In Massachusetts, when a pedestrian slips and falls on a sidewalk, a shopper trips over loose flooring in a grocery store, or a passing cyclist is hit by an opened car door, the victim is not always responsible for the costs of their medical treatment.
In certain circumstances, you may have the legal right to file a personal injury compensation claim. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with the insurer of the person, business, or organization that caused your accident and injuries. If the person who caused your injuries has left you in a life-altering position and the insurer of the person at fault has failed to extend a reasonable offer of settlement, filing a lawsuit in the Massachusetts court system may be the most appropriate option for you.
If you have been injured in an accident that you did not cause, you should hire an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to help you decide your next course of action.
Massachusetts deadline for filing personal injury lawsuits
If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, and you have not yet filed an accident claim, you should be aware that Massachusetts sets a deadline for filing such personal injury claims. This is called the "Statute of Limitations."
The law states that you have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. On rare occasions, if an injury reveals itself more than 3 years after the accident, the 3 year time limit may not commence until the date that the injury was discovered. If you intend to file a compensation claim against a state, city, or county government agency, the deadline is decreased to 2 years from the date of the injury to submit your personal injury claim. This time period may seem quite long, but settlements often take a long time to achieve agreement between all parties involved.
Insurers are never eager to pay out the full value of an accident. The clock is often ticking by the time offers have been exchanged between those concerned. If an out-of-court settlement cannot be reached before the Statute of Limitations tolls, it may be too late to file a lawsuit through the court system.
Massachusetts law recognizes “comparative fault”
The theory of "comparative fault" occurs when a person who has been injured in an accident is partly responsible for their injuries. A judgement in favor of the victim is often decreased when the injured party shares less than 50% of responsibility for the accident. The entitlement to damages is entirely eliminated for an injured person who is over 50% responsible for their injuries.
Let’s consider a situation: You are doing your weekly shopping at the grocery store when you step on a damaged floor tile and inadvertently fall. Assume that this accident happened partly because you were not paying attention.
The injury you received was serious enough to affect you financially. As a result, you should have been entitled to approximately $10,000 in damages. However, after a thorough investigation it was determined that you were 10% responsible for the accident because you were not paying attention. Thus, the grocery store was 90% at fault. Due to the Massachusetts comparative fault ruling, you will have to forfeit 10% of your $10,000 in damages. Consequently, you will only be entitled to collect $9,000 in damages.
If the store was able to prove that, for some reason or another, you were more than 50% responsible for the accident, you would be not entitled to claim any personal injury compensation from the store owners.
Courts in Massachusetts must apply the theory of comparative fault when an injury lawsuit is in the trial stage and liability findings and jury awards are entered into the record. Additionally, be prepared for the comparative fault rule to arise during insurance settlement negotiations.
You should know the car accident "no-fault" laws in Massachusetts
In the realm of motor vehicle accidents, Massachusetts is considered a “No-Fault” state. In Massachusetts, every automobile insurance policy includes Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP). Depending on your health insurance coverage, PIP will cover the first $2,000 or $8,000 of your medical expenses resulting from your motor vehicle accident. PIP coverage is available to any injured insured regardless of their fault in the accident.
If your medical costs exceed the $2,000 threshold, you can seek personal injury compensation from the responsible party’s insurance company. If an appropriate settlement cannot be negotiated, you can file a lawsuit against the responsible party. In certain situations, if the responsible party’s insurer has negotiated in bad faith, a lawsuit can also be filed against the insurance company under Mass. Gen. Law c. 93A.
When negotiating settlement with the responsible party or their insurer, the damages you are entitled to entirely depend on the cost of your injuries to you personally. Not only are you entitled to reimbursement for the cost of your medical treatment, but you are also entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. More serious injuries, such as permanent disfigurement, broken bones, or loss of sight or hearing, will result in a higher degree of pain and suffering. Thus, more serious injuries typically result in increased damages for the injured party. Medical evidence, such as records and billing statements, are required to prove the nature of your injuries and your need for extensive treatment.
In Massachusetts, dog bite laws are subject to "strict" liability
In some states, dog owners are entitled to a certain degree of protection the first time their dog attacks, bites, or injuries another person. This rule – usually called the “One-Bite rule” – is not recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Contrarily, the laws of Massachusetts hold dog owners “strictly liable” for any injuries their pet may have caused another person.
Regardless of the dog’s behavioral history, the dog owner is required to take full responsibility for any personal injury that his or her animal has caused to another person. In fact, the statute states that as long as the dog bite victim was not trespassing at the time of the dog bite and was not deliberately abusing, tormenting, or teasing the dog, the owner is strictly liable for the cost of any injuries it has caused to another person.
Hard caps on settlement recovery only affect medical malpractice claims
Resulting from an abundance of recent medical malpractice lawsuits, many states have set a limit on the amount an injured party may recover in a personal injury claim when a medical practitioner is proved to be at fault. These recovery limits are largely related to non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, rather than the financial losses such as income loss and the costs of personal care and medical treatment.
In Massachusetts, there is a $500,000 cap on medical malpractice claims for non-economic damages. However, these caps do not apply to personal injury claims beyond the realm of medical malpractice.
Call the Law Guys!
Sustaining injuries resulting from another person’s negligence can be a very alarming and intimidating experience. However, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured. If you have sustained life-altering injuries resulting from another person’s negligence, you should hire an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney who will strive to obtain the compensation you deserve.