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Proving Liability in Car Accidents

In many Boston car accidents, there is often no question as to fault.  These are called clear liability cases by attorneys and insurance company claims adjusters.  For example, if a car is stopped at a red light and the driver behind that person is not paying attention and slams into the back of the plaintiff’s car, there is a presumption of liability.  Some accidents such as ones that occur in an intersection may require more investigation to learn who had the right of way to enter the intersection.  In some cases, it may seem like it was simply an accident that was not either driver’s fault, yet this may not always be a correct assumption and one of the drivers will have a valid personal injury claim.

Boston car accident lawyer Under the law in Massachusetts, a tort is defined as civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy.  There are essentially two types of tortiuous conduct including negligent conduct and intentional conduct.

Intentional Torts in Massachusetts

As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, intentional torts come from common law though case holdings, but also have been codified such as in the statutes affecting claims against the Commonwealth found in Chapter 258 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.).  Section 10 of this chapter lists the following intentional torts:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • False imprisonment
  • false arrest
  • Intentional mental distress
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Malicious abuse of process
  • Libel
  • Slander
  • Deceit
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Interference with advantageous relations
  • Interference with contractual relations

While car accident cases typically involve negligent conduct instead of intentional conduct, there are some cases where a person actually tries to hit a victim with his or her car.  While these cases often result in criminal charges for assault with intent to kill or assault with a deadly weapon (ADW), they can also be the basis for filing a valid personal injury lawsuit under a theory of tortious assault and battery.  Battery in the civil conduct is defined a harmful or non-permissive touching of another that results in damages. Hitting a person with a car is considered battery.  Even if the contact is with the plaintiff’s car, the car is considered an extension of the plaintiff’s body in this context and that would satisfy the bodily harm requirement for a battery.

Negligent Torts in Massachusetts

As an alternative to an intentional tort, and is much more common in Boston car accidnet lawsuits, a case can be filed under a theory of negligence. The elements of a negligence cause of action in Massachusetts are as follows:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages

If the accidnet was not the fault of negligent conduct or intentional conduct, that it would be considered a true accident for which nobody was at-fault.   This is sometimes what people refer to as a freak accident. According to a recent news article from CBS Boston, a man was killed in Massachusetts in a freak accident involving a deer.

Car Accidents Involving Large Animals in Massachusetts

Authorities have said decedent was driving home from a art show at which he was displaying his sculptures when a car traveling in the opposite direction hit a deer.  The deer was hit with such force that it flipped up into the air and crashed though decedents windshield.  While cars hit deer all the time, it is very rare for that to result in death in the Commonwealth, and the deer going through the windshield of a different vehicle than the one that hit the deer makes this seem more like a freak accident.

The decedent was 76-years-old at the time of this death. To get an idea of how rare it is for a car accident resulting from a collision involving  deer to be fatal, this was the first time it happened in Massachusetts in 34 years.  In that case, it was from a deer that was hit by car and then came crashing through the windshield of a victim in a different car. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) keeps detailed statistics on motor vehicle – animal collisions and this data shows and average of 200 animal-related traffic fatalities across the U.S. each year.  We are also seeing more of these accidents where housing is being constructed in areas that were once more rural.  This results in more cars in these areas as well as significant reduction in the number of deer killed by hunters.

In response to this accident, authorities have said during the fall in Massachusetts, deer are in matting season and the males tend to be out looking for female deer and are not as aware of their surroundings. They also stated that drivers should brake if they see a deer, but not to swerve as this can result in more harm than good.  There have been no accusations of negligent conduct in connection with this accident.

While this situation is exceedingly rare, it is not uncommon for a car to swerve to avoid hitting an animal and this can result in a collision with another car.  In other cases, there is not a physical collision with the other car, but the swerving will cause the other diver to take evasive action and this can result in plaintiff’s car losing control and crashing.  These are many single-vehicle car crashes that are not the fault of the driver who crashed.  If you have been in a single vehicle car crash that was not your fault, you should contact an experienced Boston car accident lawyer as soon as possible to see if you have a valid personal injury claim.

As to the question of negligence, we must examine whether the driver who swerved to avoid an animal breached his or duty of due care to act as a reasonable and prudent driver to prevent foreseeable injury to foreseeable plaintiffs.  This is actually a close question so you want to speak with attorney who has handled these cases and is familiar with not only the law, but also how juries have decided similar cases in the past.

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:

Man Killed in Freak Accident involving Deer, November 10, 2017, CBS Boston

More Blog Entries:
School in Falmouth Holds Memorial for Student Athletes Killed in Crash, Feb. 12, 2017, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog