Motorcycle accidents are among the most dangerous. Because of the way bikes are designed, riders of motorcycles often suffer bad injuries when they get into an accident. Those injuries, as well as whatever the bike went through, are likely to cost a lot of money to take care of. It only makes sense for the party at fault to pay for them.
But how does Massachusetts law determine fault in a motorcycle accident? To answer that question we’re going to first define what we mean by “at fault” in a legal sense. It’s not as clear-cut as you might think. Next, we’ll look at how this is determined in the event of a motorcycle accident. Finally, we’ll look at what options remain should you disagree with the results of the first found fault.
What Does it Mean to be At Fault in Massachusetts?
In some states, to be at fault means that all of the blame for what happened rests on your shoulders. That would mean that all responsibility is legally assigned to you and it is your responsibility alone to cover the damages in the case in question.
Here in Boston, things don’t work like that.
To be at fault in Massachusetts means that more than 50% of the blame for an accident is yours. However, blame is not something that only one person holds. If you got into an accident where both you and the other driver were acting in a negligent manner, then that blame would rightfully be shared between you.
An injured individual can seek damages so long as they hold less than 51% of the blame for the accident. But whatever amount of blame they hold can be reduced from how much compensation they would get. So an individual that held 20% of the blame for an accident would see their compensation reduced by 20%. In cases where no one individual had 51% of the blame and thus would have to cover the damages, then it would fall to insurance companies to compensate with those percentages of blame in mind.
How is Fault Determined in a Motorcycle Accident?
It will be up to the courts to decide who is at fault for the motorcycle accident in question. There are some situations in which fault can be presumed by insurance companies. These are pre-defined accident scenarios that cover some of the most common types of motorcycle accidents. We’ll discuss what can be done in the event that you were presumed at fault by your insurance company below.
Cases where guilt is presumed include:
- Hitting a pedestrian or a parked vehicle
- Read-end collision
- Out of lane collision
- Single-vehicle collisions
- Failure to signal
- Failure to proceed with caution from a traffic sign
- Operating the vehicle in the wrong direction
- Collision at uncontrolled intersections
- Collisions when backing up
- Leaving a parking lot, alley, or driveway
- Collisions when making a U-turn
- Opening-door collisions
While these situations allow for fault to be presumed, typically there will be an investigation into the accident. Usually, each person involved in the accident will have an insurance company investigating it.
These investigations aren’t as trustworthy as hiring an attorney yourself. This is because the insurance companies are less interested in helping you than they are in making money. They want to reduce their liability and that can mean mistreating you. An attorney, on the other hand, works to cover your interests and can help by launching their own investigation into the accident to determine where the fault lies.
What Happens If You Disagree with the Determination of Fault?
Remember how we mentioned that insurance companies don’t always have your back? If you believe that an insurance company that found you at fault was wrong, you do still have the option to try to appeal this decision.
You can file an appeal with the Board of Appeal at the Division of Insurance. This will lead to an informal hearing wherein the matter will be decided. Any appeal will need to be made within thirty days. There is an exception, should you have not received a notice of At-Fault Accident Determination within thirty days, that allows you to obtain a Late Appeal Form but this does not guarantee that it’ll be accepted.
Filing an appeal costs $50, payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, if you win your appeal then you will be saving a lot more money.
If you have got a determination from the Board of Appeal and you still disagree, you can appeal the decision to your county’s Superior Court or Suffolk County Superior Court. Again, this must be filed within 30 days. You will need to enclose a certified copy of the Memorandum of Finding and Order (which will cost $20 to obtain from the Board of Appeal), as well as your complaint against the Board of Appeal.
Keep in mind, if the accident results in less than $1,000 in damages then it will be too low of a determination to challenge in this manner. In these circumstances, it would cost more in legal fees than it would in damages and you should be thankful that the accident was so minor.
Should I Hire an Attorney for My Boston Motorcycle Accident?
Anytime you need to put a claim into an insurance company, it’s a smart idea to speak to a lawyer first. This is especially true when speaking about accident claims.
If your accident isn’t clearly cut-and-dry, as so few are, then one of the smartest moves you can do is to hire an attorney to represent your interests. Rather than leave all the investigating to the insurance companies, an attorney can gather information without bias, and together you can use this to ensure that fault falls to the right person and you get the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, reach out to Joel H. Schwartz P.C to learn how we can help you to move forward from here.