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Boston Car Accident Scenarios: Who’s at Fault?

It’s likely the first question anyone would ask after being injured in a Boston car accident is: Who was at fault? No one plans for an accident, and an accident can be a severe disruption to your life, even if the only damage was to your car. You naturally want to know who caused the accident, and for the harm your body and property sustained.

Establishing fault is complicated, and will depend on the scenario. Regardless, Boston car accident injuries are expensive, and the injuries themselves can completely alter the course of one’s life. In Boston, individuals who suffer minor injuries in car accidents must first seek compensation for their injuries through their own no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) policy.

However, you can step outside of the no-fault process and seek compensation for the at-fault (liable) party through a personal injury lawsuit if your accident-related medical expenses exceed $2,000, or if the accident caused:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Loss of hearing, sight, or a limb
  • Significant or permanent disfigurement
  • A fractured bone

If a car accident injured you because of another’s careless or reckless actions, a Boston car accident attorney can help you understand whether you have a claim beyond PIP and can bring your case on your behalf.

Common Boston Car Accident Scenarios

In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of traffic crashes in Boston decreased by 38 percent on interstates, and by 8 percent on city streets. Unfortunately, while the decrease in accidents is good news, the types of accidents more likely to result in fatalities—such as those involving bicyclists or pedestrians—increased. Boston’s statistics align closely with the national pandemic averages, which tell a troubling story.

When adjusted for travel volumes, Boston saw an increase of an alarming 31 percent in the number of overall traffic-related fatalities. One of the major sources of this increase was an estimated 45 percent increase in vehicle speeds as people traveled on the less-congested roadways during the shutdowns.

As society returns more and more to pre-pandemic activity levels, the congestion on the city’s streets is also returning, and will probably ratchet the numbers of accidents back up again. Here is a look at some common types of accident scenarios occurring on Boston’s roadways.

Broadside Collisions

Also known as a T-bone or a side-impact crash, a broadside collision is a particularly dangerous type of accident in which the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another. This type of accident most often occurs in an intersection. Injuries are generally most severe for the occupants sitting on the side of the struck vehicle. This is because the vehicle’s doors generally do not carry the same protections and areas that provide a natural cushion from the force of the crash. Crash severity also increases for occupants of the smaller vehicle if there is a large size discrepancy between the two vehicles.

Who’s at Fault? Broadside collisions are the cause of one driver’s failure to yield the right-of-way to another driver. Intersections are most often where these accidents occur because these are the areas where vehicles traveling in one direction will always have to yield to drivers in other directional travel lanes. The driver who failed to yield right-of-way generally caused the accident, whether the front or side of their vehicle was struck.

Left-Turn Accident

A similar common scenario that often leads to accidents in intersections involves failure to yield on a left turn, very often leading to a broadside collision. Left-turn accidents occur when the driver who is turning fails to accurately judge the gap in traffic and pulls into a path of an oncoming vehicle. An accident can also occur when a driver is making a left turn on a green arrow and an oncoming traffic driver fails to yield the right-of-way—which typically means they run a red light.

Who’s at Fault? Fault in a left-turn accident often comes down to whether the driver attempting the turn had a green arrow or not. The green arrow on left turns indicates that the right-of-way belongs to the turn lane. If the green arrow isn’t on or the traffic light does not provide a green arrow, left-turning drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers going straight through the green light.

Right-Turn Accidents

Right-turn accidents occur when a vehicle is struck as the driver attempts to make a right-hand turn on a red light. In Boston, individuals planning to turn right at an intersection must stop at a red light to ensure a sufficient gap in traffic to complete the turn. Once they do so, the driver can proceed with the right turn. Exceptions to this rule may apply at certain intersections, which a sign will indicate.

Who’s at Fault? Generally, the driver attempting the right turn causes the accident, as they must yield the right-of-way. Speeding drivers are exceptions in right-turn and other failure-to-yield accidents. Speeding can make it difficult, if not impossible, for a driver attempting a right turn to accurately judge whether they have room to complete the turn.

Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions are among the most common collisions, occurring when the front of one vehicle strikes the rear of another. Each year in the U.S., around 1.7 million rear-end accidents occur, resulting in about 1,700 deaths and half a million injuries. Rear-end accidents most often occur because the driver of the following car tailgates, or drives too close to the lead car. Tailgating increases the risk of an accident by eliminating the space needed for the car to stop if the car in front of it stops suddenly.

Tailgating is, in turn, often the result of distracted driving or alcohol impairment, which both impair the driver’s attention to the roadway. Tailgating is also one of many driving infractions referred to as “aggressive driving.” Drivers, to get through particularly congested areas during Boston’s notorious traffic, often drive aggressively.

Who’s at Fault? Contrary to popular belief, the rear-end accident isn’t always the fault of the driver in the following car, though it usually is. The driver of the lead car can be liable if:

  • They were reversing their car
  • They were driving erratically as a result of impairment
  • They slammed on the brakes to intentionally get hit, often referred to as brake-checking
  • They were operating a vehicle with broken tail lights

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions are a rare but deadly type of accident in which the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another. This type of accident often occurs when an individual drives on the wrong side of the road, drives the wrong way down a one-way road, or when a driver crosses the centerline into an opposite travel lane.

These driver errors cause head-on collisions:

  • Failing to properly read the signs indicating the direction of travel permitted on a one-way roadway
  • Loss of control of the vehicle, due to speeding or impairment
  • Crossing the centerline due to distractions such as texting, or because the driver has fallen asleep
  • Passing a car on a two-lane road by entering the opposing lane of travel in an area where such passing is prohibited
  • Sliding into an opposing travel lane on wet or icy roads

Who’s at Fault? Usually, the driver who has entered the wrong lane of travel—because of distraction, speeding, fatigue, distraction, or even confusion about road signs—is liable for injuries and damage caused by a head-on accident. However, in situations where the head-on collision resulted from a crash between two vehicles in the opposing travel lane and the force of that crash caused one of the vehicles to cross the centerline, liability can rest with a driver from the initial accident.

An Accident on Icy Roads

Snow is always possible in Boston, particularly between December and March. These are busy times for the city as well, with holiday festivities throughout. In March, spring breaks and St. Patrick’s Day come around, though the snow and ice aren’t always gone yet. All of those activities during the winter months increase the number of cars traveling Boston’s roadways during snowstorms. Although snowstorms occur naturally here, that doesn’t mean that someone isn’t liable for an accident on an icy road.

Who’s at Fault? Drivers must maintain control of their vehicles and obey traffic laws, even on icy roads. This means that even if a driver wants and attempts to stop at a red light, but slides through because they traveled too fast for icy conditions, you can hold them liable for any collision that results. Or, if a car shifting lanes slides across the centerline and strikes another vehicle head-on, the driver who crossed the centerline may bear sole legal responsibility for failing to maintain their lane of travel.

In some cases, the city or state agency tasked with repairing and maintaining highways can bear liability if improper road design or other infrastructure defect caused the icy patch on the roadway.

A Tire Blowout Accident

A tire blowout occurs when a tire breaks and rapidly loses its air. When this happens, the vehicle will generally swerve sharply to the side where the blowout occurred and begin vibrating. This often will result in an accident due to the extreme difficulty of maneuvering the vehicle in traffic.

Tire blowouts commonly occur because of:

  • Improper maintenance
  • Driving on bald tires
  • Under-inflation of the tire
  • Over-inflation of the tire
  • Overloading the vehicle
  • Large punctures, such as those caused by driving over something sharp

Who’s at Fault? Accidents caused by a tire blowout are typically the fault of the driver with the blown tire, particularly if the tire was bald or not inflated per the manufacturer’s directions. Under-inflated tires will often cause the tire’s sidewalls to fail, while over-inflated tires increase the likelihood of a puncture resulting in a blowout.

Sometimes, however, a tire defect causes the blowout, in which case liability may rest with the manufacturer or distributor that designed, manufactured, and sold an unsafe product.

Injured in a Boston Car Accident? Hire an Attorney

Personal Injury Attorney, Matt Dolman

Car Accident Attorney, Matt Dolman

In an instant, a car accident can change a person’s life forever, leaving them with disabilities, lost wages, and enormous impacts on their quality of life. If you were injured in an accident, get an experienced Boston car accident attorney, who can ensure your right to pursue the maximum amount of compensation available in your case. One of those services involves determining all sources of liability based on the accident scenario and then pursue of all available insurance resources to provide the compensation you need. Call an attorney; they usually offer free case evaluations so you can make the best decision about how to go forward.