The aftermath of a serious car accident can be a confusing time. If you or someone else has been injured, obtaining medical care should be your top priority. You also need to report the accident to police and your insurance agency.
Any insurance settlement you may receive from your insurer or another driver’s insurer will be affected by the insurer’s decision as to who is at fault. This includes a determination as to whether you bear more than 50 percent of the responsibility for the accident. Assigning each driver’s share of fault is partly a judgment call that may be affected by negotiating with the insurance company, a hearing before the Massachusetts Division of Insurance, or by taking the insurance company to court. In almost all cases, you will be at a disadvantage unless you have an experienced car accident lawyer advocating on your behalf.
Massachusetts insurance law can be confusing. Below, we will explain how insurance works and what you should do after a car accident in the Boston area.
We urge you to contact the Boston law firm of Kelly & Soto Law for assistance with any car accident in the Greater Boston area. We offer a free consultation about your legal options and can help with how to file a car accident insurance claim.
Know Your Massachusetts Auto Insurance Coverage
In most cases, any money you receive for your losses in a car accident will come from someone’s insurance policy. How much you receive will depend on the type of coverage available to provide compensation, who bears responsibility for the accident, and most crucially, the severity of your injuries.
There are many types of auto insurance available. In Massachusetts, car owners are required to maintain policies that provide at least minimum coverage for the following types of losses:
- Bodily injury to others (liability insurance): $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
- Personal injury protection (PIP): $8,000 per person, per accident
- Bodily injury caused by an uninsured auto: $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
- Damage to someone else’s property: $5,000 per accident.
In many cases, drivers who cause accidents only buy the minimum amount of insurance required. If a car is financed through a car loan, the lender may require the vehicle owner to have collision and comprehensive insurance. A collision policy will pay for damage to your vehicle in an accident. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused by hail, fire or some other natural event, hitting an animal, vandalism, etc. It also covers losses due to theft from the car.
Steps to Take After a Boston Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident in Boston, there are certain steps you should take as soon as possible to protect your ability to obtain a satisfactory insurance settlement.
If you or anyone else needs medical attention, obtaining emergency medical care takes priority. If you do not need emergency aid, then see a doctor within 24 hours of the crash. Having a medical examination by a doctor creates the initial documentation of your injuries, which insurance adjusters will rely upon if you file a claim.
Documenting your accident and injuries related to it will be important if you make an insurance claim. Save everything — every report and receipt — connected to your accident and recovery.
If you are not incapacitated by the accident, you should:
- Call police. Local or state law enforcement should respond to your accident and create a report. Answer police questions truthfully, but do not accept or cast blame for the accident. Request a copy of the police report by completing and returning MassDOT’s Request for Copy of Crash Report form.
- Exchange information. While waiting for the police to arrive, share your contact information, license number and insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident, including:
- Name, address and contact details.
- Driver’s license number.
- License plate number.
- Auto insurance information.
If the other driver is uncooperative, then wait for the police responding to the accident to collect the license and insurance information and share it.
- Record the accident scene. Use your phone camera to take photos of the vehicles involved in the accident, including their positions relative to each other (before moving them out of the roadway, if possible) and their damage. Photograph any skid marks or debris on the road. Photograph your injuries and those of your passengers. Collect the names and contact information of witnesses. Record anything that might explain how or why the accident occurred.
- Report the accident. By law in Massachusetts, you must report your car crash within five days of the accident if someone is killed or injured or there is more than $1,000 worth of damage. This requires completing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report and submitting the original to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and copies to the local police department and your insurance company.
- Contact your insurance company. You must notify your insurance company about the accident to open a claim file. Do this within 48 hours of the accident. You should do this even if a claim does not go forward.
Car Accident Insurance Claims and Investigations
Once you begin to deal with insurance companies, it is important to make sure you do not do or say things that the insurer can use against you to deny your claim.
If you are contacted by the other driver’s insurance company, you should decline to talk to them and refer them to your insurer or to your lawyer, if you have legal representation.
As you speak with your insurance company’s representative, state facts about the accident but do not cast or accept blame or speculate. Do not downplay your injuries or the damage to your vehicle. Do not agree to make a recorded statement.
The insurance adjuster may interview you and/or crash witnesses, inspect your damaged vehicle, and review the police report or your accident report. The more serious the crash and the higher a potential payout, the more investigating an insurance adjustor might do.
It important that you do not sign anything or accept any offer presented by the other driver’s insurance representative without having an experienced car accident attorney review it. A Boston attorney who handles injury cases can provide an informed perspective on whether the settlement offer is reasonable based on the specific facts of your accident and injuries. If you accept a quick settlement without consulting an attorney, you could sign away your rights to seek full and fair compensation. Any quick settlement offer is likely to be low. You will be required to sign a statement that releases the insurer from further liability.
What Are Insurance Adjustors Really Looking for After a Boston Car Accident?
The amount of money an insurer is obligated to pay in an accident is partly determined by who is at fault and how much of the fault they should shoulder. The insurer will assign fault for the accident among all those involved, with an eye toward shifting the blame away from the driver they have provided coverage to.
Massachusetts is a comparative fault state. If the other driver’s liability insurance provider can establish that you were more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, the insurer can argue that the company does not owe you a settlement. Massachusetts law makes this easier for insurance companies by allowing insurers to presume drivers are at-fault in more than 30 pre-defined accident situations.
If your accident falls into a pre-defined fault scenario, the insurer will send you a notice stating that you have been presumed to be at-fault for the accident — and therefore there is no settlement check in your future.
You have the right to appeal the insurer’s decision to the Board of Appeal at the Massachusetts Division of Insurance. You must request this appeal within 30 days of the date shown on the at-fault notice. The Board of Appeal will mail you a Notice of Hearing when your hearing date has been scheduled.
At the hearing, you will be allowed to present evidence to prove that you are not at-fault in the accident. You may represent yourself or have a car accident lawyer present evidence on your behalf. The insurers will have lawyers representing their interests. Unless you have experience handling accident claims, you will be at a disadvantage if you try to represent yourself. Everyone at the hearing, including individuals presenting evidence against you, will be professionals who deal with auto insurance claims and appeals every day.
The hearing officer may rule for you or against you. If you wish to appeal the decision of the Board of Appeal, you may then take your case to court.
Your Protection After a Massachusetts Car Accident
A Kelly & Soto Law car accident lawyer in Boston will provide a free review of your accident case, including any settlement offer that you have received. We will explain your legal options and what your case may be worth. If we represent you, we will move quickly to gather evidence, identify witnesses, and develop a complete estimate of all your losses, including medical bills, lost income, and other expenses.
Contact a car accident lawyer in Boston today at Kelly & Soto Law to find out more about how we can help you after a car crash in Massachusetts.