Fatal Accident Preliminary Suspensions

If you have the misfortune of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident in Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles has the right to immediately revoke your driver’s license for “FATAL ACCD PRELIM.” The Registry imposes these license revocations pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 29, which requires Massachusetts police departments to promptly notify the Registrar of any serious or fatal motor vehicle accident.  When the Registry of Motor Vehicles receives notification of a fatal accident, the Registrar is required to impose a fatal accident preliminary suspension unless a preliminary accident investigation indicates that the driver whose license is to be suspended may not have been at fault in the accident.

If your license was suspended under the fatal accident preliminary suspension law, you are legally entitled to have the accident impartially investigated and you are further entitled to a hearing regarding the suspension and reinstatement of your driver’s license or right to operate. If the Registry refuses to reinstate your license, you can appeal the adverse Registry action to the Massachusetts Board of Appeal of the Division of Insurance. The Board has the legal authority to order the Registry to reinstate your license.

You cannot be considered for any type of hardship or work license during a fatal accident preliminary suspension, because the purpose of the law is to remove a potentially dangerous driver from the road until the accident can be fully investigated. This is an administrative license suspension which is not intended to punish the driver whose license is taken. In Massachusetts, the Collision Analysis & Reconstruction section of the Massachusetts State Police is charged with investigating fatal accidents. This investigation includes a reconstruction which can be time consuming.

If the Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended your license due to a fatal accident and the reconstruction shows that you were “without serious fault,” the Registry should immediately reinstate your license. If, on the other hand, you were found at fault in the accident, as a result of the reconstruction and investigation, the Registry will leave the suspension in place and the RMV will further revoke your license if you are convicted of vehicular homicide or if the police file an immediate threat suspension request based on the results of the investigation and reconstruction.

If your license has been suspended or revoked because of the above-described circumstances, you should definitely contact a lawyer. My office has successfully handled cases of this nature and obtained full license reinstatements at the Board of Appeal.