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It’s important to know what your insurance covers, your required minimums, and what to do if you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver in Boston or elsewhere in the Bay State.
No one wants an extra bill to pay, deadline to meet, or chore to think about.
We get it.
But if you’re going to own a car, an auto insurance policy is a must. For one thing, it’s the law in Massachusetts. For another, if you’re involved in an accident and you don’t have insurance, the financial repercussions could be insurmountable.
Choosing to have only the minimum amount of insurance required by law can be risky. It’s crucial to meet the legal requirement, but any costs related to an accident that are above the limits of your policy will be your responsibility to pay out of pocket.
Massachusetts car insurance minimum requirements
In order to operate a motor vehicle legally in Massachusetts, drivers must have at least the following insurance coverage:
- $20,000 per person / $40,000 per accident bodily injury liability coverage
- $5,000 property damage coverage
- $20,000 per person / $40,000 per accident uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage
- $8,000 personal injury protection
While these are the required minimums, you do have certain options as to who is covered under the policy:
- Policyholder only, which covers only the people named on the policy (for example, you and a spouse or a parent and child, etc.), or
- Household, which covers anyone in your household.
Comprehensive and collision coverage in Massachusetts
In addition to the minimum requirements, you can also choose comprehensive and collision coverage, neither of which is required by law.
If your vehicle is damaged in a crash, you can make a claim on your standard collision policy for repairs, regardless of who is at fault. A limited collision policy can only be used if you’re less than 50% at fault in an accident.
Massachusetts residents may also opt for a collision deductible waiver, which means you don’t have to pay your deductible in some situations when you are less than 50% at fault.
How much does a Massachusetts auto insurance premium cost?
There’s no way to predict exactly what your insurance premium might be until you speak with an insurance agent and get a quote. An insurer may not consider your credit rating when determining premium; however, charges and discounts can depend on a variety of individual factors, including:
- Type of car
- Prior coverage
- Amount of mileage you estimate per year
- Driving record
- Age, gender, and marital status
- Geographic location
- Amount of time you’ve been driving
- Purpose of car (whether only for personal use or also for business)
Massachusetts laws for establishing car accident liability
Massachusetts is a no-fault state for car insurance.
What does this mean?
When a car crash happens, each driver turns to their own insurance first to recover for damages. Your claim to your own insurance policy would cover medical expenses, property damage, and other fees.
This law is intended to keep car crash cases out of the courts and prevent personal injury lawsuits, but there are a couple of circumstances — called the “tort threshold” — when you might be able to file a lawsuit for a Massachusetts car crash:
- If the injuries cost you more than $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, or
- If the injuries are permanent and severe in a way that will affect your quality of life. This could include broken bones, disfigurement, lost hearing or vision, partial or complete loss of a body part, or death of a family member.
Even though you must first make a claim to your insurance company for damages, you have a legal right to sue the at-fault party for non-economic damages if they’re more than $2,000.
Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, other emotional anguish, loss of consortium, and other damages that don’t have a specific financial cost.
Massachusetts comparative negligence standard
Each state uses 1 of 4 negligence systems, which is how it apportions fault for an accident or injury. Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault 51% rule, which means you can only recover for injuries if you’re less than 51% at fault.
If you’re 51% or more at fault for the accident, you can’t recover damages. If you’re 50% or less at fault, you can recover damages that are reduced by the percentage of your fault. For instance, if you’re found to be 20% at fault, you would recover damages minus 20%.
How do you know who’s at fault?
Massachusetts lists 18 instances when fault is presumed to be more than 50%.
|Massachusetts laws for at-fault accident determinations|
|1||Collision with a parked vehicle|
|2||Out of lane collision (while passing, being passed, or changing lanes or turning)|
|3||Failure to signal when turning or changing lanes|
|4||Failure to proceed with caution from a traffic control signal or sign|
|5||Collision on the wrong side of the road|
|6||Operating in the wrong direction in a travel lane or on a one-way street or highway|
|7||Collision at an uncontrolled intersection if entering a main road at a secondary road, entering from the left of the other vehicle, or entering at a point in time later than the other vehicle|
|8||Collision while backing up|
|9||Collision while making a left turn or U-turn across another vehicle's path, whether traveling in the same direction or the opposite direction|
|10||Leaving or exiting from a parked position, parking lot, alley, or driveway|
|11||Opening a vehicle door in a way that results in a collision|
|12||Single vehicle collision|
|13||Failure to obey driving rules|
|14||Unattended vehicle collision|
|15||Collision while merging onto a highway or into a rotary|
|16||Collision caused by a non-contact operator|
|17||Failure to yield right of way to emergency vehicles|
|18||Collision at "T" intersection where one road terminates into another|
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance in Massachusetts
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is required in Massachusetts, but underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is optional.
UIM covers losses for the driver (policyholder) and their passengers if the accident was caused by a driver whose insurance doesn’t cover the entire cost of their damages.
Accident damage costs can add up quickly, even if your injuries aren’t very serious. If your injuries require surgery, a hospital stay, diagnostic testing or significant treatment, your medical costs will easily surpass the $20,000 per person minimum policy coverage.
Massachusetts PIP insurance coverage
“PIP” stands for personal injury protection insurance.
Since Massachusetts is a no-fault state, you can use PIP insurance to pay for some of your own injury expenses. PIP pays for the first $8,000 of your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault.
When should you file a personal injury lawsuit for a Massachusetts car accident?
If insurance will cover the extent of your damages, by all means use it. That’s why you have it.
But if you weren’t at fault for the accident, and if insurance doesn’t cover all of your expenses, the only other option might be a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
Still, there are situations when a personal injury lawsuit might not be your best approach. For example, if the other driver was uninsured, they might not have money to pay a court judgment. That means even if you win the lawsuit, you might never receive the money.
If there are questions about who was liable, how much you’re owed in damages, or you feel that the insurance companies are unresponsive or unwilling to provide the amount you believe you deserve, you should consider talking to a personal injury lawyer.
Personal injury lawyers don’t just file lawsuits. A large part of their role is to work with insurance companies to reach a fair settlement for their clients. If you were injured in a car accident and the insurance company isn’t providing the amount of damages you need to cover expenses, or if you’re not sure what your future expenses will be, you should consult an attorney near you right away.
You can find an experienced, helpful, and skilled Massachusetts personal injury lawyer in the Enjuris law firm directory.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.