What is Considered “Negligence” in Massachusetts?

Each day in Massachusetts, people are injured because of other parties’ negligent actions. Victims may seek compensation for the injuries they incurred. However, not all careless behavior will be considered negligence. Some accidents really are “freak accidents.” That being said, if you suspect you were hurt because of negligence, you absolutely can – and should – file a lawsuit. You just have to prove that the defendant was negligent in court.

In order for a person’s actions to constitute “negligence” in Massachusetts, their behavior must have breached a duty of care. The applicable duty of care in your lawsuit may depend on a variety of factors surrounding your accident. Furthermore, in some cases, responsibility for an accident can be shared by more than one party. If your own negligent conduct contributed to your accident, it may affect the amount of monetary damages available to you in your claim.

If you were hurt because of another party’s negligent actions in Massachusetts, get help recovering the full range of monetary damages available to you and reach out to our experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorneys today by calling the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 396-7295 for a free case review.

What is the Duty of Care in Massachusetts?

It can be hard to assess whether a defendant breached their duty of care. There are multiple separate duties of care that can apply to your claim. Accordingly, if you were injured because of another person’s reckless or careless conduct, you should contact our Boston personal injury lawyers for help determining whether they breached their duty of care.

In Massachusetts, the duty of care for most people is the “general duty” to act in a way that is not likely to harm others. This means observing all laws and not engaging in dangerous conduct. Upholding this general duty of care entails demonstrating the “attention and forethought” that a reasonable person would in a given situation. For example, when a reasonable person is behind the wheel of a car, they pay attention to the road, follow all traffic laws, and do not intentionally endanger other drivers.

“Acting reasonably” can be a murky thing to pin down, and it covers a wide range of conduct. The jury will have to determine this on a case-by-case basis. However, some other duties of care are easier to define.

Duty to Follow Laws

People have a duty to follow all laws of their state. For example, motorists need to follow all traffic laws. However, while generally, a reasonable person will follow all laws, extreme extenuating circumstances can change that calculus. For example, suppose a defendant is stopped at a red light, and someone walks up to their window pointing a firearm at them. The defendant, naturally, hits the gas as fast as they can and is later pulled over for speeding. In that case, although the defendant violated their duty to follow traffic laws, a jury could find they were acting reasonably under the circumstances because a reasonable person would get away from someone pointing a gun at them as quickly as they possibly could.

Additional Duties of Care

Some parties may have other things they must do in order to ensure that they are acting reasonably. For example, property owners need to ensure that their premises are safe for anyone that may enter onto it. If a property owner does not maintain their property and someone gets hurt as a result, they are not upholding their duty of care. Additionally, truck drivers have special rules about how long they can stay behind the wheel before they need to take a break. If a trucker fails to adhere to those rules is not acting as a reasonable trucker would, and therefore, a failure to uphold the standard of care. Whether a more specific duty of care applies to your claim will vary depending on the facts of your case, so you should discuss the details with our attorneys.

Proving Negligence in Massachusetts

Negligence can take many different forms, but the way that you prove that someone was negligent and violated their “duty of care” remains more or less the same. To prove negligence, the following elements must be present to show the defendant did not uphold their duty of care:

The Defendant Was Under a Duty of Care to Act a Certain Way

The first thing you need to establish is that the defendant has a duty of care they need to uphold Essentially, people have to act in a manner that is not likely to hurt other people. This is also called a “reasonable person” standard. People have a duty to act in a safe way toward one another because a reasonable person would not act in a way that is likely to hurt people.

The Defendant Failed to Adhere to That Duty of Care

Second, you need to show that the defendant “breached” – or failed to uphold – their duty of care. While some breaches of duties of care are laid out in laws – like speed limits – other breaches will have to be determined by a jury. Our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers will work hard to ensure that the jury knows that the defendant’s breach of their duty of care led to your injuries.

You Incurred an Injury Because of The Defendant’s Breach of Duty

Third, you need to show that the defendant actually caused your injuries. The important thing to remember is that you must demonstrate that the defendant was the “proximate cause” of your injuries. This simply means that their conduct is closely related to their injuries. It is not enough to show that the defendant was merely a cause of your injuries – you need to show that they were the cause.

For example, suppose a motorist decides to “floor it” away from someone tailgating them and, consequently, strikes you as you cross the street because they cannot slow down in that time. In that example, even though the tailgater technically was a cause of the accident, their liability is “cut off” by the defendant’s choice to speed – they become the proximate cause of your injuries.

You Sustained Damages as a Result of the Harm You Suffered

Finally, you need to demonstrate to the court that the defendant’s negligent conduct led to you getting injured. In most cases, you will show that you got injured through a variety of evidence. This can range from medical records and photos to personal and eyewitness testimony. Our attorneys will ensure not only that we show that you are injured, but also that the jury understands the extent of your injuries.

What Happens if Your Own Negligence Contributes to Your Accident in Massachusetts?

If your own negligent behavior contributed to the accident at issue, it may inhibit the amount of monetary damages you can recover. Courts in Massachusetts will follow the doctrine of modified comparative fault when awarding damages in a negligence case. This means that damages will be assigned based on percentages of blame. For example, if you own negligent behavior was 30% to blame for an accident while a defendant was 70% responsible, then the defendant will have to pay for 70% of the damages caused by the accident while you must account for the 30% left over. Furthermore, if you were over 50% at fault for an accident, you will be unable to pursue compensation related to the injuries you sustained.

If you file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages for your injuries, the defendant will likely be represented by an insurance company who will attempt to shift blame for the accident at issue. By assigning blame onto you, the insurer may avoid paying the full value of your claim. Accordingly, you should contact our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers for help establishing fault and recovering fair compensation for the damages you sustained.

Types of Accidents Caused by Negligence in Massachusetts

There are countless different types of accidents that can occur because of peoples’ negligence. The legal strategies used in your case may be dependent on the type of accident that occurred. The following are examples of accidents our experienced Cambridge personal injury lawyers can recover compensation for:

Car Accidents

Car accidents are one of the most common types of accidents caused by negligence in Massachusetts. After a car accident, you may have to pursue damages from your own insurance company. However, if you sustained a serious injury or incurred an extensive amount of medical bills because of an accident, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. After a crash, our team can help evaluate the legal options available to you.

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents are another common accident caused by people’s careless and negligent behavior in Massachusetts. Motorists often cause motorcycle accidents because they fail to notice riders before making an illegal left turn or before merging onto a highway. In such cases, it is usually the rider who sustains worse injuries. If you were injured because of a motorcycle accident. Our Wakefield personal injury lawyers can help recover financial compensation for the harm you suffered.

Truck Accidents

Additionally, many truck accidents occur because of negligent conduct committed by truck drivers and trucking companies. Many of these crashes occur because drivers are to remain on the roads for extended periods of time, causing them to become tired and make harmful mistakes. Furthermore, many truck accidents happen because drivers and trucking companies do not properly secure their cargo. In such cases, our Massachusetts personal injury lawyers can help recover monetary damages from either the truck driver, trucking company, or both.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Many people are also injured because of slip and fall accidents caused by property owners’ negligent behavior. Owners should properly maintain their premises for the safety of visitors. When this duty of care is not adhered to, severe injuries can occur. For example, a customer at a restaurant may incur serious injuries after slipping on a loose rug that was not promptly tended to by the building’s owner. In that case, the victim may be entitled to multiple forms of economic and non-economic damages.

One important thing to remember in these cases is that Massachusetts maintains a somewhat archaic distinction regarding the nature of a person entering on premises. Trespassers – people who enter a property without permission – are not afforded the same protections as people who are allowed on a property. Trespassers generally cannot sue for negligence. They have to show that the defendant/property owner was more than merely negligent in failing to maintain their property. If you had concerns about your status when you got injured on someone else’s property, you should discuss it with our attorneys.

Defective Product Accidents

Lastly, many people are injured because of accidents caused by defective products. Products can be defective through their manufacturing, marketing, or design. Fortunately, manufacturers can be held liable for injuries caused by their defective products.

However, proving that a product is defective can be a complex and difficult task. Expert witness testimony is usually required to establish that a product was defective. Therefore, if you were injured because of a faulty product, you should call our experienced Malden personal injury lawyers for help building your case against the parties responsible.

If You Were Injured Because of Another Person’s Negligence in Massachusetts, Our Attorneys Can Help

If you were hurt because of another party’s negligent conduct, get support from our experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyers today by calling the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 396-7295 for a free case review.