Drivers and passengers who have been in a car accident in Massachusetts need to understand the different state laws and insurance requirements that could affect any resulting claim for injury or vehicle damage.
This page provides a guide to the Massachusetts-specific resources on All-About-Car-Accidents.com, starting with a breakdown of the Massachusetts no-fault car insurance rules, and how a claimant might get exemption from those rules and be allowed to file a liability claim or lawsuit against another driver after a car accident. Then we’ll look at state laws that could affect a car accident lawsuit in Massachusetts, and when it might make sense to get help from an experienced lawyer.
After any car accident in Massachusetts, the first thing to understand is that the state follows a “no-fault” car insurance system. Under no-fault, regardless of who may be to blame for the accident, anyone who has been injured turns first (and often exclusively) to his or her own car insurance coverage to get compensation for injuries and lost income, up to a certain dollar limit.
Massachusetts drivers and passengers who have been injured in a car accident can only step outside of the state's no-fault system -- and pursue a claim directly against the at-fault driver -- if they meet one of two thresholds in place in the state:
Why do these thresholds matter? For one thing, taking a claim outside of no-fault allows an injured person to get compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, which aren’t available under no-fault rules. For more information, including details on mandatory car insurance coverage minimums in the state, check out our companion article Massachusetts Car Insurance Laws.
After a car accident, if your claim is serious enough to let you step outside of Massachusetts’s no-fault rules and file a lawsuit or third-party claim against the other driver, there are a few state laws that could come into play, starting with the deadline for filing a personal injury case in court. This kind of law is called a “statute of limitations,” and every state has one; different deadlines apply to different kinds of cases.
In Massachusetts, you have three years from the date of the car accident to get your case started -- that means getting the initial complaint and summons filed in Massachusetts’s civil court system. You can find this law codified at Massachusetts General Laws Title 5, Ch. 260, Sections 2A and 4. The same three-year deadline applies whether the lawsuit is for injuries caused by the car accident, or for vehicle damage.
What if you miss the three-year window? If that happens, the court will probably throw your case out without considering it, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the statute of limitations as it applies to your case. Even if you’re making a third party insurance claim against the other driver, and you’re sure it’s bound to settle outside of court, you always want to have the option of filing a lawsuit.
Learn more about state laws that could affect your car accident settlement or lawsuit in our article Car Accident Laws in Massachusetts.
Not every car accident case needs to be handled by a lawyer. If you were involved in a minor car accident and you are simply making a claim through your own policy in line with Massachusetts no-fault car insurance rules, you can probably handle the claim yourself.
But if you’ve suffered significant injuries and you think your claim meets the Massachusetts threshold for taking a car accident case outside of no-fault, you might find that there is a lot more at stake. An experienced lawyer can be your best bet when you’re trying to prove that your case qualifies for exemption from no-fault, and once it does qualify, your lawyer will protect your rights at every stage of any liability claim or lawsuit you decide to pursue.