Fitchburg, MA Personal Injury Lawyer
When you are injured, your first concern will likely be physical recovery and a return to normalcy. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a serious injury will be anything but normal. Medical bills can pile up, even for minor injuries, and physical recovery can take a long time.
Retain legal counsel as soon as possible after an injury for the best chance of winning in court. A lawyer can fight to make sure you get the financial compensation and peace of mind you need after an injury, no matter how small.
Contact our personal injury lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 915-4523 to talk about your case.
When to File a Fitchburg, MA Personal Injury Case
Determining when you should file your personal injury case depends on what kind of personal injury you have. Claims must be submitted to the courts before the statute of limitations expires. Different statutes apply to different kinds of injury claims. You should talk to your lawyer about the nature of your claim and when you should file your case.
The statute that applies generally to many different personal injury claims is found under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260 § 2A. This rather broad statute tends to cover most injury claims not specially mentioned in other statutes. Under this law, you have 3 years from the date of your accident or injury to submit a case.
While the above statute is broad and applies to many injury claims, other statutes of limitations apply to more specific types of cases. For example, the law under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260 § 4 applies to medical malpractice injury claims and imposes a deadline of 3 years. This statute may run from the date you were injured by medical negligence or the date you realized that medical negligence occurred, which might be some time later. Additionally, a claim for medical malpractice may be brought no more than 7 years after the injury initially occurs.
These statutes are strict but not entirely inflexible. The statute of limitations may be tolled if the plaintiff is incapacitated and unable to file the case. According to Mass. Gen. Laws Ch 260 § 7, the deadline to file may be tolled if the plaintiff was a minor when the injury happened. Alternatively, the deadline may be tolled if the plaintiff is otherwise incapacitated and unable to file the case or understand their rights.
Common Personal Injuries from Accidents in Fitchburg, MA
Not all accidents will produce the same kinds of injuries. Additionally, the same kind of accident could result in minor or very serious injuries. Our personal injury lawyers can work with you to get appropriate compensation for the damages you need by basing them on the seriousness of your specific injury and other details of your case. For example, damages awarded for mere cuts and bruises will likely be less than those awarded for broken bones or permanent damage.
Bruises are usually caused by hard impacts that cause minor bleeding under the skin. Blunt trauma can crush blood vessels without breaking the skin. The blood then leaks into other tissue, forming a discolored mark within or under the skin.
While most bruises can heal on their own, severe bruising can cause damage to internal organs and, in the most serious cases, potentially lead to death.
Broken bones can easily result from hard impacts. While broken bones are often obvious to the injured person, sometimes they may go unnoticed for a long time. A hairline fracture in a limb will be much less obvious than a compound fracture that punctures the skin. Swelling, stiffness in the affected limb, and persistent pain are all common signs of a broken bone underneath the skin.
Some broken bones are easier to repair than others. For example, a broken arm or leg is relatively easier to fix and recover from than a broken pelvis, hip, or collarbone. Treatment for a broken bone could include the insertion of pins and rods into your body to help keep the bones in place while they mend, possibly requiring multiple surgeries. Moreover, you cannot do certain activities while the broken bones heal.
Cuts, Puncture Wounds, and Lacerations
Cuts and other injuries from sharp objects can happen for all sorts of reasons. For example, a car accident could result in lacerations from broken glass, sheared metal, or puncture wounds from debris entering the body at high speed.
Depending on their severity, cuts might require stitching or sutures to treat properly. Cuts to the face could result in permanent disfigurement, even after medical treatment.
Puncture wounds are much more difficult to treat and significantly more threatening to the individual. It is harder to sew shut a stabbing injury than a cut. Moreover, puncture wounds are more likely to cause internal damage to organs or blood vessels. A puncture wound of only a few inches can easily be fatal if it goes through the wrong part of the body.
Many accidents have the potential to cause burns. A car accident can result in minor friction burns if you scrape against the road or much more serious damage if the gas tank catches fire. If you work around dangerous substances, chemical fires are a potential hazard and, depending on the type of chemical, might not be able to be put out with water alone.
Serious burns will almost certainly require surgical procedures to recover. Permanent disfigurement or loss of fingers and toes can result from particularly bad burns. Minor burns can still cause blistering, extreme pain, or nerve damage that lasts for a long time.
Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Fitchburg, MA
Damages refer to what the court awards you if you win your case. Damages are generally broken down into three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are often the easiest to determine because they usually have a bill or receipt to help calculate them. The cost of hospital stays and other medical treatment is often awarded as economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
Lost potential income can also be awarded as economic damages. For example, if you are a demolition worker and are injured so that you can no longer operate heavy machinery to do your job, that lost income could be awarded to you by the court.
Non-economic damages are more abstract. What non-economic damages are worth is usually up for debate, so it is in your best interest to prove you are owed them and their amount in court. It is tough to assign a dollar amount to pain from a physical injury or a lost loved one, so the court decides that amount on a case-by-case basis. A common way to calculate non-economic damages is to use a multiple of the economic damages you are owed. For example, if you are asking for $3,000 in damages for medical expenses, you might ask for three times that amount – $9,000 – in non-economic damages.
Pain and suffering from injuries or loss of companionship from a deceased loved one fall under the umbrella of non-economic damages.
Lost enjoyment of life also falls under non-economic damages. The inability to do an activity you once enjoyed because of injuries can be factored into non-economic damages. For example, if you used to exercise very frequently but can no longer stay in shape because injuries have limited your physical capability, you might be entitled to damages.
Economic and non-economic damages are designed to put the plaintiff as close to where they were prior to an accident as possible. On the other hand, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for especially bad conduct.
Courts usually award punitive damages when they want to send a message to other parties similar to the defendant that they should not partake in similar dangerous behavior.
What You Need to Prove in a Fitchburg, MA Personal Injury Case
Proving that the defendant is responsible for your injuries can be difficult, and many plaintiffs are not entirely sure of what they need to demonstrate. After all, how does one prove that someone is liable for their injuries? In a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove negligence. To do this, you need as much evidence as you can get your hands on.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim
Negligence is more than just the defendant’s careless actions. It is a legal term that carries very specific elements. Each element must be sufficiently established in order for the defendant to be held liable for their negligent behavior.
The first element we must prove is the defendant’s duty. Duty is the legal obligation the defendant owed you at the time of the crash. This can be confusing for plaintiffs whose defendants are total strangers. How could someone you do not know owe you a legal duty of care? The answer may vary from case to case, as defendants might owe a different duty under different circumstances.
A common example of duty is in personal injury claims for auto accidents. On the road, all drivers owe all other drivers a duty of care to drive with reasonable safety under the circumstances and follow the rules of the road. Talk to our personal injury lawyers about your situation, and we can help you determine what kind of duty the defendant owed you.
The next element is the breach, which is whatever the defendant did or failed to do that constituted a violation of their duty. Again, this varies from case to case and depends on the nature of the duty. If the defendant had a duty to drive safely, the breach might be running a red light or speeding.
Next, we must prove causation. This means we must show that the defendant is the direct and proximate cause of the crash. We need evidence showing not only there was a breach of duty but also that the breach is the cause of your injuries.
Finally, we have to show your damages. This might include physical injuries, hospital bills, pain, suffering, and more. Your damages must be real, not mere possibilities or “what if” scenarios.
Evidence to Prove Negligence
Proving negligence can be a complicated endeavor, and you need a skilled attorney to guide you. Your evidence must help to establish each of the elements mentioned above. Even small pieces of evidence might be an important piece of a larger puzzle, and nothing should be overlooked or disregarded.
The area where your injuries arose might contain a great deal of important evidence. For example, if you were hurt in a slip and fall accident in your neighbor’s home, evidence of the unsafe premises is important. Photos of the area as it was when you fell are extremely helpful if they are available.
If there are any physical objects we need to prove your claims, we can begin trying to collect them. For instance, you might sue a manufacturer for producing and selling a defective product that hurt you when you tried to use it. The defective product is an important piece of evidence we need to gather.
Testimony is often a major factor in a plaintiff’s arsenal of evidence. If anyone saw your accident happen, we need to find them. Having testimony from multiple vantage points can help us paint a clear and detailed picture of events for the jury.
Comparative Negligence in Fitchburg, MA
Massachusetts uses a comparative negligence standard. A comparative negligence standard reduces the plaintiff’s recovery based on what percentage of an accident was their fault. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but was 20% responsible for the accident, the plaintiff will only recover $80,000 in damages.
Under this standard, a plaintiff can recover if they are less responsible for the accident than the defendant. If the plaintiff is more responsible for the accident than the defendant, the plaintiff cannot recover.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Case in Fitchburg, MA Take to Finish?
The time it takes to finish a personal injury case is hard to determine. For some, the process involves a long and frustrating court battle. For others, the process is far quicker. Discuss your situation with your lawyer, and they can help you figure out how much time it might take to get you the compensation you need and deserve.
Many lawsuits take a long time to complete because the legal process is not exactly speedy. Depending on how busy the court is when we file your case, things like pretrial hearings and the trial itself might not be scheduled for a while. Combine that factor with the possibility of delays and continuances, and you might be looking at months or even over a year of waiting.
If you cannot afford to wait and need compensation now, your attorney might be able to help you speed up the process. We might work out a settlement if the defendant is willing to negotiate. In that case, the defendant would pay some, but possibly not all, of your damages in exchange for you dropping the lawsuit. A quick settlement that covers your financial needs might be exactly what you are looking for. However, this is not always possible.
If you do end up in a long court battle, the payout might be more worth it in the end. A jury verdict tends to be larger than a settlement, as the verdict is not subject to negotiations with the defendant.
Discuss Your Case with Our Fitchburg, MA Personal Injury Lawyers Today
Call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 915-4523 to discuss your case with our personal injury lawyers today.