No-Fault Car Insurance in Massachusetts
Massachusetts is a No-Fault State
Some states, like Massachusetts, use a no-fault car insurance system. Under this system, anyone who gets into a car accident must file a claim with his or her own insurance provider to pay for medical expenses, property damage, and other fees. In many cases, this also prevents drivers from taking other involved parties to court after an accident unless the circumstances are very particular.
What Happens After an Accident With Serious Injuries?
There are certain circumstances under which an accident victim can step outside the no-fault system and bring a personal injury claim against another driver. This can happen if:
- The injuries have caused at least $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses and/or
- The injuries are permanent and serious, like disfigurement, and will affect a victim’s quality of life.
A car accident victim has 3 years to file a claim against the negligent party in Massachusetts. The date for the time limit usually begins the day of the accident. In some cases, where injury is not quickly apparent, a “date of discovery” may delay the start of the statute of limitations.
Minimum Insurance Requirements
Every person who drives in the state of Massachusetts is required to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage. Drivers are responsible for carrying at least:
- $20,000 for each person and $40,000 for each accident including bodily injury to others.
- $8,000 for each person and each accident, for personal injury protection (PIP).
- $20,000 for each person and $40,000 for each accident with bodily injury caused by an uninsured driver.
- $5,000 for each accident including damages to another person’s property.
According to recent statistics, Massachusetts has one of the lowest uninsured driver percentages in the country and Massachusetts law does not require drivers to purchase underinsured driver coverage. Depending on your policy, you may be able to collect from your own insurance company if you are hit by a driver without insurance. However, if your insurance company has denied your claim or you feel that they have treated you unfairly, you can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulations or seek help from a local attorney.
Comparative Fault in Legal Claims
Massachusetts is a comparative fault state, meaning that an award is reduced by a driver’s percentage of fault, or responsibility, for the accident. If the court finds that an injured person shares less than 50% of the fault, he or she may have his or her compensation reduced by the degree of fault. However, anyone who shares more than 50% of the fault may not be able to claim compensation at all, since they are a majority responsible for causing the accident. Car accidents that meet the requirements mentioned above proceed similarly to other types of personal injury cases.
Why Fault Still Matters in a No-Fault State
Even though the state adheres to a no-fault doctrine, fault still makes a difference in accidents. For instance, if a party is more than 50% responsible for the accident, his or her insurance company may be legally responsible for paying more compensation to cover other costs associated with the accident. Property damage is still determined by a comparative fault rule. It is also likely that an at-fault driver will notice an increase in premium payments after an accident.
After the Accident
Do not ever leave the scene of an accident until law enforcement has arrived and all the necessary information has been collected. Always document as much about the accident and your injuries as possible. Good records may be imperative for both your claim with your insurance provider as well as pursuing legal action against any negligent party involved. In some cases, you may need to fill out a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report within 5 days of the accident if:
- Someone was killed or injured
- There was more than $1,000 worth of damage to any vehicle or property
After an accident in any state, drivers should contact their insurance companies to notify them of the accident, regardless of the fault rules. In no-fault states, the insurance company is responsible for covering medical expenses, lost income, and other types of compensation. Although no-fault rules are in place to reduce auto accident lawsuits, a driver may still need to consult an attorney after an accident.
If a driver meets the threshold for filing a claim against the negligent driver or has trouble getting fair compensation from an insurance provider, a personal injury attorney can help. Car accident attorneys can negotiate with insurance claims adjusters and complete independent investigations into the circumstances surrounding an accident. If a driver is covered for a certain amount, but cannot access it, an attorney can also help bring a bad faith claim against the insurance provider if necessary.