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Car Accidents

Navigating Auto Accident Claims in New Jersey

The aftermath of an auto accident can be overwhelming both physically and emotionally. If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial to understand the steps you need to take to protect your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. As experienced personal injury lawyers in Denville, New Jersey, we have helped countless clients navigate the complex process of auto accident claims in our state.

Understanding New Jersey’s No-Fault System

New Jersey operates under a no-fault system for auto insurance. This means that regardless of who was at fault for the accident, each driver’s own insurance company is responsible for covering their medical expenses and lost wages. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If your injuries meet the state’s “verbal threshold” for filing a lawsuit, you may be able to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering.

New Jersey Is a No-Fault Insurance State: What Does That Mean?

Different states have different policies regarding the ability of victims to bring personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver. New Jersey ascribes to something called “no-fault” auto insurance. Under a no-fault auto insurance policy, the insurance company agrees to pay for your injuries no matter who is at fault, you or the other driver, but the compensation for medical expenses and associated losses is limited by the amount of coverage you purchase. The compensation is covered under what is called the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) clause of your policy. 

When you have no-fault insurance, you are generally limited in your ability to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, which is true in the Garden State as well. No-fault auto insurance, which is mandated in a dozen states, is designed to limit lawsuits and provide compensation for injuries from one’s own insurance policy under its PIP coverage. 

New Jersey, however, has its own unique twist on no-fault insurance. It’s known as a “choice no-fault” auto insurance state. 

Filing a Claim with Your Insurance Company

After an auto accident, it is essential to report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. You will need to provide details about the accident, including the date, time, and location, as well as the contact information of the other driver involved. Your insurance company will guide you through the claims process and inform you of any documents or evidence they require to process your claim.

Seeking Medical Treatment

It is crucial to seek medical attention immediately following an auto accident, even if you do not believe your injuries are severe. Some injuries, such as whiplash or internal bleeding, may not present symptoms right away. A timely medical evaluation can document your injuries and establish a connection between the accident and your medical condition, which is essential for your claim.

Documenting Evidence

Gathering evidence from the accident scene can significantly strengthen your claim. Be sure to obtain the contact information of any witnesses and take photos of the damage to your vehicle, injuries, and the accident scene. Additionally, keep track of all medical records, expenses, and correspondence with insurance companies related to the accident.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

Navigating auto accident claims can be complex, especially when dealing with insurance companies and legal proceedings. Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can provide you with valuable guidance and representation throughout the claims process. An experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and pursue maximum compensation for your injuries.

Statute of Limitations

In New Jersey, there is a limited window of time in which you can file a personal injury claim following an auto accident. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in New Jersey is typically two years from the date of the accident. It is crucial to take action promptly to ensure your claim is filed within the statute of limitations.

Maximizing Your Compensation

When pursuing an auto accident claim, it is essential to consider all potential sources of compensation. In addition to seeking compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, you may also be entitled to damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you explore all avenues for maximizing your compensation.

What Is “Choice No-Fault”? 

In New Jersey, you can choose between what are called basic and standard auto insurance policies. The basic plan limits your options to sue the other driver. Under the standard policies, you have more options. PIP starts at the same level as basic, but can be increased. With a standard policy, you can also choose how much leeway you have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Generally speaking, in a standard plan, you get to choose between a limited right to sue and an unlimited right to sue. The latter, of course, might increase your premium but also allow you more opportunities to seek legal action to get redress for both your economic and non-economic losses. 

Who Gets To Sue Whom? 

PIP covers only economic losses, such as medical and treatment expenses and time lost from work. A personal injury lawsuit, in contrast, allows recovery for non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium (companionship), which equates to a broader range of compensation. Under a basic policy, you are limited to filing a personal injury lawsuit under certain circumstances, limited to: 

  • loss of a body part 
  • significant disfigurement 
  • significant scarring 
  • a displaced fracture 
  • loss of a fetus 
  • permanent injury (meaning the affected body part has not healed to allow normal function, and is not expected to), or 
  • death 

Under a standard policy, consider the following: if you choose the limited right to sue option, you are under the same restrictions as someone who purchases a basic policy. With the unlimited right to sue choice, you are free to file a lawsuit at any point for any reason, both economic and non-economic. You can receive compensation for the misery—pain and suffering—you’re undergoing, which is not available under a basic policy or a standard policy with a limited right to sue. 

These issues can be complex, which is why reaching out to a personal injury attorney is always a wise choice. 

Statute of Limitations & Comparative Fault in New Jersey

You only have two years from the date of your injuries to file a personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey. In addition, keep this in mind: New Jersey uses the legal principle of modified comparative negligence. Essentially, this standard weighs the negligence, or fault, of each driver in an accident and adjusts liability accordingly. For instance, if you’re rear-ended but your brake lights malfunctioned, contributing to the crash, you can be assigned part of the fault. 

If your non-working brake lights are deemed 30 percent at fault and your claim or lawsuit for injuries is $50,000, you can only receive 70 percent of that, or $35,000. If your fault is determined to be above 50 percent, you cannot receive anything. Accordingly, modified comparative negligence is also known as “the 51 percent rule.” 

Car Accident Attorneys in New Jersey

Auto accidents can have a significant impact on your life, but you do not have to navigate the claims process alone. By understanding New Jersey’s no-fault system, filing a claim with your insurance company, seeking medical treatment, documenting evidence, consulting with a personal injury lawyer, and acting within the statute of limitations, you can increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve. If you have been injured in an auto accident in New Jersey, do not hesitate to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and pursue fair compensation. We can review your case – and get you the compensation you deserve.

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