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Liability in Automobile Accidents


Although airline disasters usually garner more headlines, in terms of both raw numbers and by percentage, it is generally understood that automobile travel is the most dangerous form of transportation. Further, while many vehicle operators can ensure that they are operating their vehicle in a reasonable and prudent manner, the wild card is that a particular vehicle operator cannot guarantee that others on the road are operating their respective vehicles reasonably or prudently. If an accident does happen, retaining the services of an attorney experienced in automobile accidents is crucial to ensuring compensation is received for any injury suffered. Recently, a three-car crash on a highway in Connecticut caused the death of an individual and sent a child to the hospital as passengers were sent flying onto the road. A discussion of liability for automobile accidents, including comparative negligence in Massachusetts, will follow below.

Negligence in Automobile Accidents in Massachusetts

If someone is injured due to the act (or failure to act) of another person, the injured person has the legal right to hold the other person liable for his/her injuries. In the context of a car accident, negligence is the legal theory many injured persons use to claim compensation for their injuries. Generally speaking, to succeed in a negligent claim, the plaintiff must successfully prove that the defendant had a duty to act with a certain standard of care, that the defendant breached that duty, that the breach of that duty led to or caused an accident, and that the accident caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In other words, if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s careless conduct (or failure to fulfill their duty to exercise reasonable care) caused their injuries, they can prevail in a claim for negligence.

Typically, in an automobile accident, the duty is based on each driver operating his/her vehicle in a reasonable and prudent manner. Thus, for instance, failing to signal a driver’s intention to move into another lane, which then causes an accident with another vehicle within that driver’s blind spot, would be deemed unreasonable and/or imprudent, subjecting that driver to liability for any damages suffered by the other driver.

Comparative Negligence

In many cases, fault for an automobile accident can be attributed to more than one operator. Commonwealth law says that an insurance company claims adjuster should determine the percentage of fault of each of the parties involved in the accident, and, if the party making the claim against the insurance company is determined to bear the majority of the fault (i.e., 50.1% or more), the insurance company may deny the claim.

Fault is presumed if the driver:

  • Hits a parked car;
  • Rear-ends another vehicle;
  • Is driving partially out of the proper lane and is in a collision during a passing maneuver, as long as the other vehicle is in its proper lane;
  • Is in a collision while failing to signal before turning or changing lanes; and
  • Fails to obey traffic signals, or fails to proceed with caution.

It should also be noted that certain victims, such as bicyclists or motorcyclists, are more vulnerable to catastrophic injuries. As a result, even if these victims partially contributed to their injuries, under Commonwealth law, they may still recover damages to the extent their proportion of fault does not exceed 51%.

Seek Legal Advice

If you, or a loved one, were injured in an automobile accident, speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to learn how you may be able to recover compensation for your or your loved one’s injuries. You should not have to face the financial burden alone, especially if another driver is at fault. The attorneys at Leontire & Associates, P.C. have the experience necessary to analyze your specific situation and work with you to help you obtain the financial remuneration you deserve. Contact our Boston office today.


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