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.

Holiday shopping before Christmas and holiday returns after Christmas can make parking lots a chaotic, crowded mess. Especially when New England winters add a healthy serving of snow, ice, and slush. It’s also an opportune time for thieves to stake out parked cars for gifts and gadgets. Extra traffic and adverse weather conditions can result in parking lot injuries and property damage. So, who’s liable for damages if you have an accident in a parking lot? Read on for more information about parking lot-related slip and fall accidents, collisions and theft, and who is responsible for any damages incurred.

Premises Liability

Whether in the parking lot or in the store, premises liability holds property owners legally responsible for maintaining their property at all times. Therefore, if a poorly-maintained parking lot causes injuries or property damage, the property owner will likely be liable for those damages. Management may be responsible if they knew, or should have known, that parking lot conditions were poor but failed to correct the problem. For example, if an area of a parking lot is covered in a sheet of ice, that area may be roped off to caution drivers against parking there. Alternatively, the icy-spots could be covered with ice melt to improve traction. If these steps are not taken, management has failed to take reasonable precautions and can be liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and costs to fix property damage.

In 2010, the Supreme Court updated its application of the “reasonable person” standard, saying,“If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect against the danger.”  If you’ve been injured in a parking lot-related accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Parking Lot Collisions

At this time of year parking lots are filled throughout Massachusetts, people are shopping for post Christmas deals or returning items from the holiday.  That combined with cold wet and slippery weather is a recipe for trouble. The same rules that apply on the road generally apply in parking lots. Always use caution, pedestrians always have the right of way, drive on the proper side, and of course drive with caution. If you are involved in a parking lot accident it’s important to treat it the same as if were on a city street.   As with all motor vehicle accidents, it’s wise to document as much information as possible. If you are able to do so, photograph injuries and property damage from multiple angles, exchange insurance and contact information with other drivers involved, and ask witnesses for statements and contact information. You should also call the police. An official police report can be immensely helpful in a lawsuit. If you’ve been involved in a parking lot collision, contact a MA injury lawyer today. Continue reading

Global warming has had a significant impact on our planet, including winter weather patterns. But up here in New England, we still have at least a few years – fingers crossed – before winters become a thing of the past. As we prepare for the holidays, let’s also prepare our vehicles for winter travel. In addition to saving money and wear-and-tear on our cars, preparation can also save lives. If you’ve been injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, contact a Boston injury lawyer today.

Winter-Travel Safety Tips

The tips below will help protect you, and everyone you share the road with, this winter season.

The winter supply box: Sliding off the road late at night can leave you stranded for hours, especially if you’re traveling on back roads. You may find yourself cold, hungry, thirsty, and vulnerable to a host of other situations. Having a box of emergency supplies in your trunk can save your life. At the very least, it will make you a lot more comfortable as you await rescue. What should you put in the box? The below items will help keep you safe and happy in an emergency:

  • Blankets
  • Hat, gloves, and warm socks
  • Winter boots
  • Road flares
  • Flashlight
  • Charged cell phone and / or a two-way radio
  • Bag of sand and a shovel (you may be able to shovel away excess snow and use the sand for traction)
  • Ice scraper
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Bottled water

You can put all of these items in a Rubbermaid container and store them in your trunk. You may never need them, but if you do, you will be eternally grateful to yourself. And if you find yourself with medical bills and vehicle damage due to another’s negligence, contact a MA injury lawyer today.

Monitor antifreeze and engine coolant levels: If antifreeze or coolant is low, you could find yourself stranded when the temperatures drop. Most auto supply stores carry kits that allow you to check these levels, and adding antifreeze is cheap and easy to do.

Tires: Possibly the most important component of safe winter travel, good tires are a non-negotiable. Check tires for appropriate pressure – not too full, not too low – and ensure that tread is a good depth. You can check pressure with a gauge (also easy to find at auto supply stores). If your tires are in need of air, most gas stations have air pumps that will do the trick. The best way to test for proper tread depth is the “Lincoln test”. Stick a penny between your tire’s tread with the former-president’s head pointing downward. If his entire head is visible, it’s time to replace the tires.

Winter wiper fluid: Not all wiper fluids are created equal. Standard wiper fluid can freeze in the winter, whereas winter fluid can actually loosen ice and snow from the windshield, and it doesn’t freeze. And while you’re at it, ask for a winter-grade oil when you go in for your next oil change. Continue reading

Today we have wearable fitness trackers, sensors that detect a drop in blood sugar for people with diabetes, and sweat patches to monitor drug use in people on probation. It seems logical to assume that we could also detect the amount of alcohol in our bloodstream without the need for a blood test or traditional breathalyzer. With this type of technology, individuals could monitor their blood alcohol content (BAC) prior to getting behind the wheel to determine if they are under the legal limit. But it would also law enforcement to monitor individuals with OUI convictions. If you’ve been charged with OUI, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Less Embarrassing Than an IID

If you are convicted of OUI, you may be permitted to continue driving with the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). By blowing into the device, you allow the system to measure your BAC; if alcohol is detected, the engine won’t start. Unfortunately, IIDs are expensive to install (a cost the offender must absorb), and they can be embarrassing. Can you imagine a first date where you have to blow into a device to start your car after dinner? For these reasons, as well as to allow individuals to check their BAC before getting behind the wheel, engineers have been working on a more efficient method of detection.

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable device that can effectively measure BAC. The “temporary tattoo” adheres to the skin, induces sweat production, measures the individual’s BAC, and sends that data to a smartphone, laptop, or IID, eliminating the need to blow into a device to start your car. The alcohol sensor communicates the information via Bluetooth. Although BAC is most accurately measured with blood tests, breath and perspiration also provide reliable results. Sweat-reliant devices have been in the works for years, but they haven’t been particularly reliable until now. There was a dangerous delay in results; it could take hours for the sweat’s measurements to match the actual BAC. That problems has been resolved; the new sensor can “accurately monitor alcohol level in sweat within 15 minutes.” Contact a Massachusetts OUI lawyer today.

Sweat Sensors May Allow Drinkers to Self-Monitor

In addition to providing an alternative to IIDs, PhD Student Jayoung Kim, one of the sensor’s creators, hopes that it can help drinkers monitor their ability to drive safely. “”When you’re out at a party or at a bar,” said Kim, “this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking.” Beyond self-monitoring and allowing those convicted of OUIs to resume driving, sweat patches may also one day be used to monitor a person’s BAC even when not driving. This could be useful in certain situations, such as probation cases, but certainly has the potential to be highly invasive. Then again, information sharing, across the board, has been moving in that direction. From social media to face scanning software, the idea of privacy has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years, for better or for worse. Continue reading

Tractor-trailers, also called 18-wheelers and big rigs, are frequently involved in accidents. And an accident with a large truck often results in serious injuries or death. Due to the nature of the business, trucks are on the road for longer hours than other vehicles. During the consumer-driven holiday season, they often clock more hours than normal. All motor vehicle accidents can be deadly, but those involving large trucks are typically more serious due to their massive size and weight. To avoid being involved in a deadly accident with a large truck, learn about the most common causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today if you’ve been injured in a trucking accident.

Three Most Common Causes of Tractor-Trailer Accidents

  • Distracted driving: The risk of distracted driving isn’t exclusive to truck drivers. With today’s technology, millions of drivers, from teens to the elderly, engage in texting or talking while driving at least occasionally. Although distracted driving is always dangerous, it’s especially so when operating an 80,000 pound vehicle. To avoid being injured in an accident involving a distracted truck driver, always drive defensively.
  • Fatigued driving: Due to the nature of the business, truck drivers are often expected to drive for hours on end to meet delivery requirements. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented “hours of service” rules to limit the number of consecutive hours a truck driver can be behind the wheel, excessively long shifts are still a problem. Sometimes, drivers or trucking companies lie in their driving logs. Other times, even the capped hours are too long for that particular driver. Fatigued driving and driver exhaustion are a very real problem. Again, defensive driving is key. Fatigued driving can be a problem at any hour of the day, but it’s most prevalent late at night or in the early morning hours.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol: For some truck drivers, the open road is a lonely place to be. Many truckers spend 60 to 80 hours behind the wheel every week. In addition to prescription medications for everything from depression to anxiety, more and more truck drivers are turning to illicit drugs to help them deal. Some truckers use drugs such as speed or cocaine to keep them from falling asleep during long shifts. Let’s be clear – the vast majority of truck drivers do not engage in these types of behaviors. However, it has become enough of a problem in recent years that it’s worth discussing. According to experts, there are about 200,000 truck drivers with substance abuse problems on the road today. Recent studies revealed that more than 12 percent of truck drivers tested positive for alcohol abuse and eight percent of truckers use amphetamines while driving.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,179 Americans died as the result of distracted driving in 2014. The total number of traffic deaths have risen more than 10 percent from the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2016.  According to AAA, 58 percent of the 963,000 automobile accidents involving teens aged 16-19 in 2013 were linked in some way to distracted driving. Approximately 10 percent of the 2,865 teen driving fatalities in 2013 were also linked to distracted driving.

When most people think of distracted driving, they think of people that are behind the wheel doing their makeup, checking their hair, eating a hamburger or updating their Facebook page about how annoying it is to sit in traffic. However, a lesser-discussed element of distracted driving is driving when you’re tired, or “drowsy driving.”  Driving while tired can affect anybody, from 16-year-olds headed to school after staying up too late the night before to professional truck drivers who have stringent schedules to keep that don’t allow for proper resting. But as much as we think it is sufficient enough to guzzle a coffee or open a window to feel a cold breeze, the dangers of driving while drowsy are very real.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that:

Reuters reported in late October that Toyota had invested around $10 million in Getaround, a ride-sharing service based out of San Francisco that was founded in 2009. Getaround is different from services like Uber, as users of Getaround can search their local area for available privately-owned rental cars that they can rent and use personally for as little at $5.  Users have access to these rental vehicles for a certain amount of time, rather than simply being ferried from one location to the next like with Lyft or Uber. Automotive speculative analysts have reasoned that Toyota’s investment in a ride-sharing entity indicates they are stacking their chips for the upcoming industrial boom of driverless taxi services. Some project that the first fully-automated driving services will be enacted by 2020.

The potential benefits of driverless taxi services are multiple, and are enough for more than 18 large companies to invest resources into at least studying its practicality. In theory, they can create less traffic, lessen pollution, and increase the efficiency and safety of roads. Of course, on the other hand, a world filled with driverless taxis means millions of taxi drivers and drivers who work for companies like Uber will be out of a job.  While the technology is essentially ready for implementation, the legal framework surrounding driverless cars and taxis is a continuously-developing headache. There is no telling how legislation will translate between federal, state, and local lines, or if it will be possible to form any solid ground rules anytime soon.

After all, who is at fault when an accident inevitably occurs between a human driver and a driverless car? How about an accident that occurs between two autonomous vehicles? There are hundreds of possible factors in play and dozens of parties that could be at fault. Taking into consideration these uncertainties, most analysts don’t foresee driverless taxis making a significant impact on the world for at least a decade or two.  No matter how this industry, plucked straight from the pages of science fiction, pans out in the future, the fact that huge companies such as Toyota are entering the driverless car game proves that this is no fad or silly pie-in-the-sky fantasy. Driverless cars, and taxis, are coming sooner rather than later.

A short trip just down the road to Dunkin Donuts, picking up your kid from the neighbor down the street, or just a casual afternoon drive to spot some local foliage – no need to buckle up for such a trek, right?  Wrong, most likely, since most accidents actually occur within 25 miles of home. But that doesn’t stop about 25% of Massachusetts drivers from choosing to drive without a seatbelt, despite their proven record of saving about 15,000 lives every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Data gathered by the University of Massachusetts Traffic Safety Research Program showed that, in a study encompassing 147 different locations and 27,000 vehicles, only 78.2% of Massachusetts drivers report buckling up in a vehicle no matter what the situation. Fortunately, the data does show that seatbelt usage is increasing in Massachusetts, from 67% in 2006 and 74% last year.  Still, the only states to report less seatbelt usage than Massachusetts were New Hampshire and South Dakota. Shockingly and unsettlingly, one of the most common groups to admit to not using a seatbelt were commercial truck drivers. The other was men aged 18-34.

Some of the reasons for not buckling up included a lower perception of fear regarding an accident while making short trips. Drivers were more likely to report using a seatbelt while traveling fast and long distances on the highway. Still, some drivers admitted to not using seatbelts simply because they were uncomfortable.  For some, the idea of a seatbelt law is an affront to personal liberties. Despite their proven track record of saving lives – including the lives of drivers and passengers – people will still argue that it is their right to decide whether or not they buckle up.

Although there is no federally-mandated seatbelt law, Massachusetts does have laws on the books that state all drivers and passengers 13 years or older must wear a seatbelt unless:

  • There is a proven medical condition that makes wearing a seatbelt impossible
  • The vehicle was made before July, 1966
  • You drive a taxi, livery, bus, tractor, or trucks with a gross weight of over 18,000 pounds
  • You are an emergency services personnel driving an emergency vehicle or are a postal worker

Stats about seatbelt usage

  • 53% of motor vehicle fatalities in 2009, passengers and drivers, were not wearing seatbelts
  • Wearing a seatbelt as a front-seat passenger or driver reduces the risk of death by 45% and reduces the rate of serious injuries by 50%
  • Drivers and passengers that don’t wear seatbelts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. Those who are ejected during a crash die 75% of the time in such incidents.
  • Seatbelts have saved an estimated 255,000 lives since 1975.

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Even just 10 years ago, smart phone technology at the complexity and availability that we have today was relegated to the pages of starry-eyed technology articles, optimistic tech companies, and futuristic television shows and movies. The first iPhone didn’t come out until mid-2007, and anybody who owned one of those clunkers can attest that we’ve come a long way since then.  Fast-forward back to the present, and we now live in a world where, literally, almost 100 percent of people under the age of 50 own a smart phone. Statistics from State Farm’s 2015 annual distracted driving survey showed that 99 percent of people aged 18-29 owned one, 97 percent of people aged 30-39 owned one, 92 percent of people aged 40-49 owned one, and a whopping 74 percent of people aged 50+ own one as well.

Age is no longer a factor in owning a smart phone, which could be described with no trace of hyperbole as “distraction machines” when you’re on the road. Texting, apps, on-demand video, social media and relentlessly-updating emails provide a buffet of content that we have never been more addicted to or reliant upon.  Some statistics indicate that more than 600,000 people are attempting to use their phones in some capacity while behind the wheel of a car at any given moment during the day. Although people admitting to sometimes talking on the phone while driving has decreased significantly from 65 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2015, the much more dangerous practice of texting and driving increased from 31 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2015.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), traffic deaths have risen more than 10 percent in the first half of 2016 than during the first half of 2015, indicating a frightful trend. In 2014, 3,179 Americans died on the road as a result of distracted driving incidents.

Teens at higher risks than anybody

According to AAA, teens are involved in more driving accidents than any other age group of people. In 2013, about 963,000 drivers aged 16-19 were involved in police-reported accidents, resulting in 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths. According to data from AAA and the NHTSA, about 58 percent of all teen accidents and 10 percent of teen driving fatalities involved some element of distracted driving.  A 2015 study utilized cameras to observe distracted driving incidents, and showed that distracted drivers had their eyes off the road for over four seconds. In rear-end incidents, half of the distracted teens observed were so distracted that they didn’t even attempt to stop before making impact. Although it’s hard to tell teenagers they aren’t invincible, these kinds of careless decisions can have much more dire consequences. Continue reading

A boy was struck and killed while riding his bicycle in Brockton Tuesday night. According to Brockton Police Sgt. James Baroud, the accident occurred on Main and Plain streets just before 7:00 PM on Tuesday. Baroud say the unnamed boy, who was about 12 to 14 years of age, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the vehicle that struck the boy stopped at the scene and was interviewed by police.

In an unrelated accident on the same day, a pedestrian was struck and killed by an SUV in Waltham, and a second pedestrian suffered non-fatal injuries in the same incident. According to Waltham police, the accident, which occurred shortly before 7:00 AM Tuesday, is under investigation. The victim, a 65-year-old Watertown man, was exiting a bus on his way to work when a Lexus SUV struck and killed him. The other person injured in the accident was a 70-year-old Boston man who had also just exited the bus. He was taken to the hospital with serious injuries to the face and legs, but his injuries are non-life threatening. Both men were in the crosswalk on Wyman Street when the accident occurred.

Pedestrian Injuries

Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a collision with a car than occupants of motor vehicles. In 2013, a total of 4.735 pedestrians suffered fatal injuries from traffic accidents in this country. On average, this is one traffic-related death every two hours. And many more are seriously injured; approximately 150,000 pedestrians are rushed to the emergency department for non-life threatening injuries each year. If you’ve been injured in any type of accident involving a motor vehicle, contact a Boston personal injury lawyer today.

Who’s Most at Risk?

Any person can be injured or killed in a pedestrian accident, but certain people are more at risk.

  • Young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are more likely to receive treatment in an emergency department for pedestrian injuries related to a crash than any other group.
  • Male pedestrians have a greater risk of serious or fatal injury in traffic-related accidents than their female counterparts.
  • The incidence of fatal pedestrian accidents generally rises with age.
  • Alcohol increases the risk of fatal pedestrian accidents; in 2013, approximately 34 percent of pedestrians who suffered fatal accidents had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.
  • Child pedestrians have the greatest risk of serious injury or death in a traffic-related accident due to their smaller size.
  • In one out of every five traffic-related fatalities among children ages 14 and under, the victim was a pedestrian.

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We all know the dangers of texting and using Smartphones while driving, but what about smartwatches? If you aren’t yet familiar with the latest craze in internet gadgets, you will be soon. With the release of Apple’s updated smartwatch, the devices are spiking in popularity, leading many experts to question how their use impacts the risk of distracted driving.

The debate about whether or not smartwatches are considered hands-free devices has recently been decided for us, with a very definitive answer. Although smartwatch use doesn’t necessarily require you to use your hands in the same way you do when picking up and swiping the screen of a smartphone, your hands are still involved in the process. If, for example, both hands are placed on the wheel, you will have to remove the hand with the smartwatch, tilt your wrist to read the message, and momentarily take your eyes off the road. And smartwatches can be even more distracting than a smartphone, requiring you to focus on a tiny, brightly lit screen to view the desired information. Motor vehicle accidents are expected to increase as the use of smartwatches and smartphones increases.

Smartwatches – More Dangerous Than Smartphones?

According to UK-based road safety group, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), smartwatches have the potential to be more dangerous than smartphones. Smartphones can often be operated with one hand, while smartwatches always require the use of both hands. In addition, phones can easily be left in a pocket, handbag, center console, or glove box. Unfortunately, the location of a smartwatch will typically demand the attention of its wearer each time it sends notification of a message. Disciplining ourselves to keep our focus on the road has just become even more difficult. Contact a Boston Car Accident Attorney Today.

Hands-Free Laws

Many states, including Massachusetts, have “hands-free laws” requiring drivers to use only hands-free devices when driving. So, is it legal to use a smartwatch when behind the wheel? If it is not legal to use a hand-held device while driving, smartwatch device isn’t legal either. Of course, proving that a driver was actually using the watch affixed to his or her wrist will likely be difficult.

Use your head and avoid the dangers of distracted driving. Put your smartphone away while driving, and remove your smartwatch before you get behind the wheel. Your safety, and that of everyone you share the road with, depends on it. Continue reading

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