Worcester Car Accident Lawyer
Car accident injuries and fatalities are on the rise. According to the National Safety Council, 2015 and 2016 both saw significant increases in deaths nationwide, with 40,200 car accident fatalities on our nation’s highways in 2016 alone – the highest number of deaths in 10 years. In addition, almost 4.6 million people suffered injuries serious enough to require medical treatment.
Massachusetts has been found to have some of the worst drivers in the nation. According to Allstate Insurance’s annual Best Drivers Report, three out of the four U.S. cities with the highest accident rates are right here in Massachusetts: Worcester, Boston, and Springfield. An estimated 399 people died in traffic crashes in our state in 2016.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or even killed in a car accident due to another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be eligible to recover compensation for damages and reduced quality of life. In such cases, Sweeney Merrigan in Worcester is there for you, specializing exclusively in personal injury claims.
Types Car Accidents
Some of the most common car accidents that result in highway deaths and injuries in Massachusetts are:
- Rear-end collisions. The most common type of car accident, rear-end collisions are usually caused by tailgating, a vehicle following from the rear following too closely. Serious rear-end collisions can cause “whiplash,” a sprain and strain of the neck and back due to sudden forward/back movement. Although rear-enders typically don’t cause fatalities, serious incidents can sometimes cause brain injuries, spine injuries, fractured vertebrae, and other complications associated with neck and spine.
- Side-impact collisions. These consist of two types:
- T-bone collisions, where one vehicle crashes into the side of another at a 90-degree angle. This often occurs at an intersection when one car runs a light or stop sign, or one vehicle turns across a lane into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Because they’re typically unexpected, T-bone accidents often produce serious injuries and/or fatalities.
- Sideswipes happen when one vehicle collides with the side of another that is traveling parallel. By itself, a sideswipe is usually less serious accident than a T-bone, but it can often serve as the beginning of a multi-vehicle accident, especially on a busy road or highway.
- Roll-overs. These are among the most dangerous motor vehicle accidents and often cause fatalities and catastrophic injuries. They occur most often in older model SUVs and minivans that have a high center of gravity, which makes them less stable than other vehicle types. This can occur when a vehicle rounds a curve carelessly, when it hits an icy patch on the road, when it collides with an obstacle or debris on the road, or when the vehicle is struck by another.
- Head-on collisions. These are the deadliest of all accident types – but are also the least frequent. Typical causes include any situation where the driver is impaired or otherwise inattentive, such as drowsy driving, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They can also be caused by going the wrong way on a one-way street or entering a highway from the wrong direction.
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Any collisions involving motor vehicles and pedestrians are the cause of many injuries and fatalities. Drivers have a duty to be alert and aware of pedestrians, cyclists, and others sharing the road, to maintain sufficient distance while passing them (three feet when passing a bicycle), and to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in a crosswalk (including unmarked crosswalks).
Causes of Massachusetts Traffic Accidents
Responsible driving can prevent most crashes. A majority of car accidents are caused by poor driving behaviors, including:
- Texting, cell phone use, and other distractions. This includes rubbernecking, personal grooming, eating and drinking, reading, adjusting the radio or GPS, tending to children in the car, or reaching to pick up an item from the floor or the back seat of the car.
- Drunk or drugged driving: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) an average of 28 people die every day because of someone driving under the influence. 2.2 percent of people in Massachusetts admit to driving after having too much to drink – higher than the national average of 1.9 percent.
- Speeding: Speeding contributes to about a third of all traffic accidents in the United States and is often paired with aggressive driving. Impatience that results in speed and aggression on the road is common in Massachusetts, where busy people in a hurry to get to school, work, and appointments are too often willing to sacrifice safety for speed.
Massachusetts No Fault Insurance
Massachusetts is a no-fault state, so every vehicle owner is required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This means you have the ability to begin medical treatment immediately after being injured, without having to wait for any pending judgements or lawsuits to resolve. Your policy’s PIP insurance will cover your medical bills and a portion of your lost earnings up to your policy limits.
If your accident was a serious one, your PIP coverage will probably not be sufficient to cover your losses, especially if hospitalization was required. In this case, you can make a claim against the at-fault driver to recover damages beyond your own PIP coverage.
Insurance Requirements in Massachusetts
Minimum required insurance requirements in Massachusetts are:
- $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident including bodily injury to others.
- $8,000 per person per accident, for personal injury protection (PIP).
- $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injury caused by an uninsured driver.
- $5,000 per accident coverage for each accident causing damage to another person’s property
Massachusetts law requires that you meet a threshold before you are allowed to sue for damages:
- You have incurred more than $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, or
- Your injuries caused a permanent and serious disfigurement, a broken bone, and/or loss of hearing or eyesight.
For the best chance of succeeding in recovering a fair amount of money for your damages, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you. For example, terms such as “serious disfigurement” is not specifically defined in the law, and is therefore open to interpretation.
Protect Your Rights by Following These Steps Following a Motor Vehicle Accident
When you’ve been in an accident, you may not know right away the extent of your injuries, and it may not be clear what caused the accident. Things you do and things you avoid doing immediately after the crash may influence your ability to recover compensation for any injuries at a later point. Assuming you are able, we recommend the following:
- If your car can be driven, get it off the roadway; but do not push it manually!
- Avoid speaking to anyone at the scene about how the accident occurred or who caused it.
- Don’t apologize. Saying “I’m sorry” is a knee-jerk reaction for some people. You may only mean you’re sorry the accident happened, but anything even resembling an apology may be interpreted as you admitting the accident was your fault.
- Call the police and ask for an officer to be dispatched to the scene.
- If you or anyone else requires an ambulance, tell the police dispatcher.
- Take down the names of everyone involved in the accident. Get insurance information, license plate numbers, and contact information for all drivers.
- Get names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
- If you have you your phone or a camera with you, take photos of the accident. Get pictures of all cars and points of impact showing the damage that occurred to each vehicle. Include markers as street signs and nearby buildings, to identify the location of the accident.
- Once law enforcement arrives, write down the name and badge number of the responding officer, the accident report number, and the jurisdiction where you can request a copy of the report.
- Report the accident to your insurance company. Give only the basic facts—the location and time of the accident and the names and insurance companies of the other drivers. Don’t get involved in a discussion of how the accident occurred, what caused it, or whether or not you are injured. You may not realize yet the extent of your injuries.
- Get medical care right away, whether it’s the nearest urgent care center, hospital emergency room, or your own personal physician—even if you don’t think you’ve been badly hurt. The pain may start in a few hours or the next day, after the adrenaline rush from the accident has worn off.
- Don’t stop seeing your doctor until he/she tells you have reached your maximum level of improvement. Continue to see your doctor as long as you have any symptoms at all. Don’t skip appointments. Fill all prescriptions. Follow your doctor’s orders to the fine detail.
- Call an attorney with a legal practice dedicated exclusively to personal injury cases, like Sweeney Merrigan LLP.
- Don’t allow any insurance company representative to record a statement from you, and don’t sign anything. They may offer a settlement price, but that can often be at a price much lower than needed. Later on, your lawyer will let you know if you need to sign any documents.
Leave Discussions with the Insurance Adjuster to Your Lawyer
Insurance companies want to minimize pay-outs to increase their profits; the less they pay you, the better their bottom line looks. Do not talk to an insurance adjuster! Adjusters are trained in tactics aimed at getting you to say or do something to compromise your case. Don’t fall into their trap. Refer the adjuster to your lawyer.
Get the Legal Help You Need in Worcester after a Car Crash
A serious car accident can wreak havoc on your life. You may not be able to return to work and medical costs may be climbing beyond what your no-fault insurance covers—an often-stressful situation that can only compound your suffering. Contact the personal injury law firm of Sweeney Merrigan LLP to arrange a free, no-obligation review of your motor vehicle accident case. We provide honest answers and guidance to help you decide how to proceed. We accept traffic accident cases on contingency, so you pay no fees or expenses until we win money for you.