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How is a Negligent Driver Held Responsible for his or her Actions in Massachusetts?

If you have been injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you need to know how the insurance companies determine fault in order to get the compensation you deserve.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a modified no-fault insurance state. This means that if an individual is deemed to be over fifty percent at fault, they can be held responsible. This also means that, regardless of fault, your own insurance company will pay for your accident related medical bills and lost wages, under your No-Fault/Personal Injury Protection, up to the No-Fault coverage limits, and in coordination with your health insurer and the policy language.

Additionally, Massachusetts law allows individuals the right to legally sue the at-fault party for non-monetary damages, i.e., pain and suffering, if your accident related reasonable and necessary medical expenses exceed the threshold of $2,000, or if the accident causes death, loss of a body member, permanent and serious disfigurement, loss of sight or hearing, or causes a fracture.

The determination of responsibility is very important when accidents occur. Because of this, the Massachusetts Legislature has established the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP).

SDIP utilizes a strict set of guidelines for determining fault and making sure that safe drivers receive justice. The process involves driver classifications and insurance premium adjustments based on an insured’s driving record. Under this process, an at-fault accident constitutes a surchargeable incident. This means Massachusetts motor vehicle insurers must impose merit-rating surcharges on insured drivers who are more than fifty percent at fault in causing a motor vehicle accident.

To determine fault in a Massachusetts car accident, the SDIP uses 19 Standards of Fault. In the event your motor vehicle insurance company deems you at fault, you can be held financially responsible for the accident that took place. The standards create rebuttable presumptions of fault for various types of auto accidents.

The 19 Standards of Fault include:

  • Collision with a lawfully or unlawfully parked vehicle
  • Rear-end collision
  • Out-of-lane collision
  • Failure to signal
  • Failure to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign
  • Collision on the wrong side of the road
  • Operating in the wrong direction
  • Collision at an uncontrolled intersection
  • Collision while in the process of backing up
  • Collision while making a left turn or U-turn across the travel path of a vehicle traveling in the same or opposite direction
  • Leaving or exiting from a parked position, parking lot, alley or driveway
  • Opened or opening vehicle door(s)
  • Single-vehicle collision
  • Failure to obey the rules and regulations of driving
  • Unattended vehicle collision
  • Collision while merging onto a highway, or into a rotary
  • Non-contact operator causing a collision
  • Failure to yield the right of way to emergency vehicles when required by law
  • Collision at a “T” intersection

To be considered a surchargeable at-fault accident, the following requirements must be met:

  • The vehicle operator is determined to be more than fifty percent at fault according to the Standards of Fault; and
  • The vehicle involved is a private passenger automobile; and
  • The accident involves a claim payment of more than $500, in excess of any deductible; and
  • The claim payment is for “Damage to Someone Else’s Property,” “Collision,” “Bodily Injury to Others” or “Limited Collision” coverage for a vehicle subject to the Safe Driver Insurance Plan.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you need a skilled attorney well-versed in Massachusetts auto accident law. The process of dealing with insurance companies or trying to prove fault is complex. Please call my office for a free case evaluation.

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Steven M. Houde

Steven M. Houde

Attorney Houde is a top rated personal injury lawyer serving the Greater Boston region. With law offices in Medway, Attelboro, Needham, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, he will travel to meet clients at their home, hospital, or work. He is skilled at handling all facets of a successful injury claim, from proving liability to looking into all possible sources of insurance coverage to dealing with insurers and defense counsel.

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