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.

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.

Personal Injury Protection Benefits

Massachusetts is unique in that it is a no-fault state. There are certain insurance coverages which 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, he or she 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 he or she has medical bills totaling more than $2,000 in most cases. This is referred 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.

Modified Comparative Negligence

When it comes to 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 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.