When somebody is hurt because of another party’s wrongful actions, they could be entitled to monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury law provides a mechanism for victims to hold the responsible party financially liable for the harm they caused. Money is meant to serve as compensation for medical expenses, physical pain, and emotional suffering.
Personal injury claims arise from various incidents, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical errors, and defective products.
If you are injured, you might be more focused on your physical condition and how you will pay for your medical care if you are unable to work. By allowing our attorneys to advocate for your rights, you could be awarded the compensation you deserve. Call (732) 838-9769 to schedule a free consultation.
What Needs to be Proven in a Personal Injury Case?
The laws that govern personal injury cases come from common and civil law. Holding another party liable for the harm they caused is based on a long-standing tradition of fairness. Some personal injury law stems from court decisions, while others have been codified in state statutes.
While a personal injury claim could overlap with a criminal proceeding, it is never a criminal case. A defendant who caused harm could face criminal prosecution and civil liability for the same act. For example, if a drunk driver injures you, you could file a personal injury claim to seek damages while the state brings criminal charges to punish the behavior.
The burden of proof is a critical difference between a personal injury claim and a criminal case. When the prosecution charges a driver with driving under the influence, they must establish “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty of the alleged crime. In a personal injury case, a plaintiff’s lawyer only has to prove negligence by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Because of this dramatic difference, a defendant could escape conviction but still be held civilly and financially liable for the harm they caused.
Negligence, Recklessness, or Intentional Conduct
To file a personal injury lawsuit, an injured plaintiff requires adequate legal grounds. A personal injury claim could be based on negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct. In some situations, a party could be held accountable through strict liability. However, most personal injury claims are based on the negligent actions of the defendant.
A synonym for negligence is carelessness. Legally, negligence is failing to adhere to the standard of a reasonable person under the same circumstances. When a person does not act the way they should have, their actions could constitute negligence. For example, if a reasonable person were driving through a bad thunderstorm with poor visibility, they would slow down and proceed cautiously. Driving at the posted speed limit could be considered negligent given the current road conditions.
Recklessness is similar to negligence. However, the defendant knows that their behavior is likely to cause harm. Returning to the above example, a driver operating their car at the posted speed limit could be acting negligently. They are not necessarily breaking the law but they are not taking the precautions a prudent driver would take. However, if they were driving over the speed limit, their conduct would be reckless.
When someone hurts another on purpose, their conduct is said to be intentional. You have the right to sue another person if they purposefully harm you. Typically, this is the type of personal injury claim that is likely to cross over with a criminal case.
There are cases when a defendant could be held liable for an injury without any type of negligence or carelessness. The injury alone could be enough evidence to hold the offending person or business financially responsible for any damages. A common example of when strict liability occurs is when a manufacturer exposes the public to a dangerous or defective product.
Types of Injury Cases Our New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers Handle
Our attorneys can help with virtually any injury case you might have experienced. Our lawyers have been practicing for combined decades, and we have seen a lot of different injuries happen in a lot of different ways. We can use that experience to help you in your case, even if the specific case you bring us is one we are seeing for the first time.
All in all, our lawyers can help with all of the following kinds of injury cases, plus others not on this list:
Our personal injury attorneys commonly handle car accidents for injured drivers, passengers, and others hit by cars. If you were involved in a crash through no fault of your own, our lawyers can help you seek compensation. New Jersey’s auto insurance laws are incredibly complex, and your ability to sue will be limited in most cases, requiring you or your lawyer to find particular facts and evidence that helps you get your case into court in the first place.
Truck accidents take a special kind of care because of the potential of suing a large corporation in addition to the truck driver that actually caused the crash. Our attorneys can often bring your claim against both the trucker for any mistakes or violations they committed behind the wheel, but we can also bring the case against their employer, if they work as an employee for a trucking company. We might also be able to sue the trucking company for their own mistakes, such as problems with their truck or negligent hiring and retention of dangerous drivers.
Unlike car accidents, motorcycle accidents are not governed by no-fault rules and they are simpler to bring straight to court. However, drivers and their own insurance companies are likely to try to blame you for the crash simply by virtue of you driving a so-called “dangerous” motorcycle. Motorcycles are not typically dangerous with a safe rider but only become dangerous because of the dangerous drivers that cause crashes.
Other Auto Accidents
If you were hit while riding a bicycle or walking or running, or if you were hit by a taxi, rideshare driver, or other vehicle, we can also help with your case. Again, no-fault rules are often complex and might come into play in your case even if you were not driving a vehicle when you were involved in the crash.
Victims of negligent medical care can find themselves facing serious injuries without much knowledge about what happened or what exactly the doctor did wrong. Our attorneys can help you seek a second opinion and gather the medical information necessary to prove you have a case, then file that claim against the doctor and hospital. We can also hire the medical experts necessary to testify about your case and show that the doctor’s misdiagnosis, surgical errors, birth injuries, or other medical malpractice was more than just a bad outcome or simple “complication.”
Injuries on someone else’s property are commonly grouped under the category of “premises liability” cases, in that the dangerous premises are what causes the property owner to be liable. Owners and operators of various homes, businesses, concert venues, restaurants, bars, and stores can be held liable for dangerous conditions on their property. This can be anything from a spill in a grocery store to broken glass in a restaurant, ice in a parking lot, exposed electrical wires in a home, a dangerous handrail in an apartment building, or a structurally unsound balcony that collapses at a nightclub.
Sometimes, determining whether the owner or a tenant at the property is responsible for your accident can be a big complication in your case. For example, accidents in the common areas of apartment buildings or malls are often filed against the owner of the building, but an accident in a tenant’s unit or inside a store would be filed against the tenant of the residential or commercial unit.
Slip and Falls and Trip and Falls
While slip and falls or trip and falls qualify as premises liability accidents, our lawyers want to point out that these accidents are indeed serious enough to seek legal help from an attorney. Many people brush off the injuries from a slip and fall under the impression that they were responsible for “not being careful enough” or that their injuries are not serious enough. Many slip and fall victims are indeed injured by the property owner’s fault, and they could face broken bones, head injuries, back injuries, and other injuries that could lead to long-term disabilities. These accidents tend to be worse for children, people with preexisting injuries or disabilities, and seniors, who are all more vulnerable to serious injuries.
New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation rules require many injury victims to file through that insurance system, but insurance does not cover pain and suffering after an accident in the workplace. Our lawyers might be able to help you file a lawsuit against a party other than your employer to seek additional damages for your injury and get you full compensation from dangerous property owners, negligent drivers, and manufacturers of dangerous or defective equipment.
Losing a loved one in an accident – whether a car crash, work injury, or other accident – is always tragic. A loved one’s sudden and untimely death can leave you and your family with lost income, other economic effects, and difficulties at home. Our lawyers can help you file a claim against the responsible parties to recover compensation for any expenses and damages the victim would have been able to sue for in a personal injury case had they lived.
We can also file a wrongful death claim to cover any expenses and economic effects you and your family now face, such as lost income and funeral and burial expenses. These claims are often complex and file surprising rules – like the rule that you cannot file the claim yourself but rather must file through the victim’s “personal representative” or executor. Our attorneys can help you navigate the rules and get the compensation you deserve.
What Damages Might Be Worth in a NJ Personal Injury Case
Damages are a huge element of a lawsuit. When thinking about damages, you might think of a few losses or injuries off the top of your head, but your actual damages might be far more extensive. Damages may be related to money and emotional or psychological experiences. Some damages are meant to serve as a punishment for defendants. Talk to your attorney in depth about damages, as they are the basis of your compensation.
Economic damages are based on money. More specifically, economic damages are based on the money you spent or lost as a direct result of your injuries and the defendant’s actions. A major factor in many economic damages determinations is medical costs. If you were physically injured because of the defendant, you might have incurred significant hospital bills. Emergency room treatment, surgery, medication, and other treatments are not cheap. You can even claim costly health insurance deductibles as part of your damages.
Other economic damages are related to property. If you lose property or personal belongings, the value of those things should be factored into your damages. After a car accident, you might claim the cost of your totaled vehicle. If you lost your wedding ring in the accident, you can claim the cost of the ring. Calculating damages for property damage and loss might require you to think back over all the items you might have lost, no matter how small.
Injuries and accidents tend to affect how we work. If you are injured, it is reasonable to take some time away from work while you recover. For some, this time away from work might be substantial. If your time off is not covered by your employer, you might lose a significant amount of wages. Our personal injury attorneys can help you take stock of the income you have lost so far and the income you reasonably expect to lose going forward.
Non-economic damages are based on subjective personal experiences and are not always connected to money. Even so, they may still be financially compensated by a jury. These damages are sometimes collectively referred to as “pain and suffering,” but they may encompass far more than that.
Physical pain from injuries should be accounted for. The more severe your injuries are, the higher these damages might be. We must also consider the toll the accident and your injuries took on your mental health. Many accidents are traumatic, near-death experiences. People sometimes do not psychologically bounce back for quite some time. The emotional turmoil you experience deserves compensation.
Punitive damages are rare but possible under very specific circumstances. These damages are awarded in addition to the above-mentioned compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded as a punishment for defendants rather than to compensate plaintiffs for a specific loss or injury.
To be eligible for punitive damages, you must show that the defendant’s behavior was malicious or involved willful and wanton disregard for other’s safety in light of obviously dangerous actions. This is more than ordinary negligence you need to establish in order to get regular compensatory damages. The bar is very high, and these damages are hard to obtain, but your attorney can help you.
Nominal damages are interesting because they are very small. Often, courts award nominal damages for only a single dollar. The point of nominal damages is not to recover money for losses or injuries but to secure a verdict and get justice.
Nominal damages often come up in cases where a plaintiff was wronged or had their rights violated by the defendant but suffered minimal damages. A plaintiff pursuing nominal damages tends to care more about getting justice in a court of law than getting compensation. Do not think you cannot file a case just because your damages are not worth much. You are still entitled to your day in court.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
To prevail in a lawsuit based on negligence, the plaintiff must prove four things: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. First, the injured victim must show that the defendant owed them a duty of care. In the case of a car crash, a driver owes everyone else on the road a duty to safely operate their vehicle, including obeying all traffic rules and regulations. Next, the defendant’s conduct must have violated that duty. Speeding, texting, or driving under the influence would be a breach of duty.
Poor behavior is not enough to be held liable for an injury. The plaintiff needs to link their injuries to the defendant’s conduct. Whiplash is typically a direct result of a rear-end collision. However, a plaintiff would still have to provide medical evidence to tie their injury to the accident. Finally, the plaintiff must have suffered quantifiable damages.
Evidence You Might Need in Personal Injury Case in NJ
Evidence is the beating heart of a lawsuit. Without it, your entire case may fall apart before it even gets started. The trick to evidence is knowing what kind of evidence is most helpful to your case. In general, there are multiple forms of evidence that you and your lawyer should investigate. Evidence might include physical objects, witness testimony, demonstrative evidence, and anything else you think is relevant.
Physical evidence includes objects and items you can physically hold up and show to a jury. For example, if you are suing the defendant for kitting you with a blunt instrument like a baseball bat, the baseball bat itself is a crucial piece of physical evidence.
Similarly, suppose you file a product liability case against a company for manufacturing a dangerously defective item that hurt you when you used it. In such a case, you need the defective product as physical evidence. You might even have the object investigated by an expert to determine the exact nature of the defect.
Witness testimony is incredibly important. Some witnesses might have been present when you were injured and saw the defendant harm you. Others might not have been present but still have some other personal knowledge relevant to your case. Your own testimony about what happened to you is also important.
Witness testimony can be fickle. Sometimes, a witness has a very clear memory of what happened. In others, their knowledge might be valuable but limited. The longer you wait to speak to an attorney, the more information potential witnesses might forget.
Demonstrative evidence involves taking information about your case and presenting it to the jury in an effective and compelling way. For example, we might recreate details we take from witnesses, security camera footage, and expert witnesses to create a digital model or recreation of your accident. We might also use details to present charts, graphs, or maps of information that might make it easier for a jury to understand exactly what happened to you.
Comparative Negligence and Contributory Negligence
Some injuries are solely the fault of one person. However, there are situations where the injured victim contributed to their harm. For example, a person could be injured in a slip and fall accident while shopping in a grocery store. However, they were looking at their phone when they stepped on the slippery spill.
In personal injury claims, there are two competing legal theories: comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Under the comparative negligence theory, a plaintiff’s compensation could be reduced based on their percentage of fault. Some states prohibit an accident victim from receiving any compensation if they are found to be more than fifty percent at fault. Under the contributory negligence theory, a plaintiff could be barred from recovering any damages if they are found to have contributed at all, even one percent, to the accident. These laws vary from state to state, with some form of comparative negligence being the most common.
What is Unique About NJ’s Personal Injury Laws?
Finding information about your state’s specific laws online can often be challenging. You may come across general legal information, but it can be hard to tell whether those rules apply in your state, given that each state’s laws might vary slightly from the standard. If you were traveling from a neighboring state when you were injured in New Jersey, you might also be confused about how NJ’s specific injury laws work compared to those of your home state. The following is some specific information about how New Jersey’s injury laws work compared to those of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware – NJ’s neighboring states.
No-Fault Auto Insurance Laws
If you get hurt in a car accident, what type of insurance system your state uses will play a big part in how you get compensation and what limits you face on your ability to file a lawsuit. New Jersey uses a no-fault system – technically a “choice” no-fault system. Pennsylvania also uses a choice no-fault system, but its rules are a bit different than NJ’s. NY also uses a no-fault system, but again there are some important differences between its rules and NJ’s rules that change how these systems work. Delaware, on the other hand, is a fault state and uses quite different rules.
Choice No-Fault Systems
Under New Jersey’s no-fault system, drivers with a no-fault policy file with their own insurance policy when they are injured in a crash, and that policy covers them regardless of who was at fault for the accident. However, having a no-fault policy limits your right to sue for injuries, and you can only reach beyond your own insurance to sue the at-fault driver or file a third-party claim with their insurance when you face “serious injuries.”
However, New Jersey law allows you to pay higher premiums for an “unlimited right to sue” policy. PA has a similar rule that allows you to pay for a “full tort” policy. If you have these kinds of policies, you have effectively chosen an at-fault system that instead allows you to sue or file a third-party insurance claim against the at-fault driver rather than relying solely on your first-party benefits.
In New Jersey, non-drivers (such as cyclists and pedestrians) are not barred from suing if they have no insurance. If no one in your household has insurance and a car hits you while you are riding a bike or walking, you can sue the driver. In New York, everyone is barred from suing unless they meet the “serious injury” threshold, and the driver’s no-fault insurance covers in the case of a pedestrian or bike accident.
Our Personal injury lawyers can help you determine what kind of policy you should elect and, in the event of an accident, what rules will apply to your accident case. You should especially consider speaking with a lawyer if you have an out-of-state insurance policy and were injured in a crash in New Jersey.
Special Motorcycle Rules
All three states also have special rules for motorcycles: riders do not use no-fault insurance and carry liability insurance instead. This makes their situation more akin to the situation in Delaware, where at-fault rules hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident and damages. In that situation, you carry liability insurance to cover injuries you cause to others.
Bodily Injury Insurance
One important point about NJ insurance is that no liability insurance is required to cover bodily injuries under “basic policies.” This means that if someone hits you with their car and they have only a basic policy, they will not have coverage to pay for your injuries and will be liable for out-of-pocket payments if you suffered serious injuries above and beyond what your insurance covers. So-called “standard policies” do usually include at least $25,000 for bodily injury coverage.
“Serious Injury” Rules
Under all three no-fault states, you must meet the “serious injury” threshold to sue for injuries if you have a no-fault policy. Permanent injuries and death are considered “serious” under all three definitions, but there are some specific differences that make NJ’s laws a bit different from PA’s and NY’s. Our Personal injury attorneys can help you determine what laws affect your case.
PA’s laws are probably the strictest rules, with lawsuits allowed only when there is a “serious impairment” or “serious disfigurement.” Death also meets this threshold.
NJ’s threshold is in the middle, with any permanent injury qualifying alongside displaced fractures, death of a fetus, loss of limb, and more. One important part of this rule is that NJ allows lawsuits for any injury that is permanent “within a reasonable degree of medical probability.” This allows you to bring a doctor to argue that your injury is permanent.
NY’s threshold is a bit more forgiving, covering essentially the same things as NJ’s. However, NY also allows lawsuits for any fracture, not just displaced ones. It also has a simpler rule for determining whether an injury is sufficiently long-term: any injury that affects your daily tasks for 90 of the following 180 days counts. NJ’s rule is not this lenient.
Note that Delaware does not have such a threshold because you can sue for any injuries. This is also how the law works in NJ if you paid for an “unlimited right to sue” policy or have motorcycle insurance.
Comparative Negligence Laws
As mentioned earlier in this article, NJ uses a comparative negligence rule that blocks liability when the victim is more than 50% at fault. Pennsylvania and Delaware also use so-called “50% bars,” but NY uses a different rule. In New York, victims can sue regardless of what percentage of fault they shared, even if the defendant was only 1% liable. There, damages are reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault with no limit. It is important to keep this difference in mind especially if you were visiting from New York when you were injured in New Jersey.
Sometimes court names can be confusing, and you might not always know where to go if you were injured and need to file a lawsuit. In PA, NJ, and NY, each county has its own trial-level court that hears injury cases. Delaware is sometimes additionally confusing because it has separate courts for “at law” questions (e.g., money damages) and “at equity” questions (e.g., injunctions), but most injury cases deal exclusively with “at law” remedies.
In New Jersey, the county trial courts are called “Superior Courts,” which makes them sound like appellate-level courts. Nonetheless, this is the primary trial-level court where your case will be heard. If you appeal, it goes to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, then to the NJ Supreme Court.
Contrast this with Pennsylvania and Delaware, which use the name Court of Common Pleas for the trial-level courts and Superior Court for the appeals courts. The highest level in those states is also the Supreme Court. New York is perhaps the most confusing, as it calls its trial-level court the Supreme Court of New York, and appeals are made to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, then to the Court of Appeals (NY’s highest level court).
Especially in large cities, there might be sub-divisions within the trial-level courts that hear certain cases. Our Personal injury lawyers can guide you through the process of filing, as discussed below.
How Our Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Our NJ personal injury attorneys can help with your injury case by taking it from the research stage to filing and all the way through the procedures that the court requires to get you damages in a jury trial. We can also, on the side, negotiate with insurance companies and at-fault parties in an attempt to settle the case more quickly.
Researching and Collecting Evidence
Before we can file your case, we need evidence to support the claim. Our lawyers can use any evidence you have already collected, and we might be able to collect other evidence as well. Many injury victims overlook things like nearby security footage that might have caught the accident on camera. Our lawyers can also use the court’s subpoena power to compel the defendant and other parties to turn over evidence, show up for depositions, and testify at trial.
At the outset of your case, your primary focus should be on your recovery. It is incredibly difficult enough to deal with medical appointments, physical therapy, and other day-to-day issues surrounding your health and recovery. Our Personal injury lawyers can focus on the legal aspects of your case and help you keep track of medical bills, medical records, and other evidence so that you do not have to worry about those issues.
Filing Your Claim
When filing your claim with the courts, we have to explain the facts of what happened and detail how those facts fill out the elements of your injury claim. In most personal injury cases, you will file a claim for negligence and must make out your case by showing that the defendant owed you a legal duty, that they breached that duty, and that the breach of duty actually caused your damages.
Your initial filing does not need to absolutely prove the case, it just needs to make out a plausible claim that those the court who injured you, how they did so, and that the claim you are filing is indeed plausible. Our Personal injury attorneys will work to make sure that these filings are sufficient to move your case forward to the discovery stage, where additional evidence can be gained.
During discovery, both sides are required to turn over evidence, answer questions, and take depositions to help lay out all the facts. It is often said that trials in the United States are not trials by surprise, and that all evidence must be shared so that both sides have an even playing field to allow the facts to shine through.
Our lawyers will help gather and process all of the evidence we can from the at-fault parties to build your case for trial. Especially when filing claims against nursing homes, hospitals, trucking companies, or any other corporation, the evidence in their possession might be difficult to get to before this stage of the case.
After discovery, when all of the evidence has been exposed, parties are often the most amenable to settlement. If possible, our Personal injury lawyers will seek to settle your case for a fair value and avoid the additional time and expense of trial if that is in your best interest. Sometimes, trial is the only fair way to get you the compensation you need.
At trial, our attorneys’ services are invaluable. We will present your case in opening statements, call witnesses to build your case, cross-examine the defendant’s case, and argue against their defenses at closing arguments. Throughout this process, we will use our knowledge of the Rules of Evidence and our experience in previous trials to try to win your case and get you the damages you need to pay for your injuries.
As mentioned, our lawyers will also try to negotiate settlements throughout this entire process. Some cases settle early, before the case is even filed in court. As mentioned, most cases settle after discovery, but it is also possible for cases to settle all the way up to the day of trial or even at the end of trial. These are often called “courthouse steps” settlements.
Regardless, our goals will be to convince the defendant that your claim for damages is valid, that our valuation of the damages is correct, and that their client is responsible for all of these damages. We will seek to get all necessary damages paid, and, if the settlement is too low, we will advise you to reject the offer.
Whether or not to settle an injury case is a decision left to the client, but our lawyers can advise you on what to do and whether your chances are better by accepting a settlement or going to trial.
Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys to Evaluate Your Case
If you were injured because of another’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct, you could have grounds for a personal injury claim. To review your case with our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys, (732) 838-9769.