Everyone is aware on some level that every time they travel in a car there is the inherent risk an accident will occur, but the reality of this risk does not really hit home until a crash happens, leaving someone injured. Personal injury claims for car accident injuries are much more complicated than they typically appear from the outside, because of the burden the injury victim has to prove that the other party was at fault for the collision and the ensuing harm.
To the injured victim, this may seem an easy task, and in some cases, the fault is clear, but in many crashes, fault, and the associated liability, is less obvious, which is part of the reason why car accident claims can take some time to resolve. Statistics show that everyone is expected to be involved in at least one major car accident in their lifetime, and a discussion of when a personal injury lawsuit for car accident injuries is permitted under Massachusetts law, as well as the types of evidence that most effectively establish the fault of the other driver, will follow below.
Filing a Lawsuit
Unfortunately, filing a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident injury is not as easy in Massachusetts as is the case in other states, because of the no-fault insurance law that restricts when and how much a car accident victim can recover for the bodily injury. Specifically, anyone involved in an accident is supposed to look to his/her own insurance company to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other associated expenses under the Personal Injury Protection benefits all auto insurance policies include.
The stated purpose of this rule is to allow accident victims to receive reimbursement for expenses without having to prove who was at fault. The problem with this system is that it blocks many legitimately injured parties from suing for just compensation, and does not account for any recovery related to pain and suffering. In order to sue for car accident injuries in Massachusetts, the plaintiff must overcome the “tort threshold,” which requires a plaintiff to have sustained very serious injuries, through demonstrating the existence of one of the following:
- Medical bills in excess of $2,000 for “reasonable and necessary” treatment;
- Broken bones;
- Serious or permanent disfigurement;
- Hearing or vision loss;
- Partial or complete loss of a body part; or
How to Prove Fault
Assuming one of these circumstances is present, the plaintiff must then turn to proving the other driver was at fault. Thus, the two key elements in any personal injury claim are proving the extent of the harm caused and that the other party was responsible for it.
The fault is particularly important because Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault system that controls when an injured plaintiff may recover from a defendant. Basically, if the evidence shows that the plaintiff is 51 percent or more at fault, no recovery is allowed. Further, when the attribution of fault is 50 percent or less, any recovery is reduced by the amount of responsibility the plaintiff played in his/her own injury. Thus, strong evidence of a defendant’s fault is crucial to winning a sufficient recovery, and the most common sources of evidence for car accident injuries include:
- Police reports;
- Photographs of the accident scene;
- Statements by both drivers about the accident;
- Cited violations of traffic laws;
- Witness statements; and
- Violations of vehicle condition requirements, i.e., brakes, lights, tire, etc.
Contact a Massachusetts Car Accident Attorney
Car accident injuries can alter your life, and if you suffered serious injuries in an accident, contact the experienced Cape Cod attorneys at Goldberg & Weigand, LLP about your options. Making a strong accident claim is a complicated process, and the expertise of Goldberg & Weigand, LLP will give you the extra edge you need to greatly increase your chance of success. Someone is available to take your call 24 hours per day. Contact them for a free consultation.
Attorney Peter M. Goldberg is the founder of and managing partner at Goldberg & Weigand, LLP, and has been in private practice since 1986. He takes pride in the fact he deals directly with his clients on a daily basis working to get their cases resolved to the fullest extent of their rights. Peter practices personal injury law and workers compensation law in Massachusetts.