Understanding Fault in Boston Car Accident Cases

A successful car collision claim often requires the injured victim to prove the other party was responsible for the accident. Even if this seems obvious to victims, proving it in court can sometimes be difficult.

How do you establish that another driver was at fault? If someone rear-ends your car while driving drunk, it might not be difficult to prove that they were to blame. However, what if you were texting while sitting still at a green light? Could your actions have contributed to the crash? These are some of the questions insurance adjusters, defenses attorneys, and our Boston personal injury lawyers will try to answer.

If you were hurt in a car crash, do not hesitate to consult with an experienced automobile collision attorney. Understanding fault in Boston car accident cases can be difficult, but a knowledgeable attorney could break down difficult legal concepts so they are easy to understand. Based on the facts of your car wreck, they could explain your legal options and how to pursue the compensation you deserve, especially if it is a wrongful death accident. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407.

Personal Injury Protection Benefits

Massachusetts is unique in that it is a no-fault state. There are certain insurance coverages that are compulsory and must be sold with every automobile insurance policy in Massachusetts. Other coverages are optional and may be purchased as additional coverage. One of the compulsory coverages that must be sold with every automobile insurance policy is no-fault or personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits.

PIP benefits pay for up to $8,000 for medical bills for treatment for injuries sustained in a car accident as well as 75 percent of a person’s lost wages. If the injured victim loses time from work and has a doctor’s note-keeping them out of work because of the car accident-related injuries, they can receive PIP lost wage benefits as long as the $8,000 in available PIP has not been exhausted.

In most cases, PIP will pay the first $2,000 in related medical treatment, and after that, any bills have to be submitted to the person’s health insurance company. If the health insurance does not pay all the bills because of a copay or deductible in the health insurance policy, then those unpaid portions of the bills can be submitted to PIP to pay that part of it as well as the $8,000.

Tort Threshold

Another unique way that car accident claims are handled in Boston and throughout Massachusetts is that in order to be able to be eligible to bring a bodily injury claim seeking compensation against the negligent or at-fault driver who caused the accident, a person must be able to show that they have medical bills totaling more than $2,000 in most cases. This is referred to in the insurance industry in Massachusetts as the tort threshold.

Exceptions to the Tort Threshold

There are limited exceptions to the tort threshold requirement under Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 231 Section 6D such as:

  • Wrongful Death
  • Total or partial loss of a body member
  • Permanent and serious scarring or disfigurement
  • Loss of sight or hearing
  • Fractures, including broken teeth

Underinsured Motorist Benefits

In Massachusetts, there are potential claims for underinsured motorist benefits. This refers to situations where a person is seriously injured in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence or carelessness, but the other driver does not have enough insurance coverage to completely or adequately compensate the victim. Therefore, there is the possibility of bringing the claim through a person’s own insurance policy for underinsured motorist benefits.

In order to have an underinsured claim, a person must have underinsured motorist coverage that is more than the bodily injury coverage of the policy of the careless driver who caused the accident. In Massachusetts, the basic compulsory bodily injury limits that every insurance policy has to have is 20-40, which means $20,000 per claim, $40,000 per accident.

If an individual’s own policy has underinsured motorist benefits coverage that is just 20-40, then he or she cannot bring a claim for underinsured coverage. If, on the other hand, he or she has higher underinsured coverage, such as 50-75, then a claim is allowed.

Determining Fault After a Massachusetts Car Accident

An at-fault driver in Massachusetts must meet the requirements listed below.

  • The driver is determined to be more than 50% to blame as prescribed in Massachusetts Standards of Fault.
  • The intended use of the vehicle involved is for private passengers.
  • The damage is more than $500 in excess of any insurance deductible.
  • The claim is for “bodily injury to others,” “collision,” “damage to property,” or “limited collision.”

Accidents are added to the at-fault driver’s record by the Massachusetts Merit Rating Board. Depending on the insurance coverage and the driver’s record, negative points will be awarded based on the event. Insurance providers in Massachusetts are required by law to charge additional surcharges based on the driver’s record.

Standards of Fault in Massachusetts

Specific standards of fault are listed in the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual. According to our Somerville texting while driving accident lawyer, if an insurance company determines that your conduct falls under any of these listed standards and you are more than 50% to blame for an accident, you could be held financially liable for the accident. These standards also serve as a foundation for our Boston car accident lawyers to build a negligence case.

  • The driver collided with a parked vehicle, whether the vehicle was legally or illegally parked.
  • The driver collided with the read-end of a vehicle.
  • The driver failed to use a turn signal.
  • The driver failed to exercise caution when proceeding from a stop sign or traffic signal.
  • The driver was driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction and caused an accident.
  • The driver caused an accident at an uncontrolled intersection.
  • The driver collided with another vehicle while backing up.
  • The driver caused an accident while attempting a U-turn across traffic traveling in the same or opposite direction.
  • The driver caused an accident when exiting a parking lot, driveway, alley, or a parked position.
  • The driver or passenger caused an accident by opening one of the car’s doors.
  • The driver’s conduct resulted in a single-vehicle accident.
  • The driver failed to obey the driving rules and regulations.
  • The driver’s conduct resulted in an accident while merging onto a highway.
  • The driver failed to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle.
  • The driver caused an accident when entering an intersection.

If our Cambridge car accident attorneys or Somerville parking lot accident lawyer can demonstrate that another driver violated one or more of the listed standards, the other driver will likely be determined to be liable for any damages or injuries.

How Our Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyers Establish Fault

Determining fault after an automotive vehicle accident is crucial whether you are attempting to settle with an insurance adjuster or believe you should take your case to court. Our Wakefield car accident lawyers and Malden parking lot accident lawyer will look to establish two important things: liability for the accident and the value of your claim.

When there are disagreements regarding fault or the settlement amount, an injured victim might be required to pursue a personal injury lawsuit if they hope to receive the compensation they deserve.

A personal injury lawsuit is filed against the at-fault driver or another entity that caused the accident. it is not actually filed against an insurance company. However, if you file a claim against a driver, their insurance company will hire a defense attorney who will work to limit or eliminate liability. The attorney, beginning with the information gathered by the insurance adjuster, will start investigating the crash and collecting evidence.

At the same time, our team of lawyers will work to establish negligence on the defendant’s part. This includes investigating the crash scene, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing the police report. We will also gather and examine your medical records to demonstrate the severity of your injuries. Depending on the case, our office might retain experts to help build your case, including structural engineers, accident reconstructionists, and medical professionals.

A lawsuit does not necessarily mean your case is going to go to trial. In fact, the process can help our Massachusetts personal injury attorneys find evidence that could influence an insurer to offer a more generous settlement.

During the “discovery” phase of a lawsuit, our law office will direct a series of requests to the opposing side. For example, a set of interrogatories, or written questions, could be sent to the at-fault driver, witnesses, or other individuals involved in the case. Additionally, other parties could be formally questioned under oath during a “deposition.” These tools allow our experienced attorneys a way to collect evidence that otherwise might not have been available pre-trial.

Modified Comparative Negligence

When it comes to an understanding fault in Boston car accident cases, it is important to know that Massachusetts is a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if a jury determines that both drivers were negligent, then the plaintiff’s recovery would be reduced by the percentage of comparative negligence that the jury finds that the plaintiff had. For example, if the plaintiff was found to be 20 percent at fault for the wreck, then they would be able to recover 80 percent of the damages.

As a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction, a plaintiff can still win and obtain a judgment for damages in Massachusetts as long as a jury does not find that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault or 50 percent comparatively negligent. If a jury decides that the plaintiff was 51 percent or more at fault as a defense verdict, the plaintiff cannot recover damages.

Ask a Boston Attorney About Fault in Car Accident Cases

Understanding fault in car accident cases can be the key to a successful case. an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer or Boston rollover accident lawyer could analyze the details of a case to determine the responsible parties. Call today to schedule a consultation. Let an accomplished Sommerville car accident attorney help you understand how negligence determines the amount of damages available. Contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan by calling (617) 925-6407.