Weiss Berger Law Translation
Here at Weiss Berger Law Translation, we make it our mission to demystify complicated legal statutes so that layperson’s can better understand what that ridiculous-sounding legalese really means. Law is complicated. That’s just a fact. And the way that laws are written doesn’t exactly help.
That’s where we come in.
To start with, we’re going to take a look at a few civil tort statutes from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and spell out what these inscrutable blocks of text really mean for you:
General Laws, Part III, Title II, Chapter 231, Section 85: Comparative Negligence
If you ever find yourself injured because of someone else’s poor decision-making, comparative negligence is going to play a huge role in your ability to file a personal injury claim against that person and recover financial damages. In a nutshell, comparative negligence means that your own level of fault for what happened will reduce the amount of money you can receive.
This is how it works: After hearing your case, a jury will decide “how much” at fault everyone involved in the accident was, as determined by the evidence presented. They’ll find each party responsible for a percentage of the fault until the full 100 percent has been divvied up. Any percentage you’re responsible for will then reduce your end financial award by the same percentage.
Still sound confusing? Here’s an example: Joey gets into a car wreck with another driver who was texting on his cell phone. Joey wasn’t exactly blameless, though; he was speeding 10 mph over the speed limit, which contributed to the crash. The jury decides that Joey was 30 percent at fault and that the other driver was 70 percent at fault. Joey’s damages total $100,000, which is what the jury awards him. However, his settlement then gets reduced by 30 percent (his percentage of fault). This leaves Joey with a final settlement amount of $70,000.
That’s not quite the end of it, however. In Massachusetts, you can only pursue a claim if you’re 50 percent or less at fault. So, if you bear the majority of the blame for your injuries, you can’t seek a settlement. In the above example, Joey would need to consult with a knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney to find out if a jury is likely to find him majority at fault.
General Laws, Part III, Title V, Chapter 260, Section 2A: Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
This statute isn’t very long, but if you read the actual text, it sure is hard to make sense of! Tort? Contract to recover? Actions of replevin?
Alright, let’s translate this legalese into simple English. This statute covers what’s commonly known as a “statute of limitations.” It basically sets a time limit in which something must be done in order for it to be legally valid. In this case, it’s the statute of limitations for personal injury claims.
This means that if you get hurt by someone else, you only have a certain amount of time in which to file a lawsuit seeking financial compensation to cover your expenses and losses. Massachusetts gives you three years from the date that you were hurt. If you don’t get around to filing your lawsuit until after three years have passed . . . well, that stinks. You’ve basically lost your legal right to seek compensation.
Guess you’d better make sure to schedule a consultation with a Boston personal injury lawyer before the statute of limitations passes by.
General Laws, Part I, Title XIV, Chapter 90, Sections 34A–34R: Car Insurance Requirements
Talk about a confusing string of gobbledygook! This mess is purported to explain how car insurance works. Just not in a way that a reasonable person would understand. Time to unpack this.
Massachusetts is what’s known as a “no-fault” state when it comes to auto insurance. This means that if you get into a wreck, it doesn’t matter who was at fault, your own insurance is supposed to take care of you. You could crash your car into a tree while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .163 percent and they’d still need to honor your claim and pay for your medical bills.
The catch here is that most no-fault policies only pay for certain types of damages. Also, if your injuries are serious enough, you might need more medical care than what your policy limits will pay for. With that in mind, Massachusetts has a few different thresholds (or criteria) that, once met, allow you to pursue compensation from the other at-fault parties through a personal injury claim:
- Your medical bills total at least $2,000
- You’ve suffered serious and permanent disfigurement
- You’ve sustained fractured or broken bones
- Your injuries caused loss of sight or hearing
Finally, there are also certain minimum levels of coverage that you have to buy. Your coverage is going to have to provide at least $20,000 for injuries per person; $40,000 per accident where multiple people were hurt; $5,000 to cover property damage; and $8,000 in personal injury protection to cover your own medical expenses.
General Laws, Part III, Title II, Chapter 231, Section 60H: Limitation of Damages
What in the world is a “non-economic damage”? Good question! Here’s the answer: Non-economic damages are the losses you suffer from an injury that don’t have financial value. This is stuff like pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, lost sexual function, and simply not enjoying your life anymore because of what’s happened to you.
So, what’s this statute do? Well, it limits the amount of money you can recover for these types of damages—but only for medical malpractice cases. It caps non-economic damages at a grand total of $500,000. Note that your financial damages are not capped in this way.
This means that if a brain surgeon leaves a sponge in your head, the amount of money you can recover for the pain and distress it causes you can’t exceed half a million bucks, but the amount you can recover for the medical care required to get that sponge out of your noggin and make your recovery isn’t limited to that amount.
Phew! That was quite a bit of translation work. Hopefully you’ve now got a better idea of how personal injury law in Massachusetts really works. Maybe next time we’ll tackle something a bit less complicated, like the federal tax code. Then again . . .