Personal Injury FAQ

Personal Injury FAQ

Personal injury cases are complicated. And, they tend to unfold at a difficult time in your life – right after an unexpected accident and as you’re struggling to recover from painful injuries.

So, it’s entirely normal – and to be expected – that you’d have questions. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP are here to help. Here, you’ll find answers to some of the questions we receive most often from prospective clients and clients alike at different stages in the personal injury claims process. 

If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Boston law office to schedule a time to sit down with a member of our team at no charge.

We’re always here to help – 24/7/365.

What is a Personal Injury Case?

personal injury case

A personal injury case arises when one person suffers an injury for which another person is legally and financially responsible.

Personal injury cases can take different forms, including claims for insurance benefits (including workers’ compensation) and civil personal injury lawsuits. 

The person who initiates a personal injury case is known as the plaintiff, and they’re the person who has suffered an injury of some sort.

The person against whom the personal injury case is filed is known as the defendant, and they’re the person that is being blamed for causing the plaintiff’s harm.

By filing a personal injury case, the plaintiff is asking to be compensated for the injuries, harm, and suffering they’ve endured. The compensation that can be awarded in a personal injury case varies, depending on the circumstances, but often includes money for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. 

What Are the Grounds for Filing a Personal Injury Case?

In Massachusetts, there are several grounds on which a personal injury case can be based, including negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and strict liability.

  • Negligence: Negligence means that you’ve suffered an injury because of another person’s careless and irresponsible behavior. In order to establish negligence, you must prove that another person owed you a duty of care, breached it in some way, and, in turn, caused you to get hurt.
  • Negligence Per Se: Negligence per se means that a person is presumed to have been negligent because they violated a safety law that was intended to keep others safe. As a consequence of violating the law, they caused another person to suffer an injury. If, for example, you were injured in a car accident that involved a drunk driver, you might be able to argue that the drunk driver was negligent per se because they were intoxicated behind the wheel – a violation of Massachusetts state law.
  • Gross Negligence: Gross negligence is conduct that is more than mere carelessness. It’s a gross deviation from the behavior that a reasonable person would exercise. If someone drove 100 MPH down a road in Boston that had a speed limit of 25 or 30 MPH, it might be said that their conduct was grossly negligent. Gross negligence is typically most relevant when a plaintiff seeks an award of punitive damages.
  • Strict Liability: Strict liability means that liability for injuries attaches, regardless of the degree of care or caution a person exercises. In Massachusetts, strict liability is most often seen in cases involving defective products and dog bites. Manufacturers and dog owners can be strictly liable for harm caused by their products or canines, regardless of measures taken to prevent harm.

It’s possible that a personal injury case could be based on one or more of these legal theories.

After reviewing your case, our experienced attorneys will be able to explain your options for pursuing compensation.

What is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

personal injury

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this question.

Its value will ultimately depend on a multitude of factors and the specific circumstances of your case. 

Questions that will be relevant in attaching a value to your personal injury case might include:

  • How severe are the injuries you’ve sustained?
  • Will your ability to work be compromised – temporarily and/or permanently?
  • What are your current out of pocket costs and expenses?
  • Will you have foreseeable expenses and costs in the future?
  • How has the accident and resulting injury affected you psychologically and emotionally?

As a general rule of thumb, cases involving catastrophic injuries and deaths will be valued higher than those involving moderate and mild injuries. The more pervasive your suffering, the more your case will likely be worth. You can count on our Boston injury attorneys to fight to ensure that you are awarded full compensation for your present and future damages.

Can I Recover Compensation If I Share Responsibility for an Accident?

It’s very possible – it ultimately depends on how much fault you share. Massachusetts operates under a modified comparative negligence system. This means that everyone who contributes to an accident – including victims – share responsibility for the consequences. You can seek compensation as long as your proportionate responsibility doesn’t exceed 50 percent. If you’re allocated 51% of the blame or more, you’ll be barred from recovering money for your injuries.

Keep in mind that sharing some of the blame will affect how much money you can secure. Your financial award will be reduced in direct proportion to your share of the blame. Let’s say your damages after an accident in Boston total $100,000. You’re apportioned 25% of the blame. As a result, your damages will be capped at $75,000 (the total, less 25%).

Insurance companies will almost certainly try to blame the victim. Getting an attorney involved in the early stages can help to protect you from these underhanded tactics and safeguard your ability to secure a meaningful financial award.

What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage?

Massachusetts has “no-fault” laws on the books when it comes to car insurance.

If you’re injured in an accident, you’re required to seek benefits from your own insurance provider first – regardless of who’s at fault.

There are four types of coverage that must be purchased – including at least $8,000 of something called “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) benefits.

After an accident, these PIP benefits are used to pay for medical expenses, replacement services, and 75% of lost wages. 

  • Medical Expenses: The first $2,000 in PIP benefits are used exclusively for medical expenses. The amount of coverage for medical expenses is determined by what type of health insurance you have. If you have a private health policy (Non-ERISA funded health plan), then you’ll have at least $2,000 in medical expense coverage and possibly more depending on what bills are covered by the private health policy. If you have an ERISA funded plan or a non-private health policy (Massachusetts Health, for example), then you’ll have up to $8,000 in medical expense PIP coverage.
  • Lost Wages: PIP benefits will cover 75% of lost wages incurred as a result of the accident. These benefits exist to the extent that you don’t receive benefits through a disability plan.
  • Replacement Services: PIP benefits may be used to pay reasonable expenses to non-family members. This is designed to perform services you would otherwise have performed for the benefit of yourself and/or family members of your household. Examples include child-care or cleaning services.
Medical Expenses

Even though you’ll be seeking benefits from your own insurance provider, don’t expect the process to be easy. After all, your insurer is a for-profit entity with one primary goal – to make as much money as possible. Paying you the full amount of your claim (or anything at all) is at odds with that goal. So, you’ll have to be aggressive and back your claim with solid evidence and arguments. Our attorneys can help you seek maximum benefits.

What is MedPay?

Medical Payment (MedPay) is a form of optional coverage that allows you to recover “reasonable expenses for necessary medical and funeral services incurred as the result of an accident.”

MedPay is not a required form of coverage (unlike PIP) and is usually sold at an added cost. Depending on the amount of coverage elected, MedPay typically ranges from $5,000 to $25,000.

There is a dispute in the case law in Massachusetts as to when MedPay is applied. Insurance companies typically argue that it is not applicable until the full $8,000 in PIP coverage is exhausted. We, however, take the position that medical expenses that don’t qualify for PIP coverage (even when PIP is not yet exhausted) are covered by MedPay.

While insurance companies are eager to sell insurance policies affording MedPay coverage at a higher annual premium, they do seem to not fully understand the extent of the coverage they have contracted to sell.

This is a sticky issue that requires precise legal argument as it pertains to contract law and consumer protection rights afforded by Chapter 93A. Should you have a question about whether it is worth paying a higher premium for MedPay coverage or about how MedPay applies in your case, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Who Pays My Medical Bills After an Accident?

Medical bills can rack up quickly after an unexpected accident. That can add a lot of stress to an already overwhelming situation. Our attorneys will coordinate the payment of your bills – which might include securing maximum PIP benefits, obtaining coverage through your health insurance provider, or pursuing those responsible through a personal injury lawsuit.

Our law firm will take care of everything. You no longer need to stress about whether your bills will be paid. Instead, your only job is to follow your doctor’s orders and focus on getting better. Forward all of your medical bills to us.

As with every case we handle, we will provide a complete account for all medical expenses, with the goal that all balances will be paid in full, which maximizes the settlement/verdict value to you.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

personal injury lawyer

Like most personal injury law firms in Boston, MA, Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP works on contingency. 

It’s simple: you pay us nothing unless we win your case. There are no hidden costs or upfront fees. We cover all aspects of your injury case, including administrative costs, filing fees, retaining experts, and the cost of litigation. 

Our attorneys only get paid if and when we recover compensation on your behalf. When we are successful in negotiating a settlement or win a jury verdict, we recover a percentage of your net award (agreed upon before we’re hired). Your net award is your total compensation package, less the costs incurred as we handled your case.

By structuring our fee this way, you don’t have to stress about the cost of pursuing compensation that you rightfully deserve. 

What Steps Are Involving in a Personal Injury Case?

There are several paths that a personal injury case could take, depending on the type of claim involved and the specific circumstances that are present.

However, here’s a broad overview of what you might expect when you initiate a personal injury claim.

  • Hire a Lawyer: The first thing you should do after suffering an injury through little-to-no fault of your own is to hire an experienced attorney. Getting an attorney involved in the early stages can help to ensure that your rights are protected and that the playing field is leveled when you’re facing off against insurance companies, huge corporations, and/or defendants with deep pockets.
  • Identify Potential Roadblocks to Recovery: Just because you’ve been in an accident doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have the right to obtain compensation. If you wait too long to file your claim or are allocated too much of the blame, you might find that you’ll be barred from seeking damages from those responsible. Our attorneys will carefully evaluate your case, determine what potential issues might arise, and formulate a strategy to overcome them (if possible).
  • Prepare and Submit an Insurance Demand Letter: Insurance will, most often, be the first source of compensation after an accident in Boston. In order to secure benefits, you’ll have to notify the provider and submit what’s called a demand letter. A demand letter is, in effect, an outline of your case and a formal request for compensation. Once your letter is submitted, the ball is in the insurance company’s court.
  • Consider Settlement Offers: The insurance company could approve your request for compensation in full. This doesn’t usually happen. More often, adjusters either deny a claim in full or counter with a lower figure. If the insurer counters, you’ll have to decide whether or not to accept their offer. Our attorneys will be there to offer advice and weigh your options as you’re asked to make this important decision. If you’re unhappy with the offer, we will prepare a counter and ask for more money.
  • File a Lawsuit: If your claim is denied, or if the insurance company refuses to extend a fair offer, our experienced trial attorneys will get to work on preparing a civil lawsuit. We will name, as defendants, anyone who contributed to your accident and injuries. This might include the insurance company that continually lowballed your claim.

There are several steps that are typically involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit.

  • Prepare and File a Complaint: Once we’ve determined that we’re going to move forward with a lawsuit, our team will draft a Complaint. This will provide an overview of your case, outline the damages you’re seeking, and detail the underlying allegations that are being made against the defendant(s). The lawsuit is filed when the court “dockets” the Complaint, which means receives and records the Complaint along with the appropriate filing fee.
  • Serve the Complaint: The Complaint must be “served,” or delivered, the defendant(s) named in the lawsuit. Once the papers are served, the defendant(s) must file an Answer, in which they admit or deny the allegations.
  • Discovery: Discovery is a process where the parties have the opportunity to gather information to prepare for trial. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or even years. The Discovery process might involve conducting depositions, issuing interrogatories (written questions), and asking for the production of documents. 
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution: Alternative dispute resolution – or ADR – is a voluntary process in which the parties attempt to resolve the dispute before going to trial. By engaging in mediation, arbitration, or direct negotiations, both sides can attempt to agree to terms for a settlement and end the case before it heads to a jury. 
  • Trial: If ADR or settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. For a personal injury lawsuit, a trial could take a day or last for a couple of weeks, depending on the complexity of the dispute at hand. Once both parties have argued their side, the judge or jury will be asked to issue a verdict. A verdict for the plaintiff will include – or call for – an award of damages.

At Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, our Boston personal injury lawyers have 100+ years of experience helping accident victims navigate the personal injury claims process. We know what you’re up against and appreciate how important a financial recovery can be for you and your family.

Give our law office in Boston, Massachusetts a call to arrange a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you fight for the money you deserve.

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