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Settlements

The Difference Between Economic & Non-Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

When filing a wrongful death claim, knowing how much your claim is worth can be a challenging issue. Taking the time to figure out the different types of damages while dealing with the grief of losing a loved one makes the task even more daunting. Sorting out the differences between economic and non-economic damages can be key to figuring out the amount of compensation you may be able to expect.

the-difference-between-economic-and-noneconomic-damages-in-wrongful-death-cases

Here is what you need to know.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the expenses that can be concretely calculated. This can include property damage, medical bills, and funeral expenses. As a rule of thumb, if there is an explicit bill for it, it is an economic damage. Economic damages are typically easy to calculate by totaling the costs involved with a wrongful death.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective than economic damages. These are damages that cannot be easily quantified or translated into monetary values. As a result, they can be difficult to calculate for a wrongful death claim.

These can include, but are not limited to:

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering includes the physical and emotional consequences of losing a loved one, including but not limited to:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Lack of Energy
  • Mood Swings
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in more extreme cases

Pain and suffering damages might also include lost wages if the emotional repercussions prevent the victim’s immediate family from returning to work. In a wrongful death case, the pain and suffering of both the victim and their loved ones may be compensable.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a compensation for losing a family member. This type of damage is only recognized in cases involving extreme, permanent injuries or wrongful death. Loss of consortium seeks restitution for the loss of companionship, comfort, guidance, affection, love, or sexual relations that a family member provided.

In many jurisdictions, only spouses are allowed to seek loss of consortium damages. However, other jurisdictions have expanded their rules to include children in cases involving the loss of their parents.

Punitive Damages

If the court determines that the negligence or recklessness that led to a wrongful death was particularly egregious, they may also award punitive damages. These damages are meant as both punishment for the defendant and as a deterrent to future defendants in a similar position. Punitive damages are often capped at certain amounts, and they can also have minimum amounts. In Massachusetts, punitive damages for a wrongful death are at least $5,000 by law.

Proving Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages must be proven in court, and because they are rough monetary estimate of a personal experience they require a more diverse set of support than economic damages. Physical or mental therapy bills, medical reports, expert witness testimonies, photos of injuries, or prescription information can all help prove the extent of pain and suffering. For loss of consortium claims, courts often require a valid marriage license for spouses.

Calculating Non-Economic Damages

Calculating non-economic damages can be tricky by their very nature. There is no formula under Massachusetts law to assist in determining such damages. Jurors are only asked to use their wisdom, judgment and sense of basic justice to translate into dollars the amount which will fairly and reasonably compensate the plaintiff for his/her injuries. Only very recently, the Massachusetts legislature has changed the law to allow attorneys to suggest to a jury specific dollar amounts for a damage award. What this means as a practical matter is that, in addition to providing figures for medical expenses and lost earnings, a lawyer in Massachusetts can assist a jury in calculating non-economic damages.

Because non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are so subjective, and an attorney can suggest whatever dollar figure he or she can support with that evidence, there is a wide range of damage awards for seemingly similar injuries. It is the responsibility of the plaintiff’s lawyer to convey to the jury how each specific plaintiff has uniquely endured the consequences and hardships of an injury.

In order to understand the extent to which a jury would assess damages in a personal injury trial, the lawyer must understand the human and individual nature of a plaintiff’s damages.

Furthermore, it is imperative to provide credible support for such damages, including a well-prepared plaintiff who can articulate the damages, documentary support, and supportive, credible witnesses.

Conclusion

Receiving a fair compensation for a loved one’s wrongful death cannot bring them back, nor can it truly fill the void they leave behind. However, it can help ease the expensive medical bills and funeral costs that arise from a sudden death. Further, knowing that the liable parties have been held legally responsible can give some peace of mind in a time of great turbulence. If you’ve lost a loved one, contact Mazow | McCullough, P.C. today. We can help you seek justice by determining the value of your wrongful death claim, helping you file a claim, and assisting you through the civil suit process. Call today for a free consultation at (978) 744-8000.

How Do I File A Small Claims Complaint?

mazow-small-claims-file

In Massachusetts, you can file a Small Claims Action in any District Court. The “Small Claims Court” is simply a session or courtroom within a District Court.

Where to Go to File a Small Claims Complaint

In order to file a Small Claims Action, you will need to go directly to the District Court. The District Court you choose to file in can be any one of the following:

  • The District Court near you, in your county or area
  • The District Court near the defendant, in their county or area
  • The District Court near the site of the incident or issue for which you are filing a Small Claims Action.

Upon entering the appropriate District Court, you should then go to the Civil Clerk’s Office and ask for an available civil clerk and/or a court employee that can help you with filing a Small Claims Complaint.  There is a specific form—called a Small Claims Complaint—that needs to be filled out with the necessary information, including the parties and what happened. These forms should be available to you at any Civil Clerk’s office.

What You Need to File

You will need to provide your name and address, the name and address of the defendant you are suing, and a brief description of what happened and why you are suing. The form will also require you to describe or articulate the amount of your damages as a result of the defendant’s actions or conduct.

After completing the form you will pay the appropriate fee.  The amount of the filing fees depends upon the amount in dispute.

  • The filing fee for small claims of $500 and under is $40.
  • The filing fee for claims of $501 to $2000 is $50.
  • The filing fee for claims of $2001 to $5000 is $100.
  • The filing fee for claims of $5001 to $7000 is $150.
  • The filing fee for claims of property damage of more than $7000 arising from an automobile accident is $150.

Preparing For Your Hearing

After completing the form and paying the fee, the clerk will designate a trial date or hearing date. You will be advised on what date and time to come back to the court for a hearing. Depending upon which District Court you file in, you can usually expect a hearing date within 30 to 90 days of your filing. Generally, Small Claims Actions do not require lengthy hearings, translating into less waiting time. The clerk will also be responsible for notifying the defendant of the suit and the trial date.

Remember to bring ALL of your evidence and witnesses with you when you appear for the trial or hearing date. Small Claims Actions rarely if ever require lawyers, and therefore the duty of collecting evidence and witnesses for your case falls to you. Without bringing thorough evidence, it will be difficult to prove your Smalls Claims Action, and you may not receive another chance to receive compensation. Good luck with your case!

If you feel unsure if you have a Small Claims Action, a larger case, or would like to explore your legal options more thoroughly, the attorneys of Mazow | McCullough, PC in Salem, MA can help. We’re experienced, knowledgeable, and able to assist you with your legal issues. Contact us today for a free consultation.

$14 Million Settlement in MA Gross Negligence Case

MA gross negligence case

If your family or a loved one suffered at the hands of a nursing home and its staff, we are here to help.

A family in Massachusetts has been awarded nearly $14 million dollars in damages after the Middlesex Superior Court found the nursing home guilty of gross negligence, ultimately causing the death of the 90 year old woman. The woman was admitted into the nursing home facility, which managed around 15 other facilities in the state, with multiple infections, glucose levels that needed monitoring and an infected pressure ulcer. With all of her medical conditions, the family trusted that the nursing home facility would provide her with 24 hour care, that she would eventually get better.

This was not the case for this woman. Her infections worsened as did her glucose levels. Because of the untreated infections, the woman was in an altered state of mind, as serious infections oftentimes cause and she ultimately fell out of a wheelchair while unattended during lunch. The woman struck her head and was rushed to a local emergency room where she was found to be suffering from multiple conditions that were deemed to be quite serious.

To name a few, the woman was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, intracranial intracerebral contusion, acute renal failure and fecal impaction among other illnesses. She underwent a round of antibiotics but ultimately succumbed to her injuries and infections in 2008.

At trial, counsel for the woman were able to convince the jury that she was neglected for weeks, possibly months. After several witnesses and experts testified to her condition in the MA gross negligence case, the jury deliberated for several hours and found the nursing home grossly negligent, causing her to ultimately pass away. The jury awarded her estate $12.51 million dollars in punitive damages and $1.43 million in compensatory damages. Although no amount of money could replace the woman or repay her for months of pain she endured at the nursing home, justice was served.

According to the 2012 Gensworth Financial cost of care survey, the average cost of skilled nursing in Mass. was $9,794.00 per month. Over 1.3 million patients were in nursing homes by March 2014 across the United States. Making the decision to take a family member to a nursing home is a difficult one and although Mass. is rated 13th nationally in nursing home quality and care, stories like the one above happen all too often.

At Mazow McCullough, we understand the difficulties of parting with a family member to place them in a nursing home. We further understand that you placed your faith and your loved one in the hands of people you thought you could trust. If your family or a loved one suffered at the hands of a nursing home and its staff, we are here to help. We will handle your case with the dignity and diligence the nursing home failed to give to your loved one. We can help you to feel empowered again as you seek justice for you or your loved one’s injuries and/or wrongful death. The right lawyer makes all the difference. You can contact us at 978-744-8000 or rem@helpinginjured.com.

Photo credit: ulrichkarljoho / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Judgments Secured in Three Sexual Assault Cases

Mazow | McCullough, PC Secures Judgments Against Massachusetts Corporation For Sexual Assault of Three Clients By Corporation’s Supervisor

Robert Mazow of Mazow | McCullough, PC of Salem, Massachusetts recently obtained judgments in Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of three clients against Naratoone Building Services and its employee.  The clients had been custodians at Swampscott High School in Swampscott, Massachusetts and had each been sexually assaulted by their supervisor.

The case initiated after one of the custodian’s sought advice from Attorney Mazow regarding her claim that she had been raped by her supervisor on school grounds.  She was too afraid to contact the police.  Attorney Mazow assisted her with making a complaint with the Swampscott Police Department.  Shortly thereafter, the supervisor was arrested.  Ultimately, he was convicted of sexual assault. Click here for a copy of the newspaper clipping discussing his sentencing.

After his conviction, Mazow | McCullough, PC initiated a lawsuit against Naratoone Building Services and the supervisor.  The facts of the civil case are as follows:

In 2002, Swampscott contracted with Naratoone to provide janitorial cleaning services at its public high school.  Naratoone was in the building service profession since 1988, with headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.  At the time of the contract with Swampscott, Naratoone boasted a workforce of approximately 60 employees. Naratoone alleged that it provided a full range of commercial and industrial cleaning services for its clients in both the public and private sector.

The supervisor was a ten year employee of Naratoone and was given the job of Building Working Foreman at the Swampscott High School.  He had a criminal history which included assaultive behavior.  Despite the convictions on his record, he was allowed to work as Building Working Foreman at the Swampscott High School.

A. Claims of Cecelia

Cecelia is 44 years old and has nine children.  On or about August 30, 2004, the plaintiff, Cecilia, was hired by Naratoone to perform cleaning services at Swampscott High School.  On her first and only day of work, Cecilia was subjected to a sexually harassing hostile work environment by the supervisor, which included, among other things, forcible and non-consensual sexual intercourse.

Attorney Mazow obtained a judgment on Cecelia’s behalf in the amount of $250,000.00. Click here for a copy of the judgment.


B.
Claims of Rina

Rina is 23 years old.  On September 7, 2004, Rina began working for Naratoone as a cleaner at Swampscott High School.  On or about September 7, 2004, Rina reported to Swampscott High School and began training for her job.  While working at Swampscott High School, she was subjected to a sexually harassing hostile work environment by the supervisor, which included, among other things: grabbing her breasts and making sexual comments to her.

Attorney Mazow obtained a judgment on Maria’s behalf in the amount of $125,000.00. Click here for a copy of the judgment.

C. Claims of Maria

On May 30, 2004, Naratoone hired Plaintiff, Maria, to be a cleaner at the Swampscott High School on May 30, 2004.  From June 2004 to September 2004, while working at Swampscott High School, Maria was subjected to a sexually harassing hostile work environment by the supervisor, which included, among other things: making unwanted sexual advances, touching her body and making sexual comments to her.

Maria did not report the supervisor’s behavior to anyone at that time because the supervisor told her that his son was in a gang and she was afraid for her safety.

Attorney Mazow obtained a judgment on Maria’s behalf in the amount of $25,000.00. Click here for a copy of the judgment.

Recent Settlements

Stores, Banks and Supermarkets:

  • Wrongful death claim of 76 year old pedestrian hit by supermarket delivery driver
  • Slip and fall claim against bank (defective sidewalk), broken foot
  • Slip and fall claim on black ice in enclosed parking garage, fractured ankle

Taxi and Transportation Companies:

  • Negligence claim of pedestrian hit by taxi cab, broken femur
  • Negligence claim of driver hit by airport shuttle driver, broken humerous and femur
  • Negligence claim of driver attempting to take left, facial scarring
  • Negligence claim of 90 year old woman improperly strapped to wheelchair lift, broken ribs and lumbar fracture

Motor Vehicle Collisions – Massachusetts:

  • Negligence claim where plaintiff was cited by police
  • Negligence claim of driver struck in rear, no property damage
  • Negligence claim where passenger in car broke a rib
  • Negligence claim with soft tissue neck injury and chiropractic treatment
  • Negligence claim with soft tissue neck and back injuries

Motor Vehicle Collisions – New Hampshire:

  • Driver struck from behind at light, cervical disckectomy and fusion
  • Driver struck at intersection, herniation, vertigo, lumbar stress fracture

Pedestrians, Bicyclists and Motorcyclists:

  • Bicyclist struck, scar on thigh
  • Minor struck crossing street, fractured wrist
  • Pedestrian struck crossing street, strained knee
  • Passenger on motorcycle, collision at intersection (despite no insurance for motorcyclist)

Defective and Dangerous Products:

  • Drain cleaner explosion, facial scarring
  • Dangerous toy, broken finger tip
  • Foreign object in food

Sexual Harrassment and Employment:

  • Minor harrassed by co-worker, inappropriate touching
  • Worker verbally and physically harassed by co-worker

Medical Malpractice:

  • Sponge left in abdomen after surgery

Bad Faith Claims and Violations of M.G.L. Chapter 93A:

  • Bad faith claim against insurer for failure to pay for stolen motorcycle; verdict plus attorneys fees

Expert Testimony:

Attorney Kevin J. McCullough has been retained on dozens of cases as an expert witness to provide an opinion on various insurance companies’ policies, procedures and claims handling practices. Recently Attorney McCullough testified in the Salem Superior Court as an expert witness before the Honorable J. Lowey. Attorney McCullough was retained by the plaintiff in that case in an action against a Massachusetts automobile insurance company. The plaintiff alleged that the insurer had violated the consumer protection statute and committed unfair claims handling practices. Based upon Attorney McCullough’s expert opinion the judge found that the insurer/defendant had violated the consumer protection statute and acted outside of the scope of insurance industry standards.

Mazow|McCullough, PC Obtains Settlement for Dog Bite Case

Mazow | McCullough, PC Secures Insurance Coverage and Obtains Settlement for Minor Plaintiff Attacked by Pit Bull Breed Dog

The minor plaintiff was 11 years old at the time of the incident.  The owner of the dog was incarcerated at the time of the attack and the dog was being cared for by the dog owner’s parents.  The dog got loose at the defendants’ property and chased and attacked the boy.  Ultimately, he suffered a fractured wrist and numerous puncture wounds and lacerations to his arms, legs, torso and head.  The injuries required in-patient hospitalization for several days.  The treatment following discharge was limited to ensuring that the wounds stayed clean and were properly cared for.  The minor suffered permanent scarring to his arms and legs due to the extent and size of the bite marks.

The keepers of the dog were pursued and stated pre-litigation that they did not have insurance coverage for the dog.  Plaintiff counsel discovered that the keepers of the dog signed documents under the pains and penalties of perjury when the dog was surrendered to the MSPCA that they were the “owners” of the dog.  Plaintiff counsel filed suit against the owners of the dog as evidenced by the documents obtained by Plaintiff counsel.  A default was entered against the defendants and an attachment was entered as to their residential property.  Following that hearing Plaintiff counsel further uncovered insurance for the defendants’ property and secured coverage for the incident.  After coverage was confirmed the parties assented to remove the default and conduct discovery.

Dog Attack Case $450,000 Settlement

Following limited discovery the case settled for $450,000.00.  The settlement was two years post incident and at that time the minor plaintiff was 13 years old and fully participating in youth activities, including playing on the local football team.  The medical specials were in excess of $75,000.00.  Plaintiff counsel negotiated and was able to have any and all liens waived.

Settlement Obtained For Woman With Object Left After Surgery

Mazow/McCullough, PC Obtain Settlement For Young Woman Due to a Retained Foreign Object Left After Surgery

Large Settlement ObtainedOn May 4, 2004, the plaintiff, age 18 at the time, underwent an elective laparoscopy and lysis of adhesions at a hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  The procedure began as a diagnostic laparascopy and during surgery was converted to a laparatomy.  Two nurses allegedly made the initial sponge count, and a different nursing team allegedly made the first and second close count.  The surgeon was allegedly notified that the sponge count was correct.  Over the next several months, the plaintiff developed complications.  She had frequent night sweats, abdominal pain, consistent fever and weight loss of around ten pounds.  In early 2006, she developed a lump in her groin.  Nearly one year after the surgery a CT scan revealed a collection in the mid-lower abdomen consistent with an abscess and a foreign body consistent with a surgical sponge.  Surgery was ordered immediately and she was admitted to the hospital and operated on that same day.  During the surgery, a laparotomy pad/surgical sponge was found soaked with a bilious colored greenish material and removed.  Cultures taken of the laparotomy pad revealed infections of klebsiella, oxytocin, enterococcus faecalis, enterococcus faecium and bacteriodes ovatus.  The abscess was irrigated which revealed two cavities.  Large soft sump drains were placed in the abscess cavities and passed through separate stab wounds in the abdominal wall.  An attempt was made to protect the adjacent small bowel by passing the tube through a portion of omentum and tucking the omentum into the abscess cavity so that there would be no contact between the small bowel and the sump drains.

Postoperatively, the plaintiff remained at the hospital until April 19, 2005 when a repeat CT scan of the abdomen was conducted to assure that no further abscess remained and that there was no evidence of small bowel leak.  On April 20, 2005, the drains began producing copious amounts of small bowel contents which indicated an abnormal opening in the intestine in communication with the drain and the skin.  Due to the high output, a second surgery was recommended.  At this point, the plaintiff requested a second opinion and asked to be transferred to the Massachusetts General Hospital.  The plaintiff was admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital on April 23, 2005 and ultimately required another surgery.  The surgery consisted of an extensive lysis of adhesions, small bowel resection and repair of enterotomy.  She also had an appendectomy because the appendix contained a fecolith which was thought to potentially dispose her to appendicitis in the future.  Furthermore, she had 15 cm of small bowel removed.  She remained at Massachusetts General Hospital until June 15, 2005 when she was discharged.

A lawsuit was filed against the hospital, the three nurses involved in the sponge count and the original surgeon.  The nurses all denied that they made an error in the sponge count.  However, during discovery, Mazow/McCullough obtained a copy of the Operating Room Nurse’s Notes which revealed that a team of different nurses participated in the initial sponge count and the final sponge count.  This was a deviation from the protocols established by the hospital and a violation of standard nursing procedures.

Click here to view the nurse’s notes.

Mazow/McCullough, PC was able to obtain Summary Judgment in regards to liability on behalf of its client.  Shortly after Summary Judgment was obtained, the insurer for the hospital offered to mediate the case and the matter was settled for $535,000.00.

This settlement was featured in Lawyer’s Weekly. Click here to view the article.

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