Car accident liability claims can be complex due to various related laws and ordinances varying from state to state. To understand what kinds of car accident liability claims exist, it’s essential to understand what a no-fault insurance state and a modified comparative negligence standard of law are, as they are involved in any liability claims.
What Is a No-Fault Insurance State?
Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state. That means that if you’re in a car accident, you’ll make a claim with your own insurance company for damages first. Those damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs.
In Massachusetts, there are certain scenarios in which you can file a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident: Either the injuries you sustained cost more than $2,000 in reasonable and necessary medical expenses or the accident caused death, a broken bone or significant scarring. If one or all of these are applicable, then you’re eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
What Is a Modified Comparative Negligence Standard of Law?
A modified comparative negligence standard of law allows there to be varying levels of fault. If multiple drivers are involved in an accident, the fault may be apportioned among them. If you want to file a lawsuit for injuries attributable to the car accident, you have to be less than 51% at fault. 51% or higher levels of fault disqualify you from receiving damages.
Massachusetts law defines several situations in which fault is presumed to be more than 50%. Some of these include:
- Collision with a parked vehicle, whether that vehicle was parked legally or illegally.
- Rear-end collision.
- Failure to signal or to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign, such as a stop sign or yield sign.
- Driving on the wrong side of the road.
- Collision while backing up.
- Collision while making a U-turn or left turn.
- Leaving or exiting a parked position, parking lot, alley, or driveway.
There are several others. If you’re not sure your accident could cause you to be 51% or more at fault, contact me for a free consultation, and we can walk through the relevant laws together.
What Kind of Claims Can I Make if I’m Less than 50% at Fault?
There are two types of claims you can make after a car accident in which you were less than 50% at fault: Economic damages and non-economic damages.
What Are Economic Damages?
Economic damages are meant to make a person “whole” after a loss. For example, if you’re in an accident that was someone else’s fault and your vehicle is destroyed, damages might be awarded on the basis of replacing the vehicle you had. That does not mean you’d get to upgrade your vehicle. The damages are usually calculated against current Blue Book values of the vehicle that was destroyed.
They also cover past and future medical expenses incurred because of the injury. These are actual monetary expenses you had to pay out, not amounts calculated from trauma or personal distress.
In addition, lost wages and future lost earning capacity are recoverable as an economic loss.
What Are Non-Economic Damages?
While economic damages are those related to exact monetary costs lost due to the accident, whether vehicle damage or bodily injury, non-economic damages are for less tangible concerns. If you suffered severe or permanent injuries that lead to pain and emotional trauma, you might be eligible for additional damages. There are specific formulas designed for lawyers and courts to assess a value in these situations, which could lead to additional compensation.
However, it’s important to know that there has to be some kind of injury to claim these types of damages. If you were in a slow-moving rear-end collision and were upset but not injured, you won’t be eligible to collect any damages.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Filing a Lawsuit for a Car Accident in Massachusetts?
Yes. Massachusetts has a three-year statute of limitations. That means you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you wait beyond that, it’s likely the court will refuse to hear your case.
There are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations. One such exception is for those who were under age 18 (minors) at the time of the accident. If so, then the three-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the person turns 18.
What Are the Causes for Most Car Accidents?
There are quite a few ways a car accident will happen, but here are the most common.
- Distracted driving.
- Driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Aggressive or reckless driving, including speeding.
- Tailgating. Following too closely frequently leads to car accidents, and given that rear-end collisions are considered more than 51% at fault, the tailgater will have most or all of the fault.
- Failure to obey traffic laws, red lights, and stop and yield signs.
- Bad weather. Massachusetts is a winter state, and ice and snow play a significant role in car accidents.
What Should I Do if I’m in a Car Accident?
Call or text me as soon as possible at 617-227-8383 for a free consultation. If the accident involves another driver who may be at fault, don’t talk with their insurance representative or their attorney. That rep and that attorney are looking out for the best interests of the insurance company and the other driver. That means they could try and get you to say something that could be interpreted as acknowledging fault for the accident or downplaying your injury. They may also try to get you to agree to a much lower settlement than what you’re entitled to. If they contact you, say nothing more than that your attorney will be in contact with them.