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Court Refuses to Reverse Ruling Imposing At-Fault Accident Insurance Surcharge Following Massachusetts Crash

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.

Although the insurer offered testimony (a police report and an insurance report) to the effect that the appellant collided with an automobile that was approaching an intersection from the left, the appellant contended that the accident occurred when he was rear-ended.

The Court’s Ruling

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order. The appellant argued that the police and insurance reports were hearsay and should not have been admitted; he further averred that, without this evidence, there was no basis on which to conclude that he was more than 50% to blame for the wreck. In the court’s view, the appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. The normal rules of evidence for trial courts did not apply to the adjudicatory proceedings before the board; thus, it was permissible for the board to base its decision on hearsay evidence like the reports, so long as such evidence had “certain indicia of reliability and probative value.”

The court of appeals went on to point out that the documents relied upon by the insurer (the police report, insurance surcharge report, and testimony from a representative of the insurance company) were corroborated by photographic evidence illustrating the damage to both the appellant’s vehicle and the automobile driven by the other party to the accident.

Call a Cape Cod Attorney

Being involved in a Cape Cod car accident can have far-reaching consequences, many of which are not readily apparent in the days and weeks immediately following the collision. If you have been involved in a rear-end collision or another crash, you should talk to an attorney about your situation. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, in Hyannis and Plymouth offer a free consultation regarding a recent accident. Call us at 888-262-6664 to set up an appointment. We handle car and truck accident cases, motorcycle wreck cases, and criminal cases involving issues such as operating under the influences.