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Massachusetts Statutes of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases

In Massachusetts, the Court has a specific timeframe by which a plaintiff can bring a case to recover damages. This timeframe is referred to as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations places the burden on plaintiff to commence legal action within a certain time period, accruing from the cause of action.[1] An action is commenced by mailing or filing the complaint and entry fee to the clerk of the proper court by registered or certified mail or with the clerk.[2]

In personal injury cases throughout the Commonwealth, a cause of action begins when a plaintiff is injured or damage occurs. In these cases, the statute of limitations is generally three years.[3]

While the general tort statute of limitations is three years, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, an action against a sheriff based on the negligence or misconduct of his deputy shall be commenced within four years, as opposed to three years.[4]

As another example, there is a two year statute of limitations for actions against the MBTA. In Thomas v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Authority, a passenger on the T was injured and suffered bodily harm.[5] About three years following the accident, the plaintiff commenced a personal injury action against the MBTA in recovery from contract damages, not tort damages.[6] The Court held that a personal injury action could be brought to recover tort damages in an action against the MBTA within two years from the accident for the injuries sustained by a passenger.[7]

Additionally, when there is a hit-and-run accident, an action for personal injury, death, or property damage shall be brought within six months after the plaintiff learns of the identity of the defendant. An action must be brought within three years of the accident, provided that proper notice of the time, place and facts of such accident is given to the police and to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.[8]

An interesting area of the statute of limitations deals with wrongful death suits. While wrongful death suits must be commenced within three years, a Massachusetts case relies on specific actions against ski area operators. Grass v. Catamount Development Corp. was a wrongful death action following a fatal skiing accident. Generally, personal injury cases against ski area operators must be commenced within one year; however, that action was not subject to statute against ski area operators, but was subject to statute setting forth a three-year period of limitations in wrongful death actions.[9]

If you need more information about the Massachusetts statute of limitations for personal injury cases or about tort law generally, you may schedule a free consultation with our office. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours or complete a contact form and we will respond to your phone call or submission promptly.


[1] 9 Mass. Prac., Civil Practice § 15.1 (3d ed.);

[2] See, Sisson v. Lhowe, 460 Mass. 705, 707–716, 954 N.E.2d 1115, 117–1123 (2011)

[3] M.G.L.A. c. 260 § 2A provides: Except as otherwise provided, actions of tort, actions of contract to recover for personal injuries, and actions of replevin, shall be commenced only within three years next after the cause of action accrues.

[4] M.G.L.A. c. 260 § 3

[5] Thomas v. MBTA, 389 Mass. 408, 409, 450 N.E.2d 600, 601 (1983).

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] M.G.L.A. c. 260 § 4B

[9] Grass v. Catamount Development Corp., 390 Mass. 551, 553–554, 457 N.E.2d 627, 629–630 (1983); M.G.L.A. 143 § 71P.

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.

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