Personal Injury Litigation Explosion in Massachusetts? Fact or Fiction?


Conventional wisdom says that people will sue for any injury and that the number of personal injury lawsuits is steadily increasing. But, the facts tell a different story. Where a serious personal injury is claimed, the case is usually filed in Superior Court in Massachusetts and recorded as a civil case filing. The court has reported statistics for filings for most of the past 30 years. Comparing the number of civil filings since 1986 with those in 2013 shows that the annual number of filings has declined from 34,807 in 1986 to 21,458 in 2013. During that time, Massachusetts population has increased from 5,903,000 to 6,646,000. This means that the number of civil case filings per 100,000 population has declined from 590 to 323.

Of course not all civil case filings are personal injury cases. From the data available for the Superior Court, it appears that historically between 29-34% of civil filings are personal injury cases. These include auto accident, premises liability, medical malpractice, product liability, construction site accident and all other types of personal injury cases. Using this percentage, a reasonable estimate for personal injury lawsuits in Massachusetts for 2013 is about 100 cases filed for each 100,000 Commonwealth residents, down from about 200 per 100,000 residents in 1986.

By contrast, in 2008, the last year for which the Department of Public Health has published data, there were 709,237 emergency room visits for injuries, 54,446 hospital admission for injury and 2,820 deaths due to injury. For each 100,000 Massachusetts residents, this works out to 10,915 emergency room visits for injuries, 915 hospital admissions for injuries and 43 deaths due to injury. It's abundantly clear that in Massachusetts far from every injury results in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Massachusetts experience is consistent with the national experience. For example, the Federal District Courts have jurisdiction over personal injury cases between citizens (or corporate citizens) of different states. From 2009 to 2013, the number of personal injury cases filed declined from 72,897 to 63,316. Personal injury cases represented 26% of the civil filings in 2009 and 22% in 2013.

The conclusion to be drawn from these statistics is that our courts are not drowning in personal injury cases and not every injury results in a lawsuit. Where an injury or death results from the negligence or fault of another, whether a person or corporation, those injured should not be discouraged from seeking compensation by inaccurate conventional wisdom regarding personal injury lawsuits. If you or a family member have been injured and wish to speak with one of our attorneys regarding liability, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail