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What to do if you are injured in a car accident while using a rideshare app as a passenger

The sharing economy and start-ups have brought many new and wonderful services to consumers, but sometimes the law struggles to catch up to these innovations. In the case of ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft, some municipalities have struggled to create regulations and taxes on individual drivers or on the rideshare companies. Ensuring passenger safety with thorough background checks on potential drivers and with swift penalties for those who take advantage of passengers has also been a challenge, one left primarily in the hands of ridesharing apps.

One area where the law remains clear with regard to rideshare drivers and their passengers is the imposition of liability for motor vehicle accidents. While the law is certain and established on this point, treating an incident with a rideshare vehicle like any other collision, the newness of these apps might lead to some confusion for injured passengers seeking their rightful compensation. Read on to learn what you should do, if you are involved in a car accident as a rideshare passenger.

When an accident occurs, you should remain as calm as possible. If you are able, assist others who might not be able to assist themselves due to injury or preexisting disability. Do not leave the scene without getting the usual identity and insurance information of all drivers involved; if there are witnesses, such as other passengers or passers-by, try to get their information as well. As soon as you are in a safe place, and have had proper medical attention—as discussed below—you should also notify the rideshare service of the accident, preferably in writing.

Even if you do not feel injured immediately following the crash, you should seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible, preferably soon after leaving the accident scene. Many injuries are difficult to detect until after your adrenaline has worn off. For both medical and legal reasons, delaying treatment cannot only lead to longer healing times and worse health outcomes, but delayed treatment makes it easier for an insurance company to argue that your injuries were not the result of the accident.

As mentioned above, assigning liability is one area of law that has not had to adapt to the new rideshare apps. As a passenger, you are mostly immune from liability, regardless of the other circumstances of the accident. This is why many people turn to rideshare apps such as Uber or Lyft when they need a designated driver; companies and organizations even arrange discounted rides with rideshares for their social events to limit their liability.

If your rideshare driver is at-fault, your first option is to seek compensation through the driver’s personal insurance policy. However, unless the driver has a commercial policy or a special clause in their personal auto policy, accidents that occurred during rideshares are most likely not covered. You would then pursue a claim against the ridesharing company’s policy; such policies often cover up to a million dollars in loss from a single incident.

If a driver other than the one operating your rideshare vehicle is at fault, you may pursue a claim against his or her insurance policy.

Car accidents can be terrifying, life-changing, or—if you are lucky to avoid major injury—an unnecessary annoyance in the midst of your busy life. Having the right lawyer as partner can help you recoup losses, pay for medical treatment, and put an unwelcome chapter in your life behind you. Whether you have been injured as a rideshare passenger or under other circumstances, call our office today to discuss your options.

My mother slipped while walking through an icy mall parking lot and broke her arm. Who is responsible for her injury?

Slip and fall accidents are common when weather conditions are wet and icy. As a Massachusetts resident, there are a few things to consider, if you’re contemplating filing a personal injury claim after a slip and fall on snow or ice in a public place.

When it comes to maintaining the safety of public areas, such as parking lots or sidewalks, the property owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care. This is a legal duty, and breach of that duty can result in liability for negligence. The periodic inspection of the property and the removal or remediation of snow and ice within a reasonable time is the duty of property owners to reduce the risk of falls and injuries.

However, while the duty to maintain the safety of property is the responsibility of the property owner, members of the public also have a duty to exercise reasonable care when walking in an area they know will be wet or icy. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts no longer follows the “natural accumulation” rule, which relieved a property owner of liability in connection with the natural accumulation of snow and ice. Currently, landlords and property owners are held to a higher standard.

But Massachusetts residents should be aware that numerous laws regarding snow and ice removal and liability, can add complications to personal injury claims. Injury claims due to negligent conditions are allowed by law. However, there is no standard for what qualifies as a reasonable time to complete a cleanup.

Talk to one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to learn more about the property rules where you live, and how they might affect your case.

How does insurance coverage differ when a motorcycle is involved?

Massachusetts motor vehicle laws and insurance coverage requirements for vehicle owners and motorcyclists vary. It’s essential to understand your coverage before an accident occurs so you can be prepared for unforeseen incidents. After all, that’s why you have coverage in the first place.

Everyone is required by law to have a specific minimum coverage for a vehicle to be lawfully on the road. One component of this coverage is called Personal Injury Protection(PIP) benefits. These are no-fault benefits for medical bills and lost wages; no-fault meaning the insurance company pays them regardless of your fault in the accident.

However, it’s vital to understand that motor vehicle Personal Injury Protection benefits are not available to motorcyclists. Even if you are willing to pay for this benefit as a motorcyclist, it is not an option. This is why it’s so important to talk with your insurance agent to go over different potential scenarios so you make sure that you have the proper coverage in place.

The biggest mistake motorcyclists make is to assume the right coverage is in place. Do not wait until an accident occurs, and medical bills begin accumulating, to verify your coverage.

When insuring a motorcycle, the first step is to get the right coverage. Anyone who owns or operates a motorcycle should talk to their insurance agent about medical payments coverage. This will protect motorcyclists who are injured in a motorcycle collision, whether it’s with a motor vehicle or some other object. This form of coverage pays for medical bills or treatments.

While we’re all required to have some form of health insurance, the added layer of protection from medical payments coverage will go a long way to pay for medical bills and treatment. This is particularly true in Massachusetts, where coverage is heavily regulated, and you’re obligated to have medical bills from a car or motorcycle accident processed a certain way. This is why you want to have answers regarding your coverage before there’s an incident.

If you’re a motorcyclist involved in an accident with a car, who pays your medical bills, because PIP benefits are unavailable to you?

The motorcyclist’s health insurance ideally covers medical bills while the insurance of the at-fault vehicle is responsible for compensation for pain and suffering and loss of future earning capacity. However, if the motorcyclist is struck by a vehicle that doesn’t have enough insurance coverage, the motorcycle driver may be left covering unpaid expenses.

One option to protect against this situation is to seek higher limits for uninsured/underinsured bodily injury coverage. This will allow motorcyclists to have an extra layer of protection, if the vehicle that strikes them does not have enough insurance coverage.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, our team of lawyers is here to help. Give our office a call to explore your legal options.

My husband was in a fatal accident, can I file a wrongful death claim?

Under Massachusetts law, a person or company may be liable for wrongful death, if the death of another is caused by (1) negligence, or failing to exercise reasonable care, (2) a “wanton or reckless act,” or (3) a breach of warranty.

In order to bring forward a wrongful death claim, the surviving individual must have suffered damages due to the untimely death of another. Precisely who those survivors can be varies from state to state. Massachusetts requires “the executor or administrator of the deceased” to file a wrongful death claim in court. This refers to the person responsible for following any instructions left in the deceased person’s will or for paying the deceased person’s final debts.  This person is now called a “personal representative” and he or she can file a claim on behalf of the surviving individual(s).

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit, which differs from a criminal case. This means it must be filed by the personal representative directly, and any liability is expressed solely in terms of monetary damages.

A Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit may compensate damages for the following reasons:

  1. The loss of the deceased person’s expected income.
  2. The loss of care, companionship, comfort, guidance, and nurturing the deceased would have provided to family members.
  3. The medical treatment costs that the deceased victim incurred as a result of the injury prior to death.
  4. Reasonable funeral and burial expenses.

If you have suffered a loss due to wrongful death, our office is here to help. The process of filing a wrongful death claim can be complicated, but we’ll be with you every step of the way.

I was injured as a passenger of an Uber driver, who is responsible for damages?

If you’re injured in a ride-sharing vehicle, such as Uber or Lyft, you have a right to get compensation for your injuries and other damages.

Financial responsibility typically falls on the insurance company of the at-fault driver, which may be the ride-sharing company’s driver or another driver involved in the accident who caused the crash.

The ride-sharing driver’s car insurance coverage will apply to passenger injuries only, if the driver has a commercial insurance policy or a personal car insurance policy with a special provision providing coverage while engaged as a ride-sharing driver. However, many ride-share drivers do not have such coverage. Additionally, personal car insurance policy usually has a “business use exception” that won’t cover damages and injuries that occur while the insured is acting as a for-profit driver.

If the driver’s insurance will not cover passenger injury, Uber and Lyft carry third party liability insurance coverage, which pays up to $1 million for personal injuries and property damage per accident. The third-party liability insurance will only cover costs when the ride-sharing driver is at fault for the accident; the ride-sharing driver’s own insurance has been exhausted; or the responsible driver is unknown, doesn’t have car insurance, or doesn’t have enough car insurance to pay for your injuries.

If the above insurance policies do not fully compensate you, or the insurance companies refuse to pay out, you can try going after the ride-sharing company itself. However, this should be considered a last resort option.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and specifically while riding in an Uber or Lyft, contact us immediately to discuss your options.

I was bitten by a neighbor’s dog a year ago, can I file a personal injury lawsuit now?

Each state has a law that sets a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in the state’s civil court system after an accident. This law is called the “statute of limitations,” and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts gives you three years to file a personal injury lawsuit.

The three-year time limit typically starts on the day of the accident, which would be the case in the event of a dog bite. If you don’t get your lawsuit filed within three years, you may lose your right to have a court hear your injury case.

Many states have a “one bite rule” where dog owners are protected (to some degree) from liability the first time their dog injures someone, if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. In Massachusetts, however, a specific statute makes the owner “strictly liable.”

In strict-liability states, regardless of the animal’s past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. The dog bite statute holds the defendant liable, if the plaintiff was legally allowed to be where he was when the bite occurred, and the plaintiff did not provoke the dog at the time of the dog bite. Turn to public liability insurance policies, provided by constructaquote.com

If you have questions regarding a personal injury case, contact our office today,

I sustained a serious injury while working out at my gym. Is the gym liable?

Gym injuries are common, especially minor sprains and pulled muscles. If your own carelessness contributed to the incident, the gym may not be liable. However, when malfunctioning equipment or employee negligence causes an injury, you may have a personal injury case.

Gyms are responsible for maintaining a reasonably safe workout environment. The gym should clean equipment regularly and maintain it properly. If you sustain an injury by slipping on a wet floor, by improperly kept equipment, or by catching a serious illness, such as a staph infection, from unsanitary equipment, then the gym may be liable to you for that injury.

Equipment manufacturers and other gym-goers can also be liable for your injuries. If someone else intentionally or carelessly injures you at the gym (for example, a free weight user drops a weight, and it hits you), they may be responsible for any injuries you sustain. Similarly, if you sustain an injury due to a faulty or improperly documented workout machine, you may have a case against the equipment manufacturer.

When joining a gym, it’s important to read the liability waiver and ask questions. While many gym members think that a liability waiver means they cannot pursue legal action against a gym, that is not always true. While a liability waiver may prevent you from taking specific actions, it does not fully protect gyms from personal injury liability.

Depending on the incident, you may have an opportunity to challenge the validity of a waiver. Keep in mind that no waiver protects a gym establishment from liability for intentional or grossly negligent acts. If you sustain an injury due to no fault of your own while on gym property, consider talking to a personal injury attorney.

My neighbor allows her dog to run loose. While walking my own dog, the neighbor’s bit me. What recourse do I have under the law?

An aggressive dog is a menace to the neighborhood and, potentially, a source of great legal trouble for the owner. In Massachusetts, a dog and its owner are not granted any leniency in terms of civil liability, even if this is the first occasion on which the dog has bitten someone. Additionally, since Massachusetts is a “strict liability” state, even if a dog is restrained or an owner otherwise takes “reasonable precautions,” the owner may still be liable.

If you plan on filing a claim or a lawsuit, be sure to take pictures of your injuries and bring documentation from your doctor. If you’ve previously taken pictures of the dog running loose, that is also helpful. There may be additional, local ordinances against unleashed dogs that come into play. An experienced personal injury attorney, such as one of our partners, will be able to assess the individual circumstances of a dog attack. All this assumes, however, that neither you nor your own dog did anything to provoke the neighbor’s animal. The law waives liability for the owner of a dog, if the victim of the bite was trespassing or in any way harassing or tormenting the dog.

Call our office today to discuss your options for compensation following a dog bite or another injury.

I recently discovered toxic mold in my apartment. Am I allowed to withhold rent until the mold is removed?

Landlords are urged to take mold seriously under Massachusetts law. Long term exposure to black mold is potentially harmful to health and may cause a wide range of symptoms and consequences, specially for people with lung diseases or weakened immune systems.

Regardless of the provisions of a written lease agreement, landlords in Massachusetts are bound by “implied warranty of habitability.” This legal doctrine requires the landlord to provide tenants with apartments in livable condition. Tenants in Massachusetts have the right to pursue two common legal self-help strategies.

The first, known as “rent withholding,” is when tenants stop paying rent, claiming the mold has made their apartment uninhabitable. The second strategy, known as “repair and deduct,” involves tenants taking care of mold cleanup or a pest control issue will be taken care on their own and then subtracting the cost from their rent.

Several conditions need to be met under Massachusetts law for these options to be legal. For example, most rent withholding laws do not permit you to withhold rent, if you are behind in the rent or in violation of a relevant lease clause. You  also must report the problem and give your landlord a reasonable opportunity to fix the issue. Additionally, the problem must be severe, not just annoying, and must imperil your health or safety.

Tenants who believe they have been harmed by the presence of high concentrations of mold in their apartment can try to recover damages from their landlord in court to compensate them for their loss. For help regarding harmful mold, give our legal team a call.

At a shopping center, I slipped on the wet floor and broke my tailbone. Would I sue the owners of the particular store, or of the entire complex?

Liability depends on many factors, including the exact location where you slipped and the cause of the wet floor.

Typically, an individual or corporation owns the building that comprises the shopping center. The owner then rents out specific units to other individuals or corporations. While the tenants are responsible for conditions within their rented units, the landlord typically remains responsible for conditions in the common spaces of the mall or shopping center. The first factor to consider is whether you slipped inside a tenant’s store or in an area for which the landlord is usually responsible, such as a corridor, a food court, a parking lot, or a restroom.

From here, the issues of liability become more complicated, revealing why it is important to consult a personal injury attorney as you pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering:

• Why was the floor wet? Was it sloppy housekeeping? Was the landlord or the tenant responsible for housekeeping in the area where you fell? Was a third party hired for housekeeping, making them partially liable as well?

• Did the wet floor resulted from leaking pipes, poorly maintained pavement, or unmarked hazards? These hazards may have resulted from the negligence of the landlord, even if you slipped and fell.

As you have seen, liability is a complicated question. Call our office today to discuss your options. Our experienced personal-injury attorneys will work to make sure you receive the absolute maximum for your suffering.