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No-fault insurance doesn’t mean at-fault drivers can’t be sued

Many drivers mistakenly believe Massachusetts law prevents them from filing suit

Massachusetts is one of a handful of no-fault auto insurance states, but this status often leads to confusion among drivers. One of the biggest misconceptions is that no-fault insurance prevents an injured motorist from filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This misconception lies in the belief that insurance will always pay for damages and expenses associated with a car accident regardless of who the at-fault driver is. However, while no-fault insurance limits drivers' abilities to file some lawsuits, in many cases, especially those involving serious accidents, such lawsuits can still be filed in order to seek compensation beyond what an injured motorist's insurance policy provides.

What does no-fault mean?

While no-fault insurance is admittedly complicated, it basically means that all drivers in Massachusetts involved in a crash will be compensated for a portion of their expenses regardless of who was responsible for the accident. According to the website for the Attorney General of Massachusetts, every driver in Massachusetts is required to have no-fault insurance, which is referred to as personal injury protection (PIP). PIP is legally required to cover motorists up to a minimum of $8,000 and it covers medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement services, according the Automobile Insurers Bureau.

When can an at-fault driver be sued?

No-fault insurance means that in some circumstances an at-fault driver cannot be sued by the injured driver since the mandatory insurance is designed to cover such expenses. However, since insurance coverage only goes so far, at-fault drivers can still be sued by the other driver so long as certain thresholds are met. For example, PIP will only cover medical expenses up to $2,000; therefore, if an injured motorist's medical expenses exceed that threshold then they may be able to file a suit against the other driver. Additionally, certain types of injuries suffered by a motorist allow him or her to file a claim. Those injuries are defined by state law as permanent vision or hearing loss, disfigurement, or broken bones.

The above is simply a general guideline of the rights injured motorists have under state law to hold at-fault drivers responsible for their actions. The truth is, of course, that car insurance laws and regulations are notoriously complex. Anybody who is filing a car insurance claim or seeking damages for pain and suffering caused by a negligent driver should contact a highly qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Because insurers of all parties involved in an accident will often do all they can to avoid paying out on a claim, it is vital for claimants to have legal representation willing to fight to get injured motorists the compensation they deserve.

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