Understanding Your Rights in a Car Accident: Massachusetts Personal Injury Claims Explained

You could be driving down I-495 during rush hour when suddenly a person driving a large SUV whips into your lane and causes you to rear-end him. However, there were multiple witnesses who reported to Massachusetts State Police that the other driver was speeding. Three witnesses reported he was weaving in and out of traffic. Suddenly, what could have been your fault is a clear case of reckless driving, but, thank goodness, people were willing to share what they saw with the police. Now, you’re laid up in a nearby hospital awaiting surgery for multiple hip and leg fractures. This type of car accident is more common on Massachusetts highways than one might think.

How Much Time Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?
A car accident can be devastating, causing you and your dependents to lose your economic stability due to debilitating injuries. In Massachusetts, there is a statute of limitations that limits how long you have to file your claim. Here, as an injured victim, you will typically have three years beginning on the accident date to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and his or her insurance company. Your lawsuit may be for economic and non-economic damages for bodily injuries, pain, and suffering. If you’re trying to sue a government entity (i.e. a city, county, or state agency) within this state, then your statute of limitations is only two years. In cases where there’s a latent injury, which means you didn’t know about the permanent bodily damage caused by the accident until a later date, there may be a three-year statute of limitations beginning on the date you discovered it. 

What is the Threshold Law for Motor Vehicle Accidents?
In Massachusetts, there is a minimum threshold that must be met before you can pursue a claim. Your total damages for necessary medical, surgical, x-ray and dental services, including prosthetic devices, and necessary ambulance, hospital, professional nursing and funeral expenses must exceed $2,000 unless the accident causes death, whole or partial loss of a bodily member, whole or partial permanent and serious disfigurement, loss of sight or hearing, or a fracture.

Who Was At Fault in the Accident?
At first, under the no-fault injury system in Massachusetts, victims must use their own car insurance to cover initial medical expenses. However, if you have injuries that involve a permanent injury, disfigurement, loss of sight or hearing, death, or fracture, you may be able to pursue a tort claim to include medical bills, pain, and suffering. Keep in mind that Massachusetts also has comparative fault rules. If your lawyer believes the at-fault insurance company will offer a settlement early on in your case, these rules may not affect you. However, if the case looks like it could go to trial, the court is not even going to view you as eligible for damages if you’re 50 percent or more responsible for the accident. It’s important to have a qualified personal injury lawyer review the facts in your motor vehicle accident case, which may include hiring traffic investigators, in order to determine if your fault is less than 50 percent. Otherwise, even with a permanent injury, your percentage of fault for the accident may limit your ability to file a claim.

Where Do You Start?
Getting injured in an accident is a serious legal matter. When you miss time from work due to medical treatment and/or recovering from devastating injuries, the lost wages become part of your case. There are also other expenses such as transportation and medical devices, including prosthetics and mobility equipment (i.e. walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, walking boots, scooters). There are also therapies such as chiropractic, massage, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. These common costs add up quickly, and the providers start calling you trying to collect their fees. You don’t want to be in a position to pay these expenses out-of-pocket, but, in many cases, that’s exactly what happens.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Massachusetts and have questions, we can help. Contact our law office for a free evaluation of your case.

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