Michael S. Mehrmann

agreementFor many people, the decision to enter (or to place a loved one in) a nursing home is a difficult and stressful one. The time when the patient first goes into the facility is one filled with many changes and many necessary things to consider. One thing that may be easy to overlook is the paperwork that must be signed as part of the admissions process. Don’t make the mistake of just “glossing over” this step and automatically signing everything put in front of you without legal counsel. Some of these documents may be optional, and signing them may not be in your family’s best interests in the event that you or your loved one is harmed as a result of negligence by the facility staff. Instead, make sure you are armed with knowledge before you sign by relying on the representation of a knowledgeable Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney.

Knowing before you sign is important because, once you sign, you may not be able to “take it back,” and that signature could be a significant negative for your family. For example, take the federal case involving Emma, an elderly woman who entered a Chestnut Hill nursing home in early February 2013. Later that month, Emma’s daughter Jackalyn signed several documents related to the nursing home admissions process. Over the course of the month, the daughter signed in excess of a dozen documents, ranging from DNR to an authorization for assignment of insurance benefits. Among the numerous other documents Jackalyn signed, one was something called an “Arbitration Agreement,” which the daughter signed but didn’t date.

Early the following December, Emma died. Jackalyn subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. According to the daughter’s complaint, Emma died due to an extreme sepsis infection brought on by the pressure sores (or bedsores) on the woman’s body.

nurseThere is a certain precision that is involved in pursuing a civil lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim. Achieving a successful result is about more than knowing just the facts; it is about knowing how to use those facts and how to assert them properly in a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Make a wrong assertion, and it could turn a potentially winning case into an unsuccessful one. That is one of many reasons why it is wise to consult a knowledgeable Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney if you’ve been hurt at work.

One of the common ways in which claims for benefits can be derailed is by procedural errors, such as filing too late. The statute of limitations governs how much time you have to file your claim for benefits or else lose your right to those benefits.

Francisca was a worker facing that type of a situation in her case. Francisca was an animal technician at a major hospital. She first experienced pain in her back on the job in 2008. It happened again in 2011, in January 2012, and once more in December 2014. In the last instance, the pain was in her back and leg. Francisca filed two claims for benefits. The first one, which she submitted in May 2015, related to the January 2012 injury. The second one, filed the next month, related to the 2014 incident.

car crashWhen you are seriously injured in an auto accident, there may be many steps involved in getting the compensation you need. You may have legal rights against the other driver, the other driver’s insurance company, or your insurance company, depending on the facts of your case. To make sure that you are pursuing everything you should under the law, talk to an experienced Massachusetts car accident attorney promptly to learn about your rights and your legal options.

Heather was a driver who was seriously injured in a July 2007 auto accident in Bristol County. When you suffer substantial harm in an auto accident, as Heather did, you may very possibly have to litigate extensively to get the compensation you deserve. The other driver or his insurance company will likely contest your case vigorously, since it potentially involves a large sum of damages.

Heather’s case involved two trials and multiple appeals. Eventually, she and the other driver’s insurance company worked out a settlement. Deciding to settle a case, even one in which you have a strong factual and legal position, may make sense for you because it can allow you to achieve finality and compensation without additional delays from ongoing appeals or retrials. In this situation, Heather agreed to settle for $100,000, which was the policy limit on the other driver’s insurance policy, even though the damages award she received at the conclusion of her second trial was much greater.

signatureWhen a loved one has been hurt, or has died, while in the care of a nursing home, it is a stressful time, and you very likely have a lot on your mind. Worrying about whether or not that arbitration agreement document you or your sibling signed when your mom or dad was admitted to the nursing home is valid is probably not at the top of your list of immediate concerns. However, it can make all of the difference when it comes to getting compensation for the nursing home’s negligence. Whether it is overcoming an arbitration agreement or defeating some other challenge in your negligence or wrongful death action, contact an experienced Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney about your options in your case.

Last summer, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in a case in which a daughter sought to sue her late mother’s nursing home for negligence. In that case, a daughter named Carol signed several papers on behalf of her mother when the mother was first admitted to the nursing home in 2013. Among those documents was an agreement stating that all disputes between the resident and the home would be resolved through arbitration instead of litigation. Carol did not have authority under any legal documents to sign on behalf of her mother. Her mother was not present when Carol signed, and the daughter did not discuss the document with the mother before the signature was made.

In early 2015, the mother died. A few months later, another daughter, Jeannette, who was also the administrator of the mother’s probate estate, sued the nursing home for negligence and wrongful death. The nursing home tried to invoke the arbitration agreement and get the judge to compel arbitration, but the court refused. The appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that there was no proof that Carol had any kind of authority to sign binding documents on behalf of her mother, and the absence of the mother’s signature, or the signature of someone legally empowered to act on her behalf, made the agreement unenforceable.

Cervical XrayWinning your Massachusetts workers’ compensation case involves many things. Included among these is presenting a compelling array of evidence that persuades the judge to make multiple findings in your favor. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can provide essential knowledge and skill when it comes to accumulating that evidence and making that winning presentation.

A recent example of a winning case was the one pursued by Theresa, an employee of a non-profit organization in Randolph. Theresa was working for the non-profit when she was injured in an auto accident that caused her to suffer head and neck injuries. She later filed a claim for workers’ compensation, seeking payment for her neck and head medical treatments. After the hearing’s conclusion, the judge ruled in Theresa’s favor. In the written opinion on the case, the judge found that Theresa appeared to be physically uncomfortable during the hearing and frequently switched between sitting and standing.

The employer’s insurer argued that this finding clearly established that the ruling in Theresa’s favor should be reversed. The insurer’s argument was that there was no evidence in the hearing transcript about the worker standing up, sitting down, or looking uncomfortable. The judge also never commented about Theresa’s movements during the hearing. In the absence of these things, the judge was not allowed to make a finding about the woman’s apparent discomfort, according to the insurer.

front of SUVWhen you pursue an injury case, there are several hurdles to clear. There’s filing the lawsuit, collecting and organizing all of the evidence, preparing for trial, and obtaining a judgment or settlement. However, there are many more tasks beyond just these that go into a successful result in an injury case. A knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney can help you make sure that “all of your bases are covered” when it comes to your case.

Sometimes, your injury case may be affected by a person or entity that wasn’t even involved in the accident. A recent example involved a case from Bristol County. Evelyn was an 85-year-old woman who was crossing a street when a vehicle driven by Annmarie crashed into her. Evelyn had dementia before the accident, but the crash made it worse. Eighteen months after the accident, Evelyn died. Her children sued Annmarie, and the two sides settled for $250,000. Annmarie’s auto insurance company paid the judgment, and the family dismissed the lawsuit in January 2014.

This might sound like the end to a successful outcome, and, in some situations, it might have been. For this family, however, there were additional complications. During her final years, Evelyn had received some $18,000 worth of care that was paid for by MassHealth. Massachusetts gives MassHealth the right to pursue repayment of these expenses from the estate of a deceased person in certain circumstances, while others may possibly be exempt from this estate recovery.

handshakeWhen you file a lawsuit as a result of your auto accident injuries, there are several steps in the process. One of these may be exploring the possibility of a mutually acceptable settlement. An important thing to note about settlement negotiations and settlement agreements is that they are much like any other form of contract negotiations and contractual agreements. They require one side to make an offer, and the other side must accept that offer. There must be a “meeting of the minds” about the terms of the agreement. Without those things, a settlement agreement isn’t valid. When it comes to deciding whether to settle or litigate your injury case, it pays to have the advice and representation of a knowledgeable Plymouth County car accident attorney.

The existence (or lack thereof) of a valid settlement was a central dispute in one recent auto accident case. Frances was the driver of a vehicle that was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Edy. As is common in many civil cases, the opposing sides both worked toward trial and discussed the possibility of settling the case out of court. Eventually, Frances’ case went to trial, and the jury found in her favor, awarding her $52,000 in damages.

Edy appealed that judgment. The centerpiece of his appeal was that Frances was not entitled to the damages award handed down by the jury because the two sides had already settled the case, and Edy had been released from liability in exchange for agreeing to the settlement. Edy also argued that, if the court did not throw out the jury’s damages award, it should at least reduce it by the amount that Frances’ auto insurer had already paid out.

choicesWhen you’re hurt outside Massachusetts, your case potentially presents an extra layer of complexity. You may have the choice to sue where your injury occurred or to sue back home in Massachusetts. Even if you sue here, the law may dictate that the courts here apply the legal rules of the state where the accident occurred. For example, you could possibly sue in Massachusetts but be required to follow legal rules like the statute of limitations established by the laws of the state where your injury took place. Determining where the most advantageous place to bring your injury lawsuit is can be an extremely important choice and is just one example among many of situations in which it pays to have representation from skilled Massachusetts injury counsel.

One case that presented a choice between multiple states was that of Susan, a phlebotomist at the UMass hospital in Worcester. Susan decided to book a Labor Day weekend vacation at a romantic resort in the Poconos. While on a boat ride tour operated by the resort, an extremely bumpy ride resulted in Susan being thrown about. By the end of the ride, she had suffered fractures to her T-12 vertebrae, along with bruises to her back, buttocks, and thighs.

The injury took place in early September 2012. Almost exactly two years later, she sued the resort in state court in Pennsylvania. Some time later, she chose to voluntarily dismiss that lawsuit and refile a different lawsuit, alleging the same claims. She filed this second lawsuit in state court in Boston in June 2015.

Discount Retail StoreWhen you are injured in a trip-and-fall case, there are several hurdles you will necessarily have to clear. There are also some additional pitfalls that you may encounter depending on the specifics of your case. One of those potential pitfalls is the “open and obvious” rule, which says that, if a hazard is open and obvious, a property owner is not obligated to fix it or post warnings about it; the property owner or possessor has no legal obligation to do anything about an open and obvious hazard. Fortunately, there are many ways to counter a defense argument that a hazard was open and obvious. To make sure that you are prepared for everything that may come your way in your premises liability case, be sure to retain the services of a skilled Massachusetts premises liability attorney.

One case that showed how it is possible to overcome an “open and obvious” argument was an accident that occurred at a Watertown discount retail store. Jean was walking toward the entrance of the store when she tripped and fell, suffering significant injuries. It was not raining, and the area was not wet at that time.

The customer tripped along a curb area in front of the store, which she alleged was unsafe. Specifically, she presented a negligence lawsuit that argued that the curb was dangerous and defective and that the store either knew or should have known that the curb was dangerous and defective.

car accidentWhen you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may think that your case will be a relatively straightforward matter, decided largely upon each side’s presentation of the facts. Sometimes that is how a case plays out. Other times, your case may hinge upon more technical legal rules and concepts, like consolidation of cases, issue preclusion, and claim preclusion. What all of these things represent is the extent to which any type of legal matter can end up succeeding or failing based upon things that require an in-depth knowledge of the law. To make sure that you are prepared for whatever your case presents, make sure you have a knowledgeable Massachusetts car accident attorney representing you.

An example of such a scenario played out recently in the Massachusetts courts. The underlying incident was a straightforward intersection accident in Weymouth. John was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Kelly. At the intersection, Kelly’s vehicle and a vehicle driven by Noah crashed. The key factual issue in the case was which driver ran a red light to cause the collision. John sued Noah, and, sometime shortly after that, Kelly sued Noah.

Both lawsuits were filed in Brockton. Both John and Kelly had the same attorney. The judge who oversaw the cases decided to consolidate both lawsuits and determined that Kelly’s case versus Noah should be tried first. At the close of the evidence in that case, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Noah. Since the jury found Noah not negligent in that case, the judge reasoned that John could not win his case and entered judgment for Noah on that part too.