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In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person’s negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Massachusetts has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a claimant’s action is barred if his negligence exceeds the combined negligence of all defendants. Otherwise, the claimant’s recovery is diminished in proportion to his degree of negligence.
Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.
In Massachusetts, the law provides for mandatory nofault automobile liability insurance coverage, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), for every car and truck (not motorcycle) registered in Massachusetts. This means that your own insurance carrier will provide coverage of all reasonable expenses incurred within two years from the date of the accident regardless of who was at fault for the accident. Benefits extend to the named insured; members of the insured’s household; any authorized operator or passenger of the insured’s vehicle; and any pedestrian struck by the vehicle, unless any of these persons would otherwise be covered under worker’s compensation insurance for the same accident. You will be reimbursed for 100% of your medical bills, 75% of your average weekly wages, and replacement services (such as domestic help) up to a combined limit of $8000 per covered person. If you are covered by commercial health insurance, PIP will cover the first $2000 of medical bills and the health carrier usually pays the rest. Amounts not covered by the health carrier go back to PIP for secondary payment up to the $8000 limit. If you have optional medical payments coverage, it entitles you to an additional $10,000 for payment of your medical bills when the $8000 nofault limit is exhausted.
Liability insurance coverage is also mandatory in Massachusetts. The mandatory minimum liability coverage in Massachusetts is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident bodily injury liability, and $5,000 property damage liability. You are entitled to payment from the bodily injury portion of the atfault driver’s liability insurance policy for all of your medical expenses and wage loss not already paid by PIP. You are also entitled to compensation for pain and suffering when you suffer an injury that meets one of the following criteria: 1) $2,000 in medical bills 2) causes death; 3) causes loss of a body member; 4) causes permanent and serious disfigurement; 5) results in loss of sight or hearing; or 6) consists of a fracture. If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault or a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, the uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a “hit and run” driver.
Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident. Liability claims are usually the subject of negotiation between your lawyer and the liability insurer for the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party’s negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party’s insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.
If you were injured at someone else’s home or a commercial establishment, the person or entity responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises.
In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor. Factors used to determine whether the owner exercised reasonable care in maintaining the property includes (a) the foreseeability of harm to others; (b) the magnitude of the risks of injury to others if the property is kept in its current condition; (c) the benefit to an individual or to society of maintaining the property in its current condition; and (d) the cost and inconvenience of providing adequate protection.
The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. When the owner actually created the dangerous condition, then notice is presumed. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, the owner has a duty to warn of the hazards he is aware of or should be aware of.
The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. Business owners typically have the highest responsibility to those who are invited onto their premises. Homeowners also have a duty to their guests. The standard of care owed to an adult trespasser is less than that owed to a person who has permission to be on the property. In the case of children who trespass, the owner may be liable for injury to a child if (a) the land owner knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass, (b) the condition is one of which the land owner knows or has reason to know will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children, (c) the children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk, (d) the utility to the land owner of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved, and (e) the land owner fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect the children.
Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. Product liability cases may involve dangerous toys, automobile design, seat belt failures, improperly designed household products, industrial machinery, products causing explosions or burns, aviation products, among others. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills, and other complications. Before taking legal action or trying to negotiate a settlement on your own, you should talk to an attorney about your case. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can level the playing field, help you protect your rights, and put you in the best position for recovering the compensation that you deserve.