Hyde Park and Franklin, Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys
Frequently Asked Questions About Automobile Accidents
1. If I am in an automobile accident, how do my medical expenses get paid?
In Massachusetts there is what is known as “No-Fault” insurance”, meaning that medical expenses for treatment of injuries resulting from an accident are initially paid by the automobile insurance company, no matter which driver was at fault in causing the accident. If you are the driver or passenger in a car, the company insuring that vehicle will be the one responsible for paying your medical expenses. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist involved in an accident, the insurance company of the vehicle that hit you will pay for your cost of treatment. This insurance coverage is referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.
2. I heard that there are no medical payments (PIP benefits) for persons injured while riding on a motorcycle. Is that true?
Insurance companies are not required to provide PIP (Personal Injury Protection) medical benefits in Massachusetts for motorcycles. As such, persons injured while riding a motorcycle will usually not have that type of insurance coverage.
3. I do not have health insurance. How will my bills for treatment of the injuries from my car accident get paid?
If you do not have private health insurance, your medical expenses will be paid under the PIP (Personal Injury Protection) automobile insurance benefits which generally has an $8,000 limit. In some cases, there is additional coverage available for payment of medical expenses under what is called Med-Pay. Any unpaid medical expenses after the PIP or Med-Pay benefits have been exhausted would be paid out of your settlement or court judgment. In those cases, your attorney can usually negotiate a lower amount to be paid to the medical providers.
4. I have private health insurance. Do my bills for treatment of my injuries from my car accident get paid by my health insurance?
If you have private health insurance, the first $2,000 of your medical expenses will still be paid under the PIP (Personal Injury Protection) automobile insurance benefits. After that, the bills must be submitted to your health insurance company for payment, and whatever balances remain due to co-payments or deductibles would then be paid by PIP insurance benefits. Mass Health and Medicare are not considered private health insurance, so those sources should only be used to pay bills after the full $8,000 PIP limit has been exhausted
5. How much will I have to pay a lawyer to represent me on my car accident case?
Attorneys handling personal injury cases work on a contingency basis. This means that you are not responsible for any attorney fee unless your attorney recovers money on your behalf. Typically, the attorney receives one-third of whatever amount you recover.
6. Do I need to have an attorney to represent me on my car accident case?
There is no requirement that you have an attorney to represent you on your case. However, insurance companies generally will treat your case differently, and will offer more money to settle your case, if you are represented by an attorney. In addition, an attorney has the experience needed to know the issues involved to ensure that your medical expenses are paid and you receive the greatest recovery possible.
7. Am I unable to collect any money for the injuries I received in a motor vehicle accident if I was also at fault?
In many accidents, both drivers are at fault to some degree in causing the accident. In order to successfully pursue a claim against the other driver, you must be less at fault than the other driver (or drivers if there are more than two involved in the accident). This means that your percentage of fault, if any, must be less than 50%.
8. I was a passenger in a car involved in an accident? Who is responsible for my injuries?
If you are a passenger, you obviously did nothing wrong in causing the accident and whichever driver was responsible in causing the accident would be responsible. If both the driver of the car you were in and the driver of the other car share some responsibility in causing the accident, they would both be held liable for your injuries, no matter who was more at fault.
9. I was injured in an accident but the car that hit me left the scene of the accident? Now what can I do?
If you obtained the license plate of that vehicle, the owner and insurance company can be identified and a claim pursued against them. If you were unable to obtain that information, you could pursue an uninsured claim under that portion of your own automobile insurance policy, assuming that the accident was the fault of this unidentified vehicle.
10. I was seriously injured in a car accident but the other driver only had $20,000 of insurance coverage. Is that all I can collect for my injuries?
Not necessarily. If the other driver has sufficient assets, you could elect to pursue a claim against him or her directly. Otherwise, you would have the right to assert a claim for underinsured benefits under your household automobile insurance policies, but only if those benefits exceed the bodily injury benefits coverage of the other driver. For example, if the other driver has $20,000 of bodily injury coverage and you have $100,000 of underinsured coverage, after you are offered the $20,000 from the other driver’s insurance policy you could collect up to another $80,000 ($100,000-$20,000) from your policy.
11. What is considered when determining how much my car accident case is worth?
The first consideration is determining whether you had any percentage of fault in causing the accident (if you were a passenger, you would obviously have no fault in contributing to the accident). The value of your case would then depend on the severity of your injuries, the length and type of treatment received, the amount of your medical expenses, the amount of any lost wages or lost earning capacity and whether there is any permanent physical or mental impairment and/or scarring and disfigurement caused by the accident.
12. The insurance company has requested that I provide a statement about the accident and my injuries. Should I do that?
You should speak with an attorney experienced in handling personal injury cases prior to providing any statements to an insurance company. An attorney may advise you to not provide any such statement and, if any such statement is taken, will be able to assist you to ensure you do not say something that the insurance company can later use against you.
13. If I am injured in a car accident, can an insurance company require that I go to a medical exam?
Under Massachusetts law, an insurance company that is paying your medical expenses for injuries caused by the accident can require you to attend an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with a doctor of their choosing, strictly for opinion and not treatment purposes . Depending on the opinions of that doctor, the insurance company may refuse to pay for any further treatment after that examination.
14. What are my options if the insurance company does not offer what I feel is a fair settlement?
If an agreement on a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, you have the right to file a law suit against the other driver(s) involved in the accident and leave it up to the jury or judge to determine how much money you should receive. If both you and the insurance company agree, you can also submit your case to an arbitrator who would issue a binding determination of how much the insurance company must pay to you. If you are pursuing an uninsured or underinsured claim and cannot reach a settlement with your insurance company, then by law you would present the claim to binding arbitration.
15. What is referred to as the tort threshold on car accident cases?
This is the term that refers to whether your damages have reached the statutory level required in order to file a lawsuit against the other driver(s) involved in your accident. Assuming you were not more than 50% at fault in the accident, you have the right to file a lawsuit only if the accident has caused you to have suffered a broken bone, have permanent disfigurement, scarring or loss of bodily function, or have incurred at least $2,000 in medical expenses.
16. Do I have to pay taxes on the money I get on my car accident case?
You are not taxed on any money that you recover to compensate you for the damages you received due to a car accident.
17. How long do I have after an accident before I need to file a lawsuit?
Unless you are a minor, there is a three year statute of limitations on personal injury cases, meaning that you have three years from the date of the accident by which to file a lawsuit. However, it is never a good idea to delay seeing an attorney about your case as witnesses’ memories fade over time and evidence is harder to obtain the farther you are removed from the date of the accident. Also, getting an attorney sooner rather than later enables your attorney to provide advice about seeking medical treatment and assist in getting your medical expenses paid , as well as doing all of the things necessary to optimize the value of your case.
For more information about automobile accidents or to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer, please contact Yellin & Hyman today.
Call our Hyde Park office at 617-361-5310 or our Franklin office at 508-528-8885. You can also e-mail us to learn more about our legal services.