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.

In MA, as in every state in the nation, drivers are required by law to insure their vehicles. Much of your insurance rate is determined by the coverage options you choose, but there are several other factors that go into calculating annual premium.

Rate Factors

Most people know that black marks on your driving record, such as OUI convictions and speeding tickets, can increase your insurance premiums, but what else factors into your rate?

  • Age: Due to a simple lack of experience, young people—from teens to early twenties—pay the highest rates for insurance. These rates can be decreased in a variety of ways, from driver’s education courses to completing a year of incident-free driving.
  • Gender: Because males have more moving violations than females—from a statistical standpoint—teen males pay more in insurance premiums than their female counterparts.
  • Overall experience: If you are older when you first get your license, you will pay higher rates than if you’d been driving for 10 years or more. Statistically speaking, inexperience leads to more accidents.
  • Driving record: Whenever you get a moving violation—whether for speeding, running a red light, or operating under the influence—points will be added to your driving record. Points are bad. They translate to higher insurance premiums and, if you get too many of them, you may lose your license.
  • Mileage: If you work close to home and don’t put many miles on your vehicle, you will likely pay less than if you have a long commute.
  • Location: Where you live factors heavily into your auto insurance rates. If you live in a highly-populated area, such as a city, your premiums will be higher because of the risk of vandalism and theft.
  • The vehicle: Cars that are more expensive to fix or replace will cost more, but helpful features—such as anti-theft devices—may reduce the rate. A Boston auto accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another driver’s negligence.
  • Where you park: If you park in a locked garage, your rates will be lower than if you park on a city street, for example.
  • Credit score: Most insurance companies use credit scores as an indicator of the likelihood that drivers will file claims. Even if your driving record is perfect, you will probably pay more for insurance if your credit score is poor.

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According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), failing to properly use turn signals contributes to nearly two million car accidents annually. To further emphasize the severity of this problem, the SAE study compared improper turn signal use to distracted driving, which receives significantly more attention. Only 950,000 crashes are caused by distracted driving each year; that’s less than half of those involving turn signal errors.

The SAE study, which observed 12,000 cars, revealed that 48 percent of drivers failed to properly use their turn signal when changing lanes, or to turn the signal off after the lane change had been completed. In addition, about 25 percent of the drivers observed didn’t use a signal at all when making a right or left-hand turn. Based on this research, the SAE estimates that signal errors occur approximately two billion times every day—750 billion times each year—and that these errors significantly contribute to multi-vehicle accidents.

In addition to warning to drivers to be certain that they are using their turn signals properly, the SAE report also recommends that law enforcement officials put more resources into penalizing drivers who neglect to use turn signals, and to equip new vehicles with a system that warns drivers when turns signals are being used improperly. A Boston motor vehicle accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Why are Turn Signals So Important?

Turn signals are one of the most important, and basic, types of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Proper use of turn signals is an extremely effective way to reduce collisions, as turn signals give other drivers ample time to decrease their speed so that you can safely turn or change lanes.

“[A]ll drivers have an ongoing duty to use [their turn signal], just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light,” said Richard Ponziani, one of the SAE report’s authors.

Effective Turn Signal Use

It may seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone knows the correct way to use turn signals. Follow the tips below to help reduce the risk of collisions, and to ensure that you don’t get stopped by police for improper turn signal use.

  • Approximately 100-200 feet before your intended turn or lane change, use your turn signal to warn other drivers.
  • Before making a maneuver, first check for pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles. Don’t just expect that everyone sees your signal.
  • Once your maneuver is complete, turn off your signal. A signal that remains on after a turn or lane change can be confusing to other drivers.

With proper turn signal use, we can reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents on our roadways, while simultaneously protecting our selves and our families. A MA car accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence. Continue reading

Ride-hailing app Uber has recently launched a testing program for autonomous vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto, among other areas. But the company pulled its fleet of self-driving cars immediately following a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night. Although a 2016 accident involving a partially-autonomous Tesla resulted in a man’s death, this most recent tragedy was the first to involve a fully-autonomous vehicle. If approved, Uber’s fleet is intended to fully replace human drivers.

As 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg walked her bike across a Tempe street on Sunday night, she was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber SUV. Although 44-year-old Uber test driver Rafael Vasquez was in the driver seat at the time of the crash, the vehicle was in self-driving mode.

“The vehicle involved is one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles,” said Tempe police in a statement earlier this week. “It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel.” A Boston motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

A recall affecting about 656,800 Toyota and Lexus vehicles was recently announced, involving vehicles manufactured between May 2015 and March 2016. According to Toyota, a defect in an open electrical circuit could prevent the air bag from inflating during a crash. As air bags are intended to prevent serious injuries and death in a motor vehicle collision, a non-deploying airbag could be fatal.

Toyota has announced that it will send recall letters to owners of affected models in March 2018. In the meantime, you may wish to contact Toyota if you own one of the defective models, which include:

  • Alphard
  • Corolla
  • Esquire
  • Highlander
  • Hilux
  • Levin
  • Lexus RX
  • Lexus NX SUVs
  • Noah
  • Prius
  • Probox
  • Sienta
  • Succeed
  • Vellfire
  • Voxy

As if the airbag issue wasn’t enough, one of Toyota’s most popular models, the 2018 Camry, is involved in a second recall. This time the defect involves an improper connection of fuel pipes and hoses, resulting in a potential fire hazard. Other vehicles involved in this recall are the Lexus TC-F, GS F and LC 500 vehicles manufactured in 2015 and after. A Boston defective products attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to a dangerous or defective product.

Takata Airbags

The largest auto recall of 2017 involved vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. About 34 million vehicles have been affected by the recall, and more are expected. Takata airbags have exploded during deployment, causing serious injuries to vehicle occupants. According to the NHTSA, anyone with a vehicle model equipped with a Takata airbag should avoid driving the vehicle, except directly to the manufacturer to have the dangerous defect fixed. Several Honda and Acura models are involved, as are various Toyota, Lexus and BMW models. Continue reading

According to the National Safety Council, more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in 2017. If these numbers are accurate, 2017 is the second year in a row with over 40,000 crash-related deaths. These high figures have prompted officials to call our nation’s vehicle death toll a public health crisis.

Even so, authorities and policymakers have an uphill battle to climb if they want to create laws that will actually improve the current situation. With ever-advancing vehicle technology and an increase in new laws aimed at keeping our roadways safe, one would think that vehicle fatalities would drop. However, reckless driving is at the core of many of these fatalities. Unfortunately, reckless driving is hard to solve with laws and technology alone. A Boston car crash attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

What is Considered Reckless Driving?

The term reckless driving doesn’t only apply to speeding down the road in the wrong direction with no lights on. Even not wearing a seatbelt is a form of reckless driving. The most common examples include:

  • Distracted driving: About 64 percent of all traffic accidents in the U.S. involve a cell phone, and 421,000 people are injured in distracted driving-related accidents annually. Shockingly, texting and driving is six times more likely to result in an accident than drunk driving.
  • Speeding: Excessive speed is involved in one-third of all crashes and about 33 percent of all fatal crashes. Approximately 13,000 die annually because of speeding.
  • Drowsy driving: According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 64 percent of drivers admit to driving while drowsy in the past year, and 37 percent say they’ve actually fallen asleep behind the wheel.

What’s the Solution?

Designers of self-driving vehicles are under an increased sense of urgency with the rise in traffic deaths. But self-driving cars are a long-term solution. What can be done today to stop this deadly problem? A MA motor vehicle accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a crash.

Until self-driving cars are as common as cell phones, we need to utilize safe driving practices at all times if we want to avoid becoming a statistic. To protect yourself, your family and everyone with whom you share the road, follow the safety tips below:

  • Never use your cell phone or any other hand-held device when behind the wheel. If your smart phone has a driving mode, use it when you are en route to avoid getting texts and other alerts. If you absolutely must make a call or send a text, pull over in a safe location before doing so.
  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Don’t speed.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ever.
  • If you feel tired, pull over and take a power nap. Avoid driving for long stretches – especially late at night – if possible. Check any medications you are taking to see if they cause drowsiness.
  • Avoid driving in inclement weather if possible.
  • Allow ample space between you and the car ahead of you, and avoid driving aggressively.

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According to a recently released report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsiness is a factor in about 9.5 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. When serious property damage is involved, that figure rises to 10.8 percent. This is a significant increase from government statistics that previously estimated drowsy driving to be a factor in only 1 to 2 percent of crashes.

To conduct the study, researchers viewed footage from in-car cameras, showing drivers’ faces, actions and behaviors at approximately three minutes before the crash occurred. The federally-funded study reviewed more than 700 motor vehicle crashes. With 3,593 volunteers, it was the largest study of its kind.

The study cited CDC figures showing that about 35 percent of drivers in the U.S. get less than the recommended seven hours of daily sleep. The CDC also suggested that government statistics were underestimated, and that annual drowsy driving-related accidents may be as high as 6,000.

The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

William Van Tassel, a driver training manager for AAA, wants the public to know that sleep is the only real solution to the drowsy driving problem.

“Short term tactics like drinking coffee, singing, rolling down the window will not work. Your body’s need for sleep will eventually override your brain’s attempts to stay awake,” said Van Tassel. A Boston car accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Safety Tips

By following the tips below, you can dramatically reduce your risk of drowsy driving, or falling asleep behind the wheel.

  • Drink lots of water. This may mean more bathroom stops, but frequent stops are also helpful at keeping you awake and alert.
  • Avoid heavy foods before or during your drive.
  • Whenever possible, travel with a passenger. In addition to providing conversation and engagement, the other person can drive if you become too tired.
  • Be aware of the side effects of any prescription or over-the-counter meds you may be taking. If they cause drowsiness, you may have to temporarily stop the medication, only drive when the drowsy effects are least likely to occur, take an alert passenger along to share driving time, or stop for power naps whenever you feel sleepy.
  • When all else fails, pull over in a safe location and sleep.

Is Technology the Answer?

With technological advancements taking over the world – cars included – is technology the answer? Multiple new model cars now have a driver alertness monitor. This monitor sets off an alarm if it detects that the driver is sleepy. The feature is not intended to keep you awake, just to alert you that your level of fatigue is becoming dangerous. Some vehicles, including certain Mercedes-Benz models, will actually bring the car to a complete stop and turn on the hazards if the driver becomes unresponsive. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a car accident. Continue reading

The City of Boston is making its streets smart with technology – such as cameras and sensors – to learn how people interact on, and with, Boston’s streets. The Vision Zero initiative, which is being implemented in multiple cities across the country – aims to put an end to serious motor vehicle crashes. Through the data collected via camera and sensor technology, Boston can re-imagine its streets, improving design and overall safety.

 

Working with Verizon, the City of Boston is gathering data at city intersections, including the one at Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street. This data will be used to determine what, if any, changes need to be made. To gather necessary data, this pilot program is using video cameras, LED lights, and sensors placed under the road. Possible changes may include:

  • increased enforcement of traffic rules,
  • better public education about traffic rules,
  • improved sidewalks, streets, and signage.

Once acquired, the data is uploaded into a web-based platform for analysis and reporting. A Boston motor vehicle accident attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

What Type of Data is Being Gathered?

  • How different types of vehicles – including bicycles – move during green, yellow, and red traffic signals
  • Whether vehicles tend to remain in the intersection for an extended period of time
  • Where pedestrians are using crosswalks
  • How pedestrians respond to “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” traffic signals
  • The frequency with which motor vehicles and cyclists yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Use of bike lanes by cyclists
  • Situations that result in cyclists riding outside those lanes

What About Privacy?

There has been some concern about privacy as records of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians are collected, and video data is analyzed. According to the City of Boston, the data is anonymous. No specific personal information is attached to any records. Additionally, the City will not have access to any video footage. Rather, Verizon – who owns the data – provides basic information to the City, such as the number of pedestrians on a given day. Neither Verizon nor the City will use biometric software to read license plates or perform facial recognition analysis. Further, the video will not track specific individuals or issue traffic tickets.

Smart Streets, Smart City

Vision Zero’s “Smart Streets” are just one part of the overall “Smart City” technology, with which the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is experimenting. Other smart city technology includes self-driving vehicles and smart parking sensors, “Internet of all Things” devices, and interactive public art. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Considering that there are more than five million car accidents annually, and about 80 people die in car accidents every day, Boston’s initiative to reduce serious and fatal accidents to zero is both encouraging and challenging. As technology continues to advance, however, the rate of fatal accidents is likely to drop. This is good news for all. In the meantime, always wear your seat belt, don’t speed, don’t text and drive, and never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Continue reading

Lindsay Corporation, manufacturer of the X-LITE highway guardrail, is facing lawsuits for negligence after 11 deaths have been attributed to its product. Last week, two lawsuits were filed in Tennessee and South Carolina, both alleging that the company’s guardrails fail to protect motorists involved in collisions due to their defective design.

According to the lawsuits, the “end terminal” of the X-LITE guardrail, which rounds out the sharp edges at either end of the guardrail, is the defective component. During a collision, this end component allegedly fails to “telescope,” or slide properly into the rail line. By reducing the force of impact in a collision, the process of telescoping can prevent the guardrail beams from penetrating a vehicle and seriously injuring or killing its occupants. Unfortunately, the X-LITE’s end terminal hasn’t telescoped properly during multiple collisions. And several people have died as a result.

Last April, Tennessee vowed to replace about 1,700 X-LITE end rails. But such a large undertaking doesn’t come cheap. Removing and replacing these end rails is projected to cost the state of Tennessee several million dollars. And although the defective end rails are installed across 29 states, about 80 percent are installed in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. A MA defective products attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a faulty or dangerous product.

Types of Defects Under Product Liability Law

Thousands of people are injured or killed by defective products every year. Many decide to seek compensation for their injuries by bringing a defective product lawsuit against the manufacturer under product liability law. A product may be considered defective if it malfunctions during proper use. The three types of defects under product liability law are:

  1. Design Defect – These flaws occur before the product is even manufactured. For example, a company designing a playground system could accidentally design a slide to be too short. Let’s say the manufacturer (a separate company) develops the playground equipment based on the faulty design. Children keep getting injured when they fall from the slide. In such a case, the design firm alone may be liable. But the manufacturer may also be on the hook; if they specialize in playground equipment, a judge might determine that the manufacturer should have noticed the short slide.
  2. Manufacturing Defect – These flaws occur occur during the manufacturing process. The design is good, but the product becomes flawed during development. For example, if the slide in the above example is designed properly but a broken mold causes the bottom edge to be sharp, this would be a manufacturing defect.
  3. Marketing Defects – When a product is properly designed and manufactured, injuries can still occur because of marketing defects. These flaws occur in the advertising process or due to faulty or misleading labeling. If a certain medication interacts with another medication but lacks a warning label with this information, injuries could occur. This would be an example of a marketing defect.

A Boston defective products lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to defective design, manufacturing, marketing, or all three. Continue reading

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft allow individuals to essentially become freelance taxi drivers using their own vehicle. The popularity of these services, which give people the ability to hail a ride using a mobile app, has skyrocketed in recent years. So too have accidents. Statistically speaking, ride-sharing services are quite safe. The increase in accidents is not due to lack of safety, rather it’s a simple numbers game – there are significantly more Uber and Lyft drivers on the road today than in years’ past.

There is a lot of debate over whether ride-sharing services make the streets safer or more dangerous. A study conducted in 2016 revealed that services like Uber and Lyft reduced arrests for drunk driving, and overall fatal traffic accidents. But an American Journal of Epidemiology study concluded that “the deployment of Uber services in a given metropolitan county had no association with the number of subsequent traffic fatalities.”

Multiple Parties

Claims involving ride-sharing accidents are often vastly different from typical motor vehicle accident cases. They often involve complex legal issues due to the multiple parties involved: passenger, driver, and the ride-sharing company. If you’re injured in an Uber accident, for example, do you file a claim against Uber, the driver, or both? And what about the insurance? Do you need to deal with Uber’s commercial insurance policy, the driver’s personal policy, or both? A Boston auto accident attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident.

Who is Liable?

The question of who pays what is made particularly complex due to the independent contractor relationship between Uber and Lyft drivers and their employer. Ride share companies often use this arrangement as a defense to liability when one of their drivers is involved in an accident.

Fortunately, auto insurance carriers are beginning to create solutions to this problem in the form of specialized policies. But the gray area is still quite large. For example, new ride-share insurance policies typically kick in when the driver accepts the request for a ride and begins driving to the pick-up location. When the driver isn’t working, the personal insurance policy takes over.

But what if the driver switches on the app, making herself available before she has a passenger  or is en route to a pick-up location?  In this situation, ride-share policies generally do not apply. Neither, however, do most personal policies. If she switches on the app, she is technically working, and commercial use of the vehicle isn’t covered by most personal auto insurance policies.

Due to the constantly-evolving nature of ride-share services, the gray area of liability in ride-share accidents doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. In many Uber and Lyft accident cases, a portion of the claim is paid by the driver’s personal insurance policy and the remaining damages are paid by the commercial policies of Uber or Lyft. Of course, the companies’ claims adjusters are skilled at negotiating what they will pay, and commercial policies often have a $100,000 max per accident. As such, it is essential to have an experienced MA motor vehicle accident attorney by your side if you’ve been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident. Continue reading

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, or sustain any impact injury that causes your head to jerk forward and back, you may experience whiplash. Whiplash is the stretching and / or tearing of the muscles and tendons in your neck, resulting in severe pain and difficulty moving your head and neck.

In the movies, whiplash victims are often accused of “faking it” to obtain compensation for non-existent injuries. This is because the damage caused to soft tissues, muscles and tendons in a whiplash injury is not as obvious as, say, a broken bone or wounds. In fact, whiplash injuries typically don’t appear on X-rays or other diagnostic imaging unless tears are severe. Further, the full extent of a whiplash injury may take up to a week or more to become apparent. However, whiplash is a real injury, and it can be extremely painful and debilitating. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are suffering from whiplash following any type of accident.

In more serious cases of whiplash, the injury can have immediate and / or long-term consequences. The section of the spine around the neck is called the cervical region. This is the area most affected by whiplash injuries. As a healthy cervical spine is crucial for comfort and mobility, damage to this area of the body can result in lifelong complications and pain.

How Much Compensation Can I Receive?

As with most injuries, the amount of compensation will depend on multiple factors, including the severity of the injury. Minor cases of whiplash, which usually dissipate within a week, are unlikely to result in compensation. However, if your whiplash injury caused debilitating pain that prevented you from working or engaging in basic tasks, you may be able to obtain compensation. A MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

As stated above, whiplash settlements and awards vary widely based on multiple factors, but moderate cases of whiplash will generally be valued at between $2,500 and $10,000. If whiplash injuries are particularly serious, however, the injured party may receive up to $30,000 or more.

Whiplash Symptoms

Symptoms vary in severity based on the extent of the injury, but the most common whiplash symptoms include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Pain in the cervical region
  • Numbness or tingling in the cervical region
  • Mobility problems

In addition to whiplash, the symptoms above may indicate that you have injured your invertebrate joints or discs, cervical ligaments, or the nerve roots in that area. Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms following a car accident or other trauma to the head or neck area. Beyond getting needed medical treatment, visiting your physician will also ensure that your injury is documented for insurance purposes, and if you decide to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Continue reading

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