Motor Vehicle Accidents Information Center
Compensation for NJ Car Accident
Personal Injury Claims
NJ drivers may recover compensation for injuries and damages from car accidents, car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents
Automobile accidents are, essentially, a fact of life. Here in New Jersey, we live and drive around in the most densely packed State in the Union. Much as we all try to avoid them and no matter how carefully we might drive, they happen. You may be a terrific driver, with a spotless driving record, but that guy on the cell phone - not so much. Auto accidents do happen -sometimes with significant, if not tragic consequences.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) in New Jersey, you may be able to recover monetary compensation for injuries and other damages resulting from that accident. Note, however, that recovery for damages is not automatic; in fact, the legal environment is a complex place and there are many complications that may stand in your way when you seek to establish fault and quantify your damages - even to establish that you qualify to receive much-deserved damages under the terms of your own insurance policy.
This is not a legal environment for a beginner, a non-lawyer, or even a lawyer who does not concentrate his or her practice on this area of the law (like I do!).
Requirements and limitations are placed on filing insurance claims and legal actions. Any recovery for damages to which you might be entitled will be at risk if you do not take the steps necessary to fully protect your rights. Of course, in order to protect them, you first need to know what they are. The best source for that information is a personal injury attorney experienced in the area of motor vehicle accidents who has the skill necessary to handle the process for recovering monetary compensation. This includes:
- car accidents
- truck accidents
- motorcycle accidents
- and pedestrian / motor vehicle accidents
First things first. You may not see the necessity of involving a personal injury lawyer in your efforts to seek the recovery you feel you "deserve." Perhaps you believe that your insurance company and/or the insurance company of the other driver will adequately recognize your rights. Sadly, this is usually not the case. Insurance companies are in business to save money by paying out as little as possible. They are not your friends. They are not here to help you. All they do is geared to help minimize payments.
Remember that the insurance company is a for-profit business. Its number one responsibility is, therefore, to the health of the company's bottom line. Simply put, the less is paid out to you in damages, the better for the insurance company and its shareholders. Of course, if the other driver contributed to causing the motor vehicle accident and was uninsured, you're faced with a significant challenge to recovering for damages which will, I assure you, be made more difficult without the assistance of a qualified lawyer. Do you know what uninsured motorist coverage is and how it works? How about underinsured motorist coverage - if the other driver has very little insurance?
If you and/or a love one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to recover damages from the party or parties responsible for the accident. The word "damages" in this context means monetary compensation for a victim's injuries or losses - pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, restrictions on what you can do for yourself, for your family, and at work.
Injuries for which you can be compensated include physical injuries such as broken bones, head/brain injuries, massive "soft tissue" injury and spinal cord/nervous system injuries as well pain and suffering arising from those physical injuries.
How do you know what kinds of injuries call for compensation? Many times, it is only after many months of treatment for what was at first called a "sprained neck" or a "sprained back" or "whiplash" by a doctor that you come to understand how serious an injury is. I have seen hundreds of cases where these rather innocuous diagnoses not only don't go away - they get worse and worse, then require surgery or in many cases permanent limitations on what your life used to be.
Other losses for which you may be able to recover damages include the following:
- Loss of net income, both past and future
- Compensation for damage to personal property
- Mental pain and suffering. This is often difficult to prove and requires both solid evidence and effective representation in order to prove your case
- Permanent impairment - difficulties in everyday life and on the job
- Scars disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life under certain circumstances
- Loss of ability to participate in pre-accident activities - things taken for granted by most- like sports, playing with the kids or grandkids, home maintenance, cooking, cleaning, etc.
If your spouse is injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to recover for some damages as well, even if you weren't in the car at the time of the accident. This includes what is called "loss of consortium", a principle that recognizes that when your spouse in injured, you also are indirectly injured - you don't have the same spouse you used to have. There can be a negative effect of auto accident-related injuries on the marital relationship. For example, injuries that adversely impact companionship, comfort, assistance, affection, sexual relations or other benefits of a marriage may support a claim for loss of consortium.
A word about uninsured motorists: If the motor vehicle accident is caused by someone without auto insurance, you will have to turn either to your own insurance policy's uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or any other coverage which may be available to you under the circumstances of your accident.
Every accident is different, and an analysis of what coverage can benefit you is something an experienced attorney can provide. Whether you can benefit by other insurance policies (and whether you need to) is governed by statutory law and case law. Are you equipped to figure that out for yourself? Believe me, the insurance companies know the law, and they are not going to school you in what benefits are available to you.
Fortunately for many drivers in this state, New Jersey law usually requires that you have the following motor vehicle insurance coverage:
- Personal Injury Protection (for medical bills)
- Uninsured motorist
- Property damage
Collision coverage on your own car is optional, underinsured motorist coverage is offered by all carriers but not required by law. Regardless of what injuries you or someone you love suffer as a result of a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident, your potential for recovery of monetary compensation depends on many factors, some of which involve action on your part and others that involve making sure that you don't do certain things. Some of the most important of these include:
- Never leave the scene of an accident. Ever. Call the police. Have them do a formal report, and get a copy to check it for accuracy.
- Get/exchange accurate information. Verify, as best possible, its veracity. If the police investigate, they should do this.
- Do not "play it off." I'm not suggesting you make anything up or embellish but there is nothing to be gained by trying to comfort the other driver that you're okay. You may be in shock or may have suffered an injury with delayed onset of symptoms (very common in "whiplash" cases, for example). If you state that you are fine at the scene, questions may arise as to whether your subsequent claims of significant injury are credible. If you feel hurt, get checked out at the emergency room. If you don't go right away, you can still go later or the day after should you exhibit symptoms. Don't ignore symptoms. If you don't see a medical care provider, any insurance company will assert you must have been fine.
- Keep receipts of every single cent you spend tending to the injury. Medical and doctor bills, receipts for public transportation/cabs, receipts for massage therapy and other treatment, for example. Everything.
- Keep a diary of your experiences and condition post-accident. Resolution of a motor vehicle accident claim can take a long time, sometimes even years. Relying on your own memory to describe how you were feeling two years before a court appearance will not serve you.
- Do not discuss the details of the accident or your injury with anyone other than trusted members of your family and your lawyer. Remember, even your insurance company answers to a higher authority: The bottom line. Your adjustor or the adjustor for the other driver "can and will use what you say against you". You do have to file an application for PIP benefits, and you do have to cooperate with you own insurance carrier's investigation of the accident, which may include a recorded statement. But that's as far as you need to go. If you do feel like you were injured or things just don't seem right physically, you may want to seek proper medical attention and get the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney.
A motor vehicle accident can have terrible consequences for both the victim and the victim's family. Don't make matters worse by trying to navigate the complicated post-accident landscape without help. It's what I do, and all I do. For a free consultation about your rights and responsibilities after an accident, call me at 888-233-1272, or email me at Frank@FrankSmithLaw.com. The call and consultation are free, and there is never a fee unless I collect money compensation for you.
NJ Motor Vehicle Accident Information Center
- 10 of the Most Common Causes of NJ Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Compensation for NJ Car Accident Personal Injury Claims
- How to Avoid Wrecking your NJ car Insurance Claims
- NJ Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists
- New Jersey No-Fault Insurance Explained
- Car Accident Checklist - What to do After a NJ Car Accident
- Motor Vehicle Accident Frequently Asked Questions