INSIGHTS On Massachusetts Personal Injury Law

Welcome to the SUGARMAN blog. We'll be sharing our perspectives on the state of the law and current legal issues in Massachusetts personal injury law. Issues relating to medical malpractice, construction site injuries, premises liability, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, insurance, and more will all be reviewed here by our team of lawyers who have prosecuted some of the most complex cases in Massachusetts personal injury law.

Articles Tagged with Bicycles

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Riding a bicycle is a skill most people master at a young age.  After conquering balance, braking and the fear of falling, it serves as the first form of freedom for youngsters.  In later years, cycling can become a leisure or health activity, competitive outlet, or transportation to work.  But cycling also poses serious risks.  The CDC reports that almost 500,000 emergency department visits in 2013 were bicycle-related injuries, and as the weather changes in New England there are added risks to consider that pose a threat to those driving on two wheels.

Leaves

Each fall, hundreds of leaf peepers descend on New England from around the country. While it’s a boon for tourism in the region, leaves pose serious hazards to cyclists. Leaves tend to build up in large piles along curbs and the sides of the road – typically where cyclists travel.  They can cover obstructions, cracks, or holes in the road leaving cyclists blind to the dangers ahead.  Leaves also create a slippery surface, especially when wet, which diminishes traction, causes skidding and loss of control. Ride slower and avoid clumps of leaves between the sidewalk and street to avoid potential problems.

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Earlier this week, the Boston City Council was expected to take up a first-of-its-kind ordinance geared towards bicyclist and pedestrian safety. On Tuesday, September 9, 2014, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh presented the City Council with an Ordinance to Protect Vulnerable Road Users. If passed, the ordinance would require the implementation of safety apparatuses on all city-owned and city-contractor vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds. Furthermore, only snowplows and emergency vehicles would be exempt from complying with the proposed ordinance.

These safety apparatuses include protective side guards, cross-over mirrors, convex mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals. In the event that a cyclist or pedestrian is struck, the side guards reduce the risk of the person falling under the vehicle and subsequently being caught under the wheels. Conversely, the mirrors and decals look to prevent an accident from occurring by reducing drivers’ blind spots, while drawing cyclists’ and pedestrians’ attention to the presence of the blind spots. The Boston Cyclists Union recently released a fact sheet, “Sideguards Save Lives,” that illustrates the benefits of these safety apparatuses. The fact sheet states that although trucks account for only 4% of vehicles nationwide, they are responsible for 11% of all bicyclist fatalities and 7% of all pedestrian fatalities.

According to the 2013 Boston Cyclist Safety Report, between 2010 and 2012, motor vehicle-cyclist accidents accounted for 91 percent of the total 1,446 cyclist accidents in the City of Boston, resulting in nine deaths. Given the increasing number of reported incidents, city officials were called upon to combat this public health issue, and the proposed ordinance is their answer. Now, we have to wait and see whether the Boston City Council agrees with the proposal or whether different safety measures will be taken.

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With Labor Day weekend just behind us, students at all education levels are starting classes this week. According to a summer study conducted by the National Retail Federation, Americans were expected to spend nearly $75 billion on back-to-school needs and wants this year. This includes everything from clothing and traditional school supplies like pens and pencils to electronics and dorm room needs for college students. Almost anything can end up on the back-to-school list, which is why buyers should educate themselves on the latest product safety news. A number of product safety recalls were announced this summer which may affect all types of back-to-school purchases.

Back-to-school clothing makes up a large percentage of each year’s buys. On August 7, 2014, LL Bean recalled just over 5,000 girls’ sweaters sold in sizes 4-7, which came in both Fisherman’s and open stitch styles. The sweaters are being recalled because the spare button attached to the label can detach, creating a choking hazard. Consumers who purchased the sweaters should immediately remove the spare button from the inside seam before use.

Many children are sent off to school every day with a homemade lunch and a personal water bottle. On August 19, 2014, Brita, manufacturer of the well-known water filtration system, recalled just under a quarter million children’s hard plastic water bottles. The recalled items have popular children’s cartoon characters on them, hold fifteen ounces of liquid, and have hard plastic screw-on tops. The bottles are being recalled because the screw-on lids are susceptible to breaking and cracking, creating sharp pieces that pose a laceration hazard to children. Despite multiple reports of broken lids, no injuries have been reported to date.

Bean bag chairs are often found in child bedrooms and dorm rooms. As a result of two separate incidents resulting in the death of a three-year-old girl from Kentucky and the death of a thirteen year-old boy from Texas, on August 22 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Ace Bayou Corporation of Louisiana recalled nearly 2.2 million bean bag chairs of different shapes, sizes and colors sold by various retailers and several online giants such as Walmart.com and Amazon.com. The bean bag chairs were manufactured with zippers that open, allowing children to climb inside and suffocate or choke on the polystyrene beads that fill the chairs. To prevent tragedies like these, the voluntary safety standard pertaining to bean bag chairs requires that non-refillable chairs have permanently disabled zippers. As part of the recall efforts, Ace Bayou Corporation will provide kits to permanently disable the zippers to consumers who purchased the affected product.
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A recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case illustrates the need to act promptly when you have been injured as a result of a defect in a public road or way. In Filepp v. Boston Gas Company, Inc., the Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s dismissal of an injured man’s case due to a failure to timely put Boston Gas on notice of the defects created by Boston Gas while performing work on a street. Mr. Filepp was riding his bicycle on Harvard Street in Brookline and sustained serious injuries when his bike hit a two inch wide rut in the pavement created when Boston Gas was laying gas lines under the street. A Massachusetts statute, G.L., c. 84, Sections 15 & 18, requires that notice of the defect must be sent to the governmental entities or “person by law obliged to repair” a way within 30 days of an injury. Mr. Filepp’s attorneys sent notice to the Town of Brookline within 30 days, but the town notified him two months later that Boston Gas was responsible to repair the rut in the pavement. His attorneys thereafter sent notice of the defect to Boston Gas, but it was several months beyond the statutory 30 days’ notice period. When Mr. Filepp filed a lawsuit against Boston Gas, the company moved to dismiss on the grounds that notice was not given in a timely manner and a Superior Court judge agreed.

Interestingly, the same statute that appears so strict on notice requirements for defects in a public way allows for late notice if the defect involves snow or ice. A defense of late notice only applies if the defendant can prove that he was prejudiced by the late notice. The lesson to be learned, however, is that an injury caused by defects requires immediate action or you could lose your right to be compensated for that injury. It also underscores the disadvantage that plaintiffs can have in these cases as there may be no way for a plaintiff or his or her attorneys to be aware that a third party may be responsible for a defect on a public road.

SUGARMAN attorneys have an extensive history of representing clients who have been injured by defective public roads or ways. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a defect in a public road or way and wish to speak to one of our attorneys regarding liability, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail info@sugarman.com.