Rear-end collisions can cause significant property damage and serious injuries. Even though Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state, there are some situations where you may be able to sue for damages caused by a rear-end collision.
What You Should Know About Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents. Every year these collisions cause thousands of injuries and nearly 7% of all traffic deaths. These types of accidents are often caused by negligent driving:
- Driving too fast for the conditions
- Driving while fatigued
- Distracted driving
- Following too close
- Driving while intoxicated
Mechanical defects, such as brakes that do not work properly, can sometimes cause rear-end collisions.
When You Can Sue for Damages Caused by a Rear-End Collision
If your rear-end collision occurred in Massachusetts, to sue for damages, someone else’s negligence must have caused the accident and your damages must exceed the thresholds established in Massachusetts’ no-fault auto insurance law.
Liability in a Rear-End Collision
Most of the time, a driver who rear-ends your vehicle is liable for your damages. This is because drivers must pay attention and maintain a safe following distance that allows them to stop without hitting the car in front, even if that car stops suddenly. However, there are a few circumstances in which you may share some of the fault, such as if you were driving erratically because of intoxication or the brake lights were not working on your vehicle.
To win a lawsuit, you must establish that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident and that the accident caused your damages. Several types of evidence can help you prove your case:
- Police report
- Video footage from a street camera or dashcam
- Witness testimony
- Photos of the accident scene, road conditions and vehicles
- Medical reports
If there is a dispute about the facts of the case, a report from an accident scene investigator may be helpful.
What If You Were Partially At-Fault?
If you share some of the fault for a rear-end collision, you may still be able to recover compensation. Massachusetts has a modified comparative negligence law with a 51% bar. This means that as long as you are 50% or less at fault, you can recover a portion of your damages from the other party.
For example, if someone rear-ends you while you are driving a vehicle with broken brake lights, the court or insurance company may determine that the other driver is 80% at fault and you are 20% at fault for the accident. Because the other driver is more than 50% at fault, that driver can not collect from you, but you can collect 80% of your damages from the negligent party if your damages exceed the no-fault threshold.
No-Fault Insurance Thresholds
All Massachusetts drivers must purchase auto insurance that includes personal injury protection coverage. The maximum benefit of this coverage is $2,000 for medical expenses and $8,000 for all costs, including up to 75% of any income you lost because of your injuries from the accident.
Your PIP coverage also covers the cost of paying for someone else to perform household chores if your injuries prevent you from doing so. PIP does not provide compensation for pain and suffering. The no-fault insurance laws require you to use your PIP coverage regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
If you have serious injuries from a rear-end collision, your PIP coverage may not cover all of your expenses. You can sue the at-fault party for both economic and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, if your medical expenses caused by the accident exceed $2,000 or you have a fractured bone, substantial loss of sight or hearing, full or partial loss of a body part or serious and permanent disfigurement as a result of the accident. You may also file a wrongful death lawsuit if the collision caused the death of a loved one.
When To File a Lawsuit
Most of the time, it makes more sense to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, rather than to immediately file a lawsuit. However, if the insurance company denies your claim or offers a settlement that is too low, you may need to pursue a lawsuit to recover compensation. Massachusetts law gives you three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in most cases.
If the driver of the other vehicle does not have insurance, you may need to use your coverage for bodily injury caused by an uninsured auto. Massachusetts law requires you to purchase at least $20,000 per person and $40,000 total uninsured auto coverage. If your damages exceed the limits of your coverage, you may be able to sue the at-fault party; however, recovering compensation from an uninsured driver is often difficult.
Types of Compensation You May Be Able To Recover
There are several types of compensation you may be able to recover from a negligent party in a rear-end accident:
- Cost to repair or replace your vehicle
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
Common Injuries From Rear-End Collisions
When a vehicle rear-ends another vehicle, the occupants of the front car jerk forward and then backward suddenly, often impacting the seatback with substantial force. This whipping motion can cause serious injuries to the head, neck, spine and other body parts, even in low-speed collisions:
- Slipped or herniated disks
- Muscle strains
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Pinched nerves
In addition to injuries to the head and spine, many drivers suffer injuries to the wrists and arms due to holding the steering wheel at the time of the collision. Additionally, the force of the impact may sometimes cause injuries to internal organs. Injuries from car accidents are not always immediately painful so it is important to seek medical treatment even if you do not think you are hurt.
Common Vehicle Damage From a Rear-End Collision
Insurance companies may try to treat rear-end collisions as minor fender-benders, but they often cause substantial vehicle damage. The bumpers of modern vehicles can withstand an impact of about 2.5 mph without damage that goes beyond the bumper cover.
Anything above that can damage the components under the cover and cause other damage to the car. This is particularly true when the vehicles involved have bumpers at different heights, such as when a truck rear-ends a passenger car.
Common types of damage from rear-end accidents include:
- Hatch, trunk and tailgate damage
- Alignment problems
- Electrical problems
- Frame damage
Not all damage is immediately apparent, so even if you do not think your vehicle was seriously damaged, it may be a good idea to have a shop examine it before you accept a settlement from the other party or the insurance company.
Reasons To Get Help With Your Rear-End Collision
Even in cases where fault is relatively straightforward, disputes can arise over the cause of an accident or the value of your claim. An experienced car accident lawyer can help protect your rights.
The financial burden placed on the victims of personal injury can be immense, to alleviate that burden, Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fee to get started on your case. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures we get paid only after you get paid. The team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers is ready and available to assist you with your claim. Contact us at 800-577-5188 to get started.