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Massachusetts Negligence Laws

Most personal injury cases, whether they involve car accidents, slip and falls, or medical malpractice, hinge on the legal theory of "negligence." Negligence occurs when an individual who owes a duty to another person fails to exercise a certain degree of care and causes injury to that other person. For instance, a grocery store that fails to clean up a known leak on the floor may be held negligent for a shopper's resulting slip-and-fall injuries.

Massachusetts negligence laws incorporate the doctrine of contributory negligence that reduces damages rewards for plaintiffs (individuals who file the lawsuit) who are partially at fault for the incident that causes their injuries.

This article provides a brief overview of negligence laws in the state of Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Negligence Laws: At a Glance

The following chart highlights some of the main provisions of Massachusetts' negligence laws. See Negligence: Background and the links below for a general overview and additional resources

Code Section

Chapter 231, § 85 of the Massachusetts General Laws

Contributory Negligence -- Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery

Contributory negligence does not bar recovery so long as the plaintiff's negligence is not greater than that of the defendant. But, any damages awarded are diminished in proportion to the plaintiff's attributed negligence. If there are multiple defendants, the plaintiff's negligence is compared to the total combined negligence of all defendants

In determining whether a plaintiff was negligent, the judge or jury may consider whether the plaintiff violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation. The violation by itself may not, however, prevent the plaintiff from recovering damages

Contribution Among Tortfeasors

When there are multiple defendants, there are special rules that can be found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 231B, § 1-4. For example, if a plaintiff reaches a settlement with one defendant, that agreement does not prevent the plaintiff from recovering damages against other defendants. In that circumstance, the plaintiff's damages would be reduced by the amount agreed to in the settlement

No defendant is required to pay more than his or her share of the total liability. Section 2 discusses rules for determining a defendant's pro rata share of negligence liability


Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources for Negligence Laws

Get Legal Help With Your Massachusetts Negligence Claim

Massachusetts has complex tort and negligence laws. Oftentimes, you need a local expert to evaluate your legal claim and to understand Massachusetts' contributory negligence regulations. If you want to know if you have a valid legal claim in Massachusetts and you want to maximize your financial award, you should contact a local injury law attorney today.

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