Massachusetts is a No-Fault State
As Massachusetts is a no-fault state in terms of motor vehicle insurance law, generally your own insurance company will cover your expenses in the case of a car accident, regardless of who was at fault. However, under certain circumstances, such as when a negligent driver strikes you and causes you permanent and serious disfigurement, you may need to recover damages from the other driver’s insurer. Of course, the insurance company will do its best to pay as little as possible. One way insurance companies accomplish this is by proving that the accident was your fault. Under Massachusetts law, if you are 51% or more at fault for the accident, you recover nothing.
In some situations, the insurance company doesn’t even need to prove anything in order to find you 50% at fault. The Massachusetts Code of Regulations, 211 Mass. Code Regs. 74.04, contains a list of circumstances under which you are presumed to be at least 50% at fault. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you’ll have to work to prove that the accident wasn’t your fault.
Circumstances in Which you are Presumed At Fault
Collision with Person or Parked Vehicle – State regulations presume you to be at fault if you collide with a person or a parked car, even if the car is parked illegally.
Rear End Collision – If you collide into the back of any vehicle, you’re presumed at-fault, whether or not that car is parked or driven, and whether or not the driver slammed on the brakes or engaged in other risky behaviors.
Out of Lane Collision – If you leave your lane in order to pass another vehicle or to make a turn across another vehicle’s path, and you collide with that other vehicle, you’re presumed at fault. Or if a vehicle is passing you and you drift out of your lane colliding with the passing vehicle, you’re presumed at fault.
Failure to Signal – If you were changing lanes during the collision and didn’t have your turn signals activated, you’re presumed at fault.
Failure to Proceed Cautiously from Traffic Control – If you’re stopped at a red light or a stop sign, when it is time to go again, you must check for cross traffic. If you don’t proceed with due caution, any resulting collision is presumed to be your fault. You can imagine that this one might be a little harder to prove than the others. What, after all, is “due caution”?
Wrong Side of the Road – If you are on the wrong side of the road, meaning you’ve cross the center line into opposing traffic, any collision with another vehicle is presumably your fault.
Wrong Way – If you’re driving on a one-way street in the wrong direction, any resulting collision is presumed your fault.
Uncontrolled Intersections – If you get into a collision at an intersection where there is no traffic light or stop sign, you will be presumed at fault if you entered the intersection from a secondary (basically, a smaller, less traveled) road, or if you were to the left of the other vehicle but failed to yield, or if you entered the intersection at a later point in time than the other vehicle.
Backing Up – If you hit anyone while backing up, you’re presumed at fault.
Left Turns and U-Turns – Any collision while you’re making a left turn across traffic or a U-turn is presumed your fault.
Leaving From Certain Places – If you’re leaving a parking lot, alley, driveway, or a parking spot, any collision is your fault by presumption.
Open Door – If your car door is open, or you’re opening it, and it causes a collision, that’s presumed to be your fault.
Single Vehicle – If you’re the only vehicle involved in the collision, it’s presumed to be your fault.
Do you have questions about who was at fault?
Contact the Worcester County law firm of Peter Ventura to help you prove fault in your car accident case.