QUESTION: Is there a Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims?
Yes. In New Jersey, a Plaintiff has 2 years from the date of incident to file their lawsuit. If your lawsuit is not filed within the 2 year limit, you may lose your right to file your lawsuit.
QUESTION: What is negligence?
In New Jersey, negligence is defined as conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. Simply put, negligence is when someone fails to act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.
In New Jersey, a plaintiff must prove 4 elements to establish a claim of negligence against a defendant:
- Duty of care: The plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant had the duty to act as a reasonable person would in regard to preventing injury.
- A breach of duty: If the plaintiff proves the defendant had a duty of care, he or she must then establish the defendant failed in their obligation to exercise reasonable care.
- Causation: The plaintiff must effectively connect the defendant's breach of duty with his or her injuries. The damages must be within the scope of what the defendant could have reasonably foreseen as a result of his or her actions.
- Damages: The plaintiff must have experienced actual harm as a result of the negligence. If the plaintiff did not sustain any actual harm or injuries, there is no basis for any compensation, regardless of how defendant acted.
QUESTION: In order to have a personal injury claim, does my "injury" need to be physical?
No. Personal injury claims can also involve claims of injury to a person's mind or emotions. For example, if someone acts negligently and causes you emotional distress from their actions, you may have a personal injury claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
QUESTION: What is the difference between compensatory damages and punitive damages?
Compensatory damages are designed to give the plaintiff justice for their damages and make them "whole" again. Examples of compensatory damages are medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. For example, if you are rear ended in a car accident, your lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering would be compensatory damages that you would be entitled to. There is no limit on the amount of compensatory damages you can be awarded.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their actions and deter others from acting in the same way. For example, if you are hit by a drunk driver, you can be awarded punitive damages to deter others from driving drunk. Punitive damages have a limit of 5 times your compensatory damages or $350,000, which ever is greater.
QUESTION: If I am partially at fault for an accident, can I still recover compensation for my injuries?
Yes. New Jersey operates under a "Comparative Negligence Rule". As long as your fault is less than 50%, you can still recover damages. For example, if you received $1,000,000 in damages as the result of a car accident, but where 10% responsible for the accident, you would receive $900,000.
$1,000,000 minus 10% = $900,000
QUESTION: I was hit by a car while crossing the street. The insurance company of the car driver wants to speak with me. Should I speak with them prior to speaking with my attorney?
No. Insurance companies are trained to try and influence your answers to shield them from liability. This means you could lose out on some or all of your compensation for your claim if you speak with them before you talk to your attorney.
Question: I was in an accident in New Jersey, do I need a personal injury lawyer?
You are not required to have a personal injury lawyer following an accident; however, a lawyer could explain your legal options and help secure a more favorable result. Often, insurance companies will try to take advantage of unrepresented individuals in the claim process with low settlement offers.
A New Jersey personal injury lawyer understands the value of a case and when an offer is appropriate for the damage and harm caused in an accident. Additionally, a lawyer could handle the complex court process through its conclusion if a claim does not settle prior to the state deadline for filing a claim.
Question: Do I have to go to court for a personal injury claim in New Jersey?
No, filing a case in court and going through the court process are not required in every personal injury claim. In fact, a large majority of personal injury claims settle prior to filing a case in court or before a trial if a case must be filed.
A trial in a personal injury case is often the last resort for all parties involved because of the increased costs associated with a trial. Unfortunately, insurance companies and negligent parties do not always present fair offers for settlement, so a trial is always a possibility following an accident.
Question: What types of damages could I receive in New Jersey?
The common types of damages available for recovery in a personal injury claim include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are intended to compensate you for your losses from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate you for the pain and suffering experienced during and after the accident and any loss of your ability to enjoy your life. In some cases, you might also be entitled to punitive damages for especially careless or reckless actions of the responsible parties. The amount and specific types of damages available in a personal injury claim vary significantly based on the case's circumstances.
Question: What happens if I was also at fault?
Your role in causing an accident could potentially limit or bar your recovery of damages in a personal injury claim depending on where the accident occurred. Generally, in settlement negotiations or if the case goes to trial, the parties will argue the percentage of fault of all parties. If you are determined to be partly at fault for the accident, any damage award could be limited by your percentage of fault.
In some states, if you are found more than 50 percent at fault or responsible in any percentage, you could be barred from recovering any damages, no matter how significant your damages were following the accident. This is why hiring a [Location 1] personal injury attorney is imperative.
Question: What happens to my case if I have a pre-existing condition?
Pre-existing conditions can play a substantial part in a personal injury case. In general, you are not entitled to compensation for pre-existing injuries that were not affected in the accident. However, you could be entitled to damages if your pre-existing condition was exacerbated or aggravated by the accident.
Proving an exacerbation or aggravation commonly requires determining the severity of the pre-existing condition prior to and following the accident. As such, pre-existing conditions often lead to significant contention from the insurance companies.