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calendar on deskIn order to seek compensation from a person or business for injuries caused by negligence, the aggrieved party must file suit within the applicable statute of limitations. In Massachusetts, the limitations period for medical malpractice is three years.

In cases in which a statute of repose is also in effect, the plaintiff must also file his or her case within this period. Under the Massachusetts statute of repose, the plaintiff must file suit not only within three years after the cause of action accrued (the moment at which the plaintiff knew or should have known about the alleged act of negligence) but also within seven years of the alleged act or omission (except in cases involving foreign objects left inside the patient’s body).

Unless both of these time limits are met, the plaintiff cannot prevail.

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City BusWhile an insurance company is not obligated to settle every liability action that is filed against one of its insureds, those in the insurance industry do have certain obligations when it comes to the fair handling of claims.

A failure to comply with the law in this regard can result in substantial penalties being levied against an insurance company, including treble damages. The exact calculation of such penalties was the subject of a recent appellate court opinion.

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mall interiorThe term “hearsay” is sometimes used in everyday language to mean gossip or an unsubstantiated rumor. However, the term has a very specific meaning within the legal context. In the law, it refers to one person’s testimony about another individual’s statement or words.

Generally, hearsay statements are not admissible in court, but there are some exceptions. In the example above, the defendant’s statement might be admissible as a declaration against interest. It would be up to the trial court to decide whether, under the particular circumstances of the case, the statement would be an exception to the hearsay rule.

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Connections

Before a court can exercise jurisdiction over a defendant in a lawsuit, there must be personal jurisdiction – either general or specific.

General jurisdiction is much broader, subjecting a defendant to suit in the forum state in all matters, even those that have no direct relationship to the forum state. By contrast, specific jurisdiction exists only with regard to the defendant’s forum-based contacts.

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headlights at nightDuring a jury trial, the judge is required to make a variety of rulings – beginning with the procedure for the selection of the jury and ending with a review of whether the jury’s verdict was supported by the evidence.

A party aggrieved by a decision of the trial court judge may file an appeal and ask a higher court to review the trial judge’s decisions.

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doctor

Under Massachusetts law, a person who alleges that his or her physician committed an act of medical negligence must submit an offer of proof to a medical malpractice tribunal in order for his or her lawsuit to move forward. If the tribunal decides that there is not sufficient evidence to support the plaintiff’s claim, the plaintiff has the option of posting a cash bond in order to proceed to trial. The bond, of course, is designed to deter patients from proceeding.

Alternatively, the plaintiff can allow the trial court to dismiss the case and then file an appeal, as happened in a recently decided case. An appeals court has the authority to decide whether or not the tribunal was correct in its decision regarding the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s evidence.

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apartment complexWhen a driver fails to act in a reasonably prudent manner, and someone else is hurt, the negligent driver can be held liable for the injured person’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Unfortunately, not every at-fault driver has high enough limits on his or her automobile liability policy to pay fair compensation in serious accident cases.

Underinsured motorist coverage helps protect those who are injured as a result of the negligence of an underinsured driver. However, disputes can arise as to whether a particular person is considered to be an “insured” under a given policy.

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hospital bedWorkplace injuries can happen in many different ways. Heavy lifting can cause a back strain or even a herniated lumbar disc. Repetitive motion can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment. A slip and fall accident on a wet floor can cause a broken arm or leg.

If a work injury results in an employee being unable to do any kind of work at all, he or she qualifies for permanent and total incapacity benefits. If an employee can still work but loses a portion of his or her earning capacity because of a work-related injury or illness (including an injury that causes the employee to change to a job that pays a lower wage or an illness that prevents the worker from working the same number of hours per week), he or she is entitled to partial incapacity benefits for up to 260 weeks.

In some cases, the employee and the employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance carrier) may disagree as to the extent of an employee’s disability. When this happens, the first review of the case is usually by an administrative law judge. A reviewing board may then look at the case and, after that, the court of appeals.

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buildings

Those who are injured on the job have a legal right to seek workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and at least partially offset lost wages. If a particular work injury results in a permanent disability, a worker may also file a claim for incapacity benefits.

Of course, the benefits are not automatic, and the plaintiff must comply with all of the procedural requirements set forth under Massachusetts law. Even then, there is the possibility that he or she may be met with opposition from the employer or its insurance company, especially with regard to the issue of permanent disability.

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Supreme Court

For most people, the most notable component of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the right to remain silent (“[not] compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”). However, another important part of the Fifth Amendment is the so-called Double Jeopardy Clause.

Under the double jeopardy provisions of the amendment, “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” While this seems like a straightforward rule, many issues have arisen over the years as to exactly how this part of the amendment is to be enforced in certain situations.

Recently, the nation’s high court revisited the provision in light of a jury’s conviction as to one offense but acquittal as to related offenses in a case involving bribery of a public official.

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