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What Considerations Do I Have Before Filing a Lawsuit for a Personal Injury in Massachusetts?

Although there are several considerations that one must consider before hiring an attorney to pursue a personal injury case on his/her behalf, an absolute necessity is to make sure that a lawsuit is brought prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. This probably does not surprise you as lay people are very familiar with the concept of a statute of limitations. What may surprise would-be clients is that the preparation for a lawsuit may require the expenditure of time and money. Therefore, a consultation significantly before the statute of limitations runs is well-advised. Frankly, it is not enough to understand the conclusive effect that the statute of limitations has. The point to remember is that a phone call to an attorney a few days before the expiration may not be enough to rescue your case.

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for filing a basic negligence action is three years, meaning that if a formal complaint is not filed with the court within three years from the time that your accident occurred, your case will be dismissed. However, three years is merely a guideline, as there are often cases involving a municipality, medical malpractice or some other exception to the general time limit, where the statute of limitations for a particular claim (or a “notice” provision) is less than three years. Therefore, contact an attorney as soon as possible to be protected.

Another consideration that may be overlooked by clients is venue, or where a person can bring suit. In Massachusetts state court, the venue is in the county where the accident occurred, where the plaintiff lives or where the defendant lives. A corporation, though not a natural person, has a residence as well. The pros and cons of filing suit in certain counties as opposed to others should be explained to clients.

Finally, because we are talking about accidents and injuries, medical treatment is necessarily involved. Considerations of treatment should be undertaken by the client. The attorney should not direct medical treatment. Doing so could have an adverse effect on the case as the attorney could be portrayed as “choreographing” the medical situation. That may also raise questions of ethics. I advise clients to “let me play with the cards that I am dealt.”

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