Boston Car Accident Lawyer

The Boston car accident attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP 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, resulting 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 in Boston as soon as possible to ensure you aren’t stuck paying for someone else’s negligent actions.

Why Do I Need a Boston Car Accident Attorney?

A Boston car accident lawyer will help you understand how comparative fault impacts your case. After their investigation, your attorney will present the different pieces of evidence for your case that will result in the fairest fault rating for your situation. This is extremely valuable when fault-status is comparable between both parties.

Prepared accident attorneys also investigate potential information for use as evidence. An attorney can interview witnesses, obtain expert witnesses, and provide additional resources that will support your case. Lawyers are a wealth of information and tools – use them to your advantage.

Use a Boston car accident attorney to your benefit when negotiating settlements and gathering evidence. Details can fall to the wayside in high-stress situations, but an attorney will prevent this from happening.

The Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts 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 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 is Liability Determined in Car Accidents?

Boston is a no-fault state, but not a tort state. This means that drivers can pursue personal injury lawsuits even if they don’t exhaust all PIP benefits. Some states prohibit drivers from filing claims before reaching their PIP limit. Boston does set another minimum, however, at $2,000 in car-accident related medical and property damages. In addition, a different type of medical damage is necessary to pursue a claim. This includes one of the following: vision loss, scarring, disfigurement, broken bones, hearing loss, and/or amputation.

In Boston, this does not play a factor in filing. However, Boston does practice comparative negligence, which assigns a percentage of blame to each party. If the court rules that you are 50% or more at fault, you cannot pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Conversely, even drivers who are 49% at fault can file. In situations where you question the success of your case, hiring a car accident lawyer in Boston is necessary.

Boston’s No-Fault Insurance System

Boston adheres to a mandatory no-fault insurance system. All registered drivers must register with insurance, or else they face a fine and possible license suspension.

Although it’s not reflected in its name, no fault-systems do assign fault to drivers involved in car accidents. However, this only applies to coverage in non-car-related property damage cases. In reference to medical bills, Boston requires personal injury protection (PIP). PIP is an additional form of insurance that covers both party’s respective medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, typically up to $8,000.

Settlement Payout

Because this money comes out of the insurance company’s pocket, claims adjustors won’t help you gain as much compensation as possible. In some cases, your insurance might try to cheat you out of compensation that accurately reflects the medical damage caused by the collision. Help during settlement negotiations is one key benefit of hiring a Boston car accident lawyer. Your lawyer will help you keep tabs on all aspects of collision-related expenses so you know what damages you are capable of claiming:

  • Medical expenses, both immediate and recurring
  • Lost wages to account for recovery time
  • Repair of your personal property
  • Emotional damages
  • Miscellaneous, out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident

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 personal injury protection (PIP) benefits per accident

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. Annually, there are as many as six million car accidents across the United States, responsible for nearly 1.25 million deaths.

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 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 a 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 by 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)

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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:

Rear-End Collisions

According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data, rear-end crashes account for 29% of all car accidents. Most drivers who hit another driver from behind were not paying attention to the road ahead at the time.

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 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

Side-impact crashes are 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 a 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.

Assess Injuries

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.

Contact the Authorities

Once you ensure that you and the other drivers are not seriously wounded, contact the authorities. While you wait for police to arrive, 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. Take pictures of debris in the road as it lies, any skid marks from drivers hitting their brakes, and landmarks around the scene. These photos can be valuable if liability for the accident is questionable.

Speak Concisely

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.

Seek Medical Assistance

Once you’re finished your statement and the accident site is clear, you should seek medical attention. Even if you only sustained minor injuries, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you end up in a lawsuit, 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. An experienced Boston accident attorney can also help you navigate the insurance claims process.

“My name is Harold – I was involved in an accident at the end of March. I was rear-ended and hurt. To make a long story short, I had called the biggest ad in the phonebook, which I had seen some advertisement on TV by this law firm. It was a huge mistake. When I went for my interview, I was rushed through the interview process. Then, I had several questions about the accident and would wait for callbacks, which were never returned. Then when I did get a hold of somebody, I felt as though I was putting him or her out. This went on for about a month. Then I called Sweeney Merrigan. Made one call and couldn’t have been more satisfied since. Every phone call has been answered or returned the same day. The case has been handled with the greatest respect for me.” – Harold