By: Leslie S. Harkavy, Esquire
We are all just so worn out from Covid right now. It is called “covid fatigue”. We all did our part and stayed home and off the roads. We stopped taking public transportation, ride shares and driving to work. It’s hard to believe then, when I read a headline saying traffic deaths are actually up 15% in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and in the United States, that this can really be possible. How in the world did Covid make traveling on Massachusetts roads or on the nation’s highways for that matter – less safe? According to a brief Statistical Summary from the Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities for the first 9 months of 2021, showed an estimated 31,720 deaths due to driving nationwide from January to September 2021. This number represents a 12 percent increase from the prior year. This number represents the highest number of fatalities during the first 9 months of the year since 2006, and the highest percentage increase during the first 9 months in the recorded history of data by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first 9 months of 2021, increased by about 244.0 billion miles, or about 11.7 percent increase compared to the first 9 months of 2020.
The fatality rate for the first 9 months of 2021 increased to 1.36 per 100 million VMT, marginally up from the projected rate of 1.35 fatalities per 100 million VMT in the first 9 months of 2020.
In Massachusetts, there was a 15.5% increase in estimated fatalities in the first 9 months of 2021. In the first 9 months of 2020, there were an estimated 258 fatalities, versus 298 fatalities in 2021.
During the early stages of the pandemic, in spring of 2020, Americans cut driving in half, and data from AAA confirm that rideshare, transit and taxi use plummeted. The average number of daily personal car trips plunged 45% in April 2020. In addition, all modes of transportation dropped to 40%. Daily car trips fell, and travel by any mode fell. Despite fewer cars on the road and more people staying home, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently estimated increases in fatalities.
This makes no sense, until you turn your focus to driver error and poor decision making behind the wheel. With fewer cars on the roads, people may have been tempted to speed up, or drive while impaired or simply fail to take simple precautions like buckling up.
Now it starts to make more sense. So, if more fatalities are occurring during Covid, how can a family member or close friend of someone fatally injured in a car accident, get help from a law firm such as ours?
For starters – a wrongful death law firm such as Nadeau Harkavy LLC, can assist you and your family members and educate you about your case so that you know your rights under the law. Many questions arise when someone you love is a victim of a wrongful death case. Here are just a few we have encountered during our years of practicing personal injury law and specifically dealing with wrongful death cases in MA.
What constitutes Wrongful Death? Wrongful death happens when somebody is killed due to someone else’s negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action distinct from any criminal charges.
What is the wrongful death statute in MA? In MA, the wrongful death statute can be found at: Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 229, § 2.
How do you prove the wrongful death case? In a wrongful death case, your attorney would need to prove that the defendant was negligent, and as a proximate result of their negligence, your relative died. In the case where one of our clients is killed in an automobile accident, the standard is the same, that the defendant operator was negligent and as a proximate result of their negligence caused death to the victim. Sometimes this is clear from the facts of the case. Sometimes we need to bring in experts on causation such as engineers or accident reconstruction specialists to explain how the accident happened and why it was the defendant’s fault. Other times, we may need to ask for expert physicians to causally relate the injuries to the accident.
How long do you have to bring a claim? Generally speaking, a statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Massachusetts is 3 years. However, that period could be shorter depending on the facts of the case and notice periods required. The wrongful death statute states: An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death, or within three years from the date when the deceased’s executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the factual basis for a cause of action.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim in Massachusetts? In Massachusetts, only an executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim.
What compensation is available under the Mass wrongful death statute? Pursuant to the Massachusetts Wrongful Death statute, any person who due to negligence causes the death of a person is liable in damages for: (1) the fair monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages including compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected net income, services, protection, care, assistance, society, companionship, comfort, guidance, counsel, and advice of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered; (2) the reasonable funeral and burial expenses of the decedent; (3) punitive damages if the death was caused by the malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant or by the gross negligence of the person.
How much is a wrongful death case worth? Generally, the value of a case will depend on the facts of each case and the availability of insurance. Figuring out the value of a wrongful death case involves many factors. In each case, we use our years of experience evaluating the value of the case and also research similar fact patterns and settlement and jury verdict results to obtain the best possible results for you.
What will it cost me to hire an attorney such as Nadeau Harkavy LLC to represent me on my family’s claim? We work on a contingent fee basis – which means – we do not take a fee unless we recover for you. You pay no money up front and there is no retainer to pay us.
What should you do if your loved one is killed in an accident? Your best option is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney, such as Karen Nadeau or Leslie Harkavy at the personal injury law firm of Nadeau Harkavy LLC, as soon as possible, to guide you through the process of obtaining maximum compensation for your loss. At our firm, we take on the responsibility of dealing with the insurance companies and building the most compelling case for you. We know how difficult these losses are for those left behind trying to rebuild their lives with the enormous loss of a loved one. At our firm, we put you at ease so that you may turn your attention to your family, grieving such a tragic loss and rebuilding your life.
What are some of things you can you do if a loved one is killed in an accident to protect your family’s interest in a wrongful death case? Evidence is important to preserve. A lot of this will depend upon the circumstances of your loss. We guide our clients on the evidence that is important in their particular case and provide them with a list of things that would be helpful to your case. Things like photographs of your loved one and the family, any insurance information, receipts, payroll and employment information, any communication like texts, emails or letters or statements made or notes. Writing down important information or keeping a notebook with information about the loss is helpful. Witnesses’ information such as the names, phone numbers, emails and addresses of any witnesses you may know is important. In summary, anything relating to the accident, any injuries suffered by your loved one and the loss suffered by you and your family should be preserved and kept in a safe place.
When someone is seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, a thorough investigation of the accident events is necessary to determine the cause of the accident and secure important information. It is helpful to be sure that everything is done to protect your interests. The lawyers at Nadeau Harkavy LLC have over 50 years combined experience helping victims and their families recover compensation in serious injury and wrongful death cases arising from car crashes and other accidents. Contact the attorneys at Nadeau Harkavy LLC today for a free consultation about your legal rights. Our phone number is: 617-674-7640.