In Massachusetts, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness, then you have the right to seek financial compensation for your injuries and damages. There is one caveat, however, specifically when it comes to pain and suffering damages. Below I will discuss the requirement that must be satisfied before you are able to recover damages for pain and suffering in a motor vehicle accident case.
A Basic Overview of Motor Vehicle Accidents
If you have been injured in a car crash in Massachusetts due to another person’s carelessness you have the legal right to pursue and receive financial compensation. This is commonly done by filing a claim for bodily injury with the other driver’s auto insurance carrier. Your claim will seek compensation for your out-of-pocket medical costs and expenses, lost wages or lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If you are able to reach an agreement for settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, they you will settle without the need to go to court.
In the event the other driver’s insurance company disputes liability (they blame you or someone else for causing the accident) or contests the damages or injuries you claim to have incurred, you have the legal right in Massachusetts to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident and your injuries. The lawsuit will go through the normal progress of a lawsuit in the Massachusetts courts.
The Threshold Requirement to Recover for Pain and Suffering
Before an injured person can recover damages for their pain and suffering from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident, they must meet a threshold requirement under Massachusetts law. Massachusetts General Laws c. 231 § 6D requires that “In any action of tort brought as a result of bodily injury…arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle…a plaintiff may recover damages for pain and suffering…only if the reasonable and necessary [medical] expenses are determined to be in excess of two thousand dollars…” So, basically our laws require more than $2,000.00 in medical bills as a threshold measure to recover for pain and suffering.
There are a few exceptions to this general rule. The $2,000.00 requirement is not necessary if such injury suffered in a motor vehicle accident (1) causes death, or (2) consists in whole or in part of loss of a body member, or (3) consists in whole or in part of permanent and serious disfigurement, or (4) results in such loss of sight or hearing.
How This Requirement Affects Actual Cases
I met with a young man recently who was hurt in a car accident in Framingham, MA. It appears that the other driver was clearly at fault for causing the accident. The other driver rear ended the young man and caused injury to his neck and back in the accident. Because this young man’s injuries were suffered out of the operation of a motor vehicle, the requirement under M.G.L c. 231 § 6D applies. This means that the young man can only recover damages for his pain and suffering if his medical bills were in excess of $2,000.00. The young man, however, refused to be transported to the emergency room by ambulance, even thought it was recommended by the EMTs and police that arrived at the accident scene. By the time he came to our office to meet with me, he still had not seen a doctor for his injuries. By law, he would not be able to recover damages for his pain and suffering because he did not meet the $2,000.00 threshold requirement. The other driver’s insurance company would refuse to offer a settlement for the pain and suffering he suffered.
Based upon the Massachusetts threshold requirement, we always recommend to anyone who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident to seek medical attention for their injuries. Sure, if you are not hurt there is no need to see a doctor. But, if you are hurt or believe you may have an injured, it is best to seek medical attention. Seeing a doctor will get you the medical attention you need for your injuries and also help protect your legal rights to seek and recover damages for pain and suffering.
Also, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recently reported on a personal injury lawsuit that went to trial. In that case, a woman was injured in a car accident and sought financial compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering for her injuries. Unfortunately, she failed to introduce any medical bills at her trial and the judge entered a directed verdict for the defendant. This means that the judge found that the plaintiff did not meet the $2,000.00 threshold requirement because she did not introduce any medical bills at her trial. Therefore, the judge entered a verdict for the defendant and the plaintiff lost and did not recover any money. This woman was represented by an attorney.
This is a great example of why anyone injured in an accident in Massachusetts should hire a personal injury attorney that is not only experienced in handling car accident cases, but is a qualified litigator and familiar with the rules of evidence and experienced in trial.
If You Have Been Injured in an Accident, Get Legal Help Today
If you or someone you know suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, a very important decision you can make right away is to seek advice from an experienced injury attorney. Mahaney & Pappas, LLP has represented countless people hurt in accidents in Massachusetts and have the experience and qualifications to help you.
Call us at 508-879-3500, or contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation meeting and case evaluation. At our meeting, we will explain your legal rights and options and answer all of your questions.