Boston Car Accident Lawyer
Many people who are injured in car accidents are scared and confused in the aftermath. They may not understand what their legal rights are, if they are at fault for the accident, or how they could possibly handle the claim on their own. Individuals injured in Boston car accidents that are not their fault have the right to pursue compensation for all their losses. Unfortunately, insurance companies like to take advantage of unrepresented plaintiffs who are unfamiliar with personal injury law and their own rights to restitution.
If you receive a low settlement offer or are pressured to sign statements waiving your right to sue or admitting guilt for the accident, you may need professional legal representation for your personal injury case. The dedicated Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan could work on your behalf to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. To set up a free legal consultation on your car accident case, call our car accident attorneys in Boston today at (617) 925-6407.
Initial Steps to Take Following a Car Accident in Boston, MA
After being involved in an accident triggered by severe conditions, the person should call 911. The police and emergency crews can respond and, if necessary, transport them to the nearest hospital, where they can be further evaluated and treated.
Individuals should, if possible, take photographs of the scene, the vehicles, and the conditions of the road. They should get the license and registration information from the other drivers involved. They should also identify any witnesses to the accident and get their name and phone number.
Requesting Specific Evidence
The typical process for requesting evidence in a car accident case in Boston is to send a written request for the police report to the local or state police department to identify the owner of the vehicle involved and the insurance company.
Usually, a person involved in a car accident has information that was exchanged with the other driver. Sometimes, the police obtain information from each driver such as the following:
- The make, model, and year of the vehicle
- The registration information for the vehicles
- License plate numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Each driver’s name, address
- Insurance company information
With that information, a lawyer could contact the insurance company for the other vehicle to determine whether a claim was reported and set up. They obtain the claim number and the name and contact information of the insurance adjuster. The lawyer sends a letter of representation to notify the insurance company that they are representing the injured person involved in the car accident and a claim for personal injury is going to be made. The other process of collecting information could be obtaining the owner’s information or their driving history from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
What Are My Legal Rights as a Boston Car Accident Victim?
Under state law, there can never be a situation where a car accident is no one’s fault. Because of this, the first thing to do when considering a claim is to determine which driver carries legal liability—or in other words, is “at fault”—for the accident.
The simplest way to do this is to determine if the other driver was negligent. Negligence is a legal concept and cause of action that allows individuals injured in accidents to demand compensation for their injuries. If one party has a legal duty to watch out for the wellbeing of another that they fail to uphold, anyone who is injured as a result can demand compensation.
Proving Negligence in a Boston Car Crash Case
In car accident cases, each driver has a duty to protect all other people they may encounter while on the road. This extends to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. To succeed with a civil lawsuit, an injured person would need to introduce evidence that the defendant driver failed in this duty.
Often, the duties that drivers owe pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers come from safe driving standards as well as actual traffic laws. For instance, it is usually a common safe-driving practice that drivers keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road, and failing to do so could give a driver lower control over the car and lead to a crash. Traffic laws also place specific restrictions on driving habits, such as speed limits, bans on drunk driving, and prohibitions against tailgating.
To prove the defendant was at fault, you need to supply evidence. This could include evidence that the defendant was speeding, ignored a stop sign, or was texting while driving. Your testimony and the testimony of other witnesses can help build a clear case, as can photos of the intersection and the damages to the vehicles involved. Our Boston car accident attorney can help clients to gather this essential evidence and incorporate it into a claim alleging negligence.
Ultimately, to win your case, you will need to prove to the jury that the defendant was at fault “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This is a lower standard compared to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases and typically means that you only need to show it is “more likely than not” that your claim is true. In practice, you might actually file your case against multiple drivers, and the court can assign partial blame to each driver when determining who was at fault, allowing you to collect a share of the damages from each at-fault driver.
Statute of Limitations for Boston Car Accident Lawsuits
Even in cases where a defendant is clearly responsible for the accident, a car crash claim may fail if the plaintiff does not act in time. There is a strict time limit of three years for a plaintiff to file a case for personal injury under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 260 § 2A. The statute of limitations only sets the time before you need to file your case. This by no means implies that you need to file your case, go to trial, and have a jury decide your claim before three years is up, just that you need to get your case in the door.
If a plaintiff misses this deadline, their case is likely to fail. Defendants are allowed to file a motion to dismiss a case if it was filed too late after the statute of limitations has expired. Courts can also do this “sua sponte” and toss a case on their own if they see that it was filed too late. Filing a case late can also mean that evidence will have more time to go missing or be destroyed, and it gives witnesses more time to forget what happened. This can all hurt your case even if it ultimately filed in under three years without an automatic dismissal, so it is vital to talk to a Boston personal injury lawyer as soon as possible instead of waiting.
Insurance companies are aware of the statute of limitations and will often refuse to negotiate a settlement if the accident happened more than three years ago. They know that, ultimately, you have no other recourse if you cannot take the case to court, so they usually will not continue to work toward paying cases that are filed too late. This is another reason that it is important to file your case quickly: filing a lawsuit puts additional pressure on an insurance company to settle for a fair amount.
Injuries You Can Sue for in a Boston Car Accident Lawsuit
All car accident cases must be centered around a physical injury. No matter how emotionally traumatized a plaintiff may be, the case cannot move forward if there is no accompanying physical injury.
Common examples of qualifying physical injuries stemming from car accidents include the following:
- Severe cuts or bruises
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
A car accident lawsuit can demand compensation for all medical costs associated with bringing the plaintiff back to full health. Even for minor to moderate injuries, these expenses could be quite high. If the plaintiff is not expected to ever fully recover, the claim could also demand payment for future medical treatment.
In addition to medical costs, a comprehensive car accident claim should also quantify the other economic losses associated with the case. If a plaintiff misses time at work to seek medical treatment, develops permanent disabilities, or suffers from PTSD symptoms because of their Boston auto accident, their lawyer should fight to ensure their settlement demand includes compensation for losses like these. Often, lost wages and reduced earning capacity damages are essential in helping an auto accident victim move on with their life after a crash.
Damages for pain and suffering are also important and often cannot be claimed in an insurance claim. These damages pay for intangible things that the victim suffers after a crash, such as fear of future car accidents, physical pain from their injuries, emotional distress at what happened, mental anguish of coping with an injury, and other intangible harms. Your Boston car accident lawyer can help you put a value on these non-economic damages so that you can claim them in court.
Suing Companies for Commercial Car Accidents in Boston
In many car accident cases, the defendant will be the individual who was operating the car that hit you. In some cases, this could be a commercial driver, such as a truck driver or bus driver. When you are injured in a car accident with a professional, commercial driver who was on-duty, that driver’s employer could also be partly responsible for the crash.
Many drivers who work for delivery companies, shipping companies, bus companies, taxi companies, Uber or Lyft, or other companies often spend many hours on the road and could become lazy or complacent. This often means more driving errors and oversights that could lead to car accidents. If their driving habits are further worsened by tight deadlines, overly long hours, or other problems, their employer could be at fault.
Many trucking companies and other companies have been accused of overworking drivers and forcing them to violate trucking regulations and other driving regulations put in place to keep other drivers safe. These companies also sometimes hire drivers who do not meet proper qualifications for commercial driving, and they could also fail to fire or retrain workers that have a history of accidents or traffic violations. This could put the fault in an accident case partly upon the company the driver worked for, allowing you to sue them for their own share of the mistakes.
If an accident happened while the driver was in the course of performing their job duties, the company they work for could also be responsible for paying for damages instead of the individual worker. This is much like suing a grocery store for a slip and fall in the store instead of suing the individual worker who failed to mop up a spill.
One exception to this rule is that you usually cannot sue Uber and Lyft or other companies like them for crashes their drivers cause. These drivers are often independent contractors instead of employees. The same is true for many owner-operators and other contract worker positions for truckers and delivery drivers.
Can Weather Impact Liability in a Boston Auto Accident Case?
Boston roads are in the part of the country where there are severe winter conditions, including snow and ice. During the winter months, the roadways throughout Boston are very slick and slippery, especially at night when the temperature goes down and in the morning when commuters are leaving their houses to go to work. Treacherous conditions have caused a lot of accidents both the local roadways and highways.
Dangerous weather can impact the assignment of fault in a car accident in Boston. For example, the other driver involved in the car accident might address the hazardous conditions and use that as a defense to argue that they were not at fault. The other driver could also argue that they were acting reasonably given the conditions and that they took all necessary precautions to avoid an accident.
If the crash was a single-car accident without any other vehicles involved, in most cases, there is no other driver to pursue a personal injury claim against, and victims might simply claim benefits through their own car insurance policy. This could include Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits as well as medical payment benefits (Med Pay) if their auto insurance policy had that optional coverage. However, passengers injured in single-car collisions could be entitled to sue the driver, especially if they noticed them driving negligently or under the influence. This is often how single-car Uber and Lyft accidents or taxi accidents are resolved.
Types of Damages You Can Recover in a Car Accident Lawsuit in Boston
The recoverable damages sought by a person involved in a dangerous car accident in Boston would include the same damages involved in any other personal injury claim. That would include economic and non-economic damages, also referred to as special damages and general damages.
Economic damages or special damages include losses that can be quantified, such as lost wages and property damage. General damages or non-economic damages include losses that cannot be easily quantified. Those would include damages such as scarring, disfigurement, loss of function, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. Loss of enjoyment of life refers to the inability to engage in activities they once could before the accident, such as a hobby, sport, or exercise.
Depending on the severity of the accident, the types of damages an individual could recover may vary. It is best to seek help from an experienced Boston car accident lawyer to learn about the specific types of damages an individual may be eligible to recover.
Economic damages are traditionally referred to by insurance companies as special damages. These type of Boston car accident damages can be quantified such as the physical damage to the car. The cost of repair, the cost of towing the car, the cost of storing a car at a garage or a salvage yard, and the cost of any personal property besides the car that was damaged in the accident would be included.
If a person who is injured in a car accident lost time from work or they lost wages, even if they receive sick time or earned time or even if they have a short-term or long-term disability, they would still be entitled to their lost wages. Short-term or long-term disability may have a lien to be reimbursed, but that is still a damage that the injured person suffered.
Anything that can be added up would be considered economic damages. If they had a trip that was planned and they could not go on the trip because of their injuries and they did not have travel insurance, the costs of the trip would be one element of economic damages in that situation. Any medical bills that they incurred would be economic damages.
Another type of Boston car accident damages that an individual could recover includes non-economic damages or general damages. The opposite of economic damages in the sense that they are not quantifiable. Non-economic damages do not really have an exact formula to calculate them. Typical examples of non-economic damages are pain and suffering, scarring or disfigurement as a result of an injury, and loss of enjoyment of life. Maybe there are things that the injured party used to engage in, such as sports, and because of the injuries that they sustained in the car accident can no longer engage in those activities.
A person may suffer anxiety and depression because of the accident. If it was a very severe car accident and they were very gravely injured, they might suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. They might experience nightmares in recalling the events and they might feel a sense of sadness over the loss of the life that they used to have and now living a life in pain. Those are all examples of non-economic damages.
The old rule of thumb years ago when negotiating settlements with insurance adjusters was so-called triple the special damages, which include the medical bills and lost wages. However, the true measure of the non-economic damages is really what a jury determines.
The better your Boston car accident attorney can demonstrate the extent to the severity of the non-economic damages, the better chance they have of obtaining full recovery either in a settlement or through a jury trial. One way of doing that is, if there is scarring, to be able to have photographs that would show the scarring when it was in its acute stage and then show the permanent scar after the passage of time. Another way is to show it through a medical expert who would examine and report and explain the nature of the injury, the treatment they have had, and any permanent impairment that they have suffered.
Damage Caps in Boston Car Crash Cases
A damage cap is when there is a law that creates a ceiling or cap or a maximum amount that a person can receive. Caps on damages that apply to Boston car accident cases would typically involve charitable institutions would typically be a $20,000 cap. For any governmental entity or agency, whether it is a city, a town, a county agency, or the state itself, the typical cap is $100,000. That is under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 258, also referred to as the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.
There is an exception, however, for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which is a train and bus service in Massachusetts. If it is a severe injury caused by a negligent employee of the MBTA, it is possible that they could recover damages above $100,000 in the claim. Otherwise, regarding private entities or individuals, there are no caps on damages.
Filing a Car Accident Claim in Boston
When the civil clerk’s office for the court reviews a complaint, they look over the attachment of the complaint that lists the amount of medical bills and special damages including lost wages and property damage. The clerk determines whether the total amount of damages is appropriate for the particular court. For the Massachusetts District Court, a lawsuit can properly be filed in Massachusetts District Court for a personal injury car accident if the damages are $25,000 or less. If the damages are above $25,000, that is a case for superior court.
Differences Between Superior Court and District Court
The district court uses a statement of damages form with different line items for things such as hospital bills, doctor’s bills, physical therapy, ambulance, and chiropractors. The attorney includes the total amount for each of the categories. Special damages such as property damage or lost wages are also included. If the total is $25,000 or less, the case is filed in the district court.
The Massachusetts Superior Court uses a different form. The same information is put on the form, but it is called a civil action cover sheet. The civil clerk for the superior court looks at the total amount of the damages totals to see if it is more than $25,000. When the amount of damages is more than $25,000, the case is properly filed in the superior court.
In some cases, the superior court is the only court that has jurisdiction on the type of case such as a case involving governmental entity. The lawsuit could be against a city, town, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, state agency, or state department. If the at-fault driver is a municipal, state, or county employee, the case is filed in superior court.
Filing a Case in Circuit Court
Massachusetts does not have a circuit court in the state court system. The only circuit court is the Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the federal appeals court. Massachusetts is part of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Cases go to the First Circuit Court of Appeals on appeal from a court order or a verdict in federal court, in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
If a party is aggrieved by a court order or a jury decision in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, they file an appeal with the First Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial judge in the US District Court, Massachusetts committed a legal error in an order they issued or in a ruling concerning an evidentiary question, in allowing evidence or keeping evidence out, or a legal error concerning an objection made at trial.
Cases Filed in Federal District Court
One could file a case in the federal district court in a Boston car accident case when the at-fault party is a federal employee. For example, the car accident involved a postal worker who was driving a postal vehicle negligently and caused an accident. The injured party must file the lawsuit in federal court. However, similar to the case of the Massachusetts government employee, they must follow the notification requirements under federal law.
How Do Car Accident Lawsuits Work in Boston?
Should you decide to take legal action to hold the at-fault party accountable for their reckless actions, you may have to undergo various procedures before presenting your case in front of a judge. If a mistake is made at any point, your case may be delayed or potentially thrown out. In order to minimize any mistakes, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney. A lawyer may be able to provide you with valuable insight regarding the Boston car accident litigation.
Filing a Complaint
After a complaint is filed, the complaint and summons complaint in either a civil action cover sheet or a statement of damages are then served by a deputy sheriff on the defendant, and then the defendant has a certain period of time to answer the complaint by filing a written answer to the complaint or, in some cases although rarely, filing a motion to dismiss if the defendant believes that the complaint is insufficient and is defective or fails to state a claim upon which release may be granted.
After a complaint is filed, it is then served by a deputy sheriff. The defendant is required to respond to the complaint within a certain period of time. In some cases though, the defendant could file a motion to dismiss if the defendant believes the complaint is insufficient and/or fails to state a proper injury claim.
After the complaint is filed and the defendant’s answer is filed, the lparties then engage in a process called discovery, which is the pretrial period wherein the parties send each other written questions called interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and deposition notices. They may subpoena documents or subpoena witnesses to testify from third parties, businesses, or entities that are not parties to the lawsuit.
Pretrial Conferences and Memorandums
After that discovery period, the parties would then be notified to appear before the court for what is called a pretrial conference. The parties have to participate and cooperate by drafting a joint pretrial conference memorandum.
The pretrial conference memorandum would include a list of exhibits that the parties anticipate filing and submitting into evidence at trial. It would also contain a list of witnesses for each party expected to testify in court. In addition, a list of expert witnesses who would be testifying in court, either live or via pre-taped video deposition, would also be included.
Potential Settlement Positions
The pretrial conference memorandum may layout the settlement positions of the parties, whether a demand or offer has been made, and whether there has been any settlement negotiation. It would also indicate whether or not the parties are amenable to submitting to the case for mediation to see if the case could possibly be resolved or settled without the need of having a full jury trial.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Car Accident Case in Boston?
Considering the amount of detail it takes to successfully submit a claim, it is important to work with someone familiar with Boston car accident litigation. Not only could an attorney argue your case in court, but they could also help with the preparation and filing of a claim. By having a Boston car accident lawyer at your side, you chances to obtain a favorable outcome may dramatically increase. To get started on your case, be sure to schedule a consultation today.
A car accident attorney can help gather evidence before filing a claim. The first step is to obtain a copy of police reports. An attorney could also take photographs of the accident scene capture and preserve the photographic evidence of the scene as it appeared at the time of the accident.
In addition, a Boston car accident attorney could take or obtain photographs of the vehicles involved in the car accident before they are repaired, destroyed, or deemed a total loss. The attorney may identify potential witnesses who observed the car accident and obtains their current address and contact information.
Sometimes, an attorney may use the services of a private investigator to interview the witnesses. Occasionally, they reach out to the witnesses to interview them and verify whether they have information pertinent to the accident that is helpful to the claim. They may obtain the registration of the owner of the vehicle and the driving history of the operator of the vehicle who caused the accident from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Our Boston Car Accident Lawyers Can Help If You Were Injured in a Crash
When an accident occurs due to hazardous conditions, determining liability could be difficult. A Boston car accident lawyer could provide advice and legal counsel to ensure you recover the compensation and benefits needed to move forward. They could gather evidence to prove negligence on behalf of the defendant or negotiate with insurance companies to ensure your accident is covered. If you are unsure of what to do following an automobile crash, a skilled Boston car accident attorney could help. Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today at (617) 925-6407 to schedule a consultation with our Massachusetts personal injury lawyer.