Getting into a car accident in any state or at any time can be a stressful event. Knowing what to do during those first few hours can be critical to the success of your claim if you are injured or not at fault or mitigating your risk of fault if you are believed to be at fault. Knowing the laws regarding car accidents can also ensure that you are aware of the best course of action, as laid out below.
After an Accident
Massachusetts requires drivers involved in car accident to file a report known as a MVCOR (Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report) not more than 5 days after the incident. This is regardless of whether there is a police presence in cases of death, serious injury or damages of $1k or more. In those three instances you must also report any accident to your insurance provider as laid out in most insurance policies. As a no-fault state, you will want to contact your insurance provider immediately after an accident occurs to follow the right steps as required by your insurer to ensure your claim is paid.
As with most other states in the US, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in which you were involved. If you do, you could be charged with a “hit and run.” If you are involved in a serious accident that resulted in serious injury, death or more than $1,000 worth of damages, you would be well served to contact an attorney at your earliest convenience. This attorney will protect your interests, reduce any damages you may be made to pay or alternatively fight for higher awards if you were the injured party.
After an accident make sure if there are no injuries and the vehicles are drivable to drive to a parking lot or shoulder of the road, removing them from the flow of traffic. Remember to switch information with the other driver including name, phone, address, and insurance policy and take pictures of the damage to the vehicles.
No fault system
As Massachusetts has minimum insurance coverage requirements for all drivers as well as a no fault insurance system for accidents, in most vehicle accidents you will turn to your insurer first to make a claim for damages or awards to cover medical costs for minor injuries.
However if you suffer a serious disfigurement, loss of sight or hearing or a fractured bone, or incur more than $2000 worth of medical expenses you can step out of the no fault system to make a civil suit directly against the at fault driver. This ability is limited by a statute of limitations of a maximum of 3 years. If you are injured in a car accident you need to make a claim or lawsuit within 3 years of the accident or you forfeit your right to a claim.
Modified Comparative Fault
In this state, the modified comparative fault 50 percent bar rule is used. Meaning that as long as you are ascribed 49% or less fault in an accident you can recover damages for injury, medical costs or physical property damage. However if you are awarded 50% or more of the fault for an accident you are unable to recover any awarded damages. This is used in cases that go to arbitration outside of the no fault system or in civil suits outside the no fault system as well. Any damages you are awarded would also be reduced by the same percentage of fault you are ascribed. So if you are awarded $10,000 of damages but share 10% of the fault for the accident you would only be able to actually collect $9,000 of the damages awarded.
Accidents involving drugs or alcohol are serious offences in Massachusetts which can result in administrative and court awarded penalties of fines, license suspensions, mandated driver education, drug or alcohol education programs, mandatory jail time and mandatory ignition interlock devices all depending on the severity of the accident and if it is your first or subsequent offense. These charges often come with mandatory minimum penalties, but a good attorney may be able to mitigate some of the harshest ranges for these penalties.
Always know your options when you have been in a car accident to protect your interests including reducing fines, damage awards and overall liability if you are at fault.