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Massachusetts Personal Injury Law

As a Massachusetts resident, you have a right to receive compensation for the losses you suffered or continue to suffer from a personal injury you believe another person or organization is responsible for causing. However, your right to pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit can be complicated by Massachusetts's laws, which protect the rights of both you and the defendant.

If you've been injured in Lowell, Worcester or Boston, use LawInfo's Massachusetts personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.

Types of Damages in Massachusetts

The point of a personal injury lawsuit is for the plaintiff to recover compensation for their injury from the liable defendant. The compensation the plaintiff can recover is called damages. There are two major categories and two subdivisions of damages:

  • Actual (or compensatory) damages—The main category of damages that plaintiffs sue the defendant for. Actual damages are compensation for losses the plaintiff has suffered from their injury. Actual damages are subdivided into:
    • Economic damages—These are losses with an actual dollar value, such as repair or medical bills, replacement costs, lost work time and salaries, etc.
    • Noneconomic damages—These are losses with no concrete dollar value, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, disfigurement, disability, etc. Massachusetts specifically limits noneconomic damages recovered from medical malpractice claims to no more than $500,000.
  • Punitive damages—These do not compensate plaintiffs for their losses. The court may award punitive damages to the plaintiff as a form of punishment against the defendant for negligence or malice.

Massachusetts also limits total damages recovered from medical malpractice claims against charity organizations to no more than $100,000.

Proving Negligence in Massachusetts

Many personal injury lawsuits rely on the legal theory of negligence to determine whether a defendant is liable for compensating damages. A negligent act isn't necessarily a malicious one—malice is a separate factor that's determined in litigation. Rather, a negligent act is an injurious act that the defendant (or the plaintiff, sometimes) could have reasonably prevented but failed to.

There are four elements to negligence that Massachusetts courts often use to determine a defendant's negligence and liability. These elements are best understood when posed as questions:

  1. Was the defendant responsible for owing a duty of care to the plaintiff, including preventing reasonably foreseeable injuries?
  2. Did the defendant breach their duty?
  3. Did the defendant's actions cause the plaintiff's injury? (And was it a reasonably foreseeable injury that the defendant was responsible for preventing?)
  4. Can the plaintiff's injury be compensated with economic or noneconomic damages?

The "reasonably prudent person" principle is another method courts use to determine whether a defendant's actions were negligible. If the defendant's actions surrounding the injuring incident were different from those of a hypothetical, reasonable person, they could be seen as negligible.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute "runs out," a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Massachusetts's civil statute of limitations includes:

  • Three years for written and oral contracts. 20 years for contracts under seal.
  • Three years for wrongful death.
  • Three years for injury (or damage) to property.
  • Three years for personal injury.
  • Three years for fraud.
  • Three years for medical malpractice. Action is barred after seven years from the injuring incident.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.

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