Whenever news of a car accident appears in a local newspaper, it usually portends tragedy. It was no different recently when the Vineyard Gazette reported the death of a high school senior from injuries sustained in a car accident in early January. The accident occurred on Middle Road near Tea Lane in Chilmark just before 8:00 am on a Friday morning. According to police, the decedent driver may have been unable to safely negotiate a curve. The driver apparently veered his vehicle to the left side of the road and then to the right before leaving the road, struck a tree, and then traveled down an embankment. Two teenage passengers were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Police and EMT personnel at the scene were unable to save the teen.
A fatal accident involving a car and a pedestrian that occurred in Salem over 4-years ago recently ended up in criminal court before a judge. The judge found the woman accused of negligent motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an accident not guilty on all counts. The defendant had faced up to 10-years in prison. The court considered a number of factors in finding her innocent:
Truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities. A tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds or more when fully loaded as compared to a passenger car that typically weighs about 4000 to 5,000 pounds, or less. A pickup truck weighs between 4400 pounds and 6000 pounds. When a truck and a pickup or passenger car collide, there is no question as to which occupants face the most risk of serious injury or death.
A recent tragic car accident that claimed the life of a 28-year old Oxford, Massachusetts, woman might have been prevented had the young woman been wearing her seatbelt. The accident occurred on December 9, 2017, on Sutton Avenue near Fort Hill Road and Lovett Road. No details were reported on the cause of the accident but police reports indicated the woman was ejected from her vehicle and was found lying on the roadway. The fact she was ejected strongly suggests she was not restrained in her seat at the moment of impact.
Pedestrian accidents in Massachusetts can cause serious and debilitating injuries. You have no protection against the force of a 5000-pound passenger vehicle for even the slightest contact can throw you to the pavement and cause broken bones or serious head trauma. Pedestrian accidents are also on the increase nationwide with fatalities up by 11% in 2016 over 2015, the largest single year increase ever recorded. In our state, 23% of fatal traffic accidents involve pedestrians.
Riding a motorcycle is exhilarating. You feel the elements while zipping down the road amidst a feeling of freedom and release, totally unlike that felt in a regular passenger car. For dirt bike riders, the feeling is no less exciting. Dirt bikes are built for riding on unpaved trails or roadways, with narrower tires and nobs for greater traction. The frame on a dirt bike is lighter than a conventional motorcycle and has a suspension system designed to absorb shock on jumps and rough roads. They often have narrow seats and plastic or thin metal bodyworks to make it as light as possible. However, dirt bikes are generally not street legal, meaning they are for off-road use only.
Riding a motorcycle is by its very nature a risky activity. You have little to protect yourself in an accident and can be thrown onto the pavement, into a tree, or exposed to other vehicles even in minor collisions. At any one-time, intoxicated drivers and those under the influence of illegal drugs or legal medications are on the roadway, presenting a danger to all, and most especially pedestrians and motorcycle riders.
It is not uncommon to see disabled cars along the side of the roadway or in a breakdown lane. Roadways often have wide shoulder areas or specific breakdown areas for motorists experiencing problems to pull over. Unfortunately, in many situations, these disabled vehicles are at risk at being struck by other vehicles. Drivers or passengers who exit their disabled under these circumstances are often exposed to injuries or death from motorists who either failed to notice the car or were driving recklessly. We have represented families in Wrongful Death cases involving these circumstances.
If you do not live in Worcester, then you may be surprised to learn that this modest sized city of over 180,000 (the second most populous city in the state and in all of New England) has the worst safety record for pedestrians. If you do live here, then this fact may not be a revelation.
A study by 1Point21 Interactive of San Diego analyzed crash and pedestrian collision records across the state and reported that Worcester is the most hazardous city for pedestrians in all of Massachusetts, having 50 of the 496 most dangerous intersections in the state. The 496 figure reflects those intersections with at least 5 pedestrian collisions within a 15-year period between 2001 and 2014, the time span used in the study.
But Who Was Driving?
An interesting scenario may present itself in a wrongful death claim where police are unable to ascertain who was driving. This might occur when the occupants in the vehicle responsible for the accident do not survive and are found outside the vehicle so that their positions in the vehicle cannot be determined, or a survivor claims that the deceased was driving. Another scenario is where all parties are deceased and, again, it cannot be determined who was driving.