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Articles Posted in Negligence

Hopefully, by now most people know how it important it is to file a claim for damages within the statute of limitations following a Cape Cod accident. However, many individuals may not realize that there can be additional matters of timeliness that must also be complied with, if a case is to be handled as assertively as possible.

One of these important deadlines is the 30-day period for the filing of a notice of appeal following entry of final judgment by a trial court judge. While there are some exceptions to the usual rule, these are few and far between, as the defendants in a recent premises liability lawsuit found out.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who fell while maneuvering a pallet jack from his delivery truck to a loading dock operated by the defendants. According to the plaintiff, his fall aggravated osteoarthritis in hip, requiring him to undergo a total hip replacement. The plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to maintain the mechanism that bridged the gap between his trailer and their dock, thus causing the accident and his resulting injuries.
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Timeliness is extremely important in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. First of all, a potential litigant has only a limited amount of time in which to assert his or her claim; generally speaking, a claim is barred if it is not filed within the period established by the statute of limitations (although there are a few, very limited exceptions).

Additionally, once litigation has begun, there are more deadlines, including time limits on responding to an opposing party’s discovery requests (such as interrogatories, which are written questions from one party to the other seeking more information about the claim).

When a party fails to meet the deadlines that have been established by the applicable court rules – or by the trial court judge, if a scheduling order has been entered – he or she risks dismissal of a claim that, if successful on its merits, could have yielded valuable compensation for medical costs, lost pay, and pain and suffering caused by another’s carelessness.

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In a Massachusetts negligence action seeking compensation for personal injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove several things in order to prevail at trial. First and foremost, the plaintiff must be able to show that a duty existed between him or her and the defendant.

If the plaintiff can show that the defendant breached this duty and that, as a proximate result, he or she suffered damages, he or she may be able to recover payment for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other associated expenses.

However, if the court does not agree that a duty of some sort existed between the parties, the plaintiff’s case will fail.

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The majority of Cape Cod personal injury cases based on the legal theory of negligence are filed against individuals or businesses. However, governmental entities can also be held accountable for negligence in some situations.

It is important to note that cases against the government may have special rules, including the requirement of giving written notice of one’s claim well in advance of the time that the statute of limitations would otherwise run (sometimes, the injured person has only a matter of days to take action).

There may also be a cap on the amount of damages that a city or other unit of the government will be required to pay.

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When someone is hurt on another’s property, there may be a possibility of filing what is commonly called a “slip and fall” or “premises liability” lawsuit against the landowner or business operator whose negligence caused the accident.

Of course, the defendant in such a case is likely to offer up a myriad of possible defenses, blaming the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the condition that led to the injury had been in place long enough for the defendant to have legal notice of it.

In some situations, there may be another possible defense, such as the recreational use statute.

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In a Cape Cod premises liability case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant landowner or shopkeeper was negligent in maintaining its property. Of course, the defendant will likely deny that it should be held liable for the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident, pointing the finger back at the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the dangerous condition described by the plaintiff even existed. It is up to the jury to resolve the factual issues between the parties.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished appellate court case, the plaintiff was reportedly an 84 year-old man whose shoe caught in an “eroded concrete surface” near a gas pump, causing him to fall. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant gas station owner, seeking monetary compensation for the injuries that he suffered in the fall. At trial, a fellow customer, who witnessed the incident, testified that the disrepair was readily apparent and had been in place for quite some time. In response, the defendant insisted that the gap that caused the plaintiff’s fall was so minor a defect that, as a matter of law, it could not give rise to a violation of the defendant’s duty of care to the plaintiff.

The jury found in the favor of the plaintiff (who was joined in the action by his wife, who asserted a loss of consortium claim), awarding him $450,000 and his wife $200,000. The trial judge issued a remittitur, reducing the plaintiff’s damages award to $300,000 and the wife’s to $125,000. The plaintiffs accepted the remittitur. The defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or for a new trial; the trial court denied both motions.
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Under Massachusetts law, those who are injured or lose a loved one due to another’s negligence have a limited amount of time in which to file a Cape Cod personal injury claim against the responsible party.

It is important to note that certain situations, such as cases involving a governmental entity, can result in much shorter deadlines, sometimes only a matter of days, than the general statute of limitations would suggest.

When a claim is not timely filed, the injured person will, most likely, be deemed to have waived his or her right to recover money damages.

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If you believe that you or someone in your family has been hurt by the negligence of a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider, you probably have several questions. “How do I file a claim?” “How do I prove my case?” “If I win, how much will the judgment be?”

Another important question – sometimes overlooked by those who are not familiar with the civil justice system – is, “How long do I have to file a Cape Cod medical malpractice lawsuit?” Generally speaking, the answer to this question is “three years.” However, calculating the exact date that a claim becomes time-barred can sometimes be difficult. This is because determining the date that the claim begins to run (and the three-year clock begins to tick) is not always simple.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case, the plaintiff was a man who claimed that he suffered an injury to his urethra due to a nurse’s negligent catheterization of him when he was a patient at the defendant hospital in October 2009. The plaintiff was reportedly told that he might urinate blood for a short while but that the bleeding would stop soon. The plaintiff not only had bloody discharge in his urine, but also he experienced painful urination that lasted for several years. However, he did not return to the defendant hospital for further medical treatment until June 2012. According to the plaintiff, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and a phobia that made him fearful of seeking medical attention.

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All Massachusetts personal injury and wrongful death cases are subject to strict filing deadlines called “statutes of limitation.” Cases not filed within the time set forth by these statutes are almost always dismissed on procedural grounds.

It is important to note that, in some cases, there may be other deadlines – sometimes, much shorter deadlines – in addition to the general statute of limitations. Again, failure to act within the required time period can be fatal to a plaintiff’s case.

One example of this is a claim against a city or municipality. In these cases, at least some type of minimal legal action (such as the giving of notice) must be taken within a matter of days, or else the plaintiff will be barred from monetary recovery against the responsible governmental entity.

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Most Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits proceed in a back-and-forth fashion reminiscent of a tennis match. The plaintiff serves his or her complaint on the defendant, and then the defendant responds by filing an answer.

The parties then file discovery requests, to which the opposing party files an answer. Motions may be filed, with responses thereto filed by the other side. Eventually, if the case is not settled, a trial is held, with more back-and-forth exchanges between the plaintiff and the defendant.

Sometimes, however, a defendant may not conduct his or herself in the usual manner, potentially leading to a default judgment – a judgment declaring that the plaintiff is entitled to relief because the defendant has failed to file an answer denying the allegations in his or her complaint.

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