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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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under construction

Typically, a worker who is hurt on the job is limited to benefits available to him or her under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws. However, there are a few limited circumstances under which a third party may be liable in tort for the employee’s injuries.

One of these circumstances arises when a defective product was to blame for the worker’s injuries. Additionally, in some cases, the general contractor on a construction project may also be liable for the injuries of a subcontractor’s employee.

Of course, liability is never automatic, and these defendants – like most defendants who are facing the payout of a substantial verdict due to another person’s injuries – usually fight hard against a finding that they are legally responsible.

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medicine bottleUnder Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, a person who is hurt at work may seek compensation for several types of benefits – including temporary disability, permanent disability, and medical expenses.

Ideally, the employer’s insurance company will pay these benefits in a timely and non-contentious fashion. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and an employee’s claim may be unfairly denied.

In such situations, the employee has a legal right to retain an attorney who is familiar with workers’ compensation laws to assist him or her with the claim.

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hands

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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