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 How to Sue After a Car Accident in New Jersey

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Have you been in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence? Are you now dealing with sky-high medical bills, an inability to work, and an insurance company that won’t budge from their lowball settlement offer? When negotiations with insurance companies hit a wall, your next step might be to consider taking legal action. Knowing how to sue after a car accident in New Jersey can be crucial to reclaiming your stability and securing fair compensation for your losses. But where do you start, and what should you expect from the legal process?

This blog will guide you through the essential steps and important points to consider when suing after a car accident in New Jersey. You’ll learn how New Jersey’s “no-fault” insurance system works, when you can sue beyond this system, and the time limits for filing your lawsuit. We’ll also explore the concept of comparative fault and provide an overview of what to expect during the lawsuit process. By understanding these key elements, you can take informed steps to protect your rights and interests following a New Jersey car accident.

Understanding New Jersey’s No-Fault Insurance System

After a car accident in New Jersey, your first step is to file an insurance claim. New Jersey operates under a “no-fault” insurance system, which means that your own insurance policy will cover certain expenses, regardless of who was at fault. This coverage is known as Personal Injury Protection (also referred to as “PIP”).

Personal Injury Protection

PIP is mandatory auto insurance in New Jersey that covers medical expenses if you or others under your policy are injured in a car accident, regardless of fault.

What PIP Covers

  • Medical Expenses: Treatment and recovery costs
  • Lost Wages: Part of lost income if injuries prevent work
  • Essential Services: Costs for hiring help with daily tasks if you’re incapacitated

Coverage Limits

PIP limits, chosen when you buy your policy, set the maximum payout for medical expenses, lost wages, and essential services. If expenses exceed these limits you have sustained chronic injuries, you may need additional compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance or through filing a lawsuit.

Right to Sue Options in New Jersey Auto Insurance

While PIP coverage can help with immediate expenses, it may not cover all your costs, especially if minimum policy limits ($15,000.00) or your injuries are severe. In such cases, understanding your right to sue is essential. When purchasing your auto insurance policy in New Jersey, you must choose one of two options that affect your ability to sue for non-economic damages like pain and suffering:

  • Limited Right to Sue: This option restricts your ability to sue for pain and suffering unless you’ve suffered permanent injuries as defined by law (e.g., significant disfigurement, permanent injury, displaced fracture, loss of a fetus or permanent neck and back soft tissue injuries).
  • Unlimited Right to Sue: This option allows you to sue for pain and suffering for any injury, regardless of severity.

This choice is made when you buy your insurance policy, not after an accident occurs. The Unlimited Right to Sue typically costs more but offers greater flexibility for legal action. An attorney can help you understand these options and their impact on your case.

When to Consider a Lawsuit

If your PIP coverage is exhausted or if your injuries meet the threshold under the Limited Right to Sue option, you may need to consider a lawsuit. Additionally, if you have the Unlimited Right to Sue option, you can sue for pain and suffering for any injury. Other scenarios where a lawsuit might be necessary include:

  • The other party is uninsured or underinsured
  • Your injuries have long-term or permanent effects not fully covered by insurance
  • Your insurer is unfairly delaying or denying your claim (Insurance Bad Faith)

In these cases, you might need to sue the other driver or their insurer for additional damages. It’s important to note that in New Jersey, you have two years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit against those responsible. This rule also applies if you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit because you lost a loved one in a car accident. Two years might seem like a long time, but it’s essential to start quickly. As you recover and deal with insurance claims, remember this timeline if you plan to sue.

Additionally, be aware of New Jersey’s comparative fault system, known as the 51% Rule. This means you cannot recover damages if you are found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident. Therefore, having strong evidence and effective legal representation is crucial to support your case and minimize your assigned fault. For example, if you are found to be 30% at fault for an accident, you can still recover damages, but the amount you receive will be reduced by 30%.

Potential Parties Responsible for a Car Accident

While the other driver is often the primary party responsible in a car accident lawsuit, there may be other individuals or entities who share responsibility for your injuries. These could include:

  • Vehicle Manufacturers: If a defective car part contributed to the accident (e.g., faulty brakes or airbags), you might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
  • Employers: If the at-fault driver was on the job at the time of the accident, their employer might share liability.
  • Bars or Restaurants: If another party, like a bar or restaurant, over-served alcohol to the at-fault driver, you might have a third-party liability claim against the establishment under New Jersey’s Dram Shop laws.

An experienced NJ personal injury attorney can help identify all responsible parties, ensuring that all avenues for compensation are explored. This comprehensive approach is crucial for maximizing your recovery and addressing all aspects of your case.

What to Expect During the Lawsuit Process

If you decide to sue, preparation is key. Hire an experienced NJ personal injury attorney who will guide you through the process, ensuring all necessary evidence is collected and preserved. This evidence includes police reports, medical records, video footage, and witness statements. Collecting this evidence early strengthens your case and helps negotiate better compensation from the at-fault party’s insurer.

Your attorney will also help you understand the various damages you can claim, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. They will work to ensure you receive compensation that covers both your immediate and long-term needs.

Filing a car accident lawsuit involves several stages that can vary in duration. After your attorney files the legal complaint, the lawsuit will go through the following phases:

  • Discovery Phase: Both parties will exchange information and evidence related to the case. This can include documents, witness statements, and expert testimonies.
  • Settlement Negotiations: Before going to trial, your attorney will negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance company to try and reach a fair settlement.
  • Trial: If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial. Both sides will present their arguments, and a judge or jury will determine the outcome.
  • Appeals: If either party is dissatisfied with the trial’s outcome, they can appeal the decision, potentially prolonging the case.

This process can take months or even years. However, most cases are settled out of court, which can speed up the resolution. Having a seasoned attorney by your side is crucial during this time. They will handle most of the legal work, allowing you to focus on your recovery. Your attorney will also negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurer to reach a fair settlement, often avoiding the need for a lengthy trial.

Your NJ Car Accident Advocates: Fighting for You, Available 24/7 

After a New Jersey car accident, you need more than just legal representation – you need a support system that understands what you’re going through. At The Law Offices of Peter N. Davis & Associates, we’re committed to helping you navigate this challenging time with empathy and dedication.

For over three decades, we’ve been standing up to insurance companies on behalf of our clients. We know their tactics and how to counter them effectively to protect your interests. Our team is available 24/7 to take your call, providing the reassurance you need when you need it most.

We’ll work tirelessly to ensure you receive timely medical treatment and guide you through every step of the legal process. Our goal is not just to win your case, but to help you rebuild your life. Whether your accident occurred in Lodi, Paterson, or anywhere else in New Jersey, we’re here for you. With a proven track record of recovering significant settlements for our clients, we’re ready to put that experience to work for you.

Don’t let the stress of a car accident overwhelm you. Contact The Law Offices of Peter N. Davis & Associates today for your FREE consultation with a NJ auto accident attorney. If more convenient, you can also fill out our online form. Let us provide the support and guidance you need to move forward.

Copyright © 2024. The Law Offices of Peter N. Davis & Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

The Law Offices of Peter N. Davis & Associates, LLC
72 Essex Street, Suite 2,
Lodi, New Jersey 07644
(877) 960-2087
https://peterdavislaw.com/