Traffic Fatalities Hold Steady in 2020 Despite Lower Traffic Volume in Massachusetts

As expected from reduced traffic volumes in 2020 due to the pandemic that forced many Massachusetts businesses, especially bars, restaurants, hotels, salons, and gyms to close down or that forced others to work remotely from home, the number of traffic accidents fell dramatically from 2019 levels. However, the incidence of fatal car accidents did not experience a similar decline.

Statistics show that there were 40,000 fewer car accidents in our state in 2020. However, there were 334 traffic fatalities in 2020, a drop of only 3 cases from the 337 in 2019. The fatal accidents included 185 drivers, 33 passengers, and 50 pedestrians. Although the overall number of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles fell from 76 in 2019, some cities, like Brockton, saw an uptick in their numbers. 

Because of the substantial reduction in car crashes that necessarily resulted in far fewer injury and property damage claims, most insurers sent rebates to its insurers or reduced their monthly premiums, though for only a month in most cases. This has led to some members of the Massachusetts Assembly to call for more lasting reductions in insurance premiums by insurers or they may take action to force their hand. 

The insurance companies have responded with data indicating that because of lower traffic volume, motorists are jumping at the opportunity to speed, resulting in more severe accidents and even more fatal accidents if  one accounts for the dramatic decrease in traffic volume. Also, insurance officials point out that traffic may return to normal levels in the coming months with summer break for students and  restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and salons reopening, and a percentage of the work force returning to their offices. 

It remains to be seen if traffic levels do indeed return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. Many office workers like to work from their homes and to spend more time with their families, and businesses are finding it cost-effective to not have to provide offices for workers who can just as easily and efficiently work remotely. 

But will the return to normalcy result in more traffic accidents? Will the current trend in speeding and the  high level of fatal accidents continue if traffic volumes do not increase significantly? And do insurers have a valid argument that they are being forced to pay out for claims in amounts that are similar to what it normally pays, and that the precipitous drop in overall accidents and claims in 2020 has had little effect on their bottom line?

Speed as Major Factor in Traffic Deaths

Speed is a factor in 26% of all traffic collisions, making it the number one cause. Per a report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a 1% increase in speed correlates to a 4% increase in being in a fatal accident. The faster you travel, the less time you have to perceive a hazard (a pedestrian, cyclist, a car veering into your lane of traffic, an object in the road, a slippery surface that causes your car to swerve, etc.) and to take evasive or corrective action. 

Further, the amount of energy released increases the faster you drive. Upon impact, the human body can only absorb so much. For pedestrians hit by a car traveling at 20 mph, they stand a 90% chance of surviving. At 40 mph, their chances of surviving are only 10%.

Most drivers feel that traveling 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit is acceptable, which is understandable since most law enforcement officers will pick out the fastest vehicle among all vehicles which are over the speed limit. On suburban streets, according to the GHSA report, a majority of motorists felt that traveling 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, which is anywhere from 25 mph to 30 mph, is acceptable. If you combine speed with other risk factors such as intoxication, distracted driving (texting or any use of a smartphone), driving at night, or on a poorly illuminated street, the risk of being in an accident and of injuring a pedestrian or bicyclist increases significantly.

Liability in Car Accident Claims

Consult an experienced car accident attorney if injured in a car accident or if you were an injured pedestrian. Unless you were rear-ended, were lawfully in a crosswalk, or had your accident witnessed by impartial by-passers or other motorists or captured on camera, your accident was likely only witnessed by yourself and the other party. In such cases, liability is usually at issue and you risk recovering little if anything for your injuries and damages.

All motorists have a duty of care to drive cautiously and obey all traffic laws. If they fail to do so, they have breached that duty of care. If you can show that their negligent conduct was the cause of your injuries and you present evidence of your medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, you are entitled to compensation. But proving all these elements and persuading an insurance company to pay you what you deserve is the job of your car accident attorney. In fatal accidents, the issue of damages can be more complex.

Damages in Car Accident Claims 

Damages in a motor vehicle accident injury case depend upon the extent of your injuries, if you were forced to miss time from work, suffered a permanent injury, disfigurement or loss of a limb or sensory organ, and the prognosis of your condition, among other factors. Damages may include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Emotional distress
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

In a fatal accident, the damages are different, and may include:

  • Medical expenses, if any, incurred before death
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of income to dependent family members
  • Conscious pain and suffering 
  • Loss of the decedents’ counsel, guidance, love, and advice
  • Punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct was grossly negligent or deemed to be willful, or exhibited reckless disregard for the rights and safety of the plaintiff or victim

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain

A skilled car accident attorney is always essential if you want the most compensation for your injury claim. By retaining a car accident attorney from the law firm of Burns and Jain, you can be assured that your claim will be vigorously pursued and that all avenues of compensation examined. Call us at (617) 286-3594 for a free, in-depth discussion of your car accident injury or wrongful death claim.

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