Best Personal Injury Lawyers Boston, MA Of 2024 – Forbes

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Even a plaintiff-friendly state like Massachusetts has its limits. Here are laws that affect your personal injury case.

Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts

A statute of limitations is a time limit for filing a lawsuit. In Massachusetts, that limit is three years from the injury date. So, if you had a car accident on June 4, 2023, you have until June 4, 2026, to file.

However, the statute of limitations shouldn’t be confused with when you file an insurance claim. Most insurance companies limit that window to 24 hours from the accident up to one week after. However, you want to file your claim while the events are fresh in your memory, so the sooner you reach out to the negligent party’s insurance company, the better.

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice is still three years, but that countdown starts differently than other personal injury claims. That time limit starts tolling on the date you knew or should have known medical negligence caused your injury. For example, if you underwent surgery on August 1, 2022, but didn’t detect a doctor’s mistake until you started having symptoms on September 14, 2023, your last day to file a lawsuit is September 14, 2023.

Medical malpractice claims are also subject to a statute of repose, the maximum period you have to file a lawsuit. Regardless of when you detect an injury, you have seven years from the medical treatment or procedure date to pursue a claim against medical professionals.

Minor children have to file a claim within three years of their 18th birthday unless it is a medical malpractice claim. Parents then have three years from when they knew or should have known that something went wrong with a medical procedure. However, if the child is under six, the parents have until that child’s ninth birthday to file a lawsuit.

Determining Fault in Massachusetts

Massachusetts uses a contributory negligence standard. A plaintiff can recover damages if most of the fault lies with the defendant. For example, if an arbitrator determines that a plaintiff is 45% at fault for an accident, and the defendant bears 55% of the fault, then the plaintiff can still recover. However, their overall award is reduced by 45%.

But if a fact finder concludes a plaintiff is 51% at fault, that bars their recovery. Even that slight difference places the majority of fault on the plaintiff and prevents them from receiving a damages award.

Special Liability Cases

Special liability refers to those matters where liability works differently. These matters may fall under strict liability where a defendant is liable even though their conduct wasn’t careless, intentional or negligent. Or they arise from a statutory duty as with Dram Shop laws. But general negligence theory can still apply if someone behaved carelessly in these incidents.

Dog Bite

Massachusetts applies strict liability to dog bite cases. An owner is presumed liable for a dog bite even if the dog never behaved viciously before or has a history of mellow behavior.

But there is an exception in the dog bite law. Owners are not liable if the dog bit someone who was trespassing or if the individual was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. This standard does not apply to minors under seven, as the law presumes they weren’t trespassing or tormenting the dog.

Dram Shop

A Dram Shop law makes it illegal for a public establishment, like a bar, restaurant or pub, to serve patrons who are already intoxicated. If they continue to do so, they can face liability if that impaired patron causes injury or property damage to someone else while intoxicated.

Social Host Law

Massachusetts case law also imposes liability on individuals who serve alcohol at home. Generally, these laws require anyone serving alcohol at a private party to do so safely and legally. Otherwise, you may be liable for the following:

  • Guests who drink then get hurt during the party
  • Guests who drink then get hurt by someone else at the party
  • Guests who drink and then get hurt by a dangerous condition at your party (e.g., broken steps or ice)

If a guest leaves the party and then gets hurt or hurts someone else, you are not liable. However, you can be liable if that guest drives while impaired and injures or kills someone else.

These laws work differently when you allow minors to drink at your home. You are responsible for all injuries and property damage after minors drink at your home or in a property you control (like a hotel room.) There are also criminal charges, including fines up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to one year or both.

Limits on Personal Injury Recovery

There is no general cap on general personal injury claims. But there is one on medical malpractice.

In most medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs cannot receive more than $500,000 in damages for pain and suffering. However, a judge or jury can determine that “special circumstances” allow damages beyond that cap. These situations usually include substantial or permanent loss of a body function or severe disfigurement.

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