There are many different ways motor vehicle collisions can occur. However, in the vast majority of cases, these are not truly “accidents,” but rather are due to the fault of at least one driver. When a car accident is caused by the carelessness or recklessness of one or more individuals, it may be a form of negligence negligence and is therefore the basis of filing a personal injury claim, particularly if there were serious injuries or fatalities.
However, it’s not enough simply to assert fault. One must prove negligence – defendant had a duty, defendant breached duty, breach of duty caused plaintiff’s injuries. This is sometimes a contentious issues in car accident litigation. In other cases, there is no question as to fault, but there is fierce dispute over damages. If a car was only scratched and there was no other serious damage to the vehicle, yet the occupant suffered substantial personal injury, the auto insurer is likely to fight the claim, arguing the injuries do not line up with the impact in the crash.
When this happens, the insurance will company will often make what your experienced Boston car accident lawyer calls a nuisance offer. The insurance does not think they have a real chance of losing a lot of money at court so they do not make a fair offer. However, while many car accident lawyers just accept anything they can get, you want to make sure you have an aggressive lawyer who will fight for your right to the compensation you deserve, even if that means going to trial.
“Clear Liability” in Boston Car Accident Cases
As we have discussed our posting entitled “Massachusetts Car Accident Lawsuits 101,” even under Massachusetts’ no-fault car insurance scheme, when it comes to filing a case in court, we are often going to be filing a claim based up negligence. Pursuant to model civil jury instructions for the Commonwealth, negligence is the failure to use a degree of care that a reasonable and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances to prevent an accident such as the one that occurred.
There are a variety of ways a driver can breach his or her duty of care when out on the road, and sometimes it is a close call, however, when a car crashes into the back of another car, there is often little question of negligence unless the lead car was cut off and then crashed into the car that failed to yield right of way.
In cases where there is a rear-end collision, there is generally not a question of liability. The officer or trooper who responds to the dispatcher call and reports to the crash scene will likely issue a moving violation to the driver who hit the front vehicle. When this occurs, we will likely have what is called a clear liability case. In these cases, the insurance company will normally accept liability fairly quickly. They will also offer to pay the victim money and fix the person’s car, or offer market value in the event it was totaled. However, aside from getting your car fix, which is fine to do, they will often ask if you need any money to compensate you for your loss. This offer will be low, possibly to the point of being embarrassing.
However, the insurance company knows you are likely in a state of shock or grief and they also known that money is an immediate concern. They are hoping you take this money because if you do, you have to sign a formal liability waiver that will excuse the company and the at-fault driver for any and all negligent conduct related to this accident.
In other words, if you take any money from the insurance company, other than to fix or replace your car, they will make you sign a release, and once you sign this release, you will not be able to get any money from the accident other than what they sent you. We have seen cases where insurance companies have offered as little as $200 knowing that there would likely be over $10,000 in medical bills alone. Another issue is that the insurance company will often ask you to make what is known as a recorded statement prior to getting any money, even to fix your car. They want you to make this statement before you are represented by an experienced Boston auto accident attorney, and if possible, while you are still in shock from the accident. The best thing you should do is speak with a car accident lawyer before you make any statements, recorded or otherwise, and you should not sign any papers without the assistance of counsel either.
You Still Need an Experienced Boston Car Accident Lawyer in Rear End Crash Cases
As we said before, a rear-end car accident is often a clear liability case. That means there is no question as to who is at fault. Again, there are exceptions to this such as with a chain-reaction car accident or a situation where one driver cuts off another driver, but this is the general rule.
In a clear liability case, the car insurance company will likely accept liability and tell you they are prepared to make you a settlement offer. While some might be tempted to simply take this offer, and not have to pay any contingency fees, the problem with doing that is that the offer they make to an unrepresented party is likely to be many times less than what it would take for the victim to receive a full and appropriate financial recovery. The company will try to exploit your fears about not having enough money and try to get away with paying you pennies on the dollar.
One last thing to keep in mind is that while you should not make any recorded statements before speaking with an experienced car accident lawyer is that you should be polite with everyone including the police and the insurance company. Even though the you will not be making a statement, expect that they will keep calling as many as five times a day. The only way to stop this is to hire a car accident lawyer in Boston and have that lawyer send a letter to indicate they are representing you. This rep letter as it is often called should keep the car insurance company from calling you anymore. If they do have a rep letter in hand, they will keep calling repeatedly.
Interestingly, due to the insurance companies’ very strong lobbying efforts, a law is in place that prevents a personal injury lawyer from contacting an accident victim within a few weeks of the accident. This means that a lawyer can advertise, but can’t call accident victims. The claim being that the victims would be in a state of shock and could not address the matter properly. However, the insurance companies are allowed to call victims the day of the accident, while they are still in the hospital and ask for a recorded statement and make a very low settlement offer. This is clearly and example of how the insurance companies are often far more concerned about making money that making sure an accident victim gets the financial compensation they deserve. It should be noted, that there is no prohibition on you contacting a lawyer as soon after the accident as you see fit.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
Model civil jury instructions for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
More Blog Entries:
School in Falmouth Holds Memorial for Student Athletes Killed in Crash, Feb. 12, 2017, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog