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Under Massachusetts medical malpractice law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant health care provider violated the applicable standard of care.

First, however, the plaintiff must find an expert witness who is willing to testify in court as to what the standard of care required – and how the defendant’s actions or inaction violated this standard.

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UM/UIM Motorist

When an automobile accident results in injuries, the plaintiff’s medical expenses and lost wages can easily reach tens of thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of dollars. Even if the at-fault party has liability insurance, there may not be enough coverage to fully compensate the injured party.

This is why uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance is so important. It can help fill the gap between the at-fault party’s liability insurance limits and the plaintiff’s actual damages. Of course, payment under such a policy is not automatic. Like other matters in which insurance companies are involved, the process can be difficult and contentious.

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police dogPolice dogs are used by many law enforcement agencies across the country to assist officers as they search for drugs, locate missing individuals, and, sometimes, help apprehend suspects who attempt to flee the scene after being arrested.

Just as human officers can occasionally make mistakes, so, too, can K-9 officers. When this happens, should an innocent person who is injured by the dog’s error have the right to sue the government for damages?

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bulldogA liability insurance policy is, at its essence, a contract. In determining whether to enter into the agreement, an insurance company is entitled to rely on certain representations made by the would-be insured and to price its product accordingly.

Once the agreement is made, the insured has the right to demand that the insurance company defend him or her against any claims that are covered under the policy and pay any judgments (up to the policy limits) resulting from such claims.

A recent case explored the issue of whether a particular misrepresentation by the insureds during the application process was sufficient for the insurance company to later void the policy and deny coverage of a claim that would otherwise be covered.

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X ray

Purportedly to combat the growing problem of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law (codified at Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 60B) several years ago, requiring the plaintiff in a medical negligence case to submit an “offer of proof” to a three-member reviewing tribunal after filing a formal lawsuit against a doctor or another medical professional. The tribunal consists of a judge, a physician (or another health care provider), and an attorney.

If the tribunal determines that the plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to raise a “legitimate question of liability,” the matter proceeds toward trial. If not, the plaintiff has the option of posting a filing bond of $6,000 (in most cases, although that amount can vary) or having his or her case dismissed.

If the case is dismissed, the plaintiff may appeal that decision to a higher court for review.

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While the majority of cases involving injuries (such as car accident lawsuits, slip and fall cases, and workers’ compensation claims) are settled out of court, sometimes litigation can drag out for several years.

In a recent workers’ compensation case heard by a Massachusetts appellate court, however, an injured worker’s case had been going on since the 1990s.

The appellate court was called upon to determine the date from which interest was due. Due to the filing of multiple claims over a 20-year period, the matter was more complicated than it might initially seem.

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Should an insurance company be required to settle a lawsuit against its insured if liability is clear? If so, how long should the settlement process take? Which party should make the first move? What about situations in which the insurance company and the injured person have very different ideas about the value of the claim?

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently considered these and other issues in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled liability insurance claimant.

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ladderWhen a person is hurt on another person’s property, he or she has a right to seek compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. Of course, just as in any negligence case, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, that the plaintiff was harmed, and that there was a link of causation between the harm and the breached duty.

In proving his or her case, the plaintiff may introduce several types of evidence, including physical evidence, if applicable. In a recent case, an injured man sought sanctions against the defendant homeowners for their alleged destruction of a ladder that he alleged caused him to fall. He also sought the reversal of an order of summary judgment entered in the defendants’ favor.

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calculator

No one wants to be involved in an automobile accident in which the responsible party has no liability insurance. Well, no one wants to be in an automobile accident at all, right?

But, if an accident does happen, wouldn’t it be easier to secure a fair settlement if the responsible driver had multiple policies of liability coverage? The surprising answer is “not necessarily.”

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peanutSometimes, it’s hard to know whose side to take. In a recent case between a teacher and a town that had allegedly breached its agreement to “eradicate any and all records” with regard to an accusation that the teacher had recklessly exposed a child to an allergen, the court came down on the side of the teacher, agreeing with her that she was the wronged party when the town released an investigative report to the child’s father, who turned the report over to the authorities.

However, when one considers the case from the perspective of the child and her father, things are not so clear. While the criminal charge against the teacher was ultimately dismissed, one wonders whether a civil tort action would have been likewise dismissed, had the family chosen to pursue that course rather than a criminal charge.

Had the town held to its agreement to, in effect, destroy the evidence of the complaint against the teacher, how would this have affected discovery in a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries suffered by the child (if injuries could, in fact, have been proven)?

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