Articles Posted in Massachusetts Law

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If you’ve been in a rear-end accident recently, you might have heard the term “brake checking” used in describing what happened. If you’re not familiar with it, we explain brake checking here. We discuss whether or not it’s legal in Massachusetts, why people brake check, and what to do if you’ve been in an accident involving brake checking.

Is Brake Checking Someone Illegal in MA?

Brake checking auto accident.

Before we get into discussions about the legality of brake checking in Massachusetts, it’s helpful to define brake checking first. Brake checking is the act of hitting your brakes suddenly when someone is driving too close to your bumper, also known as tailgating (more about that below).

Brake checking can involve slamming on your brakes at high speed, or it can be constantly tapping your brakes so the person behind you has to continually slow down or stop. Brake checking, per se, isn’t specifically illegal in Massachusetts; however, it is considered reckless driving, which is illegal, according to General Laws, Chapter 90, Section 24.

Reckless driving is any kind of driving that involves wanton or willful disregard for the safety of other motorists sharing the road with you.

Reckless driving can result in traffic citations (AKA tickets), fines, and even jail time, depending on the situation. Other forms of reckless driving include speeding, driving too fast for conditions, ignoring traffic signals, driving under the influence, and drag racing. If reckless driving causes an accident, even stiffer penalties may apply, based on the unique aspects of the case, as discussed below.

Therefore, brake checking is actually illegal in Massachusetts and should be avoided at all costs. As well as fines and jail time, engaging in reckless driving can be a surchargeable offense (similar to adding points to your driving record) that can result in a suspended license. This means you will be unable to drive for a certain period of time, making it hard to get to work, school, and other activities.

Why is brake checking considered reckless driving? Because it can force the person behind you to crash into your vehicle or veer into traffic to avoid hitting you. Other motorists or pedestrians could be injured or killed, and there could be widespread damage done to multiple vehicles or personal property.

Brake checking can cause a host of dangerous consequences. There could be children or pets in the vehicle that could be hurt in a crash. It can precipitate single-vehicle accidents, where one car swerves at the last minute and hits a utility pole or fence. A swerving car can also cause other vehicles to swerve in response, setting up a cascade of accidents involving many people.

Checking motorists with brakes has also been known to spark incidents of road rage. This also puts everyone in the vicinity in harm’s way. An enraged party could follow a brake checker home or to their workplace or confront them on the street, engaging in threats, assault, or violence involving firearms.

Why Do People Brake Check?

So, what’s the motivation behind brake checking anyway? There are basically two reasons why drivers brake check other motorists. One is usually out of anger or frustration, and the second involves insurance fraud.

In the first scenario, the car in front (let’s call it Car A) gets frustrated with the vehicle behind it (Car B). Car B has been tailgating Car A for miles, flashing its lights and honking its horn, presumably urging Car A to go faster. The driver of Car A finally explodes and starts applying the brakes, hoping Car B will get the message and either back off or pass.

In the second instance, Car A slams on its brakes to intentionally get Car B to crash into it. The driver of Car A then files a fraudulent insurance claim against the driver of Car B, asking for property damage reimbursement and money for medical treatment. Insurance fraud is a serious offense that carries stiff legal penalties, including incarceration.

To be clear, there are times when any driver might need to apply their brakes suddenly, regardless of who is behind them. This can happen if a pet or child runs into the road, for instance. This is not considered brake checking.

The reasons why people brake check provide clues as to how to avoid this phenomenon. If someone is driving too close to the rear end of your vehicle, the answer isn’t to keep pumping the brakes. Instead, use your directional signal, pull over at a safe place, and let the other party pass you.

There is no reason to get in an accident or risk the safety of others by brake checking someone. Enforcing traffic laws is the responsibility of law enforcement, not you. You and everyone else on the road with you will stay safer if you play it cool.

There are a few other solutions to prevent brake checking problems in general:

  • Avoid driving slowly unnecessarily. You can in some conditions be ticketed by law enforcement for going too far under the speed limit. If people are routinely driving right on your bumper, perhaps you are going too slowly or gawking at your surroundings instead of concentrating on driving.
  • If you’re riding with a new driver, like your teen with a learner’s permit, stay off busy roads until they’re more confident and have a better sense of speed and distance perception. Encourage young drivers to keep a safe distance from cars in front of them, as described below.
  • If you must drive slowly because of a mechanical problem, bad road conditions, poor visibility, or a load in the rear of your vehicle, use your hazard lights (AKA flashers) to alert people behind you to stay back.
  • Try to stay out of areas where you know bumper-to-bumper traffic occurs on a daily basis, such as at commuter rush hour.
  • Make it your policy to always maintain a safe distance from cars in front of you. Always leave room for braking. You should have at least a car’s length of space between you and other vehicles and even more at higher speeds or if the weather is bad.
  • If you feel someone in front of you is going too slowly, first give them the benefit of the doubt. There may be someone in front of them slowing things down that you cannot see. A polite beep or one flash of lights is usually fine, but repetitive honking and turning lights on and off only escalates the situation.

If I Caused an Accident from Brake Checking Someone, Am I Liable?

If you’ve been hit from behind or caused another accident by brake checking someone, you may be wondering if you can be found at fault. The answer is yes, you can be liable, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Not all rear-end crashes, for example, are the fault of the driver in the rear.

Now, wait a minute, you may be thinking, isn’t Massachusetts a no-fault accident state? Yes, but in accidents involving death or these serious injuries, sometimes one party is found liable:

  • Broken bones
  • Permanent scarring
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability

Normally, after an accident, each party’s own insurance covers their vehicle damage and any medical expenses. But accidents involving wrongful death or serious injury are another story.

This is why it’s essential to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer after a crash where brake checking may have occurred, whether you were the driver in Car A or Car B as described in the scenario above.

This is a good time to review what to do if you’re in an accident, regardless of whether brake checking was the cause or not. Follow these steps to stay safe, protect your rights, and keep calm at the scene of a motor vehicle crash.

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Green Line crash resulting in serious injuries in Boston area

Breakstone, White & Gluck represented a passenger who survived the Green Line D branch crash in Newton on May 28, 2008.

Boston travelers are taking a deep breath after several dangerous incidents on the MBTA.

If you have been injured on the MBTA or another common carrier, these injury claims are distinct from other negligence claims. Common carriers owe their passengers the “highest degree of care,” a higher duty than other drivers or private carriers.

MBTA accidents are highly traumatic for everyone on board. If you have been injured, promptly consult a lawyer experienced in investigating MBTA crashes, derailments and other transportation accidents. As police and safety agencies investigate, a MBTA accident lawyer can launch an independent investigation and help you obtain medical care while protecting your legal rights.

What is a Common Carrier?

A common carrier holds itself out as willing to provide transportation services to the public for a fee. Common carriers may include the MBTA, train companies, airlines, regional transportation agencies, privately-owned bus companies or limo services.

Common carriers owe passengers the “highest degree of care” because passengers have little control over the operation of their transport, the actions of the employees, the conduct of the business and their own safety. Holton v. Boston Elevated Ry., 303 Mass. 242, 244, 21 N.E.2d 251 (1939).

Common law recognizes both common carriers and private carriers. A private carrier offers transportation services by special arrangement or contract. When someone is injured on a private carrier, such as a friend’s car, the ordinary rules of negligence apply, not the heightened duty of care that applies to common carriers. Houle v. Lewonis, 245 Mass. 254, 255, 140 N.E. 427 (1923).

Passengers Suffer Injuries on Green Line Crash on July 30, 2021

In addition to local and state police, the National Transportation Safety Board has the authority to investigate accidents involving common carriers.

In Boston, authorities have been investigating the Green Line trolley crash which injured 27 people, including 4 train operators, along Commonwealth Avenue on July 30, 2021. A 50-year-old train operator is accused of driving 31 mph – three times the speed limit – and then running into another train (Source: NBC Boston). The MBTA has reportedly placed the operator on unpaid leave, as he faces charges.

On Oct. 6, 2021, the MBTA operator was arraigned in Brighton District Court on charges of gross negligence of a person in control of a train and gross negligence of a person having care of a common carrier.

Common carriers can be held liable when their employees act in an unsafe manner and put the public at risk for injury. The MBTA has a responsibility to hire employees who are qualified to operate large vehicles, and is also responsible for providing proper supervision.

There are questions about the driver’s experience prior to the July 30th crash. WCVB reports the driver had been suspended by the MBTA at least six times over seven years!

Troubling History of Green Line Crashes in Boston

Over the past 15 years, MBTA trolley operators have caused many serious crashes and injuries in Boston. Breakstone, White & Gluck represented a survivor of the May 28th, 2008 Green Line crash on the D branch in Newton. The Green Line operator died in this crash. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the cause was both operator error and lack of automated systems, according to WBUR, “NTSB Faults T Safety Systems in Deadly Trolley Crash,” July 15, 2009.

Then on May 8, 2009, a Green Line operator was texting his girlfriend and crashed between Government Center and Park Street, injuring 50 passengers. The crash caused nearly $10 million in damage to three trolley cars, according to news reports.

While prosecutors sought jail time, the 24-year-old ultimately pleaded guilty to negligence and was sentenced to serve two years of probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

The Green Line derailments and crashes have continued. In 2019, The Boston Globe reported the MBTA had seen 43 train derailments over a five-year period, the second-worst safety record in the country.

The Globe reported this in the wake of June 8, 2019, when a Green Line derailed between the Kenmore and Fenway stops. The train went off the tracks around 11 a.m. on a busy Saturday. The Red Sox were just about to open a double-header against the Tampa Rays at Fenway Park. Eleven people were injured and 600 riders were displaced.

The MBTA placed the operator – who was among the injured – on leave pending an investigation. The MBTA initially cited operator error as the likely cause, according to the Boston Herald.

Consult a MBTA Accident Lawyer – Free Legal Consultation

Breakstone, White & Gluck has extensive experience representing those injured by the MBTA and other common carriers. We have successfully recovered multi-million awards for clients injured in major transportation accidents, including Green Line subway crashes and bus accidents. Read more about our results for clients injured in MBTA crashes.

If you or a loved one has been injured by negligence, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation with our attorneys, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Massachusetts statute of limitationsThe idea of moving forward with legal proceedings can be daunting for some people. Hesitating can be risky, though, and it can cause you to run into issues related to the Massachusetts statute of limitations.

We understand why some individuals balk at taking legal action right away. Handling legal matters can take a lot of time. If you have a full-time job, the legal proceedings can also mess up your schedule.

All of that said, you should take care of any legal matters as soon as you can.

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clean driving recordMany of us work hard to preserve and improve our reputation. A person’s reputation matters a great deal in their professional and even their personal life. As a motorist, possessing a clean driving record is the closest thing to having a pristine reputation.

The current status of your driving record can make a huge difference in your life. It can affect things like your driving privileges and even your job search. Don’t forget about the impact that your driving record can also have on your finances.

Although it may not seem like it, the reality is that your driving record can have an enormous impact on your life. Learn more about the importance of having a clean record and other relevant topics by reading on.

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Massachusetts motorcycle lawsMotorcycles present people with a convenient way to get around. They allow folks to move through traffic faster, and it’s easier to find suitable parking spots for them. Before getting out and purchasing a two-wheeler of your own, though, you should take the time to learn about Massachusetts motorcycle laws.

Reading up on those laws will make it easier for you to determine if becoming a motorcycle rider will suit you. While going through them, you will also find out how easy or difficult the application process can be if you want to be a rider.

There’s no denying the perks of having your own motorcycle in Massachusetts. If you’re interested in roaming the roads on the back of your own two-wheeler, take this opportunity to learn about the laws related to them. Doing so will prepare you adequately for the journeys ahead.

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pedestrian hit by a carAccidents can catch us off guard, leave us disoriented, and make it difficult for us to figure out what to do next. You may be walking home when a vehicle comes speeding by, and suddenly, you’re the pedestrian hit by a car.

We cannot stress the importance of taking the right course of action in that scenario enough. Failing to do so could lead to you facing danger or potentially missing out on the compensation you deserve.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to do if you are the pedestrian hit by a car. Keep the following tips in mind because they could end up helping while you’re in a tough spot.

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Pain and suffering

If you’re pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against someone, you should understand the factors that strengthen your case. To accomplish that, you must be familiar with the terms pain and suffering and how they use them in a legal setting.

Pain and suffering seem to be relatively straightforward terms, but there’s a fair amount of nuance to them. In this article, we’ll discuss those nuances in detail, so you can improve your case with the help of your lawyer.

Stay tuned to learn more about the significance of pain and suffering in your personal injury case, as well as the impact they can have.

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