What If You’re Partially at Fault for a Car Accident in Massachusetts?

The first question that many drivers have after a car accident is the question of who is at fault.  Drivers who are afraid that they did something wrong and might be held partially at fault for their crash often still have legal options to get compensation for their injuries, even if the insurance companies or courts do find that they shared fault.

In Massachusetts, the law allows people who are partially at fault to still get compensation from the other at-fault party.  However, your damages will typically be reduced by your proportion of fault, and the defendant will only pay for their own share of fault.  This could mean that in cases where you are, for example, 25% at fault, the other driver would pay only 75% of your damages.

For help pursuing your case, call our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers today.  Contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free review of your car accident case.

Determining Fault in a Massachusetts Car Accident

Before worrying about whether you are partially at fault or not, it is important to understand how fault is determined in a car accident case in Massachusetts.  Often, things that you think might constitute partial fault are not violations at all and should not be considered when determining fault.

For a driver to be held liable for a car accident, there must be some violation that they committed.  This violation can either be a specific traffic violation or a violation of your duty of reasonable care.  What constitutes a traffic violation is dictated by the traffic code and includes things like speeding, running a red light, or even failing to signal before turning.  However, there are other unsafe and unreasonable things that a person might do behind the wheel that can still supply fault in a car crash, even if they are not specific traffic violations.

In any case, the mistake or violation must contribute to the accident for it to be considered when determining fault.  If the violation you think you committed happened too early, it likely is not a cause of the crash.  For example, if you were speeding but then turned the corner and never reached the speed limit again before crashing into a wrong-way driver, it is unlikely that your prior speeding contributed to the crash.  Additionally, if the crash would have happened even if you were driving perfectly, then it is difficult to blame the accident on your mistake.  For example, if a tractor-trailer flipped on the highway and crashed into your car, it might not have made a difference whether you were texting or driving intently with both hands on the wheel.

Talk to our Boston car accident attorneys about whether anything you did could be considered partial fault in the first place in your car accident case.

Massachusetts Partial Fault Rules for Car Accidents

As mentioned, Massachusetts law allows drivers who are found partially at fault to still recover some degree of compensation.  If the defendant can prove that you did indeed do something wrong that contributed to the crash, it will be up to the judge and jury to assign you a percentage of fault.  As long as you meet the requirements of Massachusetts’ “modified comparative fault” rules, you can still recover partial compensation.

Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231, § 85 states that a victim’s contribution to causing an injury does not stop them from recovering damages unless they were more at fault than the other parties.  This means that if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault – e.g., 51% at fault – then their case is barred entirely.  Because of this, most Massachusetts car accident lawyers refer to this as a “51% bar.”  As long as you are 50% at fault or under, you can still get partial compensation – it will just be reduced by your percentage of fault.

For example, picture a scenario where the victim was eating with one hand while driving with the other, and the driver in front of them suddenly stopped to make a right turn without signaling, causing the rear driver to hit them.  The court could find that the driver in front broke the law by suddenly stopping and by turning without signaling, but they could find that eating while driving was also dangerous.  If the court assigned the defendant 85% of the blame and the victim 15% of the blame, then the victim would only be able to recover 85% of their monetary damages from the defendant.

When your damages are “reduced,” it literally means that the amounts that the defendant would have been ordered to pay are reduced so that they do not pay a higher percentage of damages than their percentage of fault.  Any damages that go above and beyond this reduced value are left to you to handle out of pocket.  Make sure to work with our Beverly car accident lawyers for help understanding what your case is worth in the first place and how partial fault could reduce these damages.

Should I File a Claim if I Was Partially at Fault for My Car Crash in Massachusetts?

Even if you were partially at fault, you should still consider calling our Massachusetts car accident lawyers, filing an insurance claim, and potentially even taking your case to court if possible.  All in all, even partial compensation for a car crash will be incredibly helpful when you have expensive medical bills, missed wages at work, and other damages to pay for.

Call Our Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyers Today

If you were involved in a car accident, call our Worchester car accident lawyers for help.  Even if you were partially at fault, call (617) 925-6407 for a free case review with the Law Office of John J. Sheehan.