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Liability in Boston Single-Vehicle Crashes

According to a recent news article from the Boston Globe, firefighters had to cut a woman free from a mangled car in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Authorities have said the vehicle was carrying a 31-year-old mother, her husband, and their eight-month-old daughter at the time of the serious Boston area car crash.

highway accidents BostonWhile the exact cause of the accident is still under investigation, initial findings indicate the driver of the vehicle lost control and spun out before entering the woods.  When the vehicle entered the woods, it was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed and crashed into a tree.  The husband was able to get out of the vehicle with his child, but his wife was still trapped in the badly mangled car. The roof had reportedly collapsed and there was a tree that had become embedded over 18 inches into the vehicle.  Firefighters had to us the Jaws of Life to cut the vehicle so the woman could be extracted. She suffered several broken ribs and other injuries, but her condition was not deemed life-threatening when she was transported to a local level one trauma center. The father and the baby also suffered a personal injury as result of this Boston area car accident and were transported to the same hospital as the mother.  Their conditions were also not considered life threatening.

When a single-vehicle car crash occurs, there are often multiple explanations for the crash.  In some cases, there is another vehicle that actually caused the crash, but did not make physical contact with plaintiff’s vehicle.  For example, defendant is driving while texting on his smart phone. Defendant is not looking at the road and swerves into the next lane.  This causes plaintiff to swerve out of the way and veers into the woods and crashes into a tree.  In some cases, the defendant will realize what he has done and stop thus doing the responsible thing.  In other cases, defendant will continue driving.

In some cases, defendant will be identified from traffic camera footage or from the observation of witnesses.  In other cases, defendant will never be identified, thus leaving us with a john doe driver situation. If the at-fault driver is not identified, he or she will be treated as an uninsured motorist (UM).  If we do not know the driver is, then we will not be able to determine who the driver’s insurance company is.  This is assuming the at-fault driver had any vehicle liability insurance. As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, many times, a driver who flees the scene has a suspended or revoked driver’s license, which is why he or she fled the accident scene in the first place.

However, anyone who has car insurance in the Commonwealth, also has what is known as uninsured motorist coverage, which is also known as UM coverage. The law requires every driver with a vehicle registered in Massachusetts to have at least the minimum level of liability insurance for personal injury and property damage to others.  The law also requires the insurance company provide UM coverage in the minimum limits or the customer’s actual limits-whichever is higher.

Following an accident caused by an uninsured motorist who has been identified, or a john doe driver, plaintiff’s car insurance company is supposed to cover the losses as if they were the insurance company for the uninsured motorist.  While this is how it is supposed to work, the insurance company generally does not treat their insured driver like a valued customer and promptly offer the driver a full and appropriate settlement.  Instead, they hand the case over to another division of the company and treat them like they are the opposing party in a lawsuit.

The insurance company will typically offer far less than the case is worth hoping the driver takes the money before contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer.  In order for the customer to collect the money being offered, as little as it may be, plaintiff will have to sign a full waiver of liability meaning the plaintiff will not be able to collect another dollar from the insurance company, no matter how insignificant that settlement offer may be.  The insurance company wants the plaintiff to sign the release before talking to an attorney, because they know that if plaintiff had the opportunity to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer, that lawyer would not likely ever advise plaintiff to take this low ball offer and sign the release of liability.

This initial offer may be as low as couple hundred dollars, or as it is in many cases, an offer to pay the emergency room bills.  They may also ask the plaintiff to make a recorded statement, and this is not something that should be done before speaking with an experienced Boston car accident lawyer.

The insurance companies know that many people who have been in a serious Boston car accident, or have had a close family member be incapacitated or killed are often in a state of emotional shock. Plaintiffs and their families are often worried about a variety of things including how long it will take to recovery from the accident, and in some cases, if everything will be back to the way things were prior to the accident.  This is especially true in cases where plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or are possibly left paralyzed. One of the main concerns is also money.  Just because there has been a tragic accident does not mean creditors will be willing to wave deadlines.  The insurance company will often take advantage of the shock and fear and try to get the client to take this low offer and settle the case, and this is not good for the plaintiff or plaintiff’s family.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Highway Accident Traps Mother Inside Car in Duxbury, September 25, 2017, By By Abigail Feldman, Boston Globe

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Girl, 10, Struck And Killed While Standing Outside Broken-Down Car, July 23, 2017, CBS Boston