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sorrel mareReleases and waivers of liability are so commonplace these days that many people sign them without even stopping to consider the consequences. Perhaps they even doubt that such agreements will hold up in court if an accident does happen.

The truth is that a release or waiver is an important legal document that has the potential to forfeit considerable legal rights, particularly the right to recover compensation for injuries (or even a wrongful death) suffered due to the negligence of the individual, business, or government to which the waiver is granted.

Occasionally, the courts will find a reason to rule a particular release or waiver invalid, but, very often, these documents are upheld as legally binding upon the person who signed them. Thus, it is always a good idea to carefully consider whether the activity for which a waiver is required is important enough to forego your right to sue, should you be seriously injured because of another party’s negligence or carelessness.

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bottle and glass

Clearly, the United States Constitution guarantees the criminally accused the right to counsel. However, exactly when, and under which circumstances, that right first attaches is sometimes a point of contention.

Recently, Massachusetts’ highest court was called upon to revisit this issue as it concerned a defendant’s right to counsel regarding whether or not to submit to a breathalyzer test after being arrested for drunk driving.

In a previous case, the court had held that no such right exists, but the defendant pointed to a change in Massachusetts statutory law as a reason to change the common law as to this issue.

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small clock

Most people understand that there are statutes of limitations that govern the time that an injured person has to bring a claim in a court of law. There are numerous other issues of timeliness, however, of which the general public may be less aware.

One of those issues – the notice period for a medical malpractice lawsuit – was at issue in a recent appellate court decision.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, Arsenault v. Bhattacharya, the plaintiff was a woman who sued her primary care physician, seeking redress for alleged medical malpractice in the treatment of the her wrists. The woman’s complaint was filed on October 21, 2013. The defendant first began treating her for carpal tunnel and cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy in January 2008.

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pedestrian crossingThere are thousands of laws on the books in Massachusetts and across the nation. What happens when two of those laws potentially conflict? For instance, if a driver is obligated to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but the pedestrian is obligated to obey a pedestrian crossing signal, what happens if both the driver and the pedestrian disregard their statutory duties?

Does one law trump the other? Not necessarily. According to a recent case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the laws have equal force, and it is up to a jury to decide the relative fault between two parties who may have violated their respective duties.

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interstate trafficEarlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an “Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2015,” projecting that some 35,200 motor vehicle accident fatalities occurred nationally last year.

The good news is that this number, while tragic, is lower than the 43,510 fatalities that happened 10 years earlier. In fact, the number of traffic fatalities has been dropping steadily since 2005, except for a 4% increase in 2012. Unfortunately, if the NHTSA’s report is accurate, 2015 saw a 7.7% increase in the overall number of fatalities on U.S. roadways.

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grocery store

Store owners, including those that own grocery stores, convenience markets, and other establishments selling food, have a responsibility to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Although there are some general requirements, the specifics of what is considered “reasonable” can vary from case to case.

Generally, the term “reasonably safe condition” means that, at a minimum, a store or supermarket should keep its aisles clear and accessible, make sure its floors are clean and dry, and respond promptly should an employee or customer cause a spill or other issue compromising customer safety.

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expectant motherJust as a negligent driver can be held liable in a court of law for damages resulting from the breach of a legal duty while driving a motor vehicle, so can a medical professional be held liable for a failure to uphold the applicable standard of care due a patient during the diagnosis or treatment of an illness, injury, or medical condition, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Unfortunately, such cases can be very difficult and time-consuming, and the plaintiff does not always win, even when a doctor’s actions have allegedly resulted in a very serious injury or even death.

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open door

When the parties to a lawsuit have rested their cases, the trial judge issues a set of instructions to the jury before they retire to deliberate. The majority of these instructions are general in nature, but some may be fact-specific.

The parties may make requests for the court to issue certain instructions, and adverse rulings may result in appeals, should the jury’s verdict be unfavorable to the requesting party.

When this happens, the appellate court must review the instructions to determine whether, taken as a whole, they adequately provided the jury with a correct statement of the law.

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delivery truck

Generally speaking, businesses and other landowners have a duty to maintain their premises and warn visitors of known dangerous conditions. A failure to do so can result in an award of monetary damages to a person who is hurt due to the business owner’s breach of duty.

Of course, such cases are often highly contested, with the defendant arguing that the plaintiff – rather than the business owner – was at fault in the accident. When the parties cannot agree on a reasonable settlement, it is up to a jury to decide who was at fault and, if the defendant is found liable, the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled.

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prison inmate

People accused of crimes in the United States are afforded certain rights under the U.S. Constitution. Included within these rights are the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination, and the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.

Recently, the nation’s highest court was asked to consider whether the rights guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment also apply to the post-conviction or sentencing phase of a criminal prosecution.

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