A personal injury claim alleges harm to a person resulting from an accident or negligence on the part of another person or persons. This may seem straightforward, but these cases can be very complex and time-consuming. Massachusetts has specific regulations you must follow when pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.
Where Do I File My Personal Injury Suit?
Before filing your complaint, you must decide which court has jurisdiction—that is, the legal authority to decide your case. That will usually be the District Court or Superior Court where the accident occurred, where you live, or the person who caused your injury resides. The choice of district or superior court often depends on the amount you expect to recover.
What is Massachusetts' Statute of Limitations?
You typically have three years after your injury occurred to file a lawsuit. Certain circumstances may stop or reset the clock to give you extra time. However, because it can take time to build a strong case, it is always a good idea to talk with a lawyer right away, even if you are not sure you intend to sue.
What Should I Expect When I File My Complaint?
Your complaint should summarize the facts of your injury as you know them and outline your legal allegations against the defendant. Your lawyer will generally prepare this document, file it with the court and arrange to have the defendant served with a copy of it.
The defendant will have a limited time after receiving your complain to file an answer to it.
What Happens During Discovery?
The discovery process is where both sides try to find out what really happened. There are many potential avenues to explore at this stage:
Depositions are interviews, conducted under oath, with an attorney and generally recorded by a stenographer.
Interrogatories are written questions that must also be answered under oath.
Requests for documents are written requests for documentation or evidence that may support or refute one side's claims.
The defense may also ask to review your medical records and have you examined by a doctor of their choosing.
What Does Comparative Fault Mean?
Comparative fault refers to the degree to which you may have contributed to the incident that caused your injuries. Massachusetts law allows you to receive damages if you were 50% or less at fault. Any damages you are awarded are reduced by your degree of fault.
What Happens If I Go to Trial?
If you have been unable to negotiate a resolution, your case will move toward trial. Before it can begin, the attorneys for both sides must attend a pre-trial conference with the judge. Here they discuss the claim, any issues that may still need to be resolved and scheduling of the trial date.
At trial, each side alternates presenting opening statements, evidence and witnesses and closing arguments. To be successful, you will need to prove that the defendant did not exercise a duty of reasonable care, which resulted in your harm.
What Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?
Many personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means you agree to pay a percentage of your damages award. The percentage is negotiable, but often depends on whether you go to trial. Because of the extra work involved with a trial, your lawyer may want a higher percentage if your case goes to trial.
Talking with an Attorney
Personal injury cases are potentially complex and emotional. And the facts of each case are unique. A lawyer can help you sort out the details and determine the best legal strategy for your claim.