Fitchburg, MA Car Accident Lawyer

Car accidents happen all the time, and many injured drivers are left with significant losses and no way to afford them. Talk to an attorney about how you can get compensation for your injuries.

While insurance is an option and might be helpful, you have other choices. If you meet certain legal criteria, an attorney can help you sue for your injuries. The best time to file a case might vary based on your specific circumstances, but you must do so no later than 3 years after the accident. We need time to determine who should be held responsible, such as another driver, their employer, or even governmental agencies. Your damages should consist of various economic and non-economic injuries, which might be substantial. To prove your claims for damages, we need evidence like testimony, photos, records, and more. If the defendant tries to claim you contributed to the crash, we might need to find evidence refuting any contributory negligence. After the accident, report it to the police immediately so they can investigate if necessary.

Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 and talk to our car accident attorneys for a free evaluation of your case.

Can I File a Legal Case for a Car Accident in Fitchburg, MA?

Different states have different rules when it comes to filing a lawsuit for a car accident. Massachusetts follows a no-fault rule. Under this rule, drivers would file claims with their own insurance providers under their personal injury protection (PIP) policies. This is often called a no-fault insurance rule because PIP policies do not require a showing of fault for drivers to be covered. Even if someone is responsible for causing their own accident, they may still be covered by their PIP insurance.

This system often helps drivers get insurance coverage a bit faster than in fault-based systems, where people file third-party claims against other drivers’ insurance and have to present evidence of fault. However, there is a catch. Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231 § 6D, there is a serious injury requirement for lawsuits.

Under this law, a driver cannot initiate a lawsuit unless they meet the criteria of the serious injury rule. You might satisfy the rule in one of several ways. First, you can sue if your expenses from the accident amount to more than $2,000. Second, you satisfy the rule if injuries from the accident resulted in death, the loss of a body part, serious disfigurement, or the loss of sight or hearing. Our car accident layers can help you file a lawsuit if your injuries meet any of these criteria.

The Best Time to File a Fitchburg, MA Car Accident Case

When exactly is the right time to start a lawsuit after a car accident? This can be a tough question to answer. After all, you might need some time to recover from your injuries, assess your costs, and decide if a lawsuit is even something you want. Whether you have already made up your mind or are still mulling things over, call a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your path forward.

While it is reasonable to take some time to discuss your options with a lawyer, you only have a limited amount of time in which to decide. According to Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260 § 2A, a plaintiff has only 3 years to file a personal injury claim, including claims for car accidents. This deadline begins to run on the date of the accident.

A 3-year window sounds like plenty of time, but there is a lot to do, and the deadline may come faster than you think. You need some time to recover and assess your legal options, and your attorney needs time to prepare the case before it is filed. It is not unusual for a lawyer to spend months gathering evidence, talking to witnesses, and developing legal strategies before filing the initial complaint.

While the best time to file your case may depend on various factors unique to your situation, getting started as early as possible is typically a good idea.

Determining Who Caused Your Car Accident in Fitchburg, MA

Numerous people might be to blame for causing your car accident. While another driver involved in the crash is often the root cause, others might be implicated. Depending on what the other driver was doing at the time of the crash, their employer might be named in a lawsuit. Alternatively, if the accident is related to poor road conditions, governmental entities in charge of maintaining the roads might be named in your case.

Another Driver

More often than not, some other driver involved in the accident is the one at fault. Sometimes, it is very easy to determine who this other driver is, such as when only two vehicles are involved, yours and someone else’s. Other times, determining which driver is responsible is harder.

One possibility is that your accident involved numerous vehicles and drivers. For instance, a large highway accident or pileup might involve many drivers and vehicles. Distinguishing between those who contributed to the crash and those who were only victims is not easy.

Another possibility is that the driver who hit you fled the scene before they could be identified. A hit and run not only causes serious complications for a civil lawsuit, but it is a serious criminal offense. Call the police right away if the other driver fled the scene. The police will likely thoroughly investigate and may find the other driver for us. Even so, your case might be delayed while the police search for the other driver and while the driver is going through criminal proceedings.

The Driver’s Employer

Depending on the nature of the accident and the defendant’s job, we might also name their employer in your case. When an employee, in the normal course of their job duties, is negligent and causes injuries, their employer may share liability for the injuries. If the other driver in your accident was driving for work, such as a delivery or bus driver, our car accident attorneys can help you identify and sue their employer for damages.

While employers are responsible for a lot, they are often not held responsible for intentional or criminal acts of harm by employees. For example, if you were hit by a delivery driver on purpose in a fit of road rage, the delivery driver’s employee would likely not be held responsible because the injuries were not due to negligence but purposeful actions. However, if the employer knew the delivery driver had a history of road rage when they hired them, we might sue them for negligent hiring.

Governmental Entities

Did your accident happen because a government employee driving public transportation crashed into you? Maybe a driver in some other state or city vehicle crashed into you. If your accident involved a government employee, you might have a case against the government.

Suing the government is possible under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act. Generally, the government has sovereign immunity from lawsuits, but the Act lays out specific instances where this immunity is waived. If a government employee was negligent while working in furtherance of their normal job functions, you may be able to sue their employer.

According to Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 258 § 4, we must submit a notice of your claim to the relevant government entity or agency within 2 years, and they must accept or deny it within 6 months of receiving the notice. If they deny the claim or fail to respond, we can move forward with a lawsuit.

Recovering Damages for Your Injuries After a Car Crash in Fitchburg, MA

Damages are the injuries and losses that courts will use as the basis of compensation. While many damages are based on how much money your injuries cost you, others are rooted in more subjective personal experiences and are unconnected to money. Still, the court can also award punitive damages to punish some defendants for extreme or outrageous actions.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages focus on helping the plaintiff get back into the position they were in before the car accident. While the damage and injuries from the accident cannot be undone, the courts can award monetary damages for your losses.

Compensatory damages are mainly comprised of economic losses and non-economic injuries. Economic losses are things like medical bills, vehicle repairs, and replacing damaged or lost personal property that might have been inside your car during the crash. We can also assess damages for lost income if you are too injured to return to work. Our legal team can help you keep track of your numerous expenses from the crash, so nothing is left out.

Other damages are non-economic in nature and are more subjectively evaluated. For example, you can claim damages for pain, emotional anguish, psychological distress, humiliation, and other painful experiences. The value of these damages varies based on the circumstances, and we should have strong evidence showing the jury how valuable your damages are.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a separate category of damages that may be awarded as a punishment for some defendants. These damages are very rare for several reasons. First, they are only awarded in very unique circumstances where defendants are found to have acted with malice or a shocking disregard for safety. Second, they are only available if authorized specifically by statute.

General personal injury claims, such as those commonly involved in car accident cases, are not eligible for punitive damages. Instead, the only cases that may involve punitive damages are wrongful death claims. Unless you are suing for a car accident that claimed the life of a family member, it is unlikely that punitive damages will come up.

Evidence You Need to Meet Your Burden of Proof in a Fitchburg, MA Car Accident Case

Evidence is the backbone of any lawsuit, and we need as much evidence as possible to support your claims. The burden of proof in civil injury claims is a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means we have to have enough evidence to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for your injuries.

Testimony from witnesses may be crucial. If any people, like other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians, watched as your accident happened, they may be needed to testify. If anyone can place the defendant behind the wheel of the car that hit you, you might have some very strong testimonial evidence.

A lot of people take pictures right after an accident, usually for insurance. However, photos taken immediately after the crash may also be used in the courtroom. These photos might be especially important if the accident scene was cleared away by law enforcement. If that is the case, your photos might be the only depiction of the accident scene.

We should search the area around the crash for security and traffic cameras. If your accident was recorded on video, we can actually show the jury how the accident happened in real time.

Will the Police Investigate My Car Accident in Fitchburg, MA?

While you should always call for help, including the police, after an accident, there are reporting requirements under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 90 § 26. Under the law, you must inform the police about your accident if anyone is killed or injured, or if there is any property damage exceeding $1,000. This tends to include many, if not most, accidents. You must report within 5 days of the accident, but you should call the police right away.

Whether the police will launch a full-fledged investigation depends on the circumstances of the accident. If death or serious injuries are involved, the police are much more likely to investigate. Even if the accident is clear-cut and obvious, with only minor injuries, the police will still issue a report.

Getting a copy of the report is a good idea, especially if severe injuries are involved in the case. The report might be required when filing an insurance claim. While reports are generally inadmissible in court because they are hearsay, they might lead us to admissible evidence.

Contact Our Fitchburg, MA Car Accident Lawyers to Get Help Now

Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 and talk to our car accident attorneys for a free evaluation of your case.