Massachusetts law requires that every employer provide worker’s compensation coverage insurance for the benefit of their employees. Those employers who do not have worker’s compensation insurance (or qualify as a self-insurer) are referred to as “uninsured employers.”
Uninsured employers are at risk for facing significant financial exposure should an employee get injured on the job. The consequences can be harsh. The law provides for both civil and criminal penalties. In fact, state regulators can shut down a business for failing to have workers compensation coverage. Although Massachusetts has a Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund to protect injured workers, uninsured employers can still face a civil lawsuit from injured workers and will be prevented from raising certain legal defenses.
Whether you are an injured worker or an uninsured employer, hiring an experienced attorney familiar with workers’ compensation law is essential in order to protect your rights.
HURT AT WORK – CLAIM DENIED
If you were injured (or become ill) at work, you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. Your benefits will depend on the nature of the injury and resulting disability from work. In Massachusetts, injured workers are eligible to receive benefits, to include medical expenses, based upon the degree of incapacity, typically defined as total incapacity or partial incapacity. Injured workers are often confronted with the real possibility that they may not be able to return to their former occupation and may have a lasting impairment – or a permanent and total incapacity from gainful employment.
When you are injured on the job, it’s in your best interest to have an attorney on your side who fully understands the laws pertaining to worker’s compensation. We have a long history of successfully handing workers’ comp cases and we will put our experience to work for you.
INJURED ON THE JOB?
Workers’ compensation claims are often complex and are based upon a variety of factors. These include the nature of the injury, the extent of the disability, and the injured worker’s ability to return to his or her job.
If you are disabled from work and have been denied workers’ compensation benefits, put Mort Shuman’s expert legal team to work for you. Injured workers are entitled to payment of their lost wages and necessary medical expenses. In some instances, vocational training is also available. The insurance company is not on your side.
Attorney Shuman has been successfully handling workers’ compensation claims for over 5 decades.
Owners are legally responsible for the behavior of their pets. In Massachusetts, we have a strict liability statute. Therefore, in most dog-bite cases, the dog’s owner (or keeper) can be held responsible for any harm caused by a dog attack. This includes compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite or other animal attack, Mort Shuman will fight for your legal rights.
RISKY BUSINESS – BEWARE OF THE WOLF
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle, slip and fall or work related accident, don’t let the insurance company victimize you for a second time. An insurance claim adjuster may act friendly and treat you well. They may actually let you believe they are on your side and offer you a cash settlement; one that is in their best interests – not yours. It can take several months, even longer, to properly document and evaluate a personal injury claim. A proper settlement takes into consideration the full nature and extent of one’s injuries and potential damages. Some injuries can take a long time to heal and their consequences may not be known for quite a while. We have all heard the expression, “Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Before accepting any settlement offers, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Handling a case on your own may actually cost you in the long run. The Law Offices of Morton J. Shuman has a proven track record of successfully handling personal injury claims.
Accidents happen. Tripping and falling, slipping and falling, everyone is susceptible, especially the elderly. When an accident occurs, it is important to determine if someone might be legally responsible. Property owners, both commercial and residential, are generally responsible for unsafe conditions. In other words, they have an obligation to maintain their property in a reasonable safe condition. Similarly, we all also have an obligation to avoid accidents by carefully watching where we are walking and paying attention to our surroundings. Each case depends on whether or not the property owner acted with sufficient care to avoid an accident, as well as whether the injured person also acted in a careful manner. These are factors that a lawyer can help slip-and-fall victims clarify when assessing the merits of the case.
If you have been injured as a result of a slip and fall accident that is due to the negligence of a property owner, you may be entitled to compensation. Attorney Morton J. Shuman and his staff have the knowledge and experience to help determine whether you have a viable case.
SLIP AND FALL
If you have been injured as the result of slipping or falling on someone else’s property (including a business establishment), you should obtain legal representation prior to filing an insurance claim. Even if you decide not to file a claim, you should at least consult with an attorney experienced in the law of premises liability in order to learn your rights.
Over the past decade, the law in Massachusetts has undergone a number of changes that have helped to eliminate several obstacles to bringing a successful claim.
Dangerous and defective products cause thousands of injuries every year. These include consumer goods running the gamut from children’s toys to hygiene products, electronics, and vehicles. Unsafe tools used in the trades and defective equipment utilized in the manufacturing process can also harm workers.
If you have been injured due to a defective product, Attorney Morton J. Shuman and his team will get you results.
ONE OR THE OTHER, OR BOTH
Generally speaking, criminal law is separate from civil law. While the former is designed to maintain peace and security among the general public, and those guilty of violating criminal laws are punished by society, the latter regulates relationships between individuals, families, and corporations, and successful legal action usually results in monetary remedies. Yet, there are instances in which criminal and civil law intersect. For instance, those charged with assault and battery will likely be criminally charged. At the same time, attacking an individual may be a “tort” (wrongdoing) that may ultimately involve payment of personal injury damages to the victim. Even if an injurious action involves criminal arrest, those suffering injury due to another’s wrongdoing should consult with an attorney.
HINT: While prosecutors must prove their cases “beyond a reasonable doubt,” lawyers for plaintiffs in civil cases need only show by a “preponderance of the evidence” (anything greater than 50 percent) that defendants are responsible.
HINT: While prosecutors must prove their cases “beyond a reasonable doubt,” lawyers for plaintiffs in civil cases need only show by a “preponderance of the evidence” (anything greater than 50 percent) that defendants are responsible.
You may have heard of the many injuries that occur in professional baseball parks as a result of foul balls and flying bats. Each of the people injured by these inherent risks in a sense agrees to waive liability by accepting a ticket that outlines the dangers of attending a game. Waivers of liability are quite common, especially with respect to recreational activities, because some sports have been found to be inherently dangerous. In such instances, participants in the sport are said to have voluntarily waived their right to recover damages in the event that they were to suffer personal injury. However, the validity and binding effects of a release or waiver of liability may be challenged when circumstances warrant.
HINT: Waiver law is based on state law.
Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in this country annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half the states have “dog-bite statutes” that hold dog owners liable if their canines cause injury whether or not the dog owners had reason to believe their dogs were dangerous. Most laws cover all kinds of dog-inflicted injuries, not solely dog bites. In other states, the “one-bite rule” makes dog owners legally responsible for an injury if they knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury. Bite victims must prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous. If the injury occurred because the owner was negligent in controlling the dog, the owner is liable.
HINT: The “one-bite rule,” which is relevant the first time a canine attacks a human being, shields the owner of a domestic animal from civil liability to the first victim of each of his or her animals.
In order for plaintiffs to win their negligence cases, they must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries. In some cases, the attempt to establish this link involves the presentation of “circumstantial” evidence. On the other hand, some negligence cases reveal the defendant’s negligence to be so inextricably linked to the plaintiff’s injuries that it is obvious to all. In such cases, the Latin phrase “res ipsa loquitur” (“the thing speaks for itself”) applies. That is, the court can assume that an accident occurred due to someone other than the plaintiff’s own negligence, the defendant owed the plaintiff a “duty of care,” and the defendant “breached” that duty by acting negligently or carelessly.
HINT: The “res ipsa loquitur” originally stems from a case in which a plaintiff suffered injuries from a falling barrel of flour while walking by a warehouse.
Strict liability is a special set of rules that allows people who are injured by defective or unexpectedly dangerous products to win compensation from the manufacturer or seller of the product. Strict liability applies whether or not the maker or seller of the product was actually negligent. The ruling is that those who have been injured by a consumer product are entitled to compensation from the manufacturer or from the business that sold or rented the product, whether or not they sold or rented it directly to the consumer. Strict liability operates against a non-manufacturer who rented or sold a product only if it is in the business of regularly renting or selling those particular kinds of products.
HINT: Strict liability wrongs do not depend on the degree of carefulness by the defendant.
In some cases, there is more to an accident than an unfortunate set of circumstances. Many cases of bodily injury and property damage result from the negligence or recklessness of one of the parties involved. When the person responsible fails to take full and immediate responsibility for his or her actions, it behooves the victim to turn to a lawyer to make sure that he or she recovers all that the law allows. While this course of action may not be applicable in cases of minor injury, it is certainly so in cases where the victim suffers a real injury or major property damage, or incurs other meaningful expenses. A consultation with an attorney is then appropriate.
P.S. Never admit to guilt at the scene of an accident.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
If you are injured in an accident, you must be compensated by the liable party for such things as medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, permanent disability, emotional damages, damaged property, etc. To that end, the insurance adjuster for the liable party adds up the total medical expenses (medical special damages, or “specials”) and uses that figure to calculate how much to compensate you for pain, suffering, and other non-monetary losses (“general” damages). The special damages are multiplied by a factor of 1.5 or 2 when the injuries are relatively minor, and up to 5 or 10 in serious cases. That total is then added to lost income, and the number forms the basis from which negotiations begin.
HINT: Calculating how much your injuries are worth is equal parts science and experience.
COMING TO A RESOLUTION
Civil lawsuits that arise from accidents and injuries are often resolved early in the litigation process through a negotiated settlement between the plaintiff and defendant, when parties agree to settle the case. This resolution between opposing parties can take place from the time the lawsuit is filed up to when the case has been tried but before the jury reaches a verdict. A settlement consists of an agreement by the plaintiff to give up the right to pursue any further legal action in connection with the accident or injury in return for monetary compensation from the defendant or insurance company. The final decision of whether or not to accept a settlement offer rests solely with the plaintiff.
HINT: The ability of a plaintiff to successfully negotiate a settlement to a civil case involving accident or injury is directly related to the strength of his or her case.
A SORRY SITUATION
Lawyers often give their clients advice not to admit to guilt. A recent study by a law professor at the University of Missouri indicates, however, that when defendants admit to their guilt with full apologies, they are more likely to settle their lawsuits quickly. This was the finding of a study involving nearly 150 people between ages twenty-one and seventy. Each was presented with the hypothetical situation in which the subject had been injured in a collision with a bicyclist and had been offered a settlement that covered only his or her medical costs. Without an apology, only 52 percent accepted the limited settlement offer, but the percentage jumped to 73 percent when a full apology was presented.
HINT: The lesson provided to potential plaintiffs by the study mentioned above is that they should consult with a lawyer before weighing any settlement offers.
Those who suffer physical harm as the result of negligent actions by others are legally required to be restored to their pre-injury condition. Both economic (out-of-pocket) and non-economic (loss of physical and mental well-being) losses are restored through monetary compensation. The term “general damages” refers to such non-economic losses as “pain and suffering.” The value placed upon such loss is largely left to the discretion of the jury. “Special damages,” on the other hand, are damages awarded for such compensable harms as medical expenses and lost wages. These can easily be quantified with the aid of bills, pay stubs, etc. Thus, it is important for plaintiffs to keep a full accounting of their losses so that they might receive compensation.
HINT: Nominal damages may be awarded to plaintiffs if they can establish the defendants’ liability but are unable to prove any actual damages.
ABUSING THE PROCESS
When a person misuses the judicial process in order to achieve an improper goal, this misuse of the court system is a tort that is referred to as “abuse of process.” This is not to be confused with the tort known as “malicious prosecution” that is predicated on the plaintiff having no justification for filing a lawsuit. In abuse of process, the lawsuit is justified, but one party uses the court’s power to achieve an impermissible result. For example, someone may file a lawsuit, then start harassing the defendant with court motions and procedures in an attempt to force the defendant into settling the case rather than using court motions and procedures for the purposes they are intended to achieve.
HINT: A tort is a “wrongdoing.”
SUING FOR MALPRACTICE
When a patient has reason to believe that he or she was harmed by a doctor or other medical professional who failed to competently perform his or her medical duties, there may be grounds for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. To prove such a case, the patient must first establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed. In order to hold the physician liable for medical malpractice, the patient must also show that the doctor deviated from the appropriate medical standard of care. In addition, the patient must show that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. Finally, the patient must show that the injury caused by the doctor’s negligence led to specific damages.
HINT: In accordance with the “duty of informed consent,” physicians have a duty to warn patients of known risks of a procedure or course of treatment.
If you were to be injured on the job, workers’ compensation laws are designed to handle your claims. These laws are strict liability, which means that you need not establish fault and/or negligence on the part of your employer in order to collect benefits, as long as the injury/illness was incurred in the course of employment. Because workers’ compensation law imposes strict liability on employers, it is the exclusive remedy for an employee’s injuries/illnesses arising out of the course of employment. However, if a third party (such as a delivery service) were to be responsible for a condition that caused you to slip, you might have a claim against that company. An experienced attorney can help you pursue a third-party lawsuit.
HINT: If a delivery person were to be struck and seriously injured by a drunk driver, on his work route, the delivery person is entitled to collect worker’s compensation benefits and pursue a personal injury claim against the drunk driver and his insurance company.
Would-be plaintiffs in personal injury cases who point to the negligence of others as the cause of their injury might want to examine their own behavior before they initiate legal action. The notion of liability revolves around the simple fact that most accidents happen because someone was careless or negligent. To this carelessness the law applies the basic rule that the person who is less careful than the other involved in an accident must pay damages. However, even careless individuals may not necessarily be liable to someone injured by their carelessness. The concept of “contributory negligence,” which refers to conduct that creates an unreasonable risk to oneself, may be used as a defense to a negligence claim.
HINT: “Comparative negligence approach” weighs each party’s negligence when determining damages.
WHAT IS YOUR CASE WORTH?
If you have suffered injury due to the (in)action(s) of someone else, it is in your best interests to rebuff any offer to settle the claim before consulting with a lawyer. This advice is predicated on the fact that you may not be aware of the full extent of your injuries or what therapy you might eventually need. Nor are you likely to fully appreciate the long-term impact of your injury. You may also be compensated for the “pain and suffering” that you experience as a result of your injury. Moreover, you cannot know with any certainty how much income you might stand to lose. It’s never a good idea to begin negotiating a settlement without knowing all the facts.
HINT: The extent to which a person is at fault is the primary factor determining how much an insurance company is willing to pay the injured party.
HOLDING CHILDREN TO A REASONABLE STANDARD
When a child commits a negligent act that leads to significant injury or property damage, some may wonder if the child can be held to the same legal standard that applies to adults. When differentiating an accident from a negligent act, adults are held to a “standard of care” that is required in a given situation. That is, if a person acts in a manner other than how a “reasonable person” would act in the same situation, the individual would be held liable for any resultant injuries. However, children are not expected to act as a reasonable adult would act. Instead, a child’s actions are compared with the conduct of other children of the same age, experience, and intelligence. In some jurisdictions, however, courts apply the adult standard of care to children who engage in certain adult activities, such as snowmobiling.
HINT: The exception to this altered duty of care for minors involves situations in which the child is carrying out an adult activity, such as driving a vehicle.
Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if you were to find yourself on the receiving end of a civil complaint? If not, you should know that defendants in civil suits typically have no more than 20 days after receiving the complaint to file a response. Unless the plaintiff’s lawyer provides extra time to respond (“extension of time”), defendants should proceed quickly. Failure to file a response within the allotted time can result in serious consequences such as having the court deem the plaintiff as winner by default. The simplest response to a complaint is called an “answer,” which denies the most important factual allegations and legal theories of the complaint.
HINT: In their answers to complaints, defendants in civil cases must respond to every claim the plaintiff makes.
MAKING YOUR CLAIM
When evaluating a workers’ compensation claim, it is important to understand that, in order for a work injury to be compensable, it must “arise out of and in the course of employment.” In order to fully justify a claim and avoid misinterpretation of the circumstances surrounding it, it is best that an injured employee notify his or her employer within a prescribed time after the injury or the onset of the initial symptoms. This notification should be made in writing on a special form. In the event the employer refuses to provide benefits, it is in the worker’s best interests to consult with a lawyer, who can then request a hearing before the state board or commission of workers’ compensation.
HINT: Employers are likely to question workers’ compensation claims for injuries that they perceive to have occurred outside the parameters of employment, such as on work breaks, traveling to and from work, and performing personal errands.
While we may find the classic banana-peel pratfall performed on stage to be comical, there’s nothing funny about a real-life “slip-and-fall” accident. These mishaps can be more than just minor incidents for those who land on hard surfaces and suffer fractures, sprains, and strains. Once these injuries are medically addressed, a consultation with an attorney may be warranted to explore the legal concept of “premises liability.” This legal theory holds property owners liable for accidents and injuries that occur on that property. The fundamental question surrounding a slip-and-fall accident involves whether the conditions were unreasonably dangerous. It may also have to be determined what duty or responsibility a property owner owes to another on the basis of that person’s status.
If you have slipped and fallen on someone else’s property or due to another person’s negligence, you should secure legal representation of your interests prior to filing an insurance claim. As a former claims manager, MORTON J. SHUMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, understands the insurance companies and the ways in which they might not automatically give you the most favorable outcome for your claim. Call us today at 508-879-4040. We are located at 855 Worcester Rd. (Rt. 9). We Get Results!
HINT: Under premises liability law, it is necessary to determine if the plaintiff was an “invitee,” a “licensee,” or a “trespasser.”