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Litigating a Fatal Boston Car Accident

Fatal car accident lawsuits in Boston are often very complex and best handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer who has a track record of success in deadly crash litigation. While fault may seem a fairly straightforward issue, there are also matters of causation and comparative negligence and damages that have to be sorted out. Many of these cases require hundreds of hours of research and analysis and usually necessitate expert witness testimony.

Boston car accidentsAccording to a recent article from News 7 Boston, one person was killed in a three-car accident in Medfield, Massachusetts.  Medfield is located to the south and east of the city of Boston. Authorities have said the fatal crash, which occurred on Route 109, occurred at around 2 p.m. and involved the driver of a Jeep who was allegedly speeding prior to the accident that involved a collision with two other vehicles and one where the jeep completed flipped over and came to a stop resting on its roof.

Aside from the man declared dead at the scene, another victim was rushed to Tufts Medical Center, a level-one trauma center located in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. A third person was also injured, but his injuries were not as severe as the other two.  This person was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance.

As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) will send in an investigation and accident reconstruction team to work with local police in conducting a full investigation into the cause of the crash.  This does not mean there will necessarily be any criminal charges filed, as the state police investigate all fatal car accidents.

It should be noted that the conclusions of law enforcement are not necessarily final when it comes to the question of fault. Although those findings can be used in your civil lawsuit, those facts were gathered for the purpose of investigating traffic infractions and criminal charges – the outcome of which will be totally separate from any civil litigation. That’s why contacting an attorney as soon as possible is smart, so we can immediately begin our own gathering of evidence and analysis. 

Opening a Probate Estate

One of the things that will need to be done when there is a family pursuing the car accident lawsuit is to go to the Family and Probate Court for Suffolk County located near Boston’s government center.  This is because the estate of the deceased plaintiff (decedent) will be the actual party, but the case will be filed on behalf of the estate by the administrator.

When you go to the probate court, if the decedent had a last will and testament, it will name a person as the executor/exectutrix or “personal representative” to use the more modern term. This person, assuming they choose to accept the appointment, will have the power to administer the estate, and this power includes filing valid lawsuits on behalf of the decedent in connection with a fatal Boston car accident.

Many people, especially younger people, do not have a will, but that is not a major problem, since the court will appoint a person to serve as the administrator of the estate. This is the same as a personal representative, except this person is appointed by the court.  The surviving spouse or adult child of the decedent will typically serve this function.

This can be confusing, but your experienced Boston car accident lawyer can offer you guidance in this matter.  He or she may not be able to actually represent the estate as well as handle the personal injury matter, but he or she can often assist you in finding someone else to help with that matter and work along with your car accident lawyer. While there may the temptation for family members to fight during the probation process, it is best if everyone can put their differences aside and work together towards the common goal.

Pain and Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering when taken collectively are one type of legal damages that you can claim in most personal injury lawsuits. In a case where the plaintiff has been killed, the estate is still entitled to these damages, and they account for any pain and suffering he or she experienced prior to death.  In some cases, this could be a few seconds, and other cases, it could be weeks, months or even years.

Wrongful Death Claims in Boston Car Accident Cases

In a wrongful death case, the claim does not arise until the injured person has died.  While this is not a major issue in a lot of wrongful death cases, there are cases where a person is injured in a Boston motor vehicle accident, but they end up living for years before they pass away.  If that death was attributed to the injuries sustained in the car accident, this can be the basis for filing a valid wrongful death claim.  This may be true even after a personal injury lawsuit. However, if decedent has already settled the personal injury claim, it’s more likely than not plaintiff (or plaintiff’s legal representative) signed a general release and waiver of liability excusing defendant for any and all future actions arising out of the transaction or occurrence (car accident). This will likely prohibit the estate from filing of a lawsuit for wrongful death in the future.

Even if the plaintiff was declared dead at the scene of the fatal car accident, a jury still has the opportunity to award pain and suffering damages, and this does happen quite often.  In the event of a longer time of suffering, plaintiff’s attorney would argue for a larger award of pain and suffering damages.  In addition to pain and suffering, there will also be damages for reasonable funeral and/or burial expenses, medical bills, and possibly lost wages.  If the plaintiff had been working prior to the fatal crash and was supporting his or her family, this is a standard component of damages awarded.

Calculating a Lost Wages Claim Following a Fatal Boston Car Accident

One thing to keep in mind is that while the award of lost wages is standard, it does not meant the at-fault driver’s attorney will not fight over what is the amount of lost wages.  This is typically where defendants, through counsel, try to undervalue the earning potential of plaintiff had the accident not occurred.

There is a lot of strategy that can go into these calculations, considering possible future promotions, the economic state of the relevant industry and other considerations. If the plaintiff was self-employed, this may require expert testimony to determine what his or her projected earnings would have been had the fatal Boston car crash not occurred.

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:

1 killed in 3-car crash in Medfield, November 28, 2017, By Brandon Gunnoe, News 7 Boston

More Blog Entries:

Filing a Boston Truck Accident Lawsuit, Sept. 28, 2017, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog