How Do I Know If I Have a Massachusetts Personal Injury Case?

If you are injured and it is due in part or in whole to someone else’s negligence, then you may have a personal injury case. Negligence is generally defined as a failure to use reasonable care. If you were hurt because someone else failed to use reasonable care, you may have a personal injury case.

If you were injured while at work you may also have a workers’ compensation case. Workers’ compensation is paid for by your employer’s insurance. The purpose of worker’s compensation is to provide an injured worker with a portion of his or her lost wages and to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to the work injury. Personal injury cases differ from workers’ compensation because personal injury cases are intended to compensate you for the full amount of medical expenses, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering

A personal injury case is brought against the person or entity who is fully or partially responsible for causing your injury. Examples of personal injury cases include if you were hurt on a construction site, in a motor vehicle crash, or in a slip and fall injury on a defective walkway or on snow and ice.  Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws do not allow an injured worker to bring a personal injury case against their employer or a co-employee.  They are limited to workers’ compensation benefits.  Injured workers may, however, be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and also have a personal injury case arising out of the same injury if a negligent third party (a person or entity other than the employer of the injured worker) caused or contributed to their injuries.  An example would be a construction worker who is injured while working for a trade contractor, and was injured due to the negligence of the construction project’s general contractor.

A personal injury case has at least two parties: The plaintiff, who is the injured person bringing the claim, and the defendant, who is the person or entity alleged to be negligent, or at-fault.

To be successful in a personal injury case, the injured party, or plaintiff, must prove two things: 1) Liability; and 2) Damages. To prove liability, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was negligent, or at-fault. To prove damages, the plaintiff must show the injuries he or she suffered were causally related to the injury. Damages include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering (Note: This is different from workers’ compensation because workers’ compensation does not provide any benefits or compensation for pain and suffering).

In a personal injury case, the plaintiff may be awarded damages through a settlement, mediation, arbitration, or trial verdict. Generally, most cases settle. However, there are also other options for both sides to reach a mutual agreement, including mediation and arbitration.  If both sides cannot reach an agreement, the final option is trial.  

For a case to go to arbitration or mediation, both sides (plaintiff and defendant) must agree. A mediation is when someone, typically an experienced attorney or former judge, acts as a mediator (who is a neutral third party) in negotiating a final settlement that is agreed upon by both sides. Mediations are not binding unless both sides agree on a final resolution. Mediation can be helpful to reach a final agreement because each party will hear the strengths and weaknesses of their case from the mediator.

An arbitration occurs when both sides agree to have an arbitrator (a neutral third party) issue a final, binding award. Like a mediator, an arbitrator is typically an experienced attorney or former judge who is selected by agreement from both parties. The main difference between a mediation and arbitration is that you waive your rights to a jury trial because the arbitrator’s decision is final and binding. Arbitration may be a good option because it is more time and cost effective than a typical jury trial, as it is generally shorter and much less formal. Juries are not required for arbitration and the rules of evidence are usually more relaxed.

If you have a workers’ compensation case, and a personal injury case, there will be a lien from the workers’ compensation case on your personal injury case. This means that a portion of the compensation for your personal injury case will need to be paid back to the company who provided the workers’ compensation benefits. However, the workers’ compensation lien is generally negotiable.

Personal injury and workers’ compensation cases are complex. It is important to have someone on your side who can navigate case challenges for the best possible outcome. At the Carney, Rezendes & Crowley, LLC, we have experienced personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys who can help you and support you during difficult times when suffering from an injury. We seek to maintain quality cases to ensure balance so that we can be very responsive with our clients. We have a 24-hour phone call return policy which means if you are a client and you call us, your phone call will be returned within 24-hours.  

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