According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, about 31 million people in the US sustain injuries that require medical attention annually. Out of these, two million Americans require some form of hospitalization. Since some people suffer injuries due to the negligence of other parties, both the US Congress and the state governments have enacted personal injury laws that enable the aggrieved parties to seek legal redress. With that in mind, here is a comprehensive of the types of injuries that are considered a personal injury and a guide to personal injury laws in Boston.
Boston Personal Injury Laws
Boston's personal injury laws are based on the doctrine of negligence, which, simply put, is an expectation that each person will act responsibly and never put other people at risk. Nevertheless, this doctrine recognizes that some injuries are unavoidable and it is the duty of a plaintiff/complainant to prove that the defendant was negligent. Good examples of negligence include medical complications or death caused by a doctor's carelessness and car accidents caused by drunk drivers. This doctrine also applies in cases where employers, businesses and even government agencies risk the safety and health of others. In Boston, negligence laws are hinged on both common and statutory laws, meaning they are a mishmash of judicial decisions made over the decades, statutes enacted by elected lawmakers, and statutes enacted by legally mandated bodies such as the Department of Health.
The state of Massachusetts has adopted a more modern negligence doctrine called comparative negligence. Traditionally, a defendant who could prove that a plaintiff contributed however slightly to the injuries cited in a personal injury lawsuit was not required to make compensation payments. In comparison, the comparative negligence doctrine requires the presiding judge and jury to evaluate the evidence presented in a personal injury lawsuit and then apportion blame to either one or both parties on a percentage basis. Presently, Massachusetts uses a 51% comparative negligence rule. This means the blame apportioned to a plaintiff in a personal injury case must be less than 51% for the plaintiff to receive compensation. If the blame assigned exceeds this threshold, no award is given. In addition, the compensation payable to a plaintiff increases or reduces depending on the percentage of blame assigned. The lower the share of the blame in favor of the plaintiff, the higher the damages awarded and vice versa.
Other Grounds for Personal Injury Lawsuit
Besides negligence, you can file a personal injury lawsuit based on the following legal concepts:
• Strict liability
• Intentional wrong
Strict liability is a legal concept that refers to holding designers and manufacturers legally liable for injuries resulting from use of defective products. In this case, plaintiffs are not required to prove that the defendants were negligent. A plaintiff only has to prove that a product was designed or manufactured in a way that made it defective and dangerous when used by consumers. On the other hand, "intentional wrong" is a legal doctrine that allows an aggrieved party to seek legal redress for personal injuries sustained through intentional or wrongful actions. For instance, you can file a personal injury suit against a store that wrongfully detains you for shoplifting. Nevertheless, these grounds are rarely used in personal injury lawsuits.
Personal Injury Law Elements
Personal injury laws in Boston consist of four key elements:
It is the duty of the plaintiff and his/her lawyer to prove these four elements beyond reasonable doubt in court. With this in mind, duty refers to the legally acceptable responsibility that a defendant bears in relation to the plaintiff. The threshold one must fulfill when tackling this element in court varies depending on industry standards, applicable laws, and applicable codes of conduct. On its part, breach refers to the failure of a defendant to fulfill the safety and care obligations that fall under his/her mandate. Once again, the legal threshold associated with this element varies depending on the same factors cited above. The term "damages" refers to the compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury case. Lastly, causation refers to proving that a defendant's failure to ensure the safety and care of others caused the plaintiff to sustain injuries.
Types of Personal Injury Claims
Dog Bites and Animal Attacks
Although Massachusetts is not one of the states that have enacted the "First Bite Law," the Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 Sec. 155 covers the legal ramifications applicable to dogs and their owners in relation to dog attacks. This law is based on the legal doctrine of "strict liability" meaning that the owner of a dog bears legal responsibility in the event his/her dog injures another person. As such, dog owners are expected to cover costs related to medical care, lost wages, decreased quality of life, scarring, as well as physical pain and psychological suffering. However, the same law absolves dog owners from this legal responsibility if a personal injury plaintiff was injured while "committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing a dog." Due to rising cases of dog bites associated with pit bulls, some cities and towns in Massachusetts enacted ordinances and regulations requiring owners of this dog breed to leash and muzzle their pets. However, legislators at the state level amended Chapter 140 Section 157 to basically make it illegal for local authorities to regulate dogs based on breed. Doctors and healthcare providers who treat dog bite victims are required by law to report such incidences to the relevant authorities. All in all, extensive understanding of these aspects is necessary because they can determine the outcome of a personal injury case.
Vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury lawsuits and fall into the following categories:
• Construction accident
• Defective products
• Brain injury
• Truck accident
• Motorcycle injury
• Wrongful death
• Spinal cord injury
At the same time, the laws applicable to a personal injury lawsuit associated with vehicle accidents vary widely depending on the nature of the accident. Laws use to litigate these cases include those related to driving under the influence, road traffic rules, pedestrian right-of-way, uninsured and underinsured motorist, as well as underage and senior drivers. For this reason, it is advisable to hire a qualified and experienced attorney who has handled similar cases in the past to represent you in court. Your attorney will handle your case using the right set of laws. For instance, it is illegal for motorists 21 years or older to operate vehicles in Boston if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds 0.08%. If an attorney can prove that a defendant in a personal injury case had a BAC that exceeded this limit, the presiding judge and jury would likely award damages to the plaintiff.
Medical malpractice lawsuits in Boston are based on a legal concept called "res ipsa loquitor," which allows a plaintiff to prove his/her case using circumstantial evidence. This notwithstanding, plaintiffs must show that the injuries/harm suffered would not have occurred ordinarily. Plaintiffs can seek damages to cover lost wages, medical bills, pain and anguish caused by the malpractice, and loss of consortium costs.
Personal injury laws in Boston cover a wide range of lawsuit scenarios including injuries related to vehicle accidents, dog and animal bites, medical malpractice, slips and falls, defective products, workplace safety, DUI, nursing home abuse and aviation accidents. If you have suffered a personal injury due to someone else's negligence, you should consult a Boston car accident lawyer who has handled similar cases in the past.