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Negligent Acts and Omissions in Massachusetts Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases in Massachusetts typically involve claims of negligence. Essentially, plaintiff is accusing defendant of acting in a negligent manner or failing to act (claim of omission), when they are required by law to do so.

952313_gavel.jpgAn example of a negligent act would be drunk driving. Every driver owes a duty to others on the roads and sidewalks to operate their motor vehicle in a reasonably safe manner so as to prevent foreseeable (predictable) injury to other persons and property. When someone drinks to the point of intoxication and then gets behind the wheel of car, they are not acting in a responsible manner, since everyone knows or should know drunk driving is dangerous. If this negligent conduct results in an accident in which a victim is injured, plaintiff can file a negligence-based claim in civil court.

With respect to a negligent omission, normally, people are not legally required to come to the assistance of another person. While we hope people wouldn’t ignore someone in need, if you walk by a pond and see someone drowning, you are generally under no obligation to call for help or try to help victim yourself. Again, we hope someone would not simply walk away, but there is generally no legal requirement to come to the aid of another person.

However, there are two main exceptions to this law. If you are the reason victim was placed in peril, you do have a duty to act. For example, if you pushed victim into the pond, or negligently fell into them, and they fell into the pond, you have a legal duty to come to their aid, or at the very least, call someone who can assist them.

The other situation when you might have an obligation to rescue, and where not doing so would be a negligent omission, is through a legal or contractual relationship. An example of a legal requirement to act, which our Boston personal injury attorneys can further explain, would be the case of a mandated reporter. Under Massachusetts law, certain people are considered mandated reporters. A pediatrician who suspects a patient has been abused cannot simply ignore the problem. This doctor has a legal responsibility to contact the appropriate authorities and report his conclusions. Failing to do so could be the basis of a civil lawsuit.

An example of a contractual obligation to act would be a lifeguard. A lifeguard is employed to work at a pool, water park, or beach and has a job of providing help to people in need. If a lifeguard decides to sit is his or her chair and not come to the aid of a drowning victim, this is a breach of his or her contractual obligation and could the basis of a negligence lawsuit filed under an omission theory.

It should be noted, every case is different, as the law varies on this issue, and the facts are never the same, so you should discuss this issue with your personal injury attorney during your initial consultation.

If you are injured in an accident in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Title XVII, Chapter 119, Section 51A, Massachusetts General Laws ,
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Summer Swimming Pool Safety in New England, May 15, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog