Maybe you spend each summer cruising the infamous Route 6 across Cape Cod (complete with traffic jams and the faint whiff of sea air). Or perhaps you're a Massachusetts resident who commutes along the Mass Pike each day… or maybe you live in other parts of the state that are less crowded, but you still spend time on the road.
Regardless of how you travel in Massachusetts, a car crash is inevitable for most people at some point in their lives. It's important to know what to do and what the laws are if you find yourself in that situation.
Here's a closer look at how Massachusetts residents were affected by vehicle crashes in 2018:
Before you hit the road, it's crucial that you make sure your auto insurance meets Massachusetts legal requirements.
Your vehicle must have the following minimum insurance coverage:
There are additional options for comprehensive and collision coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is also required in Massachusetts but underinsured motorist coverage is optional.
If you're in a car accident, you turn first to your own insurance to recover damages. You can file a claim on your insurance policy for medical expenses, property damage, and other fees and costs.
You may file a personal injury lawsuit for a Massachusetts car accident only if:
Then, does it matter who's at fault for a car accident in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts follows a modified comparative negligence standard of law. If you have to file a lawsuit (for any personal injury in Massachusetts), you can recover for your injuries only if you're less than 51% at fault. If your allocation of fault is 51% or higher, then you can't recover any damages.
If you're 50% or less at fault, the amount of your damages would be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Here's an example of how liability laws work in Massachusetts:
You were involved in a car accident in Boston. After the accident investigation is completed and insurance has been exhausted, it's determined that you were 30% at fault.
Your total damage award is $120,000. Since you were 30% at fault, the final amount you receive is $84,000, which is $36,000 (30%) deducted from $120,000.
If your car accident injuries are covered in their entirety by your insurance, there's nothing more you need to do. But if you have damages that exceed the limits of your insurance policy, you might need to file a lawsuit.
Every personal injury claim could include both economic and non-economic damages.
Personal injury lawsuits have one goal: to make the plaintiff whole. While no lawsuit will help you recover physically, the idea is to restore you to the financial state you'd be in if the accident hadn't happened.
In other words, if your 15-year-old mid-range sedan is totaled, you'd be able to recuperate the market value of the car based on estimates from common sources like Kelley Blue Book. The lawsuit would not compensate you for property damage above the estimated value of your vehicle such as a brand-new luxury SUV.
Likewise, you can receive damages to cover medical costs that include things like a hospital stay, doctor's visits, diagnostics like X-rays or MRIs, prescription medication, or other expenses related to the accident. An accident might leave you feeling annoyed or inconvenienced, but with economic damages you can only claim things that cost you money.
However, if your injuries were severe and resulted in pain and suffering or other emotional distress, you can receive additional compensation. Attorneys and courts have formulas that assign a financial value based on how the accident has affected your life, including emotional anguish. These are considered non-economic damages because they don't have immediate financial value, but they can be calculated and included in a damage award.
If you need to file a lawsuit, there are 5 elements that must exist in order to make a valid claim:
The statute of limitations is the amount of time in which you're permitted to file a lawsuit. Most car accident and personal injury claims in Massachusetts must be filed within 3 years of the date of the accident. If you fail to file your claim within the allotted time, the court can refuse to take your case.
Refer to this list of free printable documents that are designed to help organize your needs after a car accident. Documents include:
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more