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Steps for Filing a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim

Suffering personal injury, whether from a fall or a motor vehicle accident, is physically and emotionally traumatic. A personal injury attorney pursuing damages for the client’s pain and financial loss from those who negligently inflicted the harm may have to file suit, if he or she is unable to negotiate a settlement with a claims adjuster or opposing counsel.

Prerequisites for filing suit depend on the nature of the personal injury sustained. There is a broad array of personal injury claims and the various notice and other requirements specific to each type of injury and resulting lawsuit. This post will focus on personal injury suits involving a motor vehicle accident against an individual defendant, rather than a business or governmental entity.

In Massachusetts, the victim may not sue until medical treatment expenses exceed $2,000, unless the mishap caused death, serious disfigurement, loss of a body member, loss of hearing or sight, or a fracture.[1] Choosing the motor vehicle accident trial forum--either a Commonwealth superior or district court or a federal district court--is a crucial decision. Suing in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, for example, requires all parties to be citizens of different states and the amount of damages in controversy to be at least $75,000.[2]

An automobile accident action filed in superior court is brought in a county where one of the parties resides or has a usual place of business.[3] A district court action may be brought in a court in the judicial district where one of the parties lives or has his usual place of business or in a court. It may also be brought in a district adjacent to the judicial district where one of the parties lives or has his usual place of business.[4]

Factors to consider in selecting the superior versus district court include convenience, case backlog, and differences in rules of evidence and discovery. Superior Court Rule 29, for example, requires filing a cover sheet to accompany a complaint signed by the attorney or self-representing plaintiff. This cover sheet includes a statement itemizing the facts on which the plaintiff relies on money damages exceeding $25,000. If damages do not meet that threshold amount and the court sees no likelihood of recovery of more than $25,000, the case will be transferred to district court[5]. Unlike superior court, district court rules require a detailed statement of damages[6] to be filed with the complaint, counterclaim or cross-claim.

Pre-litigation, a motor vehicle accident victim must submit an accident report to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Thereafter, the injured party should keep daily diaries tracking pain levels and describing daily activities. The party should also compile medical and non-medical accident-related expenses to assist counsel.

A personal injury attorney commences suit by filing a Complaint, along with a filing fee, with the clerk of court, either in person or by certified or registered mail.[7] The Complaint is a short, plain statement of claims asserting that the injured party is entitled to relief and demanding judgment.[8] The defendant, in turn, files an Answer admitting or denying the plaintiff’s allegations, asserting affirmative defenses, such as contributory negligence, and may file counterclaims, cross-claims against another defendant or a third-party complaint.[9]

If you have any questions about personal injury matters, call us for a free consultation at 617-657-HURT (4878) or fill out our contact form here.


[1] M.G.L. c. 231, §6D.

[2] 28 U.S.C., §1332.

[3] M.G.L. c. 223, §1.

[4] M.G.L. c. 223, §2.

[5] M.G.L. c. 231, §102C.

[6] Dist. Supp. R. Civ. P. Rule 102A.

[7] Mass. R. Civ. P. 3.

[8] Mass. R. Civ. 8.

[9] Mass. R. Civ. 7

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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