Injury, Divorce & Criminal Defense Blog

Can I Sue for a Car Crash if I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt in Massachusetts?

Failure to wear a seat belt will not prevent you from filing a lawsuit against the other driver, but it can potentially reduce the amount of financial compensation you receive.  As an experienced car accident and injury lawyer, I will fight to help you recover everything that you deserve!

No-Fault State

Massachusetts is one of twelve states that follows a “no-fault” car insurance system.  Under this system, your personal car insurance coverage is usually responsible for paying for medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses incurred as a result of an accident, regardless of who caused the crash.  If injured, you can seek personal injury protection (PIP) benefits from your insurance provider for expenses such as the following:

  • Necessary, reasonable medical expenses
  • Lost wages/earnings
  • Ordinary, necessary household services

Massachusetts General Laws[1] stipulate that the total PIP that can be collected for all expenses is $8,000; however, if you have insurance, PIP benefits will only cover up to $2,000 in medical bills.

Under this system you are excluded from being compensated for pain and suffering and other non-monetary damages.  Fortunately, in addition to Massachusetts’ no-fault insurance system you can additionally pursue a claim if:

  • You have incurred at least $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, and/or
  • You have sustained permanent and serious disfigurement, a fractured bone, or substantial loss of hearing or sight.

If your injuries qualify under these conditions, you are not limited to a no-fault claim under your personal insurance.  As an experienced car accident and injury attorney, I can help you hold the other driver responsible for all losses, including pain and suffering and non-monetary damages, by helping you pursue a third-party car insurance claim or file a personal injury lawsuit.

What Are the Minimum Automobile Insurance Coverage Requirements in Massachusetts?

It is important to understand how much insurance coverage the other driver might have because it can potentially affect how much you collect.   If the other party is found liable for your injuries but does not have any assets, the insurance policy limits may be the only compensation that you receive.  Alternatively, if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, it may be difficult or impossible to recover compensation from them, and thus you may only be able to receive compensation if you carry uninsured or underinsured coverage.

Massachusetts Minimum Insurance Requirements 

In order to legally operate a vehicle in Massachusetts, vehicle owners must carry, at a minimum, the following insurance coverage amounts:

  • Bodily Injury to Others – $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection – $8,000 per person, per accident
  • Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto –  $20,000 per person;$40,000 per accident
  • Damage to Someone Else’s Property $  5,000 per accident

While many drivers will opt for the minimum insurance coverage to save money, others may have additional coverage with higher maximums.

Massachusetts Uninsured Motorists

Massachusetts has cracked down on people who drive without auto insurance by imposing stiff penalties, but uninsured motorist rates remain high.  If someone is found to have been driving without insurance, they will likely be subject to a sixty-day license suspension, a $500 fine, and may have to pay an upfront premium for one year of motor vehicle insurance at the top rate class.

Despite these steep consequences, many people are still driving illegally by not carrying a policy.  According to the Insurance Research Council, roughly 1 in 8 drivers is uninsured.[2]  Additionally, many drivers only carry the minimum amount of insurance coverage, in which case they are likely to be “underinsured” if they cause an accident with significant damages (as their policy will not fully cover all of the damages incurred).  If you are in accident and the other party is uninsured or underinsured, it is likely that your personal policy will be the only source of compensation.

I help injury victims obtain compensation from their own insurance companies in cases of accidents caused by uninsured/underinsured drivers.  I also suggest that all drivers obtain uninsured and underinsured coverage on their own policies, as this coverage will help to better protect them if they are hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Does Not Wearing a Seat Belt Hurt My Car Accident Case?

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative  negligence is a common law[3] doctrine that disallows an injured person from collecting a portion of damages from another person who caused an accident, if they were injured in part due to their own negligence.

Will I Be Unable to Collect Because I did Not Wear a Seat Belt?

If you were injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seat belt, you can still file a lawsuit, but it may affect how much money you can potentially collect.  Your negligence may be considered a contributing factor to your injuries if it exacerbated them.

For example, if someone runs into your car and you are wearing a seat belt, you may sustain minor injuries such as bruising and soreness; whereas, you may have more significant injuries such as a broken nose or arm if you are not wearing one.  In Massachusetts, evidence that an injured person was not wearing a seat belt during a crash may be admissible to prove comparative negligence if the other driver can show that the failure to wear a belt caused or contributed to the injuries.[4]

Under the comparative negligence doctrine, you may only be able to recover damages proportional to the other driver’s fault.  When negligence is determined, each party is assigned a percentage of responsibility.  For example, if the court finds that you were 20% negligent in a crash, you can pursue damages from the other driver for 80% of the total damages.  In this scenario, if your losses total $10,000, you would only be able to recover $8,000.  Alternatively, if you were found to be 40% negligent, you could only potentially be compensated up to $6,000.

As long as your percentage of responsibility is 49% or below, you have the right to bring a claim against the other party.  As an experienced car accident and injury lawyer, I can help you navigate the complexities of comparative negligence to help you collect the maximum that you deserve.

Call Me if You’ve Been Injured in a Car Crash – Find out How I Can Help

Determining who is at fault in an accident can get complicated.  No matter the circumstances, the Law Office of Paul M. King can help you determine what you are entitled to under Massachusetts seat belt laws.  I will fight vigorously for compensation for your medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering.  Call our office at (978) 851-5145 for a free consultation to learn how I can help you get the compensation to which you are entitled.

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[1] M.G.L. c. 90, § 34M.

[2] https://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/UMNR1005.pdf

[3] Common law is a body of unwritten laws based upon legal precedents established by courts.

[4] Shahzade v. C.J. Mabardy, Inc., 411 Mass. 788, 796 (1992).