If you have been injured in a car accident or car crash in Massachusetts as the result of another driver, in all likelihood you’ll want to know how long your case may take. This is especially the case if you are facing insurance claims, medical bills, doctors’ appointments, lost time from work, rehab, and the loss of your vehicle.
Under Massachusetts law, if you are injured in a car crash or accident, there are a number of people or entities that may owe you compensation, including the following:
The time that your case will likely take will be dependent upon which of these people or entities is involved in your case.
In most car accident cases, an insurance company or companies will be involved – likely your insurance company (if you were hit), as well as the insurance company for the driver who hit you (assuming they have coverage). Ultimately, the amount that you will likely be able to collect for your damages, as well as whether you will be able to receive full compensation, will be dependent upon the type and amounts of your insurance coverage, as well as the amount of coverage maintained by the “at fault” driver.
In most cases, if you’ve been hit and injured in a car crash, your ability to recover damages will be directly dependent upon the amount of insurance carried by the at-fault driver.
Minimum Massachusetts Insurance Coverage Requirements
Auto insurance policies are made up of different types of insurance coverages; however, in Massachusetts vehicle owners are only required to carry, at a minimum, coverage for the following:
While many drivers will carry the minimum, others may purchase additional coverage, such as comprehensive or collision, with higher maximums. In a vehicle injury case, it is important to understand coverage maximums carried by your policy and that of the other driver, as insurance companies will not pay more than the applicable coverage limit of the policy.
Unlike most states, Massachusetts follows a “no-fault” car insurance system. Under this system, your personal car insurance coverage is usually responsible for paying for medical expenses and other bills incurred as a result of an accident, regardless of who caused the crash, up to certain limits. Thus if you are injured in a vehicle crash, the first avenue is making a claim with your insurance company for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
PIP benefits cover damages arising out of a vehicle accident for the following:
The total maximum benefit for PIP in Massachusetts is $8,000, so PIP will likely not provide full coverage if serious damages result. PIP benefits do not include compensation for some types of non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering.
Timing for PIP Benefits
Your insurance company should pay you for these damages within thirty days of a claim submission (again, up to the $8,000 cap) assuming that you have the legally-required coverage. If your insurance company does not timely pay your claim, you may have a case of Insurance Bad Faith, which is a separate claim. I help clients make a claim against their own insurance carrier for PIP benefits, as well as for bad faith claims if the insurance company does not pay what they owe in a timely manner (and if they do not have a valid reason for not paying the claim).
In Massachusetts, you are additionally entitled to sue others (including the at-fault driver) responsible for causing your damages if:
In these instances, a claim will be made against the responsible driver, and likely (if the other driver has insurance), the other driver’s insurance company (and lawyers hired by the insurance company) will be involved in defending the other driver. As an experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer, my role is to make your case to the insurance company and/or to their legal counsel for the full damages that you have sustained.
Documenting Full Damages
Obtaining full compensation starts by carefully documenting all past and expected future damages, including:
I will help you with identifying, documenting, and proving at trial (if necessary) the full damages to which you may be entitled.
When Should a Car Accident Lawsuit Be Filed? Reaching a Medically-Stable Position
In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for filing most injury lawsuits (including car accident cases against private individuals or entities) is three years from the date of injury. This means that you will have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim if you wish to seek compensation from the at-fault driver.
While a lawsuit can be filed at any time after an accident, it is sometimes beneficial when significant injuries have been sustained to wait until an accident victim has become medically stable, since there will be only one opportunity to seek full compensation.
As an example, an accident victim may have sustained a back injury. Soon after the injury, the victim and doctors may believe that the back injury will be fully healed over the next year. If litigation is immediately filed, the damages will be limited to those for a back injury lasting for one year, and that expectation that the injury will fully heal.
But what happens if, after a year, it turns out that the back injury is much worse than expected, and that future surgery will be required and the person will not be able to work at the same job because of the injury? If a lawsuit has already been settled, the accident victim will not be able to sue for all of these additional damages, which can be substantial.
As a result, it usually will be important not to file a lawsuit until the full impact of the damages are known, unless the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is about to expire.
In some instances, compensation can be obtained without the need for filing a lawsuit. This is especially the case in situations where liability is clear, and the damages are not extensive.
If a claim cannot be settled, a lawsuit is the next step toward resolution. Generally, a lawsuit can take nine months to three years from the date of the filing (the longer time period assumes that the case goes to trial. Because about 95% of civil ligation matters are settled prior to trial, average car accident cases typically take 1-2 years. Additionally, ancillary factors such as the number of people involved in the accident and their respective injuries, insurance policy limits, and medical bills may also affect the length of time it takes to resolve a case.
What Specific Factors Influence the Other Driver’s Insurance Company to Pay a Settlement?
When another driver’s insurance company is involved, there are three key factors that usually affect the timing of a settlement and payment:
If you or your family has been injured in an automobile accident, please call me at (978) 851-5145 for a free consultation, and to learn about your options for seeking the compensation to which you deserve. I and my firm have helped numerous Massachusetts car accident victims collect compensation for their injuries, and I will vigorously fight to help you secure the money you deserve.
 Understanding Auto Insurance, Mass.gov, https://www.mass.gov/service-details/understanding-auto-insurance.