When someone causes a car accident, we expect them to stay, give their contact and insurance details, and assist the injured if there are any. However, some motorists might not want to take responsibility and choose to flee instead. We refer to this as a hit and run.
Being a hit and run victim in Massachusetts does not mean you have no options for recovering any accident-related expenses you might have. Here is how a Massachusetts hit and run accident lawyer from GED Lawyers can assist you with getting a settlement after the collision.
Using a Hit and Run to Prove Liability
Fleeing the area after a collision is illegal and has its corresponding penalties under Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 90 § 24. Besides the criminal charges a liable driver might face, victims can also use the hit and run as proof of their negligence. After all, the at-fault motorist breached their duty of care by leaving the crash scene without rendering any assistance.
For instance, a hit and run victim can argue their injuries worsened because the driver fled instead of calling for medical aid. The motorist would then be liable for both the accident and leaving the scene. Your Massachusetts hit and run accident lawyer studies the relevant laws in your case, which can help in investigating how else the hit and run driver is liable for the crash.
Primary Compensation Options after a Hit and Run
In Massachusetts, you can recover some damages even if the hit and run driver remains at large. This is because the state’s no-fault auto insurance rules require you to use your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance first, as we will discuss further below.
Your hit and run accident lawyer can assist with gathering evidence of the accident. These can include photographs of the car’s damage, dashcam footage, and medical records. The attorney can also help compile your expenses, which will help estimate your damages more accurately.
Using PIP Insurance First
As mentioned earlier, you can only use your Personal Injury Protection insurance first unless you meet Massachusetts’ tort thresholds. PIP insurance is mandatory coverage that helps pay for your injury-related damages after an auto accident. These can include:
- Medical expenses, such as hospitalizations, prescription drugs, and treatments
- Income lost at your job or business while injured
- Replacement services hired while recovering from the injury, such as housekeeping and childcare
PIP can also shoulder your funeral expenses if a loved one dies in a hit-and-run accident. However, it does not let you recover non-economic or pain and suffering damages, such as emotional trauma and disabilities. On the other hand, the coverage will kick in regardless of liability.
How to Recover Property Damages
Had the accident not been a hit and run, you would have been able to file a property damage claim with the driver. Massachusetts lets you proceed with a claim with the at-fault motorist if you only want to recover damages for your auto repairs and other property-related expenses.
Since the driver cannot be found, you would have to search for other options. For instance, if you carry collision insurance, you can use it to have your vehicle repairs compensated.
Filing for Damages If the Driver Is Found
Finding the hit and run driver does not mean you can automatically sue them for injury-related damages. Your injury or medical expenses must meet the conditions stated in Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 231 § 6D before you can sue them. Third-party actions will let you recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Your hit and run accident lawyer can guide you through the filing processes and represent you when dealing with the at-fault party’s insurance provider or attending court proceedings.
Choosing Between Liability Claims or Lawsuits
Massachusetts also requires motorists to carry liability insurance to pay for their victims’ expenses if they cause accidents. As such, you could file a claim with their insurer to get compensated.
However, there are instances where filing a lawsuit may be more feasible. For example, the driver’s coverage might be insufficient to fully compensate you. In lawsuits, the civil court is not restricted by insurance policy limits and can award higher settlements as they see fit.
Your hit and run accident lawyer can review the situation before advising you on whether a claim or a lawsuit would be the more suitable option.
Comparative Fault Rules Will Apply
The comparative negligence laws in Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 231 § 85 will apply to third-party settlements, including your hit-and-run accident case. So, even if the other driver is more liable for leaving the crash scene, your damages might still get deducted if you also share some fault in the accident.
For example, suppose you are 45 percent liable after the court reviewed all the evidence from both sides of the case. That means the hit and run driver only owes you 55 percent of the total settlement amount.
Do note that being over 50 percent liable will bar you from recovery. It would be in your best interest to review everything with your Massachusetts hit and run accident lawyer to reduce the chances of your statements and evidence getting used against you.
Statute of Limitations for Massachusetts Hit-and-Run Cases
If the driver stayed at the crash scene, you generally have three years from the crash date to file your case. However, Massachusetts hit and runs have a different statute of limitations. While you also have a three-year time limit, you must file the case within six months of discovering the at-fault motorist’s identity.
Missing the deadline means automatic dismissal, so it would be prudent to start building your case while it is still early.
Our Hit and Run Lawyers Are Here to Help
A hit and run makes an auto accident even more stressful and complicated than normal, but do not let it keep you from filing for compensation. GED Lawyers is always ready to defend your right to recover the damages owed to you. Our attorneys have nearly three decades of experience settling injury cases in Massachusetts, including hit-and-run incidents.
You can call now for a free consultation. Get your questions answered and learn your rights and options. We are available 24/7 to help you.