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Auto Accidents

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.

What to Do if You are Injured by a Drunk Driver Leaving a Party

Drunk Driver Leaving a PartyTwenty-nine percent of car accidents are caused by drunk drivers. If you have were injured by a drunk driver who is leaving a party, you may be wondering what you should do. To protect yourself legally and financially, check out these essential tips.

1. Get to Safety

Before doing anything after a car accident, make sure that you are in a safe position. If you are in a vehicle, move it out of the road if possible. Trust your instincts — don’t get out of your vehicle if you are worried about the other driver becoming physically violent or if passing traffic presents a potential danger.

2. Contact Your Local Authorities

Whenever you are in an accident, it’s important to contact your local authorities. If the other driver tries to convince you that you can settle this matter between the two of you, don’t respond. In most cases, you need a police report in order to make a claim to the insurance companies, and in situations with drunk drivers, the authorities can ensure that the driver doesn’t get back behind the wheel and cause another accident.

3. Collect Information from the Scene

If possible, try to collect as much information as you can from the scene of the accident. Ideally, you want the driver’s contact information, insurance details, and license plate number. If they have just left a party, you should ask for the host’s information as well. You should also get contact details for witnesses and bystanders who may have seen the accident happen.

When the police officer makes a report, ask for their card or some documentation related to the report. Keep in mind that it’s likely you’re dealing with injuries or shock, so collecting information may not be possible. Try to gather as much as you can without putting yourself in further danger.

4. Go to the Emergency Room

Many injuries suffered after a car accident take some time to show up. Regardless of how you feel immediately after the accident, you should still visit your local ER to protect your health. The ER physicians will evaluate you for a concussion, internal bleeding, or any other hidden injuries that are commonly seen after car accidents.

By seeing a doctor immediately, you also establish a connection between the injuries and the accident. That can be essential if you eventually need to make a claim against the drunk driver.

5. Reach out to a Personal Injury Attorney

After an accident with a drunk driver, they or their insurance company may offer you a settlement. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t accept any offer without first consulting an attorney. You need to ensure the settlement truly covers all your damages.

Many insurers offer lowball settlements that may cover damage to your vehicle or immediate medical costs, but most victims of drunk driving crashes suffer more than that. Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may lose wages, experience pain and suffering, develop PTSD, or deal with a variety of other financial, physical, and emotional costs.

6. Work with Your Attorney to Identify Other Liable Parties

An attorney can help you negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to ensure you get the fairest settlement possible. They may also be able to identify other liable parties. They may be able to hold the host of the party liable under social host laws or dram shop laws if a caterer or anyone else with a liquor license was responsible for serving alcohol to the driver.

7. Be Aware of Your Own Liability Concerns

Generally, when you are hit by a drunk driver, that individual or any other liable party may be responsible for your damages. As indicated above, that can include damage to the vehicle, medical expenses, lost wages, and any other expenses incurred as a result of the accident. At the same time, they may be liable for pain and suffering, disfigurement, or other non-economic damages. Depending on the specifics of the accident, the damages can total thousands or even into the millions.

As the driver of the other vehicle, however, you may be held responsible under comparative liability laws. In this situation, the courts assign a percentage of the accident that was your fault, and your settlement gets reduced accordingly. For instance, if you were texting and driving when a drunk driver ran a red light and hit your car, the courts may decide you are responsible for 20% of the accident and may reduce your settlement by that figure.

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, we may be able to help you. To set up a no-cost case evaluation, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are committed to helping victims deal with the aftermath of drunk driving accidents.

How an Operator Exclusion Form Can Reduce Your Car Insurance Premium

Operator Exclusion FormTypically, your auto insurance policy must list all licensed drivers in your home who are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, and in some cases, your insurer may even require you to list roommates on your policy. This rule even applies to drivers covered by their own insurance policies, and you must list any and all persons even if they only drive your car occasionally.

However, in Massachusetts, you can get around this requirement by using the Operator Exclusion form. Keep reading to learn more about this form and how to use it.

Drivers With Their Own Insurance Policies

Drivers who have their own insurance policies are usually listed on your policy as “deferred operators” and garner no additional charge. In these situations, you can simply list the driver, and you don’t have to worry about paying higher premiums. Additionally, if that driver ever borrows your car, you can rest assured that they are fully covered by your policy. Note, however, that in some cases, their own coverage may come into play in the event of an accident.

Drivers Without Their Own Insurance Policies

If you have a driver in your home who does not have their own insurance policy, you are usually obligated to list them on your policy. In this situation, the insurer will take that driver into account when calculating your premium. Luckily, you don’t usually have to include drivers with their learner’s permits, until they are fully licensed.

Unfortunately, however, adding some drivers to your policy can drive up costs. If you want to save some money, you may want to consider filling out the Operator Exclusion form. That formally excludes the driver from your policy, but then, you need to ensure that driver never operates your vehicle.

When to Use the Operator Exclusion Form

Generally, it makes sense to use the Operator Exclusion form if you have a young driver in the home who would be listed as an inexperienced driver or if you have a driver who would increase your premiums.

For instance, you may choose to exclude a teen driver, but remember by signing the exclusion form, you promise to exclude your child from driving your vehicle under any circumstances. If your child drives your vehicle and you attempt to make an insurance claim, your claim moves to a misrepresentation of your agreement. As a result, your insurance company is absolved of paying any of your optional liability.

In some cases, policyholders also opt to exclude drivers when they leave the home to go to college, but you need to be careful with that as well. If you let the driver use your car when they are home on vacation, that negates your agreement. Before resorting to using this form, contact your insurer and see if a college student is still considered to be living in your home, check if you need to insure them, and ask about potential student discounts to help offset the cost of coverage.

What Happens If an Excluded Driver Operates Your Vehicle

If an excluded driver operates your vehicle and gets into an accident, you can lose your optional bodily injury coverage in an auto policy. In other words, if you allow an excluded driver to operate your vehicle, you may become liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, if the insurance company refuses to pay the claim. When you fill out the Operator Exclusion form, you agree to these terms, and it is perfectly legal for the insurer to deny your claims.

The Operator Exclusion Form

The form itself is relatively short and easy to complete. You simply note the excluded driver and a description of your vehicle. Then, you add your name, the policy number, and the date, and both you and the excluded driver must sign the form. When you sign the form, you agree to the following points:

  • If you make false, incomplete, or deceptive statements, the insurer can refuse to pay claims related to any part of your insurance policy.
  • Massachusetts state law requires insurers to withhold payments related to collision losses if an excluded household member operates your vehicle.
  • You agree that the excluded driver will not operate the listed vehicle or any replacements you buy for the listed vehicle.

If you don’t use the Operator Exclusion form and you fail to list any “customary” operator or licensed household member, your insurance company might refuse to pay your claim, even if you were driving at the time of the accident.

If you have been in an accident with someone who was listed on an operator exclusion form, you may face additional struggles trying to make a claim. In that situation, you need an experienced car accident attorney, and we can help you. To learn more, contact us today at Mazow | McCullough, PC.

Car Accident Liability for Junior Vehicle Operators

Junior Vehicle OperatorsIn Massachusetts, young drivers generally obtain a junior operator license after their learner’s permit. This license gives drivers ages 16.5 to 18 years of age the opportunity to operate a motor vehicle. Similarly, New Hampshire drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 years receive a Youth Operator license. In both cases, these drivers are subject to a few extra restrictions and obligations. Here’s a closer look at the junior and youth operator licenses and liability issues.

Obtaining Youth and Junior Operator’s License

To obtain a junior operator’s license, you must have had a learner’s permit for at least six months, completed an approved driver education and training program, and driven a certain number of hours under the supervision of your parent or guardian. You must also pass a written test. During the first six months of having your junior operator’s license, you can’t transport any passengers under the age of 18 years unless they are immediate family members or you have a licensed driver over the age of 21 with you. You also cannot drive between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless a parent or guardian accompanies you.

In New Hampshire, drivers must take a driver’s education course, complete a certain number of supervised driving hours, and pass a test to obtain a youth operator’s license. With this license, minors can’t drive alone between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., and up to their 21st birthday, these drivers may have their licenses suspended for a variety of offenses, including building up demerits on their driving record.

Insurance Requirements

All Massachusetts and New Hampshire drivers are required to have car insurance. Youth and junior operators need liability coverage for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury protection, and uninsured motorists, but to be on the safe side, they may also want to have comprehensive and collision coverage as well as coverage for underinsured motorists. They should also consider getting bodily and property damage coverage above the legally mandated limits.

Statistically, teens are three times more likely to get into an accident than drivers over the age of 20. To protect your family financially, you should always ensure that teen drivers are well insured. As a general rule of thumb, insuring a teen driver is more expensive than insuring an adult driver. Parents can add teens to their own policies, and in fact, many insurers require you to add all licensed drivers who live in your home to your policy. The only way to get around this requirement is to buy the junior operator their own car and insure them just on that vehicle.

Were you injured? Call us today at (855) 693-9884. We can help.

Failure to List Licensed Drivers

If you fail to list licensed drivers on your insurance policy, your insurer may refuse to pay your claim in the event of a car accident. In fact, even if you are insured and you are driving, the insurer may still refuse to pay a claim if you have an uninsured junior operator in your home. In this situation, you may end up being personally liable for any costs incurred due to the accident.

However, some insurers will accept exclusions. You must submit an exclusion form to the insurer declaring that the junior operator will not ever drive your car and that you want them excluded from your policy.

Driving Without Insurance

If your teen driver takes your car and they are not listed on the insurance, you are responsible. In some situations, your insurer may cover the accident under the “guest driver” rules of the policy, but as indicated above, the insurer may not be legally required to cover these accidents. As a result, you may end up being personally liable. In other words, you may have to cover the cost of the accident with your assets and wages.

Even if your teen takes your car without permission, you can still be held responsible. Parents are often liable for their teens’ actions. The argument in these situations is that you are responsible for watching your child. If your child sneaks out, takes your car, and grievously injures someone, you may be to blame from a legal perspective. In some cases, you may escape criminal penalties, but you may still be civilly liable.

Finding the At-Fault Driver

Unfortunately, teens are often perceived to be irresponsible drivers regardless of how careful they are as individuals, and if a teen is in an accident, the other driver may rely on that stereotype to cast blame on the teen. However, if the teen didn’t really cause the accident, the other driver should be held liable. In these situations, you should consult with an attorney. They can find witnesses or proof of who was at fault, and they can help to ensure that the teen doesn’t have to bear the liability for an accident that they truly didn’t cause.

If you have a teen driver, you should take steps to help them be as careful as possible on the road. Remind them not to text and drive and to minimize other distractions. Also, keep in mind that you may be liable if they are in an accident. Make sure they have adequate insurance on your car or their own car, and if you decide to exclude them from your policy, make sure that you follow the rules of the exclusion and never let them drive the excluded vehicles.

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. If your teen has been in an accident or if you have been in an accident with a junior operator, you may need legal help. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we help clients after auto accidents as well as after a variety of other types of injuries.

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Inherent Liability: Who’s Liable When a Driver Crashes Someone Else’s Car?

Driver Crashes Someone Else’s CarWhen a driver crashes someone else’s car, the liability isn’t always clear, and it varies based on the location and the specifics of the situation. To help you get a sense of who’s liable, here’s a brief look at inherent liability and an overview of who’s liable when a car accident occurs in someone else’s car.

Permissive Use

Most car insurance policies have a permissive use clause. This simply means that if the owner gives someone permission to use their car, their insurance covers that driver. To explain, imagine someone lets their brother drive their car and the brother crashes the car, causing property damage. In this situation, it doesn’t matter whether or not the brother has coverage because the owner’s policy covers the damages.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. In Massachusetts, for example, you are required to list all other regular drivers on your policy, and some insurers interpret this broadly to mean that you should list all drivers, even if they only use your vehicle occasionally. As a result, the insurer may deny the claim if the driver isn’t listed on the owner’s policy. To learn about the laws in New Hampshire, contact an auto accident attorney directly, as this state has unique laws.

Roommates and Family Members

Typically, every licensed member of a household has to be listed on the car insurance policy for that household. This applies to family members, but surprisingly, it can also apply to roommates. If you share a house with a few people, your car insurance company usually won’t require you to list them on your policy if they have their own vehicles and their own insurance coverage.

However, if one of your roommates is a licensed driver without a vehicle or insurance, your insurance company may assume that they are likely to borrow your car, and because of that, your insurer may require you to list them on your policy. In this situation, if that individual borrows your car, your insurance should cover any liability issues.

Excluded Drivers

Adding certain drivers to your policy can drive up your premiums, especially if the driver is young or has a bad driving record. To sidestep those extra costs, you can exclude certain members of your household from your auto insurance policy. Those people need to be expressly listed as excluded on the policy, and they should never drive the vehicle, as they are not covered.

Theft

Whether someone is an excluded driver or not, if they take a vehicle without permission, the owner is generally not liable for anything that happens. In that situation, the thief is exclusively liable for any accidents that occur. However, for this to hold true, the owner of the vehicle may need to charge the driver with theft. That helps to establish that the driver did not have permission to use the car and this step may be necessary to protect the vehicle’s owner from a liability standpoint.

Non-Permissive Use

If the owner of the vehicle isn’t claiming that theft was involved, non-permissive use rules may come into play in a different way. Typically, if someone takes a car without permission, their insurance kicks in first, and then, the owner’s policy fills in any gaps. Conversely, if the driver doesn’t have insurance, the owner’s auto insurance policy may cover the damages, but that is not always the case.

For example, in the case of Wayne Mahoney vs. American Automobile Insurance Company, the judge ruled that the insurer was not responsible when a driver caused an accident with a rental car because the rental company (the owner of the vehicle) had not authorized him to use the vehicle. However, this only applies to adult drivers, and the rules vary based on whether or not a child was involved.

Parental Responsibility

In some cases, parents exclude their teenagers from their policies, and if the teen takes the family car without permission, the parents can charge the teen with theft as explained above. However, with parents and children, the rules are a bit more complicated. Parents are expected to be responsible for their children, and if a teen takes a vehicle, crashes it, and hurts someone, the parent can be held responsible. That’s true whether the parent let the teen borrow the car or not. Similarly, parents often can be held criminally and civilly liable for allowing their children to commit a range of other crimes.

Company Cars

When someone is driving a vehicle for work, their employer is usually liable for any accidents that occur. For instance, if a delivery truck driver hits a pedestrian, the owner of that company is liable for the damages. In situations where the driver is an independent contractor, the inherent liability is not as clear. Ride-sharing services in particular, often try to absolve themselves of liability unless the driver is actively carrying a passenger, but the courts have held these companies responsible for accidents occurring between fares.

Liability is a complicated issue, and if you’ve been in a car accident, you need a professional who truly understands the laws inside and out. To get the justice you deserve, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today. We will help you take a stand against the people who hurt you, regardless of whose car they were driving.

Distracted Driving – Safety for Drivers & Pedestrians (Video)

Kevin McCullough of Mazow McCullough discusses distracted driving, and some ways for both drivers and pedestrians to stay safe.

There’s a law here in Massachusetts against distracted driving. The purpose of that law is to prevent or avoid injuries. The problem is, people aren’t following the law. Way too many drivers nowadays are operating motor vehicles using their cell phones, eating food, drinking a beverage. If you’re driving a motor vehicle, whether it’s a highway or a side street, you need to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Whether it’s a motor vehicle in front of you, beside you, or that small child that could run into the street chasing that ball.

Pay attention to the roadway. If you’re a pedestrian, don’t assume that the driver of that motor vehicle is going to stop for you at that intersection. Take the time to hit the traffic signal. Wait for the light. Cross in the crosswalk. Make eye contact with that driver, give them a wave. Make sure that they know that you’re about to cross the street. There are a number of different things that we can all do to avoid collisions, incidents, and injuries. Be mindful of that, follow the law and do everything that you can to be safe.

Distracted Driving – Recent Pedestrian Accidents (Video)

Robert Mazow of Mazow McCullough discusses distracted driving, and some recent pedestrian accidents brought to the firm’s attention.

In the last month or so, my office has been retained to represent people who’ve been seriously hurt as a result of being hit by distracted drivers. In one instance, a man was crossing the street on a rainy night and a vehicle being driven by a young woman, who was texting, failed to stop for him and ran him over. She left the scene. Thankfully, she was caught and she was arrested. This poor gentleman was taken by ambulance to one of the Boston hospitals where he has been still suffering from life-threatening injuries.

In another instance, a woman was on Facetime while she was driving and took out two people who were clearly in the crosswalk in the early evening, right in front of her face, had she been looking. One of those people is still in a coma today. In another instance, on a major street in Beverly, a man was crossing the street and he was struck by somebody who was distracted, not by texting but because he had been drinking. He was actually drinking while he was driving down the road and struck this gentleman and changed his life. Distracted driving is no joke in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

You cannot be behind the wheel of a car and have your mind anywhere else but on the road. If for any reason you know somebody who has been hurt as a result of a distracted driver, please have them give us a call, because the right lawyer makes all the difference.

Distracted Driving – Pedestrian Safety (Video)

Kevin McCullough of Mazow McCullough discusses distracted driving, and pedestrian safety when crossing the road.

As a pedestrian looking to cross a large intersection of a busy street, it can be frustrating, waiting your turn and waiting for that crossing signal to occur. It is extremely important that you as a pedestrian do everything you can to cross that street safely. We know these days there are too many distracted drivers — drivers not paying attention to the traffic signals, drivers who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them, or simply a driver who does make a stop, looking to make a quick right turn on a red signal.

Just because you think you have the crossing signal, please take that extra step to be careful to make sure that it’s safe to cross the street. Make eye contact with that driver. Wave to that driver. Wait for them to look at you or wave back. That’s the safest way to ensure that the driver of that car sees you, and it’s safe to cross the street.

Distracted Driving – It Only Takes A Second (Video)

Kevin McCullough of Mazow McCullough discusses distracted driving, and how it only takes a second of distraction for an accident to occur.

We’re all familiar with the cliché that “it only takes a second”. When it comes to driving a motor vehicle, and causing a collision involving injuries or death, it truly is accurate, and it really does only take a second. Driving a motor vehicle is difficult enough with all of the distractions going on around you, paying attention to your speed, what’s ahead of you, and pedestrians who may be crossing the street. It becomes even more difficult when people try to multitask, including using a cell phone. Whether it’s checking your email, checking incoming text messages, or sending a text message, it’s something that can wait and should wait.

People who are involved in motor vehicle collisions while using their phone will readily tell you how they should have waited, or they could have waited, before accessing their phone or using their phone. When you’re driving a motor vehicle, please be mindful of those on the roadway ahead of you and pedestrians who may be looking to cross the street. Be safe, be careful, wait before you access your phone or send that text message.4

Distracted Driving – Increasing Pedestrian Accidents in MA (Video)

Kevin McCullough discusses distracted driving, and the increasing number of pedestrian accident cases that the firm is seeing in Massachusetts.

At the lawyer offices of Mazow and McCullough we’ve been representing those injured in motor vehicle collisions for almost 20 years. During the last several weeks we’ve seen a dramatic increase in pedestrians being hit by motor vehicles. There has been an increase in the entire North Shore here in Massachusetts including incidents in Lynn, Peabody, Salem and Beverly.

We believe that this large increase in pedestrian and motor vehicle collisions is due to distracted driving. It’s more than distracted driving involving cell phones and using the cell phones and text messages. Distracted driving happens every day, and it could involve an upset child in the vehicle; someone late for work trying to put their make-up on as they’re driving down the roadway; someone simply not paying attention to the roadway ahead of them and looking at what’s going on on the side of the road or the sidewalk.

If you’re driving a motor vehicle, please be careful of what’s going on around you and be mindful of what’s going on around you. If you take your eyes off the roadway for one second, a collision can occur and people can get injured.

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