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Articles Posted in Car Accident

While the right to a trial-by-jury in a Cape Cod car accident case is very important, there are sometimes occasions when the parties to such a matter may opt to submit their dispute to arbitration rather than move forward with a traditional trial. Like other kinds of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration takes the case away from the consideration of a traditional judge and jury and places decision-making into the hands of one or more neutral persons.

In such a situation, there may be a single arbitrator, or there may be several. The result of the arbitration may be binding or non-binding (although, typically, “arbitration tends to be binding, while “mediation” tends to be non-binding).

Arbitration can sometimes be mandatory (such as when someone has signed an agreement to arbitrate all claims prior to the accident or event at issue). Arbitration can also be entered into by the agreement of the parties when all sides believe that it is the most fair and effective means of resolving the issues in a particular case.

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Most Cape Cod car accident lawsuits are filed by an individual, couple, or family against a motorist whose careless conduct led to injury or death. Sometimes, however, there are other possible defendants in such cases.

If the allegedly negligent driver was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time that the motor vehicle collision occurred, the driver’s employer may be named as a defendant. In some situations, a governmental entity may be a defendant in a personal injury case – particularly in cases in which a city employee’s allegedly negligent driving led to an accident. Lawsuits against the government often have special requirements, so it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash caused by someone employed by a local or state government who was on the job at the time of the accident.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case, the plaintiff was a woman who sued the defendant city and a police officer whom it employed, asserting a claim for personal injuries she sustained due to the officer’s allegedly negligent operation of a motor vehicle. After filing her initial complaint against both the officer and the city, the plaintiff opted to file an amended complaint in which only the city was named as a defendant. In turn, the defendant city filed a pre-answer motion pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) asking the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim.

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It is no secret that having the right automobile accident insurance is important, but many people do not truly understand the type of insurance that they need or even what coverage they currently have. Unfortunately, some drivers do not learn that they have inadequate coverage until they have been involved in a Cape Cod car accident. By then, of course, it is too late to get the appropriate coverage for that particular accident. Knowing what coverage you have, what additional coverage may be advisable, and how different types of coverage work is very important. Below, we discuss several different types of insurance coverage that can protect a family in the event of a crash.

“No-Fault” Does Not Always Mean No Lawsuit

Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state for purposes of automobile accident insurance. Under no-fault laws, drivers are required to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) insurance that will cover a certain dollar amount of medical expenses and a portion of lost wages resulting from an accident, regardless of who caused the collision. However, “no-fault” does not mean that no one can ever be held legally liable for injuries caused by an accident, nor does it mean that all of the insured driver’s expenses are covered under PIP. While each party must rely on his or her own insurance to pay minor expenses associated with a car accident, those who meet a certain threshold established by state statute have the right to file a traditional negligence lawsuit seeking full compensation from the responsible party.

Drivers are also required to purchase liability insurance to cover damages in the event that they are found to be at fault in an accident and the other driver (or a passenger) is able to get past the no-fault threshold and proceed toward traditional tort liability. Currently, the minimum coverage for bodily injury to others is $20,000 per person or $40,000 per accident. There is also a compulsory requirement for property damage (payable when the insured driver causes damages to someone else’s vehicle by causing an accident); the mandatory minimum is $5000 at present.

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Under Massachusetts law, contributory negligence does not necessarily bar recovery of monetary compensation for damages suffered in a car accident. Generally speaking, this means that being “a little at fault” in causing a crash does not prevent an injured person from filing suit to recover compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering caused by the collision. (It should be noted that the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by his or her percentage of fault in the crash.)

However, if the injured person’s fault was greater than the amount of negligence attributable to the opposing party, the injured person cannot recover any money damages from the other driver. This rule is known as the “modified comparative fault rule.” Additionally, an automobile accident insurance company may opt to impose a surcharge on an insured who is found to be more than 50% at fault in causing an accident. This is yet another reason to seek legal counsel following a Cape Cod car accident, especially one in which it was not clear who was at fault.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the appellant was a man who appealed a lower court’s judgment affirming a state board of appeal’s decision in favor of the appellee’s insurer with regard an insurance surcharge imposed on the appellant following an automobile accident. The appellant insisted that that the board (the Massachusetts Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds) had erred in upholding the insurer’s decision to impose a surcharge because, in the appellant’s view, he was not “more than 50% at fault” as the board had determined.

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In a Cape Cod car accident case, the negligent motorist’s insurance company has certain obligations, including the duty to make a fair settlement offer if liability is clear. Of course, the question of what exactly constitutes fair offer can be subject to debate.

If, for example, an offer is refused and a jury trial results in a substantially higher verdict, the plaintiff has a good argument that the insurance company did not proceed in good faith. When the opposite happens – the jury returns a very modest verdict when compared to the insurer’s settlement offer – the plaintiff may have a difficult time convincing the court that the insurance company acted unfairly.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unpublished) case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed a personal injury lawsuit, on her own behalf and on behalf of her two minor children, against the defendants, an allegedly negligent driver, his employer, and their insurance company. Her claims included negligence, infliction of emotional distress, and violation of Mass. Gen. Laws chs. 93A and 176D claim. The plaintiff’s claims against the insurance company were stayed while the bodily injury claims against the remaining defendants proceeded to a trial by jury in 2015. At trial, the defendants admitted liability, and jury awarded damages of $10,260 to the plaintiffs; the verdict was affirmed on appeal.

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The vast majority of Cape Cod car accident lawsuits are settled out of court. In most cases, the parties’ respective automobile accident liability insurance companies are part of the settlement process and, consequently, are bound by the terms of the settlement.

Sometimes, however, instances arise in which an insurance company may not be part of the settlement negotiations in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit arising from an automobile accident. A recent case explored such a situation and gave instructions for how such matters are to be handled in similar circumstances in the future.

The case at bar differed from the “typical” case in one important respect: one of the primary issues in the underlying litigation was whether the incident giving rise to the suit was an accident or whether it was the result of an intentional act. Importantly, the insurer was not obligated to make certain payments for an intentional act but was obligated to pay for damages arising from an act of negligence.

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Under Massachusetts law, there are certain requirements for those who operate motor vehicles within the Commonwealth. In a Cape Cod car accident case, a dispute may arise as to whether a driver was in compliance with these laws at the time of the accident.

It should be noted that some of the rules that affect Massachusetts drivers may not apply to those from out of state who just happen to be passing through at the time of a collision. A recent court case explores the relationship between the amount of time that a nonresident has spent in the state and the requirements for certain insurance coverage.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported court case, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a two-car wreck allegedly caused by the defendant motorist’s negligence. The plaintiff’s suit also named the driver with whom he was riding at the time of the crash, her motor vehicle accident insurance company, and the defendant motorist’s insurance carrier as defendants in the suit. Only the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the defendant motorist proceeded to trial, the remaining claims having been dismissed on summary judgment or stayed.

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Under Massachusetts law, those who are injured or lose a loved one due to another’s negligence have a limited amount of time in which to file a Cape Cod personal injury claim against the responsible party.

It is important to note that certain situations, such as cases involving a governmental entity, can result in much shorter deadlines, sometimes only a matter of days, than the general statute of limitations would suggest.

When a claim is not timely filed, the injured person will, most likely, be deemed to have waived his or her right to recover money damages.

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Being involved in a Massachusetts automobile accident can be difficult enough, on its own. Damage to one’s automobile, pain and suffering from physical injuries, and time off of work while recuperating are all common problems for those who are hurt due to others’ negligence behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, the accident itself may be only the beginning of an extended period of difficulty for those involved in a crash. Dealing with insurance companies about personal injury protection, property damage claims, and other issues can be extremely difficult and time-consuming, especially for those who are not represented by an attorney.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) appellate court case, the plaintiff was a medical services provider who filed suit against the defendant insurance company, seeking to recover personal injury protection (PIP) benefits on behalf of a patient who was involved in an automobile accident in 2011. The defendant filed an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, asserting the affirmative defense of noncooperation.

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Each year, hundreds of Massachusetts residents lose their lives in automobile accidents, and tens of thousands more are injured. If you or a family member has recently been involved in a Cape Cod car accident, there are several things that you should know. Having the right information at the right time can go a long way toward making sure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries (or, in the case of a fatal crash, for your loved one’s wrongful death).

Getting Started on a Claim

The first thing to know about seeking fair compensation following a Cape Cod motor vehicle accident is that the burden of proving fault lies on the plaintiff (the person seeking payment for medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.) This means that the plaintiff must file a civil claim against the responsible party within the period set forth by the Massachusetts statute of limitations for personal injuries or wrongful death. (It is possible that the defendant may be charged criminally due to an accident, but this is a separate matter that, typically, does not involve the injured individual.)

While it is possible for a car wreck litigant to represent himself or herself in court in a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries suffered in an accident, this is not advisable. The defendant’s insurance company will hire an attorney to represent the defendant in court, and the plaintiff will need skilled legal representation during both pre-trial settlement negotiations and during litigation, if the case proceeds to trial.

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