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.
July 16, 2014

I’ve Just Been in Uber Accident, What do I do?

You’re late for work on a rainy morning, you miss the bus. Thankfully, you called an Uber and your ride will be at your door within minutes. Problem solved. But what happens if the Ubercar in which you are travelling gets in to an accident? What should you do?

Don’t panic, we’re here to help.

Uber defines itself as “everyone’s private driver.” A ride-sharing program launched in 2009, the company aims to connect those in need of a ride with their drivers through an iPhone or Android app. Passengers have their credit card information saved in the app, which is also connected to their Facebook accounts, allowing a picture to display for drivers to identify the rider. The amazingly simple operation allows a rider to open the app, and using the GPS capabilities on the phone, request a ride from the drivers close by. Within minutes, the map shows the driver’s arrival, along with their name, picture, license plate number, and the make and model of their car. Upon reaching the desired destination, the driver ends the ride and the card on file is automatically charged.

Uber eliminates the need to call a taxi dispatcher or hail one on the street. Bostonians know how difficult and frustrating it is to deal with taxis in the city, and city dwellers are flocking to the ride-sharing start-up in record numbers. Uber offers a few options to riders depending on how cheap or luxurious they want their car to be. Uber Lux is the most expensive option, offering a riders top-of-the-line sedans like Mercedes, BMW, and Audi. Uber Black and Uber SUV are black livery vehicles driven by professional drivers. Customers can request a taxi through the app, which uses the taxi meter plus an additional fee. The cheapest and most popular option is UberX, in which regular drivers in their personal cars can drive customers to their destinations.

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July 14, 2014

$5.4 Million Awarded to Motorcyclist in Career-Ending Accident

John Hendrickson loved his job. He rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, editing the music of some of the most well-known names in the industry. Hendrickson was a recording engineer employed by Capitol Records to perfect the recordings of heavy-hitters like the Foo Fighters and Nat King Cole. Not only was recording his passion, it was also his livelihood; his means of providing for his family. In an instant, one lax decision by a United States Border Patrol Officer ended his career and caused the victim long-lasting pain and suffering.

John Hendrickson, a motorcycle enthusiast and experienced driver, was riding his motorcycle on an unpaved mountain road in Southern California with “multiple blind turns and unprotected drop-offs,” according to his lawyer, Robert J. Francavilla. United States Border Patrol Agent Ryan Moore was travelling in a government-issued Chevrolet truck when he recklessly rounded a corner at a high speed and hit Hendrickson head-on on the other side of the blind turn. The force of the crash ejected Hendrickson from his motorcycle and caused serious, life-altering injuries.

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June 30, 2014

No Charges for Driver of Fatal Hit-and-Run Bike Accident

After a long deliberation, a grand jury has found the driver who killed a bicyclist in a hit-and-run accident in Charlestown in April not guilty.

Ricky Prezioso, 41, was initially charged with the death of bicyclist Owen McGrory, 30, when he struck and killed him while driving a garbage truck in Sullivan Square on April 3. According to police reports, Prezioso was charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing death. Prezioso claimed he “thought he hit a pothole;” which police initially believed to be a likely scenario as bicyclists can be hit by vehicles so big that the drivers never see or feel the impact.

The grand jury heard testimony from seven witnesses and was presented with 19 exhibits, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney told reporters at WCVB.

"In light of the grand jury’s decision, prosecutors are essentially left without a criminal case," spokesman Jake Wark said.

The investigative file assembled by prosecutors has been given to McGrory's family, should they wish to file a civil suit.

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June 30, 2014

AAA Projects 41 Million Americans Traveling Over Independence Day Weekend

The most Americans in seven years will travel by car during the Fourth of July weekend—a whopping 41 million, as projected by AAA.

The Northeast is a particularly popular tourist destination during weekends like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, with families flocking to destinations like Boston, Cape Cod and the Islands, as well as up North.

“With school out for summer, the Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday,” said Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England senior vice president of public and government affairs. “In line with tradition, most travelers are celebrating their newfound summer freedom with an all-American road trip.”

According to the national motor club, 8 out of every 10 people will be traveling by car, a 1.9 percent increase from last year. At Altman & Altman, would like to send a friendly reminder to everyone who expects to hit the road this weekend, to keep these tips in mind to ensure you and your family has a safe and happy holiday.

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June 30, 2014

Motorcycle Crash Kills One MA Police Chief, Injures Another

Along the scenic roads and rolling hills outside of Montpellier, Vermont, a tragedy took the life of one retired police chief and critically injured another. Former Kingston, MA Police Chief Joseph Rebello was killed and retired Hudson Police Chief Richard Braga sustained serious injuries after a car struck their motorcycles head-on in the rural Vermont town of Woodbury. Two other motorcyclists were travelling with the men but were able to avoid the car and walked away uninjured.

Joseph Rebello, 55, had just retired as Kingston Police Chief only one year ago. After news of the accident broke, words of support poured in from police departments around the state. Rebello was pronounced dead at the scene by EMS officials and his good friend, Richard Braga, 57 was critically injured and rushed to an area hospital, where he is now listed in stable condition.

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June 19, 2014

MBTA Operators’ Union Objects to New Cell Phone Policy After Newton Bus Crash

A union representing workers for the MBTA is voicing its disapproval for a new state policy prohibiting operators from carrying cell phones during their shifts.

According to an article published by the Boston Globe, the Boston Carmen’s Union ATU Local 589 stated that it was “deeply disturbed” by the new policy which was put in place following a near disastrous bus crash over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Newton, where the bus was left dangling over the busy highway and seven passengers were injured. The bus driver on duty was reportedly driving with a cell phone in her hand. She was terminated after pleading not guilty to respective charges.

The new policy calls for MBTA train and bus operators to be suspended for 30 days and recommended for firing if they are caught having a cell phone with them during work hours; whether the cell phone is being used or is stored away. The previous policy, which went into effect in 2009, banned operators from possessing cell phones on the job, however the punishment was much more lenient: operators caught faced a 10-day suspension from work and were recommended for firing after two violations. This new, tougher policy now matches the same policy previously put into effect for operators who are found texting or talking on a cell phone while on duty.

While many public officials have voiced their support for the new policy, MBTA workers as well as their representing union are expressing discontent, saying that not only is the punishment too harsh, but there are also times when “alternative communications are necessary for everyone’s protection, and the MBTA has not offered a resolution to that problem,” according to the Boston Globe and the Union’s website.

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June 16, 2014

Deadly Accident Shifts Spotlight to Truck Driver Fatigue

Comedian Tracy Morgan as well as several other passengers remain in critical condition following a serious accident involving the Mercedes Sprinter van in which they were travelling. Morgan’s friend and writer James “Jimmy Mack” McNair was killed when a Wal-Mart tractor slammed into the back of a Mercedes luxury bus containing the comedian and his fellow performers, causing it to roll and careen out of control and into other cars.

What began initially as a tragic accident grabbed national attention when more details of the dramatic scene were released. Officials believe the accident was caused when Wal-Mart truck driver Kevin Roper failed to observe slow moving traffic in front of him and swerved at the last second in an attempt to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him. As photos and video from the crash site reveal, the truck slammed into the Mercedes carrying Morgan with his friends and fellow performers with enough force to flip the vehicle on its roof, causing a chain-reaction crash with four other cars.

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June 11, 2014

Twenty Students Injured in Five-Car Accident

It began as any other Tuesday. Students in the quiet city of Torrington, Connecticut said goodbye to their parents, grabbed their lunchboxes, and boarded their school bus. The young students were on their way to Torringford Elementary School when their day took a scary turn. Two school buses were involved in what is being called a “multicar chain-reaction” accident. Twenty-two children were taken to the hospital with minor injuries as a result of the crash; adults in other vehicles were hospitalized as well.

The accident is believed to have occurred at 3:45pm on Tuesday when a man in a pickup truck rear-ended a Jeep, which was pushed into the back of a Kindercare bus, which in turn hit a larger school bus carrying children on their way to elementary school. A Volvo in another lane was also involved in the wreck. All five vehicles sustained extensive damage, with the Jeep coming to rest precariously teetering on a metal guardrail.

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June 5, 2014

Residents, MBTA at Odds over Dangerous Stretch of S. Huntington Ave

The residents of South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain are becoming used to a familiar sound outside their apartment buildings on a busy stretch at the end of the Heath Street Green Line branch. Homeowners and tenants describe the screeching and loud, unmistakable bang of metal-on-metal as almost second nature now. The tiny stretch of South Huntington Avenue has seen an extraordinary amount of serious car accidents in the past few years. So much so that a neighbor explained, “I’m really afraid that someone is going to die in front of my building.”

Car accidents are naturally more common in the city, due to the large number of both vehicles and pedestrians crammed into the tight Boston streets. However, the number of accidents that have occurred on this very small stretch (less than one city block) is disproportionately large even by city standards. CBS Boston has done two investigative reports on the situation and the numbers they came up with are startling to say the least.

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June 4, 2014

8 Family Vehicles Earn ‘Superior’ Crash Prevention Ratings from IIHS

Memorial day weekend has come and past, marking the unofficial beginning of summer especially for New Englanders who have braved yet another harsh winter. An increase in temperatures translates to an increase of cars on the road. Drivers may be more distracted than usual during a long drive to the beach with a car full of excited children or a scalding hot summer day. Combined with the increased pedestrian traffic in the city and surrounding beaches, the warmer months can be a dangerous time for both drivers and pedestrians.

Recent advancements in vehicle technology aim to make the roads safer for everyone by using cameras, radar, and braking systems. While initially only offered in luxury cars, frontal crash prevention technology is quickly becoming more widely available on a variety of less expensive cars. The systems act almost as a second set of eyes and can apply the brakes when it senses an object getting too close, potentially preventing a collision.

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May 31, 2014

The Staggering Toll of Car Crashes

According to a new study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, highway crashes cost the United States nearly $871 billion in economic loss and societal harm every year.

In a breakdown of this cost, the report found that all together, crashes cost $277 billion in economic loss or $900 per person living in the United States, and $594 billion in societal harm, from the loss of life and pain and the decreased quality of life because of crash-related injuries.

In a statement obtained by USA Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, "No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes. While the economic and societal costs of crashes are staggering, today's report clearly demonstrates that investments in safety are worth every penny used to reduce the frequency and severity of these tragic events."

According to an article by USA Today, in a similar study published by AAA in 2011, the popular auto club found that each fatal crash in 99 urban areas carries an economic toll of about $6 million. The estimate, according to USA Today, was based on Federal Highway Administration data that place dollar values on 11 components including property damage; lost earnings; loss of household activities; medical costs; emergency services; travel delays; vocational rehabilitation; lost time at work; administrative costs; legal costs; and pain and lost quality of life.

Similarly, NHTSA's study, "The Economic and Society Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010," centers on some of the behavioral factors that contributed to that year's nearly 33,000 highway fatalities, 3.9 million injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles. Three driver behaviors according to the study—speeding, drunken driving and distracted driving—accounted for 56% of the economic loss to the nation and 62% of the societal harm.

The breakdown (obtained by USA Today):

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May 29, 2014

$19.3M Verdict Awarded to NJ Motorcyclist Hit From Behind

A New Jersey man and his wife were awarded more than $19 million in one of the state’s largest jury verdicts last week, stemming from a motorcycle accident in which he was rear-ended by a pickup truck.

62-year-old Steve Vissagio and his wife Barbara, 60, received their verdict on May 22, 2014, concluding four days of testimony before Superior Court Judge Edward Gannon. The case involved addressing injuries Steve Visaggio had sustained in 2007 after he was rear-ended on his motorcycle by a pickup truck while traveling on Route 23 in Sussex Borough. Visaggio now suffers from permanent spinal, neck, and shoulder injuries. Because of the severity of these injuries, Visaggio, who is a father of eight children, was unable to return to running his business several months following the incident, and will likely in the future, according to his attorney, require spinal surgery in addition to already undergoing shoulder surgery.

According to court documents, the Visaggio family and their representing attorney Andrew Fraser of Laddey Clark & Ryan, had pursued settling the case out of court and had requested the plaintiff motor vehicle operator’s insurance carrier, Geico, to pay the family $250,000 in compensatory damages. Geico refused that offer and did not make a rebutting offer to the family prior to the Visaggios filing a lawsuit against the company. Mr. Vissagio was awarded a total of $15.5 million for his injuries and suffering, and Mrs. Vissagio was awarded $3.8 million in per quod damages.

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