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.

Motorcycle riding comes with inherent risks; you are 35 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than occupants of cars and trucks. The good news is, the vast majority of serious injuries and deaths are preventable. The bad news is, many Massachusetts motorcyclists fail to take proper safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet and not speeding. Motorcycle safety courses help combat this problem by illustrating how easily certain behaviors can result in death, and how simple it is to avoid this risk.

Whether you are a novice rider, or you’ve been riding for decades, the tips below can help you dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury and death. A MA motorcycle accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

  • When you are riding at a higher speed (but still within the speed limit), it may help to crouch a little on your bike. By leaning forward, you can avoid some of the air flow, thus making the ride more comfortable.
  • When you are riding on city roads, you may see more and more asphalt ridges (a.k.a. speed bumps). Do not break on the ridge, rather brake before you reach it.
  • To maintain maximum visibility at all times, avoid getting too close to large vehicles, such as vans, trucks, and buses. This will help ensure that you have enough space to see what lies ahead on the road, before you get too close and are upon it.
  • When braking, it is important to use more front braking than rear braking. If you’re new to riding, it’s crucial to get a feel for how the brakes work. You can play with the footpegs to see how pressing on the right footpeg affects the trajectory of the bike, versus pressing on the left footpeg, for example. Practice in a safe place, such as an empty parking lot, before taking it to the open road.
  • If you must make an emergency brake, you can hug the tank with your thighs, which prevents your body weight from being too heavy at the front of the bike.
  • Avoid lane splitting at all times. It’s dangerous…and it’s illegal.
  • Anticipate and prepare before driving into curves. To do so safely, it’s crucial to brake and reduce speed before you enter the curve. Similarly, you must prepare to exit the curve, ahead of time. Your body and bike should be in the proper position to accelerate smoothly, when exiting a curve. When approaching or exiting a curve, remember to brake, use the lower gears, make sure that your feet and body are properly placed, and throttle when exiting.
  • Before entering a tunnel, keep in mind that your sight may be momentarily impaired. In preparation, use extra caution and slow down before entering. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s negligent actions.
  • When riding in a group, do not focus solely on the motorcycle in front of you. It’s common for riders to get too focused on the back of the rider ahead of them.
  • Similar to the hazard of getting too focused on the rider ahead of you, it is dangerous to become “hypnotized” at night by lights on a vehicle ahead of you. In addition to being distracting, if the vehicle’s brake lights don’t work, you could end up in a rear end collision.
  • Take a rider safety course. This is absolutely essential if you’re a new rider, but periodic refresher courses are also important for seasoned riders.

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With its beautiful coast, diverse mix of big cities and quaint, New England towns, and plenty of scenic backroads, Massachusetts is a popular state for motorcycle enthusiasts. Riding a motorcycle is cheaper than driving a car, allows a rider to maneuver through congested traffic more easily than drivers of passenger vehicles, and it’s fun. But riding a motorcycle is also inherently more dangerous than driving a car or truck. Read on for more information about risks associated with motorcycle riding, and how to avoid becoming a statistic.

Due a motorcycle’s small size and lack of protection, motorcycle accidents are more likely to result in serious injury and death than those involving only cars and trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Motorcyclist deaths occurred 27 more times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles, based on 2014 crash data.” In fact, a motorcycle rider is six times more likely to suffer injuries in a crash than her car and truck driving counterparts. A Boston motorcycle accident lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a crash.

How to Avoid a Deadly Motorcycle Crash

But it’s not all bad news. Most motorcycle-related injuries and fatalities are preventable. There are multiple ways to protect yourself if you choose to ride. By following the tips below, you can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death.

  • Always wear a helmet: According to the NHTSA, helmets are 37 percent effective at preventing rider fatalities.
  • Make yourself visible: Most motorcycle accidents involving a passenger vehicle are caused by drivers who did not see the motorcyclist. According to the NHTSA, “The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes generally are caused when other drivers simply didn’t see the motorcyclist.” To reduce this risk, avoid riding in vehicle blind spots, and wear bright colored clothing.
  • Ride defensively
  • Obey traffic laws
  • Enroll in a rider education course: Whether you’re new to riding or you’ve been riding for decades; it’s always good to have a refresher.
  • When possible, avoid riding in adverse weather conditions.
  • Do not speed: A 2013 study found that approximately 34 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were using excessive speed, compared to only 21 percent for drivers of passenger vehicles.
  • Never ride while under the influence of drugs or alcohol: A study of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2013 revealed that riders involved in fatal crashes had higher blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) than drivers of any other type of motor vehicle.

The unfortunate reality is, motorcycle riders have a reputation for being disrespectful of the rules of the road, and even the law in general. Of course, that’s not true of the vast majority of motorcyclists…but inaccurate perceptions continue to prevail. And this negative attitude toward motorcyclists actually contributes to the high rate of accidents. Drivers are less likely to “double check” for motorcyclists before switching lanes or making turns, just as they are less likely to give ample space between their vehicle and a motorcycle ahead of, or beside them. When drivers believe that riders are impolite, unlawful road hogs, they are inclined to give them a “taste of their own medicine.” Not only is this behavior unfair, it can be deadly. If driver negligence has caused you harm, a MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed. Continue reading

On March 1, 2017, the Safety Institute released its quarterly Vehicle Safety Watch List to identify those vehicles with a higher-than-average risk of dangerous defects. The report uses statistics from Early Warning Reports, including injury and death claims. Although the list does not include automobile defects that have already been made official, it does take into account consumer reports that warn of potential dangers. Nearly half of the vehicles on the list are GM vehicles.

The March 2017 Vehicle Safety Watch List identifies 15 vehicles that may have dangerous defects. These include:

  • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4 – Powertrain

Following a motor vehicle accident, you will almost certainly have to deal with at least one insurance carrier. It’s important to provide insurance carriers with honest answers and details about the accident, but not before consulting with a lawyer. Anything you say to the insurance company – especially the other driver’s carrier – can be used against you. A Boston auto accident lawyer can help you determine what to say and how to say it.

When a two-car or multi-car accident occurs, at least two insurance companies will generally be involved. The policy of the at-fault driver usually covers liability for the accident. As such, that carrier will typically send an insurance adjuster to investigate the accident by conducting interviews and evaluating property damage.

There’s No Obligation to Provide the Opposing Insurance Company with a Recorded Statement

If you have been injured by another driver, under no circumstances should you give a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Any information you provide is sure to be used against you if you bring a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Unless the insurance company has obtained a court order requiring you to provide a statement, you have no obligation to speak to them. A MA car accident attorney can help you understand your rights and options if you find yourself in this situation. Whatever the circumstances of your case, avoid talking to the opposing insurance company until you’ve consulted with an experienced attorney.

When it comes to your personal policy, however, a recorded statement may be necessary. It’s possible that your carrier will require a recorded statement as evidence of the unique details of your situation, and to confirm that you have obtained appropriate medical care for any resulting injuries. By cooperating with your insurance company, you can help to ensure that timely payments continue. Although it’s relatively uncommon for your personal carrier to request a recorded statement, it does happen. And if it does, a skilled lawyer can help here as well. For example, your attorney can make sure your carrier puts in writing that they will not provide your recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company.

Recorded statements, when given to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, have never been considered helpful to a personal injury case. As such, they should be denied whenever possible. The opposing insurance carrier will have plenty of tricks up its sleeves to reduce the amount of compensation you can get following an accident. Even innocent and seemingly-harmless statements can be twisted and used against you.

Avoid Saying…

Whether you’re talking to the opposing insurance company or your own, there are certain things you should avoid saying:

  • It was my fault: Although you may have contributed to the accident, the other driver may also be partially at fault. It is not for you to decide whose fault the accident was. Leave personal opinions out of the conversation.
  • I will give an official statement: As discussed above, leave the recorded statements for after you have spoken to your attorney.
  • I accept: In most cases, initial settlement offers are significantly lower than what the victim deserves. Consult with an attorney before you accept any offer.

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Automobile accidents have occurred since the invention of the automobile. Humans are imperfect creatures, and when they get behind two-plus tons of quickly-moving metal there are bound to be mistakes that cause serious damage both to the driver and to others.

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, on average, there is an accident in some part of the world every single minute, and an estimated 5.25 million accidents worldwide every year. Anywhere between 37,000 and 43,000 people die every year in the United States from automobile accidents.

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, accidents in just the United States account for over $230 billion in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance wrote nearly $60 million in direct premiums in 2015, accounting for a whopping 10 percent of the property/casualty insurance market share.

Point being? Auto accidents are alarmingly common and the insurance industry that services these accidents is a constantly booming business.

As with any other business, it is vital for insurance companies to develop and evolve with the advancing of time and technology. As a result, there is a movement growing within insurance companies that is pushing towards making auto insurance claims more “touchless.”

Essentially, a touchless auto claim is a technology-based claims process that enables a victim of an automobile crash to take a picture of the damage to their car, instantly upload it to their insurance company and get a response with an estimate for repair costs within one or two days. The appeal to this methodology is simple; it’s faster, more efficient and less of a hassle for the customer.

Whereas more traditional claims processes involve either an insurance agent physically going to the location of a crash to inspect damage and create an estimate, or an auto body shop inspecting the damage and preparing an estimate, a touchless claims process only involves those who were involved in the accident. Every other aspect – from inspecting the wreck, to estimating damages, to communicating with the customer and paying claims – would be automated.

Potential drawbacks

Although there is support growing amongst insurance executives for such a system, and it is generally agreed upon that this is the direction auto claims processing is headed in the future, there is no rush to get there and plenty of concerns. Hypothetically the system sounds simply ideal, however the actual implementation and utilization of such a system is bound to be trickier.

For one, a picture can only tell so much about the degree of damage that has been incurred by a vehicle. While a crash might appear to have only caused external damage, resulting in a smaller claim, more serous internal damage could have occurred that would only be found by a more extensive, thorough inspection.

Also, a touchless claims system would, by necessity, operate on a huge amount of trust. A picture doesn’t give context into how an accident occurred. How would an insurance company know who was at fault in an accident? Or if the accident had occurred years prior and the customer is attempting to defraud them? An automated system might be convenient, but it lacks the attention to detail of a real person. Continue reading

It is common knowledge amongst Massachusetts residents that, if you can drive here, you can probably drive anywhere. Massachusetts motorists are not known for their patience, forgivingness or attention to proper safety techniques while behind the wheel, and as a result there are many intersections and junctions in the state where dozens upon dozens of crashes happen every year.

Recent data collected and analyzed from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) by various Boston media outlets showed that, from 2004 to 2013, the five intersections that saw the most crashes were as follows:

  1. Columbia Road at the Expressway, South Boston (296 crashes)
  2. Middlesex Turnpike at Route 128, Burlington (295 crashes)
  3. Granite Avenue and the Expressway, Milton (245 crashes)
  4. North Washington Street and the Central Artery, Boston (232 crashes)
  5. Route 128 and I-93 junction, Woburn (225 crashes)

Although these intersections and junctions contain the highest likelihood according to the data for a motorist to become involved in a minor accident, or an accident with injuries, they are not the deadliest intersections in the state. The I-93/I-495 junction in Andover and the junction of Routes 3 and 18 in Weymouth both had two fatalities over the 10-year span of data.

Regardless of the severity, any accident can become a gigantic burden for anybody involved. Even some minor fender benders can cost thousands of dollars to repair. If the damage is bad enough that you need to bring the car to the garage, that complicates your work schedule immensely, and may require you to take days off work while it is fixed, making you lose out on income.

Should the accident cause a serious injury, you could be facing multiple thousands of dollars in repairs and medical bills. In this situation, missing work is a certainty.

A majority of accidents happen due to simple driver error, and far too many of these accidents are caused by distractions. The commute is no time to send or check emails, do your makeup or hair, eat leftover soup or catch up on that book you’re enjoying. In no situation is driving impaired – by alcohol or other substances – ever a good idea.

If you are involved in an accident where another driver was at fault and was clearly distracted, you have a legal right to seek damages from that driver for their negligent actions. If another driver broke the rules of the road, like performing an illegal U-turn that resulted in an accident, you may also be able to file a claim against them to seek financial compensation to pay for repairs to your car or for injuries incurred.

Police and government officials can try to implement new policies, put more signs up and crack down on dangerous activities such as drinking and driving or texting and driving, but the only true deterrent for accidents at any location on the road is the behavior of the drivers themselves. People must appreciate the power of the machinery they are operating, and respect that they are placing their lives in the hands of others every time they go out for a drive. Continue reading

A 45-year old Dennisport woman was struck and killed earlier this week when she stopped to check on a flat tire. The woman was traveling westbound on Route 6 when she pulled onto the shoulder of the Cape Cod highway. According to police, this area of the highway does not have a breakdown lane. As the woman exited her vehicle, she was struck by a pickup truck driven by a 22-year old Dennis man. The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

Safety Tips for Roadside Breakdowns

This tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers of roadside breakdowns, especially when they occur at night, and on highways or other busy stretches of road. Obviously, if a tire blows or your vehicle breaks down, you have little choice about when and where to pull over. If the area isn’t safe, what do you do? According to the National Safety Council, the tips below can help prevent serious injury and death in the event of a roadside breakdown.

  • The moment you notice a problem, gently remove your foot from the gas pedal. Avoid braking hard or fast. Slowly and carefully move your vehicle to the breakdown lane (if available) or to the side of the road. If you are on a highway and believe you can make it to an exit, try to reach the nearest exit before pulling off the road. Don’t forget to signal your turns to the drivers behind you.
  • Once you have pulled off the road, it’s important to make your car highly visible to other drivers. Preemptively stashing reflective triangles in your trunk is a good idea. If you have these, place them behind your vehicle. Turn on your car’s emergency flashers, and turn on the interior light if it’s dark outside.
  • If you must change a flat tire, make sure that you can do it away from traffic. If this is possible, proceed with changing the tire. If it is not, however, call for professional help. Even if the added delay will create schedule conflicts or other problems, don’t attempt to change a tire yourself in a dangerous location. A MA injury lawyer can help you obtain compensation if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • If the car is beyond repair or you are stopped on a dangerous stretch of roadway, get professional help. Do not attempt to wave down other motorists. If you have a cellphone, call for help. If you don’t, raise your hood and tie something – preferably white – to the antennae to signal that you need help. Stand far away from the vehicle and wait for help.
  • If your car is beyond repair and stopped in a safe location, you can remain in the vehicle. Keep your doors locked and use your cell phone to call for help. If someone stops to offer help, crack the window slightly and politely ask the person to contact the police. A Boston car accident lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Interstate highways and busy roadways are patrolled frequently by police and other emergency personnel. Many highways also have “call for help” phones; if you can reach one safely, use it. However, walking along a stretch of highway is rarely a good idea. Unless you are sure that you can safely reach a call box or other source of help, do not walk. If you do walk, use the right side of the roadway and never attempt to cross a multi-lane highway.

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Eight months after new high-tech traffic signals were installed in Quincy Center, there have been no pedestrian accidents. That’s a significant achievement, considering that there were 88 accidents involving pedestrians in this area between 2004 and 2013. Of those accidents, 58 resulted in injury and one pedestrian was killed. Despite this success, not everyone loves the new, odd-looking traffic signals.

How to Read the New Signals

The new signals in Quincy Center are known as “high-intensity activated crosswalks”. They are more conveniently referred to as HAWK beacons. Unfortunately, some people find the strange new lights more confusing than helpful. Below are some tips to help you safely navigate HAWK beacon signals when you come across them.

  • Drive through normally if no lights are on.
  • A steady or blinking yellow light means that, while vehicles still have the right-of-way, the light will soon turn red.
  • When both lights are on, the signal should be treated as a red light. Even if no one is using the crosswalk, you must still stop and wait.
  • You should treat the signal like a train crossing when the two red lights are blinking alternatively. Stop, check for people in the crosswalk, then proceed when it is safe to do so.

As you can see from the above instructions, HAWK beacons are not as straightforward as standard traffic signals, at least not until we get used to them. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that since their installation, there have been zero pedestrian accidents in what was once considered one of the most dangerous intersections in all of Massachusetts.  According to Chris Walker, a spokesman for the city’s Mayor Thomas Koch, the new signals are helping drivers and pedestrians alike use the busy intersections in a safer, more responsible manner.

“You can see the benefit of the dedicated signal,” he said. “It’s slowing traffic down through the area.” In addition to the complete absence of pedestrian accidents in the area, there has been a significant drop in motor vehicle accidents since the installation of the signals. A Boston injury attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been involved in a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident.

Not Everyone’s Feeling the Love

So, why doesn’t everyone love the HAWK beacons in Quincy Center?  Shanayta Carmody would prefer that the city bring back signs instructing vehicles and pedestrians on how to safely deal with the crosswalk. ”It’s very confusing and chaotic since they put this new crosswalk in,” said Carmody. And the new signals may impede the flow of traffic. An observation of the intersection during busy traffic hours revealed backed up traffic from Hancock all the way to the Granite Street intersection. In one instance, cars blocked a crosswalk instead of leaving space for pedestrians. According to Rob Keyworth, who uses the crosswalk on his daily commute to Boston, people don’t know what to do with the new lights. “Nobody has ever seen a setup like that,” he said. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a successful injury claim following a pedestrian-motor vehicle accident.

Quincy Center isn’t the only area in MA to install HAWK beacons. Several towns across the state have installed similar systems. The federal government considers the HAWK systems to be a “proven safety countermeasure,” and recommends their installation in busy pedestrian crossings. The design, which was developed in the 1990s in Tucson, resulted in a 69 percent decrease in pedestrian accidents following their installation in that city. Continue reading

A pedestrian was struck and fatally wounded by an SUV in a Trader Joe’s parking lot on Tuesday. According to police, a driver in his 20s was backing up in the parking lot of the Acton store when his SUV hit the victim. Although the victim’s name hasn’t been released, police say she was an employee of Trader Joe’s and was in her 60s.

The driver, who has not been charged, remained at the scene following the accident. Acton police Chief Richard Burrows said that investigators are questioning the man, but that the incident was most likely a “tragic accident.”

Parking Lots See 20 Percent of All Car Accidents

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about 20 percent of all motor vehicle accidents occur in parking lots. Most of these accidents only result in property damage, but injuries and death do occur. Typically, the most serious injuries and deaths involve “backing-over” injuries, as in the tragedy above. Especially in this age of rapidly-advancing technology, backing-over accidents are often due to a distracted driver, distracted pedestrian, or both.

Most parking lot injuries are minor, such as cuts and bruises, whiplash, and strained muscles or ligaments. Parking lots can have a false sense of security. We tend to use more caution and focus when driving down the road. It’s not uncommon for drivers to start backing out of a parking space before they’ve put on their seat belt, adjusted the stereo, and stopped checking emails or text messages. Unfortunately, this level of distraction can be deadly.

Parking lots don’t have traffic signals because cars are usually traveling at relatively low speeds. And even if they did, enforcement would be difficult. Larger establishments sometimes hire security vehicles to keep an eye on the parking lot, but most go without. In addition, security guards don’t have the authority to hand out traffic tickets. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an auto accident.

Distracted Driving and Parking Lots Are a Deadly Combination

Tuesday’s fatal accident will impact the lives of many people who were close to the victim. It will certainly impact the life of the young man who hit her, as well. We would be wise to use this tragedy as a reminder to pay attention at all times when behind the wheel, even in a parking lot.

What to Do if You’re in a Parking Lot Accident

For the most part, you should treat a parking lot accident like any other motor vehicle accident. Follow the tips below if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Don’t leave the scene without first exchanging information with the other driver, even if you’re at fault. Exchange insurance and contact information at the very least.
  • Do not offer or accept money for damages. If you’re at fault, the other person could accept your money and then still file a personal injury claim. If the other driver is at fault, accepting money could preclude you from collecting more money if you discover further damages.
  • Call the police if there are injuries, significant property damage, of if the accident is blocking traffic. They will write an accident report which can help immensely if you file a personal injury claim.
  • Take pictures of property damage and / or injuries from multiple angles.

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When passenger vehicles are involved in accidents with large trucks, the outcome is rarely good. Due to their sheer size and weight, collisions with tractor-trailers are often deadly. This is especially true when high speeds are involved. Unfortunately, truck drivers are often on the road for extended periods of time due to the time-sensitive nature of their loads. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented hours-of-service regulations to prevent drivers from working excessive hours. However, it’s not uncommon for trucking companies to ignore these rules. And even when followed, the rules allow for 11 hours of driving time per day. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel for 11 hours, you know how tiring it can be.

Tips for Avoiding a Large Truck-Passenger Vehicle Collision

Sometimes it’s the truck driver’s fault. Sometimes it’s the passenger vehicle driver’s fault. Sometimes the accident is a result of bad weather or a mechanical defect. Whatever the scenario, the tips below will help you avoid becoming a statistic in a collision with a large truck. And if you’ve been injured in a large truck accident, a skilled Boston truck accident lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

  • Avoid driving in the truck driver’s blind spot, located directly behind the truck and beside it, near the rear.
  • Never change lanes abruptly in front of, and in close proximity to, a truck.
  • If a truck is making a right turn, do not attempt to maneuver to its right side.
  • Avoid making a left turn in front of a rapidly approaching truck.
  • If you wish to pass a truck, make sure you have sufficient headway.
  • Air turbulence and cross-wind from a large truck can be dangerous, especially for smaller vehicles. If you are passing a truck, use caution.
  • Do not drive between large trucks.

Common Causes of Accidents Caused by Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies

Truck accidents can be caused by improperly trained, fatigued, or negligent truck drivers. The best line of defense against these types of accidents is to always be vigilant when driving near a large truck. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by a cell phone, the radio, or conversation with a passenger. A MA truck accident lawyer can help if you’ve been injured by a negligent truck driver or trucking company. Accidents caused by truck drivers and trucking companies are often due to:

  • Improper or inadequate training
  • Unrealistic delivery schedules that promote speeding
  • Driver fatigue
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Large Truck Accident Statistics

  • Nearly 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2014.
  • Almost 35 percent of truck drivers who are fatally-injured in truck accidents tested positive for at least one type of illegal drug.
  • The most commonly used drugs among truck drivers involved in fatal accidents are alcohol and marijuana, followed by cocaine. Amphetamines, methamphetamines, and other stimulants were also present in the systems of many fatally-injured truck drivers.
  • Drug and alcohol use is the second biggest contributing factor for accidents involving large trucks.
  • More than 60 percent of fatal truck accidents occur in rural areas.
  • Most fatal truck accidents occur on the weekends.

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