How To Respond And What You Will Face When You’ve Been In A Motor Vehicle Accident In Massachusetts
Assuming you drive a motor vehicle, being injured in an automobile accident is, statistically, one of the most likely events to happen over your lifetime. Not too reassuring, is it? Unfortunately, other than being the best driver you can be, there's not much you can do about it. So many vehicles are on Massachusetts' and the nation's roadways, that vehicular and pedestrian accidents are simply bound to happen. And when they do, you've got two tons of steel and glass hitting your car (or perhaps you as a pedestrian) with tremendous force. Such accidents are usually very violent, and can be very traumatic. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, you should speak with an experienced accident lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts.
If this has happened to you, there are a number of things you need to know, and need to do, to protect yourself and your legal rights in order to recover compensation and damages from any injuries you may have suffered. For immediate assistance, you may Contact us for a free consultation. In the meantime, the following Questions and Answers are designed to address some of the more frequently asked questions that clients have about their legal rights to be compensated for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following an automobile accident in Massachusetts.
What Are The First Steps I Should Take?
First things first: Call the police, and paramedics if needed. A police report is necessary following a motor vehicle accident in the state of Massachusetts. If you don't have a cell phone, ask the driver of the car who hit you, or any witness, to make the call. Very importantly, if you have a camera in your cell phone (many people do nowadays) or happen to have a camera in your car, take pictures of the accident scene. If you have suffered cuts, abrasions or are bleeding, take photographs of yourself, or ask someone at the scene to do so. This is very important - you might think that this is the last thing you should be concerned with following an upsetting accident, but it will be very important later on, in documenting the nature and extent of any injuries you may have suffered at the accident scene, prior to being treated by any medical professionals.
Another extremely important point: Someone should try and secure statements from any and all witnesses who were present at the scene . Obtain their names, phone numbers, and, if they were in vehicles of their own, their plate registrations. Write down any recollection or version of the accident they might be willing to provide. This is extremely important: Witnesses memories, as well as their willingness to help, can fade with time. You must try and secure this information either at the scene, or as soon as possible following the accident. As promptly as possible after the accident, contact either your insurance agent or your insurance company directly, to advise them of the accident. However, until such time as you can speak to an attorney, you should not make any other statements to any insurance company other than to report the basic facts of the accident: Date, location, your name, the name of the other driver, whether a police report was filed, etc. Many people often volunteer information to an insurance representative without first consulting an attorney, and this is not generally recommended.
On the subject of seeking medical treatment: Even if the accident appears to be of the minor type where you are not transported by ambulance to a medical facility, you should still seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible following the accident. This is true especially in the more moderate or "minor" types of vehicle accidents, where you may "feel okay" immediately after the accident, but in fact suffer from "silent" soft tissue injuries, which become very debilitating after some time has passed. The longer you wait to see a physician following your accident, the more likely it is (assuming you sue) the Defendant will argue that your injuries were not caused by his/her negligence, but rather something else that occurred between the accident and your visit to the doctor.
How Will The Medical Bills From My Accident Be Paid?
Under the law in Massachusetts, the automobile insurance company that insured the car that you were in when the accident occurred, is responsible for paying for your medical bills up to an amount of $2,000.00. If you were not in a car when the accident happened, but were a pedestrian or riding a bicycle, then the first $2,000.00 in medical bills are paid for by the auto insurance company that insured the car that hurt you.
The section of the auto insurance policy which covers that first $2,000.00 in medical bills is known as Personal Injury Protection, or "PIP". In the event your bills related to medical care exceed $2,000.00, those bills greater than that amount are submitted to your health insurance carrier, to be paid by them. In the event you did not have any health insurance when the accident occurred (increasingly less likely in the wake of the new, mandatory Universal Health Insurance Law in Massachusetts,) or if your health insurer denies payment for these bills, your "PIP" insurance should cover those bills up to a total of $8,000.00. If we take your case, we can advise you as to the insurance specifics that apply to your situation, and assist you with the forms required to submit bills to the appropriate "PIP" carrier.
What If I've Been Out Of Work Due To My Accident - Who Will Pay Me For the Wages or Salary That I've Lost?
If you cannot return to work as a result of your injuries, you can submit a claim to be paid a certain amount of the income you actually lost under the PIP policy that is available. Under PIP coverage, you are allowed to be reimbursed up to 75% of the income you would have otherwise earned when disabled, so long as: a) You didn't actually receive any wages or salary during the period you were disabled from work; and b) The total of $8,000.00 available to you under PIP was not used up by paying medical bills. It is important to bear in mind: the total of $8,000.00 available under PIP, counts toward both medical expenses and lost income. There is the possibility that additional coverage is available for medical bills, but that is only available for policyholders who elected to buy optional coverage under their auto insurance policy for "Medical Payments".
What About My Right To Sue The Other Driver In Court For My Injuries and Suffering - Can Anyone Who Has Been Involved In a Car Accident Sue In Massachusetts For Bodily Injury Damages?
Not exactly. The law in Massachusetts limits lawsuits involving automobile accidents, to injury victims who have suffered either certain types of injuries, or to accident victims who have exceeded a certain dollar value of medical expenses that result from their injuries. Specifically, automobile accident victims in Massachusetts (and their survivors, if an injury causes death) may sue for damages from the operator(s) of the other motor vehicle(s) involved when one of the following criteria is met:
- The victim has died
- The victim suffers a "permanent and serious disfigurement"
- A bone is fractured
- The loss of one of the five "senses" such as sight, taste, hearing or smell
- The loss of a limb,
- When medical expenses from the injury(ies) equal or exceed $2,000.00
Assuming at least one of the above criteria is met, then persons injured in automobile accidents in Massachusetts can sue for bodily injury damages, including pain and suffering.
What If I Do Sue, Damages Are Awarded To Me, And The Driver Who Hit Me Doesn't Have Enough Insurance To Pay The Damages I'm Awarded?
If the person responsible for your injuries does not carry enough insurance coverage, or for some reason doesn't carry any insurance on their vehicle at all (illegal for cars registered in Massachusetts,) you may be entitled to collect "underinsurance" or "uninsurance." These are called "UM" Claims, and very briefly they operate as follows:
- Underinsured motorist claims: When you are hit by a driver with insufficient insurance coverage to pay for your damages, or are a passenger in a vehicle with insufficient insurance coverage, you may seek compensation under the underinsured section of your own insurance policy.
- Uninsured motorist claims: This provision is helpful for those injured in a hit and run accident, or by an uninsured driver, such as a driver from another state in which insurance is not required. Again, in most cases compensation may be sought under your own insurance policy.
What If I Sue, And Am Awarded Damages - Will I Have To Reimburse My Health Insurer For Any Bills They Paid For My Care?
Potentially, yes. If your medical bills exceeded $2,000 and your health insurance carrier pays for medical treatment over the first $2,000 that PIP paid, they may be legally entitled to be reimbursed from any amounts you receive in connection with your bodily injury claim. This right of reimbursement is called a "lien". Exactly how much you would have to reimburse your health insurer for in that case, would depend on the individual facts, and would need to be explained in detail to you by your attorney before you receive any payments from your case.
If I Sue, What Could I Expect To Receive For My Accident Injuries?
It can be very hard to say. Several different factors combine together to determine the value of any given case like this. Because time is usually needed to determine how much medical treatment and physical recovery you will need, it will typically take awhile for the attorney representing you to assess what your case might be worth. It is important to remember: Few attorneys will know the answer to this question until an injured client has achieved what is known as a "medical end result". This term means that, even with continued medical treatment, it is your treating physician's opinion that you are not likely to experience any further change in your healing from that point forward. Reaching this point, of course, can often take several months' time. Once it has been reached, your attorney can better inform you as to what financial value your case might have.
If I Sue, Will I Hurt The Person I'm Suing By Bringing a Bodily Injury Claim?
As explained above, almost all personal injury claims are defended by insurance company lawyers and paid out by insurance, so the person or business you sue will not have to pay any money out-of-pocket. A personal injury claim is a civil case, and the defendant will not go to jail because of the claim.
How Will My Attorney Be Paid?
Almost all attorneys who practice in the field of personal injury law, are paid under a "Contingent Fee" Agreement. Under this type of fee agreement, your attorney earns a certain amount (a percentage) of whatever amount he or she recovers for you, as his or her legal fee. In the majority of instances, the fee will comprise one-third (33.3%) of the financial payment that is made in the case. As an example, if your attorney recovered $12,000.00 on your behalf, a legal fee of $4,000.00 would be retained by your attorney as payment for his or her professional legal fee. In the event no financial recovery is obtained, then your attorney would not receive any legal fee. Usually, any expenses and costs that have been advanced by your attorney (such as for expert witnesses or accident reconstruction experts, if they are needed) are also deducted from any amounts eventually paid to you. Reimbursement of these fees to your attorney is for money that he or she advanced up-front on your behalf, in litigating your case.
Aside from the fact that no legal fee is owed by you as the client if no financial recovery is secured for you by your attorney, an additional benefit to you is that, under the Contingent Fee Agreement, you will not have to pay any money to your attorney, up-front, to take your case, or to hire any experts (if necessary) and litigate the matter to completion.
How Much Time Will It Take to Resolve My Case?
This depends on the facts and the particulars of your case. An extremely complicated or grave case, involving serious injuries and complex allegations of liability, can involve years of litigation. On the other hand, a case that involves injuries which are less serious, and presents a much clearer picture of liability, might be resolved in much less time. The facts of your particular case will always dictate this answer. Once your attorney knows those facts, he or she can better advise you. Contact us, and we can give you an initial idea as to how long your case may take.
Is it Likely I'll Have To Go To Court And Testify?
The majority of personal injury cases are settled before they are actually tried in court. However, any attorney representing you must be prepared to try the case from beginning to end, in the event a settlement is unachievable. As your case develops, your attorney can advise you which course of action is recommended.
As stated at the top of this section, these are the most commonly asked questions in the area of Motor Vehicle Accidents in Massachusetts. However, you may have several more questions. If so, please contact us and we will be happy to provide you with a free consultation.