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RI and MA Have Different Fault Rules in Personal Injury Cases

New England states Rhode Island and Massachusetts have much in common. Residents of both states regularly go between the two for work and recreation. Despite the connection and similarities, the two states diverge in some of their personal injury laws.

At Percy Law Group, PC, our attorneys have extensive experience representing personal injury clients on both sides of the state borders.

In this blog, we will compare and contrast personal injury statutes from the two jurisdictions.

Comparative Negligence Affects Damage Awards

One of the most significant differences between how Rhode Island and Massachusetts address personal injury claims is how fault is addressed.

Massachusetts follows a 51%-rule modified comparative negligence. A person who is determined to be more than 50% at fault in the accident will be barred from collecting damages. If that person is 50% responsible (or less), any monetary award will be reduced by the percentage of fault. For example, if you are deemed to have a 20% contribution to the accident, a $100,000 award will be lowered to $80,000.

Other 51%-rule states include the following:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Rhode Island follows pure comparative negligence. A person can seek personal injury damages no matter what percentage of fault is assigned to them. Technically, even someone who is 99% responsible for what happened can still receive 1% of the total damages (although that might not make sense in practical application). Using the same monetary award used in the previous example, someone who is 99% at fault could still receive $1,000.

Other states following pure comparative negligence are as follows:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Washington

A skilled attorney from Percy Law Group, PC will help to maximize the possible compensation by presenting arguments to diminish your culpability. While this tactic is important in all personal injury cases, keeping your fault below 51% is especially critical in Massachusetts.

Car Accident No-Fault Laws

Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state for car accidents and auto insurance. Anyone injured in a car accident is expected to first seek compensation under their own insurance coverage. This requirement is generally only bypassed if the injured person has more than $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses or they have suffered a serious disfigurement. The definition of “serious disfigurement” is vague. One of our attorneys can help you understand whether your situation might qualify.

Rhode Island is a “fault” state. The person who caused the accident is financially responsible. The person injured can file a third-party claim with the at-fault person’s insurance company. A personal injury lawsuit can also be filed in civil court. The person hurt can also file a claim with their own insurance company, which will then likely sue the insurance company of the responsible person for repayment.

Damage Cap Limitations

Like other aspects of personal injury law, states can establish their own rules regarding damage caps. Massachusetts has no damage caps except in medical malpractice cases. In these cases, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are usually limited to $500,000.

Rhode Island has no damage caps. Punitive damages, however, are not awarded in wrongful death cases.

The two states do have some personal injury laws in common:

  • The statute of limitations to file a claim is three years after the date of the accident.
  • Strict liability has a dog owner responsible for personal injury caused by their dog regardless of the animal’s previous behavior.
  • There are no damage caps for most personal injury claims, other than what was stated above.

Seek Fair and Full Compensation for Your Injuries

If you are injured due to someone’s intentional act or an accident that was not your fault, you and your loved ones do not have to bear the burden on your own. Medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, physical therapy costs, lost wages, and more take a financial and emotional toll. The person responsible needs to be held accountable.

Learn more about your rights in a free consultation. Send us a message online or call (508) 206-9900 to schedule. We have an office in Cranston, RI as well as four locations in Massachusetts: Taunton, Quincy, Fall River, and Dartmouth.