In many ways, car accidents are the same no matter where they happen. Two cars collide, perhaps at a high speed, and either (or both) of the drivers suffer injuries. But beyond the mechanics and physical consequences of a collision, where a car accident happens has a huge impact on the injured victims’ rights and options for pursuing damages. 

Every state maintains its own laws that govern how and when car accidents are to be reported, how injured victims can recover compensation for their related losses and the circumstances that make an injured victim eligible or not eligible to recover compensation. If you’re injured in a car accident in New Bedford, Fall River or anywhere else on the South Shore, here’s five critical things you need to know: 

Massachusetts is a No-Fault State for Auto Insurance

As a licensed Massachusetts driver, you’re required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage as part of your auto insurance package. This is because Massachusetts is one of the 12 states that have “no-fault” auto insurance laws in place, which means that when an individual is injured in a car accident, her insurance provider is required to cover her resulting medical expenses and lost wages – up to a certain threshold. That threshold is $8,000. 

In Massachusetts, a car accident victim may file a personal injury claim against an at-fault driver only if her injury resulted in: 

  • Permanent or severe disfigurement
  • One or more broken bones
  • Permanent hearing damage
  • Permanent eye injury
  • More than $2,000 in medical expenses

Additionally, close relatives of a victim killed in a South Shore car accident may file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. 

Your Injury Could be Much Worse than you Initially Think 

You might feel just fine after a car accident. Or you might see a few bruises or feel a bit sore after the impact. That doesn’t mean you weren’t severely injured. 

After a car accident, see your doctor as soon as you can and explain the accident in full so she knows what kinds of injuries to screen for. It’s possible you suffered an invisible injury like a concussion or a soft tissue injury that will only get worse if it goes untreated. Injuries like these can mean thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses, lost wages and other personal costs. Without a doctor’s diagnosis and prescribed treatment plan, you can’t truly know how much money you’ll need to cover all your losses – and you won’t be able to prove you’re entitled to receive it. 

You Need to Report the Accident Within Five Days

Massachusetts law requires that all car accidents resulting in injury, death or property damages greater than $1,000 be reported to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles within five days of occurring. Submit a copy of this report to the local police department and keep a copy for yourself because it contains crucial information about your accident like the date, time and location it occurred, the weather conditions present when it occurred and the identities of all involved parties and witnesses. If you choose to file a car accident claim later, you’ll need this document as supporting evidence. 

You’ve Got Three Years to File a Lawsuit

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for a car accident lawsuit is three years from the date the accident occurred. Keep this in mind as you work through the claim process with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance provider – although most car accident claims are settled outside of court, filing a lawsuit could be your only option for pursuing damages if you cannot reach an appropriate settlement with the other driver’s insurance provider. Once three years pass, though, your window to file a lawsuit  is shut.

You can Recover Compensation for your Losses Even if you’re Partially At Fault 

If your medical expenses and lost wages are within PIP’s coverage parameters, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for your accident – you’re covered. Hence the term “no-fault coverage.” 

But if you’ve filed a car accident claim with the other driver’s auto insurance provider, the question of whether you can recover damages or not is a little less clear. The insurance company will do everything in their power to minimize your losses and their customer’s fault in the accident, so you’ve got to have solid documentation of what really happened to prove you’re eligible for compensation. If that documentation shows that you weren’t completely innocent in the events leading up to the crash, don’t worry. Under Massachusetts’ comparative negligence law, any victim who is less than 51 percent at fault for an accident may recover compensation for his related expenses. 

Start Working with our Team of Boston Car Accident Lawyers Today

When you’re suffering from an injury after being involved in a car accident, you need an experienced car accident lawyer to be your advocate. Learn more about your rights and legal options as a car accident victim today by calling 617-977-6622 to schedule your free consultation with Lovenberg & Associates, P.C. Our team is committed to helping people injured in collisions throughout the South Shore pursue the compensation they deserve.