Car accidents occur at an alarming rate in our country and are one of the most common causes of death among children, young adults and the elderly. If you or a loved one were injured or suffered serious injuries caused by the negligent or reckless driving of another person, you should consult a car accident attorney.
Car Accident Law: Proof of Liability
Like any civil claim, it is your burden to prove that another person’s negligence caused your injuries. Witness testimony, admissions of fault, location of property damage or an accident investigation often determine which party was legally responsible for the accident.
Negligence can be based on the following conduct:
- Texting while driving
- Intoxicated or impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Illegal lane merging
- Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Falling asleep at the wheel
Other Responsible Parties
While most car accidents are caused by careless driving, many are also the result of defective brakes, tires, steering problems, faulty air bag deployment, sudden and unintentional acceleration and other defects. Car manufacturers and designers can be held responsible under product liability law principles, strict liability and breach of warranties.
In situations where an intoxicated driver caused a serious motor vehicle accident or fatality, dram shop laws may impose liability on business establishments or private individuals if they supplied alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person since it is foreseeable that person would be driving a motor vehicle.
State and local governments are responsible for safe roadway design and maintenance including merging onramps, embankments, medians and signage. A faulty design, use of inadequate materials or safeguards or lack of signs do lead to serious car accidents. Similarly, road construction crews must alert motorists to dangerous road conditions and to keep the roadways free of debris.
Massachusetts Auto Insurance Law
Massachusetts has a no-fault insurance law that requires you to have PIP or personal injury protection coverage to provide benefits to you if you were injured in a car accident or if you were a pedestrian or bicyclist hit by a car. You can receive up to $8,000 for yourself, passengers, or anyone living in your household who was injured, regardless of fault. You have up to two years from the date of your accident to submit a claim for PIP benefits.
Your coverage pays for medical expenses over $2,000 if it is not paid by your health care coverage or if it refuses to pay it and you sought treatment according to your health plan policy. Covered individuals can also recover 75% of their lost wages unless you have a disability plan at your employment. In that case, you would receive 75% of the difference between your disability plan and the PIP amount.
Before you can pursue a claim for personal injuries against the responsible party in a car accident, you must meet any of the following preconditions:
- Have medical bills in excess of $2,000
- Sustain a fracture, sight or hearing impairment
- Sustain other serious injuries
If you were injured in a car accident, most claims include medical expenses that exceed $2,000 since an ER visit alone can frequently meet this threshold. Once you qualify, you can pursue compensation against the other party, or its insurer, for damages including:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium claim by your spouse
Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage
Although required, it is estimated that up to 20% of motorists have no liability coverage. Many drivers only maintain minimum coverage, which in Massachusetts is $20,000 per person and $40,000 for all injuries in an accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage (UM) and are injured by an uninsured driver, you can pursue compensation under your own policy up to its limits.
Should you have been injured by a driver with minimum coverage such as $20,000 and your damages exceed those limits, you can still collect compensation under the underinsured (UIM) provision of your policy. For example, you would have to collect the entire $20,000 or the limit of the defendant’s policy before you can make a claim under your UIM policy but only for the difference. If your UIM is $100,000 and you recovered $20,000 from other motorist’s insurer, you can only collect up to $80,000 from your own insurer. Such claims are often litigated by your insurer though these claims are subject only to binding arbitration.
Retaining a Car Accident Lawyer
Car accident injuries are not as simple as many people believe. There are often issues of liability, comparative negligence, causation, and proof required before you can collect any compensation or at least the compensation your particular injury deserves. An experienced car accident attorney can handle all aspects of your case including investigation of your accident if liability is disputed and uncovering other responsible parties. Your attorney can also accumulate all documentation necessary and present your claim to an insurer for settlement purposes.
Car accident lawyers typically represent injured parties on a contingency basis, paying for all expenses upfront, and collecting their fees on a percentage of what you receive by settlement or favorable verdict.