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How Car Accident Compensation Works in Massachusetts

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If you’ve been injured, make sure you know your rights and options

The crash itself may have been a single moment in time, but the costs can ripple throughout your life. You need your medical bills paid, plus compensation for your lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and other costs caused by your car accident. You have rights under Massachusetts law, but navigating the car insurance system isn’t easy. That’s why you need to know how the system works – and how a car accident attorney can help with your injury claim and settlement.

Is Massachusetts a fault or no-fault state for car accidents?

Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state for car accidents. That means everyone is required to carry personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for certain accident-related expenses, such as medical bills, on a no-fault basis.

Certain legal criteria must be met to file a third-party liability claim or lawsuit. In situations where more than one party is at fault, Massachusetts is a “modified comparative negligence” state with a 51% bar rule. This means you can recover compensation if you are up to 50% at fault, but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages are $100,000 and you are 40% at fault, then you would recover $60,000, but if you are 55% at fault, then you would recover nothing.

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What types of car insurance are required in Massachusetts?

Every state has its own car insurance requirements. Massachusetts law sets the following requirements for all vehicles registered in the state:

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage of at least $8,000. PIP pays for your medical expenses and 75% of your lost wages or replacement services (such as childcare), up to the policy limit. Your PIP insurance covers you, members of your household, anyone you let drive or ride in your car, and pedestrians hit by your car.
  • Bodily Injury (BI) coverage, which protects other people injured or killed in an accident you cause. The minimum bodily injury insurance in Massachusetts is $20,000 per person and $40,000 total per accident, with the option to purchase more.
  • Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance, which “stands in” for the other driver’s insurance if you are hit by a vehicle that does not have liability insurance. UM also pays for injuries caused by an unidentified driver (that is, a hit and run or “phantom vehicle” that is never found). Like PIP, UM covers you, your household members, and anyone you let drive or ride in your car.
  • Property Damage coverage, which pays for damage to another person’s vehicle or other personal property in an accident you cause. The minimum property damage liability insurance is $5,000 per accident.
Insurance companies also offer several types of optional insurance to Massachusetts drivers.

Including:

  • Collision and comprehensive coverage, which pays for vehicle damage. Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle in a crash, regardless of fault, while comprehensive pays for non-collision damage such as vandalism or natural disaster. While you aren’t required by law to carry this insurance, it’s usually required by the lienholder if your vehicle is financed.
  • Medical payments insurance, which covers medical expenses and funeral services for accident-related injuries for you, anyone in your car, and any member of your household. Coverage for substitute transportation, towing and labor, roadside assistance, and gap insurance to pay off your auto loan if your financed car is totaled.

One of the most important aspects of a car accident claim is the amount of available insurance. An attorney can investigate, review policy documents, determine what coverage is available to pay for your injuries, and coordinate coverage to increase your recovery. 

Can I file a car accident lawsuit in Massachusetts?

Because Massachusetts is a no-fault state, you need to meet certain legal criteria to file either a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

There are two ways to qualify to “step outside” the no-fault system:
You have at least $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, or Your injuries include permanent and serious disfigurement, a fracture (broken bone), or substantial loss of hearing or sight.

You only have a limited amount of time to take legal action after a crash. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations (legal deadline) to file a car accident lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the accident.

There are also practical reasons why time can weaken your lawsuit, as evidence could be lost or destroyed and witnesses could forget what they saw. That’s why it’s in your interest to speak with a car accident attorney about your situation. A lawyer can analyze the circumstances of your accident, advise on your options, and calculate how much your claim is worth.

How much is a car accident claim worth in Massachusetts?

In general, three factors can affect the value of your claim: the severity of your injuries, the effects your injuries have had on your life, and the amount of available insurance to pay for those injuries.

There are two main types of damages (financial compensation) in car accident cases: economic and non-economic.

  • Economic damages are objectively measurable losses that can be tied to a specific dollar figure. Common examples of economic damages include:
  • Medical expenses, such as ambulance fees, hospital bills, surgery, medication, medical devices, physical therapy, and other reasonable and necessary medical costs. Lost wages and lost future income, if your injuries have affected or will affect your ability to work and earn a paycheck.
  • Replacement services such as childcare, yard work, and cleaning, if you are unable to take care of those tasks due to your injuries.
  • Accessibility modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate a personal injury. Property damage to your vehicle or other personal property.

Non-economic damages are more subjective but no less real. The non-economic portion of your claim may include:

  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress. Loss of quality and enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium – which means loss of intimacy and harm to family relationships due to your injury.

In rare circumstances, you might also be able to pursue punitive damages, which are intended to punish the at-fault party for particularly egregious acts of negligence.

An experienced car accident attorney can document your losses, calculate the full value of your claim, and pursue the fullest compensation allowed by law.

What if the other driver doesn't have insurance?

Massachusetts requires all drivers to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM). That means if the driver who caused your accident doesn’t have insurance, you can file a UM/UIM claim with your own insurance company. This also applies if you are hurt by a “phantom vehicle” or hit and run driver who is never found – an unknown driver is uninsured by default.

Note that even if you are dealing with your own insurance company in a UM/UIM claim, it’s still in your interest to have legal representation. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and ensure your rights are protected.

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