We represent victims of legal malpractice in Massachusetts. We post blog articles on an occasional basis with news on lawyers’ negligence. In this light, two stories jumped out at us regarding lawyers and malpractice.
An astonishing lack of oversight of out-of-state license violations that have sat for over a year or more has led the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to implement an en masse suspension of drivers licenses. Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack had gathered to announce the action earlier this summer once the backlog was discovered. An external audit of the department was also announced and that all Massachusetts driver licenses will be checked against a national driver registry for other out-of-state violations that could lead to additional suspensions.
A new distracted driving bill called An Act Preventing Distracted Driving that was passed in May 2019 will, if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, take effect soon. The bill now bans all cell phone use except for one finger touch or swipe while driving. The use of cell phones has become a major factor in causing traffic accidents and fatalities over the past 10-15 years to such a degree that it rivals drunk and drugged driving.
Presently the use of cell phones by non-lawyers is banned in many Massachusetts Courthouses. However, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission (MAJC) recently issued a report that concluded that this ban creates hardships, especially for pro-se litigants (parties without attorneys). For example, the Commission found that folks need to show the Court photographs, videos, text messages and other “evidence” that may be critical to their case but that they are unable to produce any other way. This is especially true for small claims cases and abuse cases where the litigant does not have an attorney but has his or her best evidence on their phone.
Motorists in Massachusetts know that it is mandatory to wear a seat belt, but most also know that a police officer is not permitted to pull them over for not wearing one unless they commit some other traffic offense such as speeding, making an unsafe lane change or failing to stop at red traffic signal. This means that the mandatory seat belt law is only a secondary offense and our drivers have seized on that to rank 48th in the nation in seat belt use with a state-wide usage rate of 78%. The national average for seat belt usage is around 90%. From 2015 to 2016, car accident fatalities in our state soared by 13%. and some officials have reported that seat belt usage has dropped over this time to as low as 74%.
The results of the 2016 Super Lawyer awards have been announced and Attorney Neil Burns was proud, once again, to be selected. Attorney Burns claims that “While the award is a result of much hard work it is mostly inspired by deserving clients who have suffered greatly.” The distinction is especially important because there are only five (5) lawyers in all of Massachusetts who were awarded as a Super Lawyer in the category of Professional Liability: Plaintiff. Legal Malpractice is a field that most attorneys avoid. Why? Perhaps because it is hard to file claims and lawsuits against fellow attorneys. As such, Attorney Burns’ office rejects the vast majority of prospective clients. Nevertheless, the cases that the Law Office of Neil Burns accepts are cases in which the facts and law show that the clients have been greatly wronged by their prior lawyers; sometimes by multiple lawyers. The facts and the law clearly point to professional negligence by the attorney in those few selected cases.
It only makes sense that lower speed limits would result in fewer traffic accidents and fatalities. This was been borne out by the experiment in past years when freeway speeds were reduced to 55 miles per hour at the height of the fuel crisis in the 1970s. The rise in the speed limit was concomitant with more accidents and fatalities but at least people were able to arrive at their destination a few minutes earlier.
It is unfortunate that many injury victims either try to handle their own injury claim or retain an attorney who is inexperienced or only interested in a quick settlement. Studies have consistently shown that claimants with legal representation obtain substantially more compensation than if they handle their claims alone, even when accounting for legal fees. Second, claimants also receive far more in compensation when they have an attorney who will advocate for them zealously, vigorously and who take the extra step in obtaining the compensation their case deserves. Experienced attorneys understand the system that insurance companies are working in.
On May 30, 2015, Boston attorney Benjamin P. Urbelis, was arrested for causing serious bodily injury while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol after a 19-year old woman got her arm cut off by his boat’s propeller. Mr. Urbelis’ has since been indicted on charges of negligent operation of a boat, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, and providing alcohol to minors. The cruel irony of this tragedy is that Mr. Urbelis is an attorney that specializes in OUI and DUI cases and his boat was named “Naut Guilty.” Mr. Urbelis also runs Top Shelf Entertainment, a nightlife promotion business and has an ownership interest in Julep Bar in Downtown Boston.
This past winter in Pepperell, Massachusetts, a 9-year old boy accidentally ran over his 12-year old brother while clearing snow on a Bobcat. The boy suffered multiple fractures to his legs but his injuries were not life threatening. Though you need a license to operate a Bobcat, which obviously a 9-year old would not possess, no charges were filed against the parents for allowing the fourth grader to drive the vehicle. In rural communities like Pepperell, it is not unusual for some youngsters to get their initial driving experience on a tractor or a Bobsled and accidents do happen because of their inexperience and youth.