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Motor Vehicle Accident-Basics

This blog offers a brief overview of a personal injury claim resulting from a motor vehicle accident. We will briefly discuss the bodily injury and personal injury protection coverages of an auto insurance policy and then briefly describe the aspects of a personal injury claim. You should contact an attorney at Lake Shore Legal for more detailed and in-depth information concerning your accident and personal injury claim.

COMPULSORY BODILY INJURY COVERAGE

An individual’s bodily injury insurance is for the benefit of people who are injured as a result of the negligence of someone driving your vehicle with consent in Massachusetts. Thus, your bodily injury insurance covers any driver who has permission to be operating the vehicle. If your vehicle was being operated without permission or was stolen, your bodily injury insurance would not apply.

In Massachusetts bodily injury insurance is mandated to register a vehicle within the Commonwealth. The minimum limit allowed is $20,000/$40,000. This means that the most your bodily injury insurance company will pay per person in an accident is $20,000 with a cap of $40,000 for the entire accident.

Be aware that there are limitations to bodily injury coverage. This insurance does not cover guest occupants within the vehicle, does not provide coverage for injuries suffered in an accident outside of Massachusetts, and does not apply if the vehicle is being utilized within a ride-sharing program (Uber, Lyft).

PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION COVERAGE (PIP)

PIP coverage is for your benefit and for the benefit of other specified individuals who were injured in an auto accident. PIP applies regardless of who caused the accident, and is routinely referred to as “no fault” coverage. PIP provides for the payment of up to $8,000 for each person injured in an auto accident for the following expenses: 1. Reasonable and necessary medical expenses that have arisen within two years of the accident; 2. PIP will cover 75% of lost wages for an individual who was employed at the time of the accident; 3. Reasonable expenses incurred in paying non-family members to perform ordinary and necessary services for the injured person.

If a person has private health insurance, PIP will normally pay the first $2,000 in medical expenses and then have the private insurance company pay the medical bills in excess of the $2,000. The remaining $6,000 of PIP benefits can be utilized to pay any medical expenses not covered by the private health insurance. This includes deductibles, co-payments, and lost wages.

PIP coverage applies to the following individuals: anyone within your vehicle with consent; a pedestrian struck by your vehicle within Massachusetts; anyone living within your household who is occupying a vehicle without Massachusetts bodily injury insurance; you or anyone living within your household if struck by a vehicle without Massachusetts compulsory bodily injury insurance.

Please note that PIP coverage does not apply to anyone driving or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle or moped, anyone entitled to Worker’s Compensation as a result of the accident, and anyone who was under the influence of alcohol or committing a felony at the time of the accident.

You should be aware that most health care providers and private health insurance companies will place a lien on the bodily injury portion of a case if they do pay for medical bills resulting from an actual accident.

PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM

A personal injury claim based upon a motor vehicle accident can be briefly summarized into two major points. These points are 1. Liability and 2. Damages.

Liability

A personal injury claim is brought based upon the tort of negligence. Negligence can be summarized as the failure to utilize reasonable care which results in damage or injury to another person. Thus, for a personal injury claim you must demonstrate that the operator of the vehicle, the “tortfeasor”, was negligent in his operation of the vehicle and due to this negligence, you were injured.

Massachusetts is a comparative negligence state. Massachusetts uses the 51% comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, you are able to recover only if the tortfeasor was to blame for 51% or more of the accident. Any damages awarded to you are reduced by your share of the negligence. So, if you were deemed to be 25% at fault for the accident, any damages would be reduced by 25%.

Liability can be agreed to or can be denied by the insurance company of the tortfeasor. The insurance company may agree that their insured was fully at fault for the accident, was partially at fault for the accident, or was not at fault. If you disagree with the percentage of negligence that the insurance company is accepting or the insurance company is denying liability, you have two options. You can either file a lawsuit or give up your bodily injury claim.

An experienced attorney can assist you in evaluating your personal injury claim, the facts of your accident, and the potential liability of both you and the other driver.

Damages

Once liability is accepted or proven, you can begin to evaluate your damages from the accident. Please note that statutorily, you cannot bring a bodily injury claim against the tortfeasor’s insurance company until you have incurred over $2,000 of medical expenses. This is based upon the fact that PIP coverage will pay for the first $2,000 of expenses.

You are entitled to an award equal to the monetary value of the actual loss caused by the wrongful act of the tortfeasor. Compensatory damages seek to place you in the position in which you were in prior to the accident. The three main areas of damages for a personal injury claim are medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Your medical expenses are a major source of a potential damages award. Medical expenses that have been paid out of pocket and expenses that have been covered by health insurance are taken into account. Once again, your private health insurance company may have a lien against the bodily injury claim based upon the medical expenses that the company has covered. You are allowed only one recovery and must seek damages for both past and future medical expenses resulting from a single accident.

You are also entitled to recover damages for the loss or impairment of your ability to work. Your damage recovery will comprise of time that you missed from work due to the accident, and for any reduction in future earning capacity resulting from injuries sustained as part of the accident. You have the burden of proof, established by sufficient evidence, to demonstrate both that your earning capacity has been impaired and the fair market value of the impairment.

The third part of a damage award is pain and suffering. You may recover for the pain and suffering incurred as a direct result of the accident. You cannot recover pain and suffering damages without proving that you suffered an actual physical injury. You may be wondering; how do I prove pain and suffering? Many insurance companies historically had utilized a multiplier. For example, pain and suffering may have been calculated to be 2 or 3 times the amount of medical expenses. It appears that most companies have now moved away from this practice. There is no clear-cut standard to determine pain and suffering. Some companies base it upon total medical expenses, some companies look at total weeks of medical treatment resulting from the accident, and some companies utilize other methods. If your personal injury claim is brought to trial, the jury will value your pain and suffering damages based upon their agreed upon deliberations.

LAKE SHORE LEGAL, LLC

The above information briefly touches on a few main areas of a personal injury claim. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident contact an attorney at Lake Shore Legal today. Our attorneys can discuss the personal injury claims process in greater detail and evaluate your potential claim. Talk to one of our attorneys today. info@lakeshorelegalsolutions.com (508) 943-7800.

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