Massachusetts and New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorneys

24 hours / 7 days a week | English | Español

Toll Free: (855) 693-9084

Local: (978) 744-8000

Auto Accidents

What Causes Truck Accidents?

What Causes Truck AccidentsTruck accidents are some of the most serious and deadly types of accidents. Often, their cause is preventable or easily avoidable. When truck drivers and trucking companies exhibit carelessness and negligence, however, collisions are guaranteed.

Here are the most common causes of truck accidents in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and what you can do to get the legal help you need after you or someone you love were injured in a collision with a large commercial truck.

Driver Fatigue

Generally, truck drivers aren’t paid salary or even by the hour. Instead, they are paid per mile driven. This means that truck drivers are only earning money when they are driving; they don’t get paid when they are sleeping, eating, showering, or taking breaks.

Although there are laws that mandate a driver only operate their truck for a certain number of consecutive hours, many truck drivers encouraged or forced to ignore it. This may be the result of a trucking company pressuring their drivers to make deliveries by a certain time, or by drivers working as long as they can to earn as much as they can.

Fatigue impairs the senses and response time as much as alcohol does, and drowsy driving can result in serious and even deadly collisions. Many truck drivers involved in accidents have been found to have exceeded their driving limitations or were extremely fatigued at the time of the incident.

Speeding

Speeding is a major cause of all types of motor vehicle accidents, including truck collisions. However, because commercial trucks are so large and heavy, speeding is much more dangerous for them compared to passenger vehicles. Collisions that occur when a truck is going too fast tend to result in critical injury and death at a much higher rate than collisions that occur when a motor vehicle is speeding.

Inclement Weather

Large trucks take longer to slow down or come to a stop when the weather is bad and the roads are wet, snowy, or icy. Truck drivers have a responsibility to account for this and should be trained to allow extra time for braking. Cities and municipalities also have a responsibility to warn drivers when bridges will freeze faster than roads or when roads aren’t in good enough condition to accommodate a large truck.

Inadequate Driver Training

Driving a large commercial truck is nothing like driving a car, motorcycle, or even a light duty truck. Truck drivers require a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and must be able to pass a written and road skills test. However, trucking companies are often too eager to get a new hire out on the road making deliveries and fail to provide them with adequate training.

When truck drivers don’t know how to maneuver a large truck in a wide variety of situations, they can easily cause an accident. This frequently occurs in towns, when commercial trucks have to take wide turns or have difficulty fitting into intersections.

Poor Truck Maintenance

A trucking company should keep their trucks in good working order. If the driver is an owner/operator, they have the same responsibility. Failure to maintain a truck’s critical systems can lead to entirely preventable accidents, which the driver and/or trucking company may be held legally and financially liable for.

For example, if a truck’s brakes begin to wear down, waiting to replace them could be detrimental if the brakes go out when hauling a particularly heavy load. The truck could collide with the vehicle in front of them at full speed, potentially even resulting in a multi-car pileup depending on how fast the truck was going.

Intoxication

Unfortunately, truck drivers are as susceptible to drinking and driving as the general population, if not more so. In many cases, truck drivers are intoxicated by drugs instead of alcohol at the time of an accident. For example, a driver may have taken illegal or over the counter “uppers” to keep them awake enough to drive long hours, resulting in them feeling jittery, having poor motor control, and overall being unsafe to operate their vehicle. Truck drivers in every accident case should submit to complete drug and alcohol testing to determine if they were under the influence of any type of altering substance at the time of the collision. This includes prescription drugs that may have affected their coordination or ability to operate heavy machinery.

Improper Cargo Placement

Trucks are designed to haul heavy cargo over long distances, but how that cargo is loaded and carried impacts how a truck handles on the road. Improperly placed cargo can affect how much time it takes for a driver to come to a stop and how quickly they are able to accelerate after stopping.

It can also cause the trailer or truck bed to become unstable and make the truck drift or sway when driving. If a truck is underloaded or overloaded, this can also impact how the driver is able to maneuver the vehicle, especially at high speeds or in inclement weather.

Hurt in a Truck Accident? We Can Help You Find Who Is Responsible

Were you or someone you love injured in a truck accident? At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand the challenges ahead. Identifying the at-fault party or parties is the first step to recovering the full and fair compensation you deserve for the losses you incurred as a result of the collision. We can help you identify whose negligence caused or contributed to the accident and help you pursue restitution.

Contact us today to book an initial personal injury consultation to discuss your case by calling (978) 744-8000 (Salem, MA) or toll free at (855) 693-9084.

Types of Truck Accidents

Truck AccidentsUnderstanding the types of truck accidents that can occur on Massachusetts and New Hampshire roadways and the damage they cause can help you stay on guard when you drive around different kinds of trucks. Here’s what you should know.

Head-On Collisions

A head-on collision occurs when a large truck hits another vehicle from the front. This can happen when drivers are paying poor attention to the road or fail to properly navigate a turn at an intersection. The driver and passenger absorb the majority of the accident’s force and may result in limb loss or crush injuries, if not a fatality.

Rear-End Collisions

A rear-end collision occurs when a large truck hits another vehicle from behind. This can be especially dangerous in situations where an 18-wheeler is coming downhill at a high speed and has difficulty slowing down when there is a stop light or traffic jam just ahead. A truck driver can use their jake brake in the event of an emergency, but it may not be successful.

In a rear-end crash, the backseat passengers are affected the most. If the collision results in a pileup, the front of the car may also slam into the rear end of the car ahead of them, causing injuries to the driver and front passenger.

Jackknife Accidents

A jackknife accident happens when an 18-wheel truck loses traction and the trailer goes into a skid. The cab may stay on the road, but the truck and trailer end at a 90-degree angle, similar to how the blade of a jackknife or pocketknife looks in relation to its handle.

Often, jackknife accidents occur when the road is wet or icy, or when the driver loses control of the vehicle briefly and overcorrects to try to bring the truck back onto the road. A jackknife accident can be particularly dangerous if the truck’s trailer swings out and hits another vehicle with its broad side.

T-Bone Accidents

A T-bone accident happens when a truck’s cab collides with the side of another vehicle. In cases where the truck hits the side of another large truck or trailer, the casualties may be mild to moderate.

However, if a truck T-bones a smaller passenger car, it’s very likely that the front and backseat passengers on the side closest to the truck will be severely injured or killed in the crash. If the truck is traveling at a high speed, the passenger car may be completely crushed.

Wide-Turn Accidents

Because of the way 18-wheel trucks are built, they need to make wide right turns. This means that if a truck is in the right-hand lane, they will briefly drive into the left-hand lane as their trailer makes the corner before settling back onto the right side of the road.

If a truck driver does not see a car coming up in the right-hand lane as they are getting ready to shift back into it after the turn, they may run that vehicle off the road.

Flatbed Truck Accidents

Flatbed trucks are designed to hold cargo of odd shapes and sizes that wouldn’t otherwise fit into a standard four-sided trailer. Logs, pipes, large equipment, and other awkwardly fitting items can be strapped to the open-bed trailer and transported by a traditional truck cab.

The most common type of accident that occurs with a flatbed truck is cargo slippage. If the cargo has not been properly secured, it can come loose as the truck travels over rough terrain or at high speeds. For example, a falling pipe could crush the roof or windshield of a car near the truck, potentially causing the wrongful death of the passengers inside.

Garbage Truck Accidents

Garbage trucks are smaller than 18-wheelers, however, they can still do a great deal of damage in an accident. Any collision with a passenger car is likely to be more serious due to the size and weight of a garbage truck, particularly if the accident occurs when the truck drivers have completed their route for the day and the back of the truck is full.

Another type of accident that can occur with a garbage truck is the misuse or malfunction of the lifting arm. If it comes down onto a vehicle parked on the side of the road, the damage can be costly.

Dump Truck Accidents

Like a garbage truck, a dump truck isn’t quite as formidable as an 18-wheeler. However, it has the potential to cause critical and even deadly accidents, particularly with pedestrians and bicyclists. If debris from the back of the dump truck falls out as the truck goes over a bump in the road, it could knock a bicyclist behind the truck down completely.

Cement Truck Accidents

Cement trucks are unique trucks designed with a large rotating barrel that constantly mixes cement where a trailer normally would be. Cement truck drivers are responsible not only for ensuring they get from point A to B safely without incident, but also that the product inside the tank remains usable.

An accident with a cement truck can be devastating simply due to its size and weight, but if the liquid concrete spills out onto the road and nearby vehicles, this can result in a very difficult-to-clean and potentially toxic mess.

Were You the Victim of a Truck Accident? Contact Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Mazow | McCullough, PC Today

Have you or someone you care about been the victim of a truck accident of any kind? Our experienced lawyers understand what it takes to win complicated truck accident cases and are dedicated to helping our clients overcome the many challenges they’ll have to face after the collision. Contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for a consultation at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.

How to Pursue Compensation After an Accident Without Litigation

Insurance SettlementContrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to go to court to receive financial restitution after being injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. Here’s what you need to know about pursuing compensation without litigation.

Get Medical Help Right Away

Don’t wait to get medical help after your accident, even if you feel like your injuries are minor. The more evidence you have to illustrate the impact of the accident, the easier it will be to negotiate with the other party’s insurance company for a fair settlement.

Thoroughly Document Your Injuries

There will be a waiting period between the accident and the start of settlement negotiations. Make sure you thoroughly document your injuries and symptoms during this time. Write down how you’re feeling in a journal, how much pain you’re experiencing, and how your day-to-day activities are limited by the injury. Avoid posting about the accident on social media.

When the time comes to negotiate compensation, this will make it easier for you to illustrate the true impact of the suffering you incurred as a result of the accident.

Document All Accident-Related Expenses

Keep records of all expenses you incur as a result of the accident, including hospital bills, doctor copays, and medication costs. These are considered economic damages and your final settlement should at the very minimum be the total amount of your accident-related expenses.

File an Insurance Claim

You should file a claim with the other party’s insurance company and/or your own, depending on what type of coverages you have. For example, if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and are involved in a car accident, you may be able to file a claim for compensation from both the other driver’s insurance provider and your own insurance company if your damages exceed their policy limits.

Don’t Accept the First Settlement Offer

More often than not, the first settlement offer made to you by the insurance company will be much lower than the actual cost of damages you incurred. Unless an attorney directs you to accept the first offer, it’s a good idea to submit a counteroffer with evidence that supports why the initial settlement offer is inadequate.

Work with an Experienced Accident Lawyer

Many people mistakenly believe that they only need to work with an accident attorney if they plan to file a lawsuit. However, an experienced personal injury lawyer is also an excellent asset to have during settlement negotiations with your insurance company. Your lawyer can help act as a buffer between you and your insurance company and ensure they aren’t acting in bad faith.

Get help obtaining the compensation you deserve after an accident, even if you are hesitant to file a lawsuit, from Mazow | McCullough, PC. Call now for your consultation at (855) 693-9084.

The Truth About Back-Up Camera Safety

Motor Vehicle SafetyBack-up cameras are marketed as a safety feature that can help avoid numerous types of car accidents caused by drivers being unable to see behind their vehicle. Some cars have built-in rearview cameras, or vehicle owners can purchase a back-up camera to install on their own vehicle.

Are back-up cameras worth the hype? What does the research say? Here’s what you should know.

Federal Back-Up Camera Laws

In 2018, a federal regulation long in the works passed: new cars sold in the United States must have rearview cameras. The initiative began in 2008 when Congress passed a law that mandated regulators adopt technology to improve rearview visibility in motor vehicles.

After many delays, the Department of Transportation announced the requirement in 2014, and automobile makers began to prepare. Now, any new car purchased in the U.S. will have a back-up camera to reduce the number of back-over crashes.

Does the Science “Back Up” Back-Up Cameras?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), back-over crashes hurt more than 18,000 people annually and kill over 292.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that back-up cameras are anticipated to prevent “nearly 1 in 6 police-reported backing crashes” and reduce back-over collisions by 16%.

Research overwhelmingly supports the federal mandate to have a rearview camera in every vehicle, and drivers who own older cars without back-up cameras should consider investing in having an external camera installed.

How to Reduce the Risk of a Car Accident When Backing Up

Whether you have a rearview camera in your vehicle or not, you can practice safer backing up when driving your car. Here’s how:

  • Don’t park where you’ll have to back up. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a way that allows you to pull out forward instead of having put your car in reverse to get out of the spot. This is especially important in your driveway if you live in a neighborhood where children
  • Check your vehicle before you back out. If you have parked in a place where backing out is necessary, walk all the way around your vehicle to check for objects, animals, and anything else that may be behind your car that you won’t be able to see once you’re in the driver’s seat.
  • Back out slowly. Make sure your foot is on the brake pedal when backing out so you can stop immediately if you need to. If you do need to give it a little gas, be extremely cautious.
  • Check your mirrors constantly. Don’t just check your mirrors once before you put your car into reverse to back out. Continue checking your rearview mirror and your side mirrors to make sure nothing has come into the path of your vehicle as you’ve started to move.

Were You Hurt in Motor Vehicle Collision? Experienced Salem, MA Injury Attorneys Can Help

If you or someone you love were injured in a back-over crash, you may be entitled to seek financial compensation for certain damages like lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.

Seasoned Salem, MA injury lawyers Mazow | McCullough, PC can help you recover the full and fair restitution you and your family deserve after a devastating backing collision. Call today for a consultation at (855) 693-9084.

Car Accident Settlements: What to Expect

car accident settlementsCar accidents are unfortunately very common in the United States — over 2 million people are injured in one each year. These accidents also pose a threat to Massachusetts residents. While you will hopefully never be involved in a crash, it can be helpful to understand the process involved with car accident settlements to be prepared.

The No-Fault System

Massachusetts applies a no-fault system to insurance claims and car accidents. This system requires victims to pursue compensation for personal injury through their own insurance companies. Only after exhausting personal insurance options may a victim pursue compensation from the other driver or insurance company.

Lawsuits are not typically allowed unless you have incurred serious injury or extensive medical debt, which is considered to be over $2,000. When allowed, they must be filed within three years of the day of your accident to receive compensation.

If your claim is denied by the insurance company that covers your vehicle, you may appeal it. You can also file a complaint against your insurer if you cannot come to a satisfactory resolution. You will need to contact the Massachusetts Division of Insurance for assistance.

Car Accident Settlement Payouts

Massachusetts car accident injury victims may be compensated for tangible or intangible damages. These are known as economic and noneconomic damages, respectively. Medical expenses, physical pain, loss of companionship and repairs are just a few examples of covered damages.

Massachusetts also uses a modified comparative negligence standard. A victim found to be partially at fault for an accident must be responsible for 50 percent or less to receive any compensation.

Car Insurance Requirements in Massachusetts

There are four types of required vehicle insurance coverages in Massachusetts with specified limits. They are as follows:

  • Bodily injury ($20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident)
  • Damage to another’s property ($5,000 per accident)
  • Personal injury protection ($8,000 per person/$8,000 per accident)
  • Injury to body from an uninsured vehicle ($20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident)
  • Personal injury protection ($8,000 per person/$8,000 per accident)

 

Additional coverage is also available. However, drivers must meet the minimums laid out above or risk losing their licenses or facing other penalties. It’s important to understand that insurance companies will not pay more than these amounts in the event of an accident.

Contact a Car Accident Settlements Attorney

It can be hard to navigate the settlement process on your own. It helps to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. Contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC for help with every aspect of your car accident and related injuries. We are ready to learn about your case and legal concerns.

Will Police Check My Phone If I Get Into An Accident?

Cell Phone Privacy RightsThe Massachusetts distracted driving law bans drivers from using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are in hands-free mode. Breaking this law is a primary offense, and police can pull over drivers who are breaking the rules. But what if you get into an accident? Can police check your phone to see if you’ve been texting or making calls?

What if another driver causes the accident? Can the police look at their phone for signs of activity? Keep reading for a look at police car search rights and how they affect cell phone privacy for drivers and accident victims.

Police Car Search Rights

Generally, police cannot search your home or other personal property unless they have a search warrant — the fourth amendment guarantees this right. But there is an exception for vehicles. If the police have probable cause to believe you have contraband in your vehicle, they can do a search without a warrant.

This exception only exists to reduce the threat of people driving off with contraband in their vehicles, but police car search rights do not apply to phones.

Even if the police arrest you and seize your phone, they cannot search the phone. Police are also not allowed to search your phone’s contents while doing a legal search of your vehicle. They can only search your phone in the following situations:

  • If they have a warrant
  • If you consent to them searching your phone
  • If the information is in plain view

The plain view rule simply means that the police can use information they see in plain view on the phone. For example, if the home screen of your phone shows that you just sent a text, the police can take that piece of evidence into account. They cannot pick up the phone, unlock it, and look through your message history unless they have your consent or a warrant.

Limitations With Phone Records May Make Way For New Textalyzer Technology

If you’re a victim in an accident and you believe the other driver was using their phone, you need to establish that fact as you build your case. Ideally, you want law enforcement to obtain a warrant so that they can check the driver’s phone, but often, phone records only show calls and texts. They don’t reveal if the driver was using other apps.

Relatively new technology called the Textalyzer may be able to help. Similar to a breathalyzer, a Textalyzer allows law enforcement to check people’s phones at the site of the accident. At the time of writing, the technology is not used by police in Massachusetts.

Privacy vs. Enforcement

When making decisions on whether or not to provide police with technology such as textylzyers, lawmakers take into account both privacy and enforcement issues. On one hand, if police have this technology, they can easily assess if someone was illegally using their phone. Similarly, if you’re trying to bring forward a personal injury claim, these details can be essential.

On the other hand, everyone has a right to a certain amount of privacy, and privacy advocates argue that giving police these tools may compromise privacy. In response, proponents of the technology claim that the Textalyzer respects privacy because it only captures time-stamped swipes and taps. It doesn’t download content.

What You Should Do After An Accident

If you have been in an accident in Massachusetts, use these tips to protect yourself:

  • Move vehicles and people off the roadway and to a safe location.
  • Do not get out of the vehicle unless it is safe to do so.
  • Call the authorities — always create a police record. Do not just exchange details and leave the site of the accident.
  • Take notes about the accident including location, vehicles involved, and what happened.
  • Get contact details from authorities, other drivers, and witnesses.
  • Do not admit fault.
  • Remember that police cannot search your phone without a warrant. Do not consent to them checking your phone. Even if you didn’t cause the accident, you may be held partially responsible in a civil lawsuit if the police see that you were using your phone.
  • Reach out to your insurance company to start a claim.
  • Contact an attorney. If you’ve been injured due to another driver’s negligence (including using their phone while driving), you may be able to bring a personal injury case against them.

Get Help After an Accident With a Distracted Driver

If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation to cover your medical bills and other damages. Dealing with the physical and mental toll of an accident can be hard, but we may be able to help.

To set up a no-cost case evaluation, contact us at (978) 744-8000. At Mazow | McCullough,PC. We will carefully examine your case and discuss your options.

Massachusetts Hands Free Law: What Drivers Need to Know

Massachusetts Hands Free LawAs of February 23, 2020, Massachusetts has a hands free driving law. This law bans drivers from using mobile phones or any other electronic device unless the device is in hands-free mode. Do you wonder how this law will affect you? Keep reading for a brief overview of the details from Mazow | McCullough, PC.

What Does the Massachusetts Hands Free Law Change for Me?

Massachusetts’ new hands free driving law provides explicit details on how drivers may use electronic devices while driving. Under the hands free cell phone law, you can only touch electronic devices to activate hands-free mode while operating a motor vehicle. You can only do so if the device is mounted to your windshield, dashboard, or center console.

You cannot hold or support your phone to enable hands-free mode or to do anything else. If your phone is mounted in a way that does not impede operation of the vehicle, you can use its GPS features. You cannot text, email, use apps, or touch your phone for any other reason. You can use voice-to-text only if the phone is mounted.

You may talk on the phone, but you can only do so in hands-free mode. For instance, if your phone connects to your vehicle’s stereo through Bluetooth, you can talk to someone. However, you cannot hold the phone up to your ear to have a conversation. You can legally wear headphones attached to your phone, but only in one ear.

The only time you can have your phone in your hand is if your vehicle is stopped and not in a public travel or bicycle lane. For example, if you pull into a parking lot or park on the side of the road, you can use the phone in your hand. However, the law bans you from using electronic devices at red lights or stop signs.

Fines Associated With the Hands-Free Law

Drivers who get caught breaking the new Massachusetts hands free law face the following penalties:

  • 1st offense — $100 fine
  • 2nd offense — $250 fine and a required educational program about the dangers of distracted driving
  • 3rd offense — $500 fine, mandatory completion of a distracted driver course, and a surcharge on the driver’s car insurance policy

Drivers Under 18

If you are under 18, you cannot use your phone or any other electronic devices at all while you are driving. Even if the device is in hands-free mode, you cannot use it.

Which Devices Are Impacted by the Hands-Free Law?

Massachusetts’ hands-free law applies to all electronic devices. This includes e-readers, GPS systems, music players, and all other electronic devices. As indicated above, the law also explains that you can use earbuds as long as they are only in one ear.

You can use a dedicated GPS system as long as it’s mounted to your vehicle. If you have the system in your hand or in your lap, you cannot legally use it. If you have an iPod, you can set up your playlist and hit play before driving but cannot touch the device while driving.

In the Event of an Emergency

The hands-free law has a caveat for emergencies. If you need to call 911, you can have your phone in your hand, but ideally, you should try to pull over before making the call. First responders are also allowed to use cell phones with their hands as needed to deal with emergencies and do their jobs.

Research Supporting the Hands-Free Cell Phone Law

While drafting this law, Massachusetts legislators took into account research on the dangers of distracted driving. If drivers use a hand-held device, they increase their risk of crashing by 2.5 to 3 times.

Essentially, when drivers do activities that involve visual or manual demands, their reaction times slow down. They then become more likely to get in an accident. For example, if drivers are texting, they look away from the road for a significant amount of time. This greatly increases the risk of a collision.

In contrast, when drivers use a hands-free device, they are engaging in a cognitive secondary task. Research indicates that this does not increase the risk of a crash. In fact, when researchers compared drivers using a hands-free cell phone to a group of control drivers, they discovered that the cell phone users had a lower risk of being involved in an accident.

Researchers speculate that this happens for a few reasons. When drivers talk on a hands-free phone, they tend to look forward and notice things more clearly. Conversations can also reduce driver fatigue on long trips. However, research also indicates that doing multiple cognitive secondary tasks slightly increases the risk of an accident.

If you’re having a hands-free phone conversation, changing radio stations, and talking with a passenger, you are multitasking. This increases your collision risk. The risk is still negligible compared to doing anything that requires you to look at the phone in your hand.

This risk is especially high for inexperienced drivers. The law bans drivers under 18 from using devices at all while driving to ensure their focus is on the road. Young drivers in Massachusetts cannot have passengers under 18 in their cars until they have a year of driving experience.

Now that there is a hands free law Massachusetts residents must abide by, the roads should become safer. Unfortunately, however, the risk cannot be eliminated and distracted drivers still cause injuries and deaths every day.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by a distracted driver, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC. We work hard to help our clients get the justice they deserve.

How Are Drunk Drivers Penalized for Fatal Accidents?

Drunk DriversEach year, over 10,000 people die in drunk driving accidents in the United States. A drunk driver who causes the death of one or more people typically faces serious consequences, which vary based on state laws and accident specifics. Here is a general overview of fatality statistics and possible penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatal accident in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Drunk Driving Causes Deadly Accidents in Massachusetts and New Hampshire

Around 137 people die in vehicular accidents involving a drunk driver in Massachusetts every year. In New Hampshire, approximately 40 people die in these accidents annually. Both states have lower rates of fatal crashes involving alcohol when compared to the national average.

Nationwide, 3.3 people per 100,000 people die at the hands of drunk drivers. New Hampshire’s rate is lower – 2.4 per 100,000 people. In Massachusetts, 1.8 per 100,000 people are victims of drunk driving fatalities.

Surveys report that 1.9% of nationwide respondents say that they have driven while under the influence of alcohol in the last month. The rate is slightly lower at 1.8% in New Hampshire, and surprisingly higher at 2.2% in Massachusetts.

Vehicular Homicide and DUI Manslaughter Penalties in MA

Vehicular homicide can be a misdemeanor or a felony in Massachusetts. With a misdemeanor charge, drunk drivers can face up to 30 days in jail or 2.5 years in prison. They may have to pay fines of $300 to $3000.

When drugs or alcohol are involved, the criminal charge is often a felony. Drivers face a minimum of one year in the house of corrections, up to 15 years in state prison, and fines up to $5,000. Manslaughter by motor vehicle leads to a minimum 5-year jail sentence or up to 20 years in prison, and as much as $25,000 in fines. License revocation for 15 years is another consequence.

Fatality Penalties for Drunk Drivers in NH

In New Hampshire, drunk drivers who cause fatalities may be charged with homicide, manslaughter, vehicular assault, or murder. The penalties vary based on the charge and other factors related to the case.

If convicted of negligent homicide, drivers may face up to seven years in prison and up to $4,000 in fines. They may lose their licenses for life. Manslaughter charges can lead to up to 30 years in prison and permanent license revocation. If a fatal drunk driving accident leads to a second-degree murder charge in New Hampshire, the driver may face life in prison.

Establishing Prohibited Acts and Mental States

When trying to establish that someone is guilty of a crime, drunk driving wrongful death lawyers generally need to establish that the accused committed a prohibited act and had a particular mental state while performing that act.

With deadly drunk driving accidents, the prohibited act is driving while under the influence of alcohol. The mental state refers to the driver’s reasons for taking that action or decisions that indicate negligence or intent. In some cases, state laws don’t require attorneys to establish that the drunk driver had any specific mental state.

Some states have strict liability DUI manslaughter laws. In these cases, drivers automatically assume liability for injuries or deaths that occur while they operate a vehicle under the influence.

If strict liability laws are not in place, prosecution attorneys must establish that the driver was grossly negligent or acted recklessly in extreme disregard for human life.

To establish intent, lawyers often point to some of the following issues:

  • The drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels
  • How the drunk driver was operating their vehicle
  • Whether or not someone told the driver not to operate a vehicle

The penalties detailed above are criminal. Drunk drivers may also be civilly liable for damages related to these accidents. Even if a driver is not charged with a crime, they can still be held liable in civil court through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Get Help with Your Drunk Driving Wrongful Death Case

If you have lost a loved one to an accident caused by a motorist who was under the influence, contact us at Mazow | McCullough, PC. We can start with a no-cost case evaluation and help you decide if you want to move forward with a lawsuit.

Drunk Driving Cases (Podcast)

Victims of drunk driving accidents have multiple avenues to explore when seeking a lawsuit. Don Bumiller, from Mazow McCullough law firm, discusses how to get fairly compensated for a drunk driving accident. Listen or read more to learn about your options when pursuing a drunk driving case.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Don Bumiller of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re talking about drunk driving cases. Welcome, Don.

Don Bumiller: Hi, glad to be with you.

John: So, Don, how often is drunk driving a factor or do you see that drunk driving is often a factor in fatal accidents in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?

Don: Certainly in fatal collisions, but they’re also much more prevalent in other cases as well. A lot of people simply get injured in a case caused by a drunk driver. They don’t necessarily die, but oftentimes they are seriously injured.

Legal Options for Families of Drunk Driving Victims

John: Okay, and what legal options does the family of a person who has died in a drunk driving accident, what kind of options do they have?

Don: The same basic statute covers all types of wrongful death cases. Drunk driving cases often bring in complicating factors of whether or not punitive damages should be assessed against the defendant. If the person’s barely drunk, punitive damages wouldn’t come in. If they’re very drunk, and for example, a case we’re handling now, if the drunk defendant is driving down a divided highway in the wrong direction, that’s a case that may qualify for punitive damages.

John: Okay, and how are all those factors determined?

Don: Just by aggravation of the conduct, the aggravating nature of the defendant’s conduct.

Investigating Drunk Driving Accidents

John: Okay. Who does an investigation when an accident like that occurs? Does the law firm do their own investigation, is it the police reports that you’re relying on?

Don: The primary investigation is always done by the police, especially in a drunk driving situation where the defendant’s often arrested. If there happens to be a fatal collision, the State Police Accident Reconstruction Team is sent to the scene. They analyze the scene, [and] prepare a report. Anytime there’s a drunk driver, [there’s] usually a police report. Then, we will use our own investigative team to go out and supplement that if we need it.

John: How often does a typical case involving drunk driving take?

Don: Well, I can’t say that in terms of months or years, but I can say that cases against drunk drivers take longer than the average case, primarily for two reasons. If the drunk driver is arrested, then we’re prevented from immediately getting information about that person because the person is charged with a crime and the person can take advantage of the Fifth Amendment protections that person has to refuse to answer questions. So, in a drunk driving case, we usually have to wait until a conviction has happened before we’re able to depose the defendant and that defendant’s insurance counsel will throw up a lot of road blocks to prevent us from obtaining medical records, insurance information, and location of where they’ve been.

John: Okay.

Don: Drawing on a case I’m working on right now where we are not able to find out where the defendant got drunk because we can’t ask that question. We know the person was drunk, we know they killed our client, we know they have very limited insurance, but we’re not able to find out where it was they got intoxicated. Where they got intoxicated is important because that’s potentially an extra defendant if they negligently over-served that person and should have shut them off before they got drunk or before they got on the road.

Determining Liability in a Drunk Driving Case

John: So, is that a difference with drunk driving cases versus other cases, is you could potentially have two different people involved there? You have the person who caused the accident, who was driving the vehicle, and then you have the person who served them alcohol.

Don: That’s right. There’s an extra defendant, extra insurance company you have to deal with, extra insurance lawyers you have to deal with, and it often takes longer to find out where they got drunk.

John: Okay. Any other final thoughts on drunk driving accidents, whether it caused an injury or it was a wrongful death type of case, any other final thoughts?

Don: Oddly enough, we find that some of our clients aren’t aware that they can sue a drinking establishment for over-serving a defendant. Sometimes, we get cases that have come in from other attorneys who don’t have as much experience and they haven’t even pursued the aspect of that second defendant — and that’s important because here in Massachusetts, you can have as little as $20,000 in bodily injury protection on your insured motor vehicle. Whereas, a drunk driver can easily cause a lot more damage than that and you don’t get full compensation unless there is another defendant you can go after.

John: Okay. That’s all really great information, Don. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Don: My pleasure.

John: And for more information on personal injury cases and drunk driving cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855-693-9084.

Who Is Liable When You Get into an Accident with an Intoxicated Driver?

Accident with an Intoxicated DriverIf you or a family member has been in a car accident, you may be dealing with all kinds of serious injuries or even the death of your loved one. Dealing with the expenses related to an accident can be frustrating, especially when you’re also trying to heal both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, you may be able to get compensation for your, or your loved one’s, injuries.

First, however, you need to find out who is liable for the accident. In situations involving drunk drivers, a number of different parties may be liable, including the following.

1. The Driver

When you are in an accident, the at-fault driver is usually liable for your damages, regardless of whether they are intoxicated or not. Generally, you make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Note that in no-fault states, such as Massachusetts, your damages need to be over a certain threshold, or you must sustain serious injuries to make a claim against the other driver’s policy.

If the driver is uninsured or underinsured, you may be able to hold them civilly liable for your damages and make a claim against their personal assets. Your own coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists may also apply in these situations.

2. The Driver’s Employer

If the driver was working when they caused the accident, their employer may be liable for the damages. For example, ridesharing services may also be liable if one of their drivers causes an accident while intoxicated. Often, businesses have more insurance and assets than individual drivers, and for that reason, holding employers liable can be advantageous in many situations.

3. Liquor Stores, Bars, and Caterers

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and many other states have dram shop laws which apply to liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and any other entity with a liquor license. Dram shop laws allow businesses that sell or serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated to be held responsible for any damages or injuries caused by that individual.

4. Party Hosts

Social host laws are similar to dram shop laws, but rather than holding businesses liable, they hold party hosts liable for their guests’ behavior. States have a variety of different social host laws, and sometimes precedents from lawsuits can affect the scope of these laws.

For instance, Massachusetts has criminal laws against serving alcohol to anyone under 21 years old at a party, but the state does not have social host laws on the books. However, in one case, although the court decided not to hold a host liable for injuries caused by a drunken guest leaving the party, it specified in its decision that it wasn’t holding the host responsible because they didn’t provide the alcohol. However, the court asserted that if a host provides alcohol to a clearly inebriated guest, then the host could potentially bear liability.

For that reason, it’s important not to assume that one party is or isn’t liable for your injuries based on the laws you can find. Instead, you should consult with a personal injury attorney. They understand the nuances of personal injury law as well as the potential for different outcomes based on previous similar cases and the specifics of your situation.

5. Parts Manufacturers or Installers

When faulty parts cause, contribute to, or worsen the injuries from an accident, the parts manufacturer may be liable. Similarly, mechanic shops or dealerships can also be liable if their employees installed the part incorrectly. For instance, if the intoxicated driver hit you due to faulty brakes and an investigation reveals that the brakes were installed incorrectly, you may also be able to hold the mechanic or their employer liable for your injuries.

In these situations, the liable party can be held civilly responsible for all costs incurred as a result of the accident, which can range from car repairs and chiropractor appointments to wheelchairs and lost wages. The liable party may also be required to compensate you for damages such as pain and suffering that aren’t pegged to a set dollar amount. These amounts can vary drastically from several thousand to millions of dollars depending on the severity of your injuries. To ensure you get the fairest settlement possible, you should work with an attorney who understands the ins and outs of making personal injury claims after drunk driving accidents.

At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we work with many clients who have been injured in automobile accidents. If you have been hurt by a drunk driver, we can help you get justice and compensation from liable parties. Contact us today and set up a no cost case evaluation.

FEATURED VIDEOAbout Mazow | McCullough, PC

FREE EBOOK

FREE CASE EVALUATION No Obligation Consultation

Fill out my online form.