In 2018, there were 278,413 automobile accidents in New Jersey. Of those, 61,043 involved personal injury. Even more frightening is that 524 fatal car accidents occurred in NJ in 2018. NJ car accidents can happen while a person is a driver or passenger in a car, when he/she is a pedestrian on a sidewalk, or when riding a bicycle. Although a NJ auto accident may only last a few seconds, the injuries that result can last a lifetime and severely impair a person’s ability to work, raise children and enjoy life.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Any person injured in an auto accident must do several things in order to both protect themselves from a personal injury lawsuit and in the event that he/she needs to file one.
At the scene of the accident, if the person is able to do so, he/she should do the following:
- Stop and pull over. It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in NJ.
- Call the police. Even if there does not seem to be any serious injuries, the insurance company will likely want a police report.
- Exchange information. All parties should exchange contact and insurance information. If one or more parties are not the driver (e.g. a passenger or pedestrian), then one will need their name, address, and contact information. If a police report is filed, this information will almost certainly be in the final report.
- Take pictures. Using a camera app or other device, take a video or photo of the entire accident scene including all sides of all vehicles. If this can’t be done on the scene, then a person should at least photograph their own vehicle as soon as possible after the accident.
- Seek medical attention. If a person feels he/she may have sustained an injury of any kind, it is critical that he/she be examined by a medical professional right away.
The scene of an accident can be chaotic and confusing, especially if someone is injured or killed. Unfortunately, there is much to do in the aftermath:
- Report the accident to the insurer. Call the insurance company as soon as possible and report the details of the incident. This will likely require filling out paperwork. Most insurance companies require full cooperation and honest disclosure in order to pay any kind of benefit. However, you should speak to a lawyer first so that you don’t mistakenly incriminate yourself.
- Seek medical attention. Many people forgo medical treatment at the scene only to experience pain related to an injury a day or so later. If that happens, go to a doctor right away to determine if the injury is related to the accident.
- Keep a file. In addition to any photos or videos and other information gathered at the scene, a person should keep a central file (both digital and hard copy) of all records relating to the accident. This includes doctor appointments and bills, rental car or taxi/Uber receipts, and the police report itself. Such records will be critical when filing a personal injury suit.
- Contact an attorney. Regardless of who is at fault, it is important to consult with an attorney following an accident. If it is necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit, the sooner an attorney is brought into the fold the sooner the suit can be filed and compensation can be won.
What Should I Bring When I Meet With a Personal Injury Attorney?
As mentioned above, a file of records relating to the accident should have information that will be used in the personal injury lawsuit. If one has not been maintaining such a file, then now is the time to start. Before meeting with an attorney, put together a packet with the following:
- ID and personal contact information
- Contact information of any other parties involved
- The police report
- All medical records related to the accident (including both diagnoses and bills)
- Photos or scans (MRI, CT, etc.) of physical injuries, where applicable
- Witness information (statements and/or contact info)
- Photos and videos of the vehicle(s) and scene
- A detailed report of property damage (e.g. mechanic’s assessment of the vehicle and/or photos)
- Any other relevant details or information.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in New Jersey?
A person who wishes to file a personal injury claim against another person for losses sustained as part of an accident has two years from the date of the crash to do so. This is known as the “statute of limitations” and ensures that no person is liable for the rest of their life for a specific incident.
It is important to note that before a person can file a personal injury claim, he/she must first work with the insurance company (or companies). Depending on how long this takes, it can cut significantly into the time left to file a personal injury claim.
Note that once the statute of limitations passes it is highly unlikely that you will be able to bring a NJ car accident lawsuit, but you can always consult with a NJ personal injury lawyer just to be sure because there are some exceptions.
Auto Insurance and NJ Car Accidents
New Jersey requires drivers to have no less than a basic policy with minimum coverage in case a driver is found to be at fault in an accident. This state-mandated minimum includes:
- Bodily Injury Liability, which pays up to $15,000 for each person or $30,000 for all persons injured in auto accidents that the insured causes.
- Property Damage Liability, which provides $5,000 for property damaged as a result of an auto accident that the insured causes.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which offers $15,000 coverage per person per accident for anyone covered under the insured’s policy.
Some drivers may choose to pay for greater coverage in case of an accident. If a person is involved in an auto accident and the other driver has only a basic policy, it is possible that the insurance will not cover all of the costs. This is particularly true of those facing serious medical bills and/or who miss work as a result of injuries sustained. In such cases, one may need to file a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for the accident. This will require the help of an experienced NJ personal injury attorney.
Not all auto accidents are 100% the fault of a single driver. New Jersey uses what is called a “modified comparative fault” model for determining how much monetary compensation is awarded in auto accidents. For example, let’s say a person who has about $100,000 in medical and vehicle repair bills not covered by insurance as a result of the accident, which a judge and jury decides the person is entitled to. If the person is found to be 30% responsible for the accident, then he/she will only get 70% of percent of the $100,000, or $70,000. It’s also worth noting that if a person if found to be more than 50% at fault for a crash, then he/she will not receive any compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
What Does Insurance Cover in an Auto Accident?
The ability to file an insurance claim depends on the type of insurance a person has: limitation on lawsuit (also known as the verbal threshold) or no limitation (also called no threshold) on lawsuit. With the verbal threshold, there are limits to what auto insurance will cover in the event of an accident. For example, a basic policy will not cover non-economic losses (i.e. “pain and suffering”) except in six specific scenarios. These include:
- The loss of a body part
- Disfigurement or significant scarring
- Permanent injury
- Death of a loved one
- Loss of an unborn child
- Broken/fractured bone
A person can also file a personal injury protection (PIP) claim with their own insurance company for medical expenses. In some cases, a person can file a PIP for non-medical expenses, such as:
- Loss of wages due to inability to work
- Expenses related to tasks that injury makes temporarily difficult or impossible (e.g. mowing the lawn or caring for young kids)
- Funeral expenses for a loved one killed in the accident
What Can be Used to Determine Fault in a NJ Auto Accident?
Insurance companies (as well as juries in a personal injury lawsuit) use a variety of factors to determine how much each driver is at fault in a car accident. This can include:
- Photos of the accident scene (taken by police, witnesses, or the parties involved)
- Details of the police report
- Witness statements, which can include vehicle passengers and bystanders
- Traffic camera footage or surveillance camera footage
- Dashcam footage
- Breath, blood or urine test results for alcohol or drugs
- Cell phone records (for evidence of an active call or text exchange)
Types of Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
Some injuries caused by a crash will be readily apparent at the time of the accident and can be treated immediately. Other injuries, such as spine and neck injuries do not become recognizable until a significant amount of time has passed.
Some of the most common injuries associated with auto accidents include:
- Brain damage
- Broken bones
- Lacerations and cuts
- Leg and foot injuries
- Ruptured or herniated discs
- Spinal cord injuries
Many personal injuries caused by car accidents require medical treatment such as surgery, rehabilitation, and physical therapy. In addition, those injured in NJ car crashes may not be able to return to work, to maintain normal family relationships or to even perform basic everyday activities. In such cases, a New Jersey personal injury attorney is usually required to help recover the damages for such injuries.
Types of Serious Auto Accidents
Head-on collisions. This is when two vehicles collide directly with each other while going in precisely opposite directions. Even at low speeds, these accidents can result in injury and at moderate to high speeds can be among the most serious and deadly.
- Hit-and-run accidents. An accident is considered a hit-and-run when one of the drivers involved decides to flee the scene before the police arrive. This is a potential criminal offense in New Jersey.
- Rear-end accidents. When a driver collides with the back-end of the vehicle in front of him/her, it is considered a rear-end accident. These can be very minor (fender bender) to extremely severe, depending on the speeds at which the vehicles were moving and other factors (road conditions, etc.). In most instances, the driver of the vehicle that rear-ends the other car is at fault.
- Rollover accidents. This is when a vehicle is overturned as a result of a collision or road conditions (e.g. sharp turn in icy weather). A rollover can cause severe injuries and even death to the driver and passengers.
- Sideswipe collisions. When the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle, it is known as a sideswipe. A sideswipe most often occurs when both cars are traveling in the same direction and can be the result of not signaling and/or not checking one’s blind spot. Like rear-end collisions, these can be either very minor or severe.
- Single-vehicle crashes. This is when a vehicle collides with a stationary object, such as a tree or the side of a building. Such crashes are often the result of intoxication, fatigue, or inclement weather.
- T-bone accidents. Sometimes called a side-impact collision, such crashes involve the front or rear of a vehicle striking the side of another vehicle. These can cause severe injuries for both parties.
New Jersey Car Accident Statistics
New Jersey streets saw 278,413 auto accidents in 2018. This is a 2.4% increase over 2017, in which 271,809 accidents occurred. Despite auto accidents being on the rise over the past few years, 2018’s figure is not the largest in recent history; in 2003 there were 284,749 auto accidents in the state. The vast majority, 78%, were property-damage only accidents. The number of fatal accidents in 2018—524—is the lowest since 2013, when only 508 accidents resulted in death.
Common Questions About Car Accident Injury Cases
Who Should I Contact About My Auto Accident Injuries?
If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto accident, contact the attorneys at Rosenblum Law. Our experienced and skilled attorneys have won many cases with positive results. To speak directly to one of our attorneys call 888-235-9021 or email us today.