Legal Tips

IF I HAVE A HOUSE PARTY, AM I LIABLE IF A GUEST LEAVES THE PARTY AFTER DRINKING AND HURTS SOMEBODY?


This area of the law is known as social host liability. The key in any analysis of social host liability is who controls the alcohol. A host has a duty not to provide alcohol and/or serve alcohol to an intoxicated person.

The Courts have only imposed a duty on social hosts where they have either provided or served alcohol to an intoxicated guest. The reasoning behind this is that if the host provides or serves the alcohol, they can "shut off" the guest just like a bar whereas if the guest provides his own alcohol, the host has no control over the alcohol or its consumption and an attempt to exercise control could lead to physical confrontations.

A brief lesson to be learned in the law of social host liability is that hosts of parties should always advertise parties as "BYOB" (Bring Your Own Booze) in order to shield themselves from liability.

The issue as to a social host's duty to minors is the same as in the case of adults. The issue remains who supplies and controls the alcohol. If the host does not supply or control, there is no liability even to minors.

The duty is greater for restaurants and bars because they have the control over the alcohol and have a duty to ensure that patrons are not intoxicated.


AM I LIABLE IF MY DOG HURTS SOMEBODY?


Does it matter if the dog is in my yard? What if the dog is on a leash?


In Massachusetts, pursuant to the Massachusetts General Laws, a dog's owner or keeper is strictly liable for any injuries or property damage caused by the dog unless the person injured was trespassing, engaged in some activity which would classify as a tort such as assault and battery or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. Strict liability means that there is no defense unless you can show one of the above listed exceptions. The law even goes farther for children under age seven in that it is presumed that they were not engaged in any of the listed activities. The owner or keeper has the burden of proving one the exceptions to liability. The fact the dog is on a leash or in your yard does not foreclose liability.


This liability does not merely extend to dog bites. It extends to injuries incurred if a person is knocked down by a dog or falls as a result of the dog's actions.


What if I don't own the dog? Liability also extends to a keeper of the dog. While the fact you are temporarily housing the dog does not conclusively establish that you are the keeper, it also does not absolve you of liability. It would be a question for a jury to decide.


Won't my homeowner's insurance cover any injuries? Many insurance companies have specific exclusions in their policies for dog bites. You should contact your agent to review your policy.

WHAT TO DO AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT?


An auto accident can turn into to one of the most stressful experiences of your life if you have never been involved in one or do not handle it correctly.


The first thing you should do after an accident is determine whether you are injured. If you are injured do not get out of your vehicle until medical personnel arrive and are able to examine you. The most important issue to you is your health and this issue must be dealt with before you begin to worry about other matters.

You should obtain as much information from the other driver as possible. Look at their registration and driver's license and note the registration number, the owner's name and address, the operator's name and address and the insurance company.


You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Never give any statement to an insurance company until after you have spoken with a lawyer because the insurance company will use your statements against you when it is time to settle your claim. The insurance company does not want you to get a lawyer because they want to resolve your case without fully compensating for your injuries. A lawyer will help to coordinate between your own insurance company and the other driver's insurance company. A lawyer will be able to fully explain to you what your rights are and what you are entitled to as a result of the accident. By hiring a lawyer, you will be able to avoid the pitfalls associated with motor vehicle accidents.

EMPLOYMENT LAW


A "covenant not to compete" is a contractual term often insisted upon by an employer to prevent an employee from using trade secrets or other information to compete after their employment relationship ends. Such restrictions have always been common in employment contracts involving high level business executives. More recently, covenants have frequently been included in contracts involving salespersons and technical and specialized workers, ranging from software technicians to chefs, as well as contracts for the sale of businesses.


If you are asked to sign a covenant not to compete, it is critical that you understand the restrictions that may be placed on your future employment. A review of this important agreement with counsel may help prevent any misunderstandings and unintended future limitations on your livelihood. Above all, you should be aware that Massachusetts courts will strictly enforce a covenant that is found to restrict competition for a reasonable length of time and to a specific geographical area.


INSURANCE ALERT


Do you have enough insurance coverage? Most people fail to realize and are never informed by their insurance agent that it is important to have sufficient coverage for accidents with uninsured or underinsured vehicles.


Imagine, you are involved in a car accident. You have $20,000 in medical bills and the car that hit you has the required minimum insurance coverage of $20,000. What do you do? Where do you get the money for future medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering? If you have sufficient underinsured coverage, you can make a claim against your own insurance company. This claim will not cause you to incur a surcharge and you will have no effect on your driver points. The problem is that you can only recover if you collect all available funds from the other driver’s insurance company and your coverage is of a greater amount than their coverage.


What does this all mean? Everybody carries at least $20,000 in underinsured coverage. If you are injured as a result of being struck by an insured vehicle and your coverage is $20,000 you can never make a claim against your own company for additional funds because Massachusetts requires a minimum of $20,000 in insurance coverage for bodily injuries to others.


Check your policy! Be sure you have at least $100,000.00 in uninsured and underinsured coverage. Don’t let yourself be left without enough coverage to pay for your injuries.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE?


You are driving home and there is a police car behind you with it’s blue lights on. What do you do?


The first thing you must try to do is remain calm. Pull over in a safe location, put the car in park and shut off the engine. Do not make ANY statements to the officer. THEY WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. Assume, even if you are not read your rights, that anything can and will be used against you. There is nothing that you can say to help yourself and you are under no obligation to make any statements to the officer.


What should you do if you are asked to step out of the car and do some "tests"? You have no duty to perform any tests but rather have a right to refuse the tests and that refusal cannot be used against you. Don’t be fooled and think you can pass the tests. Nobody can and they will be presented as evidence against you.


What about a breath test? THE BREATHALYZER IS A FRAUD AND A HOAX. IF DOES NOT WORK, CANNOT WORK AND HAS NEVER WORKED. DO NOT TAKE A BREATH TEST. YOU CAN’T PASS!!


Without your statements, a breath test and field tests, all of which you have an absolute right to refuse, the police will have nothing to use against you. SO DON’T TAKE ANY TESTS OR MAKE ANY STATEMENTS!!!!!