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When a worker is hurt on the job, there are several types of benefits to which he or she may be entitled under Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. These typically include medical expenses, temporary total or temporary partial disability payments, and permanent total or permanent partial disability benefits.

Unlike tort cases arising from accidents caused by negligence outside the workplace (a car accident, for instance), a worker is not “made whole,” economically speaking, in workers’ compensation cases. In other words, a worker does not receive total replacement of his or her lost wages, only a percentage thereof.

A recent case addresses the calculation of some of these benefits.

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tax calculation

Many times, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle collision also has a claim for property damage to his or her automobile. In most cases, the property damage portion of the case is settled separately from the issues arising in the personal injury claim.

Depending upon the situation, the plaintiff’s property damage claim may include repair costs to his or her vehicle, fair market value of the car (if it is a total loss), towing, storage fees, and rental charges for a replacement vehicle (while the plaintiff’s car is being repaired). A recent case explored whether another element of damages – tax – may be included in appropriate cases.

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city bus

Most people are aware that there are deadlines for the filing of a lawsuit in a personal injury case. However, simply filing suit within the statute of limitations does not guarantee that a case will be considered in compliance with all rules pertaining to timeliness.

There may also be a statute of repose or – particularly in cases in which the defendant is a governmental entity – a notice requirement that is separate from the statute of limitations. A failure to give notice in a timely fashion can be just as detrimental to the plaintiff’s cause of action as missing the statute of limitations.

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blind justice

When a litigant who is unsatisfied with a trial court’s ruling files an appeal, the burden is on that appellant to convince the higher court that a mistake was made in the court below.

This can be a difficult task, especially when one of the grounds for the appeal is the alleged bias or favor of the trial court judge.

Facts of the Case

In a recent malpractice case decided by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiffs were the parents of an infant who died just days after her birth. The plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and wrongful death claims resulted in a jury verdict in favor of the defendant medical providers. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s denial of their motion for a new trial, alleging that the trial judge had made various mistakes in her evidentiary rulings and instructions to the jury. The plaintiffs also averred that the trial court judge had engaged in “persistent favoritism and biased conduct” toward the defendants.

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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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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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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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