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Articles Posted in Negligence

Timeliness can be an important issue in a Cape Cod negligence case. Typically, cases not filed within the applicable statute of limitations and/or statute of repose will be dismissed unless the circumstances fall within some very narrow exception to the general rule.

Sometimes, time can also factor into other issues in a given case, including the determination of whether a duty to a particular plaintiff existed. If the passage of time was such that the defendant did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff, then the case will be subject to dismissal.

Facts of the Case

In a recent negligence case considered on appeal, the plaintiff was a minor child, suing through his mother as next friend. The plaintiff’s suit attempted to assert claims for both negligence and violation of Massachusetts Gen. Law ch. 93A against the defendant lead inspector, but the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff case, arguing that the claims were not viable. Although the defendant admitted that he had, in fact, performed a lead inspection on the property at issue, he pointed out that the plaintiff had not become a tenant at the property until some 20 years after the inspection.

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Having an insurance policy that covers accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists is important. Without such coverage, it is extremely difficult – often impossible – to receive fair compensation for personal injuries or a wrongful death caused by a driver who either doesn’t have insurance at all or who has only minimum coverage.

Unfortunately, simply having “UM/UIM” (as it is called in the insurance industry) does not mean that there will not be protracted litigation before the case is finally settled. Consequently, it is important to consult an attorney if you have been involved in a Cape Cod car accident, even if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in place.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by a federal district court sitting in Massachusetts, the plaintiff was an insurance company, acting as the subrogee of its insured (who was covered by an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy), who was involved in a car accident in 2016. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the accident was caused by the negligence of the defendant motorist, who was allegedly issued a citation for failure to yield the right-of-way to the plaintiff’s insured. At the time of the crash, the motorist was driving an automobile owned by her father-in-law, the defendant vehicle owner. The plaintiff alleged that the vehicle owner had negligently entrusted the automobile to the defendant motorist and that this negligence had contributed to the cause of the accident. The defendant vehicle owner filed a motion for summary judgment.

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One of the more common defenses in a Cape Cod premises liability lawsuit is an assertion by the defendant that the condition was so open and obvious that any reasonable person would have noticed it and avoided it. Of course, each case must stand on its own facts when it comes to such matters.

Even if a particular case involves a condition that was arguably open and obvious, the case will not necessarily be futile. Liability may still be had in a case against a premises owner under some circumstances.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case was the personal representative of the estate of a customer who sustained serious personal injuries when she fell down an unmarked step in the defendant restaurant’s dining room. The customer filed a personal injury lawsuit against the restaurant, alleging that its negligence had been the proximate cause of her fall. The case was tried to a jury and resulted in a verdict in favor of the customer. (Some time after the trial, the customer apparently died, and the personal representative of her estate was substituted as plaintiff.) The restaurant filed an appeal, seeking review of case and asserting numerous errors.

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Causation is one of the essential requirements in proving a case of negligence in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. Without the element of causation, a defendant’s breach of a duty of care toward the plaintiff will not result in a finding of liability, even if the plaintiff can prove substantial damages.

It works like this: the plaintiff must be able to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, not only that he or she was owed a duty of care, that this duty was breached, and that he or she suffered harm but also that his or her damages were caused by the defendant’s actions or in actions. However, “cause” or “causation” is a term of art in the world of negligence law. Something can be the actual cause of harm without necessarily being the legal cause of such damages.

Public policy factors into the development of this area of the law. Would it be wise to hold a defendant liable for a “freak accident,” even if, technically, his or her breach of duty resulted in damages to the plaintiff? Probably not. Somewhere between such occurrences and conduct that is so likely to result in harm as to be considered intentional – and possibly subject to punitive damages – lies the type of conduct that the principles of negligence are designed to govern.

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In a Cape Cod medical malpractice case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving not only that the defendant healthcare professional breached the standard of care that applied to the situation at hand but also that this breach of care was the proximate cause of the damages about which the plaintiff complains. Sometimes, damages are readily apparent, and the real fight is about whether there was negligent care. However, this is not always so.

Sometimes, a mistake was obviously made, but the doctor insists that his or her error did not harm the patient in any meaningful way. This argument is especially prevalent in cases involving a missed diagnosis.

In such cases, the plaintiff believes that, had a proper diagnosis been made in a timely fashion, he or she would have had more treatment options and/or a better outcome of the illness that the doctor somehow missed. In turn, the physician is likely to claim that the illness – and the ultimate result thereof – was bound to happen anyway, such that his or her mistake should not result in monetary compensation to the patient or his or her family.

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There’s a secret that insurance companies don’t want you to know. In almost all Cape Cod negligence cases, one or both parties have insurance of some type. For example, in a car accident case, the defendant most likely has a policy of motor vehicle accident liability insurance, and his or her defense is being paid for by that insurance company. If a verdict is entered against him or her, it is the insurance company – not the defendant – that will actually pay out the money for the judgment.

Insurance companies want you to believe this legal fiction because they believe that, if a juror is aware that the verdict will be paid by an insurance company instead of a real person, the juror will be more likely to find in the plaintiff’s favor – and more likely to award a more sizable verdict if they don’t think the defendant will be paying the verdict out of his or her own pocket.

Sometimes, an insurance company may actually be the plaintiff in a lawsuit and still want its identity to be kept secret. For example, if an insurance company pays out a claim, it may then file a subrogation claim against the person or persons who caused the loss. Even then, the insurance company doesn’t want you to know of its involvement in the case because of the fear that such knowledge would taint the outcome against it.

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Landowners and those who own businesses can be held liable for injuries on their property in many instances. Similarly, those who own animals – dogs in particular (although not exclusively) – can also be held accountable for injuries inflicted on others under certain circumstances.

Of course, not every encounter between humans and animals will result in a finding of negligence against the owner of the dog or other animal in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. It all depends upon the particular encounter and whether the pet owner’s negligence contributed to harm to the plaintiff.

In cases in which an animal’s owner is held liable for a person’s injuries from a bite or other harm, the injured individual may be entitled to substantial money damages. This can include medical expenses, lost earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering, among other things.

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There can be several different defendants in a Cape Cod wrongful death lawsuit. This can include individuals, businesses, and even governmental entities. While many of the same rules apply regardless of the identity of particular defendants, sometimes there must be a different approach to a certain defendant.

For instance, claims against the government proceed differently in many situations, as compared to cases involving only private citizens or businesses. Sometimes, the claims period is shorter, or notice must be given by a certain date. This can effectively mean that an injured person must act much more quickly when suing a governmental entity.

Also, the government may be immune from certain types of lawsuits. Even where a suit is allowed, there can be limitations on the amount of money damages that can be awarded to a claimant in some cases involving the government.

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Doctors and nurses make mistakes. Sometimes, these errors in judgment cause serious harm to patients. When this happens, the injured individual has a right to seek fair compensation through a Cape Cod medical malpractice claim.

However, it is important to note that medical malpractice cases can be difficult to pursue. The insurance companies that represent healthcare facilities and medical professionals have plenty of financial resources to fight a finding of liability, if possible.

It is important to consult a knowledgeable malpractice attorney if you believe that you have a medical negligence claim. An attorney experienced in this area of the law can help you review your medical records, consult an appropriate expert witness to render an opinion regarding whether an act of malpractice occurred, and, if the case proceeds to trial, explain the complex medical issues to the jury in a way that they can understand.

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The plaintiff in a Cape Cod medical malpractice case not only bears the burden of proof at trial, but he or she also has several obligations in the pre-litigation phase of the case. Generally, the first step is a careful review of the injured or deceased person’s medical records by an expert in the field of medicine at issue.

However, the inquiry does not end there. The expert must be prepared to give a formal opinion as to any deviations of care on the part of the patient’s treating physicians and how those deviations affected the patient. Ultimately, the expert may be called upon to defend those opinions in a court of law.

Because medical malpractice cases have several special requirements, it is important that the plaintiff be represented by experienced, highly qualified legal counsel. It is a given that the doctor, nurse, or hospital will have a team of legal professionals on his or her side of the case, and the plaintiff’s attorney must be prepared to wage a vigorous fight at trial, if necessary.

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