes may not be reported the same way at intersections, which have different traffic conditions, speeds and signage. When there is a wrong-way crash, the driver may be cited for another infraction, such as a marked lanes violation or failure to stop for a traffic signal.

But if you have been seriously injured at an intersection with a “Do Not Enter-Wrong Way” sign, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced car accident attorney who can thoroughly investigate the cause of a collision and your injury. An attorney can help you secure evidence promptly and with every aspect of your claim should you need to seek compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

Strengthening Traffic Laws to Reduce Wrong-Way Crashes

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board are working to educate drivers about taking safety precautions to avoid wrong-way crashes and head-on traffic crashes. The most fundamental step is not to drink and drive.

The organizations also support passage of safety laws and infrastructure improvements, including more visible traffic signs.

Ignition-interlock laws are part of this effort and all eyes are on Massachusetts. We are the only state which does not require drivers with a first-time OUI conviction to utilize ignition interlocks, which test one’s blood alcohol concentration before they start driving.

However, after years of unsuccessful debate, Massachusetts may finally be moving closer. Last December, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an amendment to the state budget which if passed, will make ignition interlocks mandatory for all drivers convicted of operating under the influence. This could make a meaningful difference in discouraging choices that lead to drunk driving crashes and very serious injuries across Massachusetts.

Tips for Driving Safely on Highways

Do Not Drink and Drive. Never consume alcohol – or marijuana or other drugs – then drive. Use the designated driver system if you plan to go out and consume alcohol. Drivers have the same responsibility when using prescription medications which carry safety warnings about driving. If you have a question, consult your doctor on when and how you should use your medication.

Stay Alert. Do not drive if you are drowsy or fatigued. If you find yourself too tired to drive, stop your vehicle and come up with a short-term plan for getting some rest or grabbing a cup of coffee. There is always an alternative, including Uber or Lyft. Drivers often want just to push through and reach their destination. But if your vision is blurry or you cannot focus, you are driving negligently and putting others in harm’s way.

Drive with a Friend. You can split up the driving responsibilities, which will reduce your fatigue.

Avoid Distracted Driving. Reaching for a cell phone is the cause of many auto accidents. You are not using reasonable care to drive safely if you attempt to make a phone call while traveling through highway traffic, among other cars, SUVs and large trucks.

While Massachusetts has a hands-free driving law and drivers are legally allowed to make phone calls with Bluetooth devices, the safest approach is to still look for a rest stop or exit and safely park your vehicle before using your phone.

Create a Family Support System. Families can support each other in getting home safely. Try to develop a network of friends and loved ones who will support you. Ask them in advance if they would be willing to come pick you up if you ever needed a ride. Be willing to do the same for them.

Help Older Drivers Plan. Be proactive. Take time to discuss transportation options with the older driver in your life. If they drive, help them plan the best times of day to travel and steer them away from the highway. Remind them the importance of having a regular eye exam.

Let them know they have support. Make a schedule for your loved one to get out several times a week with you, other family members, grandchildren or a Council on Aging.

Free Legal Consultation – Call Our Boston Auto Accident Lawyers

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in representing those who have suffered serious personal injury or wrongful death due to negligence. We are based at 2 Central Plaza in downtown Boston.

With expertise in Massachusetts insurance laws and traffic accident investigations, our attorneys are here to guide clients through the difficulties you face after a serious accident. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck and our car accident lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Pedestrian Crossing Sign on a Massachusetts RoadLess traffic did not mean fewer pedestrian accidents in the early months of the pandemic. In fact, preliminary traffic data shows there was roughly the same number of fatal pedestrian accidents in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019.

However, because there were fewer cars out, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is actually projecting a 20 percent increase in the pedestrian fatality rate per one billion miles traveled, according to the report, “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2020 Preliminary Data.”

According to the data analysis, 2,957 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes during the first half of 2020. This is 6 more pedestrians than the same period of 2019, when the calculation included more vehicles on the road.

If trends continue, 2020 could end up having a record rate of fatal pedestrian accidents, despite having fewer cars on the road.

How much less traffic? The Federal Highway Work Administration reported a 16.5 percent decrease in traffic on all roads and streets in 2020. Here in Massachusetts, MassDOT reported an immediate 50 percent reduction in traffic volumes in April 2020. Massachusetts traffic volumes were still 20 percent lower than normal in September 2020, according to our past blog on COVID-19 traffic conditions in Massachusetts.

Larger Trend of Pedestrian Fatalities

For years, pedestrian fatalities have been on a dangerous rise in the U.S. Prior to COVID-19, pedestrian traffic fatalities stood at the highest levels since 1990. There was a striking 46 percent increase in these accidents from 2010 to 2019, according to the GHSA. In 2019, pedestrian traffic fatalities accounted for roughly 17 percent of all traffic deaths.

How Many Pedestrian Fatalities Occurred in Massachusetts During COVID-19 in 2020?

In preliminary data, Massachusetts reported 17 pedestrian fatalities in the first half of 2020, compared to 32 from January to June 2019.

Massachusetts was one of 20 states, along with Washington D.C., which reported a decrease in the actual number of pedestrians who were killed in car accidents or crashes involving trucks, SUVs and other vehicles.

In 27 other states, the number of pedestrian fatalities in car accidents and truck crashes increased.

Notably, more than half of all pedestrian fatalities happened in seven of the most populous states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Texas.

Contributing Factors in the Rising Number of Pedestrian Fatalities

The GHSA cited several trends in these fatalities, including drivers who sped down open roads simply because there was less traffic.

Distraction and fatigue also contributed to many pedestrian crashes, including when drivers were negligent and failed to stop at an intersection or stay within the marked lane. In Massachusetts, the new hands-free cell phone law took effect in April 2020 but the impact was effectively delayed by Covid-19.

In addition, the report touched on the trend of drivers choosing light trucks and SUVs more often. In 2019, sales of light trucks and SUVs far outpaced passenger vehicles. The larger vehicles accounted for 72 percent of all auto sales.

Pedestrians are still more likely to be injured by a driver in a passenger car. However, over the past 10 years, there has been a 69 percent increase in SUV accidents resulting in pedestrian fatalities.

With larger frames, SUVs have a unique front-end design which is particularly threatening to pedestrians. In a pedestrian SUV crash, the grill can strike a pedestrian’s pelvis or chest at nearly the same time the vehicle’s bumper hits the lower extremities, increasing the force of the impact.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Pedestrian Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our pedestrian accident lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of those injured or killed by a driver’s negligence or wrongdoing. We have represented clients after pedestrian accidents in Boston, Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts. Our attorneys have recovered significant awards, including:

  • $7.1 million for our client was who hit by an MBTA bus in a South Boston crosswalk
  • $2.15 million for the estate of our client who was hit and killed in a parking lot, which was not equipped with pedestrian safety bollards
  • $1.375 million for our client who was hit by a speeding MBTA bus in Roxbury

If you or a family member has been injured in a pedestrian crash, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Brockton Police Department Car Seat and Bike Helmet GiveawayBreakstone, White & Gluck was so pleased to support a family event hosted by the Brockton Police Department and other community partners this past weekend. This was a special event because Brockton Police gave away both free car seats and bicycle helmets to local children and families. The goal was to prevent injuries. Many families struggle to get started with car seats and bicycle helmets and end up using them improperly.

The Brockton Police Department partnered with Copeland Toyota and Buckle Up for Life to give families free car seats. Brockton Police has four officers who are certified child passenger safety technicians. They can speak English, Spanish, Cape Verdean Creole and Hatian Creole. Especially after the pandemic, this event was a good opportunity for parents and caregivers to receive a free car seat, have it installed by a police officer and ask questions.

Breakstone, White & Gluck donated the children’s bicycle helmets from our Project KidSafe campaign. Brockton Police helped the children fit their new helmets.

Photo: From left to right, Shahzad Shahab, general manager of Copeland Toyota, then Maria Rivas and her son wearing a Project KidSafe helmet. Center is Brockton Police Chief Emmaneul Gomes, then Lt. Brenda Perez and Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan on the right.

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Massachusetts driver gripping the steering wheelIt has been nearly a year since Massachusetts called the COVID-19 state of emergency. Your daily routine has completely changed and you are not driving very often. Do you still need to buy auto insurance at this point?

Yes. Under state law, you are required to purchase a Massachusetts auto insurance policy if you have a driver’s license and register a vehicle. If you cause a car accident in Massachusetts, you are responsible for compensating anyone you have injured for their medical expenses and other financial losses. You also have to pay for property damage.

Auto insurers granted Massachusetts drivers some discounts last year, but lawmakers and consumer advocates are starting to raise the question of further discounts.

Calls for Action on Reducing Auto Insurance Premiums in Massachusetts

On Feb. 12th, the Lawrence-Eagle Tribune reported state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and other legislators have asked the state Division of Insurance to review insurance rates, premiums and losses. They also want insurers to offer refunds from profits.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office also recently asked regulators to reduce personal automobile insurance premiums by at least 25 percent, according to the newspaper. Her office cited data showing the frequency of liability coverage claims fell more than 50 percent between 2019 and 2020. There was a 70 percent drop in the frequency of collision coverage claims.

Our Massachusetts Auto Insurance Tips During COVID-19

Purchase the Minimum Auto Insurance

Under Massachusetts law, you have to purchase the required minimum coverage limits. There has been no change to the coverage limits during COVID-19.

  • Bodily Injury to Others, $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP), $8,000 per person, per accident
  • Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto, $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
  • Damage to Someone Else’s Property, $5,000 per accident

These are low coverage limits. In most cases, drivers should purchase more to adequately protect themselves and others if they cause a car accident. The key with auto insurance is you must purchase the right amounts and coverage types to protect yourself. Learn more about the different coverages in our article, “Understanding and Buying Massachusetts Car Accident Insurance.”

How Auto Insurance Protects You

Right now, you may be asking why you need to buy an auto insurance policy at all. This is a good time to remind you of all the ways your policy can work for you. Most drivers can appreciate that they are required to purchase auto insurance under Massachusetts law. At the very least, under M.G.L. c. 90, § 34J, you may face a fine between $500 to $5,000 if you are caught operating without insurance. Most drivers can also appreciate that auto insurance can protect them financially if they make a mistake and cause someone injury in a car crash.

But there are other protections. First, you may need your auto insurance to protect yourself. Even if another driver was at fault in a car crash, you may have to file a claim with your own policy for your medical expenses and lost wages. This would be true if you were injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. This would also be the case if you were injured in a hit-and-run accident and could not identify the driver.

If you are a cyclist, you may be entitled to pursue a claim against another driver for your injuries in a bicycle accident. However, having your own auto insurance policy can provide necessary resources to help you recover, especially if the driver does not have auto insurance.

Another benefit is auto insurance can protect our loved ones or those living in our household. Call your insurance agent and ask to add these licensed drivers to your policy. They may be able to draw on the coverage should they ever be injured in a car crash or a bicycle accident and not have coverage elsewhere.

Keep Massachusetts Auto Insurance Payments Current

It is fine to evaluate your auto insurance. But do not withhold or miss an auto insurance premium payment or you could risk your insurer cancelling your policy. If you are facing financial hardship, one option is you can set up a payment plan over the year. In doing so, you may be losing a pre-payment discount, but it may be the best approach for your situation right now.

Before you call your insurer or insurance agent, learn as much as you can. Read the state advisory on Motor Vehicle Insurance Installment Payment Plans.

Seek Quotes from Massachusetts Insurance Agents

In Massachusetts, you can purchase insurance directly through an insurer or an insurance agent. Call and ask if you qualify for any discounts based on your current driving routine, vehicle, employer or group memberships. At a minimum, insurers should offer a discount for traveling more than 5,000 miles in a year.

It is usually worth requesting quotes from more than one insurance agent or companies. In Massachusetts, some insurance agents can offer quotes from multiple companies. Expect most to represent just a single company. Here is the state of Massachusetts insurance agent database.

Check for Discounts and Savings

The best types of discounts and savings are those you achieve just by checking in with your auto insurance agent. For instance, you may be eligible for a discount because you logged fewer than 5,000 miles on your car in 2020.

In some cases, this conversation may not result in savings. You may need to add someone to your household policy or purchase business coverage because you started using your vehicle for work. Whatever your situation, you have a responsibility to keep your auto insurer updated so you have proper coverage should you need it. Many people put their auto insurance coverage at risk without even realizing it when they move and start garaging their vehicle in a new location. Your auto insurance is calculated in part based on where you garage your vehicle. College students who take their vehicles to campus also need to update auto insurers.

Where to Learn More About Massachusetts Auto Insurance

We mentioned a few of our auto insurance articles in this blog. We also invite you to read our other auto insurance articles, including “What Every Massachusetts Bicyclist Needs to Know About Car Insurance” and “Massachusetts Motorcyclists: Buy the Right Types of Auto Insurance to Protect Yourself and Your Finances.”

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorney

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers are known for our commitment to pursuing the best financial result for clients. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligent driving, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. We represent clients throughout Massachusetts, including in Boston, Quincy, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Brookline and Arlington.

For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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SUVs have been linked to pedestrian crashes in a recent IIHS study.

A new IIHS study found SUVs crashes caused more severe injuries to pedestrians than cars.

During the pandemic, pedestrians have outnumbered vehicles on the roads at times. If you look closely, you may see mostly large vehicles left behind, including commercial trucks, package delivery vans and SUVs.

Today, our Boston personal injury lawyers are writing about SUVs and pedestrians. Amid the pandemic, an important study was published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), finding SUVs (or sports utility vehicles) cause more serious pedestrian injuries than cars. Researchers concluded automakers need to make design changes to protect pedestrians from increased fatalities.

Highlights from the 2020 study and report:

Drop in overall crashes. Overall, motor vehicle accident fatalities have dropped from more than 50,000 in 1980 to 36,560 in 2018.

Rise in pedestrian crashes. Meanwhile, one in five traffic crashes is now a pedestrian fatality. Pedestrians are more at risk now. The number of pedestrians hit by all vehicles rose a dramatic 53 percent from 2009 to 2018.

Study data. The study reviewed a sample of 79 crashes in Michigan, finding that SUVs caused more serious injuries to pedestrians than cars.

Speed. Below 20 mph, there was not a significant difference in the injuries caused by SUVs and cars.

More danger at higher speeds. When SUVs traveled 20 to 39 mph, 3 out of 10 SUV crashes ended in a pedestrian death. In comparison, 5 out of 22 cars caused a pedestrian fatality.

Over 40 mph was most deadly. At 40 mph, all three SUV crashes resulted in pedestrian fatalities. This is 100 percent compared to 54 percent of cars (7 out of 13).

Previous Research

The IIHS has led several studies on SUVs and the dangers to pedestrians. One past study found that as pedestrian accidents overall have increased, many involve cars, but there was an 81 percent increase in SUVs causing fatal pedestrian accidents between 2009 and 2016.

There are more SUVs on the roads than ever, making it important to address the safety hazards to pedestrians. SUVs first outsold sedans in 2015, according to The New York Times. They continue to be the vehicle of choice for many Americans. In fact, SUVs accounted for up to 47.4 percent of all U.S. auto sales, according to an analyst quoted by the newspaper.

SUV Designs Are Now Being Made Safer for Drivers

What is notable about SUVs is manufacturers have already spent years adopting more “carlike designs” to protect SUV vehicle occupants. Manufacturers have lowered SUV bumpers and other features to align better with cars. The danger to pedestrians has not been addressed the same way.

According to the IIHS, SUVs can endanger pedestrians because of the overall shape of their front end. On many SUVs, the front end is solid and can have a double impact, striking the pedestrian at the pelvis or chest, just after the bumper hits the person’s lower body.

The IIHS now plans to look into the types of SUVs which caused injury in the Michigan study. Meanwhile, in Europe, manufacturers have already started to make use of safety features, such as pedestrian airbags.

A Note for SUV Drivers

Many of us own SUVs. If you purchase one in the future, be aware of the ongoing safety research and read about the specific features on the model you wish to purchase. You may have bought one 10 years ago and find this year’s model is not right for your family and where you live and work. 

We suggest you check in with the IIHS website. Other organizations such as Consumer Reports may also offer safety insights.

Consider Your Driving Routine. You want to back your SUV into your driveway as much as possible. This way you have a full view of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians when you leave. To do this safely, you will need a good backup camera. You may also need to make other enhancements to your property as well. 

Your ability to back up safely is critical. Many SUV crashes happen as drivers back up and hit a pedestrian or a child playing.

Review Features. Read consumer ratings and reviews on the SUV you want to buy. Vehicles made after 2018 are required to come with backup cameras. Do not assume all backup cameras are equal. Read up on consumer ratings and reviews and test drive your SUV before finalizing the purchase.

Buying Used SUVs. Make sure to properly equip older SUVs with backup cameras and other safety gear.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Pedestrian Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our pedestrian accident lawyers offer a free legal consultation to determine whether you have a potential claim for your injury. Recognized by Top 100 New England Super Lawyers, we provide our clients with the highest quality representation and specialize in the areas of car accidents and pedestrian accidents, including SUV crashes resulting in serious injury

If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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The New Year has begun with several reports of pedestrian accidents across Massachusetts. One pedestrian was seriously injured in Springfield. Two pedestrians were killed, one in Charlestown and one in Oxford.

On January 5th, Boston Police responded to a fatal scene at Charlestown’s City Square. A 92-year-old pedestrian died after being struck by a vehicle near the Charlestown Navy Yard and dragged for nearly a mile, according to news reports. Police later announced they had located a vehicle of interest.

A new report highlights the dangerous climb in pedestrian crashes in the U.S. Between 2009 and 2018, the number of pedestrians killed in U.S. car crashes rose by 55 percent, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This is a major increase, following three decades of decreases.

In Massachusetts, 725 pedestrians were killed during this period. Another 17,000 pedestrians were injured. Boston, Springfield, Worcester, New Bedford and Brockton reported the highest numbers of pedestrian injuries and fatalities in Massachusetts.

Other notes:

  • Most pedestrian injuries occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • 28 percent of the pedestrian accident victims in Massachusetts were 65 or older
  • 3 out of 4 pedestrians killed on U.S. roads in 2018 were hit during darkness
  • 84 percent of pedestrian accidents over the 10 years occurred on streets with speed limits 30 mph or higher
  • There was a 70 percent increase in pedestrians killed at non-intersection locations without crosswalks

AAA is calling on cities and states to improve traffic infrastructure to provide more protection to pedestrians.

This report is a good reminder for drivers to really watch for pedestrians. This is January and darkness comes early. We are also wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Massachusetts residents are out of routine and may be walking in new areas and at different times. As a driver, you have the ability to slow down and that can make all the difference in preventing a pedestrian accident. According to StreetsBlog, a pedestrian struck by a driver traveling at 20 mph has a 93 percent chance of surviving.

Here are a few safety reminders for drivers:

  • Obey traffic signs.
  • Slow down. Travel below the speed limit.
  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
  • At traffic signals and stop signs, look front, back, right and left before you step on the gas. You have to watch for pedestrians as well as cyclists.
  • Do not use your cell phone while driving.

Free Legal Consultation – Breakstone, White & Gluck

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers are known for our experience representing pedestrians who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, truck collisions and bus accidents. We represent those injured by the negligence of others across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy and other areas. If you or a loved one has been injured, learn your legal rights.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Uber app on a cell phone

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled Uber did not provide users with reasonable notice of its terms and conditions.

Have you ever signed up for a rideshare app and been frustrated to see the extensive terms and conditions – all on your small cell phone screen? Just what are you agreeing to?

You are not alone. Now, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has found Uber failed to provide reasonable notice of its terms and conditions to users. A Massachusetts man and a family member filed a discrimination lawsuit against Uber in 2016, then were compelled into arbitration with the rideshare company based on the app’s terms and conditions.

But on Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled there was no enforceable arbitration agreement between Uber and the plaintiffs in Christopher P. Kauders & another vs. Uber Technologies, Inc. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case back to Superior Court.

The Court reviewed Uber’s complicated registration process, noting app users could easily bypass the initial screens, but the process grew much more cumbersome as the consumer approached the terms and conditions and privacy policy.

The Court wrote certain terms and conditions were extensive and far reaching and, “may literally require an individual user to sign his or her life away, as Uber may not be liable if something happened to the user during one of the rides.”

Facts

In 2016, the plaintiffs filed a civil lawsuit against Uber in Suffolk Superior Court, claiming that Uber had discriminated against them in violation of M.G. L. c. 272, § 98A. This statute prohibits discrimination against anyone who is blind, deaf or has another physical handicap and is accompanied by a guide dog in Massachusetts. One of the plaintiffs was blind and claimed three Uber drivers had refused him service in 2015 and 2016.

Citing a provision in its terms and conditions, Uber moved for arbitration against the plaintiffs’ opposition. On June 4, 2018, the arbitrator issued a ruling finding that Uber was not liable for the discriminatory acts of the drivers, who are independent contractors.

Then, on June 25, 2018, a decision came in the case of Cullinane vs. Uber Techs, Inc. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Uber’s registration process did not create a contract because app users did not have reasonable notice of the terms and conditions.

Users Not Given Reasonable Notice of Terms and Conditions

In Kauders, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote that Uber writes terms which are extremely favorable to the company and does not give users “reasonable notice” of the terms and conditions.

The Court concluded, “Uber’s terms and conditions did not constitute a contract with the plaintiffs. The app’s registration process did not provide users with reasonable notice of the terms and conditions and did not obtain a clear manifestation of assent to the terms, both of which could have been easily achieved.”

Another problem, the Court wrote, is Uber can amend the terms and conditions whenever it wants without consent from users. The burden is on the consumer to keep checking and there is no way for the consumer to object.

In response to the decision, an Uber spokeswoman told The Boston Globe the company  had already modified its application forms in a way that should comply with the Court’s reasoning.

What if You Are Injured in a Rideshare Accident?

Rideshare companies have worked to limit their liability in many areas. However, those injured in rideshare car accidents in Massachusetts still have the right to pursue financial compensation for their injuries.  In 2016, Massachusetts passed legislation to regulate Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies. Under the legislation, drivers must carry an adequate level of auto insurance while working for a rideshare company.

Rideshare accidents can happen and injure passengers, but also drivers of other vehicles and their passengers, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. If you have been injured, it is important to document whether a driver was operating a rideshare vehicle for work or personal use at the time of the crash.

This may be important because rideshare drivers are required to have additional coverage when logged onto the transportation company’s digital network or while the driver is engaged in a pre-arranged ride in Massachusetts.

In the News

Watch Attorney David W. White speak to NBC Boston about complicated rideshare app agreements in 2019:

Boston Car Accident Lawyers – Breakstone, White & Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in the handling of personal injury cases in Massachusetts and has been consistently recognized for our results, including as Top 100 New England Super Lawyers and Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers.

If you have been injured in a car accident or a rideshare accident, learn your legal rights. It is in your best interest to consult a Boston car accident attorney before signing any documentation or speaking to the driver’s insurance company.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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snow plow accidents can happen in parking lot

Drivers have a responsibility to use reasonable care and caution during snow conditions. In Massachusetts, numerous car accidents were reported across the state during last weekend’s Nor’easter. In Lowell, a woman in a wheelchair was killed by a snowplow crash.

When the snow starts to fall, get ready for winter travel conditions. While many Massachusetts residents are working remotely, most of us are still driving in some capacity and it is critical to prepare. You want to travel safely, slowly and defensively so no one is injured.

If you fail to exercise reasonable care during snow and ice conditions, you are more likely to slip, slide or crash on the road. You could cause yourself injury and need a new vehicle. But even more critical, you could cause someone else serious injury in a car accident. You could be held financially liable and have to pay a claim through your Massachusetts automobile insurance policy.

Stock your car up with emergency supplies. Include jumper cables, a snow shovel and scraper, a flashlight, extra windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze and a basic tool kit, with a screwdriver and other essentials. Also pack a warm blanket, bottled water and a snack, as well as a bright colored flag to wave should you need help. Another tip from the state of Massachusetts: have sand, road salt, a strip of carpet or kitty litter for traction should you need it.

Check your vehicle’s systems. Keep up with routine maintenance during the pandemic, even if you are not driving as often. On your own, you can inspect your tires, headlights and taillights to make sure they are working. You can also check your wiper blades and windshield washer fluid, heat and defrost.

Check weather alerts and traffic updates. Check both weather and traffic conditions before leaving home. Check weather conditions hour-by-hour so you are prepared.

Stay home. Avoid traveling during heavy snow conditions. If you must travel, use public transportation or delay your commute if possible.

Most New England residents do not re-arrange their travel plans for rain. Schools have “snow days” but not “rain days.” But be aware that any type of precipitation impacts visibility and safety on the road. One recent study looked at more than 125,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes between 2006 and 2011 and put a number on the risk for car accidents.

According to the study, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the risk rises based on the intensity of the precipitation. Light precipitation may increase the potential hazard by 27 percent. The risk more than doubles during heavier precipitation.

One of the researchers told the Washington Post that many drivers do not appreciate how the risk for crashes increases during even light rain.

Clear snow off your car. Plan an extra few minutes to remove snow from your vehicle’s roof, windshield and windows. You should be able to see in all directions from the driver’s seat.

In Massachusetts, police can cite drivers who neglect to clear snow because this interferes with safe travel. Drivers can receive a civil citation and have to pay a fine. However, the greater risk is that someone could be seriously injured by flyaway snow and ice or that the snow and ice could block someone’s view.

Drivers can prevent these accidents by simply doing a little more work before they drive. As a driver, you should know if you neglect to clear snow and ice and cause someone injury, you could be held financially responsible for the victim’s injuries and other damages. In Massachusetts, you could also be criminally charged with reckless or negligent operation of a motor vehicle. If you have been injured by a driver who neglected to remove snow and ice from their vehicle, you should report this fact to police investigating the car crash. You may also want to consult a Boston personal injury lawyer to learn your legal rights.

Slow down. Travel below the speed limit, even if others are traveling at the normal speed or speeding. Lowering your speed gives you more control over your vehicle. Remember, traffic is less predictable during snow storms and the road ahead may not be fully plowed. With less visibility, you may will need to watch more closely for pedestrians.

Charge cell phones. Keep your phone charged so you can use it during an emergency, but don’t use it. It is best to wait until you get home to talk, even if you are using an in-vehicle system or Bluetooth as allowed under the Massachusetts hands-free law. You can still cause a car accident if you are distracted and using a cell phone, even if you are following the law. You can still be held liable if you cause someone injury because you were not paying attention.

Travel safely near plow trucks. The state of Massachusetts advises drivers to stay at least 200 feet back when approaching a snow plow truck or other snow removal equipment. Do not attempt to pass a snow plow at any time. Drivers should be prepared for snow plows to make sudden stops at any time. Staying back gives you more time to slow down or stop, reducing the chance of a snow plow crash.

Snow plow drivers are likely to have poor visibility and you do not know how long they have been working without a break. What you can do is turn your vehicle lights on and wipe these clean from snow regularly. By taking these steps and giving snow plow drivers space, you are less likely to be involved in a collision with a snow plow or other vehicles also trying to dodge the snow plow.

Snow plows need as much room as possible in part because they must also watch for pedestrians.

Less than a week ago, there was a tragic accident in Lowell. The two pedestrians, one of whom was in a wheelchair, were struck at the corner of School and Cross streets. The 27-year-old woman in the wheelchair later died, according to NBC Boston. She was with a 39-year-old man and both were wearing safety jackets with reflectors, one witness at the scene told the news station. The accident was under investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.

Because of the risk for plow truck accidents, we also caution drivers to avoid these vehicles in parking lots. Pedestrians have been hit, injured and killed by plow drivers in Massachusetts parking lots.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys

Breakstone, White & Gluck has a track record of successfully representing those injured by negligent drivers in car accidents, SUV crashes and truck collisions. We are experienced in investigating snow plow accidents which have injured pedestrians and other motorists, as well as other vehicle crashes in snow conditions.

Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck represents clients across Massachusetts, including Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, Milton, Lynn and Saugus.

If you have been injured in a car crash, it is in your best interest to learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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