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What is a Tort Case, and What does it Involve in Massachusetts?

A tort case in Massachusetts is a legal claim or action against a civil wrong. It involves any act that harms an individual’s well being or damages their property. Tort cases are initiated by individuals who have suffered losses or damages due to the other party’s conduct. The cases are targeted at righting the wrongs that infringe on the individuals’ rights by making the offender liable for their actions. These cases are usually decided in the Massachusetts State Courts.

Depending on the type of damage or injury, the case can be heard in the District Court or Superior Court. For example, superior courts have jurisdiction over cases with over $50,000 in controversy, and the district courts address cases with less. If the damage is less than $7000, the case will be brought to the Small Claims division of the district court.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Massachusetts Tort Law?

Massachusetts tort law governs claims brought against individuals, companies, businesses, and government for civil or legal wrongs that caused harm or damage to an entity. The law is concerned with civil wrongs committed by one party against another and the civil duties and legal responsibilities owed by persons between each other.

In addition to addressing individual civil wrongs, the state tort law addresses the civil wrongs of larger entities such as the government. The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA) governs tort claims against the state government for its employees’ negligence. The law ensures accountability and shifts the burden of loss from the injured party to the party at fault or better suited to bear it.

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in Massachusetts?

Tort cases involve civil cases other than a breach of contract. Under Massachusetts law, they typically include:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Product liability cases
  • Cases of animal bites
  • Wrongful death cases
  • Medical malpractice cases
  • Workplace injuries/workers compensation accidents
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect cases

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in Massachusetts?

Criminal law and Tort law are tools that the Massachusetts judiciary employs in addressing wrongdoings against the state and the citizens of the state. In Massachusetts, criminal law is governed by Massachusetts law about crimes and punishment, while Massachusetts General Laws govern tort law.

Despite their similarity in imposing liability for wrongdoings, they differ mostly in the capacity to which they are employed. Criminal law is concerned with prohibiting and punishing public wrongs, also known as crimes, while tort law prohibits and disciplines private wrongs. That is, tort law provides a remedy for harmful acts while criminal law punishes harmful and dangerous actions.

Typically, torts are wrongs against people or property, while crimes are wrongful acts that are classified as illegal by the state government. As a result, Massachusetts criminal law imposes harsher sanctions than tort law. These sanctions may include loss of liberty, rights, and privileges. Also, the state of Massachusetts prosecutes violations of criminal law with or without a victim’s consent, while the victim in tort law chooses whether to bring a tort claim or not.

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts tort law’s primary purpose is to provide relief to injured parties for harms and damages caused by other parties. The law concerns itself with holding parties responsible for their wrongdoings by imposing liability on them for the harm caused due to their conduct or actions.

The state courts are authorized to provide compensation to individuals injured due to another person’s intentional or negligent activities through the law. Importantly, the Massachusetts tort law aims to deter other individuals from committing harmful acts against others. In summary, the state tort law addresses wrongs to individuals and companies.

What is a Tort Claim in Massachusetts?

A tort claim in Massachusetts outlines actions that have caused harm or injury to another party. It itemizes the damages that these actions have caused to the individual to ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable or legally liable. Such damages may be monetary damages, physical injuries, emotional and psychological distress, etc.

Besides, it proposes actions that the claimant believes will compensate for any injuries caused.

How Do You File a Tort Claim in Massachusetts?

Filing a tort claim in court does not guarantee the case’s success as much as the steps taken before it. Hence, plaintiffs seeking to initiate tort claims are advised to adequately build a tort case before officially filing the claim in court.

Before Filing a Tort Claim

Filing a tort claim is usually a last resort after an injured party has tried to settle the dispute or disagreement out of court. When other means of resolution fail in obtaining justice or compensation, the plaintiff can then file a tort claim in court.

The first step in building and filing a tort claim is to ensure that the statute of limitations period is still valid. Generally, most Massachusetts tort actions have a statute of limitation of 3 years from the accident or injury date. However, there might be some exceptions to this rule, depending on the nature of the case. As a result, it is advisable to contact a lawyer before filing a claim to avoid getting the case dismissed. Most law firms and legal aid societies provide a free consultation in these situations.

In addition to filing within the stipulated time, a tort claim must prove the following elements to be acknowledged in a Massachusetts court. The plaintiff must prove that:

  • The defendant owed a specific legal duty
  • The defendant failed to fulfill that legal duty
  • The defendant’s actions resulted in the occurrence of events that could have been avoided
  • That defendant’s action caused harm or injury to the plaintiff.

Inability to prove these elements may result in the individual forfeiting compensation in the form of damages from the defendant. In addition, the plaintiff has to reach a level of proof to prove and win a case. The individual must be able to provide clear and convincing evidence that the defendant caused the claimed injuries.

Filing

Filing a tort claim in Massachusetts is simple and straightforward. It is initiated by filing a complaint with the clerk of court according to Rules 8–15 of the Massachusetts rules of civil procedure. The plaintiff may visit the applicable court in person, follow the court clerk’s instructions, or file online using the guide and file provided on the court website.

Filing in the right court is very important in this process. To do this, the plaintiff has to first determine the jurisdiction of the case. Depending on the type and value of injury or damage, the individual may file the claim in the District Court, Housing Court, Superior Court, etc. The claim must be filed where the plaintiff or defendant resides, works, or operates a business. If the case is about a landlord-tenant issue, the individual may file in the Housing court of the county or city where the property is located.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in Massachusetts?

The primary information contained in a tort claim is contained in the complaint. According to state laws, a Massachusetts compliant and tort claim comprises elements such as;

  • Caption: This contains the court name, the title of the action, the names of all parties involved, and the docket number.
  • Parties: This is a comprehensive identification of the parties involved. It includes their formal names and addresses.
  • Statement of facts: This is the description of the wrongdoing or personal injury. It usually comprises details such as the date, place, and other circumstances that surround the claim.
  • Statement of claims. The plaintiff will legally analyze and establish the facts stated.
  • Request for relief: This states the estimated amount of injury and damages that the plaintiff seeks as compensation. This information must be accompanied by detailed explanations of how the individual computed the amount.
  • The proof of service showing that the defendant was notified of the claim.

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in Massachusetts?

Usually, after a tort claim is filed, the court notifies the named defendant of the lawsuit. The defendant’s response determines how the case will proceed. The individual or entity may choose to proceed to trial by denying the claim and even filing a counterclaim or pay the damages without the trial. In this case, the court will review the settlement agreement to ensure it is fair before approving it,

Depending on the response, both parties will present their case in a trial before a judge. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, the individual could recover medical bills and expenses or lost wages and salary, etc. Depending on the type of injury, the court could also rule that the individual is compensated for any physical pain and suffering, disabilities, damage to property, and psychological, mental, and emotional distress.

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

In Massachusetts, parties in a tort claim civil lawsuit can deal with their case without a personal injury lawyer. However, any individual who has been injured and is considering legal action is advised to retain an adequate and experienced personal injury lawyer. Even if the individual cannot secure the lawyer’s services for representation in court, obtaining legal advice is important for a successful case.

There are many disadvantages associated with attempting to litigate a tort claim without a solicitor. This is because the process can be simple but occasionally arduous, complicated, and time-consuming. Therefore, a personal injury lawyer will always act in the best interests of the client. The lawyer will ensure that the party files the claim if there are possible chances of acquiring compensation.

Also, individuals that file tort claims without a lawyer’s assistance often assign the wrong value to their claim. This undermines the exact worth of their injury and potentially leads to a gross under-settlement. An attorney will ensure to meticulously calculate the party’s past and future losses and other applicable costs and obtain a favorable settlement. Therefore, getting specialist legal representation or advice from the inception of a tort claim gives the case a higher chance of success.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me?

Massachusetts state agencies cannot assign lawyers to parties in a tort claim. Additionally, the Massachusetts State Courts staff and workers cannot provide legal advice or practical information on an individual’s legal rights. However, the state judiciary offers a comprehensive list of organizations that can provide legal help to individuals that require legal assistance, including advice or representation.

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