Personal Injury Lawyer

Frequently Asked Questions About a Personal Injury

You’ve just been injured in Massachusetts. You’re not sure what to do next. You have questions and need answers. Rest assured that many, many people in your situation feel the same way, and have the same questions. Here are some of the questions we get asked the most. Hopefully the answers we provide will give you some useful guidance. If you want to know how your injury claim becomes a lawsuit read our web page on what is involved in a lawsuit.

I’ve just been injured. What should I do?

First things first: take care of your injuries.  Seek medical attention at the hospital or from qualified physicians. Your health is the most important thing you have – don’t neglect it. Once you have sought treatment and you know you have an injury, you should call an attorney. In Massachusetts, in most cases, you have three years to file a lawsuit for personal injury, but don’t delay longer than you have to.

As time passes, memories may fade and witnesses can become hard to find. Furthermore, insurance companies gather information immediately, so you need to even the playing field. Until you find a lawyer, please don’t talk about your condition or your case, except with your doctor. Don’t talk to the insurance adjusters. Things you say to the insurance companies, to friends or witnesses, can be taken out of context by insurance adjusters and their lawyers.

They will absolutely use anything you have said against you later.Most important: don’t sign any papers or agree to any settlement until you talk about it with the lawyer you choose. No matter how pushy an insurance adjuster gets, you are always free to say “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

How can I tell whether I have a personal injury claim?

First, to determine if you have an injury claim, determine if you have been physically injured.  Have you been to the doctor or a hospital?  If you have been treated by a medical provider, including a physical therapist or chiropractor, they would likely certify that you were injured.

Next, ask did some other person or entity cause your injury?

Third, was that other person at fault?  What did they do, or fail to do that caused your injury?  Remember, generally we are talking about negligence, not intentional injuries.  If they owed you a duty to be careful, and they breached their duty, they were negligent.  Negligence is in the area of law called torts.  It is based on old English common law.  It is complicated.  Insurance companies insure for many types of negligence, but often claim that the specific kind you are claiming is not covered under the insurance contract.  Be careful before giving any statement to an insurance company:  they are looking for any and all ways to claim that they do not cover your injury.

Can a claim help me get compensation for my person injuries?

Yes. If you’ve been injured, you have the potential to receive “compensatory damages” –money to compensate you for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Any resulting physical disability, disfigurement, or scarring
  • Any resulting mental disability
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of love and affection
  • Mental disability
  • Property damage
  • Out of pocket expenses that stem directly from you being injured (transportation charges, house cleaning, and others).

In some cases, you might also be able to win “punitive damages” – money that a judge or jury requires a defendant to pay in addition to the compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant that acted especially badly. Whether you will be eligible to receive punitive damages depends on how egregiously the defendant acted toward you.

Will my personal injury lawyer file suit?

Only if a claim with the insurance company does not yield a significant offer of settlement. And, only after consultation with you regarding what the requirements and ramifications are when we file a lawsuit.

Does filing a personal injury lawsuit mean I’ll have to go to court?

No. In fact, you probably won’t need to go to court at all. We resolve most cases before trial. But if your case doesn’t settle and is not decided by a summary judgment motion or the like, then you may have to go to court and testify. Don’t worry, though: testifying is simply answering questions about what happened. It is rarely anything like the drama depicted on television or in the movies.

Do Personal Injury trials mean I will be deposed? If so why?

If we have to file a lawsuit, it is likely that you will be deposed. In a deposition, a lawyer asks you questions, and you answer them. Later, if the case goes to trial, the lawyer can use your deposition testimony to make sure that your testimony is consistent. Depositions usually take place in a conference room, with a stenographer who records everything, word for word. An opposing lawyer will be there asking you the questions. A typical deposition lasts a few hours. A lawyer from our office always sits besides our client to object to improper questions and making sure you’re treated fairly.

Someone injured me, but I don’t want to ruin that person’s life. Should I file a claim or sue?

If you’ve been injured, do not feel bad about filing a claim. Most claims are resolved without filing a lawsuit, or suing. The purpose of the insurance industry – and the legal system – is to make people in your position whole again. This is why people invented insurance more than 700 years ago. We all pay premiums to insurance companies so that if something goes wrong for one of us, the insurance company has the resources to make that person whole again. People in the insurance industry call this “spreading the risk.”

In almost all personal injury cases, the defendant is covered by insurance. Odds are that whomever you sue won’t be paying out-of-pocket. And because a personal injury lawsuit is a civil case, not a criminal case, it’s there are no criminal ramifications for the actions we take in a civil case.

The lawsuit will probably be defended by an insurance company lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Neil Burns are very experienced in dealing with insurance company lawyers. Any money that the court awards you as compensation for your injuries will probably be paid by the insurance company. Accidents happen – but that doesn’t mean you need to get stuck with the bill for your pain and suffering. You’ve been through enough already. We can help.

How can I pick the best lawyer for my personal injury case?

Finding the right lawyer can be tough! Your lawyer should have experience with your type of case. Your lawyer should have a track record of success. Your lawyer should have the respect of his or her peers. Your lawyer should be willing and able to fight vigorously for your interests while acting with solid ethics and professionalism. Your lawyer should speak clearly with you, respond to your questions in a timely manner, and put you at ease.

If that sounds like the lawyer you want, we encourage you to meet with the lawyers at The Law Office of Neil Burns.

  • We’ve handled thousands of personal injury cases since 1985, and have had a great deal of success for our clients. For some examples of cases we’ve handled, see our personal injury case results.
  • We’re proud to have our peers’ respect – Neil Burns was named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer in 2009 and 2010 – because we’ve earned it.
  • If you’ve been injured, you’ve got enough to deal with. Focus on healing – not on wrangling with insurance companies and their lawyers. We’ll do the fighting for you. Feel confident that we will always behave ethically and professionally. Feel just as confident that we will fight for your rights intelligently and aggressively.
  • We’re lawyers, but we know the legal and insurance world can be filled with jargon. If you call or come in for a consultation, we’ll speak to you with respect and will take the time to explain things with a minimum of jargon. We’ll let you know whether we think you have a strong case, or whether there might be a better solution. And we will always return your calls as soon as possible.

I’d like to come in and meet with a Personal Injury lawyer. What will it cost?

At The Law Office of Neil Burns, your initial consultation is always free. It will cost you nothing to speak with us regarding your potential claim. If you hire us, the fee is contingent on our successfully resolving your case. That is, for a typical case we charge one third (33%) of the settlement or judgment. You will not have to pay any fee or bills until the end of the case; at that time we will take our fee from the insurance company proceeds.

What is “negligence?”

Negligence basically means carelessness. Many personal injury lawsuits are based on the defendant’s negligence. If someone injured you because he or she wasn’t as careful as a reasonable person should have been in that situation, that person was negligent, and may be liable for your injuries. For example, an automobile driver has a duty to drive carefully. Let’s say you were crossing the street at an intersection, and a driver hit you with his car because he wasn’t paying enough attention and didn’t notice the crosswalk. That driver probably wasn’t as careful as a reasonable driver should be – in other words, he was negligent – and may be liable for your injuries.

What if my injuries are partly my fault?

How much you are compensated for your injuries may depend on whether your injury was caused in part by your own negligence. In the crosswalk example we described, if a court finds that you were 25 percent to blame for the car hitting you because you were crossing outside of a crosswalk, your compensatory damages award would be reduced by 25 percent, leaving you with a 75 percent recovery. It’s actually a little more complicated than this in Massachusetts, because if the court finds that you are more than 50 percent responsible for your injuries, the court won’t award you any compensation. You can only win a damages award if you weren’t the main cause of your own injuries.

What does “liable” mean?

Liable means responsible. If the court finds someone liable for your injuries, that means that the person is responsible for them, and usually his insurance company has to compensate you for them. (Liable is not the same as guilty. A defendant can only be found guilty in a criminal case.)


When you hire The Law Office of Neil Burns, you can depend on a few things:

  • Our best efforts – We will work our hardest and use all our experience and available resources to get you the best possible result.
  • Aggressive representation – We will fight for your rights with zealous force and tireless persistence.
  • Honest representation – We know how important your good name is to you – so we will always work on your behalf ethically and honestly.
  • Negotiating from strength – We’ll prepare your case as though it’s going to trial. Most cases settle. But the only way to get the best settlement is to be fully ready for battle.
  • No “legalese” – We will speak clearly with you, use a minimum of jargon, and make sure you understand your case.
  • Responsiveness – We will return your phone calls or emails within one day, unless there’s an emergency – and always as soon as possible.

Give us a call at 617-227-7423 or request an appointment online. For more information, see also our Personal Injury FAQs.