Do Not Pass Go: The Massachusetts Tort Threshold

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Motor vehicle liability insurance varies greatly among states, from the amount of minimum coverage required to different standards that govern the right to recovery for bodily injury resulting from an accident. In Massachusetts there exists a limited no-fault system, referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which covers the insured and passengers for medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement services, regardless of fault up to $8,000.00. This also exempts individuals from further liability for damages arising out of the ownership or operation of a motor vehicle unless the injured person meets the tort threshold. Through limiting recovery in this way, no-fault insurance has the goal of lowering premium costs by avoiding expensive litigation over the causes of a collision, while providing quick payments for medical expenses and lost wages.

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The Ins and Outs of MA’s Tort Threshold

In Massachusetts, the tort threshold, which governs the ability to maintain a claim for bodily injury beyond the recovery available under PIP, including for pain and suffering, is governed by G.L. c. 231, § 6D. Under the statute an injured person may bring a claim for bodily injury, including pain and suffering, against a person responsible for the motor vehicle accident only if the claimant’s “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses “are determined to be in excess of two thousand dollars” unless the injury resulting from the accident meets one of five exceptions: 1. causes death, or 2. loss of a body member, or 3. permanent and serious disfigurement, or 4. loss of sight or hearing, or 5. consists of a fracture.

A Claim without Direct Evidence

In one recent case, the Appellate Division of the District Court determined that an injured person must present direct evidence of the damages or medical expenses in order to satisfy the tort threshold. In that case, the plaintiff injured person did not submit any evidence of actual medical bills at trial, but nevertheless argued that based on evidence that the plaintiff had suffered a 9% whole person impairment as a result of the accident and with medical records of treatment provided, the jury should decide whether the evidence was sufficient to support a reasonable circumstantial inference that her medical expenses must have exceeded two thousand dollars. In affirming the trial court judge’s grant of a directed verdict for the defendant based on the failure to meet the tort threshold, the Appellate Division noted that there was no “serious injury” exception in the statute, the plaintiff did not meet any of the listed exceptions, and that “[t]o allow a claimant to circumvent the tort threshold by not offering direct evidence of actual medical expenses would be contrary to the plain language of the statute.”

Free Consultation

If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, obtain a copy of our Free Report, Some Straight Talk About Insurance Companies and Your Car Accident Claim.  In addition, you can contact Attorney Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form. We look forward to talking to you about your claim.

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