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FabNFree-Free-Vintage-Brain-Graphic-256x300The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that approximately 2.8 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year. Out of these 2.8 million, the CDC states: 50,000 die; 282,000 are hospitalized; and 1.365 million, nearly 80 percent, are treated and released from an emergency department.  Looking at this CDC’s report reveals the stark reality of the impact of TBIs:

“Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. TBIs contribute to about 30 percent of all injury deaths. Every day, 153 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI. Those who survive a TBI can face effects that last a few days or the rest of their lives. Effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), or emotional functioning (e.g., personality changes, depression). These issues not only affect individuals but can have lasting effects on families and communities.”

The brain, although protected by the skull, is extremely sensitive. According to Mayo Clinic, the brain has the consistency of gelatin, and is cushioned from everyday jolts and bumps by cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. A concussion is defined as “…a type of traumatic brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body, a fall, or another injury that jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. Although there may be cuts or bruises on the head or face, there may be no other visible signs of a brain injury.” These blows cause the brain to slide back and forth forcefully against the inner walls of the skull. Symptoms of a concussion may include, headaches, pressure in the head, temporary loss of consciousness, confusion, memory loss, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, slurred speech, delayed response, appearing dazed, and fatigue.

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IMG_7747-169x300A dog bite occurs every 75 seconds in the US. Each year, according to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (“AHRQ”), 1,000 Americans require emergency treatment due to a serious dog bite injury. In 2016, there were 31 dog bite fatalities in the Unites States. So far in 2017 there have already been 10 deaths related to dog bites, the youngest victim was only 3-weeks old! Newborns attacked by dogs is not a rare occurrence. In 2016, children 3 to 6 days old who were bitten by dogs accounted for 31% of all deaths in children.

In Massachusetts the law governing dog bites states that an owner or keeper of a dog is liable for the damage caused by their dog to the individual or property. M.G.L. ch. 140 §155.

If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper … shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog.

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In 2016, truck driving was ranked number 8 in Forbes magazine’s deadliest jobs in America. Truck driving is deadly because of the grueling shifts drivers must work. In 2013, the U.S. Department of transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated that the average work week for a truck driver must decrease from 82 hours of driving in a week to 70 hours. Drivers must rest for 34 consecutive hours before they are allowed to start up another work week of 70 hours. In addition, to having to take a 34 hour break in between work weeks, drivers are also required to take a 30 minute break during the first 8 hours of a shift. These guidelines for drivers, and the companies they work for, are being strictly enforced by the FMCSA. Companies that allow their drivers to exceed the driving limits of 70 hours a week by more than 3 hours risk being fined $11,000 per offense. The drivers also could face being fined up to $2,750 for each offense.

Even though these FMCSA rules were put in place to ensure that drivers were getting enough rest and driving safely, we still see many serious crashes that involve trucks. For instance, the 2014 crash involving comedian Tracey Morgan’s limo and a Walmart truck shows what can happen when a driver does not get enough sleep. In 2014, Walmart truck driver Kevin Roper fell asleep at the wheel after being awake for close to 25 hours. Not only did Mr. Roper fall asleep at the wheel, but he was going 20 mph over the speed limit in a construction zone when he rear ended Mr. Morgan’s limo. As a result of this crash, Mr. Morgan was severely injured and comedian James McNair was killed.

Driver fatigue and traveling too fast for road conditions are two conditions that are the leading causes for truck related crashes, according to FMCSA. Other drivers are not the only individuals in danger during truck related crashes. A U.S. News article reported that 65% of truck drivers related deaths are due to crashes. It was also stated that the majority of these fatalities were drivers who were not wearing their seatbelts, which is not an uncommon practice among truck drivers. 14% of truck drivers admitted to not using their seat belts on every trip and even admitted that they would also speed and practice other unsafe driving habits. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Center for Motor Vehicle Safety encourage all trucking companies to provide driver safety programs to address the risk of driving a truck. These programs would also encourage drivers to wear seatbelts, not use their phones, and to get ample amount of sleep.

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In Massachusetts drivers are allowed right turn on red (“RTOR”). Under M.G.L.c 89 §8 “You must come to a complete stop at a red traffic light. You may turn right unless a NO TURN ON RED SIGN IS PRESENT.” The original purpose of RTOR was a fuel saving measure, which the federal government promoted during the oil crises in the 1970’s. The Federal Highway Administration found that allowing drivers to turn right on red would result in drivers spending 1 to 4.6 seconds less time stopped at red lights. RTOR was initially adopted in 1980 by all 50 states to try and maintain steady traffic flow with minimum risk of accidents, but RTOR has had serious unintended consequences. A 1981 Department of Transportation study (“DOT”) showed that only one year after RTOR was adopted, there was a significant increase in the amount of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists. According to the above DOT study “[t]he majority of these RTOR crashes involved a driver looking left for a gap in traffic and striking a pedestrian or bicyclist coming from the driver’s right.” The fuel savings gained from RTOR are not worth the very real risk that RTOR poses to pedestrians. According to a 2009 U.S. National Household Transportation Survey car trips under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year: it is obvious that driving less and walking more would result in substantial fuel savings. In order to achieve greater fuel savings we would be better off making our streets safer for pedestrians to encourage folks to park their vehicles at home for short trips and walk instead. One way of making our streets safer would be to do away with right turns on red.

Right turns at red lights are not the only thing that makes Boston streets dangerous for pedestrians. Pedestrians put themselves at risk by jaywalking. Jaywalking is when someone on foot crosses the street outside of a crosswalk without regard for oncoming traffic. In Boston, jaywalking is an illegal offense fineable up to $2 according to M.G.L.c 90 §18A. A recent Boston Globe article reported that the number of motor vehicle accidents involving jaywalkers more than doubled since last year. When the Globe article asked Bostonians why they feel safe Jaywalking, they attributed it to “impatience, poorly timed lights, and stated that if Boston drivers could violate traffic rules why couldn’t they. Jaywalking could also be largely attributed to the fact that Police Officers do not fine Jaywalkers like they should according to Massachusetts law. When an officer was asked why he did not fine Jaywalkers he stated “no self-respecting cop would bother taking the time to book someone for such an offense.” The law to fine jaywalkers has been around since 1962, but is something that was not feared or imposed since the highest fine you could receive was $2. In February 2016, Massachusetts State Senate Majority Leader Hariette Chandler, proposed a bill that would increase the fine of jaywalking to $25 for a first offense, $50 for second offense, and $75 for any subsequent offenses. Ms. Chandler proposed this bill after there were numerous pedestrian deaths in Worcester because of Jaywalking. The proposed bill has failed to advance and therefore the fine for Jaywalking is still $1 for the first offense and $2 for any subsequent offenses.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured or killed while crossing the street in Boston, then please contact one of our experienced pedestrian accident attorneys at Mitcheson & Lee, so that we can get you the compensation you deserve.

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On April 30, 2017 CBS Boston  reported that a cyclist was clipped by a car at 3:30 am in the Back Bay area of Boston. We now know that that cyclist was Rick Archer, a 29-year-old bike courier. Mr. Archer was riding with his friend down Commonwealth Ave. when he was struck by a car driver who fled the scene. Sadly, Mr. Archer passed away from his injuries two days after the crash. This CBS report, like many news stories, implies that the cyclists were in the wrong because they were not in the bike lane at the time of the crash. However, according to Massachusetts bicycling laws Mr. Archer and his friend had every right to be in a lane of traffic and not in the bike lane.

In Massachusetts, cyclists can ride anywhere, just like a car, with few exceptions. Mass. Gen. Law. Ch. 85 Section 11B states that cyclist have the right to use a full lane anywhere, anytime, and on any street even if there is a bike lane present. Cyclists riding on the road must follow the same rules of the road just like car drivers. Cyclists must travel in the same direction of traffic and stop at traffic lights and signs, just like cars. Cyclists may ride side-by-side according to Mass. Gen. Law. Ch. 85 Section 11B, as long as they stay in one lane and do not unnecessarily restrict other vehicles from passing them.

A recent Harvard study found an increase in the number of bike crashes in Boston in the last few years due to the increasing number of cyclists. Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston have started a campaign to improve biking safety and awareness through the “Vision Zero Boston Action Plan” which aims to eliminate all fatal crashes by changing the design of the roads and creating more designated bike areas. Unfortunately, there are still far too many bike crashes and injuries happening. To illustrate this point, one has only to look out for the many “Ghost Bikes” around the Boston area. Ghost bikes are white bikes marking crash sites where cyclists have died. A Ghost Bike ceremony was recently held in May for Rick Archer, who was the fourth cyclist to die in Massachusetts in this year alone.

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It will come as no surprise to anyone that has ever driven in Boston that Bostonians are the worst drivers in America, so says a report by Allstate Insurance in 2016. For the past three years Boston has ranked #1 for the city with the worst drivers in America. Despite their ranking as the worst drivers for three years straight, Bostonians’ driving actually improved last year! In 2016, Bostonians had a new car crash every 7.1 years, which was a vast improvement from 2015, in which they recorded a new crash every 3.9 years. Sadly, Boston drivers are still reporting car crashes more frequently than the safest drivers in parts of Texas, who report a crash every 14.6 years.

There are various reason why Bostonians are the worst drivers in America, but the main reason is that Bostonians do not follow the rules of the road. First, turn signals are rarity in Boston. Turn signals are so rare a sighting in Boston that in 2014 the Massachusetts Police started a campaign to remind drivers to “Use Yah Blinkah.” The campaign actually lead to more drivers using their ‘blinkahs”, but it seems that that alone was not enough to boost Bostonians safe driver ranking.

Maybe we can lay some blame for Bostonians’ worst driver ranking on a driving move called the “Boston Left”. The “Boston Left” describes a driver stopped at a traffic light who doesn’t have a left-turn arrow, and who suddenly makes a left turn, cutting across the oncoming traffic before their light turns green, as seen in this Youtube video.