Massachusetts Car Accident Lawyer:
What to Expect if You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident in Massachusetts
By Attorney Eric J. Parker
Many people who have suffered injuries as a result of a car accident have important questions about obtaining compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This article is designed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about your legal right to compensation following a motor vehicle accident.
* What is the first thing I should do after being involved in a car accident?
* Who will pay my car accident-related medical bills?
* Can I recover the value of my lost wages?
* Do I have to reimburse my health insurance company if I recover bodily injury compensation?
* What about compensation for my pain and suffering?
* What can I expect to recover for my car accident injuries?
* How will my car accident lawyer be paid?
* How long will my auto accident case take?
* Will I have to go to court?
What is the first thing I should do after being involved in a car accident?
If you or someone else is injured in a car accident, contact police or emergency medical personnel immediately. Information about the operators involved in the accident can be obtained after all injured parties are safely in the hands of professionals trained to provide emergency medical care.
As soon as it is safe to do so, you should contact your insurance agent or insurance company representative to report the happening of the accident.
Who will pay my car accident-related medical bills?
In Massachusetts, the first two thousand dollars ($2,000) in medical bills that you incur in connection with a car accident are paid for by the insurance company that insured the car in which you were traveling, at the time of the accident. If you were injured as a pedestrian or bicyclist, the bills are paid by the company insuring the car that injured you. The portion of the motor vehicle insurance policy that pays the first $2,000 in medical bills is called Personal Injury Protection or “P.I.P.”. It is also called “no fault”. If you medical bills exceed $2,000 submit the bills over $2,000 to your health insurance company for payment or reimbursement. If you did not have health insurance at the time of the accident, your bills should be covered under P.I.P. up to a total of $8,000. In some cases, additional medical payment coverage may be available. You insurance agent or attorney can advise you as to the amount of coverage to which you may be entitled.
Can I recover the value of my lost wages?
If as a result of the car accident you suffer injuries that prevent you from performing your work-related duties, you may be entitled to be reimbursed a portion of your actual lost wages under the applicable P.I.P. policy. Under P.I.P., you may recover up to 75% of your lost wages, provided: (1) you were not paid during your absence from work; and (2) your $8,000 in P.I.P. benefits were not exhausted by the payment of medical bills. Remember that the $8,000 available under P.I.P. includes payment of medical bills and lost wages, unless additional “Medical Payments” coverage is available. In the event you are eligible for partial reimbursement under a disability plan at work, P.I.P. will pay 75% of the difference.
Do I have to reimburse my health insurance company if I recover bodily injury compensation?
If your medical bills exceed $2,000 and your health insurance company pays for medical treatment over the first $2,000 in P.I.P. benefits, your health insurance company may be legally entitled to be reimbursed from any amounts you receive in connection with your bodily injury claim. This right of reimbursement is contractual and is referred to as a “lien”. The rules governing liens involve complicated legal issues that must be addressed by your personal injury attorney before any funds may legally be distributed to you.
What about compensation for my pain and suffering?
If the injuries you sustained were caused by another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation. This is known as a “bodily injury claim”. Your ability to recover bodily injury compensation is based on a number of factors, including the severity of your injuries, the duration of your pain and suffering, and the limits of bodily injury coverage available to the party responsible for your injuries. In Massachusetts, you will not be permitted to pursue a bodily injury claim unless your car accident-related medical bills exceed $2,000 or your injury (1) causes death, or (2) consists in whole or in part of permanent and serious disfigurement, or (4) results in the qualified loss of sight or hearing. A lawyer with experience in handling personal injury claims resulting from car accidents can best advise you on how to proceed with your personal injury claim.
What can I expect to recover for my car accident injuries?
Because the value of a bodily injury claim depends on many factors, it may take some time for your lawyer to form an opinion as to the value of your claim. No lawyer can responsibly evaluate a client’s bodily injury claim until the injured person has reached a “medical end result”. A medical end result may not mean that you have return to your pre-accident condition. It simply means that no change in your condition is anticipated. Once a medical end result has been reached, your personal injury lawyer will advise you as to the potential value of your claim and the process involved in securing a recovery.
How will my car accident lawyer be paid?
Because most people do not have adequate savings with which to pay a lawyer in connection with a bodily injury claim, most lawyers who concentrate in the area of personal injury law will work on a “contingent fee” basis. Under a contingent fee agreement, your lawyer agrees to accept a percentage of any sum he or she recovers on your behalf as the full legal fee. In many cases the contingent fee will be one third of any amount recovered. So, for example if your lawyer recovered $9,000 on your behalf, a legal fee of $3,000 would be paid to your lawyer from the proceeds recovered. If no recovery is made, you would not be charged a legal fee for the work performed by your lawyer. A written contingent fee agreement should be prepared and signed by you and your perosonal injury lawyer before your lawyer begins work on your case. You should review the agreement carefully and make sure you understand all of its terms and conditions.
How long will my auto accident case take?
The amount of time necessary to resolve a claim for personal injury compensation in Massachusetts varies greatly from case to case. A very serious case, involving multiple injuries and complex theories of liability resulting from a car accident, can take several years to conclude. Conversely, a case involving less serious injuries and more obvious liability may be concluded in a matter of months. Your lawyer is in the best position to advise you as to when your case is likely to be concluded.
Will I have to go to court?
While most cases involving claims for personal injury are resolved by way of settlement, a lawyer experienced in the area of car accident personal injury law must be prepared to bring the case to trial if an acceptable settlement cannot be reached. As the saying goes: Lawyers who plan to settle often find themselves faced with trial, while lawyers prepared for trial more often see their cases settle. Your personal injury lawyer will advise you as to which option is best for you.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Massachusetts, remember:
* Seek the advice of an experienced, auto accident attorney.
* Communicate with your lawyer regularly.
* A properly handled case takes time to prepare. Don’t rush the case.
Have You Been Injured In A Car Accident?
Find out if you have a case. If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident due to the other car driver’s negligence, contact us for a free confidential case review and receive a response from our car accident attorneys within hours, or call (617) 886-0500 . If you need a lawyer outside of Massachusetts, contact us for a referral.
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About Attorney Eric J. Parker
Eric J. Parker is the Managing Partner and co-founder of the Boston-based trial firm Parker Scheer LLP, with offices in Massachusetts and Nevada. Mr. Parker has 20 years of active experience as one of Massachusetts’ leading civil trial lawyers, and holds the highest peer-review rating awarded to any attorney for professional skill and ethics. Mr. Parker is a member of the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), as well as the American, Massachusetts, and Boston Bar Associations. Mr. Parker is an elected member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA; Elected Vice President, Massachusetts Chapter, January 2007), and is a certified member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In 2007, Mr. Parker was appointed to the Editorial Board of Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly, the leading weekly legal newspaper serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Parker has been named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer by the publishers of Boston Magazine, every year since the distinction was first created. Mr. Parker’s legal practice focuses on plaintiff-oriented tort litigation, including product liability, motor vehicle tort, medical and dental malpractice, premises liability claims, workplace sexual harassment and assault, aviation-related injuries, and wrongful death. Mr. Parker is a Graduate of Vassar College and received his Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Parker is also an FAA Certified Private Pilot, and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Media And Technology Charter High School (MATCH) located in Boston (Chairman 2001-2005), the goal of which is to provide inner city high school students with a successful college education.