Articles Posted in Personal Injury Legal Theories

It is not uncommon for a Massachusetts car accident to involve multiple vehicles and injury victims. In these cases, injury victims may encounter challenges when seeking compensation for their injuries because there may be more than one negligent party. Although the law often provides a presumption that the rearmost driver in a rear-end collision was negligent, this presumption does not always apply. While one driver’s negligence may have started the series of events, there may be several other parties who contributed to the chain of events. These factors often cause injury victims to face the daunting task of filing multiple insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits.

Plaintiffs seeking representation for their Massachusetts car accident must be able to establish that the other party or parties are responsible for their injuries. It is essential that plaintiffs include all potential defendants and not just the individual who, in their mind, caused the accident. After identifying the appropriate defendants, the plaintiff must prove that the parties owed them a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely, and they breached that duty. This typically includes providing proof that the at-fault driver engaged in one of the common causes of chain-reaction accidents. Some of the common reasons for Massachusetts chain-reaction accidents are excessive speed, failure to abide by traffic laws, distracted driving, driving under the influence, and fatigued driving. Plaintiffs can provide evidence of these actions through surveillance footage, police reports, medical records, and witness accounts.

After meeting this burden, plaintiffs must be able to prove that the other parties’ negligence was the direct cause of their injuries and subsequent damages. This is often the most challenging phase of a chain-reaction accident lawsuit. In many cases, the driver who started the chain of events is not necessarily the cause of the following collisions, even if it occurs in the same sequence of events. Plaintiffs must engage in an in-depth and comprehensive investigation of the accidents, including discovery and depositions.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts slip and fall case that was filed against the town of Leicester (the Town). The opinion highlights the importance of complying with all procedural rules when dealing with a government defendant. In this case, because the plaintiff failed to ensure that the Town was served with timely notice of her claim, the court concluded that the plaintiff lost her right to a remedy.

Under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA), before a citizen files a claim against a public entity, that person must send a “claim in writing to the executive officer of such public employer within two years after the date upon which the cause of action arose.” This is known as a presentment letter. Unless a plaintiff sends a presentment letter, they cannot pursue a claim against the government entity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was picking up her son from school on January 19, 2016, when she slipped and fell while on school grounds. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered a fractured knee and wrist. Exactly two years later, the plaintiff sent a presentment letter to the Town. The Town received the letter on January 22, 2016, and issued a formal statement denying liability on February 7, 2018. The next month, the plaintiff filed this lawsuit.

Under Massachusetts law, individuals who suffer a fall on another’s property may be entitled to compensation for the injuries they sustained. However, Massachusetts slip and fall lawsuits are rarely as straightforward as they may seem. Plaintiffs in these cases must meet their evidentiary burden to recover against the negligent property owner.

Generally, plaintiffs possess the burden of proof in Massachusetts personal injury cases, and defendants do not need to prove that they are not liable for the victim’s injuries. Massachusetts premises liability law provides that property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for lawful visitors. As a threshold requirement, plaintiffs who want to recover against a property owner must be able to establish negligence. Slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to show that the property owner owed the visitor a duty of care, they breached that duty, and that breach caused the victim an injury.

Massachusetts slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the property owner violated their duty based on the general public’s views regarding acceptable behavior. Premises liability cases often vary depending on the type of property, visitor, and accident. However, regardless of the circumstances, most plaintiffs face challenges when trying to prove that the property owner did not take “reasonable” steps to keep their condition in “reasonably” safe condition. Issues often arise because reasonableness can be subjective, and the existence of a duty to act reasonably does not necessarily amount to negligence. Further, the law does not impose a burden on landowners to maintain their property in a way that ensures absolute safety for unforeseeable events.

After a serious Massachusetts car accident, the chances are that anyone who was injured faces hefty medical expenses. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the at-fault party may be facing criminal charges for their role in causing the accident. If an at-fault party is convicted, they may be fined, placed on probation, or even incarcerated. In some cases, they will also be required to pay restitution to the accident victim.

However, the criminal process is not typically concerned with obtaining compensation for accident victims. Criminal law is designed to punish those who violate the law, rather than compensate those who are injured as a result of the defendant’s violation of the law. While providing restitution to accident victims is one aspect of the criminal justice system, any assistance provided is usually minimal and cannot be relied on.

First, an accident victim has little to no say about whether criminal charges are brought against another driver. The decision to bring charges rests with the county prosecutor, who may not decide to press charges except in the most egregious traffic accidents. Second, a defendant’s insurance company will not cover any restitution damages awarded by a court. Thus, an accident victim relies on a defendant’s ability to pay the restitution on their own, which may take months, years, or may never happen. In some cases, accident victims may be eligible for compensation through a Victim’s Compensation Fund, but even this process is often unreliable.

In a recent Massachusetts insurance dispute, the state’s high court found that consent-to-settle clauses are enforceable and do not violate public policy. The decision came in response to an engineering malpractice lawsuit that Massachusetts homeowners filed against a professional home engineer.

According to the court’s opinion, the homeowners hired the engineer to design and construct portions of their new home. The engineer signed an agreement with the town but underestimated the number of loads in his calculations. The engineer filed several inaccurate control reports and falsely certified that they complied with the applicable building codes. Shortly after construction, the defects became apparent, and after a confrontation, the engineer admitted to his miscalculations. The homeowners filed several claims against the engineer and his insurer.

The insurance company and the engineer had an agreement that the insurance company would not settle any claims without his consent. The homeowners asked for over $1 million in damages, but the engineer refused to settle for more than $100,000, despite the insurance company advising him that he faced a seven-figure settlement. The engineer was found liable for $460,000, which was paid partially by his insurance company. The homeowners then amended their complaint against the insurance company, arguing that they violated a state law that requires prompt settlements.

Car accident victims who hope to recover compensation for their injuries from a negligent motorist must be able to provide the court with evidence supporting their theory of fault and liability. Massachusetts plaintiffs can meet their burden by presenting police reports, medical records, eyewitness accounts, and expert testimony. Whether expert testimony is required (or even allowed) largely depends on the particular facts of the accident and the issues that are involved.

Expert witnesses are a valuable resource in personal injury lawsuits because these witnesses can provide specialized opinions based on technical knowledge that typically goes beyond the scope of knowledge of a layperson. Attorneys frequently utilize expert witnesses in personal injury lawsuits to support a client’s position. Some common types of expert witnesses are accident reconstructionists, city planners, toxicologists, and medical examiners.

Expert witnesses are generally people who possess education, experience, and training in a particular field relevant to the issues at hand. When qualifying a professional as an expert, courts will look at factors such as the individual’s academic background and peer-reviewed publications, as well as their professional experience, recognition, and reputation. Expert witness testimony is presumed to be unbiased based on their specialized knowledge, and courts will permit their opinions as long as they meet certain criteria. Experts’ opinions must assist the judge or jury in understanding the evidence, and an opinion must be based on the facts of the case and research conducted by the expert. Notably, the expert’s methods must be trustworthy, and the processes must have been appropriately applied to the present issue. When an expert is necessary, plaintiffs must retain a qualified expert to ensure that the court permits their opinion.

The question often arises whether an accident victim who was not wearing their seat belt can still recover for their injuries through a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit. The short answer is yes; however, seat belt non-use evidence may be admissible in certain situations. However, the fact that an accident victim was not wearing a seat belt will not prohibit them from bringing a case or recovering for their injuries.

When someone is injured in a Massachusetts car accident, they are entitled to bring a personal injury case against the parties they believe to be at fault for their injuries. To prove a case against another driver, an accident victim must show that the other driver was negligent, and that their negligence resulted in the accident victim’s injuries. However, even if an accident victim can meet each of these elements, they may still encounter issues.

When it comes to determining a defendant’s liability in a car accident, Massachusetts car accident law allows for juries to assess the accident victim’s role in bringing about their own injuries. This is referred to as their “comparative fault.” Typically, an accident victim will have their total damages award reduced by their percentage of responsibility. For example, if a motorist incurs $300,000 in damages but is found to be 10 percent at fault, the most they could recover from other motorists involved in the accident would be $270,000. Under this rule, even an accident victim who is partially at fault for the collision can recover for their injuries, provided they are not more than 51 percent at fault.

Massachusetts law requires that owners and managers of public and private businesses and properties maintain and secure their property to limit harm to their residents, guests, and patrons. Typically, land and property owners will face liability if they fail to meet their standard of care, and the failure creates a dangerous hazard and causes an injury. Massachusetts injury victims may be able to recover for the damages they sustained because of the hazardous condition.

Premises liability lawsuits often occur because of injuries from slip-and-falls, trip-and-falls, broken or poorly maintained entrances and exits, or inadequate lighting and security. However, business owners may also face liability for damages resulting from toxic chemical exposure. Chemical exposures in workplaces, restaurants, stores, schools, and laboratories can pose a severe danger to a person’s health and well-being. Toxic poisoning usually occurs from inhaling an airborne substance or ingesting contaminated food or water. There are various toxins such as sulfates, gasoline, lead, mercury, and bleaches that may cause severe injuries to a patron or visitor. Exposure to these chemicals may cause various symptoms and illnesses, such as nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, vomiting, rashes, and even death.

For example, recently, a national news report detailed the harrowing chemical incident at a Massachusetts Buffalo Wild Wings. Emergency officials arrived at the restaurant after receiving calls that patrons were becoming ill because of chemical fumes in the establishment. The fumes were released after an employee mixed a popular food service cleaning detergent with a bleach cleaner to sanitize the kitchen floor. The mixture resulted in a toxic chemical reaction that spread throughout the restaurant. Thirteen patrons were hospitalized because of exposure to the fumes and the general manager died. The product manufacturer included a safety information sheet that indicated that the detergent should not be mixed with strong acids; however, it is unclear the employee was trained on the product and whether the products have ever been used in conjunction before this incident.

When someone is injured in a Massachusetts car accident, they can pursue a personal injury claim against any party they believe to be at fault for their injuries. Most car accident cases are brought under the theory of negligence, and as a result, many car accident claims raise similar issues. Of course, there are many different types of accidents, and claims based on the same kind of accident frequently raise related issues.

Take, for example, Massachusetts pedestrian accidents. These accidents typically involve severe injuries because, in many cases, motorists hit a pedestrian while traveling at a high rate of speed. However, even a low-speed collision can cause significant injuries, especially if the pedestrian strikes their head against the ground or a part of the car. Being able to substantiate the extent of a pedestrian’s injuries is a critical component of a pedestrian accident lawsuit.

Another issue that frequently comes up in Massachusetts pedestrian accident cases is the comparative fault of the pedestrian. Generally, motorists must yield to pedestrians. Thus, when a motorist strikes a pedestrian, the motorist will likely be primarily at fault. However, under Massachusetts law, a defendant can argue that the accident victim’s comparative negligence should reduce the victim’s total recovery amount. In some cases where an accident victim is found to be at least 51 percent at fault, they will be prevented from recovering anything for their injuries. Thus, it is also crucial for pedestrian accident victims to minimize their responsibility to preserve the ability to recover.

Massachusetts tort laws require injury victims to establish negligence if they wish to collect damages against the wrongdoer. Typically, Massachusetts plaintiffs who want to recover damages must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, that they breached, and that breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries. However, defendants will often utilize the Massachusetts comparative negligence doctrine to limit their degree of fault and reduce the amount of damages they owe.

Comparative negligence applies when the defendant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff was negligent and contributed to their own injuries. When a Massachusetts defendant meets their burden, a jury will decide what percent of fault each party had in the accident and injuries. For example, after a jury finds that a defendant in a Massachusetts car accident was responsible for the accident, they will then determine the total amount of damages. If they find that the total losses equal to $50,000, they can then assess each party’s level of fault in the accident. In this example, if they find that the plaintiff was 20% responsible, the total award would be reduced by 20%.

It is important to note that Massachusetts follows “modified comparative negligence.” Modified comparative negligence only allows plaintiffs to recover damages if they are less than 51% responsible for their injuries. Unlike other states, where damages are proportionate relative to fault, in Massachusetts, plaintiffs who are more than 51% at fault cannot recover any damages. Modified comparative negligence is an affirmative defense, and as such, the defendant bears the burden of proving the plaintiff’s negligence. In Massachusetts, plaintiffs need to establish that the accident was 100% the defendant’s fault to recover the total amount of compensation for their injuries.