How is driver liability determined in a Massachusetts car accident?

Car accidents are at the very least inconvenient and at the most can lead to serious injury or death. A huge question arises as to who will pay for the damage to both property and person. Massachusetts is a modified no-fault state. This means that individuals can be held responsible for car accidents if they are over 50% at fault.

What will my insurance pay?

Drivers in Massachusetts are required to have car insurance. Regardless of what actually occurred and whose fault the accident is, your insurance company will pay for your injuries up to your policy limit. This will apply to medical expenses and lost wages relating to the accident. You can, however, sue the at fault driver for non-monetary damages. These types of damages are things like pain and suffering. To sue for these in addition to recovering from your own insurance, your medical expenses must exceed $2,000, or your injuries must result in serious disfigurement or loss of bodily function. If one of these requirements is met, you can sue for non-economic damages.

How is fault determined?

A driver who believes another is at fault will file with the at fault driver’s insurance company to recover. The company will likely try to prove that it was not that driver’s fault. If an insurance company’s claims adjuster determines that the party making the claim against the company is more than 50% at fault, the company may deny the claim. The Massachusetts Driver’s Manual lists the ways in which a driver could be presumed at fault for an accident.

  1. Collision with a parked vehicle
  2. Rear-end collision
  3. Out-of-lane collision
  4. Failure to use turn signal resulting in collision
  5. Failure to obey traffic control signals resulting in collision
  6. Collision on wrong side of road
  7. Driving in the wrong direction resulting in collision
  8. Collision at an uncontrolled intersection
  9. Collision while driving in reverse
  10. Collision while making left turn or U-turn with right of way driver
  11. Leaving a parking spot, parking lot, or driveway resulting in collision
  12. Opened vehicle doors resulting in collision
  13. Single-vehicle collision
  14. Failure to obey Massachusetts driving law
  15. Unattended vehicle collision
  16. Collision while merging
  17. Noncontact operator causing collision
  18. Failure to yield for emergency vehicles
  19. Collision at a T intersection entering from side road

What if I am determined to be at fault?

If you are more than 50% at fault based on the list above, your insurance will have to pay for the other driver’s damages. Massachusetts is a modified comparative negligence state. This means that if you are more than 50% at fault you cannot recover. If you 50% or less at fault, you can recover, but your recovery will be lessened proportionate to the amount of fault attributed to you. For example, if you are 20% at fault for an accident totaling $10,000, you can recover $8,000. The other driver, who is 80% at fault, cannot recover from you at all. Often the full damages will exceed your policy coverage, in which case you will have to pay the difference.

Accidents happen, but if another driver is at fault you deserve compensation. If you have been involved in any type of auto accident, the motor vehicle accident attorneys at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. Even if you simply have questions, we can help you understand these complex processes and how they impact your unique situation. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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