Posts made in June 2018

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Premises Liability Law in Massachusetts: Determining Who’s at Fault

Gravity works and things happen. We all know that, so we aren’t surprised when an injury occurs because of a slip and fall event. Sometimes gravity gets a bit of an assist in slip and fall events, however. This is why landlords and/or tenants are sometimes held responsible under the law of premises liability.

This means that someone falling on a property can blame gravity without question, but blame can also fall to the landlord and/or tenants, depending on the facts of the incident. The wise course of action is obvious: have your personal injury lawyer on speed dial if you’re a landlord or tenant.

Premises Liability Law

“Premises liability” holds the owners of properties and the residents living there liable for accidents occurring on the property. Landlords and tenants may be liable for injuries caused by a slip and fall, or other type of accident, on the premises which you own and/or occupy.

When an incident occurs and legal action begins as a result, one of the first steps is determining who’s at fault for the accident occurring. Under Massachusetts premises liability laws, injured parties can make legal claims for monetary damages if the event occurred as a result of a hazardous defect or situation on your real property.

Anyone who owns property in Massachusetts must maintain that property in a reasonably safe condition for lawful visitors. When an accident happens or a slip and fall incident occurs, certain conditions must apply in order to bring a lawsuit. Anyone filing a lawsuit against a property owner must provide proof that the owner had a duty to provide reasonable care, that the owner breached that duty and that an injury resulted because of it.

That’s not to say that the property owner is automatically faulted when a fall or injury occurs. The law recognizes that a normal part of daily life is occasionally dropping or spilling things. A property owner may not necessarily garner blame for not cleaning up a spill immediately or instantly picking something up. The law also recognizes that grounds shift over time, creating uneven areas that take time to rectify.

Property owners are also not at fault when someone trips or slips on something that an ordinary person could reasonably expect to find there, such as a drainage grate or a concrete parking bumper. These things are an expected encounter in a modern urban area and ordinary people should anticipate their presence, expect to see them and avoid them.

In short, we’re all expected to look where we’re going.

Determining Who’s at Fault

Every state has its own laws and procedures that determine liability when an injury happens. The focus of the law may be on the property, its condition at the time of the incident and the activities of the owner and the injured party. Or, the law may center around the status of the injured person in determining liability.

Determining who is responsible may hinge on one or more of the following:

  • The visitor’s legal status. One of the following labels may be applicable: invitee, licensee, social guest or trespasser.
  • The actions of the visitor and the owner, as well as the condition of the property at the time of the incident.
  • Is the injured party a child or a trespasser?
  • Could “shared fault” rules be applicable in an injury event?
  • Rules specifically governing landlords.

In Massachusetts, the injured party has the option of filing an insurance claim against the property owner’s insurance carrier or taking the case to court by filing a personal injury lawsuit. While there are a number of laws and legal rules in Massachusetts that can impact litigation, there are two main legal points to consider before filing your lawsuit.

First, there is a statute of limitations deadline for filing litigation in a slip and fall occurrence. Meeting this deadline is imperative before moving forward with your case.

Second, Massachusetts has “shared fault” rules. This means a ruling that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident may impact your right to recover monetary compensation for damages.

Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall in Massachusetts

The civil court system of Massachusetts puts a limit on the amount of time allowed to pass before you forfeit your right to bring a lawsuit into court. Your personal injury attorneys in Boston or other cities can explain the statute of limitations that applies to your specific type of case.

The important point to understand is that trying to file a slip and fall lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline date will almost certainly end in a dismissal of your case. The property owner or landlord you’re filing against will be quick to point out to the court that you are past the deadline date. When this happens, expect the property owner’s motion to dismiss to be swiftly granted.

The slip and fall statute of limitations in Massachusetts is the same as most laws governing personal injury cases in general. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260 section 2A places a time limit of three years within the date of the incident for filing a slip and fall accident lawsuit.

It is also required that the property owner or landlord receive notice when you intend to pursue a claim under premises liability laws. There is a limit on the time allowed for this. Such notice is generally required within 30 days of the event.

 

Contact us

At the Boston law firm of Colucci Colucci Marcus & Flavin, PC, our attorneys will help our clients recover the maximum possible compensation for their injuries. For a free initial consultation with one of our professional and experienced personal injury lawyers, call (617) 698-6000, or contact us online via our email form.

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Personal Injury Trial? – What to Expect

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in which another party, entity or organization could be at fault, you have the right to file a personal injury claim in order to receive the compensation you deserve. When seeking a consultation with a personal injury attorney in Massachusetts, the attorney will advise you as to whether or not you have a case.

In many situations, the other party may choose to settle the personal injury lawsuit out of court. However, there are also many instances in which the proposed settlement doesn’t seem fair, and insurance adjusters refuse to negotiate any further. At this time, you may decide that you prefer to take the case to trial. This is an important decision because a personal injury lawsuit that goes to trial can last anywhere from several days to several months, and possibly even longer than a year or two.

Your personal injury attorney can certainly advise you as to the best course of action, but it also helps to have a very good idea of what to expect at a personal injury trial. A lengthy process can sometimes be stressful and daunting, but with knowledge of what might happen if you choose to go to court, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision and limit any frustrating surprises.

What to Expect at the Beginning of a Personal Injury Trial

Unfortunately, the beginning of a personal injury trial isn’t very exciting, though there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Your attorney will be working diligently on your behalf to research all aspects of the case.

This involves visiting the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses, taking photographs, and collecting and researching the police reports, medical records, witness statements, as well as conducting any additional investigation as deemed necessary to put together a strong case.

This process can typically take anywhere from one to six months. When all this has been completed, the personal injury lawsuit can be formally filed. The court then has a period of one to two months to serve the summons to the defendant, who then has 30 days to file a response. At this time, it is still possible to ask for a settlement, and many defendants may ultimately decide to settle in your favor than go to trial.

At the Start of the Personal Injury Trial

If a settlement is not agreed upon, the trial proceedings will continue. Both your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyers will send investigatory questions to each other regarding the facts of the case and the claims being made. Depending on how complex the case may be, this could take several months to complete.

It is also probable that the defense will require their own examination of your injuries or condition by a physician they appoint. The examination will be done in the presence of an attorney. At this time or shortly afterward, oral depositions occur in which witnesses and other individuals inherent to the case are interviewed by both sides. This can take a long time to prepare and complete — approximately three months.

If at this time, both sides cannot reach an amicable negotiation, the personal injury trial will proceed to go to court.

Preparing for Court in a Personal Injury Trial

The first step when proceeding to court for a personal injury lawsuit would be to select a jury. Both your attorney and the defense will conduct interviews with potential jurors. The jury selection process can take some time, unless, both sides manage to agree on jurors in a fairly quick manner.

When jury selection is complete, a date will be set for the beginning of the trial. Depending upon the complexity of the case, the trial can be over in as little as one day or as long as a few months. Both sides will have opening statements prepared, and then all involved parties and witnesses will be called to testify. Essentially, stories will be told as to how the accident occurred, how negligence on the part of the defendant was the cause, what injuries were sustained, and how those injuries will have affected your life or the life of a loved one.

Witnesses will also be called to testify, and the defense will be allowed to cross-examine them, as well as present their own experts or parties to attempt to expose any weaknesses or fallacies in your case.

Both sides will have a chance to call witnesses, cross-examine witnesses and experts, and then make closing arguments, leaving the verdict in the hands of the jury. At this point, your judgment is in the jury’s hands. However, if your case is just and you have chosen an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in your lawsuit, it is possible to receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries, future medical treatment, lost wages, and other monetary losses due to the accident.

At the Boston law firm of Colucci Colucci Marcus & Flavin, PC, our attorneys help our clients recover the maximum possible compensation for their injuries. For a free initial consultation with one of our professional and experienced personal injury lawyers, call (617) 698-6000, or contact us online via our email form.