Massachusetts Car Accident Pain & Suffering Damages
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Damages are generally defined as the amount of money that is provided to compensate someone who has been harmed by another's wrongdoing or negligence. In the context of auto accidents in a no-fault insurance state like Massachusetts, there is no fault component to personal injury damages. Each driver generally seeks compensation from his or her own insurer(s) in the event of a car accident, unless there are serious personal injuries involved.
There are two broad categories of damages available: Economic and Non-Economic. Damages for pain and suffering fall into the non-economic category. Following is a break-down of the types of harm covered under economic and non-economic damages:
In auto accident cases, economic damages may include:
Medical expenses – past and future
Past lost income
Future lost income
Lost support and services
Repair or replacement of damaged vehicle
Non-economic damages may include:
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship
Massachusetts operates under a no-fault system. If you are a Massachusetts driver, you are required to purchase insurance (called personal injury protection, or PIP) that will cover your own injuries if you are involved in a car accident. Your insurer covers your personal injury damages, up to your policy limits, and the other driver's insurer covers his/her personal injury damages (up to his/her policy limits), regardless of who was at fault.
So if you are involved in an accident and sustain both property damage and personal injuries, your standard Massachusetts no-fault policy with PIP will cover your medical expenses and 75% of your lost wages (depending on whether or not you also have disability coverage from your employment) up to $8,000. However, the rules change if you also happen to have health insurance. If you have health insurance, your claim will be paid by your car insurer up to $2,000. You must submit the rest to your health insurer for payment. Your health insurer is not obligated to pay the first $2,000. Whatever your health insurer does not pay, it will resubmit to PIP. If you have happen to have Medical Payment coverage under your auto insurance policy, your Med Pay will cover whatever is not covered by PIP and your health insurance. Always check your policy, as you may or may not have a "standard" Massachusetts policy.
If the other driver was at fault, his/her insurance will cover the property damage. If you opted for Collision under your own policy, you may seek coverage for damage to your vehicle.
In exchange for this guaranteed payment of claims, Massachusetts drivers give up their right to sue for all but the most serious personal injuries sustained in a car accident. If you wish to sue, you will file a bodily injury claim. Bodily injury claims are allowed only if: 1) You have incurred more than $2,000 in reasonable and necessary expenses to treat your injuries; OR 2) You have suffered any one of the following: - permanent and serious disfigurement; or - a fracture; or - loss in whole or part of a body member; or - a qualified loss of sight or hearing; or - death.
In such a lawsuit, the jury would determine, using their best judgment, how much to award in damages. To see how juries go about this task, see How Do Insurance Companies and Juries Assign Values to Pain and Suffering?
Document Your Pain and Suffering Claim (Checklist): A checklist that helps you document your economic and non-economic damages. An essential tool to help you prove and record your pain and suffering claim.
Massachusetts Motor Vehicle No-Fault limit: Text for the current Massachusetts recovery law.
Massachusetts Award of Damages Law: Massachusetts law on the award of damages for negligence cases and itemization of amounts.
Massachusetts Division of Insurance: Massachusetts' official insurance regulation site offers news, alerts, consumer insurance information, and ways to ask for help from the office. Check out the Consumer section.
Free Advice Auto Insurance Center: Articles, FAQs, free quotes and research links.