In 2020, a total of 100,649 car crashes occurred on Massachusetts roads, with 327 fatality crashes and 24,334 injury crashes. Chances are, at some point, you could be involved in a car accident. Taking the right steps to protect your rights after an auto accident potentially minimizes the financial burdens and legal challenges that are often the outcomes.
Know the Law in Massachusetts
The first step you can take occurs before you’re ever involved in a car crash. Knowing the law in Massachusetts helps you avoid costly missteps.
Filing a Crash Report
This state doesn’t require you to contact law enforcement when you’ve been involved in an accident, but you do need to fill out a crash report if anyone involved was injured or killed, or the crash results in auto or property damages exceeding $1,000.
You must complete this report and file it with the Registrar within five days of when the accident occurred. Additionally, the state requires you to send a copy of the report to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the location of the accident.
Fleeing the Scene of an Accident
Massachusetts’ law makes it illegal to leave the scene of an accident, regardless of the extent of damage or injury. To do so is a criminal offense. MA General Law, Chapter 90, Section 24 makes it a misdemeanor to flee the scene of an accident where damage occurs to another vehicle or property. It could result in a fine of up to $200 and two weeks to two years in jail.
Similarly, leaving the scene where an injury occurs is also a misdemeanor, but it is punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of six months to two years and fines between $500 and $1,000. If the accident results in someone’s death, it is a felony offense to flee and could lead to mandatory imprisonment for up to 10 years and fines as high as $5,000.
Do Not Leave the Scene
No matter how minor you think the accident is, do not leave the scene without at least exchanging your personal, automobile and insurance information. Even if the other driver involved tells you the accident is no big deal, do not walk away without providing your information. When the crash is more serious, you may be tempted to run rather than face the potential consequences but doing so can have worse repercussions than going through the legal process.
Do Not Apologize or Admit Fault
Regardless of how the situation appears, do not apologize for the accident or state that you were at fault. Often, people involved in car crashes feel bad about it and blame themselves, so they are quick to say they’re sorry or state that it was their fault. Understandably, you might feel bad, but admitting fault gives the other party leverage in filing a claim or taking you to court.
When you’re in the middle of the situation, you also may not have an entirely clear picture of what happened that led to the accident and overlook the other driver’s role in causing it. You are not required to answer any questions law enforcement, or the other driver, asks.
Massachusetts is a no-fault auto accident state. Anyone who is involved in a car crash files a claim with their own insurance company to cover the damages and medical expenses. Insurance companies often assume drivers do not understand their policies or rights and attempt to deny legitimate claims or limit benefits. The team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers knows the game insurers often play, so before you accept an insurance company’s terms, contact us for help.
Contact Law Enforcement
Though Massachusetts doesn’t legally require you to contact law enforcement when you’ve been in a car accident, it’s generally a good idea to do so. The police or sheriff assess the scene upon arrival. They talk to each person involved and any witnesses. They also must file an official report. This report can provide crucial documentation for insurance companies or in a legal dispute. Make sure you get a copy of the report and read it carefully to ensure it is factually accurate. If necessary, you can request corrections.
When the accident is minor, you and the other driver may think it’s best not to get law enforcement involved. It may be more time-consuming to call the police, but it is important in protecting your rights. The other driver may seem amenable to leaving it to the insurance companies to handle determining what the payouts are for each driver, but you never know what may happen after the individual goes home. It isn’t unusual for people in these situations to claim injuries that they didn’t appear to have after the accident or make false statements to avoid taking any blame.
Take Your Own Documentation
Don’t just rely on police documentation. Take your own, as well. Write down everything you recall leading up to, during and just after the accident. If you are not seriously injured and can move around the accident scene, it’s a good idea to take photographs of the scene and any injuries you do have. Take this step whether you contact law enforcement.
Get Medical Treatment
Car accident injuries are not always readily apparent. If you’re in a crash, it’s wise to obtain a medical evaluation. What may seem like a minor injury at the moment could turn out to be something more serious. Whiplash, concussions and other common car accident injuries often don’t feel too painful at first, but they are potentially serious and debilitating. If you refuse medical evaluation or treatment at the scene or don’t visit your doctor right away, you could put your claim in jeopardy.
Seek the Assistance of an Injury Attorney
Jason Stone and his team are here to help you navigate your car accident injury case and get your life back. We understand that the financial burdens for victims of a car crash can be tremendous, so we provide the Stone Cold Guarantee. We don’t charge any upfront fees to get started on your case, and we don’t get paid until you do. If you’ve been in an auto accident, get in touch with us today. There’s no obligation, just information.