What Are My Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident in Massachusetts?
Passengers can suffer serious injuries in car accidents because they are often in vulnerable positions with limited control over their crashes’ outcomes. During a collision, a passenger may be thrown forward, backward, or from side to side, potentially causing serious harm.
If you are hurt as a passenger in a car accident in Massachusetts, then you may have the right to pursue financial compensation. However, the path to payment may not be straightforward. Our legal team can evaluate the specific circumstances of your case and determine the appropriate steps to take.
Seek guidance and support from our experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyers by calling the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free assessment of your potential claim.
Injured Passengers’ Right to Compensation After Car Accidents in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ no-fault insurance system provides passengers with the right to compensation for their injuries and related expenses, regardless of fault. Passengers can rely on PIP insurance for immediate coverage and may have the option to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if their injuries meet certain thresholds. If you were injured as a passenger in a car crash, then you should consider each of the following when evaluating your potential claim:
Massachusetts No-Fault Insurance System
Massachusetts operates under a no-fault insurance system, which means that after a car accident, you can seek compensation for your injuries and related expenses regardless of who was at fault. This system is designed to provide prompt coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and other economic losses through Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
PIP insurance is mandatory for all drivers in Massachusetts and covers medical expenses, lost wages, and essential services resulting from the accident. As a passenger, you can typically turn to the PIP coverage of the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident, or if you have your auto insurance, you can use your own PIP coverage. This coverage applies regardless of fault.
Threshold for Suing
While PIP provides immediate coverage, passengers who sustain severe injuries that meet certain thresholds may have the right to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. These thresholds typically include medical expenses exceeding a specified amount or injuries that result in permanent disfigurement, disability, or loss of bodily function.
Option to Pursue a Lawsuit
Passengers who meet these thresholds can choose to pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for damages beyond what PIP covers. These damages can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other non-economic losses. Thankfully, our Malden car accident attorneys can help potential plaintiffs evaluate the strength of their claims.
Impact of Comparative Negligence
It’s important to note that Massachusetts follows a modified comparative negligence system. If your actions as a passenger contributed to the accident in any way, your compensation may be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. For example, if as a passenger you are found to be 10% responsible for your crash while another driver is 90% at fault, then they may be liable for 90% of your damages while you are left to account for the remaining 10%.
Also, it is important to note that if you are found to be over 50% responsible for your accident, then you will be unable to seek payment from another party. Fortunately, our legal team can help plaintiffs discredit defendants’ alternative theories of fault.
Can Passengers Share Fault for Their Car Accidents in Massachusetts?
As previously discussed, the amount of compensation you recover for your car accident injuries can be reduced if your share blame for your crash. There are several ways that passengers may share fault for their collisions. If you contributed to your accident in any of the following ways, then our team will help determine the potential impact on your case:
Distracting the Driver
Passengers who engage in distracting behavior that diverts the driver’s attention from the road, such as engaging in loud conversations, using a mobile phone, or adjusting in-car entertainment systems, could contribute to the accident. For instance, a passenger involved in an intense discussion with the driver might cause the driver to take their eyes off the road, increasing the risk of a collision. In such cases, both the passenger and the driver may share responsibility for any resulting accidents.
Interfering with Controls
Passengers who interfere with the driver’s control of the vehicle, such as grabbing the steering wheel, tampering with the gear shift, or obstructing the driver’s view, can create hazardous situations. For example, if a passenger playfully grabs the steering wheel, it can lead to a loss of control and a potential accident. In such scenarios, the passenger’s actions directly affect the safe operation of the vehicle, and they may be deemed partially at fault for any ensuing collision.
Encouraging Reckless Behavior
Passengers who encourage or pressure the driver into reckless actions, like excessive speeding, running red lights, or engaging in risky maneuvers, may share responsibility if an accident occurs as a result of these actions. For instance, if a passenger urges the driver to ignore traffic laws and engage in dangerous behaviors, both parties could be held accountable for any resulting accidents. In such cases, the passenger’s influence on the driver’s choices can be a contributing factor in assessing fault.
Not Wearing Seatbelts
In states with seatbelt laws, passengers who fail to wear seatbelts may be considered partially at fault for their injuries, as seatbelts are designed to reduce injury severity in accidents. If a passenger chooses not to wear a seatbelt and is subsequently injured in an accident, their failure to use this safety device can be a factor in determining the extent of their responsibility for their injuries. Seatbelt use is a critical safety measure that can mitigate the severity of injuries during a collision.
Call Our Car Accident Lawyers for Support After Your Crash in Massachusetts
Seek help from our experienced Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan by calling (617) 925-6407.