I was injured in a car accident in Massachusetts. What should I do?
Contact an attorney at first opportunity. You're likely to be contacted by insurance agents and other people who don't have your best interests at heart and who will later try to use your words against you. In addition, contacting an attorney in the early going will help preserve evidence that could later help your auto accident case.
What if I was also at fault in the accident? Does that mean I can't sue for my injuries?
Not necessarily. Under G.L. c. 231 § 85, Massachusetts is a "modified comparative negligence" state for auto injuries. What that means is that if you were less than 50 percent at fault in the accident, you can still recover although you recovery will be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault.
So, for example, if a Massachusetts jury found you 30 percent at fault in an accident and found the other driver 70 percent at fault, the jury will calculate out your damages and reduce them by the 30 percent that you are at fault.
However, if you are found more than 50 percent at fault in the accident, then, under Massachusetts law, you are not allowed to recover anything in a lawsuit.
I was in a car accident in Massachusetts where the other driver was at fault. Can you sue for me?
This one should almost count as a trick question. You would think that you'd be able to sue no matter what if you've been hurt in a car accident but, in order to walk through the courtroom doors in Massachusetts, you have to satisfy one of the following criteria:
- Your (reasonable and necessary) medical bills exceed $2,000, or
- You have suffered (permanent or serious) disfigurement, or
- You have suffered a broken bone, or
- Your injury involves partial or complete loss of a body part, or
- Loss of sight or hearing, or
- The accident was fatal (in which case, it's unlikely that I am talking to you)
Even if you're not sure that you fit into any of those categories, call us! In this day and age of exorbitant health care costs, almost every auto accident involving an injury eventually crosses that $2,000 threshold.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)? And how do I get it?
PIP is a part of every Massachusetts compulsory auto insurance policy, unless the policy holder opts out. PIP pays the first $2,000 of your medical expenses regardless of whether you were at fault in the accident. If you have no other health insurance, once you cross the $2,000 threshold, PIP will continue to pay your medical bills up to $8,000.
If you're employed and your work does not pay you for your accident-related absences, PIP will also pay for seventy-five percent of lost wages up to the PIP ceiling of $8,000 and for household services (e.g., cleaning and landscaping) that you would have performed for your household you hadn't been injured. In certain instances, unemployed people may also be able to recover for lost wages.
Does your contingency fee agreement take part of my PIP?
A number of Massachusetts accident attorneys will take one-third of your PIP money as part of their one-third contingency fee. We don't.
If I receive a settlement or jury verdict will I have to reimburse my health insurance company with the proceeds?
Generally speaking, if your health insurer pays for any medical bills in excess of the initial $2,000 that is funded by PIP, you will have to pay your health insurer back out of any money that you receive. In some instances, the health insurer may accept less than what it is owed. Negotiating with lienholders on a case, such as health insurers, is another service that an attorney can provide for you.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 111 §§ 70A-70D lays out the steps that insurers must take to perfect their lien in your case. Private health insurers are required to send written notice of your lien via certified mail to either you or your attorney if they wish to maintain a lien against your case file.
Will my insurance premiums increase if I pursue a car accident claim?
How long will my car accident case take?
A car accident case in Massachusetts can take awhile to resolve. On the short end, a Massachusetts auto accident case might take six months. More typically, a Massachusetts auto accident case takes a year or so.
The reason for this is that your lawyer should wait for your recovery to reach a medical end result. Say your case settled quickly and then, after the settlement, you went on to incur more medical bills for treatment or your pain and suffering became more severe. If that happened, you would most likely be out of luck in Massachusetts, since an insurance company will not agree to a settlement that is not final. You can't go back for more money after a settlement. Therefore, it is important that you allow time to reach a medical end result, so that the compensation you receive will be enough to compensate you now and for all time.
What if the driver who hit me does not carry enough insurance to pay for my injuries?
Unfortunately, despite the existence of compulsory insurance, this problem is more common than we would like in Massachusetts. In such circumstances, car accident victims usually have to rely on Underinsured Motorist Coverage, an optional coverage listed as Part 12 of the standard automobile policy and governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter § 113L.
Pursuing a claim for Underinsured Motorist Coverage requires that you notify the insurance company providing the Underinsured Motorist Coverage and coordinate your actions with them. This is yet another good reason to have a lawyer represent you in your car accident case.
Will I have to appear in court?
That depends. Across the board in the practice of law, an extraordinarily high percentage of cases settle prior to trial and car accident cases are no different. Insurance companies don't have emotions, they just have bottom lines and when their bottom line tells them that it's cheaper to settle than to pay their lawyers to fight, they settle.
But a small minority cases do get tried. Generally speaking, those cases are cases where the damages are high and it's unclear who was at fault.
If the thought of appearing in court is something that gives you cold sweats, you should still talk to a lawyer. Only a lawyer who knows the facts of your case can give you advice about your case.
If you have a car accident case, call us (617) 973-6434 for a free consultation.
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