Articles Posted in Drunk Driving in Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is now the only state in the U.S. where individuals convicted of a first-time offense of operating under the influence of alcohol cannot be subjected to interlock ignition devices before their car keys are returned. Boston drunk driving accident attorneys understand a number of traffic safety activists are trying to change this.Boston drunk driving injury lawyer

Among those involved are AAA Northeast and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who have for years been pushing lawmakers to expand ignition interlock device usage. These machines, required of repeat OUI offender in Massachusetts since the 2005 passage of Melanie’s Law, which enhanced numerous penalties for drunk driving.

Per MGL 90, § 24, and MGL 90 § 24 ½, ignition interlock devices are to be installed – and paid for – by individuals convicted twice or more of operating under the influence, either when they are eligible for license restatement following their revocation/suspension OR during their revocation/suspension if they qualify for a condition hardship driver’s license. The latter is only good for 12 hours daily throughout that time.

The devices require the driver to provide an alcohol-free breath sample before the vehicle will start. If the individual tests positive for alcohol over a certain point, the ignition “locks” and the vehicle won’t start. The device also records the number of failed breath tests, which can be submitted to a judge and used as evidence against the driver if a condition of probation or parole is that the individual not consume alcohol.  Continue reading

Our drunk driving injury lawyers in Massachusetts are following legal efforts aimed at drunk drivers across New England as the 2019 legislative session begins in earnest.

Massachusetts ranks in the middle of the pack, placing 22nd in a scoring of legal efforts in all 50 states to reduce the risk of drunk driving collisions. And, while the Commonwealth ranked 13th when it comes to criminal penalties for violators, we ranked just 44th in the nation when it comes to prevention efforts, only Iowa, Montana, Idaho, and North and South Dakota Ranked worse. When it comes to criminal penalties, Massachusetts got relatively high marks for felony DUI prosecutions and life-time look-back when it comes to taking into account previous drunk driving convictions. However, no mandatory minimum sentences for first time offenses and a relatively short 90-day administrative license suspension reduced our score.beers

Washington D.C. tied for dead last when it comes to prevention efforts, the consequences of which are becoming apparent. WJLA News in Washington, D.C., reports the number of drunk-driving deaths is on the rise in the nation’s capital, despite fewer drunk-driving crashes being reported to police. Despite fewer crashes, the number of deaths increased dramatically, from 59 in 2016 to 86 in 2017. In many cases, enforcement statistics are a measure of enforcement efforts.

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CBS4 Boston rang in the new year by asking why Massachusetts does not have tougher drunk driving laws.

It’s a fair question and an admirable focus as we enter 2019.

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As we reported earlier this fall on our Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, relaxed marijuana laws and the opioid crisis have increased the risk drivers will be involved in a traffic collision with an at-fault driver impaired by drugs.

In response, Massachusetts launched a statewide campaign in December to target stoned drivers. Massachusetts has 155 officers certified as drug recognition officers and 1,402 trained in advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which is also providing funding to 139 local law enforcement departments for stringent impaired-driving enforcement efforts that will include sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols at high-incident locations.

In Massachusetts, more than 800 drivers were cited in 2018 for driving under the influence of drugs, Channel 22 News reported.

The risks are particularly high this week. Both Christmas and New Year’s Day are among the five most dangerous holidays for traffic accidents, according to the American Safety Council. Increased enforcement is scheduled to run through Jan. 1.

But it’s what we do as a state in 2019 that will have an ever greater impact on road safety.

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With Memorial Day upon us it is a good time to talk about the risk of teen drunk driving accidents as we head into the summer months.

Drunk Driving Car Accident Statistics involving Fatalities in Boston

Drunk driving is not only very dangerous to the person behind the wheel, it presents a grave danger to anyone else on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records indicate more than 10,000 people die each year in the U.S. from alcohol-related traffic crashes.  This number means on average, one person will be killed by a drunk driver nearly every 50 minutes of every day.  Not only is this unacceptable in terms of lives lost, it results in cost to society of around $44 billion each year. There are a variety of factors which make up this cost, but the costs to the victims and their families can be astronomical in terms of  money and emotional pain.  We must remember for each Boston drunk driving accident death, there is a family who is left behind to deal with the pain and suffering. Even in cases which do not prove fatal, there can be tremendous pain and suffering and lives may be altered forever.

Boston drunk drivingIn some cases, it is the passengers in the drunk driver’s vehicle and in other cases, it is pedestrians and drivers or passengers in other vehicles. Due to the higher level of recklessness we tend to see in Boston drunk driving accidents, as compared to accidents in which defendant was acting negligent, but still sober, we tend to see much more severe personal injury.  These are all factors which can make a Boston drunk driving crash more complex from a legal perspective. Continue reading

Drunk driving collisions are among the most dangerous types of car accidents in Boston.  They tend more often to result in fatalities or serious bodily injury to one or more plaintiffs than other “typical” crashes.  While any car accident has the potential to be severe, the reason impaired driving accidents are so often catastrophic is because of the extreme reckless acts so often committed by a drunk driver. Things like wrong-way driving, red-light running and extreme speed all become more common when someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When plaintiffs do survive a serious drunk driving accident, they are often left with severe and lasting injuries including, but not limited to permanent brain damage.

Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer While there is no such thing as a “typical” drunk driving accident, we often see cases where drunk drivers were speeding excessively, operating with a complete disregard for the traffic laws as codified in Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.), and the level of recklessness may actually be enough for the police to charge a drunk driver with assault with a dangerous weapon (his or her car) in addition to drunk driving as we can see in a recent example of a serious alleged Boston drunk driving car accident. Continue reading

We are entering the deadliest time of the year for teen drivers. That’s saying something considering traffic accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths all year long.

Spring break. High school and college graduation. Senioritis, spring and summer road trips. Summer break. Whole crops of freshman and sophomore drivers hitting the roads for the first time. Bad weather. Good weather. Heavy traffic. Long trips home from college.

A confluence of risk factors makes the next 10 weeks or so — from the beginning of spring break to the end of the graduation party season — the most tragic of the year on the nation’s roads.teen-accident-risks-300x225

In the criminal justice system, a drunk driver or a drugged driver who causes serious injury as a result of a crash face up to 10 years behind bars, with a minimum mandatory of six months. However, as recently reported by The Patriot Ledger, felony drunk driving defendants on average serve a little over a year in prison. Only 42 percent of defendants in misdemeanor cases serve time in jail, with the average serving about 8 months. drunk driving injury

But for those injured in Massachusetts drunk driving crashes, the journey is only just beginning. Anyone injured in a crash caused by another motorist in the Commonwealth must first file a claim with their own health and auto insurance companies (though personal injury protection benefits) before pursuing a claim against the other driver. Problematically, drunken and drugged drivers have disparately few assets and often only the minimum mandatory auto insurance coverage.

For most victims, that means their own insurer will cover the first $2,000 in medical bills, after which time their own medical insurance kicks in (with their auto insurer stepping in to reimburse policyholders for doctor co-pays, deductibles and lost wages) up to $8,000. Those who do suffer severe injuries can file a liability claim against the other motorist for a range of damages, which includes past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment and loss of consortium. However, state law mandates drivers only need carry a minimum of $20,000 for every person who is injured in a crash – an amount that has remained stagnant since the 1990s. There is a state bill legislators are currently considering that would raise that to $50,000, but there is no guarantee that will pass. Given the fact that health care, wages and other expenses have risen the last two decades, it makes little sense that the minimum mandatory auto insurance policy would not also rise.  Continue reading

Negligent Entrustment in Boston Drunk Driving Cases

In some drunk driving accidents in Boston the defendant is driving a vehicle owned by a parent, friend, or other family member. There is generally nothing wrong with lending someone a car, but as discussed in Picard v. Thomas, a 2004 case from the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts, a claim for negligent entrustment of motor vehicle can be made pursuant to the  Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.)  and common law if the following elements are met:

  • Vehicle owner entrusted his or her vehicle to a person who is incompetent or unfit and this incompetence or other unfitness resulted in injuries to plaintiff
  •  Vehicle owner gave actual permission to the at-fault driver
  • Vehicle owner had actual knowledge of at-fault driver’s unfitness or incompetence with respect to operation of a motor vehicle.

happy hour DUI accidentIn other words, if a person lets another person use their vehicle despite knowing this person is not able to safely operate a motor vehicle, vehicle owner can also be held liable for any personal injury suffered in connection with a serious or fatal motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts.

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Most car accidents involve only two vehicles.  In the case of a serious Boston drunk driving case however, there may be multiple vehicles involved. This can complicate matters as the total loss in terms of both property damage and personal injury can far exceed the policy limits on the alleged drunk driver’s auto liability policy.  While insurance companies will make some exceptions, especially when factoring in costs of litigation, they are not likely to pay damages well in excess of the policy limits. In these cases, plaintiff who has been seriously injured will have to explore other avenues of recovery to increase the chances of a full and appropriate financial compensation.

A Recent Drunk Driving Car Crash Involving Multiple Vehicles

drunk driving accidentAccording to a recent news article from CBS Boston Local, a 25-year-old defendant has been alleged to have merged onto the Mass Pike at far too high a rate of speed while his driving his 2008 BMW.  As he attempted to merge onto the interstate, he allegedly crashed into the rear of an older Lexus.  He is then alleged to have kept driving until he crashed into a Toyota Sequoia.  After he allegedly ran into the Toyota, it was pushed into another vehicle. During this crash, a passenger in defendant’s car was severely injured. Continue reading

Use and abuse of powerfully addictive drugs like heroin and synthetic opioids like Oxycontin have thrown the country into crisis on many fronts.  Massachusetts has been plagued for years with heroin addiction and now also finds itself dealing with the synthetic opioid epidemic.  One of the ways it has manifested is in a growing number of drugged driving cases in Boston. These can result in serious and fatal car accidents.

Although drugged and drunk driving cases are similar, there are some big differences. Specifically, the ways in which evidence is gathered and impairment proven.

Boston drunk drivingProving alcohol impairment is fairly straightforward, as it moves quickly through the system and presence of the toxin in the blood at certain levels is a clear giveaway of intoxication. Plus, many law enforcement officers readily know the signs and symptoms of alcohol use. Conversely, it may require additional proof to determine if someone is on drugs as opposed to having some type of medical issue.  It can also be complicated if one has a valid prescription, though no prescription excuses one for driving while impaired. These difficulties in identifying drug impairment are at the heart of why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created a course and certification for Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) who may be needed to testify in both criminal and civil trials. Continue reading