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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, 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. If an individual is at least fifty percent at fault, they are responsible for some of the damages. This also means that, regardless of fault, your own insurance company will pay for your reasonable medical expenses and lost wages, up to your policy limit.

Additionally, Massachusetts law allows individuals to sue the at-fault party for non-economic damages, i.e., pain and suffering, if reasonable medical expenses exceed the threshold of $2,000. This process requires the determination of responsibility 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 to make sure that safe drivers receive justice. The system involves driver classifications and insurance premium adjustments based on an insured’s driving record. For example, an at-fault accident constitutes a surchargeable incident, meaning that the Massachusetts motor vehicle insurer 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. 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 our office for a free case evaluation.