Elizabeth is New Jersey’s fourth most populated city. This northern metropolis is the hub of multiple major roadways, including the New Jersey Turnpike, Interstate 278, U.S. Route 9, and U.S. Route 439. Unlike many cities in the area, Elizabeth abandoned the grid pattern for a circular layout featuring radial streets centered around the Elizabeth train station. This combination of population, major highways, and integral location equates to high traffic congestion and, unfortunately, car accidents.
Injuries from a car accident could range from a few bumps and bruises to a permanent disability or death. If your injury is severe, you could be looking at significant medical expenses, lost income, and months of painful physical therapy. In many cases, a devastating car accident could be life-altering. When another motorist causes the crash, they should be held liable.
If you were the victim of a vehicle crash, call our car accident lawyers of Legal Care New Jersey at (732) 838-9769 and arrange a free case review to begin your case.
Possible Injuries and Damages in Elizabeth, NJ Car Accident Cases
Car accidents can be very unpredictable. Some people are fortunate enough to walk away relatively unscathed, others are gravely injured, and still others fall somewhere in between. Because so many different injuries are possible, damages tend to be equally unpredictable. Understanding what kind of injuries you might have is key to determining your damages.
Injuries may range from minor cuts and bruises to severe and painful medical conditions. For example, minor injuries may include lacerations, bruising, and various soft tissue injuries. More severe injuries might include broken bones, back and neck injuries, head injuries, brain damage, and even the loss of limbs.
Any injury, no matter how minor it might seem at first, should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Unfortunately, medical treatment is not cheap, and you might be left with very high medical bills. For those with more severe injuries, hospital bills can be overwhelming, and you might not be able to pay them without compensation from a lawsuit.
Injuries may be deeper than physical harm. Many car accident victims experience deeply distressing psychological and emotional injuries that are not necessarily related to monetary expenses. For example, you might live with depression, anxiety, and a deep-rooted fear you cannot shake. Many others have diagnosable psychological conditions, like PTSD. These injuries, although not physical, deserve significant compensation.
Liability for Car Accidents in Elizabeth, New Jersey
Car accidents are a common occurrence. Some are just a result of a series of unfortunate events. However, to hold another motorist liable for your injuries and financial losses, you must prove that their conduct met the threshold of legal negligence. Two of the most important elements our New Jersey attorneys will attempt to establish are “duty” and “breach.”
Elizabeth, NJ Driver’s Legal Duties
Under the law, every driver is required to exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring anyone else on the road, including other motorists, passengers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. The easiest way to understand how a driver should act, or their duty of care, is to examine some examples.
Drive at a Reasonable Speed
Motorists are responsible for operating their vehicles at a reasonable and prudent speed, given the current traffic, weather, and road conditions. Sometimes, this means driving below the posted speed limit, especially if visibility is restricted or the weather is bad.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
One of the major causes of car accidents in Elizabeth and elsewhere is distracted driving. Drivers must be aware of their surroundings. This responsibility includes staying alert and carefully looking out for other vehicles, hazards, and pedestrians. Every motorist on the road is expected to see what other prudent drivers would do under the same conditions.
Keeping Your Vehicle Under Control
If you are driving, you are expected to maintain control of your car at all times. In some personal injury cases, negligence could be inferred if a vehicle suddenly loses control.
Ensure That Your Car is Roadworthy
In addition to safely operating a vehicle, a driver is expected to ensure that the car is in proper working order. A motorist should have their car inspected annually, replace parts that are not functioning correctly, and have all necessary repairs made at a reasonable time.
State Law Imposed Duties
Every state, along with New Jersey, has specific laws that govern a licensed driver’s responsibilities. When a driver violates a law resulting in an accident, it provides evidence that the motorist’s conduct was negligent.
Breaching the Duty of Care in Elizabeth, NJ
To hold another motorist liable for your injuries after a car accident, you must prove that the driver failed to comply with their responsibilities. Legally, this is known as “breaching the duty of care.”
When determining if a driver’s conduct breached the duty of care, our Elizabeth car accident attorneys will ask one question. “Did the driver’s conduct fall short of what a reasonable and prudent person would have done under the same or similar circumstances?” If the answer is yes, then the driver violated the responsibilities owed to the injured victim.
Some examples of a driver breaching the duty of care are obvious, such as driving drunk, ignoring a red light, or driving while texting. However, in many personal injury cases, establishing a breach is not straightforward. For instance, if the weather is foggy and visibility is limited, a prudent driver would slow down. The challenge is determining what the reasonable speed should have been under those circumstances. Likewise, tailgating is a form of reckless driving that could constitute a breach of duty. Nonetheless, it could be difficult to determine what a safe distance is between vehicles. Proving that the at-fault driver was driving too closely is not always simple.
Our New Jersey car accident attorneys will rely on your recollection of the accident, witness testimony, the police report, and physical evidence from the scene. In some situations, it might be necessary to employ an accident reconstructionist or engineer to help piece the puzzle together.
Causation and Damages in an Elizabeth, NJ Car Accident
Proving that a duty of care existed and that another driver violated that duty is only half of what is necessary to establish negligence. The breach of duty must have caused the injuries. For example, if your car were rear-ended and suffered a neck injury, you would have to prove that the neck injury resulted from the collision and not another event. If you hurt your neck the previous weekend while working in your yard, holding the other driver liable will be difficult.
Finally, you will have to demonstrate that you suffered measurable damages. Car accident victims are entitled to seek financial compensation for medical care, lost income, and non-economic harm such as pain and suffering. If you are lucky enough to walk away from a car accident without a scratch or bruise, you probably lack grounds for a personal injury claim. However, if you missed work or required medical treatment or therapy, then you have suffered measurable damages.
Evidence to Support Your Car Accident Case in Elizabeth, NJ
Your case may only succeed if you have enough evidence to meet the burden of proof. In a civil lawsuit for a car accident, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. This means our car accident lawyers must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the accident and your injuries. Evidence may vary based on your specific situation, but certain kinds of evidence tend to come up more frequently and should be investigated.
Evidence from the scene of the accident must be gathered quickly. Crashes are cleaned up quickly by the authorities, and evidence might be lost. Take photos and record videos of the accident scene, including the damaged vehicles, drivers, and surrounding area. Your recordings might preserve crucial details we need to prove the defendant’s negligence.
In especially complicated accident cases, plaintiffs need help from experts. An accident reconstruction expert can review police reports, photographs, and other details about the crash to scientifically recreate the crash. This can help us prove how the accident happened, and the expert may offer their opinion on who is responsible.
How to File a Lawsuit for a Car Accident Case in Elizabeth, NJ
Once you understand how much compensation you deserve and what kind of evidence you need to prove your claims, your next step is to actually prepare your case to be filed. A civil lawsuit begins with a formal complaint. The complaint is a formal legal document that is filed with the courts. The complaint must contain specific details about your case to be accepted.
Your complaint should explain the accident and why we believe the defendant is responsible. We must also include evidence that shows you have a valid cause of action, as well as details about damage and compensation. This is a lot of information, and preparing your complaint may take time and effort.
Once the case is filed, we have to notify the defendant. Proper notice must be given according to very specific legal procedures. If these procedures are not followed to a tee, your case might be in trouble before it even begins.
When You Should Speak to a Lawyer About Your Car Accident Case in Elizabeth, NJ
Lawsuits do not have to be filed immediately. Many potential plaintiffs spend some time recovering from injuries and weighing their legal options before they decide to sue. They might also take their time finding the right attorney to help them. Even so, your time to file is not unlimited. According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-2(a), you have only 2 years from the date of the accident to file your case with the courts.
Considering this deadline, the time many people wait before taking legal action, and the time it takes to prepare a case to be filed, time is of the essence. It would be best if you spoke to a lawyer as soon as possible. The more time your lawyer has to prepare, the better.
Even if you are unsure you want to pursue a lawsuit, you should speak to a lawyer soon. Your attorney can take the time to explore other legal options. For example, you might consider filing an insurance claim or negotiating a private settlement with the defendants before you sue.
A Team of Experienced Elizabeth, NJ Car Accident Attorneys Working for Accident Victims
For help with your legal options for compensation, call our car accident lawyers of Legal Care New Jersey at (732) 838-9769 and arrange a free case review to begin your case.