When someone is injured in a Massachusetts accident and another person is at fault, most people know that the injured party may have a personal injury claim. Exactly what they are entitled to be compensated for, and how, is less well understood.

What is a Personal Injury Claim?

An injured person can bring a claim for personal injuries sustained as a result of an accident or other negligence, such as medical malpractice. That is all a personal injury claim or lawsuit is – recovering for damages due to an injury caused by another person’s negligence. The injured person must prove, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that her injury was caused by the negligence of another. Where an injured person has a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by an accident, the injured party may bring a claim for the worsening of the condition and be compensated based upon the difference between the post- and pre-accident status of the injury.

How are Personal Injuries Proven?

The relationship between an accident and negligence and an injury is generally established through testimony of an expert witness – a medical doctor with training and experience in the treatment of the injury claimed. After proving the relationship between an accident and injury, the next step is figuring out what that injury is worth.

What are Available Damages in a Personal Injury Claim?

In Massachusetts, damages for an injured party can include medical bills, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

The first is a relatively simple calculation and is based on medical bills incurred for treatment. Even those bills, however, are subject to scrutiny. Generally, a person can only recover for the reasonable cost of medical treatment that is necessary and related to the accident. The injured person has a duty to “mitigate damages,” meaning that she must act reasonably to minimize damages; she must receive prompt and appropriate treatment and must not seek out over-priced therapies.

Likewise, an injured party’s claim for loss of earning ability is based on what she would have earned had she continued to work following the accident. Like the medical bills, a person’s lost earning ability must be related to the accident or negligence. Guessing at earnings, for example money that a person could make if she had a job, are generally not recoverable.

A person’s pain and suffering is more abstract and more difficult to value. It is based on the way an injury affects a person’s daily life. This includes levels of pain as well as inability to enjoy life, including business and leisure activities, and activities of daily living. A person’s pain and suffering is generally established through his or her own testimony, but can also be established through a medical expert.

Can Family Members Bring Claims in Massachusetts?

In addition to damages sustained by the injured person, as discussed in previous SUGARMAN blog posts, the injured person’s immediate family – spouse and – children may be entitled to bring claims for loss of consortium under Massachusetts law. These damages are for the loss of society and changes in the relationship caused by a person’s injury.

SUGARMAN attorneys have decades of experience advocating for injured persons to ensure they recover maximum damages. If you or a loved one has suffered injury as the result of an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, speak to one of our principals today by calling 617-542-1000 or email us at info@sugarman.com.