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Neil Burns
Neil Burns

Personal Injury Lawyer Neil Burns

I have been practicing law in Boston and throughout Massachusetts since 1985. I have represented clients in District Courts, Superior Courts, the Appeals Court, Housing Court, Probate Courts, Federal Bankruptcy Court and the Federal District Court. Recently I was proud to be named a SUPERLAWYER as judged by other Massachusetts lawyers.

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Trucks and Bikes in Boston

Boston, like most urban areas, is crammed with pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, trucks, scooters and any other type of motor vehicle. But when cyclists are on urban roads, they have to deal with other vehicles, especially trucks, whose size and inflexibility is the direct opposite of bicycles. Because of the height at which a driver sits in his or her cab, a bicyclist will seem nearly invisible to the truck driver. And when a collision does occur, the consequences can be catastrophic.

A tragic meeting of bike and truck occurred recently in Houston, Texas when a firefighter on his bicycle collided with a landscaping truck that decided to suddenly stop without warning in the lane of a busy roadway. The bicyclist later succumbed to his injuries. Although there were no eyewitnesses to the collision, the evidence suggested that the truck driver had decided to perform his work while stopped on the busy traffic lane instead of turning right and parking on a less-traveled road. If the truck had been stopped in the lane for a time, the driver at least neglected to put out cones or flags to warn approaching traffic.

Company spokespersons agreed that the practice of stopping to load or unload on a busy roadway was hazardous. A jury returned a verdict against the driver and trucking company of $39 million, which is under appeal.

How to Determine Liability

Most bike accidents with trucks or autos occur at intersections. Common scenarios include:

  • A vehicle passes a bike on its right and then turns directly in front of the cyclist at the intersection
  • A cyclist passes a car on the right and the vehicle turns right into the path of the bike
  • While waiting for the light to change, the motor vehicle turns right and into the bicyclist
  • A vehicle fails to see an approaching cyclist from the opposite direction and turns left into the path of the cyclist

Motorists and truck drivers need to be wary of cyclists and are deemed liable if they turn in front of a bicyclist, especially where there is a bike lane. Even if there was no bike lane, bicycles are considered motor vehicles and have a right to travel on the urban streets and other roadways unless it is a freeway or other road where they are specifically excluded.

Liability can be established by eyewitnesses or cameras that are increasingly more prevalent at intersections. Many businesses have exterior cameras that are adjacent to roadways and have often recorded accidents.

If you or a loved one was involved in a bicycle vs. truck accident, retain experienced bike accident lawyer Neil Burns.

Ride a Bicycle with Safety in Mind

Bicyclists can work to avoid collisions with trucks and other vehicles by following certain safety measures:

  1. Assume that other motor vehicles do not see you.
  2. When approaching an intersection, get the attention of the motorist to your left.
  3. If no bike lane, consider taking up the entire lane before you cross the intersection and then move over.
  4. Slow down if riding next to a motor vehicle and assume the vehicle will turn right. A truck driver cannot see you so be cautious.
  5. If at a stop sign, be sure the truck driver or motorist sees you before you cross.

If you are injured in an accident, wait for police and medical assistance. If there were witnesses, ask for their contact information if you are able to do so. Even if your injuries appear slight, you need to be checked out since you may not have noticed an underlying injury. If the driver tries to leave, insist on their driver’s license and insurance information as well as the license plate number.

Damages in a Bicycle-Truck Collision

Bicyclists who were injured in a collision with a truck can collect compensation from the trucking company, which have commercial policies that are typically at least $1 million.

Damages in a bike accident case may include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future wage loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
  • Emotional trauma
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Diminution in quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

If a death claim, it is brought by the administrator of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the decedent’s immediate family. Damages can include:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of income during the working life of the decedent
  • Pain and suffering but only if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
  • Final medical bills if applicable
  • Loss of the love, companionship, comfort, guidance and counsel the decedent would have provided family members
  • Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct

Consult with bicycle accident lawyer Neil Burns, a Boston personal injury attorney who has obtained millions of dollars for his injured clients over his 30-years of practice. His experience, knowledge and skills obtained in handling thousands of cases can get you the compensation your case deserves.

Third Party Liability in Workplace Deaths in Massachusetts

Workplace accident deaths are on the rise in Massachusetts. Recent reports indicate that deaths are at a 10-year high. For example, in 2012, there were 32 workplace-related deaths while in 2016, the figure reached 70. The deaths include firefighters who died from work-related factors that resulted in cancer, heart attacks and leukemia.

Most fatalities occur in the construction industry, considered the most dangerous industry in the America for workers by many, although the agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining and hunting industries had higher rates per 100,000 full time workers.

Of the 70 fatalities in 2016, 25 were transportation related, 17 were from slip and falls, 11 from contact with equipment, 7 from exposure to toxic conditions and 2 to violence.

The Workers’ Compensation System

When a worker is injured or killed in a workplace accident or from working in a toxic work environment that is the cause of cancer or other disabling or fatal conditions, he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These include medical expenses, loss of wages to some degree and rehabilitation costs, if applicable. Benefits do not include compensation for pain and suffering and wage losses are not paid in full. In death cases the decedent’s family cannot collect for loss of the decedent’s love, comfort, guidance and counseling. Workers’ compensation does provide death benefits to some degree.

Third Party Claims

But if the worker was killed by the negligence, wrongful act or omissions of a party other than the employer, then the decedent’s family could bring a third-party claim. Unlike a workers’ compensation claim where negligence by the employer or employee is largely irrelevant, an injured worker has to prove negligence on the part of the third party. The surviving family members can still collect compensation from both employer and third-party insurers.

Third parties from whom a victim or family in a construction accident claim can collect compensation include:

  • Construction manager and safety manager
  • Architect and engineer
  • General or sub-contractor
  • Homeowner or motorist
  • Property owner
  • Equipment manufacturer
  • Equipment installer

For example, if defective wiring led to a worker being electrocuted, the installer of the wiring or the manufacturer could be held liable as could the building owner if the circuit was not de-energized. A property owner or other party could also be held at fault for failure to warn of a hazardous condition.

A manufacturer or designer of defective equipment is liable if the defect is considered unreasonably dangerous. A general contractor who insists that workers perform in dangerous weather or under hazardous conditions can be held responsible as well.

In construction accidents, preserving the accident site can be difficult since workplaces change constantly and potentially liable parties may wish to cover up a dangerous condition as soon as possible. Getting statements from witnesses, photographing the scene and investigating all the facts and circumstances is usually handled by OSHA representatives  and safety officers employed by the general contractor who investigate serious and fatal accidents, but it is also essential that a construction injury lawyer conduct his or her own investigation. An OSHA investigation may be delayed so having your construction injury lawyer on the scene with experts and accident reconstruction experts who can look at photos taken of the changes to the workplace site, take witness statements, and review construction logs, safety reports and other records is essential.

Further, OSHA is not concerned with finding third party liability, just safety and other violations committed by the general contractor and its report may only concern the fault of the employer. Safety officers will look for negligence by the victim or other parties and minimize the fault of the contractor or employer for whom they work.

Wrongful Death Damages in a Construction Accident Claim

The compensation that the surviving members of a worker killed in a workplace accident varies widely depending on the age of the decedent, earnings and potential earnings, value of benefits, medical costs if any, pain and suffering if applicable and the character of the victim. If there was gross negligence by the third party, then a claim for punitive damages can be sought.

Also, if workers’ compensation benefits were paid, the insurer is entitled to a subrogation claim in order to be reimbursed from the third-party claim after settlement or verdict. It is up to the construction injury lawyer to negotiate the amount to be reimbursed.

Wrongful death claims in Massachusetts are brought by the administrator of the decedent’s estate for the benefit of the immediate family members only. Damages may include:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of income during the working life of the decedent
  • Pain and suffering but only if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
  • Final medical bills if applicable
  • Loss of the love, companionship, comfort, guidance and counsel the decedent would have provided family members
  • Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct

Contact Construction Injury Lawyer Neil Burns

Neil Burns is a Boston construction injury lawyer who handled numerous workplace accident fatalities over his 30-years of practice representing the interests of injured parties. Contact his office for a free, in-depth discussion about your accident or wrongful death claim.

Pool Parties Can be Hazardous to Your Health

Home pools and those at hotels or resorts are often the venue for summer parties and other social events where alcohol is often served. Inevitably, people become intoxicated at these parties and accidents can happen on the premises or on the roadway if an inebriated guest causes an injury accident while driving home. In such cases, there are laws that determine if the host of the event can be held civilly liable for your injuries.

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Does Ubering Prevent Drunk Driving Injuries?

Has the introduction of Uber into our towns and cities led to a reduction in drunk driving arrests and, consequently, alcohol-related injuries and fatalities? Perhaps, but the “jury” seems to be still out on this question.

Uber is a ride-sharing phenomenon that with its competitor, Lyft, has shaken up the taxi industry. Its drivers, who may or may not be independent contractors, use their own vehicles to pick up passengers who make ride requests via an application. Drivers are directed to pickup locations from their own driver app that has a GPS system. Passengers input their destination and drivers follow the GPS directions. Fares are based on distance though they vary if there are surge times, or hours of the day or evening when demand for rides may be higher.

One of the benefits that Uber likes to tout is that it reduces the incidence of drunk driving. It would seem to make sense since people no longer have to worry about drinking too much and can easily call for an Uber to take them to and from wherever they are partying.

Studies Confirm and Reject a Reduction in Alcohol-Related Incidents

There are some studies that confirm the reduction in drunk driving incidents. A New York study indicated that intoxicated driving in 4 boroughs declined by up to 35% since Uber was introduced there in 2011. Other studies in Seattle and San Francisco seem to support these results but some researchers suggest that it is still too early to conclude that Uber is responsible for the decline.

A joint study from the University of Southern California and Oxford University came to the opposite conclusion or at least that reduction of drunk driving incidents was the result of other factors such as bans on texting and driving and changes in legislation among other factors. This study, however, found no reduction in traffic deaths with the introduction of Uber, even when separating total alcohol-related traffic deaths from those that occurred on weekends and holidays when ridership is highest. Researchers have pointed out that the conclusions may depend on the methodology and how you use the data.

Their reasoning was that intoxicated persons do not make rational judgments or simply do not want to pay the fees for an Uber ride. They may also feel, with considerable justification, that the possibility of being stopped and arrested for DUI is quite low and prefer to take their chances.

Regardless of how you feel about these studies, it makes sense to use a taxi, Uber or Lyft if you plan on drinking or will be in a vehicle where the driver has been drinking.

Accidents with Uber or Lyft

There are thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers in urban and suburban areas in Massachusetts. If you are in an injury accident with an Uber or Lyft or while a passenger in a ride-sharing company, there are some things to note.

If you were injured as a passenger and the Uber driver was at fault, you can look to Uber’s own insurer for compensation. Uber provides $1 million in insurance coverage for accidents involving its drivers while its app is on and either in route to pick up or drop off a passenger. If another motorist was at fault, then you bring a claim against them or both if circumstances support it.

Should you be another driver injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, you can be compensated from the ride-sharing company provided that these same circumstances were present. If the driver’s app was not on or he or she was not in route to pick up or drop off a passenger, then the driver’s personal auto policy is applicable. In Massachusetts, the minimum auto liability limits are only $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident.

You can likely expect the insurers for Uber or Lyft to vigorously defend an injury claim. You will need an experienced car accident lawyer like Neil Burns to prosecute your claim. Do not try to settle your case alone. Statistics consistently show that injured claimants represented by attorneys receive substantially more in compensation than those who represent themselves, even taking legal fees into account.

Damages in an Uber or Lyft Accident

If injured by a Lyft or Uber driver, you are entitled to compensation. Damages typically include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future wage loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Exacerbation of a pre-existing condition
  • Emotional trauma
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Diminution in quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

If you were injured by an intoxicated driver, your damages will not increase from that factor alone. Massachusetts allows punitive damages only in wrongful death claims. The family of a person killed by a drunk driver may claim such damages.

The administrator for the decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim for the immediate family members. Damages may include:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of income during the working life of the decedent
  • Pain and suffering but only if the decedent was observed to have consciously suffered before succumbing
  • Final medical bills if applicable
  • Loss of the love, companionship, comfort, guidance and counsel the decedent would have provided family members
  • Punitive damages if the defendant exhibited gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct

Consult Car Accident Lawyer Neil Burns

Neil Burns is an injury lawyer who has been practicing since 1985. He has represented thousands of injured claimants from across the state and has obtained millions in dollars for his injured clients. Call his office for a free analysis of your injury claim.

Is Apple Responsible for Distracted Driving Accidents?

Distracted driving is now the main focus of auto safety advocates, displacing drunk driving though that still remains a major concern and will likely continue until autonomous or self-driving vehicles become the norm. And the concern over distracted driving is really over use of smartphones with Apple becoming the antagonist in the discussion. Apple has been sued in various lawsuits for allowing its phones and apps to be used by motorists despite apparently having the technology that may disable the device while driving or at least give the user an opportunity to do so.

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