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Is Compulsory Coverage Enough for Massachusetts Personal Injury?

Car accidents can be devastating: medically, emotionally, and financially, particularly when they result in personal injury. We have all dealt with the process of buying car insurance and, for the substantial majority of us, it's a minor formality associated with buying a car. The focus, of course, is on the shiny new car. But when you've been in a car accident, the insurance is the purchase that will really matter.

In other blog posts, we discuss auto insurance generally and the compulsory coverage more specifically. Here, we'll talk through whether compulsory coverage will be enough if you are in a car accident.

When you are injured in a car accident, the compulsory coverage is almost undoubtedly inadequate. That's because between the PIP max of $8,000 and the bodily injury coverage of $20,000, any substantial personal injury will be woefully uncompensated. The maximum recovery there would be $28,000. For anyone with relatively minor injuries, this may seem like enough, but let's take a closer look at the math.

If you take on the claims process without an attorney, you will not need to give up a third of the recovery to your personal injury lawyer, but you'll be disadvantaged in dealing with the claims adjuster. It will not be the claims adjuster's responsibility to explain to you all of your rights. It will not be the claims adjuster's responsibility to ensure you are treated fairly and equitably. Rather, it is the claims adjuster's responsibility to assess the claim in the light most favorable to the insurance company and, accordingly, keep the recovery at as low of a number as justifiable. So, although you may get a larger percentage of the recovery dealing directly with the claims adjuster, you are required simultaneously to negotiate with an experienced adjuster with only having a personally subjective view of your case.

Consequently, there are pros and cons to either approach, so just keep them in mind as we go through this calculation. If you were to recover the entirety of the $8,000 and the $20,000, totaling $28,000, using an attorney, your total net proceeds would be roughly $21,000. That's because most personal injury lawyers, including our firm, do not take a portion of your PIP money in our fee.

Knowing the difference between your recovery if you maxed out a policy of this nature, whether you have an attorney or not, let's go through some hypotheticals.

Let's say you were struck as a pedestrian when crossing in a crosswalk, resulting in personal injuries. Let's say further that traffic had come to a stop, and the signal indicated it was safe to cross. In this scenario, the liability of the person who struck you is clear. Let's say that when the vehicle struck you, the front fender of the vehicle hit your knee and you were thrown onto the foot of the vehicle, bouncing off, and landing on the street. Your adrenaline was pumping, and although you knew you were injured, you also felt like you could stand up and continue walking on your way. The next day, your knee was throbbing, and after a trip to the ER, you realized that you've been seriously injured.

You were soon seen by your primary care physician and an orthopedic surgeon, and you realized after some additional testing that you would require surgery. About a month later, you had outpatient surgery and started the recovery process. That involves going to physical therapy a couple of days per week for several months, until you are fully recovered. Six months after the accident, your medical bills are approximately $25,000.

In the scenario above, you are entitled to compensation under the PIP and bodily injury coverage types of auto insurance. Because you were injured as a pedestrian, that taxes the PIP policy of the individual who hit you with his car. There is simply no way for you to fully recover under the auto insurance policy. You have likely missed out on wages, clearly experienced pain and suffering, and endured the inconvenience of having to go to the hospital, doctors' appointments and physical therapy. You've likely missed out on a number of other activities that you otherwise would have enjoyed. The value of your case is probably closer to $100,000, but you'll only get $28,000. In this scenario, the compulsory coverage is inadequate.

Let's add in some facts to create a new scenario. Let's take all of the above facts and include them in this version. Let's now add the fact that you carelessly wandered into the street, not in a crosswalk, while traffic was heavily moving, and at a point in the road where it would be difficult for oncoming traffic to see you. You now have some level of comparative fault in the equation. That factor will reduce the value of your personal injury case. The reasoning here is that if you were equally at fault as the driver vehicle which struck you, your recovery would be barred. It is unclear until you actually get before a jury before how the percentage of fault will be assessed between you, the personal injury victim, and the driver of the vehicle. Let's say that in this particular case, we have determined that you could be assessed as being 25% at fault--that means if your case is valued at $100,000, your recovery would only be $75,000. So here, again, we see a scenario in which (even though there is some shared level of responsibility and negligence) the complex recovery is still inadequate.

You should be starting to see the trend here. Whenever significant damages occur, compulsory coverage is just simply inadequate. Health care is expensive, and medical bills can rise significantly in a very short period of time, even for relatively minor injuries. Factor in the other components of recovery, the other damage types, and the compulsory coverage is simply not enough. Whether or not you hire a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer, compulsory coverage is likely only adequate in the most minor of cases. Read our blog entries on optional coverage to understand who you can likely obtain much greater coverage for a small investment.

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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