Massachusetts Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

Learn about personal injury fault rules, damages caps, the statute of limitations, and more in Massachusetts.

By , J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

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.

What Is Massachusetts' Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits?

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.)

What Happens If I Miss the Statute of Limitations Deadline In Massachusetts?

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.

Can the Massachusetts Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

In some situations, the three-year personal injury statute of limitations deadline can be extended—or, more accurately the "clock" might be paused—including:

  • if, at the time of the underlying accident, the injured person was under 18 years of age or was mentally ill, they'll likely be entitled to the full three years to get their personal injury lawsuit filed once they reach 18 or have their competence restored. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 7.)
  • if the at-fault person resides or moves outside of Massachusetts at some point after the accident, the statute of limitations "clock" probably won't run during the absence. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 9.)
  • if the at-fault person "fraudulently conceals" their liability or otherwise takes steps to keep the injured person from understanding their right to file a lawsuit, then the time during which the fraud/concealment is ongoing probably won't be counted as part of the three-year filing period. (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 12.)

How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit In Massachusetts?

Most Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits are filed in either:

  • Superior Court (which has 82 justices sitting in 20 courthouses in all 14 counties in Massachusetts), or
  • District Court (62 of which are situated across the state).

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:

  • states the grounds for your claim against the person or business you're suing (the defendant), and
  • asks for a specific legal remedy for your injuries and related losses.

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).

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Injury In Massachusetts?

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:

  • reduces the injured person's "damages" (the amount of compensation they can receive) if they share 50 percent or less of the fault, and
  • eliminates damages their altogether if they're found to be more than 50 percent at fault.

What's an Example of the Massachusetts Comparative Fault Rule In Action?

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:

  • Your $30,000 total damages award will be reduced by 20 percent, or $6,000, since you were assigned 20 percent of the fault
  • You will be allowed to collect up to $24,000 in damages from the other party.
  • If your fault had been set at over 50 percent, you would be prohibited from collecting anything at all from any other party.

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" Car Insurance State

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:

  • you have more than $2,000 in reasonable medical expenses, and/or
  • you have suffered a permanent and serious disfigurement, broken bone, and/or loss of hearing or sight.

Get the details on the Massachusetts no-fault car insurance system.

Massachusetts Dog Owner Liability for Bites/Injuries

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.

Does Massachusetts Have a Personal Injury Damages Cap?

"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:

  • substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function
  • substantial disfigurement, or
  • other special harm that would make application of the cap unjust or unfair.

Learn more about Massachusetts medical malpractice laws.

Get More Information on Personal Injury Cases

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.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 285 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you