Car accidents are much more common than anyone would like to believe. According to the latest data available, roughly 60,000 injuries are reported every year in New Jersey as a result of car accidents. Car accidents are almost always caused by the negligence or recklessness of a driver on the road. If someone is responsible for a car accident that causes you injuries, you deserve to know your legal options.
You may file a lawsuit to recover for your injuries after a car accident in New Jersey. After seeking medical attention, you can take several steps to ensure you have the best chance of recovery. When successful, plaintiffs can obtain financial compensation for their medical care, missed time at work, and pain and suffering due to their experience. However, plaintiffs only have two years from the date of the injury to file.
If you have been injured in a car accident in New Jersey, you deserve the experience and knowledge of our car accident lawyers. Legal Care New Jersey can put you in the best position for success in your potential lawsuit so that you can recover from your injuries with the comfort you deserve. To schedule a free case review, call (732) 838-9769 today.
What to Do After a Car Accident in New Jersey
When you are injured in a car accident, the first step that you should take is to protect yourself physically from any further danger. If you can, move your car out of the way of traffic and check yourself for any injuries before attempting to get out. Call 911 so that police and paramedics may be dispatched if necessary.
Once everyone is safe, gather information from the other parties involved. You will want to obtain all other drivers’ names, license plate numbers, phone numbers, and, most importantly, insurance information. Take pictures of the accident scene and the damages to the cars or property involved. You may also want to retrieve contact information from any witnesses to the accident. If your injuries prevent you from doing this, the police dispatched to the scene will gather that information for the police report.
Seek medical attention soon after the accident, no matter how severe your injuries are. Delays between an accident and medical care for the injuries may call into question whether the injuries were caused by the accident or occurred afterward.
Once you have received appropriate medical care for your injuries, contact our car accident attorneys immediately for help with your potential claim. Our car accident lawyers can help you gather evidence, negotiate with insurance representatives on potential settlements, and prepare your personal injury claim for court.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident to the Police in New Jersey
After a car accident, your primary focus should be on calling for help. A 911 dispatcher should send emergency medical personnel and the police to the accident scene immediately. However, not all accidents feel like emergencies, and drivers sometimes hesitate to get law enforcement involved. If you are not sure whether your accident warrants a call to the police, you should keep in mind New Jersey’s accident reporting requirements.
According to N.J.S.A. § 39:4-130, you are legally required to report a car accident to the police if the accident results in injury or death to anyone involved or if there is property damage of more than $500. Even if you do not think that your accident meets these criteria, you should err on the side of caution and contact the police anyway.
Reporting your accident to law enforcement might result in an investigation, and the police should write a formal report. This report is important to various aspects of your case. Insurance companies often require a copy of the police report before they agree to pay for anything. If you file a lawsuit, the police report can help you and our car accident attorneys track down valuable evidence.
It should be noted that the police report is generally inadmissible as evidence because it violates the rule against hearsay. However, under New Jersey’s Rules of Evidence, certain exceptions might allow us to enter the report as evidence in your lawsuit. It is possible that our car accident attorneys can work to admit the police report under the exceptions to the hearsay rule permitting public records or records of regularly conducted activity.
Exploring Legal Options After a Car Accident in New Jersey
After an auto collision, you might have costly damages to cover, including medical bills and vehicle repair costs. Our car accident lawyers can help you investigate your legal options for compensation. Generally, most injured drivers file insurance claims to cover their damages and, depending on the circumstances, file a lawsuit to recover additional damages.
According to N.J.S.A. § 39:6A-4, New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state, which means injured drivers must file claims through their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance instead of a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance. One of the biggest benefits of this system is that injured drivers do not have to prove that the other driver is at fault for the crash in order to get coverage.
Insurance typically only covers certain economic damages, such as medical expenses and vehicle repair costs. Non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering are usually unavailable through insurance. However, our car accident attorneys can help you look into other options for compensation.
MedPay is an optional part of auto insurance that can help you cover medical costs after a crash. MedPay is not required, and you do not have to purchase it as part of your overall auto insurance, but doing so can be helpful if you have high medical costs after an accident. MedPay not only helps cover medical expenses for you, but it might also cover other drivers named in the policy and passengers involved in the crash.
Since insurance only covers a certain extent of your damages – often based on the specific terms of your unique policy – a lawsuit is sometimes necessary to recover the full extent of your damages. Because of New Jersey’s no-fault insurance laws, it might be difficult to file your lawsuit unless specific conditions are present.
Generally, drivers must choose one of two options when buying auto insurance. If you elect a limited right to sue, you can file a lawsuit only if you sustain specific, permanent injuries, including the following:
- Significant scarring or disfigurement
- Displaced fractures
- Loss of a body part
- Loss of a fetus
- A permanent injury where a body part or organ does not heal to function as normal and will not heal to normal functioning with further medical treatment
If you elect an unlimited right to sue, you are not bound by the above restrictions and can file a lawsuit as you wish. If you need clarification on your right to sue after an accident, our car accident attorneys can help you.
Determining Fault in New Jersey Car Accident Lawsuits
A big part of almost any car accident is determining who is to blame. Fault is tricky to assess and sometimes shared between multiple drivers. Insurance companies require some showing of fault before they agree to cover your damages, and fault is a significant part of proving negligence in a court case. Our car accident lawyers can help you prove that the other driver is at fault.
In a lawsuit, you may be awarded damages if you prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. Negligence comprises four legal elements, each of which must be sufficiently established. If even one element is lacking, you may not win your case.
The first element is duty and refers to the defendant’s legal obligation owed to you at the time of the accident. In car accident cases, this duty is often the duty to drive with reasonable safety under the current conditions while obeying all traffic laws.
The second element is the defendant’s breach of their duty. What the breach looks like or consists of varies from case to case. One possibility is that the defendant violated some traffic laws. For example, if the defendant struck your vehicle when they ran a red light, the running of the red light would be the breach.
Causation is the third legal element of negligence and refers to the causal connection between the defendant’s breach and the accident. Essentially, the breach must be the direct and proximate cause of the accident and your injuries. The defendant might try to argue that some other intervening force caused the accident, and our car accident lawyers can help you prove otherwise.
Finally, you must prove that your damages are real, not just possibilities or hypothetical. You cannot sue for a near miss; your injuries must be real.
You need evidence to prove that the defendant was negligent and at fault for the accident. Evidence could come from just about anywhere and look like anything as long as it is relevant to the case and tends to prove fault one way or the other. Our car accident attorneys can help you find strong evidence to use in your case.
Photos from the accident scene can be an invaluable resource in car accident cases. If you can safely do so, take as many pictures of the vehicles, people, and surrounding area of the accident. These photos can help save valuable details that might be lost once the police clean up the crash site.
If your accident occurred in view of a home, business, or office building, there is a good chance there was a security camera monitoring the area. Video footage of the accident could be some of the most powerful and persuasive evidence in our arsenal if the footage is clear.
Even if other evidence is hard to find, we can rely on witness testimony to build a strong case in your favor. Car accidents tend to involve numerous people, including other drivers, passengers, and passersby. The more people who saw the accident or have first-hand knowledge related to it, the stronger your case might be.
Damages After a Car Accident in New Jersey
A plaintiff who is successful in a lawsuit after suffering a car accident injury will be compensated for the harm that they have suffered. This compensation is referred to as “damages.” Three types of damages are usually available to victims of car accidents caused by other drivers: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are available in every personal injury lawsuit, while punitive damages may be available depending on the defendant’s conduct.
Injuries after car accidents come with direct, tangible costs that the victim would not have incurred otherwise. Courts will compensate a successful car accident injury plaintiff with damages that reflect the cost of medical care. Expenses such as emergency care, surgical procedures, ambulance rides, specialist appointments, and physical therapy are all compensable under economic damages.
Plaintiffs may also claim any property damage, such as the cost of repairs to the car. If the injuries suffered force the victim to miss out on time at work, economic damages can account for lost wages on the victim’s part. Our car accident lawyers can help you calculate economic losses and avoid overlooking any damages.
The consequences of a car accident may not be resolved by covering medical bills. Car accidents may create pain, suffering, and substantial psychological trauma for those involved. In the case of particularly severe injuries, the long-term effects on quality of life can be substantial. Though harder to calculate, non-economic damages after a car accident injury lawsuit in New Jersey often make up the majority of damages awarded.
Often, non-economic damages for pain, suffering, humiliation and other subjective experiences do not come with definitive values or prices. While our car accident attorneys can help you argue for the most compensation possible, a jury often determines the ultimate value of these damages.
In contrast to the other theories of damages, which depend on the plaintiff’s experience, punitive damages are determined based on the defendant’s conduct. Punitive damages are only awarded in New Jersey when the plaintiff’s conduct meets a level of recklessness that suggests a willful and wanton disregard for the victim’s well-being. Common situations where punitive damages are assessed for car accidents include drunk driving, highly excessive speeds, and drag racing. Punitive damages are not available in every case, and our car accident lawyers can assist you in determining whether your case warrants punitive damages.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits in New Jersey
The New Jersey statute of limitations – the time limit for filing a lawsuit – is found under N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-2(a) and allows two years for personal injuries after a car accident. In other words, from the date of the accident, a potential plaintiff has two years to file their lawsuit in court.
Compiling information and preparing an effective complaint can take time, especially in complex situations, so starting the process early is always in your best interest. Failure to meet the statute of limitations will likely result in the plaintiff missing out on their opportunity to recover in court, so it is important that victims act quickly and decisively.
Many plaintiffs come close to missing the deadline for reasons beyond their control. Perhaps they cannot locate evidence to support their initial complaint, or maybe no witnesses will agree to testify in court. If your filing deadline is fast approaching, our car accident attorneys can help you argue to have the statute tolled. Tolling the statute, as discussed in more detail below, might buy you more time to file your complaint.
What to Do if You Need More Time to File Your Car Accident Lawsuit in New Jersey
The law provides for numerous exceptions to the statute of limitations, some of which are outlined here. If the statute of limitations in your case is close to expiring, you can speak to our car accident lawyers about the possibility of getting the statute tolled.
Filing a lawsuit as a minor is difficult, if not nearly impossible. If you were a minor when you were injured in a car accident, you might have been unable to file a lawsuit at that time due to your age. According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-21, minors may have the statute of limitations tolled until they turn 18. At that time, the normal 2-year statute of limitations will begin to run, and minors often have until they turn 20 to file the case.
The law that provides minors with extra time to file a lawsuit also applies to people who experience disabilities. It is important to note that a disability in the legal sense is not necessarily the same as a medically diagnosed disability.
Generally, a disability for the purposes of tolling the statute of limitations is a condition that prevents you from filing the case on your own. Often, disabilities consist of mental deficiencies or hindrances that prevent someone from understanding their legal rights.
Under the law, a person with a disability may have the statute tolled until their disability ceases or subsides, and they can file the case. How long this takes varies from case to case, and our car accident attorneys can assist you.
When filing a lawsuit, a major requirement that plaintiffs must satisfy is serving notice of the case upon the defendant. Exactly how notice must be served might depend on the nature of your case, and our car accident attorney can help you. A problem arises when the defendant is somewhere outside of New Jersey, as it takes extra effort to serve notice to a defendant in another jurisdiction.
If, after trying to serve notice and using long-arm statutes so you can serve notice outside of New Jersey, the defendant still cannot be reached, the statute of limitations can be tolled. According to N.J.S.A. § 2A:14-22, you can have the statute of limitations tolled if the defendant cannot be reached even after you have performed your due diligence to serve proper notice.
Car Accidents and Criminal Charges in New Jersey
It is not unusual for a defendant in a civil action to be charged with a crime related to the same cause of action. In car accident cases, many defendants are charged with crimes related to the crash, and criminal proceedings might interfere with your civil lawsuit. Our car accident lawyers can help you file your lawsuit while waiting for criminal proceedings to complete.
If the defendant committed a criminal violation when they caused your accident, they might also face criminal charges. For example, if the defendant caused the accident because they had been drinking shortly before the collision, you can sue them for your damages, and the police may arrest them for a DUI. Criminal charges may become increasingly severe if people are injured.
In many cases, courts allow plaintiffs to toll the statute of limitations if the defendant is facing criminal charges related to the accident. Although this means you might have to wait longer to have your day in court, there might be an advantage. If the defendant is found guilty in criminal court, our car accident attorneys can use that verdict against them in your civil lawsuit.
Get Justice After a New Jersey Car Accident
Legal Care is ready and willing to assist you in your effort to get the compensation that you need after a car accident. Talk to our car accident attorneys for a free evaluation of your case. Call Legal Care New Jersey at (732) 838-9769.