A personal injury lawyer near Framingham, MA specializes in the field of torts, which is the legal term for personal injury law. The most common cases involve motor vehicle accidents and medical malpractice; however, they also cover workplace injuries, slip and fall accidents, assault, animal attacks, injuries suffered as a result of defective products, and even non-physical injuries such as the loss of a relationship or harm to one’s reputation. Wrongful death claims also fall into this category.
The purpose of a personal injury lawsuit is to provide an opportunity for the victim (the plaintiff) to get financial compensation, or damages, from the party who is allegedly responsible (the defendant). The amount of money a plaintiff can receive for their injury depends on numerous factors. The bottom line, however, is proving that the plaintiff did cause the injury and was in a position to prevent it.
Was the Defendant Responsible?
Just because you suffered an injury doesn’t mean someone else (or more often, their insurance company) owes you money. In order to prove liability, the defendant must demonstrate four things:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This means that the person allegedly responsible was in a position to prevent the accident and should have done so.
- The defendant failed in that duty of care. In other words, they either allowed the accident to happen or caused it through negligence, an act of carelessness or recklessness.
- The plaintiff suffered an actual injury. The plaintiff was not physically injured—even if they were scared out of their wits by a near-miss—there is no case.
- The injury was the direct result of the plaintiff’s actions or failure to take preventive measures.
When these four elements have been demonstrated, the case may proceed.
What Happens Next?
Once the lawsuit is filed and all parties are notified, the plaintiff will attempt to refute the defendant’s claim or reduce their own liability through a number of defenses. These include:
- Comparative negligence: the defendant will attempt to prove that the plaintiff was at least partially at fault, thereby reducing their own liability.
- Contributory negligence: literally, the defendant tries to show that the defendant’s own actions or carelessness contributed to the accident.
- Assumption of risk: The defendant knowingly engaged in a clearly dangerous activity (this is why some theme parks and tours require people to sign a waiver of liability).
- Misuse of a product: If a plaintiff’s injuries were caused by using a product in a manner inconsistent with safety instructions, the defendant is not liable.
- Unrelated cause: the injury may have been the result of something that had nothing to do with the alleged incident or product.
How do I Prove my Case?
Once you are able to establish liability, it is necessary to prove the extent to which the injury has impacted your life. This will determine the amount of damages to ask for. This will depend on:
- the nature of the claim
- how the accident happened
- how badly you are injured
- state and local statutes
One example of how the laws of a specific jurisdiction may affect your compensation is the mandatory cap on awards. Usually, caps, or limits on the amount for which a defendant is liable, are applied to non-economic and punitive damages. For example, in the state of Massachusetts, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are limited to $500,000, unless the plaintiff’s injury resulted in a permanent disability for disfigurement.
What Type of Damages are Available?
Damages fall under one of three categories: Economic, noneconomic and punitive.
These are the easiest to calculate because assigning a dollar value is as easy as looking at financial records. Economic damages are intended to make the plaintiff financially whole by compensating them for expenses related to the injury in question.
Economic damages for which you may be eligible include:
- Medical expenses (including medications, equipment and rehabilitation costs)
- Lost wages or salary
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property loss or damage
Noneconomic damages include things for which determining an exact dollar value is difficult, although some jurisdictions have guidelines or employ a multiplier based on the amount of economic damages. Noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and distress
- Loss of a relationship (loss of consortium)
- Reduced quality of life
There are no caps on noneconomic damages under Massachusetts law except in medical malpractice cases as noted earlier.
Economic and noneconomic damages are known as “compensatory damages” because they compensate the plaintiff for their losses. Punitive damages are intended to penalize or punish the defendant for excessively negligent or willfully reckless behavior. An example would be a manufacturer who is aware of a dangerous product defect and decides to ignore it, believing that the cost of paying out a few judgments will cost less than it would to correct the problem.
Punitive damages are subject to caps in many states. In Massachusetts however, these are only applied in medical malpractice cases.
I Was Injured by a Defective Product. How do I Sue a Big Company?
If you were injured or made sick by a dangerous product, chances are you weren’t the only one. There has been a great deal of litigation in recent years over medical devices, toxic chemicals and other products that have injured and sickened hundreds of people. Examples include Big Tobacco, the asbestos industry, and most recently, the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup).
In the past, the only options were to either file a complaint and hope for the best, or start a class action lawsuit. The problem with class actions is that the individual plaintiffs usually wind up receiving very little. Today, when a product liability case affects hundreds of plaintiffs, the cases are consolidated into what has become known as “multi-district litigation” (MDL). The cases are then assigned by a judicial panel to a single federal judge. A few cases are then selected to go to trial. If the majority of these “bellwether” cases are decided in favor of the plaintiffs, the defendant will usually attempt to settle the remaining cases. The main difference between MDL and a class action is that the latter is a single lawsuit with multiple plaintiffs, while the former involves individual lawsuits.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
Except for high-profile product MDL cases, the vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. A personal injury lawyer’s primary job is to convince the defendant or their insurance company that going to court will cost them more than simply paying you to go away. Fortunately, most parties to an injury lawsuit want to avoid the time and expense of a court proceeding.
How Much Does it Cost?
There are no up-front, out-of-pocket fees to have Jason Stone Injury Lawyers represent you. The first element of our Stone Cold Guarantee states that we are paid only if we win your case. We understand how a personal injury can cause massive financial hardship and are here to assist you, regardless of your ability to pay upfront. If we win a settlement for you, we will take a percentage to cover our fees and expenses.
Call our offices today for your free initial consultation. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, “There’s No Obligation, Just Information®.”