What are the personal injury fault and liability rules, and damage caps in Massachusetts? Will you need a personal injury defense lawyer in Boston to handle your case? These are some of the questions you may be asking yourself when you suffer a serious injury at the workplace, in a car accident, from using a product, or due to some action or negligence by another party.
When you sustain serious injuries in Massachusetts, it helps to know what the state laws say about your rights and the obligations of the other party. Understanding Massachusetts personal injury laws can help you determine whether it would be right to pursue the settlement with an insurance company or file a lawsuit in court.
Massachusetts Personal Injury Statutory Laws
In Massachusetts, there are statutes of limitations that determine the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in court. According to the law, accident victims have three years to file a lawsuit if they want to be compensated.
Generally, the three-year limit clock starts tolling on the day of the accident. However, in some cases, the time limit can be delayed until a later time. For example, if you have suffered internal injuries from inhaling dangerous fumes at the workplace, the clock of the three-year limit will start rolling when you discover the injury. The time is referred to as the “discovery date”.
It is crucial to pay attention to the deadline in the statute of limitations if you want to seek damages for an injury. Failure to file a lawsuit within the period will make your lawsuit invalid. When you are pursuing damages, the deadline may not seem like a big deal. However, sometimes negotiations for the settlement can stall while the clock continues ticking. When the negotiation talks break down, it will be in your best interest to seek alternative options, such as taking the matter to court.
If you are bringing an injury claim against the city, county, or state government, the Massachusetts statute of limitations gives you two years to file a formal claim, and three years to file a lawsuit.
Comparative Fault in Massachusetts
Personal injury cases can be quite complicated. For example, sometimes, you may have some degree of fault in the events that led to your injuries. In such a case, comparative fault rules will apply.
Comparative fault rules in Massachusetts reduce the damages that an injured person can claim if they are less than 50 percent at fault. On the other hand, injured persons that are 50 percent or more liable for their injuries are not entitled to any settlement.
In Massachusetts, the damages that an injured person can receive is based on the percentage of fault that they had in an incident. For example, if you had 10% fault in an accident where your total damages were calculated to be $20,000, you can only collect 90 percent of the damages, i.e., $18,000.
On the other hand, if you had 50% fault in an accident and your total damages amount to $20,000, you cannot collect any damages since you bear half of the fault in the case.
The comparative fault rule is usually applied when cases go to trial. However, sometimes, the rule may also come up during the negotiation process with the insurance company.
No-Fault Laws for Car Accidents
When it comes to car accidents and auto insurance, Massachusetts is a “no-fault” state. States that follow the “no-fault” system requires accident victims to pursue compensation under their own coverage. In most cases, personal injury victims are not allowed to file a claim against other parties, unless any of the following apply:
- The reasonable medical expenses resulting from the accident is more than $2,000
- You suffered a serious disfigurement or a permanent disability e.g., loss or hearing or sight, or a broken bone
Serious injuries are not explicitly defined by Massachusetts law. For example, there is no explicit definition of what constitutes “serious disfigurement”. Therefore, if you are involved in an accident, you may be able to negotiate whether you claim must be limited to the no-fault system.
“Strict” Liability for Dog Attack cases
Dog owners in most states are protected to a degree from liability for any injuries that their dogs may inflict on another person for the first time. The protection is stipulated under what is commonly known as the “one dog bite” rule. However, in Massachusetts, this rule does not apply.
Dog owners in Massachusetts should be aware of the Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., Ch. 140, § 155. According to this law, dog owners are “strictly liable” for any injuries that their dogs cause. Therefore, whether or not your dog has caused injuries in the past, you will be held liable for any attacks.
According to the law, dog owners are liable for any losses that their animals may cause, including any injuries or damage to property.
Massachusetts Damage Caps
Personal injury damages are handled differently in various states. For example, in some states, there is a “cap” or limit on the amount of compensation that a person can get for specific cases. The common cases where damage caps have been imposed are those related to medical malpractice, and non-economic damages such as “pain and suffering”.
In Massachusetts, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000 in medical malpractice cases. The only exception to this rule is when:
- The victim has suffered a significant disfigurement
- There has been a substantial or permanent impairment or loss of a bodily function
- Some special circumstances where applying a cap would make it unfair on the injured person
However, the above exceptions do not apply to all types of personal injuries. Instead, they are only applicable to medical malpractice cases.
If you suffer a personal injury in Massachusetts, it is important to know what the law says and the options you have for compensation. Hiring a personal injury attorney will go a long way to ensure that you get fair compensation for the losses you incurred.