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Massachusetts Car Accident Compensation Laws

If you've mastered the rotary, occasionally blocked traffic to make a left turn, and you're familiar with the drama of the "Big Dig," you might be an experienced Massachusetts driver. Whether you know Boston like the back of your hand, or you're a tourist visiting the Cape or Fenway for the first time, car accidents are a disappointing part of East Coast living. If you've been involved in a "fendah bendah" or worse, you'll need to know Massachusetts's car accident compensation laws.

Below is a table outlining important aspects of Massachusetts's car accident compensation laws, including limits on damages and the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations Three years for most personal injury and property damage lawsuits (Ch. 260, Sec. 2A)
Limits on Damages $500,000 cap on some non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases (Ch. 231, Sec. 60H)
Other Limits No fault system requires filing insurance claim before pursuing legal damages (Ch. 90, Sec. 34M); modified comparative negligence fault system may prevent or diminish damages (Ch. 231, Sec. 85)

"No Fault" and "Comparative Negligence" Rules Apply

Massachusetts uses a "no fault" system for insurance claims and car accidents. This means anyone seeking personal injury compensation from a car accident must first file a claim with his or her own car insurance company before pursuing damages against another party. By law, the insurance covers certain amounts regardless of who was at fault (with some exceptions, such as your own intoxication).

To determine liability for damages above and beyond those covered by insurance, Massachusetts also follows a "modified comparative negligence" approach to contributory negligence. This rule states that you may only recover damages if your negligence (if any) in causing the accident is not greater than that of the person or people you are suing. In other words, to recover damages, you must not be more than 50% at fault.

However, if you were partially to blame, any damages that are awarded will be reduced in proportion to the degree that you were at fault. For example, if you were 10% at fault and the other driver was 90% at fault, you may still sue the other driver, but an award of $1000 will be reduced by $100.

Types of Damages

There are typically two types of damages you can recover: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are the more direct, specific costs you've incurred as a result of your injury or damage to property, while non-economic damages refer to the more abstract costs of an accident, like mental anguish and the loss of spousal companionship.

Examples of economic damages include:

  • Car repairs or replacement
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages

Examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of affection or companionship

Limits on Damages

Massachusetts does not have a cap on damages that may be awarded, except for the non-economic claims of certain medical malpractice claims ($500,000). Additionally, claims are time-sensitive, as you have three years from the date of the accident to file most lawsuits in court.

Involved in a Massachusetts Car Accident? An Attorney Can Help

Massachusetts has a number of rules that can make car accident claims a bit more confusing. Thanks to the modified comparative negligence rule, you'll want some help understanding if and to what extent you may be partially at fault for an accident, and how that might affect your potential award. Get a head start on your claim today by contacting a Massachusetts motor vehicle accident attorney.

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