Car insurance is something most of us think little about until we need to use it. Like most states, Massachusetts requires that every registered motor vehicle (except mopeds with a maximum speed of under 30mph) be covered by a car insurance policy that meets certain minimum requirements in case the vehicle is involved in a car accident. If you have only a vague idea of what coverage you have, or how car insurance works, you are not alone.
Massachusetts state law requires all vehicles registered to operate in the state to have insurance. As a driver, you must carry proof of insurance in your car at all times. The penalties for violating this law can be severe. For a first offense depending on the circumstance, you could face a $500 dollar fine, or pay a year’s worth of compulsory insurance. Compulsory insurance is simply insurance you are legally required to buy. You could also have your license suspended for 60 days, which would result in another $500 license reinstatement fee. Finally, you could face one year in jail, although unlikely for a 1st offense. A second offense comes with more severe consequences. The fine can be as high as $5,000 and the likelihood of a jail sentence is greater.
Needless to say, it is important to purchase car insurance. With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine how much coverage you need. Massachusetts law defines the amount of insurance you have to buy – at a minimum, you must have four types of coverage.
Types of Car Insurance Coverage
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): minimum limit of $8,000 per person, per accident (this can be waived for the owner only for nominal savings)
- Damage to Someone Else’s Property: minimum limit of $5,000 per accident
- Bodily Injury to Others: minimum limit of $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
- Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto: minimum limit of $20,000 per person, $40,000 per accident
These minimal coverages pay for property damage, medical bills, and other costs for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their property damaged in a car accident caused by you or another covered driver, up to the coverage limits. You can (and really should) carry higher coverage limits to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and property damage. Remember, once your policy limits are reached, you are on the financial hook personally, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Massachusetts No-Fault Car Accident Rules
Massachusetts is one of 16 states (as of the time of this blog post) that follow some form of a “no-fault” car insurance system. In a no-fault car accident system, after a car accident, your own car insurance coverage, specifically, your “personal injury protection (PIP)” or “medical payments” coverage pays for medical treatment and other out-of-pocket losses incurred by anyone covered under the policy, up to your coverage limits, regardless of who caused the accident.
To determine exactly what benefits you are entitled to you must first answer a few questions. First, were you injured in the car accident? If the answer is no, then your only source of recovery available would be for your property damage if you have damage coverage on your vehicle.
If the answer is yes and you were injured in the car accident, then what benefits are available to you? Everyone who has car insurance in Massachusetts should have at a minimum PIP benefits available to them. (The owner of the car may take a deductible for PIP and waive this coverage for a very nominal discount but may not waive this coverage for their passengers. This is a very bad move but is beyond the scope of this blog). Since Massachusetts is a No-Fault state some benefits are available to anyone injured in a car accident. No matter who is at fault you should be entitled under your own insurance (automobile) policy to recover for related medical expenses, lost wages and replacement services up to a limit. That limit is determined by the type of health insurance you have. If you have a private health insurance plan such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Tufts, Harvard Pilgrim, Cigna, etc. you would only be entitled to collect $2000 from your car insurance company for related medical expenses then your private health insurance would take over payments. You could then seek an additional $6,000 in benefits for lost wages and replacement services, if applicable, up to a maximum total benefit paid of $8000. If you do not have a private health insurance policy your related medical bills will be paid by your car insurance company up to a maximum benefit of $8000. It is important to note that the most you can recover under PIP benefits is $8000 in total no matter how you combined the benefits.
The purpose of the no-fault law in Massachusetts is to streamline the administration of car accident claims and avoid court-clogging lawsuits associated with some of the smaller injury cases.
The obvious question at this point is “How can I get benefits over and above my PIP benefits?” The answer is, if you are not more than 50% at fault for the accident AND you have incurred more than $2000 in reasonable and necessary medical expenses (if less than $2000 the injuries must include permanent and serious disfigurement, a fractured bone or tooth, or substantial loss of hearing or sight) as a result of the accident you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver and their insurance company. If your injuries qualify under this definition, you are not limited to a no-fault claim under your own policy. You can hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident through a personal injury lawsuit, and you can pursue compensation for all categories of losses including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Future Medical Care
- Cosmetic Surgery (in a case where the accident resulted in severe scarring or disfigurement)
- All other available non-economic damages (which aren’t available in a no-fault claim).
Spada Law Group, an Experienced Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyer
We work with car accident victims in Massachusetts every day and help them to understand how the insurance claims process works. Our Chelsea personal injury legal team, including attorneys, case managers, and administrators have years of experience working in the insurance industry. That gives us the unique ability to fight for you to receive maximum compensation for your injuries.
With offices in Chelsea and Salem, MA, Spada Law Group provides Boston quality legal representation without the commute into the city with free on-premises or validated parking. Our Chelsea car accident attorneys are here to answer any questions you may have. Call Spada Law Group today at 617-889-5000 to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and there is absolutely no obligation to hire us. We are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.