Boston Personal Injury Attorneys
Boston Personal Injury Lawyers Click here to read about our attorneys Click here to see our recent results Click here to read what our clients are saying about us Contact us today
View our recent victories of cases like yours Have you been injured? Click here to learn what to do next If we don't win, we don't charge Why Choose Turco Legal?
Phone:
--

Closing Statements in Massachusetts Personal Injury Cases

Let's set the stage: You have endured the insurance claims process which, in Massachusetts, typically lasts up to three years, mirroring the tort statute of limitations. That process alone likely involved your medical recovery, which may still be ongoing today, and subjecting yourself to the questioning examination of the other sides insurance carrier and their experts. You have further endured the entire litigation, including deposition, and trial preparation, as well as having to testify yourself. Needless to say, the whole ordeal can be nerve-racking, but if you are at the point of closing statement preparation, you've come a very long way and nearly everything is riding on the outcome of your trial. Let's take a few minutes and talk about what should and should not be in your closing argument in Massachusetts.

To start, let's talk time. Rule 51(a) of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure provides that you get 30 minutes for closing argument, subject to the court's discretion to reduce or extend the time. Your personal injury lawyer is likely prepared to do his or her closing argument in 30 minutes or less or has asked the judge for permission to spend more time. The judge's discretion will likely follow the logic of the case. In simple cases that take hours or just a few days, the judge is unlikely to grant an extended period of time to argue a closing argument. However, if this is a case that's gone on for weeks--covering numerous points, numerous witnesses, and many pieces of documentary evidence--the judge may be more likely going to grant additional time for each lawyer's closing.

Unlike in most jurisdictions, the plaintiff in Massachusetts has the right to argue last. So, the defense makes the first closing argument an plaintiff makes the last closing argument. This is also what happens in Massachusetts criminal cases, for your knowledge.

In making a closing argument in a personal injury case, your lawyer should discuss the facts, issues, evidence, and all relevant reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts and evidence. The attorney may discuss the credibility of witnesses, and not just the facts relevant to the ultimate issue in the case. For instance, there may have been inconsistent statements set forth on the record--in that case, your lawyer might remind the jury of all the inconsistencies of the testimony of any one or multiple witnesses.

On the other hand, a lawyer may not discuss evidence that was not ultimately admitted in the case. If a piece of evidence was excluded and determined to be inadmissible, it would stand to reason that it is not to be discussed by a lawyer in closing. If that were not the rule, then lawyers could simply talk about the evidence that they were unable to get on the record. That would effectively make our civil justice system inadequate.

As an example, let's say the plaintiff was injured in a car accident when she was 30 years old and there was no indication whatsoever that she was intoxicated or had even been drinking alcohol or any other intoxicating substance at the time of the accident. Let's say further that the defense lawyer attempted to admit into evidence the fact that when the car accident victim was 18 years old, she was arrested for DUI, she refused the breathalyzer test, and her license was suspended. Let's say this evidence was properly excluded by the trial judge. However, in her closing statement, the defense lawyer referenced that although the victim of the car accident in this case was not found to be intoxicated at the time of the accident, that may have been because no breathalyzer was given, and that the jury should consider the plaintiff's prior DUI. That type of closing is impermissible, and the proper step for plaintiff's counsel would be to wait for the conclusion of the closing statement and object before the judge instructed the jury. Of course, there could be an instance where the statements made by defense counsel are so egregious that they would merit an interruption of her closing argument.

The lawyer also may not state his or her own opinion as to the credibility or truthfulness of the witnesses. Personal opinions are for the jury, and it is impermissible for a lawyer the state his or her personal opinion the closing.

Let's take another example to clearly illustrate the issue. Let's say that through the course of the trial, one key witness (the treating orthopedic surgeon of a party) had an inconsistent statement relevant to the final issue in the case: at a prior deposition, the witness testified that she thought the plaintiff would fully recover, yet at trial, she testified that she thought the injury would be permanent to some degree or another, and the plaintiff would have the partial permanent disability. When confronted on the issue at trial, the orthopedic surgeon testified that she did not recall making the prediction of full recovery during her deposition, but that if she had indeed made that statement, she had nonetheless changed her outlook. These things do happen through the course of litigation and trial, and they are the reason the jury is impaneled to determine ultimate issues of fact. What would be impermissible relating to this article is if defense counsel then said something to the effect of "I don't personally believe the orthopedic surgeon. I've been on this case for quite some time and I simply don't believe she's being truthful." Again, as in our last example, this behavior would be inappropriate, objectionable, and the proper step for the plaintiff's personal injury lawyer to take is to wait until the conclusion of the defense counsel's closing statement to make an objection.

It is unarguably true that Massachusetts personal injury cases are largely settled prior to any litigation commenced. But, it is more difficult to maximize recovery when the claims professional who is on the other side of the claims process does not believe you will litigate the case to its conclusion. When the claims professional realizes you'll take the case into litigation and all the way through trial, the leverage of the negotiation tilts further to the plaintiff's personal injury lawyer's advantage. Take great care in selecting your Massachusetts lawyer. Call today for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer at our firm.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

Phone: (866) 995-6663
Address: 15 Court Square, Suite 800, Boston, MA 02108