Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Derailed MBTA green line trolley in Newton, Massachusetts 2008

The MBTA saw 43 train derailments over five years, many Green Line trolley derailments. (File photo: bwglaw.com)

Two MBTA subway derailments have injured over a dozen and shaken hundreds of Boston commuters over the past week. At least 12 of the injured passengers were transported to local hospitals. You are not alone if you are watching and wondering if Boston’s subways are safe for use.

According to news reports, the first derailment happened over the weekend (June 9, 2019), when a Green Line trolley derailed in a tunnel near Kenmore Square. This accident happened about 11 a.m. Police and firefighters aided 150 passengers off the derailed trolley and out of the dark tunnel. Another 500 startled passengers were evacuated from other trolleys along the Green Line. Eleven people were injured, with 10 people sent to local hospitals. The Green Line trolley operator was among those injured.

Soon after, The Boston Globe reported the train derailment was not due to aging infrastructure or equipment, but was “operator-related.” The MBTA suspended the 62-year-old operator pending the outcome of the investigation.

WHDH reported the operator had three years of experience operating trains. Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reported the train derailed after the outbound D Line train left Kenmore Square. The trolley operator approached a signal marking where the D and C lines split (near Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue). He kept traveling over a switch that was in the process of switching between the lines.

Then Tuesday morning (June 11, 2019), a Red Line train derailed near the UMass Boston campus and the John F. Kennedy presidential library. About 60 passengers were evacuated. Despite the terrifying scene, just two people were treated for injuries. One was treated for a hand injury at the scene. Another person initially left the crash scene, then returned, asking to be transported to a hospital for neck pain.

Crews were still working to repair the Red Line damage Wednesday, leaving hundreds of commuters without their usual way into Boston. The Red Line provides services through Quincy, downtown Boston and Cambridge. The line ends at Alewife station.

The 39-year-old operator has been taken off duty pending the outcome of the investigation, according to WHDH.

According to MBTA ridership figures, the red line carried 272,000 people daily in 2013. This makes it the busiest subway line. The Green Line was second, with 227,000 passengers. The Green Line and the Mattapan Line are the only light-rail trolley systems.

Unfortunately, MBTA train derailments are more common than the public may realize. The Boston Globe reports MBTA trains have derailed 43 times over the past five years. This is the second-worst safety record in the U.S.

Train derailments must be thoroughly investigated by an experienced lawyer. Causes can include operator error, cell phone use, texting or speeding. Aging infrastructure and equipment failure are other potential causes.

If You Were Injured in a MBTA Train Derailment

If you were injured, it is in your best interest to receive a medical evaluation from a hospital or your physician. Then consult an experienced MBTA accident lawyer and learn your legal rights.

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck is experienced in representing individuals who have been injured by the MBTA. Our attorneys have investigated and represented clients injured by Green Line trolley collisions, MBTA bus crashes and other accidents. We have also represented families who have lost loved ones in MBTA accidents.

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

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Mother and child in a swimming poolEach year, families head into summer, hoping for fun in Massachusetts. No one expects tragedy in the backyard swimming pool. But each year, children suffer drownings and near drownings. Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children in Massachusetts and across the U.S. Young children ages 1 to 4 face the highest risk, followed by older children and teens between the ages 10 and 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Breakstone, White & Gluck, a Boston personal injury law firm, encourages parents and property owners to prepare for the swim season. By acting now, before the temperature rises, property owners and parents can minimize the risk of drowning and injury this summer.

For Pool Owners

Secure Pool Fencing
Pool owners have a responsibility to secure their pools with a strong durable fence. This is your legal responsibility and one of the most important steps you can take to prevent a child from a swimming pool drowning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pool owners install a four-sided fence with a self-closing latch around all pools and spas. The fence must be at least 4 feet tall in Massachusetts and must meet certain requirements for vertical clearance and width for fence openings. Read our past blog on pool fencing  or check out this guide on a local community’s website.

If you own a pool, consider adding some additional fencing, shrubs or a planter – or several blocking access to your pool door and fence. This is called a “layers of protection” strategy and the goal is to slow children down so an adult can intervene.

Inspect Your Pool Regularly
Make it a habit to walk outside and inspect your pool daily during the summer months.

Pool Alarms
Consider purchasing a pool alarm to monitor your pool area. There are different types of alarms so do your research and select the best for your needs. But remember, a pool alarm is a supplement to your strong fencing and regularly inspecting your pool. 

Drains
Pool owners should regularly maintain drain systems and ensure they work properly. Spas should be covered and locked when out of use. Children should never wear loose accessories into the pool.

For Parents

Swimming Lessons
Parents who sign children up for swim lessons give them an advantage. Formal swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that swim lessons are beneficial for children around age 1 and older.

Supervision: Always Watch and Avoid Distractions
Parents should swim with younger children, practicing “touch supervision.” Keep them within your reach at all times on the shallow end. Even if you are not in the pool with them, still closely watch other children and teens carefully at all times.

Keep conversation with other adults at a minimum when watching children swim. Also set aside all distractions, such as cell phones. It takes much longer than you may realize to “quickly” check your cell phone, e-mail or social media accounts. In that time, a child could drown right in front of you, quickly and silently struggling.

If you are a pool owner and have guests over, be just as vigilant in watching children swim. Try inviting over small groups – just a child or two – to enjoy your pool to keep the visit manageable.

Supervision: The Danger of “Non-Swim Time”
Learn more about the dangers of “non-swim time.” Bode Miller and his wife Morgan have recently discussed this and it’s an important term for both parents and pool owners.

The Millers tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter last year when she drowned in a neighbor’s backyard swimming pool. The child had been in the house with her mother, siblings and other adults.

”Without it being an actual swim time, my awareness and my intensity around protecting her from water was let down,” Morgan Miller said in an interview posted on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) YouTube channel. 

The Millers also recorded this public service announcement for the AAP.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm. We are committed to promoting safety for children and families through our Project KidSafe campaign. We encourage parents and caretakers to supervise children by the pool and near pools this summer. We also remind property owners that they have a legal responsibility to keep a safe pool area so no one is injured. Learn more about Breakstone, White & Gluck on our website.

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Hands-free legislation has taken a step forward in Massachusetts this year. So have the studies and research showing the dangers cell phones bring to the roads.

Woman talking on a cell phone and at risk for causing a distracted driving accident.Eight years ago, Massachusetts banned texting while driving. Since that time, lawmakers have considered several proposals to ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones, with a goal of reducing distracted driving injuries and fatalities. On May 15, 2019, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported another proposal with a 155-2 vote. As many watch, the state Senate now plans to discuss the legislation in early June. Watch with caution though. The Senate has already approved hands-free driving bills during each of the last two sessions, according to the State House News Service.

Under the House bill (H 3793), drivers would not be able to use hand-held cell phones. If they want to talk, drivers will have to use hands-free technology such as a Bluetooth device and keep their hands away from their phones. The primary exception is drivers can make a single tap or swipe to activate the device’s hands-free mode. There is another limited exception for public safety personnel and drivers in certain emergency situations.

What about GPS? Drivers can continue to use GPS devices which are mounted onto their vehicle’s dashboard, but these must not impede operation.

Fines for violations would start at $100 for first-time offenders. There would be a $250 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine for third and subsequent offenses. The bill would take effect 90 days after passage, but drivers will receive warnings instead of fines for violations up until Dec. 31, 2019.

In addition to approving hands-free legislation, the House bill would also require an annual review of the race and demographic information for drivers who are issued traffic citations. While Massachusetts already collects this data, lawmakers say there needs to be a consistent and regular review.

Distracted Driving Increases Near Emergency Responders

As we wait for legislators to vote, we want to share a few recent studies on distracted driving.

In April, the National Safety Council (NSC) released an alarming and upsetting report on a dangerous trend: drivers using cell phones near emergency responders.

All 50 states have “move over” laws which require drivers to clear the way and give emergency responders space to work. The Massachusetts “Move Over Law” took effect in 2009 and protects the work area for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck drivers and all roadside emergency and maintenance professionals.

Despite these laws, the NSC reports 71 percent of drivers surveyed said they take photos and video when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. While passing by, they film fires, car crashes and even routine traffic stops.

Drivers are doing more than capturing the scene. Sixty percent are also posting footage to social media. Another 66 percent are providing someone with an update by e-mail.

There is a tragic cost to this cell phone use. About 16 percent of drivers surveyed said they have actually hit a first responder or were involved in a near-crash. And despite their actions, nearly 90 percent agree: their cell phone use puts emergency responders in harm’s way.

This problem doesn’t go away once the ambulance or police car drives away. On a normal day, when emergency responders are not on the scene, 24 percent of the drivers admit they still snap pictures and record video. Another 29 percent of drivers say they engage with social media and 24 percent say send e-mails.

AAA Foundation for Driver Safety Reports on Teen Driving, Cell Phone Use

Another study comes from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and reports on the risk teen drivers bring to the roads, including when they use cell phones.

The study focused on drivers between the ages of 15 and 18, including those with learner’s permits, restricted licenses (often called junior operator licenses) and full licenses. The study reports teens are a vulnerable driving group because of their inexperience and they need education into the potential consequences of cell phone use, speeding and other reckless behavior. AAA released the study to raise awareness between Memorial Day and Labor Day, often known as the “100 Deadliest Days.”

The study reported that teen drivers killed nearly 3,500 people from 2013 to 2017. Cell phone use contributes to these car accidents. Some 52 percent of teens said they had read a text message or sent an e-mail while driving, according to the AAA study.

AAA noted police often struggle to determine if texting caused a car crash, but that the study’s researchers made use of in-vehicle dash cameras. With these tools, AAA found 58 percent of teen crashes were the result of distractions, including texting and reading text from a cell phone.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston specializes in representing those who have been injured by the negligence and wrongdoing of others. With more than 100 years combined experience, our personal injury attorneys represent clients in matters involving catastrophic injuries, car accidents, bicycle accidents, medical malpractice, head injuries and wrongful death.

For a free legal consultation, contact us toll-free at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Settlement was reached during trial in Middlesex Superior Court

Attorney Ronald E. Gluck, a Boston personal injury lawyer

Attorney Ronald E. Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck successfully resolved a mild traumatic brain injury case  for our client, who was injured when heavy snow collapsed from a commercial warehouse roof onto her vehicle. During the recent jury trial in Middlesex Superior Court, Attorney Ron Gluck presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses including  a neurologist and  a meteorologist, who testified in support of his client’s case.

Four days into the trial,  the defendants made an offer that represented an 800% increase from  the pre- trial offer and the case was settled at that time, just before it would have gone to the jury for deliberation.  The settlement provides significant compensation for the injuries and damages that our client suffered.

Defendants
Attorney Gluck presented evidence showing that the three defendants – the property owner,  the property management company, and the company that leased the warehouse – took no action to remove snow from the warehouse roof and awning following 20 to 24 inches of snowfall. Defendants had a duty to provide a safe environment for those legally visiting the property, such as our client who was making a delivery to the loading dock at the time of her injury.

Trial and Litigation
Through extensive depositions taken during the litigation it was proven that the defendant corporations failed to establish policies for snow removal from the awning, which was located directly above the loading dock, and that none of the employees of the defendant corporations had any understanding of whose responsibility it was to remove snow from the roof. As a result, snow remained on the awning after a historic snow storm and fell onto the liftgate of plaintiff’s vehicle which slammed down onto her head, causing her injuries.

At trial, it was proven that our client was instructed to park her car directly below the awning in spite of the fact that the defendant was aware that snow had fallen from the awning onto the loading dock on prior occasions and that they knew it presented a danger to anyone standing under that awning.

The evidence presented at trial established that our client suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused multiple symptoms including memory loss, mood alteration, dizziness, headaches and involuntary movement of her limbs.  She underwent a long regimen of medical treatment for her injuries.

Settlement
At the beginning of the trial, the defendants denied that they were negligent and that their negligence caused our client’s injuries. But, as the trial proceeded and Attorney Gluck presented evidence, the defendants’ settlement offers grew each day until the case was settled on day four.

Breakstone, White & Gluck – Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244

Breakstone, White & Gluck is known for our exemplary trial experience. Not every case can be or should be settled out of court. When our attorneys go to trial, we do so with the respect of our colleagues and judges, bringing over 100 years combined experience before Massachusetts trial and appeals courts. We are known for our successful outcomes and for holding defendants, from individuals and insurance companies, to the MBTA and corporations, accountable for their negligence to our clients.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, each of our partners has over 35 years of experience representing clients in serious personal injury claims in Massachusetts. Our attorneys have successfully presented our clients’ cases before the trial courts, the Appeals Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

If you have been injured, we can advise you on whether you may have the legal right to seek compensation. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper

Fisher-Price has recalled its Rock ‘n Play sleeper after an investigation found more than 30 infants died while using it.

It once looked the perfect place to nap and cuddle. But this adorable product – the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper – wasn’t ever safe. Fisher-Price and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the recall of 4.7 million sleepers on April 12, 2019. Parents are being urged disassemble the sleeper and stop using it. The company expects to spend the next several months processing recalls.

Prior to the company’s action, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had joined Consumer Reports in calling for the product’s removal, stating the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play failed to comply with its recommendations, which state infants should only sleep on flat and firm surfaces. Further, the AAP advises infants should not be left on the same surface as other bedding, toys or bumpers, which could increase the risk of infant suffocation or choking.

Fisher-Price, a division of Mattel, is asking parents to contact the company for a refund or voucher toward another Fisher-Price product. The company will offer a full refund for Rock ‘n Play sleepers purchased during the past six months.

Resources:

Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Recall Notice, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Mattel and Fisher-Price Recall Page for Parents

The Week of Bad Headlines for Fisher-Price

Fisher-Price and the CPSC announced the product’s recall on Friday, April 12th, following days of pressure from safety organizations. Fisher-Price had initially resisted.

On April 5, the CPSC and Fisher-Price released an initial warning and announced 10 infants had died in the Rock ‘n Play between 2015 and 2019. The infants were all 3 months or older and died after rolling over from their back to their stomach or side.

At that point, there was no recall, but parents were advised to stop placing children in the sleeper once they reach 3 months old, or earlier if they begin turning themselves over.

Days later, Consumer Reports came out with a troubling report linking the product to not 10, but 32 infant deaths since the 2009 release. The consumer watchdog called on the CPSC to immediately issue a recall of the defective product. In response, Fisher-Price said the company did not believe any of these deaths were caused by the sleeper. Rather, the company said medical and health conditions were cited as the cause in some deaths, and in other cases involved improper use of the sleeper.

Shortly after, Americans heard from the AAP: “This product is deadly and should be recalled immediately.”

Despite the AAP recommendations, Fisher-Price managed to introduce the Rock n’ Play and sold it for a decade. Before the recall, it was selling for $40 to $149 at various retailers. The product sits elevated in a canopy-like environment for sleeping and sitting and featuring a “motorized rocking motion” and musical tunes. The problem is when a baby’s head falls forward or sideways. This can block the child’s access to oxygen.

Parents should do careful research when buying children’s products. Monitor the CPSC website for warnings and recalls, as well as the Consumer Reports website. We can expect to hear more about the dangers of other sleeper products in the near future, as Consumer Reports continues its investigation. On April 11, it reported on four other child deaths linked to Kids II sleepers.

More Reading:
Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper Should Be Recalled Immediately, Consumer Reports

Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play Recall, New York Times

Buying Safe Toys, Breakstone, White & Gluck Project KidSafe 

Contact the CPSC About Dangerous Products and Injuries
If you are ever injured while using a consumer product, you should contact the CPSC to report the injury. The CPSC is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the recall process, releasing warnings to the public and collecting injury data. The CPSC works with manufacturers to issue product recalls.


Free Legal Consultation – Contact a Boston Product Liability Lawyer

If you have been injured, it is also in your best interests to consult a Boston product liability attorney. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston attorneys have represented clients injured by defective products, medical devices and vehicles. Prompt investigation is necessary in product liability cases and our attorneys are known for our thorough, detailed and capable investigation.
For a free legal consultation, contact our lawyers today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Attorney Marc L. Breakstone, who is representing a family who lost a loved one in the Lynnway Auto Auction crash, speaks to WHDH TV in Boston. Watch.

Attorney Marc L. Breakstone was interviewed by WHDH TV yesterday, following the announcement that the Lynnway Auto Auction, Inc. and company president James Lamb will each face five counts of manslaughter in the 2017 crash killing five people. Breakstone is representing one of the families who lost a loved one.

“This goes beyond normal everyday negligence,” he said. “This was gross negligence that created a dangerous environment for employees and others at the auction.”

Should students have to wait until they finish 7th grade to play football in Massachusetts? Lawmakers are being asked to consider legislation to delay the start of play to protect players from concussions.

“An Act for No Organized Head Impacts to Schoolchildren,” has been filed by State representatives Paul A. Schmid III (D-8th Bristol) and Bradley H. Jones Jr. (R-20th Middlesex). The legislation would ban children in 7th grade or younger from playing or practicing any form of organized tackle football. Schools would be held accountable and face fines for violations:

  • $2,000 for each violation
  • $5,000 for subsequent violations
  • $10,000 when serious physical harm result to participants

Children would be allowed to play flag football or any form of football which does not involve tackle play. The proposal does not include any other sport.

Causes of Concussions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a disruption to the brain caused by a blow or jolt to the head. Concussions are considered a mild TBI, which can result in a brief change of mental alertness or consciousness. A severe TBI can result in a longer period of unconsciousness or mental change.

Symptoms may not be immediately evident after a concussion, especially if the person or those around them are not familiar with the symptoms, which can include an inability to think clearly, memory problems, feeling dazed and mood, behavior or personality changes. Headaches, nausea and vomiting can also set in.

Beyond the sports field, falls are the leading cause of concussions, according to the CDC. Adults over age 65 and children under 14 are most likely to suffer a fall leading to a head injury. Car crashes are the third leading cause of concussions, followed by being struck in the head by an unspecified object, such as in a construction site accident or by violence.

Concussions can also happen on the sports field. Not every contact necessarily results in a concussion, but to identify injuries, Massachusetts and other states have already passed concussion education and training laws. Known as “return to play” laws, these require high school and middle school students to be examined by a medical professional before they can participate in sports again.

Research on Concussions and the Impact on Younger Football Players

New research shows there is a measurable impact when younger children play football. In a study of 26 football players – all age 12 – Wake Forest researchers found changes in the corpus callosum, which joins the two sides of the brain and integrates cognitive, motor and sensory functions. The players underwent MRIs to examine the changes prior to the three-month season and three months after the season concluded. They were compared to 22 other students who did not participate in contact sports.

Players who suffer a concussion need proper rest and treatment so they can properly heal and to reduce the chance for another injury. Researchers have documented this risk; one study found high school and college students who sustained concussions were four to six times more likely to suffer a second injury (Source: McGill University in Montreal).

Concussion Legislation Filed in Other States

Map of U.S. states considering concussion prevention legislation that would ban children younger than 12 or in seventh grade or younger from playing tackle football.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts and five other states have proposed banning tackle football for children younger than 12 or for those in seventh grade or younger. Data from Shape America.

Massachusetts isn’t taking the field alone on concussions. At least five other states are also debating tackle football bans for children under age 12. These states include Illinois, California, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, according to Boston.comBut none of the proposals are on track to reach state governors.

All 50 states already have “return to play” laws aimed at reducing youth sports-related concussions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Washington state was the first to pass such a law in 2009. By 2015, every other state had enacted a similar law.

In most states, these laws mandate concussion awareness training and education to prevent concussions among student athletes. According to Shape America, 48 states require students suspected of having concussions to sit out at least 24 hours. 

Arizona and South Carolina allow students back on the field the same day with a doctor’s approval.

Passed in July 2010, the Massachusetts concussion law requires parents, volunteers, coaches and school nurses to receive specialized concussion awareness training. This is to help them recognize concussion symptoms and help students receive treatment as soon as possible.

As in other states, the Massachusetts law requires medical clearance before students can return to sports. Schools are then required to maintain detailed record-keeping related to a student’s injury and progress in the classroom and on the field. The law is M.G.L. ch.111 §222. The Code of Massachusetts Regulations is 105 CMR 201.000.

All middle and high schools which offer sports through the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) must follow the concussion safety law.

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electric scooter

Electric scooter parked on a sidewalk. Seven scooter companies have expressed interest in coming to Massachusetts, according to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC).

If proposed legislation passes, electric scooter rentals may soon return to Massachusetts. Bird – a start-up scooter company – flew in and out of the state last year on a failed test run.

Since then, many communities have been discussing regulations locally while waiting for action on the state level. Last month, Gov. Charlie Baker delivered, including electric scooters in his road safety bill, calling for them to be regulated similar to bicycles. Like cyclists, scooter riders would be required to wear helmets to protect themselves from head injuries.

Walk to the Hill banner for Breakstone, White & Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck participated and supported the Equal Justice Coalition’s Walk to the Hill 2019 at the Massachusetts State House.

Breakstone, White & Gluck was pleased to support and participate in the Equal Justice Coalition’s Walk to the Hill, seeking increased funding for civil legal aid in Massachusetts. Attorney David W. White joined hundreds of lawyers at the Massachusetts State House, urging legislators to help fund free legal services to residents who cannot afford an attorney on their own. Many Massachusetts residents are not familiar with the coalition until they need help with a landlord dispute, consumer fraud or another non-criminal matter. Then the coalition’s services become critical because when someone faces criminal charges, they have the right to an attorney. But those who need representation in a civil matter are on their own. If they can’t afford a lawyer, the person could suffer devastating losses, personally and financially. With more funding for civil legal aid, the coalition and other legal aid organizations can help more individuals and families stay on track, in their homes, working, receiving medical treatment or going to school without interruption.

The Equal Justice Coalition was created in 1999 by the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. Representatives from these programs participated in a speaking program in the Great Hall at the State House, before attorneys began visiting lawmakers’ offices. Speakers included Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition; Lynne M. Parker, Executive Director of the Mass. Legal Assistance Corporation; Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants; Christopher Kenney, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association and Jacquelynne Bowman, Executive Director of the Greater Boston Legal Services.

man falls on snow and ice in MassachusettsThe forecast is calling for snow in Boston. Get your shovels ready. Clearing snow and ice isn’t just considerate. It’s a responsibility for property owners and drivers under Massachusetts law.

As personal injury attorneys, we have represented many people who have slipped on snow and ice across Massachusetts and never saw the danger or risk. Slips and falls can happen on both residential and commercial property, on walkways, parking lots and unsecured railings. These injuries can be long-lasting and often leave a person unable to work for a period of time. As a property owner, remember you are in control of your property. Shovel and monitor your property so no one is injured.

Massachusetts Property Owners Must Shovel

Massachusetts law recognizes that property owners have a responsibility to clear snow and ice – now. But this was not always true.

In 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010). This ruling changed everything for property owners and those who are injured on snow and ice.

In Papadopoulos, the plaintiff fell on ice in a parking lot outside a Target department store at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. Claims were brought against the Target Corporation and Weiss Landscaping Company, the contractor in charge of snow and ice removal.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court abolished the long-standing distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” snow accumulations. In the past, the cause of snow accumulation was significant in determining whether those injured could bring a claim against the property owner. If snow and ice had naturally accumulated, the property owner may not be held liable for injuries. But property owners could be held liable for unnatural accumulations, such as snow thrown by a plow or shovel.

This was known as the “Massachusetts rule,” of natural accumulation. It was rejected by every other high court in New England, according to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision.

With this decision, the Supreme Judicial Court wrote that property owners will now be held to the same duty of car to act as a reasonable person, regardless of how snow and ice forms to create a property defect.

For property owners, the takeaway is clear your driveways and walkways. Don’t let snow and ice accumulate. If you do, someone could be seriously injured and you could be held liable.

  • Clear snow during and after snowstorms. Salt regularly. Start early into a snowstorm. After a snowstorm, monitor the ice accumulations on your property. Your property may also need attention for the next few days.
  • Safety for your visitors. Approach your property by foot. Walk up your driveway and on any paths. Test how safe these areas are for your friends, family and delivery professionals.
  • Porch safety. If you have a porch, keep it clear of snow and ice during the winter, so melting does not damage or weaken the wood. Remove furniture from your porch so you have no trouble shoveling.

Massachusetts Drivers Must Shovel, Scrape and Clear

car-snow-200The Massachusetts Driver’s Manual states drivers should remove snow and ice from their vehicles before driving. We urge you to plan extra time. Clear all windows, windshield wipers, headlights and brake lights, so your vehicle is fully operational.

Take extra care to clear your vehicle’s roof. Failure to do so can send snow onto the car behind you, throwing the driver off or causing a car accident.

Drivers can be cited for failure to clear snow in Massachusetts. Police can fine drivers with impeded operation if they drive with snow-covered windows. This offense is punishable by a $40 fine.

When a driver fails to clear their roof, they may face a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load. Drivers of commercial trucks, passenger trucks, vans and other vehicles traveling with snow and ice and other unsecured loads are highly dangerous, especially in winter conditions. Slow down and create space between you and any vehicle which makes you feel unsafe. Move to another lane. Write down the driver’s license plate and contact police.

A driver’s failure to clear snow can lead to a traffic citations, but also criminal charges and liability in a civil case if someone is injured.

Boston Snow and Ice Accident Lawyers – Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244
Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston has over 100 years combined experience representing those injured by the negligence of commercial and residential property owners. We have expertise in handling cases involving snow and ice falls, porch collapses and landlord negligence. Our Boston personal injury attorneys have represented clients across the state of Massachusetts, including Boston, Brockton, Hyannis and Cape Cod, Fall River, Framingham and Worcester.

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

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