Who's liable?
July 20, 2007 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find info on whether or not I am liable in an auto accident, short of hiring a lawer?

I was recently in a car accident and it is ambiguous who is to blame. Is there anywhere I can find information on this without finding a lawyer. I'm in massachusetts, by the way. I don't want to go into it more detail because, well, I could be liable. Couldn't find anything while searching. Little help?
posted by es_de_bah to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
How is it ambiguous? I've had my share and then some of auto accidents and each time the officer told me and the other party who was at fault or if no one was at fault (road conditions, weather, etc.). Were the police not involved?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:31 AM on July 20, 2007


your question evidences a misunderstanding of the nature of liability. you aren't liable until you either admit liability or you are found liable by a court. google isn't going to help you, but a lawyer could assess your situation and tell you the likelihood of ultimate liability. since you don't want to talk to a lawyer....

help us out here a little. did you break any traffic laws when you got into this accident? how about the other driver, did he/she break any traffic laws? wtf happened, anyway?
posted by bruce at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2007


I think we could better answer your question if you tell us why you're asking. Are you wondering if you could get sued personally? Whether it would be worth it to report to your insurance company or law enforcement? Liability is rarely black and white, and who will be deciding it will affect how it will be decided.
posted by AV at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2007


Alright alright.
Te officer was not terribly indulgent as the accident occurred on a busy street. He told us simply to exchange info and move.

I was breaking a law when I was hit, as I was turning the wrong way onto a one way street. Still, I had my blinker on and was hit on the side by the front left corner of a Mack truck while turning. I'm not sure if it matters legally, but I did not realize that the street was one way.

So he hit me. But I was breaking the law. Should I simply ask the police officer when I submit the report or?
posted by es_de_bah at 10:33 AM on July 20, 2007


To clear up: I was attempting to turn left, and the driver behind me claims that he assumed I had mis-signaled and was planning to turn right, so he had swung towards the left to try to get around me, effectively turning straight into me.

and yes. thank god I'm alive. But now we must figure out who gets the bill.
posted by es_de_bah at 10:37 AM on July 20, 2007


That would be up to a jury to decide. If I were on the jury with those facts, I arbitrarily say it's 80% the truck driver's fault and 20% your fault, but other jurors would say something different. And unless there was a serious injury or huge expensive damage, odds are your two insurance companies hash it out between them without letting it go to a jury. And some states are no-fault, so there wouldn't be any liability determination at all, and everyone's insurer bears their own expenses. Regardless, you should be reporting it to your insurance company.
posted by commander_cool at 10:46 AM on July 20, 2007


Usually insurance companies determine fault, and they will use that determination to decide who pays what. Unfortunately determination of fault is hardly an exact science, so it's really hard to say what an insurance company would find with regard to your accident without actually asking them.

If the damage is less than your deductible or if both of you have agreed not to involve your insurance companies for whatever reason, then I don't see what is stopping you from negotiating payment among yourselves. Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Law is here if that helps at all, although there might be some local regulations that apply as well.

IANAL.
posted by AV at 11:05 AM on July 20, 2007


Massachusetts is a no fault state, so you don't have to worry about the liability for personal injury.

Report it to your insurance company (and be glad you weren't cited by the police officer for attempting to turn the wrong way onto a one way street as that would pretty much clear up question of fault for property damage).
posted by MarkAnd at 11:06 AM on July 20, 2007


#1: admit nothing and let the insurance companies handle it.

#2: as mentioned, mass is a no fault state.

#3: for the record, in my opinion and understanding, you're at fault both legally and practically, assuming that the truck driver swerved into the adjacent lane rather than an oncoming lane:

- you were making an illegal left (legal point);
- you were making an unpredictable left (that is, you had the turn signal on, but since it was a one-way street the other way, it was a mixed message) (practical point);
- you turned into a lane that was already occupied by another vehicle, even though it was only there for a few seconds. (legal point)

The truck driver claims he thought you mis-signaled, and given the one-way nature of the street, that's a pretty reasonable thing to claim.

Of course, your description is a bit confusing; if you were turning left, and the truck swerved left to go around you, the truck would have hit you with the RIGHT front, not the left as you say. Typo?
posted by davejay at 12:27 PM on July 20, 2007


I was breaking a law when I was hit, as I was turning the wrong way onto a one way street.

See negligence per se.
posted by dios at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2007



Massachusetts is a no fault state, so you don't have to worry about the liability for personal injury.


Just to play devil's advocate for a second, that's not necessarily true. You won't be liable for personal injuries up to a point, but No Fault has limits based on the degree of injury or economic harm. Injuries over those limits can be the basis for legal action.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2007


Just to play devil's advocate for a second, that's not necessarily true. You won't be liable for personal injuries up to a point, but No Fault has limits based on the degree of injury or economic harm. Injuries over those limits can be the basis for legal action.

I was going to note this, but given that it was a Mack truck and both parties drove away without involvement from the police, I figured the personal injury protection in a MA contract would be plenty.
posted by MarkAnd at 1:55 PM on July 20, 2007


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