Motorcycle Accidents and Challenging Findings of Fault
There is a widely-held assumption that investigating police officers are the ones who determine fault following a Boston motorcycle accident.
However, we recognize it is, in fact, the auto insurance company that determines who is responsible. If there is a dispute as to the finding of fault, the case may go to court, where the issue will be ultimately weighed by a judge or jury.
The citation issued by a local or state law enforcement officer is considered to be one of the many pieces of evidence collected by auto insurers in reaching their conclusions. Certainly, challenging those reports can be a key piece of successfully disputing an unfavorable fault-finding by insurance companies. But the process usually involves a much broader legal strategy, which is why it’s important to have a legal team with extensive experience.
Massachusetts no-fault car insurance statutes indicate that in minor collisions where no one is seriously hurt and medical bills don’t exceed $2,000, bills for damages will be covered by each driver’s respective insurer. However, where there are serious injuries or the costs exceed this figure, insurance companies take very seriously the job of ascertaining fault.
The conclusions reached could affect the amount of damages you receive, and could also potentially have an impact on your future auto insurance rates.What Does it Mean to be At-Fault?
In Massachusetts, a driver is deemed to be at-fault for an accident if his or her actions behind the wheel amounted to more than 50 percent causation for the crash.
The state does recognize situations in which more than one person may be found at-fault. Per M.G.L. 231 § 85, the Commonwealth adheres to a system of modified comparative fault with a 51 percent bar. Under this statute, injured persons may collect damages – even if they were partially to blame for what happened – so long as they were not more than half responsible.
However, total compensation may be reduced by whatever percentage injured party is found to be at-fault. So if a motorcyclist is found to be 25 percent at-fault for a collision, his or her total damages would be reduced by that amount.
In cases where numerous drivers may be to blame, it works like this:
- An operator who was more than 50 percent to blame for the crash must cover all losses and expenses incurred by others affected.
- If no single individual was more than 50 percent to blame, insurance companies would then only be responsible for compensating injured individuals to the extent they did not contribute to the crash.
Ultimately, the determination of who is at-fault in a Massachusetts motorcycle accident rests with the courts. However, because crashes are so common, state law and regulation allows insurance companies to presume fault in certain pre-defined accident situations.
Standards of Fault in Massachusetts (cases in which the operator’s fault is presumed to be more than 50 percent) are laid forth in 211 CMR 74.00. They include:
- Collision with a person or lawfully/unlawfully parked vehicle;
- Rear-end collision
- Out-of-lane collision
- Failure to signal
- Failure to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign
- Collision on wrong side of road
- Operating in the wrong direction
- Collision at uncontrolled intersection
- Collision in process of backing up
- Collision while making a left turn or U-turn across travel path of a vehicle going in the same or opposite direction
- Leaving or exiting a parking lot, driveway or alley
- Opening or opened vehicle door
- Single-vehicle crash
- Unattended vehicle collision
- Failure to yield to emergency vehicles
- Crash at a “T” intersection
- Collision merging onto highway or roundabout
- No contact causing operator to crash
Insurers can presume who is at fault based on one of these descriptions, but there will also in all likelihood be a full investigation. In situations where there are multiple parties, all involved insurance companies may conduct their own investigation. Even in cases where the at-fault driver and injured party are represented by the same insurance company, there will often be two separate investigations.
But even your own insurance company is not necessarily looking out for your best interests. Insurance companies are interested in bolstering their own bottom line by reducing liability.
Our motorcycle accident attorneys can help you by launching a separate investigation of the crash and gathering information that could be advantageous to your claim.Appealing an Insurer Determination of Fault
If an insurer finds you were more than 50 percent at-fault and you disagree with this, an appeal can be filed with the Board of Appeal at the Division of Insurance. The matter will be decided following an informal hearing. Any appeal of that order may be filed with the local county court within 30 days.
Recovery of damages for injuries relating to the crash, meanwhile, may also be settled through ongoing negotiations with the help of your attorney, or else it may be necessary to take your case to trial.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL