Massachusetts No-Fault Car Insurance Law
Massachusetts has car accident compensation laws and rules that govern when a car accident lawsuit in Massachusetts can be filed and under what conditions they may prevail and receive monetary compensation.
In Massachusetts, all motor vehicle liability insurance policy providers are required to include a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, so you are covered regardless of fault. It affords up to $8,000, combined, for related medical bills and lost wages. The injured person may collect regardless of who caused the accident.
Concerning reimbursement of medical bills, the injured person needs to demonstrate that the medical treatment is related to the accident and is reasonable and necessary. He or she also has to demonstrate that the bills are reasonable. If the injured person has health insurance, PIP will pay the first $2,000 in related bills. Before paying beyond that amount, the injured person has to submit bills to the health insurer to determine what amount, if any, the insurer will pay. PIP will only reimburse for medical bills incurred within two years after the accident.
Concerning reimbursement of lost wages, PIP will pay up to $75% of the injured person’s average weekly gross wages, based on the 12 months immediately preceding the accident.
PIP is considered “exhausted” after a combined $8,000 has been paid.
An injured person may only file a lawsuit, seeking damages for personal injuries and pain and suffering, if he or she has incurred medical bills of more than $2000, or if the injuries result in death, loss of body part, serious and permanent disfigurement, broken bone, and/or loss of hearing or sight. This is referred to as the Massachusetts “tort threshold”.
What Type of Claims Can Be Made When Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit?
There are typically four types of specific claims that can be made when seeking compensation after an automobile accident:
- Personal injuries – The injured person may seek money damages for all physical and emotional injuries suffered, plus payment for all related past and future medical bills and lost wages, scarring, disfigurement, impairment, disability, and disruption in daily activities.
- Conscious Pain and Suffering / Wrongful Death – A personal representative of the decedent’s estate may seek damages for the conscious pain and suffering the decedent endured before dying and for the loss suffered by family members who survived him or her.
- Product Liability – If injuries and/or death result from one or more defects in the car, claims may be filed against the manufacturer of the car and/or of the defective car part, and against the car dealer.
- Insurance Bad Faith – When responding to an injured person’s claim, an insurance company owes a number of duties to that person, including the duties to: investigate and respond timely; to effectuate fair and equitable settlements when liability is reasonably clear; to offer settlement amounts which a reasonable person would consider reasonable; and to act fairly and in good faith. When and insurance company breaches any of those duties, it may be sued for unfair claim settlement practices.
Percentage of Fault is Key – Modified Comparative Negligence
Citizens of Massachusetts may file car accident lawsuits seeking compensation for their property damage and personal injuries. However, the injured person will not prevail and recover against the at-fault driver, unless he or she is more to blame for the accident than the injured person. That is the law of comparative negligence – which Massachusetts has adopted over the harsher law of contributory negligence, which barred the injured person from recovering damages, if he or she was at fault, to any degree.
Following the comparative negligence rule, if a judge or jury determines, after hearing and reviewing the evidence, that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault in causing the accident, he or she will not recover; however, if the plaintiff is 50% at fault or less, then the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by his or her percentage share of fault. For example, if the plaintiff is awarded $100,000, but the jury finds the plaintiff to be 10% at fault, the court will reduce the award by 10% to $90,000.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
An injured person does not have an indefinite time to file a lawsuit against at-fault driver. In MA, a plaintiff must file his or her complaint within three years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file your complaint timely, the court will dismiss your complaint with prejudice – meaning you will never be able to bring a case for damages. The only exception to that general rule is if the related injury is first discovered much later.
If an accident results in death, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death suit is still three years. However, the time starts running from the date of death, not from the date of the accident.
For complaints against government defendants, the statute of limitations still three years, but you have to send written notice of the claim, to the governmental agency, within two years of the accident and afford the agency six months to respond. Failing to provide timely and adequate notice will prevent recovery.
Damages That Can Be Claimed
Damages that can be sued for are classified in two categories:
- Economic – These are actual monetary losses resulting from the accident, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
- Non-economic – These damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of companionship.
Is there a Limit on Collectable Damages?
Against private individuals and entities, there is no limit or cap on the damages which may be claimed and awarded for property damage, personal injuries, and death resulting from car accidents. Any amount awarded by the judge or jury will be based on the evidence and severity of the injuries.
Massachusetts Car Accident Settlement Agreements
Sometimes you may not even have to file a car accident lawsuit or have a trial. Your claim can be settled before filing a formal complaint, especially if you have effective legal representation.
A settlement agreement can be reached by performing a calculation of the sum of money a plaintiff would be willing to accept and the defendant would be willing to pay. This process includes a thorough review of all economic and non-economic damages to arrive at a sum which appears fair and reasonable to both parties. This amount can be adjusted up or down depending on how likely it is the plaintiff will prevail.
How to Hire the Right Car Accident Attorney to Handle Your Case
Car accident compensation laws are complicated and minor mistakes can mean the loss of a case even when you have a valid claim. That is why it is so important to hire an accomplished and experienced personal injury attorney to properly handle your case and protect your rights.
Many attorneys will accept a contingency fee arrangement for taking a car accident lawsuit in Massachusetts when personal injury or wrongful death resulted from your car accident. This helps plaintiffs because there are no legal fees to pay in advance of settlement or trial recovery. You only need to agree for the attorney fees to be deducted from your jury award or negotiated settlement agreement.