Massachusetts Personal Injury Law
Statutes of Limitations: The amount of time you have to sue whoever caused your injury or damage.
- Personal Injury – 3 years from the discovery of the injury
- Damage to Personal Property – 2 years
- Medical malpractice – 3 years from the date of the injury or when the injury was discovered. But, no more than 7 years after the injury.
- Legal malpractice – 3 years
- Other professional malpractice – 3 years
Where to Sue:
- Personal injury claims under $2,000 – Massachusetts Small Claims Court
- Personal injury claims between $2,000 and $25,000 – Massachusetts District Court
How to Sue:
Small Claims Court:
- Forms: Statement of Claim and Notice. This form may be obtained from the Small Claims Court Clerk in your district.
- Where to file: Where the defendant or the plaintiff resides, or where the defendant or plaintiff has his principal place of business.
- How to notify the defendant (service): Mail a Statement of Claim and Notice form to the defendant certified or registered mail return receipt requested. Alternatively, a sheriff or a constable may personally serve the defendant. The defendant must receive service of process within 90 days of the plaintiff filing the case.
- Proving the defendant was notified: If the defendant was served by mail, a certified or registered mail card is adequate proof of service. If the defendant is personally served by a sheriff, the sheriff should make return of service to the Massachusetts Small Claims Court Clerk within the amount of time the person served must respond to the complaint.
- Attorneys: Attorney representation at the trial is permitted in Massachusetts Small Claims Court.
- Appealing a small claim: A defendant may appeal a decision of a Massachusetts Small Claims Court to the Massachusetts Superior Court within 10 days of the original judgment.
Massachusetts District Court: In filing your case, seek advice from a Massachusetts personal injury attorney. Filing and maintaining a personal injury lawsuit is complex, and requires specialized knowledge of court procedure and rules in addition to knowledge of the law. Improper adherence to law and procedure can cause you to lose your right to recover money for your injuries.
- Forms: Summons and Complaint. These forms can be obtained from the Massachusetts District Court where you intend to file suit.
- How to File: File the Summons and Complaint with the Massachusetts District Court Clerk in the district where you intend to sue, and pay the filing fee. The clerk will stamp the forms prior to service on the defendant.
- How to Notify the Defendant: A sheriff or constable may personally give the stamped forms of the Summons and Complaint to the defendant, endorse the process, and file a copy with the clerk of the Massachusetts District Court in the appropriate district. Alternatively, the forms may be mailed to the defendant by certified or registered mail.
What to Do if You Are Being Sued:
- Time to respond to a Summons in Massachusetts: 20 days.
- Seeking the help of an attorney without delay is critical.
- Inform your insurance company if the incident or damage occurred on your property or place of business. If you are covered by homeowners or liability insurance, your insurance company may be obligated to cover your legal costs or provide you with an attorney
What to Do if a Judgment Was Entered Against You:
If you do not reply to a Summons and Complaint in Massachusetts within 20 days, a default judgment may be entered against you. You will have to pay what the plaintiff claims you owe in damages.
- Time to Set Aside a Judgment in Massachusetts:
- A Massachusetts District Court can set aside a judgment for surprise, mistake, default, newly discovered evidence or excusable neglect not more than one year after the judgment was entered.
- A Massachusetts District Court can set aside a judgment for clerical errors at any time.
- A Massachusetts District Court can set aside void judgment within a reasonable time.
- Consult an attorney if a default judgment has been entered against you.
Ways to Collect Your Judgment:
- If you succeed in your Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit, you may collect your judgment by serving a demand letter on the defendant. If the defendant does not respond, you may put a lien on his real property, attach the debtor’s personal property, or garnish the defendant’s wages or bank accounts.
- Obtain the counsel of an experienced Massachusetts debt collection attorney to collect your judgment.