Massachusetts Car Accident Lawsuits 101
No two traffic collisions are exactly the same.
For starters, auto insurance companies are notorious for offering inadequate and sometimes unethical settlement offers – even when injuries are severe and long-lasting. Victims are reeling and desperate to pay off medical bills, and too hastily accept these offers.
Other issues include failure to seek immediate medical treatment, discussing details of the crash with others before securing legal representation and not acting soon enough to preserve the integrity of an independent investigation or otherwise move to protect plaintiff’s rights.
Our knowledgeable, dedicated personal injury team understands the legal process of injury litigation is unfamiliar to most people. With extensive experience and resources, we work to guide you through it.
Here are some of the terms you may be hearing in the coming weeks and months, and we try to offer a better understanding of Massachusetts auto accident victim rights and responsibilities.What to Do
In the jarring moments after a crash, the correct course of action may not always be clear.
The basics of What to Do in the Event of a Car Accident in Massachusetts include:
- Stopping your vehicle
- Contacting law enforcement
- Keeping safety first
- Accepting emergency medical treatment
- Cooperating with police
- Taking notes and photos
- Seeking medical care even if injuries seem minor
- Keeping records – insurance contacts, law enforcement officer names, witness contacts – and stay organized
- Contacting your insurance carrier to inform them of the crash
- Talking with an experienced injury lawyer
Taking these basic steps may be critical to protecting your health and safeguarding your legal rights.Choosing a Lawyer
It can be relatively easy to find a lawyer. The trouble is finding the right injury lawyer for your case.
It is especially important when your injuries are serious or if the crash resulted in a fatality.
Massachusetts injury liability and auto insurance laws can be complex, and even seemingly straightforward cases can present significant and unforeseen challenges.
- Make sure your attorney has relevant experience. An attorney who primarily deals in bankruptcy law may not be the best to represent your interests in an auto accident. Seek recommendations from family, friends, and co-workers.
- Do your research by speaking with more than one lawyer? Ask each about his or her experience and fees, as well as the dedication you will receive from them and the projected chances of success. Ask about the level of participation expected on your part.
- Clarify payment arrangements. Understand the most expensive attorney isn’t necessarily the best, and neither does the “bargain” rate always mean a great deal. Overall, seek a balance of experience and cost.
At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, we charge no upfront legal fees and only get paid if we are successful in making a financial recovery on your behalf.Comparative/Contributory Negligence
As it pertains to personal injury, Massachusetts has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, per Mass. Ann. Laws. ch. 231, § 85.
Comparative negligence is a form of contributory negligence. It’s a partial legal defense that asserts the injured person bears some responsibility for what happened. A finding of comparative negligence may slash the overall amount of damages a car accident victim can recover.
While a finding of comparative negligence may, in some states, bar recovery of damages altogether, that is thankfully not so in Massachusetts. The statute allows a person who was comparatively negligent for an injurious crash to still pursue damages – so long as his or her share of the fault wasn’t greater than the total amount of negligence against the person or persons from whom recovery is sought.
Generally, that means an accident victim can still claim damages unless his or her percentage of fault was greater than 51 percent. If the court finds the plaintiff to be comparatively negligent, monetary damages will be reduced by his or her share of fault.Contingency Fee Basis
Some Massachusetts injury attorneys will charge clients on a Contingency Fee Basis.
What this means is an injured person will agree to have the lawyer’s fees deducted from the final settlement or damages awarded by a jury at trial. There are no upfront costs and no out-of-pocket legal fees. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, there are no legal fees unless we obtain compensation on your behalf.
Our compassionate legal team understands many people who come to us are not wealthy. That does not mean they should not be able to attain experienced representation in their personal injury action. A contingency fee arrangement allows someone who is injured to hire an experienced attorney without having to pay the cost of legal fees upfront.
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 231, Section 60I governs attorneys’ fees and limitations on contingency fees.Massachusetts No Fault Rules
Under Massachusetts No Fault Rules, drivers involved in traffic accidents in this state may not take each other to court for associated costs unless certain conditions are met.
Massachusetts “no-fault” rules pertain to the auto insurance system recognized by the state and the fact that drivers are required to maintain minimum amounts of coverage in anticipation of a crash.
When a crash happens, one must first file a claim with his or her own insurance company for personal injury protection and other benefits, per Mass. Ann Laws ch. 90, Section 34M.
A driver who wishes to pursue litigation outside the no-fault system needs to show:
- He or she has incurred at least $2,000 in medical expenses, and/or
- He or she suffered injuries relating to the accident that resulted in broken bones, substantial loss of hearing or sight or permanent and/or serious disfigurement.
If you are unsure whether your case meets the threshold, it’s best to discuss it with an experienced Boston injury lawyer.Statute of Limitations
Car accident victims DO NOT have an unlimited amount of time in which to pursue compensation for their injuries.
The filing deadline for personal injury lawsuits in Massachusetts is referred to as the “Statute of Limitations.”
In most cases, the law provides three years in which to file a personal injury claim in a Massachusetts court. This typically runs from the date of the accident. In rare instances, this deadline may be “tolled” or extended to allow for discovery of a latent injury that wasn’t detectable until long after the crash.
Massachusetts traffic collision lawsuits that involve wrongful death or product liability (i.e., a defective vehicle or vehicle part) also must be filed within three years.
When you are filing a personal injury claim against a government entity, action must be taken immediately. Plaintiffs in these cases are required to file a notice of claim within just 30 days of the accident.
It is imperative for injury victims to meet with a qualified attorney as soon as possible to ensure no deadlines are missed.Types of Claims
Anytime a person files a claim for compensation for car accident injuries, they are generally asserting negligence. That is, the defendant owed a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, that breach of duty caused plaintiff’s injuries and other damages.
But there are many different forms of negligence and causes of action.
The Types of Claims that may be available in a Massachusetts car accident lawsuit include:
- Personal injury – A physical or mental injury to one person as a result of another’s negligence or harmful act.
- Wrongful Death – A claim by surviving spouses/relatives alleging liability for a death.
- Product Liability – A claim alleging a manufacturer or seller of a defective product (vehicle or vehicle part) is liable for injuries caused by that defect.
- Insurance Bad Faith – A claim alleging unnecessary delays or wrongful refusal to settle a claim despite clear liability and damages.
Your attorney can discuss with you potential causes of action in an initial consultation.Wrongful Death
When injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident resulting in a death, certain relatives may have grounds on which to file a Wrongful Death lawsuit.
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 229, Section 2 details rights and remedies for those who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or the “willful, wanton or reckless action” of another.
These are cases in which the injured person may have had grounds on which to bring their own claims, but because they are gone, their loved ones take up the cause in their place.
A person(s) found liable for wrongful death may be required to pay:
- Fair monetary value of decedent to the persons entitled to receive damages (based on expected net income, services, protection, care, counsel and guidance);
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses;
- Punitive damages (intended to punish the defendant for gross negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct).
When it comes to car accident lawsuits in Boston, there may be instances in which government employees or entities were responsible for a crash.
Some examples might include:
- Police officers
- City bus drivers
- MBTA operators
- Sanitation workers
- School employees
- State construction workers
These cases have to be handled promptly and deftly by a skilled injury lawyer. Notice of intent to file an injury Claim Against the Government has to be done within 30 days.
Beyond that, there may be challenges with respect to sovereign immunity. This may render the government immune from liability for your injuries.
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 258 deals with indemnity and waivers of sovereign immunity for claims against government workers and municipalities.
These kinds of claims need to be carefully weighed by an experienced Massachusetts injury attorney before proceeding.Settlement
A settlement in a personal injury lawsuit refers to an agreement both sides reach prior to the trial phase in order to resolve their dispute.
Many car accident lawsuits in Boston are resolved through a negotiated Settlement Agreement.
Reaching a settlement involves calculating a reasonable amount of money the plaintiff would be willing to receive/defendant would be willing to pay. This includes careful consideration of economic damages (medical expenses, property damage, lost earnings, future lost income, estimated future medical expenses) and non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.). It also weighs how likely plaintiff is to succeed at trial.
Some cases are settled even before a lawsuit is filed.
While most injury lawsuits are resolved through settlement agreements, the injury attorney who takes your case should always be prepared for the possibility a trial may best serve your interests.Trial
When attempts to resolve your claim for compensation for car accident injuries in a settlement agreement fail, your case will proceed to Trial.
Although there is a judge, jury, evidence, and witnesses, there are many significant differences between civil injury claims and criminal cases.
The goal of a criminal trial is to determine guilt and, if necessary, punish the offender. The goal of a civil trial, meanwhile, is to restore the injured person. In some cases, punitive damages may be ordered to punish or deter especially egregious actions by the defendant.
In a civil injury trial, both sides will present evidence. Generally, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, and so must convince the court defendant was negligent and this negligence resulted in plaintiff’s injuries and the defendant should be made to pay a certain amount of damages.
It will ultimately be up to the jury and/or judge to decide which facts are most believable and whether the defendant should be made to pay.
The personal injury trial attorney you choose should be backed by a firm with the experience and resources to take your case to trial and win just result.
Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
Call (617) 367-2900 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL