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Can I Get Compensation if I Was Partly at Fault in a Car Accident?

March 15, 2021

Auto accidents caused the death of 334 people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2019, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those who lived to tell the tale of their crash were left with severe injuries and mounting hospital bills and other medical care expenses. Apart from overcoming the trauma caused by the event, car accident victims also worry about getting their life back, returning to work and paying all these bills. Many of them contact personal injury lawyers asking: “can I get compensation if I was partly at fault for my car accident?”

An experienced car accident attorney at Kelly & Associates Injury Attorneys can offer you an informed legal opinion after knowing all the facts and circumstances of your case. A car accident claim can include your medical bills and property damage repair costs. However, the maximum compensation you will ultimately obtain depends on many factors, including your degree of responsibility for the motor vehicle accident.

How Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Car Accident Claim Settlements

Massachusetts is a state where the comparative negligence principle is applicable. It is included in the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Part III Title II 231.85, and it states that any person is entitled to file a claim for compensation if they were less than 51 percent responsible for the event that caused their accident injuries and property damage.

However, their settlement will be proportionately reduced by their percentage of responsibility. Thus, out of a maximum compensation of $100,000 an accident victim who was found 20% at fault for the crash will receive $80,000.

Also, when an accident victim decides to file a personal injury lawsuit against the fault driver, the latter bears the burden of proving that the plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for the crash in order to dismiss the claim. Ultimately, it is up to the jury to decide which party is more at fault than the other for motor vehicle accidents.

What You Should Do After Motor Vehicle Collisions

When you’ve just been involved in a car accident, you are confused, frightened and in pain. Your first concern must be for your own safety and that of your car passengers (if there are any). Thus, you should call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance and law enforcement officers to investigate the accident scene. The police report they prepare will be a powerful piece of evidence your accident lawyer can use to negotiate your fair compensation for your injuries and the cost of repairs to your car.

At the same time, you should notify your insurance company of your accident. If you fail to report the accident on time, your insurance claim may be denied. While you wait for the ambulance, if you are not too injured, try to collect information at the crash scene:

  • photos and videos of your injuries and the damaged cars
  • the other driver’s contact and insurance details
  • witnesses’ contact details.

Go to Hospital and Accept All Medical Treatments Prescribed

Health care providers charge a lot for hospital stay, tests and treatment. But you need specialized medical service to recover from your injuries. And you must have documentary evidence of the extent of your injuries directly attributable to the motor vehicle crash. When it comes to negotiating with insurance providers, you will be hassled for every single detail that will justify them in decreasing or denying your claim.

When injury victims refuse to go to hospital, or decide to go a few days later, insurance adjusters will claim that their condition is not as serious as stated, or that the injuries were caused by an unrelated accident, at a later date.

Hire an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

The comparative fault rule is used by insurance companies to offer a small settlement as compensation for injuries. They will attempt to attribute a large proportion of responsibility for the accident and make you believe that they are actually doing you a favor by paying anything at all.

This is why you should not negotiate your financial compensation on your own. A skilled personal injury attorney will be able to demonstrate your actual percentage of fault, establish the fault driver’s negligence and request compensation for your economic and non-economic damages.

How Is Fault Established in a Car Accident in Massachusetts

As the law states, the other party is responsible to prove that you are more than 51% at fault for the accident in order to deny your claim or have your accident lawsuit dismissed. This does not mean that you should not actively try to prove that you were less than 50% responsible for the unfortunate event. And this is exactly why you need an experienced accident attorney – to investigate the accident, collect evidence and present strong arguments in your favor.

In order to demonstrate your actual degree of responsibility for the accident, the lawyer will:

  • discuss with the police officers who investigated the accident and obtain a copy of their report
  • talk to eyewitnesses
  • obtain CCTV and traffic camera footage near the accident scene
  • if necessary, use professional accident reenacting services.

With all these written and visual evidence available, the accident attorney will have valid arguments to counteract the insurance adjuster’s claims and seek higher compensation for your traffic accident damages.

What You Can Do to Help Your Case Move Forward

The success of any settlement negotiation depends greatly on the victim’s actions and collaboration with their attorney. Here are a few useful tips for you:

1. Do Not Talk to the Insurance Company Representative on Your Own

You know the phrase from movies “anything you say can and will be used against you”. This is exactly what happens if you accept to talk to an insurance adjuster on your own. Even if you do not accept their check or sign their waiver, your words may be recorded and used to counteract your claim. Even an everyday phrase as “I’m getting better” may be used to prove that you didn’t actually suffer from severe injuries.

2. Be Honest with Your Personal Injury Attorney

Any consultation between attorney and client is private and confidential. Nothing you say will leave the office unless it is mandated by law to do so. However, if you do not disclose everything you know about the crash, your lawyer will not be able to successfully negotiate your accident settlement.

3. File Your Claim on Time

Personal injury law stipulates a statute of limitations for each particular type of accident. This period of time varies from state to state. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it is 3 (three) years from the date of the accident. Therefore, you should hire an accident attorney as soon as possible. If negotiations with the auto insurance company fail, you will have sufficient time to file a personal injury lawsuit.

This is actually one of the tactics an insurance agent will use – delaying your collision claim approval as much as legally possible in order to reach the statute of limitations and get your case dismissed in court.

Can I Get Compensation if I Was Partly at Fault? Types of Damages You May Recover

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, personal injury victims may recover economic damages and non-economic damages. The economic damages refer to all the expenses and costs related to their treatment and the repair to damaged property, as well as lost wages during hospital stay and recovery. Some elements of economic damages are:

  • ambulance bills
  • hospital and treatment bills
  • long term care costs, including physical therapy, counseling and assistive devices (crutches, walkers, wheelchairs)
  • Lost income and loss of future income, if you are unable to work.

Non-economic damages refer to your pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, humiliation after visible scarring and disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life, among others.

As for punitive damages, they are rarely granted in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. You would have to prove that the fault driver was acting in a wanton, willful and reckless manner. However, in wrongful death lawsuits, the jury may award the victim’s family punitive damages.

Hire an Aggressive Legal Team with a Personal Touch

Kelly & Associates are the “Law Guys” – the experienced accident attorneys who are focused on getting the maximum compensation you deserve for your pain, suffering and losses. We are not intimidated by insurance agents’ tactics, and we know when to settle and when to take a case to court.

You do not have to take our word – you can try our services during a 30-days risk-free period. If you are not happy with the results we are getting for you, we return your case file free of charge. This is our commitment to you: to give you results and ensure that you can focus on getting better after your car accident with peace of mind.

We are available 24/7 for a free consultation, so do not hesitate to contact us if you or a loved one was hurt in a car accident: 1-800-LAW-GUYS!

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    Michael D. Kelly has a diverse background that provides a breadth of legal knowledge that he draws upon in serving his clients. Kelly compiled an excellent academic record during his three years at New England Law in Boston.