Car and auto accidents are among the leading causes of death and injuries in the United States. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash or a car collision, a Boston car accident lawyer can help. Contact Swartz & Swartz, P.C. today to learn more about your legal rights after a car or auto accident.
Everyone knows that the Boston traffic can be brutal. Although Boston’s Big Dig project decreased the average total vehicle- hours of travel time on the highways by 62%, a 2008 Boston Globe report asserted that the traffic waiting time for the majority of trips actually increased as a result of demand induced by the increased road capacity in Boston. With nearly 5 million drivers in Massachusetts and the City of Boston processing about 536,000 vehicles per weekday, congestion into and around Boston has only gotten worse in 2017, with the average driver spending 60 hours stuck in traffic during the year — two more hours than in 2016. All of this together makes Boston the seventh-worst traffic city in the country. With such a high volume of road traffic the chances of auto crashes only increase. Sadly the data shows Boston to be one of the U.S. cities with the highest car accident rates and home of some of the most dangerous drivers. Victims of car and auto accident negligence may have legal remedies available and may be able to recover compensation for their injuries. However, the period after the accident and the preparation of a car accident case can be complex, especially if the accident involves wrongful death or catastrophic injury.
Car Accident Insurance Coverage Information
After a Boston car accident, it is important to have a complete understanding of the issues involved including:
- The types of drivers’ insurance coverage available, including liability insurance, excess or umbrella insurance, and auto insurance coverage to address particular losses such as medical bills and lost wages.
- Causes of the car accident. Reconstruction of the automobile accident may be necessary and typically requires the involvement of expert witnesses.
- Product liability matters in cases where design and manufacturing defects contributed to the accident.
- The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) rules and regulations, as well as governmental oversight authority.
- Rules on imposing liability for the negligent operation of a vehicle that was leased or rented by the operator, as well as rules on imposing liability on vehicles used in the course of business and vehicles operated within the scope of work for a state or local governmental agency.
- What is personal injury protection? Personal injury protection insurance, or PIP insurance, removes the need for the driver who is not at fault in an accident to sue the faulty driver’s insurance company to cover the damages. This is called a no-fault car insurance system and usually results in quicker and less complicated car accident compensation.
A Boston car crash attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C. has extensive experience regarding all types of car accident issues. We can also work towards a fair settlement if appropriate, help you understand your legal rights, and we can work with you to enforce those rights.
What do I do after a car accident?
After a Boston car accident, it is important to know what to do to protect your rights. Of course, the first step is to contact 911 for police and medical treatment help. Once everyone is out of danger, begin writing down and/or photographing as much information as possible. Information of particular importance includes:
(1) Names, driver’s license numbers, contact information (at least home address and phone number) and auto insurance company information of all drivers.
(2) Information about any witnesses that observed the accident, including names and contact information for all passengers, pedestrians, and witnesses.
(3) Precise location, date, and time of the accident.
(4) A detailed description of the accident. Information such as which direction, at what speed, weather, road conditions, physical and mental conditions, and injuries should all be noted. Drawing a diagram can be very helpful.
(5) Identify all police and rescue personnel at the scene, including towns, ambulance companies, and, if possible, names and identity information for individuals.
Preparing a Car Accident Case
Information collected at the scene of an accident can be invaluable in helping to prepare a car accident claim.
The first step in making a car accident claim is knowing whether or not you even have grounds to file an injury claim for your injuries. The question of whether the accused party was indeed negligent must be examined carefully to determine the answer to this question.
The facts of each individual case can be quite different. The Boston auto wreck attorneys at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., begin by investigating the scene of the accident, coordinating a proper team of professionals and experts, examining all evidence, evaluating contributory and comparative negligence and how to best represent you and protect your rights.
Car Accidents: Statistics, Causes and Prevention
According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), there are nearly 2.35 million people that get injured or disabled each year in the U.S. in road crash accidents. Sadly, about 37,000 die annually, and of these deaths, over 1,600 are children under the age of 15. In 2013, the US crash death rate was higher than twice the average of other high-income countries. This link discusses key statistics about the prevalence of car accidents across the U.S., the main causes behind car accidents, the significant impact that car collisions have on individuals and the community and, finally, critical tips to aid in preventing auto collisions to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Car Accidents in the U.S. by the Numbers
According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the number and the type of accidents differ significantly among the 50 states. Analysis of the data from the US. Department of Transportation reveals 10.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Fatality rates per capita and per miles traveled provide a way of estimating automobile accident deaths compared to the population and the amount of driving, however; many factors can affect these rates, including vehicle types, alcohol impairment, and use of seat belts. Other critical factors include vehicle speeds, rates of licensure, state traffic laws, emergency care capabilities and the weather.
The type of automobile affects accident and fatality rates and varies by state. For example:
- North Dakota has the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of suburban utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks (50%), and some of the lowest proportions of deaths for car occupants (up to 27%).
- Massachusetts, on the other hand, has one of the highest proportions of car occupant deaths (41 percent), a relatively high proportion of pedestrian deaths (24%), and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV or pickup occupants (13%). Some of the most dangerous intersections in the state of Massachusetts for auto accidents according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation are: 1. Columbia Road at the Expressway, Boston, 2. Middlesex Turnpike at Route 128, Burlington, 3. Granite Avenue and the Expressway, Milton, 4. North Washington Street and the Central Artery, Boston, 5. Route 128 and Interstate 93, Woburn.
- New Hampshire and South Dakota had the highest percentage (23% each) of motorcyclist accident deaths.
- The District of Columbia had the highest percentage of pedestrian deaths (57%).
Nationwide, 55% of auto crash deaths in 2015 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The District of Columbia had the largest proportion of deaths in single-vehicle crashes (70%), with Montana (68%), and Maine (67%) closely behind, whereas the smallest proportion occurred in Minnesota (47%).
Impact of Alcohol Impairment
Alcohol consumption plays a major role in road auto accident collisions. According to the CDC, one third of the crash deaths in the US involved drunk driving, and almost 1 in 3 of those also involved speeding. In 2015, at least some measurable level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was reported for 70% of fatally injured passengers and automobile drivers. Rhode Island reported BACs for a record 95% of fatally injured passengers and auto drivers, while on the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi reported BACs for only 47%. When looking at BAC’s over the legal limit for driving, Alaska had the highest percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08% or higher (48%), while Utah had the lowest percentage (17%).
Positive Effect of Seat Belts
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety measured the frequency of use of seat belt restraints. They found that based on daytime observational surveys made by the states, the rate of safety belt use among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2015 ranged from 70% in New Hampshire to 97% in Georgia. Two states, California and Maryland, and the District of Columbia had at least 60% restraint use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants. In contrast, six states – Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming – had below 30% user rates. As expected, the states with higher use of restraints had correspondingly lower levels of fatally injured passengers compared with states with a lower percentage of users of restraints.
Car seat laws in Massachusetts
According to Massachusetts car seat laws, a rear-facing child safety seat is compulsory from birth to age 2 and a front-facing car seat is compulsory for children between ages 2-4/until 40 lbs. Between ages 4 to 8 or until 57 inches (4’9”) tall, a booster seat needs be used. All drivers and passengers who are 13 years old and older must wear a seat belt that is properly adjusted and fastened according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat. Never place a child in the front seat facing an airbag. In order to sit in the front seat in Massachusetts, it is recommended that a child turn 13 and be at least 57 inches (4’9”) tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds, when the front seat belt fits properly.
Note that the law requires children to be properly restrained in any vehicle, including taxi cabs. According to Massachusetts car seat laws for taxis, if the taxi operator does not provide the child safety seat, it is up to the parents or person traveling with the child to do so.
Though strict regulations exist to protect infants and children, not all car manufacturers accurately follow these regulations. Sometimes the car seats are defective or damaged, while other times they are not current with what the law requires. Some car seat manufacturers continue to produce products that are not current and that puts children in danger. When faulty car seats are used, they may not be effective in the event of a car accident. A defective car seat may entirely fail to perform the function it is manufactured to perform. If your infant or child has been injured due to a defective car seat, call our car seat injury lawyers in Boston, MA.
Primary Causes of Car Accidents and Injuries
The causes of car and auto accidents and injuries can be divided into two main categories: 1) mistakes committed by the driver; and 2) treacherous road conditions. Of the two categories, driver mistakes cause the significant majority of accident injuries.
Driver error includes the following:
- Distracted Driving: Researchers from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that distraction caused 70% of the more than 900 serious crashes that they analyzed. Out of these distracted driver auto accident crashes, dialing a phone while driving was the most distracting factor for the driver – it increased the driver’s risk of crashing by ten times. Likewise, writing and reading while driving increased the driver’s probability of getting into an accident by about ten times. Trying to reach something in the car increased the probability by nine-fold. Texting increased the risk six times, while reading an e-mail increased the tendency three times.
- Alcohol and Drug Use: Per the CDC, in 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic related deaths in the United States. Among the 1,070 traffic deaths among children aged from 0 to 14 years in 2014, 209 (19%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Even worse, among the 209 child passengers aged 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2014, over half (116) were riding in the vehicle with an alcohol-impaired driver. Studies show that drinking while driving increases the likelihood of being in a auto accident and the likelihood of serious injury or death occurring. The risk of being involved in an accident crash increases significantly above a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 g/dl. Drugs other than alcohol (legal and illegal) are involved in about 16% of auto collisions. Marijuana users were about 25% more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use, however, other factors – such as age and gender, may account for the increased crash risk among marijuana users. Even legal drugs can play a role in dangerous car crashes – for example, prescription drugs like morphine, addictive substances or anti-histaminic drugs that are present in over the counter cold medications can cause sedation or affect cognitive functions of the driver and his mental status.
- Vehicle Speed: Driving speed plays a role in many accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration found that the extent of auto wreck lethality is significantly tied to the velocity change at the time of impact. The WHO also found that the speed of the vehicle is directly related to the occurrence of the crash and the consequences of it. For example, the U.S. DOT says that an adult pedestrian’s risk of dying is less than 20% if struck by a car at 50 km/h and almost 60% if hit at 80 km/h. Interestingly, it also reported that crash accidents occur not only with high-speed vehicles, but also with dangerously low speed vehicles. In fact, sometimes being over cautious is equally dangerous.
- Failure to Wear Seat Belts: According to a study by Edgar Snyder and Associates, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death to the front passengers of the vehicle by 45%. Similarly, the WHO found that if they are correctly installed and used, child restraints reduce deaths among infants by approximately 70% and reduces deaths among small children by between 54% and 80%.
- Reckless Driving: Reckless driving includes crossing red lights, driving in the wrong direction or wrong lane, street racing, tailgating and other illegal driving techniques, all of which make one more likely to end up in a automobile crash accident.
- Characteristics of the Driver: Certain characteristics were associated with higher incidents of car wrecks. High risk factors like poor eyesight, sleep deprivation, and age (i.e. being a teenager or an elderly driver), or a combination of these factors, led to more frequent auto crash accidents. The WHO found that age, sex and socioeconomic standing are related to the occurrence of car crashes. For example, young males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. About three quarters (73%) of all road traffic deaths occur among men. Among young drivers, young males under the age of 25 years are almost 3 times as likely to be killed in a car crash as young females.
Treacherous Road Conditions
Aside from driver mistakes, treacherous road conditions can cause of auto crashes. The Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology in 1995 showed that about 34% of the car crashes were precipitated by contributing factors related to the road or the surrounding environment. Things like road design, weather conditions and bad signage can be precipitating factors. Statistically, car crashes occur more often in rainy weather, as moisture creates a slimy layer on the pavement, making the vehicle more likely to spin out of control or skid while braking. Ice and snow also play a significant role in the occurrence of accidents. Weather conditions make it harder for cars to keep their traction on the road and for drivers to gauge speed and control of the vehicle. Although many of these road and weather conditions are contributing factors to the cause of the motor vehicle accident, driver error can still be a factor in these crashes.
The Impact of Auto Accidents
As the above statistics illustrate, auto accidents are not only a common occurrence, but also the frequency of death or disability is very high. These accidents affect people’s lives both psychologically and physically, and also cost the government millions of dollars.
Physically, car accidents can of course cause a tremendous amount of damage. Auto accident trauma commonly cause bruises and abrasions that can ultimately damage organs and cause severe disability, catastrophic injury or death. Common injuries include fractures, dislocations, and, tragically, loss of limbs. Another major category of injury is called “whiplash” – which include injuries to the neck, spinal cord, muscles and ligaments. Traumatic brain injury can also occur because of the head trauma associated with car accidents.
According to Dr. James Beauchamp, a board certified spinal cord injuries specialist specializing in automobile accident reconstruction, car accident victims may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, fear, hypersensitivity to being startled, inability to concentrate, insomnia and other related issues. Recovery from these psychological injuries may take extended time, as there can be a stigma associated with mental and psychological health disorders, and people tend to deny that they may be suffering psychologically from a automobile accident.
Dr. Alan M. Steinberg, director of research at the UCLA Trauma Psychiatry Program, says that studies show that people can have increases in their levels of stress hormones for months after even minor traumatic events. “These kinds of reactions are normal and to be expected in the [short-term] aftermath of whatever has happened. I don’t think people should run to a psychiatrist or psychologist a week or two after. But if they start to become persistent, that’s a sign that they may become [long-term] and can become very debilitating,” Steinberg says.
Resulting Costs of Car Accidents
According to the CDC, car crashes collectively cost more than 99 billion dollars and about 438 million dollars in Massachusetts per year. In 2013, Texas, Georgia, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio reported the highest costs related to car collisions, reaching about $1,200 million – $4,890 million each. Among other states, the lowest cost reached $34 million – $177 million, all of which are huge numbers. Looking at the cost of these accidents, Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC (National Safety Council), says: “As a safety professional, it’s not just disappointing but heartbreaking to see the numbers trending in the wrong direction.”
The Best Ways to Prevent Car Accidents
Preventing car accidents includes both community commitment and individual behavior modification. The WHO advocates that governments act in a holistic manner, with involvement from multiple sectors (transportation, police, health, education) to address the safety of roads, vehicles, and road users themselves.
- Effective Alcohol Consumption Legislation: The Guide to Community Preventive Services and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend different strategies for reducing alcohol consumption:
- First, maintain consistent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) regulations and maintain the minimum legal drinking age of 21. Nationwide, it is illegal to drive with a BAC at or above 0.08%. For people under 21, “zero tolerance” laws make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. These laws save thousands of lives and keep the safety of the highways since their implementation. The WHO recommends additional laws that establish lower BACs (≤0.02 g/dl) for young and novice drunk drivers can lead to reductions in the number of crashes involving young people by up to 24%.
- Increase sobriety checkpoints. Many communities continue to ramp up efforts at catching and deterring drunk drivers through sobriety checkpoints to see if the drivers are cognitively impaired or under the effect of alcohol.
- Increase use of ignition interlocks. There is a new technique called “ignition interlocks,” which prevents the vehicles from starting when it measures the alcohol in the drivers’ breath and finds it above the limited set value. The more prevalent these become and are required in new vehicles, the more accidents can be prevented.
- Use of mass media campaigns. Many communities undertake mass media campaigns and school-based instructional programs to combat road car crash accidents. Using these methods integrated together with laws have already helped reduce car accident rates.
- Road Safety Measures. Regarding general road safety, The United Nations General Assembly Resolution has adopted a decade of action for road safety that was launched in May 2011 in 110 countries, including the U.S., aimed at saving millions of lives by ameliorating safety of roads, vehicles, drivers’ behaviors and activation of emergency services. The WHO is collaborating with the United Nations on this project and will continue to advocate for road safety at the highest level by continuous evaluation, data collection, and sharing information with the public.
- Speed Limit Laws. States should maintain laws regarding the speed of vehicles such that the speed must not exceed 30 km/h where vulnerable road users are common, like residential and school areas. Lower speeds reduce the risk of a crash.
- Enforce Seat Belt Laws. States should enforce both primary and secondary seat belt laws. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket a driver or passenger for not wearing them, without any other traffic offense taking place. Secondary seat belt laws state that law enforcement officers may issue a ticket for not wearing them only when there is another citable traffic infraction. Enforcing both laws regularly will aid in reducing injuries due to auto accidents.
- Avoid Risky Behavior. As outlined above, distraction, alcohol or drug use, reckless driving and excessive speed are all significant factors in causing car collisions. Drivers can reduce the risk of accident by avoiding such behavior.
- Car Maintenance. The National Safety Council sheds light on the importance of continuous engine maintenance that keep cars safe and sound. Drivers should keep their cars in a good state and commit to their maintenance schedule to keep the vehicle safe and prolong the life of the car. Be sure to keep car tires well inflated. Under inflated tires increase the risk of getting into an accident. Also, check the brakes frequently before driving, have mirrors and windshields cleaned and replace your windshield wipers regularly.
- Use of Car Mirrors. Drivers should be sure to use their car mirrors, reducing any blind spots by adjusting both the side mirrors and rear-view mirror in the way that forms a panoramic view of the traffic behind, but also allowing for the driver to look directly to the side of the vehicle to cover any areas missed by the mirrors. Also, be sure to take the other surrounding drivers’ blind spots into consideration, especially truckers.
- Emphasize Proper Driving Techniques. Drivers should stay in their lane, keep both hands on the wheel and use their car signals properly. Generally, avoid the left lane except to pass, as the right one contains more options to avoid dangerous situations.
- Scan the Road. Safety experts advise drivers to scan the area ahead, not only the vehicle in front of them, but also, the traffic in front of it too; this helps the driver to foresee any problem from a distance and to have the sufficient time to take action to avoid auto collisions.
- Driving lessons. Learning how to drive in classes at driving schools remains very helpful. A study done in 2011 in many countries, including the U.S., concluded that there is evidence of small short-term crash reductions among licensed drivers who took driving lessons.
- Minimize Driving at Night. Night time driving should be avoided unless necessary. Decreased field of vision, fatigue and increased possibility of drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs all make driving at night the more likely time to be involved in an auto wreck accident.
- Embrace New Technology. New technology continues to offer improvements for motor vehicle safety. Whenever possible, choose vehicles that have added safety measures, including dual air bags, electronic stability control, accident avoidance systems, lane departure warnings and ignition interlocks.
Getting Help in a Boston Car Accident Case
At Swartz & Swartz, P.C., our Boston car accident attorneys have represented victims of car and auto accident negligence for more than three decades. Our personal injury law firm has proven experience and expertise, as well as a background of success in cases involving automobile accidents.
Our Massachusetts auto accident lawyers are here to help you during the entire litigation process, from answering your questions to enforcing your legal rights. If you or a family member has suffered significant personal injuries as the result of the negligent operation of an auto vehicle, please contact us. You can call us at (617) 742-1900 or, if you are outside the Boston area, call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732. You may also contact us online.