What to Do After a Car Accident in Massachusetts
Auto accidents are relatively common occurrences in Massachusetts. Most people have either been in a car accident at some point or at least know someone who has.
The immediate aftermath of a car accident can feel like a whirlwind. Any drivers and passengers who were hurt in the slightest should be checked out by a doctor. At the same time, you might be wondering what to do about your car. Can it be repaired? Is it totaled? How much is that going to cost you? You should also consider filing a lawsuit against other drivers you believe are to blame for the accident. No matter what happens, you should consider working with our firm to guide you through the process.
Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407 for a free case review with our Boston skilled car accident lawyers.
Steps to Take After a Car Crash in Massachusetts
An accident is a traumatic experience. They are usually unexpected, and victims are often injured and disoriented in the moments following a crash. However, the steps you take in the aftermath of a car accident could significantly impact your ability to receive compensation for your injuries and other damages. One thing you could do to prepare for the possibility is to put a simple checklist in your glove compartment with your registration and insurance information. This way, you can ensure you have a guide to help you in the case of an emergency.
Call the Police
While this might not be required for a small fender-bender, if someone is injured, you should call local enforcement. The police will secure the accident scene and ensure medical personnel is sent to provide treatment to anyone who was hurt. The police will also prepare an accident report based on the preliminary investigation of the accident. This report will contain crucial information that will assist our attorneys in working to settle your case or taking it to trial. Additionally, if you believe that the other driver or drivers are not being forthright, you should call the police even if you think it is not otherwise advisable.
Gather Information from Other Drivers
While this information should be included in the police report, you should also gather the contact information of any other drivers involved in the accident. This includes their personal and insurance information.
Collect Contact Information from Witnesses
Testimony from uninterested witnesses typically carries more weight than the statements given by drivers involved in the accident. Again, this information might be included in the police report. However, our office will want to talk with any witnesses as soon as possible. Furthermore, some witnesses might not stay at the scene of the accident until the police arrive. We will want to talk with anyone who saw the accident, even if their account contradicts your recollection of events.
Take Photographs of the Massachusetts Accident Scene
Nearly everyone has a phone with a camera these days. A car accident is a perfect time to put it to use. Pictures of the scene will give accident investigators valuable information regarding what occurred. You should take pictures of the cars, any damage, and the road surface. It does not make sense to be frugal or thrifty with the number of pictures you take. The more, the better. Also, be sure to photograph any injuries you or your passengers suffered.
Seek Medical Attention After a Massachusetts Car Crash
If you are seriously hurt in an accident, emergency treatment should be provided at the scene. Under no circumstances should you refuse medical help. However, if you walk away from a crash and believe you have not been injured, you should still see a doctor as soon as you can. Many injuries will not exhibit symptoms until days or maybe weeks later, especially muscle and head injuries. It is not uncommon for a crash victim to be completely unaware of the extent of their injuries because of the adrenaline rush.
Seeking medical attention is important for your health and if you want to pursue an injury claim. Documenting your injuries and treatment is a key component if we are working with an insurance provider or preparing a lawsuit.
Do Not Admit Liability for a Massachusetts Car Accident
You should not admit to fault after an accident. While you should give a statement to the police that arrive on the scene and your auto insurance provider, it is important to stick to the facts. No matter what an adjuster might say, they are not working for you. Insurance companies have teams of lawyers and investigators working to limit or eliminate liability. If an insurance company offers you a settlement, you should speak with a legal representative before signing anything. Once you accept an offer, you will be prohibited from seeking further compensation if your injuries are more severe than you originally believed.
Options to Recover Compensation After a Massachusetts Car Accident
It can be challenging to obtain compensation from a careless driver. Despite the common belief that one can sue after a car accident, Massachusetts’ no-fault laws could restrict a victim’s ability to file a lawsuit in several instances. The following are the two methods to recover compensation after a car accident in Massachusetts:
A No-Fault Insurance Claim
In Massachusetts, all drivers must have no-fault insurance. This type of insurance compensates a person involved in a car accident for their injuries through their own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, despite who caused the accident. Therefore, an individual can receive compensation without having to prove fault in the accident.
However, no-fault laws will also prohibit most victims from suing. The objective of no-fault insurance is to decrease the number of lawsuits filed within the state. If a victim has only minor injuries, they will be unable to file a lawsuit, but they might do so if they sustained significant injuries in the accident.
A Personal Injury Lawsuit
If someone is injured, insurance might be the only way to receive compensation. However, if the injuries are severe, Massachusetts law allows victims to file a lawsuit for damages under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231, § 6D. The law recognizes several types of injuries as serious, including medical expenses of $2,000 or more, death, broken bones, loss of a body part, permanent and substantial disfigurement, and substantial loss of hearing or sight. These categories encompass a wide range of injuries, so it is important to have your case reviewed by a member of our team.
How Long Do You Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Massachusetts?
Time limits to file certain types of lawsuits are set forth by states’ statutes of limitations, according to Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260, § 2A, you will usually have three years from the date of your crash to file a car accident lawsuit in Massachusetts. Noncompliance with this deadline could cause you to forfeit your case. You should contact our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers as soon as possible after an accident so that our team can help file your case on time.
Furthermore, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits must gather evidence that supports their claims. However, as time passes, relevant evidence can become difficult to collect and preserve. For instance, eyewitnesses can forget certain details surrounding a collision, and physical evidence can deteriorate. The sooner you get in touch with our experienced attorneys, the more easily we may gather the evidence needed to win your case.
There are some exceptions to the standard three-year statute of limitations for car accident cases. For example, a parent may file a case on behalf of their injured child at any point until the minor turns 18. Furthermore, under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260, § 7, a victim will have three years after turning 18 to file a car accident case stemming from a collision that was suffered while they were a minor. During your free case assessment, our Cambridge car accident lawyers can help explain how the statute of limitations will be applied in your case.
What Is the Process for Recovering Compensation in a Car Accident Lawsuit in Massachusetts?
The process for recovering compensation in car accident lawsuits can vary from case to case. There are several factors that can influence the path to monetary damages. However, there are certain steps that will be taken in every lawsuit. Our Massachusetts car accident lawsuits can offer guidance and support through each of the following steps of the legal process:
Reviewing Your Case
First, our attorneys can help review your case for free. There are several different strategies and analyses that may apply to your case. However, in every car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must demonstrate numerous elements, including that the defendant driver was under a duty of care and failed to adhere to that duty of care. You must also show that you were injured because of the defendant’s breach of their duty and sustained damages because of the injuries you incurred.
While these elements may seem simple, analyzing them in the context of your case can be difficult. There are several factors to consider when determining if the aforementioned elements have been satisfied in your case. During your free case assessment, our lawyers can help evaluate the strength of your claim.
Next, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits must gather evidence to support their cases. There are several different forms of evidence that can be used. Our team frequently relies on several types of evidence, including accident reports, witness testimony, photos from the scene, physical evidence from the scene, surveillance footage, expert witness testimony, and personal recollections.
Unfortunately, parties in control of pertinent evidence may be reluctant to cooperate with plaintiffs. For example, a business owner who has relevant security camera footage of your accident may not want to provide a copy of the footage. The assistance of our experienced attorneys can be highly beneficial when collecting and preserving relevant evidence in your case.
Filing Your Case
Our Quincy car accident lawyers can also help comply with the numerous requirements for filing a case. As previously mentioned, plaintiffs will generally have three years from the date of their accidents to bring their claims to court. However, there are several other requirements that must be complied with. For instance, plaintiffs must file their cases in the correct courts, attach necessary supporting documents, pay any required filing fees, serve all named defendants, and avoid filing frivolous claims.
Additionally, failure to comply with any of the requirements for filing your case could force you to re-file. Accordingly, you should attempt to file your case as soon as possible so that you may have time to re-file your lawsuit if necessary.
Negotiating with Defendants
Furthermore, we can offer support when negotiating for fair compensation. Before taking your case to trial, the defendant will likely make a settlement offer. When parties to a case reach a settlement agreement, the defendant will pay a certain amount of damages to the plaintiff in exchange for their case being voluntarily dismissed. There are multiple potential advantages to settling early. For instance, plaintiffs who settle early may receive payment sooner. Furthermore, parties who settle early can save on the many costs associated with going to trial. Plaintiffs who take their cases to trial may have to pay additional attorney’s fees, filing fees, and administrative costs.
Unfortunately, most defendants try to settle their car accident lawsuits for less than they are worth. Defendants are usually represented by insurance companies who will employ various strategies to entice cheap settlement agreements. We can lean on years of experience when negotiating with insurers so that you may receive a more appropriate settlement offer in your case.
Still, in some cases, settlement agreements cannot be reached. By going to trial, you will have the opportunity to recover additional compensation that was not offered during settlement negotiations.
Presenting Your Case at Trial
Lastly, our lawyers can help present your case at trial. Our team will present evidence that supports your claims and question the evidence and witnesses of the other side. At trial, the assistance of our experienced attorneys can be highly valuable when fighting for the financial compensation you deserve.
Evidence Used to Prove a Massachusetts Car Accident Lawsuit
To support your account of the accident, there are several crucial pieces of evidence that can be utilized. One critical element in any car accident case is the police accident report, which includes vital information about the accident gathered right at the scene, as well as statements from victims and witnesses who recall the events while they are still fresh in their minds.
In court, it is difficult to dispute photos of the accident and the damage to the car. The photos can vividly illustrate how the accident happened and the actual damages incurred. Additionally, taking photos of your injuries on or around the day of the incident can accurately capture the extent of your injuries in a more understandable way than words.
To obtain an accurate financial assessment of your damages, it is also important to include your medical records as evidence. Records from specialists you visited, such as the emergency room or physical therapy, are especially helpful.
Additionally, surveillance footage has become increasingly popular as a source of evidence due to advancements in camera technology and security. Dash cams found in many cars and surveillance cameras maintained by businesses can capture car accidents as they happen.
Determining Fault After a Car Accident in Massachusetts
Determining fault in car accidents can be difficult as they often come down to one driver’s word versus another’s. It is common for multiple drivers to contribute to the accident. The amount of compensation that the victim of a car accident injury can receive is based on comparative negligence. This means that the percentage of fault for each driver is calculated, and the victim’s compensation is apportioned accordingly. For example, if the court found you to be 10% at fault and the other driver 90% at fault, the other driver would be responsible for paying 90% of your damages, and you would be responsible for the remaining 10%. However, if you were found to be 50% or more at fault for the accident, you would be considered the substantial cause of the accident and would not be eligible to receive compensation.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in Massachusetts
Car accidents occur at an alarming frequency in Massachusetts. This means that there are numerous types of accidents in which individuals can be injured. However, if you were injured as a result of someone else’s careless driving, you have a right to recover compensation. Below are some of the most frequent causes of car accidents in Massachusetts:
Speeding is a common cause of car accidents in Massachusetts. When a driver drives at excessive speeds, they have less time to react to unexpected situations on the road, which can result in loss of control, collisions with other vehicles, or hitting objects like trees or walls. By exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for the current road conditions, a driver puts other drivers at risk as they might not be able to react quickly enough to avoid an accident if they need to stop suddenly or swerve to avoid a speeding vehicle.
Our attorneys can also help you receive compensation for car accidents resulting from distracted driving, which is a prevalent issue in Massachusetts. When drivers become preoccupied with their phones or other devices, their reaction time slows, making it difficult for them to control their vehicles on the road. This increases the likelihood of collisions with other vehicles or obstacles, such as pedestrians crossing intersections or road constructions. These accidents can be extremely dangerous since distracted drivers might not be able to prevent the collision from occurring.
Running Traffic Signals
Disobeying traffic signals in Massachusetts often results in serious car accidents. It is assumed that when a driver ignores a red light or stop sign, they are doing so in order to arrive at the intersection before other vehicles. This is particularly dangerous because drivers who run traffic signals often drive at higher speeds than other vehicles at intersections, increasing the likelihood of colliding with pedestrians or cars that are stopped at the light. Moreover, drivers who run traffic lights or signs put other drivers at risk by forcing them to suddenly brake or swerve to avoid an accident.
In Massachusetts, tailgating often leads to rear-end collisions. If you find yourself being tailgated, it is important to avoid speeding up. Rather, slowly decrease your speed until there is a safe distance between you and the driver behind you. If the person behind you causes an accident due to their reckless driving, you have the option to take legal action against them.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Fatal car accidents in Massachusetts are often caused by drunk driving. This behavior not only puts the driver at risk but also endangers other individuals on the road, including pedestrians and cyclists. Due to their slowed reflexes, drunk drivers might not be able to react in time to prevent an accident. If a drunk driver injures you, you have the right to receive compensation for their terrible choices.
Our Experienced Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
For a free case evaluation with our Salem car accident lawyers, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407.