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What Massachusetts Residents Need to Know About Automobile Insurance

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.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that a driver who only has the minimum coverage required in order to operate a car in Massachusetts is leaving himself or herself open to a financial disaster. While some lawsuits do settle for “policy limits” even when those limits are low, such settlements are not required by law. Rather, the driver whose negligence caused the accident can be held personally liable for damages beyond those paid by his or her liability insurance company. For example, if Driver A sues Driver B and obtains a judgment for $100,000 but Driver B only has state-mandated minimum coverage of $20,000, Driver B is liable to Driver A for the additional $80,000. Driver A may be able to execute the judgment against property owned by Driver B (such as bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, and investments) and may be able to garnish his or her wages.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage May Be the Most Important Insurance to Have

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all drives to have insurance coverage for bodily injuries caused an uninsured motorist. However, the state only requires that the driver has $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Suppose you were Driver A in the scenario above. If there was $80,000 remaining on your judgment after Driver B’s insurance paid out his policy limits, what would you do if Driver B had no assets that could be sold to satisfy your judgment? Many people are essentially “judgment proof” in that they have no appreciable net worth – young drivers, the working poor, and families with a lot of debt from student loans, car payments, mortgages, credit cards, and the like often fall into this category.

A wise driver makes sure that he or she has enough uninsured motorist coverage to protect his or her family if another driver causes a serious injury accident. The required coverage of $20,000 per person ($40,000 total for the driver and all passengers involved in an accident) does not go very far towards compensating innocent accident victims for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering due to an accident. Just as bodily injury to others coverage can protect a driver against a judgment for injuries caused by his or her own negligence, uninsured motorist coverage serves as protection against the negligence of other drivers who, despite state law, do not have liability insurance or do not have enough such coverage (“underinsured motorist” coverage insures against drivers who have some, but not enough, liability coverage).

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have been hurt in a car accident involving an uninsured motorist, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible so that your legal rights can be protected. The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, handles many types of motor vehicle crash cases, including those involving uninsured motorists. Call us at 888-262-6664 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your accident case.