Articles Posted in Car Accidents

In a recent car accident case, a Massachusetts federal judge held that the defendant was not entitled to obtain copies of the plaintiff’s mental health records. In Conklin v. Feitelberg, a woman suffered severe injuries as the result of a car crash that occurred in June 2011 involving the defendant. In her complaint, the plaintiff brought claims for negligence, seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

During discovery, the defense informed the plaintiff that it intended to seek copies of medical records from the five physicians from whom the plaintiff had sought mental health treatment. The subpoena that the defendant prepared requested records for the period of one year before the accident through to the present day. In response, the plaintiff filed a motion seeking a protective order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), claiming that the mental health records were privileged. The defendant also filed a motion to compel production of the mental health records.

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New England is no stranger to severe winters that bring several feet of snow in one storm. For many Massachusetts residents, this poses serious problems when it comes to handling our daily chores and getting to work on time. As the snow piles up on the roadways and is removed to the roadside, it can narrow the number of lanes available for travel, making it hard to see roadway obstructions, pedestrians, and traffic signals and signs.

It also wreaks havoc on the roadways, leading to a rise in motor vehicle accidents during the storm season and winter months. Although some dangers cannot be avoided on the road during this particularly challenging time of year, there is one simple thing motorists can do to help minimize the risk of accidents:  clean the snow and ice off windshields, sideview mirrors, and windows.

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One of the most common issues that arises in a car accident case is a dispute between the injured victim and the responsible driver’s insurance company. In many instances, the defendant’s insurer will try to avoid paying benefits to the injured plaintiff, causing many headaches for everyone involved.

Although you’d think the injured party’s own insurance company would have a better track record when it comes to cooperation, in many instances that is not the case. In Regis v. Progressive Insurance Company, the plaintiff made a claim under his own insurance policy seeking benefit payments pursuant to the uninsured motorist coverage included within. The plaintiff and his insurance company were unable to reach an agreement, and the plaintiff filed suit requesting the court to order his insurer into arbitration.

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In the recent case of Rose v. Farina, a Massachusetts Court of Appeals was presented with the question of whether a jury was inconsistent in the way that it answered three targeted questions presented to them in a motor vehicle accident case. The facts of the case are as follows. During 2007, the plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car accident resulting in severe injuries to the plaintiff. In his lawsuit, the plaintiff contended that the defendant was at fault for the accident and responsible for his injuries. During the trial, the defendant offered evidence indicating that the plaintiff’s injuries were preexisting and not a result of the car accident. The trial also included expert witness testimony regarding the plaintiff’s injuries.

At the close of trial, the jury was tasked with addressing three specific questions:  do you find the defendant negligent, was the defendant’s negligence the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and how much money would adequately and fairly compensate the plaintiff for the injuries and damages he sustained due to the defendant’s negligence.

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Many people are familiar with the concept of driving while drunk, which is commonly referred to as driving under the influence. In Massachusetts, however, the technical name for this offense is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This important distinction is intended to cover those drivers who are under the influence of substances other than alcohol and who pose a threat to other motorists and pedestrians.

In a recent article from CNN, the number of reported incidences of motorists driving under the influence of marijuana is increasing. According to nationwide statistics, incidences of so-called “drugged” driving have risen from 12 percent in 2007 to 15 percent in 2014. These statistics were compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety information service based on voluntary roadside surveys, which involve the volunteers contributing saliva or blood samples on the roadside.

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Massachusetts is one of 17 states that require motorists to obtain Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as part of their auto insurance coverage policies. The benefits provided under PIP are called no-fault insurance coverage, meaning that you have a right to make a claim with your insurer to receive PIP benefits after you have been involved in an accident, whether or not you were at fault. Many injured motorists file a claim for PIP benefits to cover their medical expenses following a collision, which can become incredibly expensive.

In the recent case of Ortiz v. Examworks, Inc., the plaintiff suffered injuries as a passenger in a vehicle. The owner of the vehicle owned an insurance policy through Progressive Insurance. The injured passenger filed a claim with the insurance company, seeking payment of PIP benefits. According to Massachusetts law, whenever a claimant seeks payment of PIP benefits, the claimant must undergo an examination by an independent medical examiner. Accordingly, the insurance company contacted the defendant driver’s insurer to arrange for an independent medical examination, or IME. The defendant’s insurance company arranged the appointment with a physical therapist instead of a medical doctor.

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In August 2015, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) levied its largest fine to date against Fiat Chrysler for the car company’s failure to fix unsafe automobiles according to the U.S. Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Pursuant to the court’s order, Fiat Chrysler’s civil penalties totaled roughly $105 million. Until the order was entered, the largest NHTSA fine assessed belonged to Honda, doled out a few months earlier, in the amount of $70 million.

Now, another major car manufacturer is finding itself in hot water over criminal charges. In a recent press release, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is pursuing criminal charges against General Motors (GM), alleging that the Detroit-based manufacturer concealed a potentially deadly safety defect from NHTSA beginning in the spring of 2012 and continuing through February 2015. The DOJ also claims that, as a result of the deceptive act, consumers were misled regarding the purported safety of some of GM’s vehicles.

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Earlier this year, a Massachusetts Court of Appeal issued an opinion providing clarification for the State’s premises liability law. The court’s ruling can be viewed as a win for plaintiffs who suffer injuries as the result of unsafe conditions on a commercial property.

Back in 2007, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state, decided Sheehan v. Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Inc., 448 Mass. 780 (2007), in which the court used a rule known as the “mode of operation” doctrine to determine whether a plaintiff could recover against a storeowner for negligence in a premises liability case. This doctrine was more permissive in allowing plaintiffs to recover compensation.

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According to AAA, summer marks the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers who get behind the wheel. Although summer offers young drivers an opportunity to travel and engage in other hobbies and activities, it also presents them with ample time to make mistakes behind the wheel. Unsurprisingly, Massachusetts and the surrounding New England region are seeing an increase in motor vehicle accidents involving teen motorists.

Last month, for example, a New England news source reported that two teenagers suffered severe injuries after the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a group of trees. Both occupants, one 19 and the other 17, were trapped inside the vehicle immediately after the collision.The passenger was flown to a local hospital and treated for severe injuries, while the driver was also treated for a number of physical injuries.

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THE MOFFA REPORT MAY 2015

Five Ways Young Cape Codders Can Avoid the Perils of Prom & Graduation

By John S. Moffa, Esq.

They are innocent and iconic springtime rites-of-passage though both prom and graduation ‘seasons’ are fraught with danger between the Lower and Upper Capes and all towns in between. Between the glitter, flowers, pictures and teenage merriment that comes with proms and commencement into a wider world, only a thoughtless moment separates a minor wearing a gown or tux or graduation robe from a senseless, life-changing moment involving alcohol, a motor vehicle accident or other type of personal injury.

Unfortunately, my office has seen first hand the devastating effects of alcohol and driving during prom and graduation season. In 2010 I represented the family of a teenaged girl who was tragically killed while a passenger in a friend’s car en route to pick up their prom dresses. We have handled many drunk-driving cases over the years involving teenagers, and it is always heartbreaking to see the impact one bad decision can have
on family, friends and loved ones.

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