Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

The nationwide increase in bicycle use is good for our pockets, good for our health, and good for our environment. As with most things in life, however, the growth in bicycling popularity comes with some growing pains. More cyclists on the roads means more accidents. Many cities, Boston included, are spending significant time, money, and resources to improve bicycle safety; the installation of bicycle lanes and enforcement of laws intended to protect bicyclists are examples. But accidents still happen. Contact a Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today.

Bicyclists Must Follow the Rules of the Road

In the last few years, many new laws have been enacted for the purpose of protecting bicyclists, but that doesn’t mean they can behave negligently or recklessly. Generally speaking, bicyclists are held to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. They must share the road, obey traffic signs, signal when turning, yield when appropriate, and stop at red lights and stop signs. And their responsibilities don’t end there. Cyclists are prohibited from riding on sidewalks in most areas, and they must always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

If a bicyclist ignores any of the above rules, or behaves negligently or recklessly, he or she may wind up in court. For example, if a bicyclist fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and the resulting collision causes injuries to the pedestrian, the bicyclist can be found liable. The same is true if a bicyclist rides into a busy intersection while texting and causes an accident.  Long story short, bicyclists are held to the same liability standards as pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers; the at-fault party will be liable for damages and injuries that may arise.

Tips for Proving Fault in a Bicycle-Traffic Accident Case

Yes, bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road just like everyone else. And yes, they can be found liable if they fail to do so. However, proving that a bicyclist is at fault is not always an easy task. The following tips can help prove fault:

  • File a police report. This will contain details from the scene of the accident, including whether any traffic laws were broken.
  • Obtain witness statements and ask for witness contact information.
  • Take photos of the accident scene. The more photos, the better. Photograph from multiple angles, and don’t just take pictures of property damage and injuries. Contributing factors, such as slick roads or a stop sign blocked by a tree can also be useful.
  • Obtain the cyclist’s contact information, and ask if he or she has insurance coverage. Some bicyclist insurance policies cover damage to other vehicles.

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Bus accidents are far too common in Massachusetts and around the country.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, up to 15,000 people are injured and about 300 people are killed in bus accidents every year. Buses are used as public transportation in communities across the country, but also to transport about 25 million children to and from school each day. A 2006 report revealed that about 17,000 children visit the emergency department annually due to school bus-related accidents.

Where are the Seatbelts?

Despite these sobering statistics, buses – including school buses – are not held to the same safety standards as other vehicles. Many buses are not equipped with seat belts; this is dangerous and makes little sense with strict seatbelt laws across the country. In addition to the lack of seatbelts, bus roofs rarely offer adequate protection in the event of a rollover, and windows often lack necessary glazed coverings. Top-heavy buses are prone to rollovers in certain conditions. Without proper roof and window structures, the risk of the roof collapsing increases significantly. Roof collapses often result in serious injuries and death.

The Evolution of Party Buses

Party buses present an even greater risk, combining an already-risky situation with alcohol. One recent case involved a young woman who fell out an emergency exit door while the bus was in motion. Although she should have been seated, and not leaning on this particular door, the door should have had a specific lock to prevent this type of tragic accident.

Who is Responsible?

The short answer is, it depends. If the driver of another vehicle caused the accident, you can make a third-party claim with that driver’s insurance company. However, if the bus driver is at fault, the claims process will depend on who the bus driver works for. Many buses are operated by government agencies, such as school buses and city buses. If the insurance carrier for a government-operated bus company denies your claim, you have the option to file an injury claim. To do so, you will need to also file a ‘notice of claim’ with the responsible government entity. The time frame for doing this is not long, so you will want to act as quickly as possible. Continue reading

The dangers of distracted driving are well known. In fact, 46 states currently have laws against texting while driving. Most major highways are now equipped with “text stops”, designated pull-offs where drivers can safely, and easily, exit the road and read or send text messages. But despite the risks, millions of Americans still use their cell phones while driving every day. And texting is no longer the only phone-related concern. Apps, including Snapchat and Instagram – and even driving-related Apps, such as Waze – are taking our attention from the road.  Anyone driving in and around the Greater Boston area can see this problem on a daily basis – whether driving to or from work or just to the local market – if you look around you will see drivers  constantly looking down at their phones – and it’s very dangerous. Very dangerous. How dangerous you ask, look at the statistics below…

70% of Teens Report Using Apps While Behind the Wheel

All ages are guilty of talking, texting, or otherwise using cell phones while driving, but teens are the biggest offenders. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) recently partnered with Liberty Mutual Insurance to conduct a survey of 2,500 teen drivers. Of those surveyed, about 70 percent reported using apps while driving. This is a scary statistic, but it gets even worse. When 2,400 drivers of all ages were surveyed by the National Safety Council (NSC), 74 percent reported using Facebook while driving.

Distracted Driving May be to Blame for 25% of Auto Accidents

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of deadly auto accidents in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than eight people are killed and 1,000 people are injured due to distracted driving, every single day. However, because distracted driving is rarely reported and hard to prove, these figures are likely much higher. The NSC estimates that approximately 25 percent of all auto accidents are a direct result of cell phone use while driving.

The average driver has traveled the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a single text. That is far too long to have your eyes off the road. If anything unexpected happens – an animal runs in front of your car, another car swerves, the car in front of you slams on its brakes – the results could be deadly. Continue reading

The risk of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is well known. But what about drowsy driving? Despite the significant difference in attitudes toward these forms of dangerous driving, drowsy driving poses a comparable risk to drunk driving. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 100,000 annual vehicle collisions are caused by drowsy drivers.

Of the 100,000 drowsy driving-related vehicle collisions that occur annually, more than 1,500 result in fatal injuries. Studies have shown that driving while tired presents similar cognitive and physical symptoms of impairment as found in drunk drivers. An Australian study revealed that the response time of a driver who hadn’t slept during the previous twenty-hour period was half that of a rested driver. Similar results occur in drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent. Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders and Research Center discovered even more startling results. According to their research, a driver with only four hours of sleep has the cognitive and physical impairment of someone with a .19 percent BAC. That’s more than twice the legal limit!

Why are Drowsy Driving Cases So Challenging?

Driving while drowsy because of lack of sleep or sleep-inducing medications can make a person legally responsible for property damage and injuries. However, proving that the accident was caused due to driving drowsy is not an easy task. No good system exists to measure the level of a person’s drowsiness or whether they were, in fact, drowsy at all. By contrast, drunk driving is very easy to prove. If someone involved in an accident is suspected of being intoxicated, for example, a simple field sobriety test or breathalyzer test can measure that person’s level of intoxication. Not so for drowsiness.

In some instances, an at-fault driver will admit to the police that he or she was drowsy, tired, or fatigued at the time of the accident. However, this is uncommon. When an admission of guilt is not recorded, other techniques must be employed to prove drowsiness. Certain factors may help point to drowsiness as a cause, such as a prescription for a medication that promotes drowsiness. Witness statements can also be helpful when it comes to drowsy driving accidents. The bottom line – it is crucial to consult with a skilled personal injury attorney who has experience specific to this type of accident. Continue reading

The weather is warm and it’s the perfect time of year to take in the sights on your motorcycle. With a significant increase in the number of vehicles on the road during summer, it is also the time of year when you are most vulnerable on your motorcycle. Riding always comes with risks, but knowing the top causes of accidents can help you avoid becoming a statistic. Contact a Boston Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today.

Speeding

Yes, it is exhilarating to ride your motorcycle full throttle on an open road. But it is also a good way to get killed or become permanently injured. Speeding is a major factor in many motorcycle accidents. It’s also illegal, so resisting the temptation will keep you safe and out of trouble. Losing control at high speeds is much easier than when you’re staying at or under the speed limit.

Left-Hand Turns

More motorcycle accidents occur when cars make left-hand turns than with any other type of road situation. The turning car most often hits a motorcycle when the bike is going straight through the intersection, or if passing or attempting to overtake the automobile.

Keep Your Distance

To avoid a rear-end collision, keep your distance from the vehicle in front of you. Should the car stop suddenly, you need sufficient room to brake to keep your bike from plowing into the vehicle.

Lane Splitting

Cars are often stuck in traffic jams. When motorcyclists decide to take advantage of their small size by weaving in and out of heavy traffic, it’s called lane splitting. These motorcycle maneuvers are a common cause of accidents because automobile drivers are not looking for motorcyclists to pass them when the lane is moving slowly. If you lane split, you have very little room to move your bike. It does not take much for a car to knock you into oncoming traffic.

In most jurisdictions, lane splitting is either illegal or interpreted as such by law enforcement officers.

Dangerous Conditions

Since motorcycles are much less stable than other types of motor vehicles, bad road conditions particularly affect them. Uneven pavement or roadway debris may not cause much trouble for a car or truck, but can prove deadly to motorcyclists.

Bends and Corners

If you are unfamiliar with a road, it is not difficult to miscalculate when you are rounding a bend or corner.  If you are going too fast or your timing is bad, hitting the brakes can force you off your bike. While it is always crucial to pay careful attention to your surroundings, that is especially true if you do not know the road.

Blind Spot Collisions

Unfortunately, many automobile and motorcycle collisions occur because the car driver simply did not see the rider. These accidents often occur at intersections. Even parked vehicles are a problem – a driver or passenger may open the door and hit you. Vigilance is the best way to avoid these blind spot collisions.

Drinking and Riding

There is no excuse for drinking and riding, but it happens with motorcyclists as it does with automobile drivers. Because a motorcycle offers no protection, the rider is quite vulnerable. Getting on your bike while under the influence just compounds the issue. Never drink and ride. Continue reading

Nothing spells summer like days spent at the beach. As we enter the dog days of summer here in Boston, there are a number things you can do to prepare for a safe trip to the beach. You’ve packed up your gear and are ready to ride the waves and bask in the sun. But with lots of novice and distracted drivers on the road, summer is also prime time for motor vehicle accidents. Keep yourself and your family safe by following some basic summer driving tips.

Driving Vacation

Before heading out on a long trip, have your car serviced. Even if you consistently have the oil changed and tires rotated on schedule, it doesn’t hurt to have your mechanic check out the vehicle before embarking on a long-distance vacation. While you always want to avoid a breakdown, it is especially important when you are far from home.

If your vehicle does not pass muster for a long drive, consider renting a car for your beach vacation needs.

Make Sure the Air Conditioning Works

Many people don’t use the air conditioning in their car on a regular basis. If you’re heading out for a long trip in hot, muggy weather, a broken AC can be more than just uncomfortable. Check your air conditioning before taking the car in for service, so it can be repaired before the onset of your trip.

Do Not Leave Kids or Pets in a Hot Car

If you’re tempted to leave your children or dog in the car “for a minute or two” while you run into a store, avoid that temptation. On a hot day, the temperature inside a closed car can soar to dangerous levels in short order. Not only are you putting your kids or pets at risk, you could face arrest if someone sees them unattended and calls police.

Watch Out for Trucks

Eighteen-wheelers take a long time to stop and have considerable blind spots. When traveling, avoid driving directly beside a semi. Either pass it when safe to do so, or stay behind it. Never cut off a truck. It could be the last thing you ever do.

Avoid Distractions

You know you should never text while driving. But what about when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic en route to the beach. It is always dangerous to take your eyes off the road, and that is especially true in an unfamiliar area. Police officers are on the lookout for distracted drivers, and you could receive a ticket, or worse.

Seat Belts and Car Seats

Safety is critical, and you are a role model for your children. When leaving the beach, resist the urge to not buckle damp, sandy children into their cat seats. Small children are not sufficiently protected by seat belts, so car seats are a must no matter the circumstances. By the same token, always wear your seat belt.

Emergency Kits

Carry two types of emergency kits – one for first-aid and another for roadside assistance. You also want to ensure that your cell phone is always charged, and that you have phone numbers and membership information for your roadside assistance plan. Continue reading

Since the rise of the smartphone generation, distracted driving from cell phone use among teens has been a widely discussed concern among parents, especially.  Signs urging drivers, “Don’t Text and Drive” and “It Can Wait” can be found on highways, residential roads, and bumper stickers.  But there may be another hazard rooted in teenagers’ attachments to their smartphones other than the familiar texting problem.  Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) have recently released new research that provides evidence of the dangers mobile applications can pose to adolescent drivers.  The study found that while 27 percent of teens still report texting and driving, up to 68 percent of teens report using apps while they drive.  The teens were also asked to rank hazardous driving behaviors in regards to how dangerous they thought the behaviors were.  Researchers found that these teens perceived using social media apps while driving to be much less dangerous than texting and driving, or driving while intoxicated, for example.

In addition to the self-reported survey the teens completed, the study also included implicit association testing (IAT), a method that has been used for two decades to measure unconscious bias.  Through IAT, teens were given a variety of visual driving scenarios, including texting, using mobile apps, and receiving phone calls, and they were also given a series of words.  The test measured the speed with which the teens associated the different scenarios with the words, which then showed their instinctual feelings in regards to distracted and hazardous driving behaviors.  Examples of words that appeared in the test include, “distracting,” “safe,” and “fun”.  When researchers compared the results of the IAT with the responses the teens gave through the survey, they found several inconsistencies between what the teens said versus how they actually act when presented with the situation.  From the self-reported survey, 95 percent of teens conceded that using a mobile app while driving is dangerous.  Yet, when the same teens were given a virtual scenario of an app notification on their smartphone, a whopping 80 percent of participants linked app use while driving with the phrase, “not distracting.”  Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and executive director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, emphasized the importance of the tests results in providing an insight to adolescent drivers.  “This research identifies teens’ underlying beliefs about key driving habits, providing insight into what teens really believe,” Beresin said.  “Teens as a whole are saying all the right things, but implicitly believe that using their phone while driving is safe and not a stressor or distraction behind the wheel.”

An inherent problem with some mobile apps is that they can be viewed as utilities.  Navigation and music playing apps may even be considered necessary by teens to get from point A to point B.  However, this perception confuses teens by disguising the hazards that are still prevalent in mobile apps.  Although 41 percent of teens surveyed thought that using navigation apps while driving is distracting, 58 percent still say they use them while driving.  Dr. William Horrey, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Research Institute for Safety, emphasizes “It’s not the apps themselves that are dangerous, but how we, and our teens, interact with them while behind the wheel.”  If teens are constantly looking through playlists, searching for songs, changing the destination while navigating, etc, while using these apps, their driving can be significantly impaired.  However, picking one playlist and setting one destination at the beginning of a trip can allow for safe and undistracted driving. Continue reading

 

Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report emphasizing the importance of properly maintaining guardrails and other hardware to road safety.  Roadside safety “hardware” most often refers to guardrails and median barriers, but the GAO report also includes several other groups of road safety hardware, such as:

  1. “Longitudinal barriers, which include items such as guardrails and cable barriers and are intended to reduce the probability of a vehicle’s striking an object or terrain feature off the roadway that is less forgiving than the barrier;
  2. bridge barriers, which function as longitudinal barriers but are specific to bridge design;
  3. barrier terminals/crash cushions, which include items like guardrail end terminals that are intended to absorb or divert the energy of a crash into the end of a longitudinal barrier;
  4. support structures, such as sign supports, which are designed to break or yield when struck by a vehicle;
  5. work zone devices, which include a variety of items used in a work zone that are temporary in nature.”

In the report, the GAO explicitly states the objective of all kinds of roadside safety hardware, that goal being “when the hardware contains, redirects, or decelerates the vehicle to a safe stop without causing serious injury to the vehicle’s occupants or other people.”  The GAO report also noted the discrepancies shown in a state by state survey.  The survey demonstrated the inconsistencies in the crash testing results of such road safety equipment across different states.  This is likely due to the lack of a monitoring program by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a program that the GAO insists should be implemented to provide additional support on scheduled safety upgrades.  Continue reading

Commercial insurance is a complicated business, essential to businesses, but often branded by complex coverages, assorted exposures and risk and independently negotiated and priced agreements.  While prices stabilize and new insurers break into the commercial lines industry, it will be vital for companies to focus their efforts on technology in order to conquer new clients, retain existing clients, and successfully serve them all.

Commercial lines insurers are now seeking to leverage data from a broader network of sources with the help of technology investments.  Novarica, a research and advisory firm focused on insurance technology strategy, has recently published a report that shows how predictive analytics, third-party data and multidimensional data are being leveraged by carriers to enhance claims handling and underwriting discipline.  Martina Conlon, senior vice president of Research and Consulting and lead author of the report says, “Drones, loT (Internet of Things), third party data providers and telematics are changing the landscape of underwriting in commercial lines.”  She goes on, “Insurers have the opportunity to use the data from these sources to improve risk assessment and pricing and boost underwriting results.”  Chuck Ruzicka, vice president of Research and Consulting and co-author of the report, builds upon Conlon’s remarks, saying, “The right capabilities are necessary in order to truly take advantage of these emerging technologies and the data available from them.”  Ruzicka adds, “To this end, commercial lines carriers are investing in core systems, advanced analytics, and self-service portals.” Continue reading

Aggressive driving and road rage has long been a problem on American roadways.  Screaming, obscene gestures, and sometimes violence are common on our nation’s streets.  Although many of us have succumbed to our emotions while driving and reacted poorly, there are some staggering statistics you should know before you put the pedal to the metal next time.  Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Auto Vantage auto club show that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are a result of aggressive driving.  They also report that 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.  The last statistic worth noting is over a seven-year period, there were 218 murders and 12,610 injuries that were attributed to road rage.  Clearly, aggressive driving can be dangerous.  However, did you also know you may be more prone to road rage depending on where you live?

New data published in the AAA Foundation’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index shows that northeast drivers are more likely to shout at other motorists, aggressively honk, or make offensive hand gestures than drivers from other regions of the country.  This data was collected from 2,705 licensed drivers who drove a vehicle in the past month.  According to the study, almost 80 percent of U.S. drivers have experienced “significant” frustration while driving in the past year.  The study also found that an estimated 8 million U.S. drivers participate in some form of “extreme examples of road rage,” which include honking, yelling, making angry gestures, tailgating or deliberately blocking another vehicle from changing lanes.  AAA reports that drivers from the Northeast are up to 30 percent more likely to make an angry gesture than drivers from other areas of the U.S.  A small percentage of motorists reported engaging in extremely aggressive behaviors, such as tapping or hitting another vehicle or exiting their vehicle to challenge another driver.  “Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses or life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski who is the director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.” Continue reading

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