Boston Car Accident Lawyer
Many people who are injured in car accidents are scared and confused in the aftermath. They may not understand what their legal rights are, if they are at fault for the accident, or how they could possibly handle the claim on their own. Individuals injured in Boston car accidents that are not their fault have the right to pursue compensation for all their losses. Unfortunately, insurance companies like to take advantage of unrepresented claimants who are unfamiliar with personal injury law and their right to compensation.
If you receive a low settlement offer or are pressured to sign statements waiving your right to sue or admitting fault for the accident, you may need professional legal representation for your personal injury case. The dedicated Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan could work on your behalf to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. To set up a free legal consultation on your car accident case, call our car accident attorneys in Boston today at (617) 925-6407.
Initial Steps to Take Following a Car Accident in Boston, MA
After being involved in a car accident caused by another driver’s fault or negligence, you should call 911. The police and emergency personnel can respond and, if necessary, transport you to the nearest hospital, where you can be further evaluated and treated.
Individuals should, if possible, take photographs of the scene, the vehicles, and the conditions of the road where the crash occurred. You should exchange information with the other drivers. Be sure to get the license and registration information from the other drivers involved. You should also identify any witnesses to the accident and get their name and phone number.
Obtaining The Police Report
The typical process for obtaining the police report in a car accident case in Massachusetts is to send a written request for the police report to the local or state police department or Registry of Motor Vehicles. The police report will contain information that will identify the operator and owner of all the vehicles involved in the accident and the insurance company for each vehicle.
Sometimes, the police officer at the scene will obtain information and provide each driver with an information sheet containing the following:
- The make, model, and year of the vehicle
- The registration information for the vehicles
- Driver’s license numbers
- Each driver’s name, address
- Insurance company information
With that information, your lawyer can contact the other driver’s insurance company and confirm insurance coverage and coverage limits and begin the steps to file a personal injury claim. The other driver’s insurance company will provide your lawyer with the claim number and the name and contact information of the insurance adjuster assigned to the claim. Your lawyer will send a letter of representation to notify the insurance company that they are representing you in the personal injury claim.
What Are My Legal Rights as a Boston Car Accident Claimant
Making a PIP Claim After a Car Accident
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Massachusetts caused by another driver’s fault or negligence, there are different legal rights and claims that you can make to obtain compensation benefits for your medical bills, lost wages and damages.
With few exceptions, you can make a claim for PIP Benefits (also called No Fault Benefits) through the insurance company for the car that you were in at the time of the accident. PIP Benefits even if you were at fault. The amount of PIP Benefits is usually $8,000 which can pay for part of your lost wages caused by your injuries and your medical bills. You will need to get a disability note from your doctor stating that you should stay out of work due to your injuries.
The amount of money that PIP will pay for your medical bills depends on the type of health insurance that you had at the time of the car accident and during your treatment. It can be very complicated dealing with your car insurance company and health insurer.
Med Pay Claims
Med Pay is optional coverage that you can purchase that will pay for medical bills related to treatment that you receive related to a car accident. The amount of available Med Pay Benefits depends on the amount of coverage that you bought when you purchased or renewed your auto insurance policy.
How a Boston Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Bring a Bodily Injury Claim
A Bodily Injury Claim is the name that insurers use for what most people call a personal injury claim. In order to be eligible to bring a Bodily Injury Claim for injuries sustained in a car accident in Massachusetts, you must have medical expenses related to the car accident that altogether total more than $2,000. This is what is known as the Massachusetts Tort Threshold and is set forth in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 231 §6D. There are exceptions to the $2,000 tort threshold requirement such as, for example, death, loss of a body member in whole or in part, loss of sight or hearing or a fracture.
An experienced car accident lawyer will conduct an investigation to identify all available insurance coverage that may pay your Bodily Injury Claim. This can be complicated especially in cases where there are multiple injured parties bringing bodily injury claims with limited insurance. That is why it is best to hire an experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer.
How much money your lawyer can obtain from the at-fault driver’s insurer to compensate depends on the amount of your damages (read below) and the amount of available insurance coverage. At this time, the compulsory Bodily Injury insurance coverage limits are $20,000 per claim/$40,000 per accident. The at-fault driver may have higher optional bodily injury limits such as $50,000 per claim/$75,000 per accident, $100,000 per claim/$300,000 per accident or $250,000 per claim/$500,000 per accident. An experienced car accident attorney will investigate additional insurance coverage such as Umbrella Insurance or coverage through a Commercial General Liability policy.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) Claims
You may have additional insurance coverage through your own auto insurance policy that will pay your damages if you were injured in a car accident due to another driver’s fault who was uninsured or did not have enough Bodily Injury coverage to adequately compensate you for your damages. This type of additional insurance coverage is Uninsured Insurance or Underinsured Insurance and is commonly referred to as a UM Claim. This is coverage that you buy to protect yourself and your immediate family in the event that you are seriously injured in a car accident due to someone else’s fault who was either uninsured or did not have enough insurance coverage to compensate you. It is advisable to purchase as much UM Coverage that you can afford. At the very least, be sure to purchase more than the minimum $20,000/$40,000 limits.
Proving Negligence in a Boston Car Crash Case
In order to bring a Bodily Injury Claim, your car accident lawyer will need to prove that your injuries and damages were caused by the other driver’s fault or negligence. Again, that is another reason why you need to hire a lawyer who specializes in handling car accident personal injury claims. Time is of the essence. Your lawyer will need to investigate the accident, obtain photographs or video of the accident scene and identify and interview witnesses.
You may ask yourself if you will have to go to Court to win your Bodily Injury Claim. In most cases, no. If the evidence is clear that the other driver was at fault, then their insurance company will want to settle your claim.
Your lawyer will submit a settlement demand to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The demand will explain why the other driver was at fault and the injuries and damages that you suffered as a result of the car accident. The demand will include a dollar amount of money that your lawyer is claiming to settle your personal injury claim. Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance adjuster to get to an acceptable compromise to settle your claim.
If the insurance adjuster refuses to offer enough money to settle your Bodily Injury Claim, your lawyer may file a lawsuit. Just because your lawyer files a lawsuit does not mean that the settlement negotiations stop. After the lawsuit is filed in Court, the bodily injury claim may be assigned to a more senior insurance adjuster who will have higher authority to offer more money to settle your claim. Over 90% of personal injury lawsuits settle before trial.
Statute of Limitations for Boston Car Accident Lawsuits
Even in cases where a defendant is clearly responsible for the accident, you may lose your right to get compensation for your injuries and damages if you do not file a lawsuit in time. There is a strict time limit of three years for a plaintiff to file a case for personal injury under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 260 § 2A. The statute of limitations only sets the time before you need to file your case. This by no means implies that you need to file your case, go to trial, and have a jury decide your claim before the three year window has closed, just that you need to get your case in the door.
If a plaintiff misses the statute of limitations deadline, their case is likely to fail. Defendants are allowed to file a motion to dismiss a case if it was filed too late after the statute of limitations has expired. Courts can also do this “sua sponte” and toss a case on their own if they see that it was filed too late. Filing a case late can also mean that evidence will have more time to go missing or be destroyed, and it gives witnesses more time to forget what happened. This can all hurt your case even if it ultimately filed in under three years without an automatic dismissal, so it is vital to talk to a Boston personal injury lawyer as soon as possible instead of waiting.
Insurance companies are aware of the statute of limitations and will often refuse to negotiate a settlement if the accident happened more than three years ago. They know that, ultimately, you have no other recourse if you cannot take the case to court, so they usually will not continue to work toward paying cases that are filed too late. This is another reason that it is important to file your case quickly: filing a lawsuit puts additional pressure on an insurance company to settle for a fair amount.
Injuries And Damages You Can Sue For In A Boston Car Accident Injury Lawsuit
If you can prove that you were injured and suffered damages in a car accident caused by another driver’s fault or negligence, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries and damages including pain and suffering provided you meet the $2,000 Massachusetts tort threshold or one of the exceptions.
Common examples of qualifying physical injuries stemming from car accidents include the following:
- Severe cuts or bruises
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Ankle injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
A car accident personal injury lawsuit can demand compensation for all medical costs associated with bringing the plaintiff back to full health. Even for minor to moderate injuries, these expenses could be quite high. If the plaintiff is not expected to ever fully recover, the claim could also demand payment for future medical treatment.
In addition to medical costs, a comprehensive car accident claim should also quantify the other economic losses associated with the case. If a plaintiff misses time at work to seek medical treatment, develops permanent disabilities, or suffers from PTSD symptoms because of their Boston auto accident, their lawyer should fight to ensure their settlement demand includes compensation for losses like these. Often, lost wages and reduced earning capacity damages are essential in helping an auto accident victim move on with their life after a crash.
Damages for pain and suffering are also an important element of damages. These damages pay for intangible things that the car accident victim suffers after a crash, such as fear of future car accidents, physical pain from their injuries, emotional distress at what happened, mental anguish of coping with an injury, loss of enjoyment of life from being unable to be physically active, and other intangible harms. Your Boston car accident lawyer can help you put a value on these non-economic damages so that you can claim them in court.
Suing Companies for Commercial Car Accidents in Boston
In many car accident injury cases, the defendant will be the individual who was operating the car that hit you. In some cases, this could be a commercial driver, such as a truck driver or bus driver. When you are injured in a car accident with a professional, commercial driver who was on-duty, that driver’s employer could also be legally responsible for your damages caused by its employee driver’s negligence.
Many drivers who work for delivery companies, shipping companies, bus companies, taxi companies, or other companies often spend many hours on the road and could become lazy or complacent. This often means more driving errors and oversights that could lead to car accidents. If their driving habits are further worsened by tight deadlines, overly long hours, or other problems, their employer could be at fault.
Many trucking companies and other companies have been accused of overworking drivers and forcing them to violate trucking regulations and other driving regulations put in place to keep other drivers safe. These companies also sometimes hire drivers who do not meet proper qualifications for commercial driving, and they could also fail to fire or retrain workers that have a history of accidents or traffic violations. This could put the fault in an accident case partly upon the company the driver worked for, allowing you to sue them for their own share of the mistakes.
If an accident happened while the driver was in the course of performing their job duties, the driver’s employer and its insurance company will be responsible for paying for damages caused on the car.
Can Weather Impact Liability In A Boston Auto Accident Case?
Boston roads are in the part of the country where there are severe winter conditions, including snow and ice. During the winter months, the roadways throughout Boston and Massachusetts are very slick and slippery, especially at night when the temperature goes down and in the morning when commuters are leaving their houses to go to work. Treacherous conditions have caused a lot of accidents both on the local roadways and highways.
Dangerous weather can impact the assignment of fault in a car accident in Massachusetts. For example, the other driver involved in the car accident might argue that they were not at fault because of the icy and slippery roadway. The other driver could also argue that they were acting reasonably given the conditions and that they took all necessary precautions to avoid an accident. Whether that defense is successful depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. A driver may be expected to reduce their speed and keep a safe stopping distance with other cars in traffic due to the icy and slippery street.
Types of Damages You Can Recover In A Car Accident Lawsuit in Boston
The recoverable damages sought by a person involved in a dangerous car accident in Boston would include the same damages involved in any other personal injury claim. That would include economic and non-economic damages, also referred to as special damages and general damages.
Depending on the severity of the injuries caused by the accident, the types of damages an individual could recover may vary. It is best to seek help from an experienced Boston car accident lawyer to learn about the specific types of damages an individual may be eligible to recover.
Economic damages or special damages include losses that can be quantified or added up, such as lost wages and medical bills.
General damages or non-economic damages include losses that cannot be easily quantified. Those would include damages such as scarring, disfigurement, loss of function, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Loss of enjoyment of life refers to the inability to engage in activities they once could before the accident, such as a hobby, sport, or exercise. Non-Economic damages do not have an exact formula to calculate them.
A person may suffer anxiety and depression because of the accident. If it was a very severe car accident and they were very gravely injured, they might suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. They might experience nightmares in recalling the events and they might feel a sense of sadness over the loss of the life that they used to have and now living a life in pain. Those are all examples of non-economic damages.
The old rule of thumb years ago when negotiating settlements with insurance adjusters was so-called triple the special damages, which include the medical bills and lost wages. However, the true measure of the non-economic damages is really what a jury determines.
The better your Boston car accident attorney can demonstrate the extent and severity of your damages, the better chance they have of obtaining full recovery either in a settlement or through a jury trial. One way of doing that is, if there is scarring, to be able to have photographs that would show the scarring when it was in its acute stage and then show the permanent scar after the passage of time. Another way is to show it through a medical expert who would examine and report and explain the nature of the injury, the treatment they have had, and any permanent impairment that they have suffered.
Filing A Car Accident Injury Claim in Boston, Massachusetts
A car accident personal injury lawsuit begins with the filing of a Complaint. Depending on the amount of special damages, usually lost wages and medical bills, the Complaint may be filed in the Massachusetts Superior Court or Massachusetts District Court.
Superior Court and District Court Procedural Amount
The Procedural Amount is the total amount of the plaintiff’s special damages which typically include lost wages and medical bills. Starting on January 1, 2020, the Procedural Amount for filing a complaint in District Court was increased to $50,000. That means that all personal injury cases with special damages that total $50,000 and below, must be filed in District Court. Any case that has special damages that are more
than $50,000 may be filed in Superior Court.
Superior Court and District Court in Massachusetts have different pre-trial rules and the juries are different. Generally, Superior Court jury trials have twelve jurors, and District Court has six jurors.
Cases Filed In Federal District Court
One could file a case in the federal district court in a Boston car accident case when the at-fault party is a federal employee. For example, the car accident involved a postal worker who was driving a postal vehicle negligently and caused an accident. The injured party must file the lawsuit in federal court. However, similar to the case of the Massachusetts government employee, they must follow the notification requirements under federal law.
Also, an out-of-state defendant may remove a personal injury case filed in a Massachusetts state court to federal district court if the plaintiff’s special damages are more than $75,000 as long as there are no other Massachusetts defendants in the case.
How Do Car Accident Lawsuits Work In Boston?
Should you decide to take legal action to hold the at-fault party accountable for their reckless actions, you may have to undergo various pre-trial procedures before presenting your case before a jury at trial. If a mistake is made at any point, your case may be delayed or potentially thrown out. In order to minimize any mistakes, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney. A lawyer may be able to provide you with valuable insight regarding the Boston car accident litigation.
Filing a Complaint
After a complaint is filed, the complaint and summons complaint in either a civil action cover sheet or a statement of damages are then served by a deputy sheriff on the defendant. The defendant has a certain period of time to answer the complaint by filing a written answer to the complaint or, in some cases although rarely, filing a motion to dismiss if the defendant believes that the complaint is insufficient and is defective or fails to state a claim upon which release may be granted.
After a complaint is filed, it is then served by a deputy sheriff. The defendant is required to respond to the complaint within a certain period of time. In some cases though, the defendant could file a motion to dismiss if the defendant believes the complaint is insufficient and/or fails to state a proper injury claim.
After the complaint is filed and the defendant’s answer is filed, the parties then engage in a process called discovery, which is the pretrial period wherein the parties send each other written questions called interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and deposition notices. They may subpoena documents or subpoena witnesses to testify from third parties, businesses, or entities that are not parties to the lawsuit.
Discovery is a very important part of a personal injury lawsuit where your car accident attorney will obtain the evidence needed to settle your bodily injury claim or win your case at trial.
Pretrial Conferences and Memorandums
After the discovery period, the parties would then be notified to appear before the court for what is called a pretrial conference. The parties have to participate and cooperate by drafting a joint pretrial conference memorandum.
The pretrial conference memorandum would include a list of exhibits that the parties anticipate submitting into evidence at trial. It would also contain a list of witnesses that each party expected to testify in court. In addition, a list of expert witnesses who would be testifying in court, either live or via pre-taped video deposition, would also be included.
At the conclusion of discovery and before going to trial, the parties may agree to go to Mediation, which is a settlement conference with a mediator – usually a retired judge or senior attorney. Mediation is a very useful tool to negotiate a compromise that will settle the car accident personal injury claim. A Mediator can help get the defendant’s insurance adjuster to offer more money than was previously offered by explaining the risks in going to trial. Also, a Mediator can explain to the plaintiff the defenses and risks that the plaintiff may lose at trial or get a jury verdict and judgment that is less than what the insurance adjuster is willing to offer to settle the claim at Mediation.
Do You Need An Attorney For A Car Accident Case In Boston?
Considering the amount of detail it takes to successfully submit a claim, it is important to work with someone familiar with Boston car accident litigation. Not only could an attorney argue your case in court, but they could also help with the preparation and filing of a claim and negotiating with the defendant’s insurance company to settle your case. By having a Boston car accident lawyer at your side, your chances to obtain a favorable outcome may dramatically increase. To get started on your case, be sure to schedule a consultation today.
Our Boston Car Accident Lawyers Can Help If You Were Injured In A Crash
Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a consultation with our Massachusetts personal injury lawyer.