Car Accident Liability
Most people, including our Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, frequently use the term “car accident.” While this is a commonly understood term used in everyday speech, the reality is most crashes are not “accidents” in the legal sense.
Under the law in our state, civil wrongs (legally called a “tort”) are caused by either negligent conduct or intentional conduct.
For this reason, we have what are know as intentional torts, such as assault and battery, including sexual assault, and we have negligence based torts. This means that if something is actionable in a civil court, such as the Suffolk County Superior Court, the conduct must be either intentional or negligent. If something is truly an accident, it would not be the basis for a personal injury lawsuit. However, as discussed above, the vast majority of car crashes are not accidents in the legal sense, as they are examples of negligent conduct. The first question that must be addressed is what is negligent conduct?What is Negligence?
In Massachusetts, we can turn to the civil jury instructions to learn the elements of negligence in connection with car accident liability or for any other personal injury case in Boston, such as a dram shop case that involves suing a bar that served a driver to the point of intoxication before that driver caused a serious or even fatal drunk driving accident.
Before we get to the actual questions a jury would be asked (Instruction 3.180), it is important to understand the basic definition of negligence and why jury instructions are important when discussing Boston car accident liability.
In general, negligence involves a defendant who failed to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent person would use in the same or similar circumstances. In some cases, this can mean doing something unreasonable. In other cases, it is not doing something they are expected to do if they were a reasonable person. While our legal system rarely requires an affirmative duty to act, this is different for motorists. When driving a car, there are various actions that are legally required, such as stopping at a stop sign. Failing to do so would not only be illegal, it could also be used as evidence of negligence in a Boston car accident lawsuit.
In addition to acting negligent, it must also be established that the defendant owed this duty of due care to the plaintiff.Elements of a Boston Car Accident Case
To further develop the definition above, we can look once again to the civil jury instructions and learn that the four elements in negligence-based car accidents are as follows:
This first relevant question is whether the defendant owed a duty of duty of due care towards the plaintiff. In a car accident case, the answer is almost always yes, because the laws of the Commonwealth expressly state that a motorist owes a duty of reasonable care to other members of the public in operation of their motor vehicle. In other words, if a person drives on the roads of our state, they have automatically assumed a duty of due care with respect to others who are on the roads and sidewalks of Boston and other cities and towns. The next element is that the defendant must breach that duty of due care that we have already established is owed to the plaintiff when he or she chose to operate a motor vehicle.Breach of Duty of Care
Frequently, a motorist/defendant breaches his or her her duty of due care by violating a traffic safety regulation. These regulations are contained in Chapter 90 Section 14 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which includes precautions for the safety of other travelers on the road. While there are many provisions, the ones most important to the court (and which are actually listed in the jury instructions) are as follows:
- Regulations on passing a bicyclist
- Laws involving intersections
- Left turn laws
- Obstructed view laws
- Pedestrian interaction
- Right turns
Before we look at some of these laws that can be the basis of liability in a Boston car accident lawsuit, it is important to understand that breaking the law alone is not necessarily proof of liability. That’s because jurors are expected to the look at the totality of the circumstances. On that note, the reason we are so concerned with jury instructions, even though the vast majority of cases will settle before trial, is because the proof of a case at trial is what car insurance company adjusters and experienced car accident lawyers look at when estimating the value of the case.
With regard to the value of some cases, here are some examples of our success below:
- $3,800,000 – Motorcycle accident causing catastrophic injuries
- $1,500,000 – Passenger sustained multiple injuries in an accident
- $1,025,000 – Man injured in auto accident, sustaining multiple injuries
As our Boston bicycle accident lawyers can explain, the law requires that when a motorist is attempting to pass a person on a bicycle, the driver must slow and pass at a safe distance and while traveling at a reasonable speed. This may sound like common sense, but many people do not do this and cause serious and sometimes fatal car accidents involving a person on a bicycle. That failure to use common sense is what we mean when we say that a person has failed to act as a reasonable and prudent person, and that is the basis of a negligence action.Liability in Boston Car Accidents Involving Intersections
According to the laws in Massachusetts, a person who is operating a motor vehicle and approaching an intersection shall slow down his or motor vehicle and keep to the right of the center line. This law comes up a lot because many car accidents occur in intersections.
We often see people who negligently weave out of their respective lanes or shift lanes entirely when going through an intersection. This is especially true when someone is making a turn while going through an intersection.
Again, it is important to understand that violation of these laws or any other traffic laws can be the basis for a negligence cause of action following a serious car accident, but liability can stem from many other negligent driving behaviors. For this reason, even if you are not sure if you have a case, you should speak with an experienced Boston car accident lawyer as soon as possible. You will want someone on your side to fight for a full and appropriate financial compensation.
Bear in mind also: You should call an experienced attorney as soon as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you are following up with any needed medical treatment. The idea is to avoid what insurance companies call a “gap in treatment.” Insurers will use this to argue that your injuries were not actually caused in the accident. However, even if you have delayed treatment, you should still call a lawyer. Our firm has helped many people who have been rejected by other attorneys reach a fair settlement or verdict following trial.
If you have been involved in a Boston car accident, call our offices as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and the best course of action.
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