From a car accident to a slip and fall, if someone else's negligence causes you injury in Massachusetts, a number of state laws could come into play if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit in court, or even just pursue an injury settlement with an insurance company.
A personal injury statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit in court against the person or business that caused your accident or injury. The Massachusetts version of this law gives you three years to file a personal injury lawsuit in the state's court system. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 2A.)
If you don't get your lawsuit filed within the three-year window, you'll lose your right to have a court hear your injury case. So, even when you're focused on getting a fair injury settlement from the insurance company, it's crucial to make sure you still have the option of taking the case to court.
In some situations, the three-year personal injury statute of limitations deadline can be extended—or, more accurately the "clock" might be paused—including:
Most Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits are filed in either:
Usually, if you're planning on asking for less than $50,000 in damages from the at-fault party, you'll file your lawsuit in District Court. If the amount you're seeking is bound to be more than $50,000, Superior Court is typically the right place to file your personal injury lawsuit. Learn more about the Massachusetts court system (from Mass.gov).
Regardless of which court you file in, your Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit will usually start when you file a "complaint," which:
If your injuries are relatively minor and you're not planning on asking for more than $7,000 in total damages, you might want to consider the option of small claims court. Learn more about small claims cases in Massachusetts (from Mass.gov).
In Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits that make it all the way to a court trial, a "modified comparative fault" rule is used in cases where the injured person is found to share some level of fault for their own injury. This rule:
Suppose you're shopping in a grocery store when you trip and fall on a broken floor tile. You didn't see the tile because you were looking at your phone. After a court trial, the jury determines that your total damages equal $30,000, but that you are 20 percent at fault for the accident (while the grocery store's share of fault is 80 percent). Here, under the Massachusetts modified comparative fault rule:
Massachusetts courts must apply the comparative fault rule when an injury lawsuit makes it to the trial stage and liability findings and jury awards are entered into the record. However, the rule may also come up during insurance settlement negotiations, so be prepared.
Massachusetts is a "no-fault" state when it comes to car insurance and the injury claim process after an accident. When you're injured in a car accident, your turn first (and often exclusively) to your own car insurance coverage to get compensation for certain crash-related losses, regardless of who might have caused the accident.
In most cases, you cannot step outside the no-fault system and pursue a claim against another party unless your case meets certain thresholds, specifically:
Get the details on the Massachusetts no-fault car insurance system.
In Massachusetts, a specific statute (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann., Ch. 140, section 155) makes a dog owner "strictly liable" for most bites and injuries caused by their animal, regardless of the dog's past behavior, unless the injured person was trespassing, or they teased or otherwise provoked the dog. Learn more about Massachusetts dog bite laws and animal owner liability for injuries.
"Damages" is a legal term for an injured person's losses, including medical bills, lost income, and "pain and suffering." Some states place a "cap," or limit, on damages in certain types of injury cases.
Massachusetts doesn't have a general cap for damages in personal injury cases, but the state does set a cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, unless the injured patient can show that they've suffered:
Learn more about Massachusetts medical malpractice laws.
If you'd like more information on Massachusetts personal injury laws, feel free to do a little legal research of your own. You can also get the basics about:
If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, you might want to discuss your potential case with a personal injury lawyer.