Getting into a car wreck is something many people dread. The vast majority of trips take place without incident, but in the most serious cases, car accidents can be life-changing. Whether you have been involved in a simple fender-bender or a more serious collision, what you do after the accident impacts the ultimate outcome.
In 2022, there were 439 fatal car accidents in Massachusetts alone. Thousands more crashes left motorists, passengers, and pedestrians reeling from injuries and the psychological trauma of being in car wrecks.
In this article, we will explore what you should do if you are involved in a car accident in Massachusetts. We will also take a deep dive into how you can seek justice after a life-changing collision.
In the immediate aftermath of a Massachusetts car accident, take the following steps to keep safe and protect your rights.
Put safety first
Immediately after any motor vehicle crash, further collisions are possible, especially when visibility is poor or weather conditions are bad. If your vehicle is operable, pull it over onto the shoulder, away from the flow of traffic. If it is inoperable, turn your hazard lights on and get everybody away from the vehicle to a place of safety off the road.
Stay on the scene
While you can pull your vehicle off the road for safety, you must not leave the scene of the accident.
State law requires that you make known your name, home address, and vehicle registration number to the other parties involved in the collision. Under Massachusetts statute G.L. c. 90, § 24(2)(a), a person can face serious criminal charges for leaving the scene of a car accident if the following 4 points can be proven:
- You were operating the vehicle
- The collision caused vehicle or property damage, injury, or death
- You knew the accident had happened
- You did not stop to exchange details
If the motor vehicle crash results in property damage alone, the following penalties can be imposed for a first offense:
- A fine, between $20 and $200
- A prison sentence of between 30 days and 2 years
- A fine and a prison sentence
Leaving the scene of a collision resulting in injury but not death is a misdemeanor under Massachusetts law. Such an act counts as a hit-and-run.
The following punishments will apply if the hit-and-run driver is convicted:
- Mandatory prison sentence of between 6 months to 2 years
- A fine of $500 to $1,000
If the car accident resulted in death, the at-fault driver could face a felony charge for leaving the scene. If convicted, the following punishments could apply:
- Mandatory imprisonment, between 2.5 to 10 years in state prison and a fine between $1,000 and $5,000, OR
- Mandatory imprisonment in a jail or house of correction between 1 to 2.5 years and a fine between $1,000 and $2,500
Never leave the scene of any car wreck, however minor, without exchanging details with the other people involved. This way, you can better protect your rights.
After an accident, making sure everyone gets the medical care they need is the priority. If people are injured, call 911 and request emergency medical services to get an immediate medical assessment.
Some car accident injuries do not cause pain or other symptoms right away. Concussions, back and neck injuries, and whiplash may take time to become apparent. Elevated adrenaline levels after an accident can mask the pain of some injuries. You should seek medical attention after any car accident, even if you feel fine immediately afterward.
In addition to seeking medical help, you must also report the accident to the police. State law requires that any Massachusetts car accident resulting in $1,000 worth of damage or greater must be reported to the police.
After a motor vehicle crash, it is very difficult for most of us to assess whether the level of property damage meets this threshold. You should report any accident that occurs, no matter how minor it may seem.
Cooperate with the police
Car accidents are incredibly stressful, and it is easy to lose your cool. However, law enforcement officers are there to help by compiling an impartial accident report. You may later rely on that report for your insurance claim and if you choose to file a personal injury lawsuit down the line.
If you get into arguments with the officers or other drivers, this could be recorded and used against you at a later date. Be cooperative and answer their questions to the best of your ability, not leaving out any important details.
You can request a copy of the report from the local police department later to give to your insurance company. You should also provide your Massachusetts car accident lawyer with a copy.
Exchange details with other drivers
By law, you must provide the other affected parties with your name, address, and vehicle registration number. Be sure to provide your contact details and driver’s license number.
In Massachusetts, everyone is required by law to have auto insurance. Make sure to exchange insurance information with every party involved in the collision.
Avoid getting into discussions about who was to blame for the accident. Do not accept responsibility or blame any other drivers involved. Rather, remain calm, be discreet, and focus on gathering the information you need.
Document the scene
If you are physically and emotionally able to do so, now is the time to document the scene as much as possible.
Use your phone to take photos of evidence, such as the following:
- The scene, including all vehicles, their placement, and current weather conditions
- Damage to all the vehicles
- Other property damage
- Road conditions
These photos may capture the weather conditions, which may have played a part in the accident. If you choose to pursue compensation for injuries sustained in the car accident at a later date, this photographic evidence could enable your car accident attorney to build a strong case for proving fault, allowing you to pursue damages.
Now is also the time to gather the contact details of any witnesses. This may include passersby, other drivers, and people in homes or shops nearby who saw the accident happen. You will need to list these witnesses when you complete the Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report. If you choose to file a personal injury claim, witness statements may corroborate your version of events.
Write down everything that happened. It is crucial to do this as soon as you can; memories can quickly begin to fade and become confused. Record as many facts as you can remember. Document how the accident occurred, the weather, and the condition of the road, to back up your photographic evidence.
Notify your own insurance company
As soon as possible after the accident, phone your insurance company, letting them know what has happened. Stick to the facts, and don’t be tempted to express personal opinions on what happened.
Avoid talking about how you feel. If you say that you feel fine and then later claim you were injured in the collision, your words could be used against you. You may choose to let your car accident attorney handle this call on your behalf.
Massachusetts law requires every vehicle owner to take out 4 compulsory car insurance coverages:
- Bodily injury to others
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Bodily injury caused by an uninsured auto
- Third-party property damage
Massachusetts is a “no-fault” car insurance state, so regardless of who was at fault, your PIP insurance can pay your medical expenses. This coverage also protects anyone you allow to drive your car, pedestrians, and any passengers involved.
You can only claim up to the coverage limit for your injuries, meaning you could have to pay other expenses out of your own pocket. You cannot claim damages for pain and suffering under PIP coverage. This, however, does not mean that there is no legal recourse open to you.
Under Massachusetts law, you may be able to step outside of the no-fault system and make a claim to cover your losses under certain circumstances. An experienced Massachusetts car accident lawyer with Kiley Law Group will be happy to listen to your story and explain your legal options.
A further word of warning – do not accept calls from the other driver’s insurance company. Whatever they may say, you are under no legal obligation to talk to them. Refuse to speak to any insurance representatives until you have sought legal advice.
File a Crash Operator Report
The final requirement after a Massachusetts car accident is to file a Motor Vehicle Crash Operator Report with the Registrar. You must do this within 5 days of any crash that caused property damage over $1,000 in value, injury, or death. The only exception is if you are physically unable to do so due to incapacity.
You must send the completed report to the following:
- Local police department
- Your insurance company
- Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV)
If you fail to file the report on time, your driving license may be revoked or suspended.
How to Pursue Justice After a Car Accident in Massachusetts
After a Massachusetts car accident, it is natural to turn to your insurance company for support. The sad fact is that the insurance carrier is more concerned about its bottom line than providing fair compensation for its customers.
Your insurance coverage may not be sufficient to compensate you for the losses you have suffered. This is just one reason why it could pay to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who can assist you in the following ways.
1. Pursuing compensation above “no-fault” limits
Under Massachusetts law, you may step outside of the “no-fault” insurance claim system and pursue additional damages in the following situations:
- Your reasonable medical expenses totaled more than $2,000, and/or;
- Your injuries caused permanent disabilities or disfigurement
If you meet these criteria, you have the right to pursue compensation by filing a third-party insurance claim or a Massachusetts car accident lawsuit. In either case, it is good to have a tenacious Massachusetts car accident attorney on your side, smoothing out the claims process for you.
2. Handling the insurance companies for you
After a car accident, emotions run high. You could say something that you later regret.
Insurance companies record phone calls and can try to use what you say against you. Don’t be taken in by their concern; their main focus is trying to reduce the amount they have to pay out.
When you hire a car accident lawyer, he or she can handle all communication with the insurance company for you. Your attorney can even handle the initial communication on your behalf, taking the entire burden off your shoulders.
3. Fighting for a fair settlement
Many car accident claims can be settled without going to court. However, if you try to represent yourself, you may find it very hard to prove fault and negotiate a fair settlement.
Tom Kiley’s team of experienced car accident attorneys in Andover, MA, have the skills and legal knowledge to build a strong case on your behalf. Our team members also know how to handle negotiations with insurance companies to fight for fair compensation.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may receive compensation for the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
In the event the claim cannot be settled out of court, a car accident attorney can represent you at trial. A judge or jury will adjudicate and may award compensation.
Let Kiley Law Group Fight for Your Rights
After a car accident in Massachusetts, the number of steps you must take can seem overwhelming. All you want to do is focus on recovering from the physical and psychological trauma you have endured and getting your life back on track.
For your peace of mind and to pursue the compensation you deserve, schedule a free legal session with one of the car accident lawyers at Kiley Law Group. Our experienced attorneys, based in Andover, MA, will listen carefully to your case and advise you on your legal options. If we agree to take on your case, our legal team will use all our resources to fight for the best possible outcome for you.
We have already secured over $1 billion in compensation for our clients. So do not delay. Call us 24/7 at (888) 435-1321 or reach out to us online today for a free consultation.