A Guide to Auto Accident Personal Injury Claims in New Jersey
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New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer

Car Accidents in New Jersey

Auto accident injuries can have life-changing consequences. The pain and recovery time can prevent you from working, taking care of your family, or even performing simple daily tasks. Mounting medical bills combined with lost income can also threaten your financial future.  Figuring out who should pay for losses resulting from an accident can be stressful. But if you don’t want to miss out on valuable compensation, it’s important to know your rights and act quickly.

This guide will help you understand how to pursue compensation for auto accident injuries in New Jersey. Your own auto insurance will cover some expenses, but you may also need to pursue compensation from another party. In almost all cases, working with an experienced personal injury lawyer will help you get the best possible outcome.

Table of Contents

Auto accidents and personal injury overview

Auto accidents happen for many reasons — some of which can’t be avoided. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, however, 94% of serious crashes are due to human error, such as:

If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else, you should know that New Jersey is a no fault” auto insurance state.

This means that all New Jersey drivers must carry personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance. That PIP coverage will pay for your auto accident medical costs up to your policy’s limits. This is true regardless of who caused the accident. Depending on your policy, PIP coverage may also compensate you for certain other economic losses, such as lost wages. 

Unfortunately, medical expenses from an auto accident are often much higher than PIP policy limits. In this case, you may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver (or their insurance company). 

The best way to confirm whether or not you have a valid claim is to consult with an experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can also help you negotiate with your insurance company. Insurance companies handle auto accident claims regularly, and their claims adjusters are skilled negotiators. Even if your accident was severe, you may find it difficult getting fair compensation without the help of a lawyer. 

What to do after an auto accident

Auto accidents can be scary and confusing, especially if you’re injured. But to make sure you have as much support for your claim as possible, it’s important to take the following steps. These steps will give you the best chances of recovering the most compensation for your injuries.

If you’ve been injured in any way, seek medical attention as soon as possible. This medical documentation is important evidence for your claim.

Even if you feel fine at first, you should pay close attention to your health in the aftermath of the accident. Sometimes injuries don’t become apparent for several days, or even weeks. If you experience any pain or discomfort after an accident, you should see a doctor and confirm whether or not it’s related to the accident.

Medical treatment should be your first priority. But if possible, it’s also a good idea to take pictures and/or video of the entire accident scene. This includes capturing images of the vehicles, the surrounding area, and your injuries.

If you can’t document the scene because of your injuries, someone else may be able to do it for you. If that’s also not possible, you should at least document your own vehicle and injuries as soon as possible after the accident.

Keep this evidence together with all of your other information related to the accident, such as:

  • contact and insurance information of any other parties involved
  • witness contact information and statements, if any
  • medical documentation and bills (including diagnoses and photos or scans of injuries) 
  • mechanic’s assessment of property damage, if any
  • rental car or other transportation costs
  • police report
  • any other relevant details, information, or documents

Keeping this information in order will make the claims process much smoother. You should also bring all this information when consulting with a lawyer about your case.

Under N.J. Statute 39:4-130, if you’re a driver involved in a car accident, you must report it to the police “by the quickest means of communication” if it resulted in:

  • injury or death, and/or
  • vehicle damage or damage to any other property in an apparent amount of at least $500.

You also have to file a written report with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission within 10 days of the accident using an official form.

Even if no one seems to have any serious injuries, you should still notify the police. You’ll likely need the police report for your insurance claim. Do not, however, admit fault — to the police, the other driver, or to anyone else. 

You should also notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. This is true even if it was a very minor accident like a fender-bender or you think it was the other driver’s fault. Some accidents can result in delayed injuries, and not reporting the accident to your insurance company can affect your ability to get compensation. 

Failure to report an accident may also be a breach of your insurance policy. Such breaches could lead to your insurer raising your rates, refusing to renew your policy, or even canceling your policy.

When dealing with your insurer, you’ll need to give basic facts about the accident. But never admit fault. Remember that insurers have their own financial interests in mind. 

Although insurance policies are supposed to protect victims, insurance companies have their own financial interests in mind. That means they usually try to pay out as little as possible for claims (or nothing). Some adjusters may even be less than honest with you by using your statements out of context or failing to mention benefits that are owed to you. 

So until you’ve spoken to a lawyer, avoid giving more details than necessary or signing any forms (including settlement offers or medical authorization forms). You could be signing away your rights. 

If you’re injured in an auto accident, consulting a personal injury lawyer should be a top priority — regardless of who you think is at fault. 

An attorney can help you:

  • assess your case,
  • negotiate with insurers,
  • deal with paperwork, and
  • file a personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires, if needed.

This can relieve a great deal of stress and allow you to focus on your recovery. The sooner you get an attorney, the sooner you’ll be able to get the compensation you’re entitled to. 

If you’re worried about how you’ll pay for a lawyer, the good news is that it’s standard for personal injury lawyers to take cases on a “contingency fee” basis. This means you won’t have to pay any legal fees up front. Instead, the fees will come out of your final settlement or verdict. If your lawyer doesn’t win anything for you, you won’t have to pay. 

Common mistakes to avoid

In addition to the steps above that you should take, there are several things you should not do after an accident. These actions can seriously harm your case and your ability to get the proper amount of compensation. Below are a few common examples of these mistakes. 

You should never admit fault to the other driver, the police, insurance companies, or anyone else. 

Even if you think an accident is your fault, that might not be legally accurate. There also may be factors that contributed to the accident that you’re not aware of. You are not responsible for determining fault, even if you’re sure you caused the accident. 

Minimizing your fault is important because New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state. That means that if you’re at least partially at fault, your damages in a lawsuit will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. If you’re more than 50% at fault, you may not receive any damages at all! See Getting Compensation from an At-Fault Driver — The “modified comparative negligence” rule.

This is one of the many reasons you should get the help of a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will collect and evaluate evidence and ensure that fault is properly assigned in your case.

After you’re in an accident, you’re required to notify your insurance company and give them basic details about the accident. But until you’ve consulted with an attorney, you should only give the details required by your policy.

You also shouldn’t sign any medical release forms. This may give the insurance company access to your entire medical history, and they may use previous injuries or conditions as an excuse to reduce or deny your claim. 

Also keep in mind that if the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, you don’t have any obligation to provide information to them about the accident. It’s best not to give any details at all. Instead, take down the insurance company’s information and contact an attorney right away. 

If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to act as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will become to collect strong evidence that will help you get the compensation you need.

There’s also a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit called the statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations for an auto accident in New Jersey is generally two years from the date of the accident. This might seem like a lot of time, but negotiating with the insurance company may take longer than you expect. 

To make sure you have plenty of time to negotiate and file a lawsuit if necessary, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. 

Insurance companies sometimes spy on social media accounts, looking for evidence they can use to reduce or deny your claim. If you’ve been in an accident, you’ll have to be very careful about what you post on social media. In fact, it’s best not to post anything at all until your case has settled.

While this may seem extreme, posting photos related to the accident or updates about your recovery may be used against you. And even seemingly unrelated posts, such as photos of you on a trip or enjoying a hobby can make it seem like you’re “fine” even if you’re not. 

If you need to give updates to your friends and family about how you’re doing, it’s best to do it privately. 

When you’re dealing with injuries and mounting medical bills, it may be tempting to accept a quick settlement. But as noted above, insurance companies want to protect their own financial interests and pay out as little as possible. That means early settlement offers are usually much lower than you actually deserve. (read more about the settlement amounts in NJ car accidents cases)

To make sure you get full and fair compensation, you should speak to a personal injury attorney before accepting any offer. Once you accept a settlement, you give up your right to pursue the claim any further. 

Case Study: $21 Million Award

What makes this case unique: Defense witness testified in favor of plaintiff; judge was a former Attorney General who had lost a substantial case to Mr. Rosenblum years earlier; Appellate Court actually increased the award amount.

Traffic tickets and auto accidents

Traffic violations play a role in many auto accidents. In fact, traffic tickets are often issued at the scene of an accident. Common violations include:

In most cases, however, officers issue tickets after they arrive on the scene of the accident, without actually witnessing the alleged traffic violation. This may be a defense, because in New Jersey the fact that an accident occurred is not enough by itself to prove someone was guilty of a criminal or traffic offense. 

Still, even if the officer didn’t witness the violation, it’s possible to be convicted if you admit guilt, or if one or more third parties witnessed the violation.

This is another reason why you should not admit guilt to a traffic violation before discussing the case with your attorney. Pleading guilty to a traffic violation could be used against you in a personal injury lawsuit — even if it was part of a plea bargain. An attorney can help you determine the best way to proceed

Common Types of Collisions & Injuries

Auto accidents can play out in many different ways. Some are very minor, allowing you to walk away unscathed. Others are very serious, resulting in long-lasting injury, or even death. Below are just a few examples of common types of collisions and injuries.

For the best chances of full and fair compensation, you should get the help of a lawyer who’s familiar with the different types of collisions and common injuries. Understanding exactly how the accident happened and the full extent of your injuries are both crucial to a successful claim.  

Common types of collisions

A few common types of collisions are as follows:

This type of accident is often caused when a driver suddenly slows down or brakes. If another driver is following too closely, they may hit the rear of the decelerating driver. This type of collision may also occur if a driver accelerates to a higher speed than the vehicle in front of it.

This type of accident is also called a “T-bone” or “broadside” collision. This happens when the front or rear of a vehicle hits the side of another vehicle. The driver and passengers of the impacted vehicle often sustain very serious injuries. Read More

This type of accident occurs when two vehicles “swipe” each other while parallel. It’s often a more minor type of accident, unless the “swiping” causes a driver to lose control.

This type of accident occurs when a vehicle flips over onto its side or roof. It’s a very serious type of accident that’s often caused by speeding through sharp turns. SUVs, pickups, vans, and other vehicles with higher centers of gravity are more likely to roll over.

This type of accident occurs when the front ends of two vehicles hit each other. It’s a very serious type of collision, and injuries are often serious or fatal. Read more

This type of accident occurs when multiple cars “pile-up,” usually on highways where there’s a lot of traffic traveling at high speeds. Determining fault in these cases can be tricky. Read more

Common auto accident injuries

The severity of your injuries is often linked to the type of collision. Some injuries are obvious immediately after an auto accident. But others can take days or weeks to become apparent.

Some common injuries from auto accidents include:

  • broken bones
  • whiplash
  • ruptured or herniated discs or other back injuries
  • brain damage
  • spinal cord injuries
  • dismemberment
  • burns
  • lacerations and cuts

Many of these injuries require significant medical treatment. You may need to spend time in the hospital, or get surgery, rehabilitation, or physical therapy. You may also not be able to work, take care of your family, or perform your usual daily activities. In other words, your expenses and losses from injuries can add up quickly, and it’s not easy to calculate the full financial impact. 

That’s why it’s important to get the help of an experienced NJ personal injury lawyer. They can coordinate with the right medical experts to get a better understanding of your injuries and their immediate and long-term effects. This will help make sure you properly evaluate your losses and get the appropriate amount of compensation.

Getting Compensation Through Your Insurance

If you’re injured in an auto accident, your first stop for compensation should be your own auto insurance company. The amount of compensation you’ll receive from them will depend on your personal injury protection, or PIP, coverage. 

Below is a summary of what you should know when pursuing compensation from your own insurance company.

“No fault” insurance

As discussed earlier, New Jersey is one of a handful of states with a “no fault” auto insurance system. 

By law, all drivers in the state must have auto insurance with a minimum amount of PIP coverage (also known as “no fault” insurance). If you or someone else covered by your policy is injured in an auto accident, your own auto insurance company will pay for medical bills up to the PIP limit — regardless of who caused the accident. 

If your losses exceed your policy’s PIP limit, you may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver. (See Getting Compensation From an At-Fault Driver.)

Depending on your policy, PIP may also cover other economic losses like lost wages. Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are not covered. 

Even if PIP covers your expenses, you’ll still have to pay a certain amount of your claim out of pocket in the form of a deductible and copayment. The details about your deductible and copayment are included in your policy. 

Basic vs. Standard Policies

When purchasing auto insurance, you generally must choose either a Basic Policy or a Standard Policy. Under New Jersey law, drivers must at least have a Basic Policy, which offers less protection than a Standard Policy. 

Below are more details about each type of policy. Note that it’s also possible to choose your health insurance as your primary source of coverage for auto accident injuries. If you choose this option, your coverage will vary based on your health insurance policy.

Basic Policy

A Basic Policy is cheaper than a Standard Policy, but it’s not for everyone. Losses from an auto accident can quickly go over the coverage limits in a Basic Policy. 

The Basic Policy includes the following coverage:

This is per person, per accident for anyone covered under the insured person’s policy. Certain serious injuries are covered up to $250,000, such as permanent or significant brain or spinal cord injuries or disfigurement. 

This pays for damage that you cause to someone else’s vehicle or property. It does not apply to damage to your own vehicle.

This coverage isn’t required under a Basic Policy, though you can add $10,000 of such coverage as an option. It pays for claims and lawsuits by people who are injured or die as a result of an auto accident you cause.

Note that without Bodily Injury Liability coverage, if others are injured in an accident that you cause, you’ll be responsible for paying losses not covered by the injured persons’ PIP insurance. 

Likewise, if you’re injured in an accident caused by a driver with only a Basic Policy, you may not be able to file a claim with their insurance for medical expenses not covered by your PIP. In that case, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to cover the additional costs. You’ll need the help of a personal injury attorney to do this. 

If you have a Basic Policy, you can’t file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering unless you suffered:

  • loss of a body part
  • significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  • displaced fracture
  • loss of a fetus
  • other permanent injury (i.e., when a body part or organ hasn’t healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment)
  • death

Standard Policy

Most drivers in New Jersey choose a Standard Policy. A Standard Policy includes:

This coverage is per person or accident. Like the Basic Policy, a Standard Policy includes $250,000 of coverage for certain permanent injuries, regardless of the PIP limit you choose.

This type of coverage pays for damage you cause to someone else’s vehicle or property. It does not apply to damage to your own vehicle.

This coverage pays for claims and lawsuits by people who are injured or die as a result of an auto accident you cause.


Limited Right to Sue vs. Unlimited Right to Sue option

If you get a Standard Policy, you’ll also have to decide whether to choose the Limited Right to Sue option (also known as “Limited Tort”) or the Unlimited Right to Sue option (also known as “Full Tort”).

The Limited Right to Sue is cheaper. But with this option, you can only sue an at-fault driver for pain and suffering if you sustain one of the following injuries:

  • loss of a body part
  • significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  • displaced fracture
  • loss of a fetus
  • other permanent injury (i.e., when a body part or organ hasn’t healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment)
  • death

Even with this option, you can sue an at-fault driver for economic damages such as medical expenses if they exceed your own insurance coverage. 

If you choose the Unlimited Right to Sue, you can sue someone who caused an auto accident for all types of losses, including pain and suffering, for any injury. 

Other optional PIP coverage under a Standard Policy

PIP coverage always provides compensation for medical expenses. You also have the option to purchase additional PIP benefits under a Standard Policy that are not available under the Basic Policy. These include:

If you can’t work because of injuries sustained in an accident, this coverage pays lost wages, less temporary disability benefits you may receive, up to the limit you select.

This coverage pays for necessary services you would normally do yourself but can’t due to your injury, such as cleaning your house, mowing your lawn, and doing laundry.

If you die, your family members or estate will receive benefits not already collected under the income continuation and essential services coverage.

If you die, this coverage will pay for reasonable funeral expenses up to the limit you select.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

If you have a Standard Policy, you’re required to have at least $5,000 in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. You can also buy more coverage, but it can’t be higher than your liability coverage limits.

Pays for property damage or injuries caused by an uninsured driver. Instead of making claims against the uninsured driver, you file a claim under your own policy. It does not pay benefits for the uninsured driver.

Pays for property damage or injuries caused by a driver who’s insured, but who has less coverage than your Underinsured Motorist coverage. If your damages are greater than the limits of the other driver’s policy, your Underinsured Motorist coverage will pay the difference.

If you only have a Basic Policy, you don’t have any coverage for your losses in an accident caused by either an uninsured or underinsured driver. 

Summary of Basic Policy vs. Standard Policy coverage

Below is a summary of the different types of coverage available under both a Basic Policy and Standard Policy:

Coverage:Basic Policy:Standard Policy:
Personal Injury Protection$15,000 per person, per accident;
Up to $250,000 for certain injuries(1)
Minimum coverage $15,000 per person or accident;
Maximum coverage $250,000 or more
Up to $250,000 for certain injuries regardless of selected limit(1)
Bodily Injury LiabilityNot included, but can buy optional $10,000 coverage for all persons, per accidentMinimum coverage $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident;
Maximum coverage $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist$5,000 per accidentMinimum coverage $5,000 per accident;
Maximum coverage $100,000 or more
Right to SueNo right to sue the person who caused the accident for pain and suffering, unless you sustained certain permanent injuries(2)Option to choose either:

Unlimited Right to Sue (right to sue the person who caused the accident for pain and suffering for any injury); or

Limited Right to Sue (no right to sue the person who caused the accident for your pain and suffering unless you sustained certain permanent injuries(2))

1. The $250,000 coverage for certain injuries is only required in the case of medically necessary treatment of:

  • permanent or significant brain injury
  • spinal cord injury
  • disfigurement
  • other permanent or significant injuries at a trauma center or hospital immediately after an accident and until you’re stable and no longer require critical care

2. Qualifying injuries include:

  • loss of a body part
  • significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  • displaced fracture
  • loss of a fetus
  • other permanent injury (i.e., when a body part or organ hasn’t healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment)
  • death

Negotiating with insurance companies

If you need to make an auto accident claim, keep in mind that even your own insurance company may not have your best interests in mind. 

Insurance companies are focused on protecting their own financial interests. They want to pay as little as they can, without going to court. That means you can’t rely on them to provide advice or fair compensation for your losses. They also deal with auto accident claims on a regular basis, which gives them an advantage against you in negotiations.

That’s why it’s best to have a personal injury attorney communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. You shouldn’t even give a detailed statement or sign a release for your medical records until you’ve consulted a lawyer. The insurance company will be digging for details and information that could damage your claim and allow them to pay less.

An experienced attorney will be able to make sure that the insurance company handles your claim the right way. And if they can’t reach a fair settlement, they’ll also be able to file a lawsuit for you.

Getting Compensation from an At-Fault Driver

Auto accident victims often end up with medical expenses that are far more than their PIP coverage. In this case, you may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver (or his or her insurance company). If your policy allows it, you may also be able to seek non-economic damages like pain and suffering. 

If no one in the accident has auto insurance, the drivers driving illegally without insurance generally won’t have a case. But passengers may also be able to get compensation through a special state fund called the New Jersey Property Liability Insurance Guaranty Association, or NJPLIGA.

Below is a summary of what you need to know when considering a claim against an at-fault driver.

Statute of limitations

If you’re injured in an accident, you should start the claims process as soon as you can. If you need to file a personal injury lawsuit, in New Jersey you generally only have two years from the date of the accident to do so. This time limit is called the “statute of limitations.”

While this may seem like plenty of time, working directly with insurance companies to get compensation may take longer than you think. 

To make sure you have enough time to file a lawsuit if needed, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. This is especially important if a New Jersey government employee or agency is involved. To sue a government entity, a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of your accident. 

Once the statute of limitations has lapsed, you’ll likely no longer be able to file a lawsuit. It may still be worth it to consult with an attorney, however, as limited exceptions may apply to your case. 

Valuing a personal injury case

To properly value your case, you’ll have to wait until you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement.” This means you’ll have to recover completely, or as fully as you’re likely to. Some injuries will have long-term or lifelong effects, such as pain, scars or disfigurement, or disability. Some injuries may also require ongoing treatment to provide temporary relief or prevent further problems. 

You can only assign an appropriate value to your case if you can establish the costs of all past and any expected future treatment. 

You’ll also have to decide whether to sue for pain and suffering. This will depend on the circumstances of your case, including the type and severity of the injury. Pain and suffering damages may be especially appropriate for injuries that cause a great deal of pain, distress, or long-term hardship. You’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer to make this determination.

Proving a personal injury case

To win a personal injury case, you have to prove four things (called “elements”):

  1. You were injured;
  2. The party you’re suing had a duty to you;
  3. The party you’re suing breached that duty; and
  4. That breach of duty caused your injury.

All drivers have a duty to others on the road to drive safely and obey traffic laws. And a driver breaches that duty when they drive negligently or recklessly.

Under New Jersey Civil Jury Instruction 5.10A, “negligence” is defined as a “failure to exercise, in the given circumstances, that degree of care for the safety of others, which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances.”

Examples of negligent driving include speeding, distracted driving, driving while fatigued, or driving under the influence.

Insurance companies and juries in a lawsuit will look at all the evidence to determine negligence. This may include:

  • photos or video of the accident
  • police report details
  • witness statements
  • traffic camera or surveillance footage
  • dashcam footage
  • breath, blood, or urine test results for drugs or alcohol (see: accidents from drunk drivers)
  • cell phone records (to prove that a party was on a call or texting during an accident)

Sometimes negligent road conditions also cause or contribute to an accident. In this case, the municipality or other party responsible for maintaining the road may also be responsible. Such issues may include, among others:

  • damaged roadways, like potholes
  • poorly placed traffic signs or signals
  • broken signals
  • poor lighting 

Pursuing claims against municipalities and other government entities involves special procedures. An experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney can help you navigate this process.

The “modified comparative negligence” rule

New Jersey follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule. Under this rule, more than one person may be at fault in an accident. 

If you’re injured in an accident in which you’re partially at fault, under N.J. Statute 59:9-4 your damages in a personal injury lawsuit will be reduced by the percentage you’re at a fault, up to 50%. As an example, if you have $100,000 in medical bills not covered by insurance and you’re found to be 30% at fault for the accident, then you’ll only get 70% of the $100,000, or $70,000. 

New Jersey’s “modified” rule also means that if you’re found 51% or more at fault, you won’t receive anything at all. In a “pure” comparative fault state, you can still recover damages even if you were more at fault than the other driver. 

Insurance companies also use the modified comparative negligence rule when evaluating your case. 

Settlements

Most personal injury cases are resolved through a settlement agreement outside of court. The stronger your case, the more likely you are to reach a settlement. But if there are issues around who was at fault or evidentiary problems, sometimes the case will go to court. 

Even if you think you’ll reach a settlement agreement, you should still preserve your ability to sue if needed. Sometimes you’ll be forced to file a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement before the statute of limitations expires. If that happens, your attorney can file a lawsuit and continue to negotiate with the insurance company.

Filing a lawsuit can show that you’re serious about getting fair compensation. As a result, insurance companies may be much more reasonable when negotiating. Even if you file for a lawsuit, you can still agree to a settlement at any time before the jury makes a decision — even after the trial has started.

A personal injury attorney can help you make the best decision about whether to accept a settlement or take the case to trial. Once you accept a settlement offer, you’ll no longer be able to pursue the same claim in court, so you should be sure the settlement is the right choice for you.

Special Considerations by Vehicle Type

The type of vehicle involved in your accident often affects the severity of your injuries. It can also affect case strategy, as different laws apply in certain situations. Different types of accidents include:

Below are just a few of the special considerations you should keep in mind when certain vehicles are involved. 

If you’re considering pursuing a claim outside of your PIP coverage for any type of accident, you should consult with a New Jersey personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to identify the special issues in your case and advise you on the best path forward.

Truck and other commercial vehicle accidents

When you’re in an accident involving a truck or other commercial vehicle, one task is to figure out who may be responsible. There are usually many parties involved, such as:

  • the driver
  • the owner of the vehicle
  • the company leasing the vehicle
  • the manufacturer of the vehicle and its parts

More than one of these parties may be responsible for the accident. Making this determination will likely require some industry knowledge and investigation. This is just one reason why hiring an attorney is important in these types of cases. 

Your attorney will help gather evidence such as police reports, company records, and safety logs. If needed, your attorney can also get the help of an accident reconstruction expert. 

Your attorney will examine all of this evidence to find out if the company or driver violated any safety regulations, or whether the driver was speeding, fatigued, or distracted at the time of the accident.

An attorney will also handle all communications with insurance companies and other third parties. Trucking and other commercial vehicle companies typically have experienced investigators and attorneys on their side. Commercial policies are very valuable, so insurance adjusters working on these cases are usually highly skilled as well. Hiring a lawyer will help ensure that you have an experienced advocate on your side, too.

As with any other kind of auto accident, you should not make any statement (written or oral) to the insurance company before you’ve spoken to a personal injury attorney. You also shouldn’t accept any settlement offer or sign anything that the commercial vehicle company or insurer gives you. 

Instead, gather as much information as evidence as you can, including the police report, property damage records, medical records, and missed work records, and consult an attorney as soon as possible.

Motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle accidents often result in severe injuries. Medical expenses can add up quickly. 

In most auto accidents, your own auto insurance’s PIP coverage will pay at least a portion of your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault. But if you’re injured on a motorcycle as an operator or passenger, you generally don’t get PIP benefits — even if a car was involved. Such coverage, when offered, is optional and expensive. 

Motorcycle insurance also usually doesn’t cover medical bills or loss of income. Instead, injured motorcyclists usually have to pay their medical bills through their primary health insurer. If you don’t have health insurance, you’re personally responsible for all of your medical bills. If you’re unable to work, you also may not have any income unless you’re covered by New Jersey state disability or a private disability plan.

Given the special rules that apply to motorcycles, you should consult with a New Jersey personal injury lawyer right away. Your attorney can help you identify any potential sources of compensation. For example, you may be able to file a lawsuit and recover medical bills and lost income from an at-fault driver. 

Keep in mind that even if you have a valid claim, recovering compensation may take time — sometimes years. In the meantime, you’ll be responsible for shouldering the financial burdens that come with your injuries.

Pedestrian accidents

Both drivers and pedestrians have to follow traffic laws in New Jersey. 

For example, under N.J. Statute 39:4-36, drivers in New Jersey must come to a complete stop and stay stopped when there are pedestrians in a crosswalk. 

But pedestrians also may not suddenly leave a curb or move into the path of a vehicle that’s so close that it’s impossible for the driver to stop. Pedestrians also have to use crosswalks and obey pedestrian traffic signals. If there’s no crosswalk, you have to yield the right-of-way to vehicles when you’re trying to cross the street. Of course, drivers still have to avoid hitting pedestrians in the street.

If you’re hit by a car as a pedestrian, your medical bills will usually be paid by your PIP coverage up to your policy’s limit. Auto insurance policies pay for medical bills for injuries sustained in an accident “involving” a motor vehicle, even if the injured person wasn’t in a vehicle. 

If you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, you should check if you’re covered by the PIP policy of any relatives you live with. If you don’t have PIP coverage under a personal or family policy, the New Jersey Property Liability Guaranty Association, or NJPLIGA, may be a source of compensation for medical bills. NJPLIGA is a special state insurance fund that covers medical expenses in certain situations. It will not pay for your expenses if you own an uninsured car.

Note that if you’re struck by any non-automobile, such as a motorcycle, bus, or commercial vehicle, then the insurance company for the at-fault vehicle pays, even if you have a personal or family auto insurance policy.

You may also be able to seek compensation from an at-fault driver. As with other types of auto accidents, New Jersey’s comparative negligence rule applies to pedestrian accidents. That means if you were partially at fault for a pedestrian accident, your damages may be reduced by your percentage of fault. See Getting Compensation From an At-Fault Driver — The “modified comparative negligence” rule.

Bicycle accidents

Under New Jersey law, a bicycle is considered a “vehicle.” That means bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. They have the right to be on the road, but they also have to obey traffic laws.

There are also special laws that apply to bicyclists. For example, they must ride as close to the right side of the road as possible.

Bicycle accidents can cause serious injuries or even death, especially if they involve a motor vehicle. “Dooring” is one type of accident in which the driver of a parked car opens his or her door in the path of a bicyclist. Drivers often forget that bicyclists are riding on the right side of the road and fail to check for oncoming cyclists before opening the door. 

As in pedestrian accidents, if you were injured in a bicycle accident involving a motor vehicle, your medical bills should be paid by your own PIP insurance up to your policy’s limit. If you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, you should check if you’re covered by the PIP policy of any relatives you live with.

If you don’t have PIP coverage under a personal or family policy, filing a claim with the NJPLIGA for your medical bills may be an option. You may also be able to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. 

A New Jersey personal injury attorney will be able to help you identify the best sources of compensation for your specific case.

Choosing a Lawyer

Pursuing personal injury claims is a complicated process. When you’re recovering from injuries, it can be especially stressful. To make sure you don’t miss out on valuable compensation, it’s important to get the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you:

  • identify all your potential sources of compensation for your injuries;
  • deal with insurance companies and file paperwork; and
  • navigate the court process, if necessary.

What to look for in an attorney

Here are a few things you should look for when hiring a lawyer:

Your attorney should have a deep understanding of personal injury laws and insurance procedures, and how they apply to your situation. During your initial consultation, it’s a good idea to ask how long they’ve been practicing and how many cases they’ve handled.

An attorney who pays proper attention to your case is crucial. Otherwise, they may miss important details that could affect the outcome of your case. Ask during your initial consultation how you’ll be able to communicate with them if needed, and how long they typically take to return your messages. It’s best to get a feeling for how quickly they’ll respond to you before you hire them.

If you’re injured in an auto accident, consulting with a personal injury attorney is almost always a worthwhile investment. But unexpected fees are never welcome. When choosing a lawyer, be sure to ask about their fee structures. Keep in mind that it’s standard for personal injury attorneys to represent clients on a contingency fee basis. That means you won’t pay any attorneys fees upfront. Instead, the attorney will only be paid if they get you compensation through a settlement or trial verdict. 

Questions about auto accident injuries in New Jersey?

At Rosenblum Law, we understand the life-changing effects auto accident injuries can have. We’ll help you understand all your options and determine the best course of action for your particular circumstances. If you have a claim, we’ll also guide you through the process and fight on your behalf for maximum compensation.

For a free consultation, call us today at 888-235-9021 or contact us through our website at www.rosenblumlaw.com/contact. We’re passionate about helping all our clients get the compensation they’re owed — and we won’t take a fee unless we win a settlement or verdict for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, you likely have a lot of questions about your case. Below are answers to some common questions we receive about auto accidents in New Jersey, but keep in mind that every case is different. If you’d like to discuss the specifics of your case, you’ll have to contact a New Jersey personal injury attorney

Hit-and-runs are a serious offense. Whenever there’s an injury or property damage, everyone involved must wait for the police to arrive. Hit-and-run drivers are subject to penalties, including fines, jail time, and license suspension. 

If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, like any other auto accident you’re entitled to PIP benefits for medical bills from your own insurance company. Your uninsured motorist coverage may also provide compensation. 

If you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, you may be covered by the policy of a family member who lives with you. Or if you’re not covered by any auto insurance policy, the NJPLIGA may be a source of limited compensation. 

If the driver is eventually located, depending on your policy and your injuries, you may be able to pursue compensation through their insurance or a lawsuit as well. A personal injury attorney can help you explore all potential avenues of compensation.  

You should never admit fault to the other driver, the police, insurance companies, or anyone else. 

Even if you think an accident is your fault, that might not be legally accurate. There also may be factors that contributed to the accident that you’re not aware of. You are not responsible for determining fault, even if you’re sure you caused the accident. 

Minimizing your fault is important because New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state. That means that if you’re at least partially at fault, your damages in a lawsuit will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. If you’re more than 50% at fault, you may not receive any damages at all!

This is one of the many reasons you should get the help of a personal injury attorney. Your attorney will collect and evaluate evidence and ensure that fault is properly assigned in your case.

When assigning fault, insurance companies and juries in a lawsuit will look at all the evidence. This can include:

  • photos or video of the accident
  • police report details
  • witness statements
  • traffic camera or surveillance footage
  • dashcam footage
  • breath, blood, or urine test results for drugs or alcohol
  • cell phone records (to prove that a party was on a call or texting during an accident)

New Jersey uses what’s called the “modified comparative negligence” rule, so it’s possible that more than one party may be found at fault.

Under this rule, if you were partly at fault, your damages are reduced by the percentage equal of your fault, up to 50%. If you’re more than 50% at fault, you won’t be able to recover any damages.

See Getting Compensation From an At-Fault Driver — The “modified comparative negligence” rule.

Plaintiffs generally have two years to file a personal injury claim. This is called the “statute of limitations.” Once the statute of limitations has passed, the court will likely dismiss your case if you try to file.

Note that this means you have to start the lawsuit within two years of the date of your auto accident. The case can be resolved much later.

See Getting Compensation From an At-Fault Driver — Statute of limitations.

The stronger your case, the less likely you’ll have to appear in court. Many cases settle. But you may be forced to go to trial if the insurance company refuses to provide a fair settlement. A case may also go to court if there are issues around fault or evidentiary problems. 

See Getting Compensation From an At Fault Driver — Settlements.

There are two types of damages:

  • Economic losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage
  • Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering

Non-economic damages are more complicated to calculate and win, as they’re meant to compensate you for a reduced quality of life as a result of the accident. 

The type and amount of compensation you can get in a personal injury case depends on a variety of factors. These include, among others:

  • past and future medical expenses, including emergency medical treatment and rehabilitative care
  • past and future lost wages
  • the degree to which to you were at fault in the accident
  • insurance policy limits
  • available evidence 

There’s no set timeframe for resolving a personal injury case. If a case is particularly strong, it may settle in a couple of months. Other cases can take several months or even years if it goes to trial. Cooperation among all parties is important for a speedy resolution. That includes the insurance companies, police, witnesses, and the parties to the accident. 

If your loved one died in an auto accident, you may have a wrongful death claim against the other driver. When someone you love dies, it can take a huge toll on you emotionally and financially. An attorney can help you get fair compensation from the parties responsible so that you can begin to heal and feel more secure in your future.

Who should pay for my medical bills?

Under New Jersey’s no-fault auto insurance system, your own auto insurance company is responsible for your medical bills up to your policy’s PIP limit. This is true regardless of who was at fault for the accident. 

If you don’t have your own auto insurance, you may be covered by the auto insurance policy of a family member you live with.

If your losses are more than the limits of your insurance coverage, you may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver (or his or her insurance company).

See Getting Compensation From Your Insurance and Getting Compensation From an At-Fault Driver

What should I tell my insurance company after an accident?

You should report any accidents to your insurance company. Failing to do this could be a breach of your policy. As a result, your insurance company could raise your rates or even cancel your insurance. 

But you should not give any recorded statements until you’ve consulted with a lawyer. In fact, it’s best to hire a lawyer to communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. 

When speaking to your insurance company, only provide the facts required by your policy — don’t offer any extra information. If you’re tempted to give an explanation of an answer, you should consult with your attorney to determine the best way to answer the question. 

See Getting Compensation From Your Insurance — Negotiating with insurance companies for more information. 

Should I take a settlement offer?

Before accepting a settlement offer, you should always consult an attorney. Insurance companies usually prefer to pay a settlement to avoid the time-consuming and expensive trial process. Many plaintiffs also prefer settlements because you can resolve the case and get compensation much more quickly. 
But not all settlements are fair. Insurance companies want to protect their bottom lines, so they’re often reluctant to offer full compensation. It’s not unusual for them to undervalue damages or even deny claims.  (read about auto accident settlement amounts here)
To properly value your case, you’ll also have to wait until you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement.” This means you’ll have to recover completely, or as fully as you’re likely to. If you accept a settlement before you can establish the costs of all past and any expected future treatment, you could lose out on valuable compensation. 
A personal injury attorney can help you make the best decision about whether to accept a settlement or take the case to trial. Once you accept a settlement offer, you’ll no longer be able to pursue the same claim in court, so you should be sure the settlement is the right choice for you. 

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