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Roadway Obstructions Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Boston

Roadway obstructions and debris are a threat to the safety of all motorists – but perhaps few more than motorcyclists. True, motorcycles tend to be more agile and can maneuver quickly to avoid danger. But riders are also exponentially more vulnerable when encountering road debris because they don’t have the benefit of seat belts, airbags, door frames, windshields or a roof to keep them safe from ejection.

Often, road debris is large and random, the result of another driver poorly securing their load before venturing out. However, it can be something as small as gravel left carelessly around a nearby construction site. Evan a small patch of unexpected gravel could reduce the rider’s traction, leading to a crash.

These crashes can lead to serious injuries, lifelong disabilities, disfigurement and even death. At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston motorcycle accident attorneys are committed to helping injured motorcyclists and families obtain fair financial compensation for their losses. Road debris accident cases can be challenging because to win, plaintiffs must first ascertain how the debris got onto the road, and then identify the parties involved, and then determine if they breached their duty of care by not securing their load or failing to clear the road. Claims against government entities in Massachusetts can be fraught with issues like sovereign immunity and strict immunity, as outlined in the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.

Still, they can be worth pursuing in cases where liable parties can be determined or when a rider has underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

Damages in roadway obstruction cases can include compensation for:

  • Hospital bills and ongoing medical expenses;
  • Loss of wage and future loss of income;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of consortium.
Injuries Due to Failure to Maintain Roads

Motorcyclists need to know if they are injured when encountering a roadway obstruction such as road debris, it’s important to promptly discuss legal options with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer. These cases often necessitate consultation and examination with crash reconstruction experts, accident investigators, forensic analysts and economists to not just establish negligence, but also determine the appropriate amount of compensation for damages.

If the obstruction that caused your injury involved a road defect or pothole, it will be necessary to first find out which entity was responsible for maintaining that road because there are different rules for duty of care involving each.

Generally, we have to show the obstruction or debris or defect either existed for a length of time during which the government agency should have learned about it and failed to address it OR they were given actual notice of it and didn’t respond with reasonable expedience (per the 1925 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Gregoire v. City of Lowell ).

  • City or town roads: MGL ch. 84, s. 15. If an individual suffers a bodily injury or damaged property due to a road defect or want of repair and such injury was preventable with reasonable care on the part of the county, city, town or person by law obliged to repair it, the person injured can recover damages only if there is evidence of reasonable notice of the defect. This means the government agency either was informed directly about the problem or that it existed for such a length of time that it should have been discovered in the course of exercising reasonable care. Per MGL ch. 84, s.11A, if a public way other than a state highway is constructed or improved in whole or in party by aid of money contributed by a county, it is the town that will be responsible for maintaining the road in good condition and repair, though the county may provide financial aid. This contribution won’t in turn make the county liable.
  • State roads/ highways: MGL ch. 81, s. 18: The commonwealth is liable for injuries sustained by persons traveling on highways if those injuries are caused by defects on a constructed traveled road. Further as outlined in MGL ch. 81, s.14, the state’s Department of Transportation also has responsibility to remove trees and other obstructions near the highways that might obscure drivers’ view or otherwise make travel dangerous.

The statute of limitations to file notice of claim with the government is two years from the date of injury (shorter than the usual three years for most other personal injury lawsuits in Massachusetts). The government then has six months in which to accept or reject the claim. Only after that can you formally file your lawsuit.

The special circumstances involved with potentially suing a government entity and/ or employee mean it’s best to seek advice from an injury attorney in Boston as soon as possible.

Road Debris is a Growing Problem for Motorcyclists

AAA reports road debris was a factor in more than 200,000 police-reported crashes in a recent four-year span, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 fatalities. Debris can be especially dangerous on high-speed roads like highways because motorists have less time to respond with evasive action. Even if they do manage to swerve, being surrounded by many lanes of fast-moving traffic means there’s a risk of crashing into other fast-moving vehicles – a deadly occurrence for a motorcyclist. One in three deaths in road debris crashes are the result of a driver swerving to avoid an object. Overcorrecting at the last second makes a bad situation even worse.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has studied this issue extensively and said most of debris-related crashes are preventable. Two-thirds of these incidents are the direct result of items falling off a vehicle because they weren’t properly secured or maintained. These include:

  • Unsecured cargo (appliances, furniture, etc.);
  • Vehicle parts coming detached (wheels, tires, etc.)
  • Tow trailers separating and striking other vehicles.

In Massachusetts, MGL ch. 85, s. 36, no one is permitted to use a vehicle for hauling unless it’s constructed or loaded so as to prevent any load from dropping, shifting, leaking or otherwise escaping. A violation is punishable by a fine of between $50 and $200.

It’s not an amount that compels many trucking companies or individuals to be especially careful when it comes to securing cargo.

Many road debris crashes happen between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., because that is when most people are out hauling items like construction equipment or furniture. Motorcyclists should use special care to be alert for the possibility of falling or abandoned road debris, especially on the highway.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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