Boston Car Accident Lawyer

The Boston car accident attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law want drivers to be safe on the road. However, Boston has some of the most statistically dangerous traffic patterns and congested intersections in the country and we understand that car accidents are inevitable, especially in dense cities like ours.  Car crashes can cause serious or even fatal injuries, result in thousands of dollars in property damage, and may even leave victims of reckless drivers permanently disabled. If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to connect with a reliable personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure you aren’t stuck paying for someone else’s negligent actions.

Boston Area Car Accident Statistics

There are over 36,000 miles of roads connecting the state of Massachusetts, accommodating as many as 5 million vehicles on any given day.  As the largest city in the state, Boston is home to a significant portion of this vehicle traffic. With over 3 million licensed drivers in the Boston area, it’s no surprise that the city ranks among the nation’s worst when it comes to traffic. While no one likes to sit in bumper to bumper traffic, the high volume of vehicles on the road also means a greater chance of accidents.  From 2011-2015, 1,768 people lost their lives on Massachusetts roads, 101 within the city of Boston.  However, if you expand to the Greater Boston area – including cities such as Cambridge, Newton, Framingham, Worcester, Providence, and Lowell (among many others) the number is much greater.

Boston Area Car Accident Fatalities 2011-2015

Although fatal accidents happen for a number of reasons, AAA president Sandra Marsian reported that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents.

Distracted driving involves any activity that requires you to take your hands off the steering wheel or divert your eyes from the road ahead. While texting and cell phone use are one of the most common causes of distraction behind the wheel, other activities such as eating, navigating with GPS, making calls with hands-free devices, conversations with passengers, and slowing down to look at roadside distractions like accidents (often called “rubbernecking”) are all dangerous on Boston roadways. Since the Boston area sees some of the heaviest traffic and has one of the highest accident rates in the country, it’s crucial for Boston drivers to use good judgment behind the wheel.

Recent changes in Massachusetts law prohibit texting while driving but these laws are unable to eliminate the practice completely. According to the NHTSA:

  • 16% of all fatal crashes in 2009 involved distracted driving
  • 20% of all injury crashes were caused by distracted drivers
  • Drivers under the age of 20 are most likely to drive while distracted
  • The 30-39 year-old age group was most likely to be distracted by cell phone use

Common Injuries in Car Accidents

Car accidents at high speeds can cause all manner of serious injuries. Some of the possible injuries from a car accident include:

  • Broken bones. While some bone fractures are mild and heal relatively well, compound fractures can cause nerve damage, infections, loss of motor ability, and extreme pain.
  • Flying debris and broken glass can cause deep cuts and lacerations requiring serious surgery.
  • Traumatic brain injuries. Head injuries are very common in car accidents, especially those that happen at high speeds. A mild head injury may only lead to a concussion, but serious head injuries can cause skull fractures, brain hemorrhaging, and even death. Many traumatic brain injuries lead to permanent damage or loss of function.
  • Spine injuries. The spinal cord carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body, but unlike the rest of the body, the spinal cord cannot self-repair. Any damage to the spinal cord is permanent, and often entails significant loss of motor functions. Wounds lower on the spinal cord may lead to difficulty walking or loss of some bodily function control, while a wound closer to the base of the skull can leave a victim permanently paralyzed.
  • Serious accidents may cause flames to erupt, potentially burning victims. Additionally, a person thrown from a vehicle may slide across the asphalt and suffer serious friction burns (commonly called “road rash”). This is particularly common in motorcycle crashes.
  • Wrongful death. Some car accidents are so violent that a motorist may be killed. In these situations, the deceased’s surviving loved ones may be able to file a wrongful death claim in lieu of a personal injury lawsuit.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are countless possible injuries that can result from car crashes. It’s vital for Boston drivers to operate their vehicles safely, stay vigilant while driving, and know the biggest risks of driving in the Boston area.

Most Common Types of Car Accidents

Car accidents can happen just about anywhere and be caused many, many different events and factors. Therefore, it’s impossible to predict exactly when and where an accident may occur. However, data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) shows us exactly what Massachusetts drivers struck in every fatal accident, allowing us important insight.

What Kills the Most Drivers in Massachusetts? (2011-2015)

Collisions with other vehicles are far and away the most common single cause of fatalities in Massachusetts, but fixed objects are the leading killer.  If you add up all collisions with fixed objects, 677 people were killed in this time frame, 174 more than in collisions with motor vehicles.

Hopefully these data help point out some of the most statistically dangerous road hazards for Boston drivers. Here is a little more information on the most common accident types:

  • Striking fixed objects. One of the most common types of accidents – especially in fatal accident – involve collisions with any manner of fixed objects.  This can include light or utility poles, trees, ditches, guardrails, fences and many other hazards near the roadway.
  • Weather Related. The Northeast sees quite a bit of precipitation, and rain and melting snow are significant road hazards. Driving through pools of water means your tires must push water out of the way to stay in contact with the road. If you drive too fast, your tire treads won’t be able to push the water out from under your tires fast enough, leaving a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. This is hydroplaning, and the driver loses control of the vehicle. Hitting the brakes while hydroplaning is ineffective because the stationary tire will behave like a water ski, so it’s best to simply ease off the gas and let the vehicle slow down until the tires make contact with the road again.
  • Head On Collisions. The most deadly and devastating type of collision   – especially at high speeds. More than 75 percent of head on collisions occur on rural roads, undivided roads.  When traveling on these types of roads, use extra caution both day and night.
  • Side-impact crashes, often called “T-bone” crashes, most often happen when one driver fails to yield to another car that has the right of way. For example, a driver running a red light is likely to hit a car traveling through the intersection from the cross street.

How do Municipalities in Boston Establish Speed Limits?

Unsafe speed for the road or conditions is a significant factor in motor vehicle accidents that cause injuries or death. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) assigns speed limits based on several factors to offer the optimal flow of traffic at a safe speed. It’s difficult for MassDOT to please everyone, though. Whenever a speed limit is up for debate, the residents and business owners in the area typically prefer lower speed limits for increased safety, while motorists prefer higher speed limits to reduce their travel times.

There are various factors that MassDOT considers when assigning speed limits, but the most important thing to remember about posted speed limits is they strive for balance between reasonable travel time and the safety of the people in the surrounding area. While cruising a few mph above the posted speed limit is generally acceptable and common practice for many drivers, it’s a wise idea to drive within posted limits, even if you believe them to be unreasonable.

What to Do After a Car Accident in Boston

The state of Massachusetts requires you to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report after any car accident that caused an injury, death, or property damage over $1,000. A good rule of thumb is to contact the police for anything more than very mild fender benders in which no one suffered injury. For serious accidents, your first step after coming to a stop should be to assess your injuries. If it’s too painful to move, don’t. Wait for emergency responders to arrive. If you only seem to have sustained mild injuries, it’s still crucial to take things easy. Some injuries are not immediately visible, and adrenaline pumping from the crash may dull pain sensations.

Once you ensure that you and the other drivers are not seriously wounded, contact the authorities and notify them of the crash. While you wait for police to arrive, it’s a good idea to try to move your vehicles out of the flow of traffic, if possible. However, before you do this, you should try to take pictures of the accident scene. Quickly photograph any damage to your vehicle and others, debris in the road as it lies, any skid marks from drivers hitting their brakes, and landmarks around the accident scene. These photos can be valuable if liability for the accident is questionable.

When the police arrive, take care with what words you use. Even seemingly innocent phrases like “I’m sorry” can land you in trouble. Avoid saying anything that even remotely sounds like an admission of fault, even if you were at fault. Answer the police’s questions honestly and concisely. Once you’re finished providing your statement and the accident site is clear, you should seek medical attention as soon as humanly possible after the crash, even if you only sustained minor injuries. Should you wind up involved in a lawsuit for the accident, the court will assume that if you waited to seek medical treatment, your injuries couldn’t have been too bad.

What to Do if You Are Hit by an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

Massachusetts requires all motorists to carry auto insurance. Unfortunately, many drivers opt for low-cost policies with minimal coverage. If one of these drivers or one with no insurance at all causes an accident, you may need to file a claim against your own insurance policy. Different insurers have varying policies when it comes to these situations, so it’s a good idea to look for any verbiage concerning underinsured or uninsured driver coverage in your policy agreement before signing. Reaching out to a personal injury attorney can help mitigate the potential damage of an accident with an underinsured driver, and an attorney can also help you navigate the insurance claims process.

Massachusetts Car Insurance Requirements

If you own a vehicle in Massachusetts, your insurance coverage must include:

  • $20,000 for a crash involving one person
  • $40,000 for accidents where more than one person is injured
  • $5,000 for property damage per accident
  • $8,000 for person injury protection (PIP) benefits per accident

How Liability Is Determined in Boston Car Accidents

Massachusetts follows a modified comparative negligence law, meaning that you can only recover compensation for a car accident if you are less than 50% at fault for the crash. This is why it is so important to avoid admitting fault when providing police with your statement. A court may turn a seemingly innocuous statement against you and drastically reduce the compensation you receive.

Massachusetts No Fault Rules

While Massachusetts is a modified comparative negligence state, the state handles most minor traffic accident claims under No Fault rules.  This means that drivers cannot take each other to court for motor vehicle accidents unless certain conditions are met.  For car accident victims to be eligible to pursue remedies outside the no-fault system, he or she must:

  • Have incurred $2,000 or more in medical bills or expenses
  • Have suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident including permanent disfigurement, loss of sight or hearing, or broken bones.

This system is in place to ease the court’s burden in minor traffic accident cases, while still providing victims of serious injury a way to recover damages.

Statute of Limitations in Boston Car Accidents

Victims of car accidents have three years from the date of their accident to file a personal injury claim in a Massachusetts court.  This deadline – known as the Statute of Limitations – is the same  three years for typical car accidents as well as wrongful death and product liability cases.  In special circumstances, the deadline may be extended to allow for discovery of an injury that wasn’t visible or detectable until long after the crash.

If you are pursuing a claim against a government entity, however, claims must be filed within 30 days of the accident.

How an Attorney Can Help After a Car Accident

After you’ve handled your medical issues, dealt with the police, and filed a claim with the appropriate insurers for your accident, your next step should be to retain the services of a qualified attorney to represent your car accident case. If you suffered injuries or property damage due to another driver’s carelessness, you shouldn’t have to pay for it on your own.

The Boston car accident attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law are dedicated to client success. We have successfully secured more than $30 million in damages for our clients, and we want Boston drivers to know they can turn to us for representation after a car accident. When it comes to compensation for property damage, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages, we will explore every possible avenue for our clients. If you have been in a serious accident and are looking for compensation outside of Massachusetts no-fault system, then contact us at Sweeney Merrigan Law today. Aside from our years of experience, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights accident victims in Boston and ensuring that our clients receive all the benefits that they are entitled to under the law.