A serious personal injury caused by negligence can happen unexpectedly to anyone. You don’t have to be in a traffic wreck. You could slip on a wet floor at the supermarket, suffer a dog bite, or sustain a burn injury from a faulty appliance. What is your legal recourse in Massachusetts if you are injured by another person’s negligence, and how much cash can an injury victim realistically expect to receive?
If you are injured in this state by someone else’s negligence in a car crash or any other accident, ask an experienced Boston personal injury attorney to explain your rights and legal options, which may include bringing a personal injury action against the person or persons who injured you. Injured negligence victims in Massachusetts are entitled to compensation for their medical costs, lost income, and any other injury-related expenses.
How much can a victim of negligence expect from a personal injury settlement or verdict in Massachusetts? Every case is different, but the basic answer to what any injury case is worth is “damages.” You and your personal injury lawyer will have to calculate your financial losses and add those to your emotional and physical suffering and pain.
You’ll need receipts and other evidence to show that your claim for compensation is fair and reasonable. However, and unlike many other states, Massachusetts does not allow a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney to recommend or suggest to a jury a specific dollar amount for a damage award. Your attorney can show jurors what you’ve lost but cannot tell them what you deserve.
HOW ARE MOST INJURY CASES RESOLVED?
However, that probably won’t be necessary. Personal injury cases are almost always settled by out-of-court negotiations, and very few cases actually go to trial. Still, if a defendant fails to offer a fair settlement, your attorney will take the case to court on your behalf. That’s why a victim of negligence needs a Boston personal injury attorney who is a trained and savvy negotiator as well as a skilled trial lawyer.
If you bring a personal injury lawsuit, and if the case goes to trial and you prevail, a damage award will be ordered. The damages are paid to the injury victim – called the “plaintiff” – by the person or persons found liable for the injury or injuries – the “defendant” or an insurance company paying on the defendant’s behalf.
“Compensatory” damages compensate a plaintiff for the plaintiff’s monetary losses arising from the injury. If you’re injured in any accident in Massachusetts, save all of the related receipts and any medical, police, or insurance reports – and make copies. You’ll need them.
WHAT ARE THE COMPENSATORY DAMAGES A PLAINTIFF MAY RECEIVE?
Of course, when a plaintiff is dealing with long-term or permanent disability, it’s difficult to estimate what that plaintiff’s medical expenses will be in the future. Nevertheless, personal injury plaintiffs usually ask for and frequently receive the following compensatory damages:
Medical expenses: Personal injury plaintiffs whose lawsuits prevail are almost always compensated for the medical treatment required after an accident. The reimbursement should also include reasonable projected expenses for any needed treatment in the future.
Lost income: Plaintiffs who prevail are typically compensated for income lost due to the injury and for any loss of earning capacity in the future. Even if a plaintiff was not employed, under the Massachusetts doctrine of “Loss or Diminution of Earning Capacity,” injured plaintiffs may be compensated for their loss of future earning capacity.
Suffering and pain: Plaintiffs whose injury lawsuits prevail are typically compensated for the suffering and pain they face when experiencing an injury and immediately afterward. If pain caused by the accident persists, that pain will also be taken into account in a settlement or verdict, and emotional distress may be compensated as suffering.
Disfigurement: When a plaintiff has been scarred, disfigured, or has undergone amputation, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit prevails, he or she may be compensated “fairly” for the alteration of appearance and the consequences of that change in the plaintiff’s life.
Consortium: Loss of consortium damages are usually paid if marital sexual intimacy has been impaired by an injury or injuries. Claims for “Loss of Parental Society” also allow minors to recover for the loss of enjoyment, companionship, and emotional support caused by a parent’s injury or injuries.
Because the compensatory damages for pain, suffering, and loss of consortium are not linked to actual monetary losses, it’s difficult for anyone to put a final dollar figure on those damages. Massachusetts law provides no guidelines or formula. Attorneys aren’t allowed to suggest an amount. Personal injury jurors in this state must use their best judgment to arrive at a fair and reasonable final compensation amount.
ARE PUNITIVE DAMAGES AWARDED IN MASSACHUSETTS?
With extremely narrow exceptions, the law in Massachusetts law allows jurors to award only compensatory damages to personal injury victims. While some states allow for punitive damage awards in personal injury cases, Massachusetts usually does not. In this state, punitive damages are awarded in personal injury cases only for wrongful deaths caused by gross negligence or by a defendant’s wanton, willful, or reckless behavior.
While there’s no way to know what you’ll receive if you are injured by negligence and your lawsuit prevails, there’s another extraordinarily important factor to consider, and that is the legal doctrine of “comparative fault” which governs personal injury cases in this state. How does comparative fault work?
CAN COMPARATIVE FAULT REDUCE THE VALUE OF AN INJURY CLAIM?
At a personal injury trial, jurors will usually be asked to decide if the plaintiff was in any way negligent or partly at-fault for his or her own injury or injuries. Jurors will compare the defendant’s negligence against the plaintiff’s. In Massachusetts, if jurors determine that a plaintiff is more than fifty percent at fault for causing an accident and injury, that plaintiff is disqualified from receiving any compensation whatsoever.
However, if jurors determine that a plaintiff’s negligence is less than or equals fifty percent, the damages a plaintiff receives will be slashed by that amount. If jurors decide that a plaintiff was 25 percent negligent, for example, the plaintiff will then receive only 75 percent of the total damages. Remember, of course, that every case is different, every accident is different, and every jury is different.
That’s why, if you are injured by an act of negligence in Massachusetts, as soon as you’ve obtained medical treatment, you should discuss the case at once with an experienced Boston personal injury attorney. Don’t wait, and don’t try to act as your own attorney. Your health and your future are far too important to risk.