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Articles Posted in Car Accidents

It is not uncommon for people to allow other individuals to drive their cars. For example, people typically allow their spouses to operate their vehicles. If the spouse then causes an accident, the spouse and the owner could potentially be deemed liable for any harm that ensues. As shown in a recent Massachusetts ruling, though, a court must be able to exercise jurisdiction over both parties in order for it to preside over a case in a matter arising out of a car accident. If you were injured in a collision, multiple parties might be responsible for your harm, and it is prudent to speak with a dedicated Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Accident

It is reported that the plaintiff and his wife were residents of Massachusetts. The defendants are a married couple who live in Virginia. In September 2018, the defendants were in Massachusetts for the wedding of a family friend. The defendant husband was outside of the hotel with friends waiting for his wife to pick him up. The defendant wife, operating the defendant husband’s car, struck the plaintiff who was operating a motorcycle. He suffered severe and debilitating injuries, after which he filed a lawsuit against the defendants. The defendant husband moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims against him for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction Over a Vehicle Owner from Another State

Under Massachusetts’s long-arm statute, a court can exercise jurisdiction over a person who, either directly or through an agent, causes a tortious injury via an omission or act. The plaintiff argued that the defendant wife was acting as the defendant husband’s agent at the time of the accident. The court found, though, that there was no evidence that would demonstrate agency.

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When a plaintiff files a civil lawsuit seeking damages for harm allegedly caused by an accident, the plaintiff places his or her health at issue. Thus, the defendant in the lawsuit is permitted to seek evidence regarding the plaintiff’s health prior to and after the accident, which can include examinations by a neutral third party. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what examinations a defendant is permitted to request in a case in which the plaintiff alleged injuries caused by a car accident. If you were injured in an accident caused by another party, it is advisable to speak to a zealous Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding what steps you may be able to take to protect your rights.

Factual History

It is reported that the plaintiff suffered injuries when she was riding as a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident. She subsequently sued the driver of the car for damages, alleging in part that she suffered a closed head injury due to the defendant’s negligent driving. Following the accident, the plaintiff had to be hospitalized three times for the management of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. She subsequently underwent an evaluation with a neuropsychologist who stated that her recent mental health symptoms were consistent with a traumatic brain injury.

Allegedly, the plaintiff also identified an expert who would testify as to the plaintiff’s loss of earnings due to the accident. The defendant moved to compel the plaintiff to undergo two separate independent evaluations, one by a neuropsychologist and one by a vocational expert. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s motion, arguing that the defendant should rely on the evaluations produced by the plaintiff.

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Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff seeking to recover damages from a defendant in a car accident case must not only prove that the defendant caused the accident, but also that the plaintiff suffered actual harm due to the accident. As such, if a plaintiff cannot establish that he or she sustained injuries in a car accident, the jury may find in favor of the defendant, as shown in a recent Massachusetts case in which an appellate court affirmed the jury’s ruling. If you were harmed in a car accident caused by someone else’s reckless driving, it is in your best interest to speak to a capable Massachusetts car accident attorney regarding what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant struck the plaintiff’s vehicle as the defendant was turning left out of a gas station. The plaintiff admitted that she was either not moving or moving at a rate of fewer than five miles per hour when the accident occurred, and there was minimal damage to either vehicle. The plaintiff ultimately filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the defendant was negligent and that her negligence caused the plaintiff to suffer a concussion, tinnitus, exacerbation of back and neck pain, and vertigo. Following a trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial, which was denied. The plaintiff then appealed, and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Overturning a Jury’s Verdict Under Massachusetts Law

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff asking a court to overturn a jury verdict on the grounds that the jury’s ruling constitutes an error as a matter of law faces a high burden. Specifically, if the court finds that any evidence from any source demonstrates circumstances from which an inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving party, the verdict will not be disturbed. The verdict is especially high when the plaintiff is the party challenging the jury’s verdict, as the plaintiff bears the burden of proof.

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In most cases in which a party alleges harm due to someone else’s negligence, the injured party is required to prove the acts or omissions of the defendant constituted a breach of the duty owed to the plaintiff. In some cases, however, a defendant who is guilty of violating a law may be deemed negligent as a matter of law. Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed the standard for determining whether a person found guilty of violating a criminal statute may be deemed negligent based on the violation. If you or someone you love were injured by someone during the commission of a crime, it is prudent to consult a skillful personal injury attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your interests.

The Underlying Accident

It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent was stopped on a bridge because her car had a flat tire. She called for assistance, and while she was waiting, twenty-four vehicles passed her car. The defendant driver, however, struck the rear of the decedent’s car when he was driving a truck over the bridge, which caused the car to burst into flames. The decedent ultimately died due to injuries sustained in the collision. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer, alleging negligence and gross negligence, as well as wrongful death claims. The parties both filed motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff sought, in part, to have the defendant driver deemed negligent as a matter of law due to the fact that he was convicted of motor vehicle homicide due to negligent operation.

Collateral Estoppel in Civil Cases

Under Massachusetts law, anyone that causes the death of a person by operating a vehicle negligently can be convicted of homicide by a motor vehicle. Specifically, the statute requires the Commonwealth to show that the defendant operated a vehicle on a public road, in a negligent or reckless manner that endangered the lives and safety of other people and subsequently caused the death of another person.

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Most drivers in Massachusetts carry automobile insurance. Thus, if a driver causes an accident that harms another person, the driver’s automobile insurance carrier will typically make payments to the injured party on behalf of the driver. If an insurance company declines to make payments to an injured party on behalf of a negligent driver, however, the injured party cannot pursue claims directly against the insurer, as explained in a recent Massachusetts appellate court case. If you suffered harm in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, it is in your best interest to speak with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your options for seeking damages for your harm.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in an accident with a driver that was insured by the defendant. The defendant’s insured was at fault for the accident, and therefore the defendant attempted to negotiate a settlement agreement with the plaintiff. The parties were unable to independently resolve the matter, however. As such, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, seeking compensation for the damages caused by the defendant’s insured. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The plaintiff then appealed the trial court’s dismissal of his case.

An Insurer’s Liability for the Acts of its Insured

Under Massachusetts law, a person injured in an accident cannot pursue claims against a liability insurer for the acts of its insured. Instead, a person injured in an accident must engage in a two-step process to recover damages from an insurance company. First, the injured person must obtain a judgment against an insured party. If the injured person obtains a judgment and the judgment is not satisfied, the injured person may then pursue a bill to reach and apply against the insurer of the liable party.

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Car accidents are common in Massachusetts, and people involved in car accidents often sustain injuries and property damage. Thus, in many cases, a person who incurs damages due to a car accident will pursue claims against one of the drivers involved in the accident. There are numerous categories of damages a person can recover following a car accident, including damages for pain and suffering. Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts discussed what a plaintiff must prove to recover damages for pain and suffering following a car accident, under Massachusetts law. If you suffered harm due to a car accident, it is advisable to speak with a diligent Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover from the party that caused your harm.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a vehicle owned by a Vermont resident, when they were involved in an accident with a driver from Massachusetts. The plaintiff reportedly sustained injuries in the accident and subsequently asserted claims against the Massachusetts driver, the Vermont driver, the insurance company of each driver, and his own insurance company. Subsequently, each of the plaintiff’s claims was dismissed,with the exception of the negligence claims against each driver. A jury found that the Massachusetts driver was negligent but that her negligence was not the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged harm and, therefore, entered judgment on her behalf. The plaintiff appealed.

Recovering Damages for Pain and Suffering Following a Car Accident

On appeal, the court noted that during the trial, the plaintiff expressed that he was only seeking damages for pain and suffering from the Massachusetts driver. As such, he was required to prove his injuries met one of the enumerated threshold requirements set forth under Massachusetts law. Specifically, in Massachusetts, a plaintiff can only recover damages for pain and suffering in a lawsuit arising out of a motor vehicle collision in certain circumstances, which includes when the plaintiff’s medical expenses exceed $2,000.00.

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The evidence presented by either party can make or break a personal injury case. If the court denies a plaintiff’s request that the court take judicial notice of certain evidence it can result in a defense verdict. The Massachusetts Rules of Evidence limit what materials a court may take judicial notice of, however.

This was illustrated in a recent case decided by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, in which the court affirmed the trial court’s refusal to take judicial notice of a driver’s manual, or provide the jury with an instruction with language taken from the manual. If you suffered harm due to a car accident, it is important to retain an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to represent you in your claim for compensation so that your case is handled properly.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported the plaintiff was driving her vehicle when she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant while the defendant was backing out of a residential driveway. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and her harm. Following a trial, the jury found the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial, arguing the court erred in declining to admit the Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver Manual (Manual) and in failing to provide the jury with the plaintiff’s requested instruction, which was obtained from the Manual. On appeal, the court affirmed.

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A Massachusetts car accident resulted in an estate filing suit against a convenience store chain after a speeding driver ran into the deceased as he crashed into the front of the store.  The deceased’s husband and executor alleged the company had experienced several front-of-store “car strikes” and knew of the risks cars had to its store.  The estate claimed bollards or other barriers could have been erected along the walkway and entrance to the parking lot.  The estate argued this would have prevented a car traveling at high speed from injuring anyone, particularly the deceased in this suit.  A jury agreed and awarded the estate over $32 Million in compensatory damages, eventually reduced by the court to $20 million; and $10 in punitive damages, which was waived since it did not meet the $5000 minimum.

The convenience store chain appealed, arguing it should have been granted a new trial after it improperly admitted an internal report about 485 prior car strikes at other stores.  The chain believed each accident referred to should have been subjected to a “rigorous” review to determine whether or not it was substantially similar to the accident in this suit.  At trial and during the appeal, the chain contended the accident was random and unforeseeable.  In response, the estate looked for reinstatement of the $32 million compensatory damages award, asserting the remittitur of the damages was improper. 

The location of the events was similar to other property owned by the chain gas station and convenience stores.  The store was surrounded by parking spaces for those stopping into the store as well as gas pumps.  No barriers or devices were set along the walkway.  The store was located at the “corner” of a three-way intersection that did not meet at 90 degree angles. Two of the three entrances to the property required drivers to slow down to make a turn and enter.  One did not.  This entrance allowed drivers to come straight from the apex of the intersection onto the property without reducing speed or turning.  The situation was dangerous enough for a store employee to complain to two separate managers, but nothing was done to alter the set-up of the property. 

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the dismissal of an injured person’s claim in a recent case. The injured person was rear-ended at a stoplight and later filed a Massachusetts car accident case, claiming the accident caused her pre-existing medical conditions to be aggravated, resulting in several medical bills. The trial had been rescheduled several times at the request of the injured person, but the injured person failed to show on the last scheduled trial date. The case was dismissed with prejudice for “want of prosecution,” even though the injured person’s attorney was present and ready for trial. The injured person appealed.

The plaintiff had asked and been granted three continuances for the scheduled date of trial. After the third continuance, the court indicated that would be the last one. The injured person still filed an emergency motion to continue the fourth date because her daughter was scheduled to give birth on or around the trial. This motion was denied, so the injured person’s attorney requested that if the client could not attend the trial, he’d be allowed to provide an explanation of her absence for her grandchild’s birth. The court advised this would be acceptable.

The injured person’s daughter did go into labor on the day before the trial, suffering complications. Despite the doctor’s note advising the daughter was in fact in the hospital and experiencing complications due to her high-risk pregnancy, the court denied the renewed request for another continuance. The court then dismissed the injured person’s complaint with prejudice, determining the injured person could not prove her case without providing testimony that she was the operator of one of the cars involved in the accident. The judge did not believe the injured person would show up for any part of the trial, and this would likely result in a directed verdict.

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Several things must be considered when a personal injury settlement is reached. One of these considerations is whether the injured person is required by law to notify and pay a portion of the settlement to a third party. Some entities, often health care providers, are allowed to place a lien on settlements or benefits so that they can be paid for the services previously rendered. The Appeals Court recently examined an appeal by the estate of a woman injured in a Massachusetts car accident, which was ordered to provide payment to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (MassHealth).

The estate reached a settlement with the defendant driver who caused the car accident and subsequent injury. This accident aggravated the now-deceased plaintiff’s dementia prior to her death a year after the accident. The estate filed suit within two years after her passing and ultimately reached a settlement of $250,000. Before the injured person died, MassHealth provided over $18,000 worth of medical care and imposed a lien on the claim for reimbursement of expenses paid for the injured person’s care.

The estate and MassHealth conferred about the lien prior to the settlement, discussing the possibility to reduce the lien. However, nothing came of these discussions because the injured person’s attorney did not submit the forms that would reduce the lien. After the settlement was reached with the defendant driver, MassHealth issued demand letters to the estate for payment. Eventually, MassHealth learned it was not named on the settlement check. Initially, MassHealth attempted to discuss the matter with the estate’s attorney, but it eventually moved to intervene on the settlement. The lower court granted the motion for intervention and ordered payment of the medical expenses. The estate appealed.

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