If you believe that you have sustained personal injury or property damage for which DCR may be liable, you may file a claim. Your claim may be subject to one of two separate state statutory claims procedures, depending upon the type of claim involved. Only one, and not both, of the state claim procedures would apply to exclusively govern your claim, and each procedure has different claim filing requirements (including differing state agency offices at which the claim must be filed). A claim filed under the wrong statute, and therefore filed in the wrong state office, may be denied on that basis, so it is important to know which state law your claim may be subject. If you need assistance in filing a claim and seek to protect your rights, you should consider consulting a licensed attorney.
Claims for injuries arising from an injury sustained while traveling on a DCR parkway or boulevard, or so-called “Roadway Defect Claims,” are governed exclusively by section 36 of Chapter 92 (within the Urban Parks District*) or section 18 of Chapter 81 (outside the Urban Parks District), as well as in all cases sections 15, 18 and 19 of Chapter 84 of the General Laws. All other claims for personal injury or property damage are governed by the requirements and limitations of Chapter 258 of the General Laws, known as the state Tort Claims Act.
ROADWAY DEFECT CLAIMS
If you believe that you have sustained personal injury while traveling on a parkway, boulevard or roadway under the care, control, or maintenance of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) due solely to a defect in that boulevard or roadway, you may file a claim directly with DCR. Please note that the statutes below provide the sole and exclusive remedy for roadway defect claims. What is considered the parkway is broadly construed to apply to the roadway, sidewalk, islands and even strips of land which are within the outer limits of the traveled part of a boulevard and reasonably adapted to pedestrian use, even if these strips are not designed for vehicular travel. Likewise, what is considered a defect is broadly construed and includes any actual or conceptual defect or condition (visible or concealed) in the roadway or sidewalk that generally could render the area inconvenient or unsafe for ordinary travel, whether by pedestrian or automobile. Common examples that are covered by this claim procedure include: potholes or damaged pavement, malfunctioning or inoperable street lights or traffic signals, raised or lowered manhole covers, damaged or missing signs or protruding sign posts, or overhanging tree limbs.
Note that state law caps any personal injury award for a roadway defect at $5,000 and does not allow for recovery of property damage (for example, damage to a car arising from a pothole). Roadway defect claims must be presented and filed within 30 days of the date of loss.
Your claim must contain sufficient information to describe the loss and to comply with section 19 of Chapter 84 of the General Laws. Your claim must be presented in writing to Commissioner Jack Murray and mailed to:
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114
If you have further questions regarding filing a Roadway Defect Claim, you may contact Lauren Rogers at 617-626-1323.
*The Urban Parks District generally includes the municipalities of Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Chelsea, Dedham, Dover, Everett, Hingham, Hull, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Milton, Nahant, Needham, Newton, Quincy, Revere, Saugus, Somerville, Stoneham, Swampscott, Wakefield, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, Weston, Westwood, Weymouth, Winchester and Winthrop.
PERSONAL INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIMS
The Tort Claims Act, Chapter 258 of the General Laws, covers all other personal injury or property damage negligence claims that do not arise from roadway defects. If you believe that you have sustained personal injury or property damage due to the negligence of DCR or its employees, not including damages from a roadway defect (which is covered as described above), you may file a claim under the state Tort Claims Act. Examples of such negligence claims include: motor vehicle incidents involving a DCR vehicle; or an injury sustained at a DCR park or facility. Regardless of the alleged value of the claim, state law caps any settlement at $100,000. Prior to filing any lawsuit against the Commonwealth, you must follow the presentment requirements set forth in the section 4 of the Tort Claims Act, and must present your claim in writing within 2 years of the date of loss. Your written claim should include sufficient information to describe what happened, when, where, and what you seek in compensation, as well as your address and contact number. Supporting documents and photographs are useful in addressing your claim more quickly. Unlike Roadway Defect Claims, your claim cannot be presented directly to DCR, and must be presented in writing to either the Attorney General or:
Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
For all properly presented claims, the claim will be forwarded to DCR for review and recommendation. DCR will make every effort to issue a formal recommendation of settlement or denial to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) within six months from the date your claim is presented. DCR legal staff members may contact you for additional information regarding your claim or to discuss potential settlement options. If your claim is denied by EOEEA, you may appeal only to Superior Court, as provided for in the state Tort Claims Act.