Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
What is a personal injury case?
A person injured as a result of the negligence or carelessness of another person or a business or landowner is usually legally entitled to recover money damages from the responsible party. Damages can include compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering.
How is an insurance company involved?
The person or business responsible for the injury usually has liability insurance. The insurer is bound to pay the damages awarded in court against the responsible party up to a limit specified in the insurance policy. The injured person has a “claim” with the insurer which is based on his or her right to sue the responsible party. Many cases are settled in this claim process before a case is filed in court.
What is negligence?
Generally, a person is negligent and therefore responsible for money damages when he or she fails to use reasonable care in a situation which puts another person at risk for injury. A common type of negligence case involves the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Another type is related to the negligent maintenance of commercial property or residences with unreasonably dangerous conditions such as holes, slippery surfaces, trip hazards, and the like.
In a motor vehicle case, what is the difference between “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) insurance and “liability” insurance?
The standard Massachusetts auto insurance policy provides coverage called Personal Injury Protection, or “PIP”, which covers you, your passengers, and certain other persons whether or not you are at fault for an accident. It pays for some medical expenses and partially reimburses lost wages. It is limited to $8,000.00 and, to the extent health insurance is available, the medical expenses reimbursement is limited to $2,000.00.
Liability insurance covers the negligent driver for his or her obligation to pay an injured person. Your broader claim for damages, including pain and suffering, is brought against this liability insurer.
Can I always pursue a claim when I am hurt by the negligence of another motorist?
Not always. Massachusetts has a version of no-fault insurance which requires that your damages meet the “tort threshold” requirements. The most common ways an injured victim meets the requirements are (1) the injured person incurs medical expenses of $2,000.00 or greater, without regard to whether the bills are paid by insurance, (2) the injured person suffers a fracture, or (3) the injured person suffers serious disfigurement or scarring.
If I fall on retail or other business premises, is the store or business responsible for my injuries and damages?
Yes, if the business is at fault. Though most businesses carry liability insurance to cover such claims, the owner of the premises is only responsible if the owner or its employees (1) cause an unreasonably dangerous condition or (2) fail, within a reasonable time, to repair or eliminate the hazard or warn of the hazard. The owner’s insurer is obliged to pay damages if the owner is negligent or otherwise responsible for the injury.