Massachusetts Traffic Laws and Surchargeable Points

Massachusetts traffic laws aim to prevent traffic accidents and help determine who is liable in the event of a motor vehicle accident.

Massachusetts Laws for Sharing the Road

Massachusetts traffic laws dictate that upon approaching an intersection, drivers have a responsibility to yield to oncoming traffic. If a vehicle drives past a yield sign and subsequently collides with your car in an intersection, the collision itself is evidence that the other driver failed to yield.

Evidence of driver negligence can be used in a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit as proof of the other driver’s liability in that traffic accident. Any time a vehicle fails to yield in any of the following manners and that failure results in a Massachusetts car accident, the victim of the collision has clear evidence of the other driver’s negligence:

o Running a red light;
o Performing an illegal U-turn; and
o Operating their vehicle in any other reckless manner, including speeding (any person operating a vehicle in excess of a posted speed limit is automatically determined to be driving at a speed more than reasonable and proper).

Massachusetts Drivers’ Responsibilities

Massachusetts traffic laws outline driver responsibilities after a motor vehicle accident. Every driver involved in a traffic accident has the duty and responsibility to file a report with the local police department and make known all applicable information when:

o A person is killed;
o A person is injured; AND/OR
o There is property damage in excess of $1,000.

This Massachusetts traffic law was enacted to ensure that when an injury- accident occurs, the victim would be able to get information immediately about the other person involved in the accident.

Massachusetts traffic laws also state that it is illegal to operate a vehicle without:

o A valid driver’s license;
o Insurance with specific minimum limits; AND
o Vehicle registration.

Failure to possess any of the above documents is punishable by fines, possible jail time, and possible license suspension. Most likely, a violation of this sort will result in surchargeable points being charged to the offender’s license and insurance.

Massachusetts Surchargeable Points

The insurance rates in Massachusetts are set by the Massachusetts government. The state and insurance companies use a system of surchargeable points to reward safe drivers and penalize negligent drivers. Drivers accrue surchargeable points for moving violation convictions, which raises insurance premiums and can result in a suspended license.

Massachusetts drivers are also given a surcharge on their insurance premiums for any motor vehicle accident in which either:

o The driver was ruled at fault; OR
o The driver’s insurance company pays out more than $500 in claims.

How a Massachusetts Accident Attorney Can Help

If you, or a loved one, have been seriously injured in a Massachusetts car accident and you suspect the other driver violated any of the laws cited above at the time of the accident, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. Through a personal injury lawsuit you can seek financial compensation for:

o Medical bills;
o Lost wages and future earnings;
o Physical therapy;
o Emotional distress; and
o Other expenses related to your injuries.

It is important to retain an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled cases similar to yours. Don’t go it alone! A skilled personal injury attorney can help you establish negligence and increase the odds of receiving a fair settlement or verdict for your injuries.

If you have been seriously injured as a result of someone else’s negligence in Massachusetts, visit [http://www.tomkileylaw.com/swat/index.cfm] to learn about your rights and options under the law.

Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, Thomas M. Kiley, has been representing individuals against insurance companies since 1976. He was referred to as the “Million Dollar Man” in a featured article by the Boston Herald Sunday Magazine in it’s “Personal Best Series.” This was based on his record of obtaining million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex cases in which he represented injured victims against insurance companies.

Picture Imperfect – The Implications of Using Cameras to Monitor Drivers and Enforce Traffic Laws

Anyone who has driven the roundabout encircling Philadelphia’s City Hall or down the Northeast Philadelphia drag strip (a.k.a. Roosevelt Boulevard) has no doubt encountered the cameras monitoring whether motorists stop at the traffic lights. Although these cameras apparently have made driving these roads safer, are the new traffic laws that were passed to regulate these cameras consistent with the traditional principles of American Law?

Although most people do not view a traffic violation as seriously as a criminal offense, said violations are a form of criminal offense. According to Pennsylvania Courts, a traffic violation is classified as a summary offense pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 106(c) (see Stumpf v. Nye, 2008 Pa. Super. 122 (2008), Commonwealth v. Henry, 2008 Pa. Super. 20 (2008), and Commonwealth v. Gimbara, 2003 Pa. Super. 394 (2003)). According to 18 Pa.C.S.A. Section 106(c), a summary offense is a classification of a criminal offense. Pennsylvania Courts have made it clear that even for summary offenses, the burden the Commonwealth must meet is “beyond a reasonable doubt” (see Commonwealth v. A.D.B., 752 A.2d 438 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2000 and Commonwealth v. Banellis, 452 Pa.Super. 478 (1996)). Therefore, working backward logically, as a traffic violation is a summary offense, which is a classification of a crime, and the Commonwealth’s burden of proof for a crime is beyond a reasonable doubt, it is clear that the Commonwealth has to prove its case against a defendant in Traffic Court beyond a reasonable doubt, and therein lies the rub relative to the traffic cameras mentioned above.

According to 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3116(a), a city of the first class, such as Philadelphia, is authorized to enforce traffic control devices through the use of an automated camera system. The cameras photograph the rear of a vehicle, capturing its make, model, and license plate, as well as the violation, as it passes through an intersection against the direction of a traffic control devise, generally a red traffic light. Pursuant to Section 3116(b) of the same title, if an automobile is photographed perpetrating a traffic violation by driving through a red light, the owner of the vehicle is presumed liable for the penalty for the violation. If a vehicle owner is presumed liable for a traffic violation penalty due to a photograph pursuant to Section 3116(a), it is up to the owner of the vehicle to prove his innocence by raising various defenses, such as alleging that he was not driving the vehicle at the time the photograph was taken. It is also notable that under Section 3116(e)(1), the statute specifically prohibits the cameras to photograph the front of a vehicle as evidence of the violation.

What happened to the Commonwealth having to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? It seems that 75 Pa.C.S.A. Section 3116, in one fell swoop, has, in effect, turned perhaps the most axiomatic of American legal principles on its head. The Commonwealth’s burden of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt, which applies to criminal matters such as violating traffic control devices, has not just been reduced to a less onerous burden, but it has been essentially reversed by placing the burden on the automobile owner to prove his innocence. The presumption of guilt against the owner of a vehicle afforded by Section 3116 overlooks doubts that are manifestly reasonable on their face such as: it was the owner’s spouse, friend, child and/or neighbor driving the car, not the owner himself, or that the car was stolen. Indeed, even the obvious solution of photographing the front of the vehicle which would, or at least could, capture an image of the face of the driver illegally traversing the intersection is inexplicably prohibited.

Finally, it would seem that Section 3116 tacitly, without any fanfare at all, undermines a basic principle of traffic law which heretofore established that penalties for violating a traffic law attach to an individual rather than the vehicle itself. It seems that Section 3116, without explicitly changing the focus of traffic law, suddenly has made being caught by an approved camera a violation that attaches to the vehicle itself as opposed to the driver. While focusing on the vehicle as opposed to the driver could be an explanation for the sudden ease in the Commonwealth’s burden in these sorts of matters, nowhere in the statute is it stated that traffic violations now attach to vehicles as opposed to drivers. Therefore, one is left with the clear conclusion that, when it comes to traffic control cameras, a vehicle owner is guilty of a violation until proving himself innocent.

Surely the safer streets, which seem to have resulted from the installation of cameras, is a good thing. However, although most people view traffic violations as a minor issue, the apparent overturning of the basic American principle of “innocent until proven guilty” could potentially have significant and long range effects. Could Section 3116 be struck down by the Court? Possibly, but due to the costs involved, it is obviously unlikely that a conviction under Section 3116 would even be litigated let alone appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the Pennsylvania Legislature could use Section 3116 as a springboard to slowly erode and ease its burden of proof in even more significant criminal matters. As citizens of this venerable Commonwealth, we must be vigilant in ensuring that our rights do not continue to be eroded in the name of safety.

5 Commonly Broken Traffic Laws

Sometimes even the safest drivers cross the line between legal and illegal driving. While there are a lot of traffic laws that most people agree need to be followed at all times (like stopping at a red light), there are others that are broken by seemingly everyone. When you’re in a hurry, it can be tempting to push the limits of what’s legal, but it’s important to remember that these laws exist for your safety and the safety of others.

1. Speeding

Many people seem to take speed limits as “suggestions” and may get frustrated when the car in front of them is actually going the correct speed. When you’re running late, going 30 mph can feel like 10 mph, but you’ll be even later if you get pulled over.

Conversely, driving too slowly can also be dangerous, especially on the highway. Not all states have speed minimums, but if you live in a state that does, it’s important to make sure that you are at least going the minimum, when possible.

2. Rolling through stop signs

Running a stop sign is a terrible idea because it’s extremely dangerous (not to mention illegal). Although most people are aware of that, some consistently roll though stop signs. Taking a quick look around then rolling through a stop sign when you think the coast is clear can seem like a good idea. Take the time it takes. Observe the intersection closely. Accidents occur frequently because of inattention. Rolling a stop sign can turn into an expensive mistake.

3. Failure to stop for pedestrians

This happens too frequently. It almost seems that people aren’t even aware that pedestrians usually have the right-of-way. If pedestrians are waiting to cross at a crosswalk, you must wait for them to cross before you drive.

4. Failure to signal

Turn signals are an important means of communication we have with other drivers. They allow other drivers to know they need to slow down and give you room to change lanes or know which way you’re going to turn. Signal your intent long before you take action. Flipping on your turn signal while you’re in the middle of changing lanes or once you’ve already started turning is not sufficient notice to other drivers.

5. Illegal turns

Always be aware of your state’s laws regarding U-turns. Some states allow U-turns while others don’t. Pay attention to all posted signs, as there may be some areas where they aren’t permitted. Also look for signs at traffic lights, because right turns on red may be prohibited at some intersections.