If I am seeking compensation in a personal injury claim, should I sign any forms for the insurance company?If you are pursuing a personal injury claim, you should not sign any forms for an insurance company. These forms usually allow the insurance company to obtain your medical records relating to treatment you underwent for injuries you suffered in the accident AND your past medical records. Some forms have no limitation on how far back they can go. In addition, some of these forms allow the insurer to obtain information about you from present and past employers.
Do I have a personal injury claim?Massachusetts personal injury law provides that in order to prevail against the person who caused your injury, your personal injury attorney must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence (or in other words, when all of the evidence is weighed that the matter is more probably true than not.) Duty: That the defendant owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care. Duty means an obligation to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another person which is recognized and enforced in the law. Breach of Duty (Negligence): That the defendant breached its duty of care or, in other words, failed to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable person would exercise under the circumstances. This is known as negligence. The mere happening of an accident is not proof of negligence. Proximate Cause: That the defendant’s negligence was a substantial cause of your injury or harm. In addition, you must show that the harm was reasonably foreseeable to a person in the defendant’s position at the time of the defendant’s negligence. Damages: That you suffered injury or harm.
What questions should I ask a personal injury lawyer?Before you hire a personal injury lawyer, you should ask the attorney the following questions:
- How much experience do you have?
- Have you ever been disciplined by the State bar?
- Are you covered by legal malpractice insurance?
- What are some of your case results?
- What do your clients say about you?
- Do you send copies of what you do to your clients?
- If the insurance company fails to make a reasonable offer, will you refer the case to another attorney or will you file a lawsuit and, if necessary, go to trial?
- Who will pay the expenses of my case?
- If you do not obtain compensation for my claim, will I have to reimburse you for the expenses?
- Will you provide me with information about personal injury claims before I hire you?
- How will you keep me informed about my case?
- What are your fees?
How much will a personal injury attorney charge?No Fee Unless Successful: In personal injury claims, personal injury lawyers are required to sign contingent fee agreements with their client that provide, in part, that the attorneys fee is contingent upon compensation to be paid for the recovery of damages, and the client is not to be liable to pay compensation to the lawyer other than from amounts collected for him/her by the personal injury lawyer.
Most attorneys charge a contingent fee of 33 1/3 percent of all money received unless it is a medical malpractice claim. Massachusetts law limits contingent fees in medical malpractice cases be determined by the following sliding scale:
Expenses: In addition to the legal fees, the client is responsible for payment of all out-of-pocket expenses. Examples of out of pocket expenses include filing fees, costs for medical records, costs of deposition transcripts, expert witness fees, travel and investigation expenses, court costs, and other incidental expenses. We do not ask our clients to reimburse us for expenses unless you receive compensation for your claim.
- Forty percent of the first one hundred and fifty thousand dollars recovered;
- Thirty-three and one-third percent of the next one hundred and fifty thousand dollars recovered;
- Thirty percent of the next two hundred thousand dollars recovered;
- Twenty-five percent of any amount by which the recovery exceeds five hundred thousand dollars.
Should I hire a personal injury attorney?An experienced personal injury attorney can prove to be very beneficial with regard to how your case is processed and the outcome of your claim. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate your claim, research and evaluate liability, obtain the necessary documents evidencing your damages such as medical records, reports and bills, he will deal with the insurance companies, and when the time is right attempt to negotiate a fair and just settlement for you. In addition, if the insurer fails to make a reasonable offer or denies your claim, your attorney will file a lawsuit and, if necessary, go to trial. You will be kept involved throughout the process and make final decisions as to whether to accept a final offer, file a lawsuit, or go to trial. You pay no fees unless your attorney is successful in obtaining compensation for you.
Will my recovery in my personal injury claim be reduced if I was negligent?In a Massachusetts personal injury claim, your negligence can prevent you from receiving compensation or reduce the amount of compensation you receive. If you were more than fifty percent responsible for the accident, you cannot recover. However, if your negligence was not greater than the total amount attributable to the person or persons against whom recovery is sought, your recovery will be reduced by the amount of negligence attributable to you. (M.G.L. c. 231, 85)
Can you still recover compensation for your personal claim if you were negligent?Sometimes, insurance companies will blame you for the accident and deny your personal injury case. Oftentimes, this blame is unfounded and can be addressed by solid evidence, common sense and logic. However, sometimes you may be at least partially responsible for the accident, This does not mean that you cannot pursue a personal injury claim for damages. In Massachusetts, you can still recover damages for injury or death if your negligence is not greater than the total amount attributable to the person or persons against whom recovery is sought. This is called Comparative Negligence. (M.G.L. c. 231, 85)
How much is your personal injury claim worth?There is no special formula concerning the value of a personal injury claim. However, some of the factors that are considered in determining the value of a personal injury claim are:
For more information about your legal rights and potential recovery contact Attorney Bob Allison today by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our online form. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case.
- General Damages: The nature, extent and duration of your physical and emotional damages, including:
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering;
- Permanent injuries;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of bodily function; and
- Medical Bills: You are entitled to be compensated for medical bills which were reasonable in amount and which were reasonably necessary. You are also entitled to a fair and reasonable sum for medical bills that are reasonably expected in the future.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: You are entitled to compensation for any past and future loss of earning capacity that is reasonably related to injuries you sustained in the accident.
- Liability: How strong your case is against the person who caused the accident. Insurance: The amount of available insurance to cover your damages.
- Your Character: Whether you were truthful about the accident, the damages you suffered and your effort to resume your activities.
- The Defendants Character: Whether he was truthful about what happened.
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Mental and emotional pain and suffering;
- Permanent injuries;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of bodily function; and
Should you speak to the insurance company?Giving a recorded statement to the defendants insurer can harm your personal injury claim for several reasons. One thing above all else that you must understand about insurance companies is that they are in business to make money. It is the job of the insurance adjuster to make sure that happens. So, no matter how friendly an adjuster may seem to you, remember the adjuster is on the lookout for information that he can use to impeach your credibility and pay you less money for your claim. When the adjuster takes your statement, he will be prepared, he will have reviewed any police reports, witness statements and photos, he will have a plan, and he will be experienced in taking recorded statements. In addition, the adjuster will probably attempt to take your statement within a few days of the accident and before you hire an attorney. On the other hand, it is not likely you will be prepared when the adjuster takes your statement. You may be in severe pain, on pain medication, you probably will not have reviewed any documents, reports or photos, and you will not have carefully considered the circumstances of the accident. Once your statement is taken, the insurer will have a permanent record that it will use to compare to any of your subsequent statements, other witness statements, and, if there are any inconsistencies, to impeach your credibility. Some of your subsequent statements may include statements to your doctor, police reports, interrogatories, and deposition and trial testimony. At the very least, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney before giving such a statement.
Dog Bite Claims
What can I do about a dangerous dog in Massachusetts?In Massachusetts, you can file a complaint with the hearing authority that a dog owned or kept in a city or town is a dangerous dog or is a nuisance (G.L. c 140 § 157).
The city or town’s hearing authority will investigate the complaint and take an examination under oath of the person complaining at a public hearing. After the investigation and hearing, the authority will:
If you want to make a complaint that a dog is dangerous or a nuisance, contact the city or town where the dog is kept and ask to be directed to the hearing authority. The hearing authority will tell you what you must do to file a complaint.
- If the complaint is the dog was a nuisance, dismiss the complaint or find the dog a nuisance.
- If the complaint is the dog was dangerous, dismiss the complaint, find the dog a nuisance, or find the dog was dangerous.
Can I find out information about a dog after a dog attack?You can find information about a dog and its owner after a dog attack. Massachusetts law requires that a dog be licensed, tagged, and that the city or town clerk make a record of the owner and the name, registered number, and description of the dog. These records are open for public inspection. So, if you were a victim of a dog attack, you can get information about the dog from the city or town where the dog was registered.
What will happen if a Massachusetts city or town finds a dog dangerous?If, after a hearing, a city or town finds that a dog is dangerous, it will order one or more of the following:
- That the dog be restrained;
- That the dog be confined to the premises of the keeper of the dog;
- That when removed from the premises, the owner muzzle the dog and restrain it with a chain or other tethering device;
- That the owner of the dog keep insurance in an amount not less than $100,000 against any claim resulting from any acts of the dog;
- That the owner of the dog provide information identifying the dog through its lifetime;
- That the dog be humanely euthanized.
Is a Massachusetts dog license valid throughout the state?A Massachusetts dog license is valid throughout the state. However, if the dog is permanently moved to another city or town in Massachusetts, the owner or keeper must deliver the original license and tag to the town clerk within 30 days of the move. The clerk will then deliver a transfer license and tag to the owner upon payment of $25.00 (G.L. c. 140 § 146).
Can a dog owner get a license for their dog if it was not vaccinated for rabies in Massachusetts?A city or town clerk is not allowed to grant a license for any dog unless the dog owner provides a veterinarian’s certificate that the dog was vaccinated for rabies. (G.L. c. 140, s. 137) The veterinarian’s certificate must include the owner’s name, description of the animal, date of vaccination, rabies vaccination tag number, and the expiration date. (G.L. c. 140 s 145B)
Do cities and towns have laws about dogs in Massachusetts?Cities and towns may establish regulation of dogs such as:
So if you have a question about your dog or a neighborhood dog, you may find the answer in your city or town by-laws and regulations.
- Dog licensing;
- Dog fees;
- Appointment of dog officers;
- Procedures for the investigation of damage caused by dogs; and
- Restraining dogs (G.L. c. 140 s. 147B).
Does a Massachusetts dog owner need to get their dog a license?Massachusetts dog owners must get licenses for dogs over the age of six months. The registering, numbering, describing and licensing of the dog shall be conducted in the city or town where the dog is kept. The owner or keeper of the dog shall keep a collar around the dog’s neck with a tag secured to it. The tag shall contain the dog’s license number, the name of the issuing city or town, and the year of issue. (G.L. c. 140, s. 137)
Car Accident Claims
What should I bring to my initial meeting with a car accident attorney?When you are going to your initial meeting with an attorney, you should bring all documents and information you have concerning the car accident and any medical treatment you underwent including:
- photos of the scene of the accident and the cars involved,
- medical documents,
- the names of any medical providers,
- the identity of any health insurers,
- the name and contact address of any witnesses,
- letters you receive regarding the accident including letters from insurers and medical providers, and
- information and/or documents concerning the damages to your car.
Should I speak to my insurance company?Your insurance policy requires that you cooperate with your insurance company in the event of a personal injury claim. This includes giving a statement, filling out forms, and if applicable, undergoing an independent medical exam.
Who will pay for services I performed before the car accident but are unable to perform now?If you are unable to perform services that you were able to perform before you were injured in a car accident, you may be able to pursue a claim for the cost of replacement services. Personal Injury Protection insurance coverage is available for car accident victims for the payment of medical bills, lost wages, and replacement services. PIP pays for reasonable expenses to pay non-family members to perform services that the injured person would otherwise have performed for the benefit of himself and/or family members of his household, such as household chores.
How do I prove the owner of a vehicle is responsible for a car accident if he was not driving the car?When you are in a car accident, you will often find that the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident was not the owner. The question that may come up is how do you prove that the driver had permission to drive the car. If the driver was driving the vehicle without the owner’s consent, there may not be insurance coverage for your claim. However, in Massachusetts, evidence that at the time of the car accident the vehicle was registered in the name of the defendant as owner shall be prima facie evidence that it was by and under the control of the person for whose conduct the owner was legally responsible. If the owner denies responsibility, he must prove that he was not responsible. (M.G.L. c. 231, 85A)
Who will pay my medical bills if I am injured in a car accident?
Compensation for medical bills and loss wages
If you were in a car accident, you may pursue a Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim for lost wages, medical bills and replacement services regardless of who caused the car accident. This is otherwise known as “no fault insurance.”
Generally, you do not receive compensation for your medical bills and lost wages in a personal injury claim unless you obtain a favorable result by settlement or verdict.
Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims
PIP provides compensation for up to $8,000.00 for people injured in a motor vehicle accident for three types of out-of-pocket expenses:
Medical bills: PIP covers reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred within two years of the car accident.
Lost wages: PIP covers 75 percent of lost wages caused by injuries you sustain in the automobile accident. However, if you are eligible for a disability plan at work, you will receive only 75 percent of the difference, if any, between the disability plan and the amount you would otherwise be entitled to under PIP.
Replacement services: PIP pays for reasonable expenses to pay non-family members to perform services that the injured person would otherwise have performed for the benefit of himself and/or family members of his household.
Health Insurance and PIP claims
If you are injured in a car accident and you have health insurance, Massachusetts personal injury protection will pay up to $2,000.00 towards your medical bills. Any remaining medical bills must be submitted to your health insurer in a timely fashion (if not, some health insurance companies may deny payment of your bill). However, PIP may be available to pay medical bills not covered under your health insurance including co-payments.
You must also coordinate payment of your medical treatment between the health care provider (doctor), health insurer, and PIP.
Health insurance only impacts the payment of medical bills in Massachusetts personal injury protection claims. Massachusetts personal injury protection remains available for the payment of lost wages and replacement services until the $8,000.00 in PIP coverage is exhausted. PIP won’t cover bills outside your health insurance plan.
Duty to cooperate
You must cooperate with the PIP insurer in order to obtain PIP benefits. This would apply to your car insurance, if you were operating your own vehicle.
Failure to cooperate with the insurance company may result in denial of your claim.
The duty to cooperate also applies to uninsured and underinsured claims.
PIP Application: You must fill out, sign and submit a PIP application to the insurance company. (The insurance company will send the PIP form to you.)
Medical Examination: The PIP insurer has the right to have you examined by a doctor selected by the insurer.
Medical records, bills and lost wage information: You must submit evidence of your losses to the PIP insurer and authorize the insurer to obtain such information that is pertinent to the claim.
Statement: The PIP insurer has the right to obtain your statement under oath. This is called an examination under oath (“EUO”). If the statement is not taken under oath, you are not obligated to give a statement.
More information about Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection
Here is more information you should know about Massachusetts PIP claims:
Massachusetts personal injury protection is limited to $8,000.00 in coverage and does NOT cover compensation for pain and suffering. In order to obtain compensation for pain and suffering, you must pursue a bodily injury claim, uninsured claim and/or underinsurance claim, show someone was at fault, and meet other statutory requirements.
PIP does not cover people injured while riding a motorcycle.
PIP does cover pedestrians and bicyclists who are injured in a car accident.
Claims for PIP benefits must be submitted to the PIP insurer within two years of the date of the accident.
Attorney Allison will process your PIP claim. When Attorney Allison is representing someone in a bodily injury claim, he will not charge an additional fee to process a Massachusetts personal injury protection claim.
Will I receive compensation for my lost wages if I am injured in a car accident?Generally, you do not receive compensation for your medical bills and lost wages in a personal injury claim unless you obtain a favorable result by settlement or verdict. However, if you were in a car accident, you may pursue a Massachusetts Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim for lost wages, medical bills and replacement services regardless of who caused the car accident. This is otherwise known as no fault insurance. PIP covers 75 percent of lost wages caused by injuries you sustain in the automobile accident. However, if you are eligible for a disability plan at work, you will receive only 75 percent of the difference, if any, between the disability plan and the amount you would otherwise be entitled to under PIP.
What should I do if I was in a car accident?Have you been injured in a car accident? A motor vehicle accident can be a painful, stressful, and confusing experience. You may be contacted by insurance companies and investigators, you will have to fill out forms, and you may wonder who will pay your medical bills and lost wages.
Here is some useful information and the benefit of having an experienced personal injury attorney represent you.
It is important that you contact a qualifed accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident to help preserve evidence, identify and interview witnesses, and to begin building a case.
- Do Not Leave the Accident Scene. If you are involved in a car accident, you must stay at the accident scene until you exchange information with the other driver or you may be criminally prosecuted.
- Avoid Additional Collisions. Take steps to avoid additional collisions such as moving your car to the side of the road, invoking flasher lights, lighting flares, and raising the hood of your car.
- Exchange Information. Exchange information with the operator of the other motor vehicle(s) including the name, address, date of birth, and driver’s license number of the operator and owner of the car (if different from the operator), registration number, and name of the insurance company. (Always keep a pen and a small pad of paper in your car.)
- Inform the Police. Contacting the police is very important, because the police will prepare a detailed motor vehicle accident report. This report will contain important facts regarding your claim that will come in handy when you seek legal advice.
- Never Admit Liability. Never admit your liability before you seek legal advice from a personal injury attorney. When you are speaking with other drivers, passengers, paramedics or police, just provide a truthful account of the incident – do not accept responsibility for the accident.
- Get Appropriate Information. If possible, you should attempt to obtain the following information: Names and addresses of witnesses; Note the damage to the motor vehicles; Note any skid marks and the approximate distance; Draw a diagram of the scene, noting the names of streets, intersections, traffic signals or signs, and location of the motor vehicles; and, if you happen to have a camera with you, take photos of the scene and motor vehicles.
- File Accident Reports. Obtain and fill out an “Operator’s Report of Motor Vehicle Accident.” This form may be obtained from the police department or from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Send the original to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles and one copy to the police department in whose jurisdiction the accident occurred. Keep a copy for your files. Before you send it out, the report should be reviewed by your attorney.
- Inform Your Insurance Company. Report the accident immediately to your insurance company or agent in writing without any detailed description of the accident. (Keep a copy of the letter for your file.) The attorney’s job will be to fill in the blanks for the insurance company later.
- Medical Treatment. If you are injured, seek appropriate medical treatment and follow your doctor’s orders regarding any treatment (i.e. physical therapy), tests (i.e. x-ray and M.R.I.) and prescriptions.
- Get Legal Advice as Soon as Possible. Contact an attorney. Robert Allison is a Massachusetts motor vehicle accident attorney experienced in dealing with the various issues that arise following a car accident such as contacting insurance companies, processing motor vehicle accident claims and PIP claims (compensation for medical bills and lost wages), evaluating and settling claims, and, if necessary, litigating car accident claims.
Product Liability Claims
Who do I sue in a Massachusetts product liability case?If you are pursuing a breach of warranty claim because you were injured by a defective product, you must bring your claim against the merchant. A merchant is defined as someone who regularly deals in products of the kind involved or has a professional status with regard to the product involved and be expected to have specialized knowledge or skill regarding the product (G.L. c. 106, s. 2-104). So if you buy a second hand product from the guy down the street, you probably will not be able to bring a product liability claim against him.
How do you prove a defective design case in Massachusetts?When you are injured by a product because of a defective design, you may be able to pursue a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
The manufacturer must design the product with reasonable care to eliminate avoidable dangers. In a negligent design case, you must prove who manufactured the product, that the design was defective, that you were injured, and that the negligent design caused your injury.
In addition, a manufacturer warrants that its products are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are sold (G.L. c. 106, § 2-314). This includes both the uses which the manufacturer intended and those which are reasonably foreseeable.
The following factors are considered when evaluating the adequacy of the product’s design:
Proving a defective design claim usually requires the opinion of an expert that the design was defective and an alternate design is safer.
- The gravity of the danger posed by the design
- The likelihood that the danger would occur
- The mechanical feasibility of a safer alternative design
- The cost of an improved design
- The adverse consequence to the product of an alternate design
How do I prove who manufactured the product in a Massachusetts product liability case?In a product liability case, you usually have to prove who manufactured the product. Sometimes this can be more difficult than you would think.
Some of the ways you can prove the identification of the manufacturer are:
- A label on the product if it was a registered as a trademark. Under federal law, no one but the manufacturer can use the name; and
- A corporate name on the product if the corporation established or carrying on business in Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts law, no other corporation may assume that name.
How much time do I have to file a Massachusetts product liability lawsuit?If you were injured by a defective product and you want to pursue a product liability case, you must file a lawsuit within 3 years after the date of the injury. This applies to negligence and breach of warranty claims. In addition, you must give the manufacturer notice of the breach within a reasonable time after you discover or should have discovered the breach. However, if you don’t give notice, the manufacturer must prove it was prejudiced as a result of the lack of notice.
Slip and Fall Accident Claims
What information must be included in a notice for a slip and fall on ice and snow or against a Massachusetts county, city or town?The notice must contain the name and place of residence of the person injured, and the time and place of said injury or damage. Such notice shall be in writing, signed by the person injured or someone on his behalf, and sent to the county, city, town or person legally obliged to maintain the property. (M.G.L. c. 84, 18, 19) A notice for a slip and fall accident on snow and ice may be given by posting it on a conspicuous place on the property and by leaving it with any person occupying the whole or part of the property. (M.G.L. c. 84, 20)
Do I have to notify anyone if I suffer an injury from a slip and fall accident on snow and ice?If you were injured from a slip and fall accident on snow and ice, you must notify the person who by law is obligated to maintain the property within 30 days of your slip and fall accident. (M.G.L. c. 84, 18, 21)
Can a child trespasser pursue a slip and fall accident claim?A child trespasser can pursue a slip and fall accident claim if you can show that the child’s presence on the owners property was reasonably foreseeable. If you can show that the child’s presence on the property was reasonably foreseeable, then the owner owes the child the same duty of care that he owes to a lawful visitor.
Do I have a slip and fall accident claim?When determining whether you have a slip and fall accident claim, you must prove:
The evidence required to prove negligence is largely dependent on the type of slip and fall accident you were involved in.
Some examples of the different types or causes of slip and fall accidents include defective stairways and railings, foreign substances, and snow and ice.
- Who owned or controlled the property;
- That you were a lawful visitor;
- That the owner was negligent;
- That you were injured;
- That the owners negligence caused your injury.
What happens if I fail to give notice to the owner of the property in a slip and fall accident on snow and ice?Failure to give notice to the owner of property for injury or damage sustained by reason of snow and ice is not a defense unless the owner can show he was prejudiced thereby. (M.G.L. c. 84, 18, 20) You can help to minimize any alleged prejudice of the property owner by properly documenting the condition which caused your fall by taking photos immediately after your fall or as soon as possible, by obtaining the name and address of any witnesses, and by providing copies of the photos and witness information to the property owner.
Do I have to notify anyone if I was injured in a slip and fall accident if it occured on Massachusetts city, county, or town property?If you were injured in a slip and fall accident which occurred on city, county, or town property, you must notify the county, city or town of your slip and fall accident within 30 days of the accident. (M.G.L. c. 84, 18)
Do I have a slip and fall accident claim if I slip and fall in a store?You may have a slip and fall accident claim that occurs in a store if you can prove that you slipped on a substance on the floor that was caused by the store, or that the store knew the substance was on the floor or that the substance was on the floor long enough that it should have know the substance was there. In addition, you must show that the substance posed a risk of harm and the store had enough time to remedy it.
Do I have a slip and fall accident claim when I fall down stairs?You may have a slip and fall accident claim if you fall down stairs if you can prove that the stairs were defective, and the defect caused your fall. In order to prove that the stairs were defective, you usually have to prove that the stairs violated a law, rule, code or regulation such as a building code violation.
Do I have a slip and fall accident claim if I fall on snow and ice?You may have a slip and fall accident claim if you fall on snow and ice if you can prove the owner knew or should have known that a hazard existed because of the snow and ice and failed to take measures to make the property safe. In order to preserve a slip and fall accident claim, you must notify the owner within 30 days.