Bill would fight defendant bias in Massachusetts personal injury suits
A Mass. bill would allow plaintiffs to specify damages sought and would permit attorneys to participate in jury selection.
Plaintiffs would be able to seek specific damages under proposed legislation
A Massachusetts bill that has passed both the House and Senate and only awaits the governor’s signature to become law could significantly alter how civil lawsuits are conducted in the state, according to the Boston Globe. The bill would allow plaintiffs to specify damages and would enable attorneys to take part in jury selection. Advocates of the changes say it will help eliminate a bias that currently exists against plaintiffs in the state, especially in personal injury lawsuits.
Under current law, plaintiffs are not allowed to submit a specific value in damages that they are seeking. Instead, jurors determine a dollar amount to award to a plaintiff, which may then be changed by a judge. In some cases, a jury may award an amount that does not accurately reflect the damages the plaintiff has suffered.
The proposed legislation would allow the plaintiffs to specify an amount for damages they are seeking. The plaintiff would have to provide reasons for the dollar amount and juries would be better instructed in how to award damages. Advocates say the changes should lead to awards that are more consistent and better reflect the nature of the injuries that plaintiffs have suffered.
The bill would also allow attorneys to participate in jury selection, which is currently done exclusively by judges. While judges have opposed attorney participation in jury selection, according to the Boston Business Journal, advocates say the changes are needed in order to avoid biased juries. Many attorneys worry that jurors who are already biased against plaintiffs in personal injury suits are ending up deciding such personal injury cases. Since the process is conducted by judges, attorneys currently have little way of knowing the biases of potential jurors.
A study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that numerous counties in Massachusetts were biased towards defendants in personal injury lawsuits, meaning the plaintiffs either lost their cases more frequently or were awarded smaller amounts than they would likely have been awarded in other states. The vast majority of other states-39 in total-currently allows attorneys to participate in jury selection and plaintiffs to seek specific damages. Advocates of the changes say the bill will save money, provide for a more efficient legal process, and will help ensure more fairness and transparency in civil lawsuits.
Personal injury lawsuits
If the above bill becomes law, it will lead to significant changes and improvements for people who have suffered an injury in Massachusetts. Over time, the changes will hopefully mean that plaintiffs get a fairer chance at seeking the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering.
The changes, however, also highlight just how important having legal representation is during a personal injury lawsuit. Because the changes give more power to attorneys during jury selection, for example, victims of a personal injury will want the best legal representation they can get to make sure their rights and interests are protected throughout the legal process.
Keywords: personal injury, damages