Insurance Blog
Friday, 25 October 2019 03:59

Myths About No-Fault In MA

Myth #1: No-Fault Means No One Is At Fault

There is a general misunderstanding about no-fault accidents in Massachusetts — drivers often believe that being involved in an accident in this no-fault state means that no one is at fault in an accident, but that is not true. No-fault does not mean you are not at fault.

 

Brief Case Study: Do you know who, if anyone, is at fault in this accident?

 

Driver One was turning her vehicle left through stopped traffic. She cautiously stopped and checked for oncoming vehicles in the opposite lane. Seeing no other vehicles approaching, she determined that is was safe to proceed. As she was completing the turn, Driver Two collided with her vehicle damaging the front right quarter panel and tire. The front end of his vehicle was damaged and the force of the impact also damaged the driver's door, even though the door was not struck.

Police were called to the scene. Driver One told the police officer that she did not see the driver after stopping and checking. Driver Two told the officer that he was going too fast and couldn’t stop in time. No citations were issued to either driver. Both vehicles were damaged, but there were no injuries.

Was anyone at fault?

Although Driver One believed that she was not at fault because the other car wasn’t in view when she started the turn, and she believed that neither driver was at fault, her insurance company decided that she was 50% at fault because she made a left turn — a left turn is near-automatic liability.

Driver One learned that no-fault does not mean no one is at fault.

 

If drivers can be at fault then what does no-fault mean?

Massachusetts is a no-fault state but no-fault does not refer to who is or is not at fault. No-fault refers to no-fault insurance, or Personal Injury Projection (PIP). The minimum PIP coverage in Massachusetts is $8,000. Therefore, if you are injured in an accident, your  car insurance company will pay up to $8,000 of your medical bills (or your minimum PIP coverage) less any deductible, regardless of who was at fault, while the insurance companies determine who is responsible for payment.

 

Is the driver of the car making a left turn always at fault in an accident?

Massachusetts law states that the car making the left turn must wait until it can safely complete the turn before moving in front of oncoming traffic.1  Exceptions to this liability can occur if:

  • the car going straight was going too fast,
  • the car going straight went through a red light, or
  • the left-turn car began its turn when it was safe but something unexpected happened which made it have to slow down or stop its turn.

The location of damage on the vehicles involved in an accident can sometimes help to determine who is at fault. In this case, the damage to Driver One’s car indicated that the car began its left-turn when it was safe but something unexpected happened. Therefore, her insurance company decided to evenly split the liability between the two drivers.

 

Understanding Personal Injury Protection Insurance

In order to register and drive a vehicle in Massachusetts you are required to purchase at least the minimum of the following auto coverages and limits:

Require Massachusetts Auto Insuance Coverage

 

What about vehicle damage resulting from an accident?

If your car was damaged in an accident and you were not at fault the cost to repair your vehicle is covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

When you are at fault for a car accident, the other driver would typically submit a claim to his insurance company. His insurer would then contact your insurance company for reimbursement. It's important to note that while you may not be responsible for paying for damages out of pocket, it is likely that your insurance company will increase your insurance premiums at policy renewal based on your percentage of fault.

 

The 51% Rule In Massachusetts

According to Findlaw.com, liability for a car accident is based on negligence. Each driver has a duty to operate his vehicle with reasonable care. If he fails in this duty and an accident occurs as a result, he is considered negligent, at fault, and liable for the resulting damages.

Many times, however, more than just one driver or individual is at fault in a car accident. Who's liable for the damage that occurs from an accident when more than one person is at fault? In Massachusetts the law says that the insurance company's claims adjuster should determine percentage of fault of the parties involved. If the party who is making the claim against the insurance company is 51% or more at fault, the insurer may deny the claim.2

 

Other At Fault Accidents

In certain situations, a driver is presumed to be more than 50% at fault if:

  • The driver hits a car that's parked, whether lawfully or unlawfully;
  • The driver rear-ends another vehicle;
  • The driver is driving partially or completely out of the proper lane and is in a collision while passing, being passed or changing lanes, as long as the other car is in its proper lane;
  • The driver is in a collision while failing to signal before turning or changing lanes;
  • The driver fails to obey traffic signs or fails to proceed with caution.

When making determinations of fault, a claims adjuster will use available evidence available to make the determination, including statements from witnesses, the accident report, evidence collected at the scene, and medical records and reports.

(See the full list of at fault accidents is available at the Mass.gov website.)

 

Myth #2: You Can Sue The Other Driver in No-Fault Massachusetts

 

You might think that you can sue the driver of the other car that caused injury; however, that’s not always true in Massachusetts.

The no-fault auto insurance system is designed to lower the cost of car insurance by removing the ability to sue. When an accident happens, each person involved in the accident is compensated by their own insurance company for small injuries, regardless of who was at fault. Drivers are not allowed to sue each other unless their injuries are serious and meet a certain threshold. The conditions that must be met before a driver can sue are known as the tort liability threshold and can be verbal terms such as severe disfigurement or death or can be a monetary threshold, which kicks in when medical bills cross a specified dollar amount.

While it is difficult to sue in Massachusetts due to the no-fault insurance law, there are exceptions. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) will cover two types of costs resulting from an auto accident: medical costs, and lost earnings resulting from disability. Funeral costs are not covered. If you suffer from severe injuries such as disfigurement, a disability, medical bills exceeding your PIP insurance, or death, you may be able to sue the other driver for damages. The best option is to work with a knowledgable attorney who will examine the evidence to determine if filing a lawsuit is the best course of action for you.3

 

What To Do If You Are In An Accident

Your first priority is to be safe and check for injuries. Contact first responders by calling 911, if there are injuries. If everyone appears to be fine, move your vehicle away from traffic, if sade to do so. Next, inspect vehicles for damage, exchange insurance and license information with the other driver or drivers, and take photos of vehicle damages. Whether an accident is a minor or major collision, police officers can document the accident; if an officer is not available, you may file a report at the local police department.

 

When To File A Report

Massachusetts law states you are required to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report within five days of the crash.

  • You should file a report if you’re the operator of a vehicle involved in a crash where the damage to any one vehicle or property is over $1000, or if there is an injury to any person, even if a police officer was on the scene.

 

When Should You Not File A Report

  • You should not file a report if the crash occurred on a private road, driveway, private parking lot or other private way.

 

Why The Report Is Important

Data from this report is used for many purposes including:

  • Identifying locations with a large number of crashes,
  • Improving dangerous highways and intersections,
  • Developing highway safety public information programs,
  • Developing programs to save lives and reduce highway injuries.

 

Contact Your Agent At Baldwin | Welsh & Parker

After you have gathered all the information about the accident, call your Baldwin | Welsh & Parker agent. If the accident occurs during weekend or holiday hours, call your insurance company directly and then call us the next business day after the accident. We'll make the process go smoother and help settle your claim.

If you are in an accident, you don't have to go through it alone. Be informed, be prepared, and know that we can help when you need us — we are here for you.

 


Additional Resources:

Download a crash report

Insurance companies claim reporting information (companies that we represent)

1 Nolo.com

2 Findlaw.com

3 CarInsurance.com

Sources: Mass.gov

Disclaimer: The information provide in this article is not legal advice or a recommendation for insurance coverage. Contact a lawyer if you need legal advice regarding an accident. If you need advice regarding your insurance policy, or need a quote for a newly purchased or leased vehicle, please contact a Baldwin | Welsh & Parker agent.

Read 348 times Last modified on Friday, 25 October 2019 15:52
More in this category: « Disrupting Distracted Driving

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