Michael S. Mehrmann

vehicle keysIf you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident, you probably understand that the operator of the vehicle is someone who potentially is liable for your injuries. However, there may be others, even if they were not involved firsthand in the accident itself, who may owe you compensation. In order to pursue these others successfully, you have to be able to show that the ultimate incident that injured you was the foreseeable result of that party’s action or inaction. To be sure your case includes all of the individuals and entities who potentially may be liable to you, be sure you’ve retained an experienced Massachusetts injury attorney.

A recent ruling from the Appellate Court is a reminder that, even if someone took a vehicle without the owner’s authorization, there may be facts that allow you to pursue the vehicle’s owner. That recent case was actually a property damage case, not an injury action. A sand and gravel company’s employee left a front-end loader unattended during a snowstorm, with the keys in the ignition, idling. The employee left the vehicle at 10 P.M. and at 2 A.M., he returned to the lot. Sometime during the intervening four hours, an “unknown and unauthorized” person had taken the vehicle and smashed into two trucks belonging to another company, substantially damaging them.

The owner of the damaged trucks sued. The trial judge threw out his case, deciding that the damage was not a “foreseeable consequence” of leaving the keys in the front-end loader. The appeals court reversed that decision and revived the damaged trucks’ owner’s case.

work zone, injury, accident, personal, attorney

Approaching a work zone

As the flowers bloom and the trees leaf out, it’s a familiar sign as any that the warmer months are coming in Massachusetts. A sign nearly as familiar as the vibrant greens on the trees are the equally vibrant orange cones signifying a work zone. In Massachusetts there is only so much appropriate weather to get road work done in a given year, so as the leaves and flowers proliferate so to do the work zones. A great deal of effort goes into making work zones safe, from deploying state and local police, to temporarily dropping the speed limit, to reducing lanes of traffic, it would seem there’s no shortage of methods of increasing safety of workers in these zones, as well as the safety of the drivers passing through them. Yet despite attempts to improve safety precautions accidents involving personal injury and even fatalities continue to happen.

According to statistics from the Federal Highway Administration on average in 2015 a work zone crash occurred once every 5.4 minutes, 70 crashes occurred in a day with at least on resulting in injury, and every week 12 work zone crashes resulted in at least one fatality. The data shows a trend with work zone crashes comparing similarly with non-work zone crashes. The problem is work zones are designed with the intention of reducing the risk for accidents, yet the data shows a negligible reduction in accidents in work zones versus those outside of work zones.

workers compEach workplace accident that ends in death is tragic as it cuts a life short far too soon. It is also traumatic for the loved ones left behind. In addition to emotional damage, workers who die as a result of industrial accidents can potentially cause major financial crises for their immediate loved ones, as they may be significant (or even sole) income earners for their families. In Massachusetts, the families of workers killed on the job have certain legal avenues available to them. One of these is seeking workers’ compensation death benefits. To make sure that you obtain the compensation your family needs to survive financially, talk to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

July 2018 was an unfortunately bad month for fatal industrial accidents in Massachusetts. In one instance, a 26-year-old died after entering a large industrial cutting machine that was under maintenance at a facility in Sharon. At some point, the man became stuck inside the machine’s workings. EMTs took roughly 90 minutes to free the man and rush him to the hospital. Although the worker was conscious and talking to the EMTs when they arrived, he died at the hospital from his injuries. Roughly a week later, a worker at a Concord hospital died from injuries sustained at his workplace. The 46-year-old man was working on the hospital’s boiler system when he entered its crawl space. He left behind a wife and two children.

Surviving spouses, children and other dependents of workers killed in a workplace accident (or who die as a result of complications from that accident) can obtain workers’ compensation survivor benefits. (Children are only eligible for benefits if they are under 18, are full-time students or cannot work due to their disabilities.)

Having insurance in Massachusetts is a legal requirement in order for an individual to legally operate a vehicle within the state. While the extent of one’s coverage may vary, in Massachusetts individuals are required to carry four types of compulsory auto insurance with their own minimum requirements. The types of auto insurance are Bodily Injury to Others, Personal Injury Protection, Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto, and Damage to Someone Else’s Property.

  • Bodily Injury to Others: The minimum requirement in Massachusetts for Bodily Injury to Others is $20,000 per person/ $40,000 per accident. This type of insurance gives an individual protection against legal liability for the accidental injury or death of others caused by the operation of your car. This is only applicable to accidents that occur in Massachusetts. While this protects an individual from legal liability to individuals involved in an accident, the protections do not extend to your passengers.
Mass Insurance coverage

You must meet minimum Insurance requirements to be eligible to drive in Mass

A famous book once advised, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” While that advice may work well in many areas, the law is not one of those areas. In legal matters, including workers’ compensation cases, small details can make big differences in outcomes. To make sure you have all of your bases covered in your workers’ compensation case, both great and small, be sure you have representation from a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.Legal News Gavel

C.P.’s workers’ compensation case was one example in which the details mattered a lot. C.P. was an assistant manager of a supermarket meat department in 2013 when, while pulling a box of chicken at work, he injured his back. The manager filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer fought the manager’s request for benefits, but the workers’ compensation judge ordered the employer to pay temporary total disability benefits of $1,040 per week, starting on Dec. 2, 2013.

In the spring of 2016, the employee filed a request for permanent total disability benefits. The judge, however, only awarded the employer partial disability benefits. At the hearing, the judge had heard from a doctor who diagnosed C.P. with a protruding disc and, while concluding that the employee could not perform his old meat cutter duties, found that he could do light-duty work as long as it involved no prolonged standing or walking, and no lifting of more than 10 pounds.

To win a premises liability case in Massachusetts, you may have multiple options that you can use. If you seek a favorable judgment based upon the “traditional theory” of premises liability, you need proof that the hazard upon which you slipped was something of which the property owner knew or something that had existed for a long enough period of time that the owner reasonably should have known about it if it was being properly diligent. To learn more about your options if you’ve been hurt in a slip-and-fall (or trip-and-fall) accident, be sure you retain skilled Massachusetts premises liability counsel to handle your case.wet floor

A recent example of a slip-and-fall case with a “traditional theory” of premises liability was the accident suffered by D.K. D.K. was a shopper at a supermarket when she slipped and fell, suffering substantial injuries in the process. D.K. discovered that she slipped on an advertising sign that had fallen to the ground. The injured shopper’s lawsuit asserted that the store was liable to her and owed her compensation based upon the legal concept of “premises liability.”

If you slip and fall on something like the sign in D.K.’s case, you can win even without evidence that the store knew about the sign having fallen to the ground. The law in Massachusetts says that if a hazard had certain “physical characteristics” from which a jury could reasonably infer that a substantial amount of time had elapsed since the object was there, the injured plaintiff can still be entitled to a successful verdict.

Negligence is defined as a failure to use the level of care someone of ordinary prudence would have used under the same circumstances. Negligence consists of actions or omissions where there is an expected duty or responsibility owed by one person to another person. Events which cause injury not due to fault of another person involve negligence, and the elements of negligence are as follows.

  • Duty of Care: This boils down to, does the defendant have a responsibility to the plaintiff that it must legally uphold? Is it a responsibility of which the plaintiff is the intended recipient of the defendant’s actions? Establishing a legally defined duty and recognized responsibility of the defendant is the first step to determining a defendant’s negligence.Negligence
  • Breach of Duty: After the duty of care has been established, it must be determined whether or not the duty of care was breached. For example was the plaintiff lawfully on a premise owned by tenant? Did the person injure him or herself on the defendant’s premises? Did the owner of the business fail to reasonably prevent the injury? These are but one example of many situations involving a breach of a legally recognized duty.

Legal News GavelThe Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an important new ruling regarding who qualifies as an employee and who is an independent contractor when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits. While court did not adopt the rule for which the injured worker advocated and the ruling ultimately was an unsuccessful outcome for this particular worker, that does not mean that you should give up and fail to pursue your case for benefits, even if your employer asserts that you are an independent contractor. Each case is different and the factors that Massachusetts uses may yield a more favorable result for your case. Be sure never to assume and, instead, talk to an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney.

The worker in the case was a woman who delivered papers. She fell on a ramp while working and hurt her right knee and hand. A few months later, she fell on ice and injured her right leg. The injuries eventually caused the worker to undergo two surgeries, one on her knee and one on her hand.

The woman brought a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer asserted that the woman was an independent contractor and, as a result, not eligible for benefits. The woman, in opposition to that argument, contended that the definition of an “employee” contained in the independent contractor statute established that she was an employee.

firefighter

Firefighter exposed to toxic smoke

The Massachusetts Senate approved a firefighter cancer bill that will enable firefighters and other state workers, such as police officers who are regularly exposed to dangerous fire related conditions, to treat cancer as a work related/line of duty injury. This change offers increased protections to first responders who put their lives at risk for the safety and security of our society. Before this bill, first responders suffering from cancer related illnesses would utilize their sick time while treating for cancer. After the finite amount of sick leave ends, payroll and healthcare benefits cease, making an already difficult financial, physical, and emotional battle all the more challenging.

“We accept the sacrifice of our job as a part of our calling, but when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave, and we go off the payroll, and we lose our healthcare that is just wrong,” said Ed Kelly of the International Association of Firefighters. Firefighters, and other first responders, especially in Massachusetts have an increased risk of being exposed to carcinogenic chemicals, more so than any other state. Massachusetts mandates flame-retardants in their fire code in hopes of preventing out of control fires and deaths attributed to fires. Boston had one of the lowest national rates of firefighters killed in action, which influenced Massachusetts decision to keep flame retardants a part of the fire code. (Boston Magazine)

Legal News GavelThere are many different types of wrinkles one may encounter in an effort to obtain compensation for the harm you suffered in an auto accident. On the surface, your case might seem straightforward: prove that the person you sued was, in fact, at fault, prove that the accident injured you, and prove that those injuries caused you to suffer damages. Seems simple, right? But what happens when the person who hit you has all his assets held by an irrevocable trust? Questions like these are a reminder of the importance of retaining experienced Massachusetts injury counsel, so that you are prepared for whatever twists, turns and surprises your case may throw at you.

Recently, such a “twists and turns” case was the Massachusetts lawsuit brought by S.C. The backstory underlying S.C.’s injury accident dated back several years. In 2001, B.M. was injured in an auto accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. In 2007, an irrevocable “spendthrift” trust was established for the benefit of B.M. The trust held more than $4.1 million in assets, including $3.5 million in stocks and bonds, a house in Plymouth worth $538,000 and $120,000 of other assets.

Fast forward to 2014, and B.M. and S.C. were involved in a head-on collision. Allegedly, B.M. was traveling 76 mph in a 35 zone, crossed the center line to pass and slammed head-on into S.C.