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How Comparative Negligence Works in Auto Accident Cases

When auto accidents happen, the resulting injuries can be severe and even life-altering. If you’ve been hurt in a collision caused in whole or in part by another driver’s negligence, Massachusetts law provides a framework for seeking financial compensation. However, there are complications involved in pursuing this remedy.

In the first place, Massachusetts is a no-fault law insurance state. This means that each driver’s personal injury protection (PIP) and/or medical insurance coverage pays for their medical treatment and partial lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident. These insurances cover only up to $8,000. For losses and expenses greater than that, the injured party must claim damages from the other driver(s) involved.

Massachusetts follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This allows a plaintiff to recover damages even if they are partially at fault for the accident, as long as their share of the blame is no more than 50 percent. However, the plaintiff’s percentage of fault directly impacts the amount of compensation awarded. For instance, if you’re found 20 percent at fault and the total damages are $100,000, you’d be entitled to $80,000.

Since too high a percentage of fault will bar your claim, you need to demonstrate that other drivers’ negligence amounted to at least 50 percent of the cause of the accident. For example, you’ll need to show that the other driver ran a red light or was driving recklessly and that those actions directly caused the accident. You will also need to defend against the other driver’s claim that you were negligent. However, the burden is on that driver to prove your fault.

Evidence of fault in an accident can take several forms. Here are some the most common: 

  • Police reports — These reports document the police officer’s observations of the scene of the accident and include witnesses’ statements. 
  • Accident scene photos — Photos of vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic signs and road conditions can document the accident’s severity and give indications of how it occurred.
  • Witness statements — Testimonies from bystanders who witnessed the accident can provide valuable accounts of driver behavior and the sequence of events.
  • Medical records — These can help establish the connection between the accident and the harm you’ve suffered by documenting the extent of your injuries, the treatment received and the projected recovery timeline.
  • Expert testimony — Accident reconstruction experts may be called to analyze the crash scene and provide technical insights into the cause.

The determination of comparative negligence can be complex and going through the legal process alone is not advisable. If you’ve been injured in an accident in Massachusetts, an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to evaluate your case and to take prudent actions designed to maximize your financial compensation.

Feinberg & Alban PC aggressively pursues personal injury claims on behalf of clients throughout the Greater Boston area. Please call 617-232-5950 or contact us online to discuss your legal options in a free consultation. 

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