Articles Posted in Drunk Driving/OUI

Accidents can be complicated events, with multiple parties involved and contributing to the cause of the accident. For example, two drivers at an intersection may both act recklessly while driving across. One may be texting while driving, and the other may be speeding to “beat” a yellow light about to turn red. If the texting driver suffers injuries, he or she may pursue civil action against the other driver, but questions will quickly arise as to fault and compensation. The texting driver may wonder whether or not he or she can recover anything from the other driver.

Massachusetts follows the doctrine of comparative negligence. In the scenario described above, if the speeding driver is found to be more than 50% at fault, the texting driver can recover damages from the speeding driver. The texting driver, however, can have his or her award reduced by the amount of fault assigned by a judge or jury. If the texting driver seeks $50,000 worth of damages from the speeding driver, but is found to be 40% at fault, the texting driver would only be able to recover $30,000 under Massachusetts law.

An example of a comparative negligence can be found in the case of Baudanza v. Comcast. In this car accident case, a service truck struck the driver’s side of an automobile while driving through an intersection. The injured driver filed suit against the truck driver and his employer. The defendant company argued that the injured driver was also negligent and attempted to bring in an expert witness to extrapolate the injured driver’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident. However, the judge found it to be too speculative and excluded the defense expert’s testimony from the jury trial.
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With the holiday season upon workers and residents of Massachusetts, it is important to remember to stay safe when traveling to and from festivities during the holidays. Several establishments and events serve alcohol, and other drivers may become reckless by driving while intoxicated or become distracted by texting others, which are both prohibited under Massachusetts law. While it may be easy to determine that the driver of the other car should be held accountable for your injuries, it may become apparent and necessary that other people or entities should be held responsible as well.

In a civil action, the injured person, or plaintiff, must show the defendant, or the party alleged to have caused the injury, had a duty toward him or her. If a person violates this duty, and this causes an injury, he or she is responsible for damages under Massachusetts civil law. If there is no duty or link between the accident and the injury, liability does not exist. Examples of duties toward others can be found in Massachusetts statutory law. A driver has a duty to others on the roads or sidewalks to operate his or her vehicle safely. Businesses that sell or serve alcoholic beverages have a duty, known as Dram Shop Liability (Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 138, Sec. 69), to stop or abstain from serving alcohol to an intoxicated person. Likewise, a host is responsible under Social Host Liability laws (Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 138, Sec. 34) to refrain from providing an underage or intoxicated person with alcohol. Both commercial establishments and private hosts must remain vigilant about how much alcohol is being served and to whom it is served.
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Drunk driving, also known as operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs, is a serious crime that remains prevalent in our society.

Drunk driving is a mistake that is easily preventable but puts many lives at stake. Statistics say that in 2010, 10,228 people died in drunk driving crashes — one every 52 minutes — and 345,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2011).

When people are convicted of drunk driving, it is usually not the first time they have driven under the influence of alcohol. In fact, on average a person driving under the influence has driven while under the influence eighty (80) times before their first arrest according to MADD statistics. This issue is especially relevant with the holiday season not too far away. There will undoubtedly be many holiday parties upcoming which will lead to people getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol above the legal limit.

Massachusetts is an implied consent state. This means, if a breathalyzer (breath test) is requested by a police officer and declined by the driver, the Registry of Motor Vehicles automatically suspends that operator’s license. At the police station, you will be informed that refusing to take the breath test will result in an automatic license suspension of 6 months if it is your first offense, 3 years if this is your second offense, 5 years if this is your third offense and a lifetime loss of license if this is your fourth offense. The intent behind this law is to get people to take the breathalyzer.

A conviction of the operating under the influence of alcohol statute can carry up to two and one half years in jail as well as a fine of between five-hundred ($500.00) and five-thousand ($5,000.00) (M.G.L. c. 90 §24). A conviction will also carry a license suspension which is on top of any license loss instituted by the Registry of Motor Vehicles due to the declining of a breathalyzer test.

There are sometimes alternative dispositions available to an individual in an operating under the influence of alcohol charge that a skilled attorney can help negotiate. These dispositions can result in a charge being continued without a finding. This can be an excellent resolution as it results in the charge being “dismissed” if all conditions are followed and completed.

Recently, the Massachusetts State Police have stated that they would be increasing their presence on Routes 24 and I-195. After string of fatal crashes, State Police to step up patrols on Route 24 and I-195,, July 26, 2012.

These extra patrols will be between 8p.m and 4a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. This is in direct response to an increase in motor vehicle accidents causing fatality and serious injury. Unfortunately, a large number of these accidents have been the result of driving under the influence of alcohol. David Procopio, a state police spokesperson, has said that forty percent (40%) of this year’s fatal crashes have been caused by drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs.
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