By Francis M. Smith
Nobody plans to be involved in a car collision. Every day, careful drivers who do everything right become the victim of collisions caused by other people's negligent or reckless driving. You could be on your way to work or driving to the store on a quick errand, and the next thing you know another vehicle slams into yours. This incident kicks off a snowballing sequence of physical pain, psychological stress, and financial hardship that can stretch out for months or even years. The injuries sustained in a serious car wreck can be devastating, especially if you suffer trauma to your head, back, neck, or spine. Of course, the bills don't stop coming when you're out of work healing from your injuries, and the resulting financial hardship can threaten your family's economic stability for years after you've recovered from your accident.
Serious car collisions are much more common than any of us would like to imagine. The New Jersey Department of Transportation reports that in 2013, there were 60,705 car crashes that resulted in injury across the state, and another 506 fatal crashes. Taken as an average, that comes out to more than 166 people hurt in a traffic accident somewhere in New Jersey every day. Based on NJ DOT data from 2013, the five counties that saw the highest rates of injury-causing automotive crashes were Union, Essex, Bergen, Middlesex, and Monmouth Counties. Naturally, a responsible driver does everything he or she can to avoid a collision – but there is little you can do to avoid being rear-ended by a driver who is following you too closely, or is distracted by talking or texting on their phone. Crashes of this type are particularly likely to cause head or spinal injuries in the occupants of the vehicle being struck, as their bodies generally don't have enough warning to brace themselves in anticipation of impact.
For motor vehicle crash victims who have never been involved in a serious car crash before, it's natural to believe that the insurance provider will take care of all their medical expenses and compensate them for the wages they lost while unable to work, and for the pain they endured as a result of their injuries. After all, isn't that what insurance is for? In an ideal world, yes – but in reality, insurance providers are for-profit companies that care a great deal more about their financial bottom-line than about your well-being. Insurers want to get your claim settled for as little as possible, because the less money they pay out, the bigger their profits. Some accident victims have a hard time deciding which is worse: the physical suffering caused by their injuries, or the uncaring and unfair treatment they are subjected to at the hands of the insurance company they believed they should be able to rely on in a crisis.
The insurance company wants you to believe that they're “on your side,” that you're “in good hands” with them. They want to convince you that you don't need the help of an personal injury lawyer. But the insurance adjuster assigned to negotiate your claim is a professional. He has handled claims just like yours day in and day out for years, and has developed an extensive repertoire of negotiating tricks and tactics to whittle your settlement figure down as low as possible. On the other hand, this is probably your first time pursuing an injury claim, and possibly your first time dealing with lawyers at all. You're operating in his area of expertise, and you deserve to have someone on your side who can match or exceed him in legal experience and training.
Some injured claimants believe, because they're highly intelligent people who are very successful in their own field, that they don't need the help of an personal injury litigation attorney to pursue their claim through the insurance insurance company. But being smart and successful in other areas doesn't mean you have the knowledge and experience to manage an injury claim. The insurance adjuster does this for a living, and if he wasn't good at getting smart people to accept unfairly low settlements, he'd have been replaced long ago. The smart option is to retain the help of an experienced personal injury litigation lawyer, who knows how much other cases similar to yours have been settled for, and who has connections with doctors and other experts who can offer testimony to prove your case. Research has shown that injury victims who hire a lawyer receive higher settlements and damage awards, even after attorney's fees are taken out, than injured claimants who go it alone against the insurance company. Just as importantly, when you have an attorney working on your case, he will handle the legal paperwork for your claim and prevent the insurance company from harassing you, reducing your stress so you can focus on healing.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a serious accident, please contact me or call me at 908-233-5800 for a free consultation.