Personal Injury FAQs
For those that are not familiar with Massachusetts personal injury law, it can be, at times, a very confusing subject. Besides providing legal services to our clients, our office also believes in sharing free legal information. The following are some answers to frequently asked questions relating to Massachusetts personal injury laws. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does cover many areas of personal injury law in Massachusetts.
- Do I Have a Case?
- How Long Does the Process Take?
- How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
- What is a Personal Injury?
- What Are Some Common Types of Personal Injury Claims?
- Will I Need a Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer for My Case?
- Are Settlements Taxable?
- How Do I Find an Injury Attorney Near Me?
- How Much is My Case Worth?
- What is PIP?
- How Do I Get Lost Wages Paid?
- What Does Liability Mean?
- What is Premises Liability Law?
- Can I Change Lawyers if I’m Unhappy With My Current Attorney?
- Why Won’t an Attorney Take My Case?
- Will I Have to Go to Court?
- If My Case Does Go to Court, Will I Have to Testify?
- If I Lose a Trial, Can I Appeal?
- How Are You Paid?
It depends. Is the other party at fault? Are you at fault? If liability can be established against the other party, and you were injured, then you probably have a case worth pursuing.
That also, depends. Basically, when you are finished with your medical treatment is a good time to open a dialogue with the insurance company about reaching a possible settlement. Some cases take months, some take years, but the average case takes roughly 6 months to settle, from the date of the injury.
Technically, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Massachusetts is generally three years with some exceptions. That means that if a lawsuit is not filed within that three-year period, the claim will forever be time-barred. The statute of limitations runs from the day of the accident. There are essentially no exceptions to the statute of limitations, so filing a case in court within that mandated time period is essential.
A personal injury can be an injury to one’s physical person or an emotional injury. Examples of common physical personal injuries are broken bones, burns, lacerations, tears, strains, and sprains, etc. Examples of emotional or mental personal injuries can be post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. There are innumerable ways in which someone can sustain a personal injury stemming from an accident.
The most common types are car accident cases. Other common personal injury accidents are slip and falls, workers’ compensation, bicycle accidents, truck accidents, etc.
Technically, there is no requirement to hire an attorney. One can absolutely represent one’s self for an injury case. However, it is always recommended to seek legal counsel so that your rights are fully protected. An experienced injury attorney will help navigate your case through the claims process, and if necessary, the judicial process. That will ensure that you will end up with the best possible settlement at the end of your case.
Neither federal law or state law considers personal injury settlements in Massachusetts to be taxable income. The reason why is that a settlement is not considered a taxable event because the settlement is strictly intended to make the victim whole. That means the settlement is intended to put the injury victim financially in the place where he or she was at the time of the accident. Sometimes, in limited circumstances, a settlement for emotional distress can be considered taxable income, but that determination really rests on the facts of a particular case.
If you don’t know of any friends or family members that have a recommendation for a personal injury accident attorney, the internet is a great place to start to find an attorney. Websites such as Google and Avvo, are tremendous resources for reviewing attorneys, as well as reviewing reviews that have been left by an attorney’s prior clients. The internet is a treasure trove of information that can help anyone find a competent, experienced, qualified Massachusetts injury attorney.
That is a loaded question because that really depends on a number of factors. Considerations such as liability, as well as the amount of medical bills, the extent of medical treatment, the amount, if any of lost wages, etc., all are considered in determining the value of a personal injury case. Each case, therefore, must be considered on its own merit in determining its particular settlement value.
PIP stands for Personal Injury Protection. These are no-fault benefits that are available under the standard Massachusetts automobile insurance policy. PIP pays for medical bills even if one is responsible for causing a car accident. The PIP auto insurer will pay the first $2,000 in one’s medical bills. Any bills over $2,000 must be submitted to the individual’s private health insurance company. Any bills that the private health insurance company do not pay get kicked back to the PIP auto insurer for payment of bills up to $8,000. If the injury victim has MassHealth benefits, then MassHealth will pay up to $8,000 in medical benefit payments for an accident victim’s medical bills.
If it’s a car accident claim, then lost wages can be paid through PIP coverage. If it’s any other type of accident case, the lost wages must be paid out to the victim out of the eventual settlement. If the claim is a Workers’ Compensation claim, then Workers’ Compensation will pay for the injured worker’s lost wages.
In the context of Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, if the injured worker is completely unable to work, then he or she is entitled to 60% of his or her average weekly wage. If the injured worker is partially disabled from working, then he or she is entitled to 75% of his or her total disability rate. Workers’ Compensation Law is a different animal than Massachusetts Personal Injury Law as it is strictly set forth in Massachusetts law under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 152.
Liability is a legal term for fault. Fault, in a context of a personal injury accident, can arise from a car accident, or a slip and fall, or any other type of injury-causing accident. For example, if one is driving a motor vehicle and rear-ends another vehicle, the vehicle that rear-ended the other vehicle would be considered to be at fault or negligent. Similarly, a store owner who fails to properly maintain the store’s premises, and someone slips and falls as a result, then the store can be potentially be considered liable or negligent for causing the accident victim’s injuries.
Premises liability cases are those in which someone is injured either at a house or a business. These cases generally turn on whether or not the property owner or the one in control of the premises acted reasonably in maintaining the premises. Common types of premises liability cases are slip and falls, trip and falls, and any and all other incidents that occur on residential work commercial premises?
Yes. You may, at any time and for any reason, change attorneys during the life of a case. In fact, you don’t even need a reason to change lawyers. Massachusetts law allows injury victims to freely choose who represents he or she for a particular case, and there are no penalties for changing attorneys. However, your prior attorney may have a claim to payment for the reasonable value of his or her services that were rendered up until the time of the termination of his or her services. If at the time the lawyer’s services were terminated, he or she had already filed a lawsuit on behalf of the client, then that attorney may file what is called a statutory lien, which is enforceable lien for the attorney under Massachusetts law.
Personal injury lawyers in Massachusetts, unfortunately, cannot take on every case that comes across his or her desk. Frequently, attorneys decline cases in which the injury victim may be considered to be at fault for causing the accident. Or even if the injury victim is not at all at fault for causing the accident, if he or she did not sustain any type of physical or mental injuries, then there would be no claim for compensation that may be pursued.
For car accident cases, if the injury victim is not considered to be at fault, but his or her medical bills do not exceed $2,000, then he or she will not have a claim for pain and suffering against the driver who caused the accident. The reason for that is that Massachusetts law requires that in order for one to recover a pain and suffering settlement arising from a car accident case, the victim’s medical bills must be at least $2,000. This $2,000 amount encompasses any and all bills that are necessary, reasonable, and related to the initial accident.
The vast majority of personal injury cases in Massachusetts settle without the necessity of a jury trial. Most cases, in fact, settle without the necessity of a lawsuit having to be filed. Even if a case does require the filing of a lawsuit, the overwhelming majority of litigation cases do settle prior to trial. Therefore, the chances of you having to go to court for your case are exceedingly slim.
If your case does not resolve, then a trial will be necessary. This would be a jury trial overseen by a judge. You, more than likely, will, in fact, need to testify at your trial. What will happen is your attorney will put you on the witness stand for what is called direct examination. Following your direct examination, the attorney for the insurance company will perform a cross-examination. And following that, your attorney will follow-up with a redirect examination of you on the witness stand. Your attorney will prepare you for what to expect during your oral testimony at your jury trial.
There are very limited circumstances in which an injury victim may successfully appeal a personal injury verdict. If at trial, the jury awards a defense verdict, that means you will not receive any compensation for your case. Unless there was an error at trial committed by the judge, then there will be very little likelihood of your case being successfully appealed. Therefore, the outcome at trial is likely the outcome that you will be stuck with.
We do not collect a legal fee unless we recover compensation for you. That is called a contingency fee.
If you have any other additional questions related to personal injury law, I encourage you to contact the Law Office of Christopher Earley at 617-338-7400. We would be happy to provide you a free, no-obligation telephone consultation to discuss whether or not you have a claim that may be pursued successfully.