In 2020, there have been over 87,000 car accidents have been reported in Massachusetts for the year.
By: James Swartz
Managing & Principal Attorney – Car Accidents, Catastrophic Injuries, Contract and Business Litigation, Inadequate Security & Premises Liability Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability & Wrongful Death
Most states have an at-fault insurance system. This means if you suffer injuries in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, that driver is responsible for the damages that other parties affected by the crash incur.
These damages often consist of property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In these cases, you file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident, and they pay out up to policy limits. Any compensation being sought beyond those amounts can possibly be obtained by filing a suit against the driver themselves.
Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state. This means that if you are hit by another driver, you only need to submit your insurance and personal injury claims to your insurance company, instead of the insurance company for the driver who was negligent or reckless and subsequently caused the accident. Certain damages and losses you incurred as a result of the accident will then be paid by your insurance company, pursuant to personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
In a lot of ways, the no-fault system is much quicker and more straightforward than an at-fault system for basic medical costs and lost wages. The task of having to provide evidence and prove negligence in order to avoid denial of your claim is no longer something to worry about. You will not be required to prove to the other driver’s insurer that they were the ones responsible for the accident due to careless or otherwise negligent behavior. However, the no-fault system does not apply to “pain and suffering”, or other non-monetary damages.
You have rights in seeking monetary compensation in the amount of your damages. Since Massachusetts is a no-fault state, the best thing you can do is contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. They will be able to give you an objective evaluation of your chances at collecting fair compensation and may offer to take your case on. Often they will do this on a contingency basis, meaning they will be paid from your settlement. This lets you get started on your case with no money upfront in most instances.
Are there potential downsides to a no fault system?
There are certainly downsides and shortcomings to the no-fault system, which explains why it is not universally practiced or mandated nationally. It is used in select states that have opted to hedge their bets in conjunction with the benefits that the no-fault insurance system provides. In Massachusetts, for example, the victim must incur a minimum amount of reasonable medical expenses, and injuries must be significant.
Thus, one of the potential issues with a no-fault insurance system is that the types of damages and the amount of compensation you can seek and possibly recover, are somewhat limited. With this in mind, even with a no-fault system, you are not guaranteed or promised a settlement offer, and may still need to pursue a lawsuit to recover full, fair and reasonable damages.
Why do states use no fault insurance?
No-fault laws were initially created to cut down on the enormous costs of litigation and negotiations that were frequently needed for complex accident claims. It eliminates the issue of assigning blame and fault to an accident, and when those types of issues become irrelevant, the insurance companies are able to pay out quicker. There is often less frustration and paperwork needed on behalf of the drivers as well. However once again, where serious and long-term injuries are involved, claims against the at-fault driver will likely need to be pursued.
In a lot of ways, the no-fault system is much quicker and more straightforward than an at-fault system for basic medical costs and lost wages.
Lawsuits in no-fault states like Massachusetts
In spite of a popular misconception, drivers in no-fault states may be permitted to bring a suit against the other driver or their insurer, if certain other requirements are met. These conditions or benchmarks are referred to as the “tort liability threshold” and are usually defined by either a monetary amount or a verbal definition of scenarios that are permitted.
No-fault liability thresholds that are monetary in nature prohibit litigation until the damages are over a set amount. In Massachusetts, that threshold is $2,000 if you have health insurance. So if you are injured and seeking compensation, you can bring a claim for pain and suffering once your damages cross the $2,000 threshold. That amount increases to $8,000 absent other insurance to cover costs. There are provisions in other states where they are expressed in verbal terms like “significant disfigurement” or “death”, while often also having a monetary requirement.
The effect of alchohol consumption in negligent driver cases
Intoxicated drivers pose a deadly threat to other drivers, as well as to passengers and pedestrians. While the no-fault nature of the Massachusetts insurance laws can impose some limits, working with an experienced attorney can lead to the recovery of fair compensation for your damages.
Drunk drivers can be held liable if they cause an accident or crash and you or a loved one is killed as a result. There can be additional liability assigned to a homeowner who served them, commonly known as social host liability. If the drunk driver had been drinking at any business with a liquor license, that business may be liable as well – this is called “dram shop liability”.
Massachusetts presumes operation under the influence or OUI if the blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or greater. However, there may be a case to be made to impairment that may occur below that level, particularly when combined with drugs, whether illicit or prescribed. The laws in Massachusetts state that you have already given implied consent for a blood alcohol test simply by operating a motor vehicle. If you were hit by a driver under 21, they are considered impaired at a BAC of just 0.02 or more.
Reaching out to an experienced Massachusetts attorney can be the best thing you can do for your chances of monetary recovery. They will be able to look at the specifics of the circumstances surrounding your accident, and determine whether you have a good chance of a fair resolution. Reach out today.
James Swartz, our Managing and Principal Attorney at Swartz & Swartz P.C., is a nationally recognized and respected trial attorney as well as consumer advocate. His practice focuses on cases involving negligence, torts, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and other claims involving catastrophic injuries.
If you or someone you know, needs help from a lawyer, contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, use our live chat, or send us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch to assess your case and how we can help.