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

In many drunk driving car accidents in Boston, a drunk driver will consume too much alcohol to a point where he or she is intoxicated and then crash into another car harming occupants in this vehicle or even hitting a bicyclist or pedestrians.  In these cases, there is generally no relationship between defendant and plaintiffs.  In some cases it is possible at-fault driver knows the victims, especially if it occurs in one of many small towns in the greater Boston area, but even that is generally not the case.  In other words, there is a clear divide between the parties on opposites sides of the “v” as lawyers often say referring to the way a case is captioned with Defendant v. Plaintiff.

Drunk Driving AccidentHowever, this is not the only type of Boston drunk driving lawsuit.  In many cases, a defendant will drive while intoxicated and then get into a car accident in which his or her friends in the car were injured or killed and this can become a much more heart-wrenching matter.  These are the cases where a group of friends went out drinking at a bar or party and get into the car likely knowing driver was too intoxicated to drive.   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

Driving drunk is never a good idea.  It is negligent conduct that puts many lives at risk including the drunk driver, passengers in his or her vehicle, pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants in other vehicles.  According to the law as we can see in Chapter 231 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L), this involves failing to act as a reasonable and prudent driver in such a way that will avoid a preventable car accident.  Negligence in Boston drunk driving accidents can also be proved by showing the defendant violated a traffic or criminal statute enacted to prevent the type of conduct which caused the accident.

Boston Drunk Driving AccidentsIn the case of an accident caused by a drunk driver, this conduct is obviously against the law as the Operating Under the Influence of Intoxicating Liquor or Drugs (OUI) statute can be found in M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 24. However, beyond the law itself, driving drunk is negligent behavior because it involves making bad choices from the moment a defendant chooses to get behind the wheel while intoxicated and then throughout the intoxicated ride and this can lead to a serious or even fatal Boston drunk driving accident. Continue reading

Drunk Drivers Do Not Always Have Liability Insurance

It is the law in most states that in order to drive, you must have a valid driver’s license and the vehicle in which you are operating must have a valid liability insurance policy. This means if you are in an accident and it is determined that the accident is your fault, your insurance company will likely have to pay damages – specifically those stemming from the personal injury suffered by the victims of that crash.  While it is true that Massachusetts is a no-fault state, there are ways to step outside this system, and these cases can end with settlements or verdicts compelling the at-fault driver’s liability insurance company to pay. These regulations are explained by the Division of Insurance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

dui car crash accident lawyer Those cases that do not settle will likely go to trial so that a jury can hear the evidence and render a verdict following trial with respect to whether defendant is liable. If the defendant is determined to be liable for causing the car accident, there will be an award of damages to be paid by the at-fault driver’s car insurance company. Continue reading

It is fairy easy to assign fault when an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel and causes a serious or even fatal Boston drunk driving accident. However, there is the more complex issue of whether a bar or social host that served the alcohol was also responsible for the injuries caused by the drunk driver.  In Boston, a legal claim against a social host or a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol is called a dram shop lawsuit.

Boston Drunk Driving AccidentsThe term dram shop comes from the old British term for what is roughly equivalent to a shot of alcohol.  In the old days, factory workers were often given a “dram break” so they could go drink a dram of gin or whiskey supplied by the company as a perk to workers. Continue reading

A recent law to stop repeat drunk driving has been struck down in Oklahoma as it was declared unconstitutional by the state supreme court.  Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD) have been working for decades to curb drink driving.  They are working to raise money to fund anti-drunk driving campaigns, host educational programs such as the court-mandated victim impact panel (VIP), and to pay for efforts to lobby public officials to enact real change at the state and federal policy level.

Boston drunk driving lawyerIf you have ever watched a drunk driving public service announcement, listened to one in the car when driving on the radio, or seen a highway billboard, you may have noticed a common trend. They all seem to play on the fear impaired drivers have of being arrested.  This is somewhat of a sad commentary, considering the real concern should be that drunk driving can and often does cause serious personal injury or even death. However, drunk driver focus groups over the years have shown the primary concern these individuals have is to their own freedom and well-being, not the hypothetical losses of someone they don’t know.  Continue reading

Drunk driving accidents are different than typical personal injury lawsuits in Boston because the police and prosecutors will be working separately to gather evidence and prove intoxication on behalf of the at-fault driver.  In a typical car accident case, where the driver is not suspected of impairment, police may respond to the scene and conduct a cursory evaluation. They will typically write up a brief vehicle crash report and get the parties to exchange contact information and insurance cards, but there will not likely be any follow up investigation, unless there are serious injuries or death.

Drunk driving accident cases more often result in serious injuries and fatalities, and furthermore, driving drunk is a crime. That means police and prosecutors will be more heavily involved, though this won’t have a direct bearing on the civil case.

This additional work done by the police is for the purpose of convicting the defendant in an OUI trial, but it can also be of great help in obtaining a full and appropriate financial settlement from defendant’s insurance company.  In some cases, the insurance company will realize there is no point in denying liability.  When a defendant is arrested with probable cause for suspicion of drunk driving, insurers are often much quicker to settle.  They will offer to pay to fix plaintiff’s vehicle and will make a settlement offer. This does not however, mean that it will be a good settlement offer as the insurance company may still be willing to fight the case on damages. When this happens, the jury is told that defendant was driving drunk and caused the accident, but it is up to them to decide how much money, if any, the defendant should be required to pay the plaintiff.  This is known as a fight on damages only civil case and they are quite common in drunk driving injury cases.

Boston Drunk Driving Accidents
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The winter holiday season is a time of year when many people are out on the roads after drinking alcohol, due to the all holiday parties and family festivities. This is one reason Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), uses this time to push the legislature into crafting stricter laws related to drunk driving and drunk driving offenders.  According to a recent news article from CBS Local Boston, that is exactly what MADD is doing this year.

Boston drunk driving lawyerMADD is lobbying local lawmakers to require alcohol ignition interlock devices for first-time operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (OUI) offenders.  Pursuant to the current law, these alcohol ignition interlock devices are only mandated for those who have been convicted two or more times for OUI.  This current ignition interlock law can be found in the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.) Chapter 90, Section 241/2.

Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices