Car accidents vary in severity, with some car accidents resulting in catastrophic and life-changing injuries and most resulting in little more than whiplash, cuts, and bruises. Some car accidents are so minor that they cause no injuries.
If you are one of the lucky ones who got out of the accident with little more than property damage to prove it, you probably have no reason to sue the other party. However, as with most aspects of the law, there may be exceptions. An experienced Massachusettscar accident lawyercan help you understand your rights and identify what, if any, pathways to recovery are.
Injury is one element you must establish in order to have a car accident claim in MA
If you expect to file a car accident damages claim in Massachusetts, you must establish negligence on behalf of the other party. To establish negligence, you must prove that there are five essential elements:
- duty to you
- breach of duty
- Causation (the defendant's negligence caused the accident that resulted in your damages)
As you can see, injury is an essential element of negligence. Without it, you don't have a negligence claim, which means you don't have a lawsuit. In other words, if you suffered no injuries of any kind in your accident, meaning not even a bruise, you may be upset, but you have no grounds for a lawsuit.
When your injury is minor
However, what if you suffered minor injuries such as whiplash, back pain, cuts, bruises, and other injuries that usually require little more than home care? Again, it is unlikely that you will have grounds for a lawsuit. If you need medical attention for minor injuries, your no-fault insurance policy will likely cover the costs of care and treatment. Since you will likely pay nothing for treatment of these injuries, there is no reason to file a lawsuit. This is because the element "damage" does not exist. If you have to pay out-of-pocket for your minor injuries, the amount may be so minimal that it would make little or no sense for you to finance a costly and time-consuming process.
Your no fail policy is your first path to recovery
Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state. What this means is that regardless ofWho to blameIn the event of an incident, the first way of recovery will always be through your own car insurance policy. Through your own policy, you can file a claim for medical expenses, property damage, and other costs associated with the accident. That being said, Massachusetts law provides the option to sue the at-fault party if your injury meetsone of the two limits:
- Your injuries cost you more than $2,000 in reasonable medical costs, or
- Your injuries are serious and permanent, and yourdoctorpredicts that they will negatively affect your quality of life in the future. Serious and permanent injuries can include the loss of part or all of a body part, disfigurement, broken bones, loss of sight or hearing, or the death of a loved one.
Again, to qualify for a lawsuit, you must establish the existence of an injury. If you were not injured in the accident, you do not meet any of the thresholds and therefore your case does not qualify for a lawsuit.
Payment for property damage
It is possible that although you were uninjured in the accident, your vehicle sustained considerable damage. It is important to note that Massachusetts no-fault policies do not cover the cost of property damage.
By law in Massachusetts, vehicle owners must purchase four types ofauto insurance coverage:
- Bodily harm to third parties
- Personal Injury Protection
- Bodily injury caused by an uninsured driver
- property damage
The last type of coverage helps you, the insured, pay for damages caused by your covered vehicles, regardless of who is driving at the time of the accident. At a minimum, all Massachusetts drivers must carry $5,000 property damage coverage.
If your vehicle sustained significant damage in your accident, you must first file a claim against the at-fault party's policy. However, if the at-fault party's property damage policy limit is $5,000, it may not be enough to cover the full cost of repairs. In that case, you have one of three options:
- Pay the rest of the repair costs out of pocket
- Make a claim against your collision coverage policy if you had the foresight to purchase such an add-on
- File a lawsuit for damages in Small Claims Court
Action in small claims court for damages
If you can't pay the rest of the damage out of pocket and you don't have collision coverage, you can sue the at-fault driver insmall claims courtfor the rest of the repair costs. The small claims court in Massachusetts will only hear claims with amounts of$7,000 or less— unless the action involves a claim for property damage sustained in an automobile accident. In that case, you can file a claim for the remainder of your repair bill.
Considerations Before Filing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
Suing the at-fault party for property damage in small claims court might be a smart move on your part. However, before proceeding with legal action, there are three important considerations to make.
The first is that you have to pay a filing fee of between $40 and $150, depending on the type and extent of the damage you want to pursue. The second is that you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, you may also need to file a notice of claim, which typically has a much shorter statute of limitations.
The third and final, and perhaps most important, consideration is that the at-fault party may not have the money or assets to cover the remaining costs of repairs to the vehicle. If that is the case, there is little the courts can do to enforce payment of a judgment.
Suing for emotional duress
Although prevailing in such a case can be difficult, especially without the guidance and support of a qualified professional.personal injury attorney- you can file a Negligence Inflicted Emotional Distress claim. An NIED claim is one that arises in response to emotional or mental harm caused by the negligence or recklessness of another party. NIED claims are difficult to prove and require you to prove the existence of three elements:
- Impact, which requires the plaintiff to contact any aspect of the defendant's negligence, such as when one vehicle hits another.
- Proximity to the danger zone
- Predictability, which means that the defendant knew that their actions had potentially negative consequences
You must also establish emotional duress. If you can establish the gist and prove emotional distress, you may have a case of NIED.
Consult an experienced attorney
If you have been involved in a car accident that did not result in physical injury, it doesn't hurt to at least consult one personal injury attorney. when you turnJason Stone Injury Lawyers, you get the Stone Cold Guarantee, which means you can get a free consultation. With us there is no commitment, only information. If you think you could have an affair,Contact Usto receive your free and immediate case evaluation.
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