Steps to Take Following a Car Crash in New Jersey
As the country’s most densely populated state, car accidents are practically unavoidable in New Jersey due to the rate of congested roadways. With that being said, it is important to know the legal requirements and limitations, specific to New Jersey, to be the most prepared while seeking compensation after a car accident. Below we will discuss insurance requirements, no-fault auto insurance laws, modified comparative negligence standards, and statutes of limitation all to give you a good idea of New Jersey car crash steps. Furthermore, we will explain when it is most advantageous for you to sue, limitations on suing, and the alternative options to receive compensation. If you have been in a car crash and are looking for guidance in the next steps, reading this is a good place to start.
Important Things to Know About Auto Insurance in NJ
In regards to car insurance, New Jersey drivers are required, by law, to carry at least a “Basic Policy”. The Basic policy includes money towards Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, in case you ever find yourself with an injury and you need help paying for medical care. The Basic policy also includes property damage liability coverage. This coverage applies if you cause damage to someone else’s property, such as a vehicle. The property damage liability coverage does not apply to damage to your own vehicle. For more extensive coverage, you must pay for the upgraded “Standard Policy”. The Standard policy, in addition to PIP and property damage liability, includes bodily injury liability. Thus, if you cause an accident where other drivers or passengers are injured, you will not be financially responsible for the losses uncovered by their own PIP insurance.
No-Fault Auto Insurance State
Now that you have a better idea of the auto insurance requirements, you typically must contact your own insurance company to pay for medical expenses or other losses that arise from a car accident before you can pursue compensation from another party. This is because New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state. One of the benefits to utilizing this system is that medical expenses are paid quickly. Essentially, this system eliminates the extensive period of waiting for reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical bills and other expenses.
On the other hand, however, the no-fault auto insurance system limits rights to sue for pain and suffering, unless you are suffering from major injuries. This will be touched on further under the “Rights to Sue an At-Fault Party” section.
Modified Comparative Negligence Standards
If you choose to pursue further compensation, more than your insurance policy has allotted you, you will run into the modified comparative negligence standard that New Jersey applies to all personal injury cases. Under the modified comparative negligence standard, each party involved in a car accident will be given a percentage of fault.
Generally, the jury is asked to calculate two things: total dollar amount of damages and percentage of fault based on the evidence they are given. If the jury concludes the plaintiff (person suing) should be awarded $10,000 in damages, but also that the plaintiff was 20% at fault, the plaintiff will then receive 80% of the damages amount. In other words, the plaintiff would receive only $8,000 of the calculated $10,000 in damages. The “modified” portion of these comparative negligence standards refers to the rule that if you are more than 50% at-fault you cannot receive any compensation from any other at-fault party.
Rights to Sue an At-Fault Party?
With all the limitations and insurance requirements it can be confusing to decifier if you do, in fact, have the right to sue following a car crash in New Jersey. First and foremost, we want to reiterate that typically you must report the accident to your own insurance company for relief before you can pursue a lawsuit. Moreover, if you are over 50% at-fault for the accident, you will not be awarded any compensation for damages by another at-fault party. In this case, capitalizing on your no-fault insurance money is your best bet. Lastly, it is important to note the statute of limitation in New Jersey requires that any lawsuit regarding a car accident is filed within two years of the accident happening.
So, assuming you are less than 50% at fault, within the statute of limitations, and have already reported the accident to your insurance, do you have the right to sue? Yet again, this mostly depends on your insurance policy. With the Basic policy you automatically commit to “limited rights to sue”. If you purchased the Standard policy, you choose between the cheaper “limited rights to sue” option or the more expensive “unlimited rights to sue” option.
Limited Rights to Sue
Under the “limited rights to sue” options, you can only sue if the accident caused you, the injured person, to suffer loss of a body part, significant disfigurement, significant scarring, a displaced fracture, loss of a fetus, permanent injury, or death.
Unlimited Rights to Sue
Paying for the “unlimited rights to sue” option puts all options on the table post car accidents. Meaning, no matter the extent of the resulting injuries, you can sue the other at-fault driver. Additionally, the limits on suing for pain and suffering are nonexistent. Therefore, with the “unlimited rights to sue” option you have the potential to recover compensation for all economic and non-economic losses resulting from the accident.
Need Legal Representation?
Clearly, your rights post car accidents are complex and reliant on a multitude of factors. If you are looking for more guidance specific to your case, it may be time to contact an attorney. David Kaplan, a New Jersey attorney at law, has dedicated his 30+ year career to crafting successful personal injury cases. He has won over $10 million in verdicts and truly cares about bringing you the justice you deserve. Visit his website for more information, or to schedule a free case evaluation.