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Does My Insurance Cover my Massachusetts Car Accident Damages?

If you've been in a car accident in Massachusetts resulting in a personal injury, you could probably use some explanation by an experienced lawyer as to whether and how your car insurance is supposed to cover the damages. Let's be honest here. Most people obtain auto insurance as they purchase a new car--usually an exciting moment in one's life--and therefore the focus tends to be 99% on driving the new car and 1% on the related formalities, such as obtaining insurance, registering the vehicle, and the like.

Of course, the focus shifts when there's an accident. Massachusetts law provides a certain level of regulation and limitation on the auto insurance companies, notably resulting in a standardized auto insurance policy for the state. That means, at least historically, everyone's car insurance coverage looks the same. The language in a policy obtained through one insurance company is identical to that of one obtained through another. Although today, there is slightly more leeway and insurers are essentially permitted to enter into amendments to the policy with the consumer, there is still great consistency from one policy to another. This is a good thing. As consumers, we want to be able to compare apples to apples when shopping for insurance.

Let's discuss the different types of coverage available and provide some level of detail on each.

In Massachusetts, there are two main categories of coverage, each of which may impact your recovery when you've been in a car accident. Those categories are "Compulsory Insurance" and "Optional Insurance" coverage. The labels are pretty self explanatory. Compulsory insurance is mandated by law. The insurance companies simply can't offer a car insurance policy for sale without it. (Note: in another blog entry in this series, we'll explain how the car insurance companies have figured out a way to get around that rule, arguably deceptively, so return to this blog for reading or subscribe our our RSS feed.)

Compulsory insurance is further broken down to four types: Bodily Injury to Others, PIP, Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto, and Damage to Someone Else's Property. That's all that's required under the law.

Bodily injury to others is coverage that protects the victim you hit and injure with your vehicle. The Massachusetts mandated limits are $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. That means the most your insurance company will pay out to a person you injure under this coverage, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment, is $20,000. The max per accident is $40,000, which means that 5 people could be catastrophically injured in an accident and your policy will still only pay out that total amount (likely $8,000 each) for the accident.

PIP provides coverage up to either $2,000 or $8,000 (depending on the circumstances) for either lost wages, medical bills, or another smaller category involving third party expenses incurred as a result of your car accident. It's clear that, when the car accident is significant, this level of coverage can be grossly inadequate. The policy that pays this coverage depends on the vehicle you were in when the injury occurred.

Bodily injury caused by an uninsured auto is coverage that your own policy pays you for your personal injuries when the person who caused them had no coverage. Of course, that would mean either the other party was in violation of Massachusetts law and had no coverage, or he or she was from a state which does not have a compulsory insurance. Either way, the policy limits, like in the BI coverage, are set at $20,000/$40,000.

Lastly in the compulsory insurance category is damage to someone else's property. This coverage provides, as it sounds, money for the damage to personal property (such as the other driver's car).

We'll dive into optional insurance in subsequent blog entries, so please return here for more on that topic. If you've been in a car accident, researching how your insurance coverage works and how the law applies in Massachusetts, generally, is important. However, this area of law involves objective assessment of the merits of a negligence case and, as a result, cases are usually very fact-specific. I recommend speaking with a Boston personal injury lawyer.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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