If you were injured in an accident in Massachusetts by the negligent or intentional conduct of another person or entity, you have a right to bring a claim for compensation. However, there are time limits on how much time you have to file your claim in court depending on the nature of the injury, the location or where you were injured, if you are a minor, and whether you were even aware of your injury. These time limits are governed by the relevant statute of limitations that pertains to your particular injury.
If you were injured on the job or while engaged in the course and scope of your employment, you would normally bring a worker’s compensation claim. For these types of injuries, you have 4-years from the date of injury to bring a claim. For injuries or illnesses that a claimant did not connect to their work until years later, the statute may be tolled from the time you discovered, or reasonably should have discovered, a connection between your injury or illness and your employment. For example, you might have been exposed to a toxic substance that leads to cancer several years later. But if you suffered a fatal accident while on the job, the administrator of your estate will have 4-years from the date of death to file a suit.
Motor Vehicle and Slip and Fall Accidents
For many other personal injury accidents such as car accidents or slip and fall cases, Massachusetts law imposes a 3-year time limit from the date of the incident. For those under the age of 18, the statute of limitations is tolled until their 18th birthday. For hit-and-run accidents, injured claimants usually bring a claim under the uninsured provision of their own auto liability insurance. But should you discover the identity of the hit-and-run motorist, you have 6-months from the time you discover their identity to bring the lawsuit, but no more than 3-years from the accident date. In this circumstance, the police and RMV must also have had notice of the facts of the accident including the date and location where it occurred.
However, there are different time limits if you are claiming an injury against the Commonwealth, a city or town, or the MBTA or Massachusetts Bay Transportation Transit Authority, such as on a bus, train or boat. For these lawsuits, you have only 2-years to give notice of your claim.
An exception to the 3-year limit is where the claimant suffers a disability and is incapacitated such as being in a coma or suffering from a mental illness. In these cases, the statute is paused or tolled for the duration of the disability.
Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims also have a 3-year time limit on bringing a lawsuit against a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or medical facility. There are other conditions that must be met before you can file your claim in court in medical negligence matters including the filing of an “offer of proof” from certain sources to a medical tribunal alleging that the medical malpractice likely occurred. This is a complexity that your personal injury attorney can explain to you. However, the statute can be tolled if a person suffered a disability as explained above or, if the injured party was a child under the age of 6, she has until the age of 9 for a guardian to file a suit on her behalf. Older minors are subject to the 3-year statute from the time their parents knew or should have known that the negligent care was the cause of their child’s injury in most cases. And should the injury have been a foreign object left in the body, the claimant has 7-years under the Statute of Repose to file a lawsuit once the patient has discovered the foreign object or reasonably should have.
Should You Immediately File a Lawsuit?
Some claimants may feel that in order to protect themselves from having their claim barred by the statute of limitations, they should promptly file a lawsuit. Your personal injury attorney will generally not do that unless the time limit applicable to your claim is running short since litigation may be unnecessary in many claims and a reasonable settlement can usually be negotiated without incurring the expenses of litigation and the time and inconvenience involved. Also, the seriousness of some injuries may not become apparent until several months following the incident that can lead to a different court and an increased demand for compensation. However, in some wrongful death or catastrophic injury cases, filing immediately may be more beneficial. This is an issue that your personal injury attorney should discuss with you.
Retain a Personal Injury Attorney from Burns and Jain
Do not wait to talk to a personal injury attorney if you were injured in an accident or from a serious medical error. A serious injury matter should only be handled by an experienced personal injury attorney who can properly advise you on the issues associated with your claim and who can handle your claim appropriately so that you can have the best opportunity to recover the most compensation available. Call a personal injury attorney at Burns and Jain at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.