Injured victims in Massachusetts often do not understand when they have a valid personal injury claim against another party. While the concept of a car accident or premises liability claim are relatively straightforward, there are other technicalities that can impact a legal filing. Many valid personal injury claims against individuals with liability insurance never make it to court because the insurance providers know what to expect well before they get there. Here is what the insurance adjusters evaluate:
Establishing the claim
Personal injury claims are primarily focused on negligence. While negligence is a legal term, it generally means carelessness or failure to take care. Negligence consists of four elements: duty, breach, causation, and injury, and a plaintiff must prove all four elements in order to recover against a defendant. Additionally, certain factors must exist in order for an injury claim to move forward in the courts.
The first step in a personal injury claim is establishing that an accident occurred that caused an injury. The next step is connecting the respondent or defendant to the accident, such as an official accident report following an auto mishap or a car accident. Premises liability claims can be difficult if there is no accident report, as the injured party has to prove that they were injured on the specific defendant’s property.
Establishing a reasonable duty of care
In order to recover damages from a defendant, a plaintiff in a Massachusetts personal injury claim must prove that the respondent had a “reasonable duty of care.” In other words, the defendant owed a duty to the injured party and was negligent in maintaining that duty. This proof establishes a liability on the part of the respondent.
Common duties of care in Massachusetts negligence cases include:
- A driver owes a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians;
- Landowners owe a duty of care to people entering their property (but a lesser duty of care to trespassers);
- Employers owe a duty of care to others for the actions of their employees when acting within the scope of their employment.
There is generally no duty of care to protect others from third-parties, unless there is a “special relationship” between the injured party and the respondent. For example, in Massachusetts colleges have a duty to protect their students, bus companies have a duty to protect their passengers, and hotels have a duty to protect their guests from the actions of third-parties.
After establishing that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care, the next step is showing that the defendant breached this duty. Breach can be action or inaction on the part of the defendant. This breach by the defendant then caused injury to the plaintiff.
There are also certain material factors that can affect a case filing. Massachusetts’ statute of limitations generally requires that all personal injury cases be brought within three years of the injury. Additionally, Massachusetts has a modified comparative negligence rule that bars a financial award if a plaintiff’s own negligence exceeds the combined negligence of the defendant(s).
How can a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer help?
The majority of personal injury claims are settled with insurance providers before ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. Having a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer on your side to help gather medical records of your injuries, communicate with the insurance company, prepare a settlement package, and enter the case into suit is essential. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Richard C. Bardi & Associates LLC are here to assist at every step.
This post is for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Consult a Massachusetts attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail; however, contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.