Boston Car Accident Lawyers
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. Trying to handle your case on your own could result in low settlements or claims being rejected by insurance companies. Never file your case alone.
The dedicated Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan 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) 977-6647.
What to Do Immediately Following a Car Accident in Boston, MA
There are various steps you should take immediately after a car accident. Claims through insurance or the courts both rely on information and evidence, so gathering that evidence is vital to proving your case later.
There is some evidence that your Boston car accident lawyer might be able to obtain later, but much of the most important evidence is at the scene of the crash. However, your injuries are your first priority.
Call for Help
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.
Get Medical Treatment
If the EMTs that responded to the accident scene think you need medical treatment, accept the treatment. In an emergency situation, it is vital to accept the medical care you need. You can file a claim or lawsuit later to get compensation for the cost of this treatment.
If injuries are allowed to go untreated, you could potentially get worse or even die. it is not always easy to tell how serious head injuries and neck/back injuries are without scans or tests at a hospital. it is better to get these issues treated and to have any internal bleeding or other injuries checked out immediately instead of going to the ER or your primary care doctor hours or days later.
Getting quick medical care also creates a record of the injuries. This can help you show a court or an insurance company that the injuries happened in this car accident and not through some other accident later. Insurance companies and defendants in car accident cases will go to great lengths to make up excuses as to why they should not have to pay for certain injuries and damages, so having these records helps lock down your case.
You should, if possible, take photographs of the scene, the vehicles, and the condition of the road where the crash occurred. Photos can help show an insurance company or a jury exactly what happened in your accident case. The insurance adjusters and jurors will not be able to see the accident scene in court, so they will not know how far apart the cars were, what specific angle the cars collided at, etc. Relying on photos of the accident alongside testimony is often better than relying on the drivers’ statements alone.
Photos also show things like the road conditions. If the accident happened because the road was dangerous, then the defendant might not have been able to avoid causing the crash. Conversely, wet conditions, ice, or avoidable potholes could indicate that the defendant should have been driving slower or more carefully, and that they are at-fault because they failed to do so.
Photos of skid marks can also be helpful evidence. If there are long skid marks, it can show that a driver started braking early and did not stop for a long time, indicating they were speeding. If there are no skid marks, it can show that the driver did not react – perhaps they were drunk and their reduced reaction time make it impossible to stop in time.
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.
Having this info is vital because it allows you to know whom you need to file a claim against and what witnesses you can contact to testify about the case. If you let the driver go without finding out who they were, it will be difficult to find them and sue them later. Similarly, letting witnesses go without providing contact info or a statement means that you cannot call on them later to help back up your story about what happened in the crash.
Much of this information will be contained in the police report, but it is possible that the police might not do a thorough job of building the report. Doing this work yourself can help ensure you have the evidence you need for your claim.
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.
Follow Up with an Attorney
It is vital to take all of this information about your accident to a lawyer. Your Boston car accident attorney can help you file your claim and get the compensation you need. The evidence you collected can help secure that victory.
Your attorney might also be able to find additional information and resources to help you prove your case. For instance, traffic cameras and nearby security cameras around the scene of the accident might have caught the crash on video. Your lawyer can send letters requesting that these videos be preserved as potential evidence for your case. Without sending this kind of demand letter, the recordings could be deleted or overwritten within a matter of days.
As mentioned, your attorney can also represent you in any discussions with insurance, potentially negotiating a fair settlement very quickly if the facts of the case are on your side.
The Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases in Massachusetts
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 is 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.
Who Can File a Lawsuit Following a Car Accident in Massachusetts?
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.
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.
Was the Accident Another Driver’s Fault?
To win a lawsuit for car accident injuries, you will have to show that the party that you are suing (typically, the other driver) was at fault for causing the accident and your injuries. This is traditionally done by showing that the other driver violated some traffic law, such as driving faster than the speed limit or failing to use a turn signal. it is not enough to say that a driver blew a speed light two minutes before the accident— the violation has to be the direct and proximate cause of the accident.
However, the other side may try to argue that your own negligence contributed as well. Massachusetts follows the 51% comparative negligence rule, which awards damages proportionally to the level of fault shared by the parties, so long as the defendant was more than 50% at fault.
For instance, let’s say a court decides that the other driver was at fault for causing your accident because the other driver accelerated through a red light and collided with you in an intersection. However, if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident, the court could also determine that you shared 20% of the responsibility for the injuries you suffered. If you claimed $10,000 in damages for your injuries, you would only be able to recover 80%, or $8,000. If the court determined that your failure to wear your seatbelt was 51% of the cause of your injuries, you won’t be able to recover at all — hence, the 51% comparative negligence rule.
Does Weather Affect Fault?
Boston roads are in the part of the country where there are severe winter conditions, including snow and ice. 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 from other cars in traffic due to the icy and slippery street.
Did You Sustain Injuries?
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.
What Damages and Compensation are Available?
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.
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 an 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.
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.
UM claims are also essential in hit and run cases. If the driver who hit you drove off and you cannot identify them, you may need to use a UM claim to get damages. In these cases, your own PIP insurance and UM coverage could be used to cover your damages up to policy limits. Talk to a Boston car accident lawyer for more details about how to handle hit and run cases.
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.
The Process of Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ no-fault insurance rules often prevent lawsuits from being filed right off the bat. However, in cases of serious or permanent injury, you can often file a lawsuit. Your lawyer can help protect your right to sue, but they must also prove certain facts to win your case.
When suing for personal injury in Boston for a car crash, there are certain thresholds and requirements you must meet – which are discussed below. But you must also prove that the driver was at fault for your accident. This means showing that they breached some legal duty – often a traffic law – and that the breach of duty caused your injuries. This is the tort of negligence – a civil lawsuit filed for bodily injury, as discussed in further detail below.
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.
Do Car Accident Lawsuits Vary from County-to-County?
Fortunately, the laws that govern whether you can recover damages and the amount of those damages are consistent throughout Massachusetts, regardless of where your accident occurred. However, where matters become more complicated is in the procedural rules. These rules apply to the filings that you make, notice, and other minutiae of which the average citizen would have no reason to be aware. That’s where our Massachusetts car accident attorneys come in.
Who Do You Sue?
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 to the car.
Should You Sue the Insurance Company or the Other Driver After an Accident?
Massachusetts is in the minority of states that applies a “no-fault” system for car accident insurance issues. Practically, this means that you must look to your own insurance company first before bringing a claim against the other driver (and, by proxy, their insurer).
You can only bring your case against the other driver to court if your medical expenses exceed $2,000 and your injuries include serious or permanent injuries such as disfigurement, broken bones, or damage to your hearing or eyesight.
If you file a claim with your insurance provider and they deny it or issue a lower settlement amount than you believe you deserve, you may be able to sue them. First, however, you should file a complaint against the insurer with the Massachusetts Division of Insurance. Insurance companies are required by Massachusetts law to avoid unreasonable delays or claim denials, investigate all claims, and represent policy coverage accurately. If you believe that your insurance company has failed in any of these areas, contact our Massachusetts car accident attorneys as soon as you can.
Filing a Complaint for a Car Accident in Boston
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.
Superior Court vs. District Court and Procedural Amounts
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.
Federal Jurisdiction or Drivers from Other States
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.
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.
How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
It may surprise you to know that the actual trial portion of a car accident lawsuit almost always takes the least amount of time compared to the other parts. The pre-trial period, which includes discovery (or the gathering of evidence) and settlement negotiations may last several months, whereas the actual trial may last only days. Factors that may influence the length of time that a car accident lawsuit may take include the severity of the injuries, the number of parties involved, the amount of damages claimed, and the willingness of the parties to negotiate reasonably. Every case is different and, like settlement amounts, the expected amount of time for a case to resolve varies depending on the specific circumstances.
The Process of Hiring 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.
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 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 above) 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.
Is it Really Worth it to Hire a Car Accident Attorney for a Case in Boston?
When you are considering whether to take action on your potential car accident injury claim in Massachusetts, you might be wondering if it makes financial sense to pay for legal assistance. The reality is that the other driver’s insurance company is hoping you try to go at it alone. Unrepresented defendants recover less on average and are much more likely to abandon their case before they see anything in recovery.
The Law Office of John J. Sheehan offers comprehensive representation at every stage of your case. You can use your lawyer to help record your medical costs for damage assessments, contact lay, and expert witnesses, negotiate settlement terms with the other side’s insurance company and represent you in court when your hearing arrives.
Insurance companies tend to treat claimants that they know to be unrepresented unfairly. This is because they take your decision to pursue your claim without a lawyer on your side as a sign that you aren’t taking your recovery seriously. Our Massachusetts car accident lawyers will demand fair treatment from the insurance company, and if they don’t, we can press charges for bad faith conduct against them and potentially win you even more money than you were originally owed.
Our Car Accident Attorneys Serve All of Massachusetts
When it comes to civil suits, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has some of the oldest and most complex laws in the country. Fortunately, our resourceful Massachusetts car accident attorneys have experience dealing with cases throughout the various jurisdictions in the Commonwealth and can assist you no matter where your accident occurred.
Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 977-6647 to schedule a consultation with our experienced car accident team.