Bicycling and Personal Injury Claims in Massachusetts

By: Deanna Power
Guest Content Contributor
Personal Injury Law

Thousands of people in Massachusetts rely on their bikes for transportation to and from work, and for good reason: According to The League of American Bicyclists, MA is the 4th highest bicycle friendly state in the US, ranking high in bicycle policies, and bicycle education among the population.

Unfortunately, accidents can occur in bicycle-friendly states like Massachusetts. If you are severely injured in an accident with a motorist, there are resources available. Filing a personal injury bill can help pay for your hospital bills and any other associated expenses, giving you the opportunity to focus on recovery.

Are You Eligible for a Personal Injury Claim?

Not all bicyclists who are injured in an accident will be able to win a personal injury claim.  When handling personal injury claims, a court will determine who was at fault in the accident. In MA, a bicycle must obey the same rules motorists experience, meaning that the party at fault will be whoever committed a traffic violation. Common traffic violations include not using a turn signal, neglecting to yield, turning left without a green light, and not stopping at a stop sign or stop light (the most common bicyclist violation).

Proof of who was at fault will be very important when filing a personal injury claim, so be sure to get as many witness statements as possible when filing a police report at the scene of the accident. It is also a good idea for all bicyclists to wear Go Pros or other similar wearable cameras.

Comparative Fault and a Personal Injury Claim

When determining how much a claimant should be awarded in a personal injury claim, Massachusetts uses something called “comparative fault.” Comparative fault looks at how much an injured party was responsible for the accident, and reduces an award by however much the injured party was at fault. For example:

A bicyclist was cycling down a street in MA, while listening to music with headphones. He does not hear the car coming up behind him and is hit. A court looks at the case and decides that since the bicyclist was listening to music, he was 20% responsible for the accident. The court awards him $5,000, but reduces the payment by 20% to $4,000 to account for the bicyclist’s negligence.

No-Fault in Car Accidents in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a “no fault” state when it comes to auto accidents, which means that a claimant cannot file a claim unless the accident meets a certain threshold. In MA, an injured bicyclist cannot file a personal injury claim unless his or her hospital bills are over $2,000, or the claimant breaks bones or becomes “seriously disfigured” or loses eyesight. To file a personal injury claim in MA under the no-fault law, a bicyclist must have already proved that he or she was also not at fault during the incident.

Because every driver in MA is required to carry no-fault insurance, a bicyclist will be entitled to up to $8,000 from the driver’s insurance. The first $2,000 is only for medical bills, while the remaining $6,000 is available for lost wages or other expenses. No-fault gives bicyclists assistance even if they were the party found at fault during the incident, or if their medical bills are moderately low.

How to File a Personal Injury Claim

Massachusetts has a three year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, meaning that if a claim is filed more than three years after the accident occurs, the claim will immediately be dismissed. To file a personal injury claim, a bicyclist will need the contact and insurance information of the driver responsible for the crash. The bicyclist will also need all medical bills, history of doctor’s appointments, and records of any lost wages. Courts in MA require a filing fee of $200 or more, depending on the jurisdiction in which you file.

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