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Auto Accidents — Damages and Compensation

North Shore Winter is beautiful but when the roads and highways are snow covered it can also be dangerous.  Plows, sanders and salt trucks work to keep the ways clear but conditions and traffic from Route 95, 128, and Route 1, along with the feeder roads can become treacherous for automobiles during the winter months. For example, recently Massachusetts was hit with a couple of Nor’easters resulting in significant snow and ice accumulations.  According to CBS Boston, a massive car accident on Route 128 involving 55 vehicles occurred around 6:15 a.m. between Exits 39 and 40 in Wakefield, Massachusetts.  The highway was shut down and “eight people were transported to the hospital with… injuries”.  For those injured, a question arises as to damages and causation and compensation. Damages refer to the amount of money you may be entitled to for compensation by someone who has caused you harm as a result of their wrongdoing or negligence.  Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state.  Under the no fault provisions, among other things, an injured person from a car accident must seek payment from his or her own insurance company for PIP (personal injury protection) for payment of medical bills. Generally, one may not claim damages for economic damages, against another’s insurance company, unless the reasonable medical bills exceed $2,000.00.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThere is also the issue of different types of Damages. Chiefly they fall into two categories: Economic and Non-Economic. Damages for pain and suffering fall into the non-economic category. Here are some examples of the types of harm covered under economic and non-economic damages:

Economic damages:

Medical expenses – past and future
Past lost income
Future lost income
Lost support and services
Repair or replacement of damaged vehicle

Non-economic damages:
Pain and suffering
Mental suffering
Loss of companionship

Under the  Massachusetts no-fault system, if you are involved in an accident and sustain both property damage and personal injuries, a standard no-fault policy with PIP will cover your medical expenses and 75% of your lost wages (depending on whether or not you also have disability coverage from your employment) up to $8,000. However, that rule changes if you also have health insurance.  If you have health insurance, your medical claim will be paid by your auto insurance up to $2,000.  Then you submit the rest through your health insurance for payment.   Whatever your health insurance does not pay or cover should then be resubmitted to PIP under your auto insurance.  If you elected coverage for Medical Payment (an additional charge) under your auto insurance policy, your Med Pay will cover whatever is not covered by PIP and your health insurance, up to a set limit. If the other driver was at fault in the accident, his/her insurance will cover the property damage. Also, if you opted for Collision under your own policy, you may seek coverage for property damage to your vehicle.

In exchange for this guaranteed payment of claims (no fault), Massachusetts drivers give up their right to sue for all but the most serious personal injuries sustained in a car accident. If you meet the no fault tests and decide to sue, you will file a bodily injury claim. Bodily injury claims are allowed only if: 1) You have incurred more than $2,000 in reasonable and necessary expenses to treat your injuries; OR 2) You have suffered any one of the following: – permanent and serious disfigurement; or – a fracture; or – loss in whole or part of a body member; or – a qualified loss of sight or hearing; or – death.

Where damages exceed the no fault threshold, an experienced injury lawyer will negotiate with the other driver’s insurance company for fair compensation. If that proves elusive, a lawsuit for damages is a typical next step and often a jury will determine fault, causation and or fair compensation.

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