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Non-Resident Was Exempt from Massachusetts PIP Insurance Requirements

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.

The jury found that the defendant motorist was negligent but decided that her negligence was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Accordingly, the trial court entered judgment in the defendant motorist’s favor. The plaintiff sought a new trial, but his motion was denied.

Decision of the Court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The plaintiff mainly argued on appeal that the defendant driver with whom he was riding when the accident occurred was required by Massachusetts law to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Both the driver and the plaintiff were residents of another state. The plaintiff maintained, however, that the driver had spent more than 30 days in Massachusetts in 1998, thus triggering a requirement for the driver – even though a nonresident – to purchase PIP. In so arguing, the plaintiff relied primarily on the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 90, § 3.

Under the statute, most nonresidents are exempt from compliance with the Commonwealth’s motor vehicle insurance requirements. However, the statute contains an exception for motor vehicles (or trailers) that are operated on more than 30 days, aggregate, within a given one-year period. According to the plaintiff’s argument, this means that, if the owner of a vehicle operates his or her automobile in Massachusetts for 30 days or more in any given year, the owner must comply with the statute’s requirements in perpetuity. Insomuch as the driver spent more than 30 days in the Commonwealth during the year 1998, the plaintiff argued that she was required to carry PIP coverage some two decades later. According to the court, interpreting the statute in this way would have produced “absurd results.” A more reasonable interpretation would be for the statute to be triggered after the 30-days aggregate in one year but with the clock restarting after the expiration of a year.

The court also ruled in the defendants’ favor with regard to the plaintiff’s arguments regarding his negligence claim, agreeing with the trial court judge that certain Medicare summaries that the plaintiff sought to admit as evidence that he had in excess of the $2000 statutory threshold in medical expenses was hearsay and that there was ample evidence to support the jury’s finding that the automobile accident at issue did not cause the plaintiff’s injuries.

Contact an Injury Attorney in Cape Cod

If you have been involved in a crash in the Cape Cod area and have questions about your legal rights, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664. We will be happy to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Massachusetts car accident attorneys in our Hyannis or Plymouth offices.