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In Massachusetts automobile accidents are a part of life. Our congested and convoluted highway system in and around Boston, the North Shore, Metrowest, Southeastern Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands creates dangerous conditions wherein car accidents are a fact of life. Our narrow winding roads and rotaries certainly help contribute to the number of automobile accidents. When you are in an automobile accident, there are important steps you need to take to protect your rights.

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  • WHAT TO DO AFTER AN ACCIDENT

    Oftentimes, a victim of an automobile accident will leave the scene of an accident without fully protecting his/her rights. Because the accident is straight-forward, you are not at fault, the other driver admits fault and gives you his/her insurance information, you leave the scene without contacting the police. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONTACT THE POLICE AFTER AN ACCIDENT.

    The responding police office will conduct an investigation, including interviewing the drivers of each vehicle. The office will look at the physical evidence such as the property damage to each vehicle, the location and point of impact of each vehicle, and will interview witnesses to the accident. The police office, as an independent investigator, will provide a narrative of the accident and this narrative report becomes part of the investigative record governing the case. The tortfeasor, the party responsible for the accident, will more likely than not be more truthful to the investigating officer at the scene of the accident than he might be two or three days later when reporting the accident to an insurance company. In fact, sometimes the party at fault will not report an accident to the insurance company, hoping that everything will just go away.

    The importance of the police report is seen almost immediately. Both your insurance company; and the insurance company insuring the at-fault operator will examine the police report to determine who will pay for a rental vehicle and who will pay for the damage done to your car. Many times the liability decision made by the insurance company, as gleaned from the police report, governs your right to recover for your personal injuries and pain and suffering. Do not permit the tortfeasor to evade responsibility by leaving the scene of the accident before the police arrive.

    SEEK MEDICAL CARE

    Every personal injury case arising out of a car accident is serious. Certainly, some are more serious than others, however, every injured victim of an automobile accident is entitled to the full protection of the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If you are injured in an automobile accident, you need to take the appropriate steps to protect your important legal rights. Many times pain will be apparent at the scene of the accident. Tell the responding police officer. Do not refuse medical attention at the scene if you need it. An ambulance will take you to the local emergency room. Be sure to tell the emergency room doctors exactly what happened to you and describe all of the injuries you are experiencing no matter how slight they seem to you. This will ensure that you receive proper treatment for all of your injuries. If you do not want to use the ambulance, you can drive to the local emergency room yourself. Again, tell the doctors about all of your injuries.

    Sometimes, the onset of pain and suffering is delayed. Pain may manifest itself the next day or even later. Oftentimes, neck pain, back pain, headaches, shoulder pain and the likemay become apparent only after the anxiety of the stress-filled event of an automobile accident subsides. As soon as the pain is noticed, seek medical attention. A visit to the local emergence room is reasonable and appropriate. Also, a consult with a primary care physician or a chiropractor falls within the standard of reasonableness of treatment. On the initial visit, it is imperative that you tell the doctors about all of your injuries.

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    HOW WILL MY BILLS GET PAID?

    Medical bills, lost wages and prescriptions reimbursements are paid under an automobile insurance policy. In Massachusetts, a person involved in a car accident is covered by what is known as Personal Injury Protection or PIP benefits. The insurance company providing PIP benefits will generally be the insurance company of the car you were in at the time of the accident. Each person injured in an automobile accident has a total of $8,000 of PIP benefits available to cover medical bills, lost wages, prescription reimbursements and replacement services in case in you are unable to perform your usual household chores. Special rules apply if you also have a health insurance policy.

    If you are covered under a private health insurance policy, the PIP automobile insurance company will pay the first $2,000 of medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident. The remaining bills are then submitted to the health insurance carrier for payment. Your health insurance carrier will pay the medical expenses according to the terms of the plan. Thereafter, all co-pays and non-covered services will be submitted to the PIP carrier for payment. You must comply with the terms and conditions of your health insurance plan. If you need a referral, get a referral. If you have a network of providers, stay with your network. If you do not comply with the terms of your health insurance, neither the PIP benefits or the health insurance benefits will pay the medical bills.

    The PIP benefits will pay 75% of the gross average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to the accident. Sick and vacation time can be used, but you may not collect both PIP lost wages and sick or vacation pay for the same period of disability. Sometimes an employer offers a short-term disability insurance policy. If so, you must apply for the short term disability benefits ad the PIP benefits will pay you the difference between what you receive in STD payments and 75% of your average weekly wage. The PIP benefits will only reimburse lost wages due to disability relating to an automobile accident. The benefits will not reimburse lost wages for time lost when you see your doctors or meet with your attorney.

    PAIN AND SUFFERING

    You may also recover for your pain and suffering arising from a law suit. The right to recover for personal injury is determined by your degree of fault in an accident. Generally speaking, if upon review of the facts leading to the accident, you are deemed to be 50% at fault or less, you have a right to recover for your pain and suffering. Massachusetts also has a tort threshold test for the presentation of a pain and suffering claim. You must meet one of the following requirements:

    • You must incur $2,000 or more of medical expenses related to the treatment of injuries resulting from the accident. These can include expenses for emergency room care, tests like x-rays and MRIs, doctor, chiropractor and physical therapy visits, ambulance rides and the cost of prescription medication; or
    • You must have a fracture as a result of the accident; or
    • You must receive permanent scarring on your body; or
    • The accident results in the death of the claimant.

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    Morgan & Murphy Person Injury Attorneys
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    Sample of Verdicts

      $150,000 settlement on a SLIP AND FALL ON ICE AND SNOW. The client underwent surgery for a broken leg after he slipped and fell on the sidewalk outside his home. We recovered pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses for the client.

      $80,000 settlement for a slip and fall at a convenience store on a wet floor. The client sustained several broken bones. The convenience store defended saying that there were "WET FLOOR" posted throughout the area. Despite that the defense, we were able to get the insurance company to pay for medical expenses and pain and suffering.

      $30,000 settlement for an OUT OF STATE DOG BITE CLAIM. We contended that the dog's owner was strictly liable for the injury to the finger and we were able to settle the claim successfully without having to leave Massachusetts.

      $100,000 policy limit settlement for a person injured in an auto accident. During arbitration we successfully argued that the plaintiff's pre-existing, congenital Chiari Malformation was aggravated to such an extent by the injuries sustained in the car accident that they became disabling and in need of surgical correction. The arbitrator agreed and ordered the insurance company to pay the entire amount of its policy.