While some cases will go to court and require an actual trial before a judge (bench trial) or even a jury, the clear majority of Boston car accidents will settle prior to going to trial. The reason for this is because, whenever there is a car accident, we are virtually always dealing with an insurance company.
Car insurance companies make a lot of money in what is essentially a gamble. They are taking money from the insured and betting there will not be an accident, or at least if there is, it will cost less to pay for that accident than the amount they receive in premium payments. However, the insurance company really can’t lose this bet, because they have more than one insured motorist. They have so many clients that the risk is spread over a pool of drivers. This means that, as long as they do not pay out more in claims for all of the their insured than they collect in premiums, they will make money.As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, this figurative gamble came from a literal gamble. You may have heard of the famous insurance company “Lloyds of London.” This was originally the name of a coffee shop in the 1600s and 1700s, and people would gamble on whether ships would make it across the Atlantic Ocean and whether the sick would live or die. Eventually, because there were so many accusations that gamblers were sinking ships in order to win and doing other nefarious things, laws were established to require that in order to insure something, you must have a so-called insurable interest. This means you can insure your own car, but not your neighbor’s car. The reasoning is that you would theoretically have nothing to lose if something happened to that neighbor’s car, and you would collect on the policy. There are some exceptions, such as that a business can have a life insurance policy on a partner.
While we have said the insurance companies are interested in making a profit, it would be more accurate to say they are interested in making as much money as possible. One of the ways they do this by trying to get Boston car accident victims to take embarrassingly low offers.
Massachusetts No Fault System
The legislature in our Commonwealth tried to limit the number of car accident lawsuits by making insurance companies provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for all drivers and not allowing lawsuits to be filed unless there was more than $2,000 in damages. In reality, this was a mixed bag of results, because the insurance companies answer to this was to not write policies. For many years, if you called up a major insurance carrier after seeing a commercial on TV, you would be told they would to not sell policies to drivers in Massachusetts. To a great extent, this is no longer the case, so the cases now work pretty much like they do in every other state. As to the $2,000 requirement, anyone who has been to an emergency room in Boston knows how lucky you would be to get out of there without a $3,500 bill these days.
As for what it means to be at fault, according to the Massachusetts Division of Insurance and the Code of Municipal Regulations (CMR), a driver is at fault when the accident was at least 51 percent his or her fault. The reason for this 51 percent requirement is that we have what is known as a comparative negligence system.
Unlike at common law, and what is still the law in at least three other jurisdictions, if a plaintiff was in any way at fault in the accident, he or she could not recover any damages (money) at trial. In our current system, even if the plaintiff was negligent in causing the accident, as long as the defendant was more than 51 percent at fault also, plaintiff can still recover at trial. However, the award to the plaintiff would be reduced by the amount that he or she is at fault. For example, if plaintiff was deemed to be 10 percent at fault and was awarded $100,000 at trial, the damages award would be reduced by ten percent, meaning the plaintiff would receive $90,000 instead of the total $100,000. If, however, plaintiff was 51 percent responsible, he or she would not receive any money.
The Low Offer
The first thing the car insurance company will do, as we have discussed in other posts on this blog, is call up the victim or a family member of the victim on the day of the accident, while the victim is still being treated at the hospital. They will mention how this is all costing a lot of money in medical bills, and they want to do the right thing and offer you money now. This is a very low offer in most cases. While it may seem appealing at the time, it is likely pennies on the dollar for what your claim is really worth. They want you to take this offer and sign a waiver that means you will never have to pay any more money in the future and you cannot file a suit. Do not agree to this or anything else without first speaking with an experienced Boston car accident lawyer. The insurance company certainly does not have your best interests in mind. Remember, they want to pay as little as possible to maximize profits.
The Demand Letter
Once you have hired a Boston auto accident lawyer, he or she will send a representation letter (rep letter as it often called) to the insurance company telling them not to contact you in the future. All communications should be with the law firm.
Once this has been done, and you are in treatment for your injuries, your attorney will continue with his or her investigation and assist you in gathering the needed documents. Once you have all of the bills for the emergency room and any other treatment providers, your attorney will send a demand letter that will include claims for past medical bills, future medical expenses, and other economic damages known as specials. There will also be a demand for pain and suffering and any lost wages.
At this point, the insurance company will make an offer. Many attorneys are inclined to take this money and move on the next client. They are essentially running a volume business where they make a little money on each case and want to handle as many cases as possible as quickly as possible. This is basically a law practice that operates like a big box store. You want to make sure your attorney will fight for a better settlement offer to get you the money you rightfully deserve. If the insurance company does not make a fair offer, you want to make sure your attorney will actually take the case to trial when necessary.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — (617) 777-7777.
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School in Falmouth Holds Memorial for Student Athletes Killed in Crash, Feb. 12, 2017, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog