New Jersey is notorious for its excessive number of car accidents, but despite the frequency of accidents, there is a lot that most people don’t know about state laws when it comes to car crash settlements. All too often, this lack of knowledge leads victims to settle prematurely or not bring a case at all, leaving them with thousands of dollars or more in unpaid medical bills and other expenses they are entitled to. As New Jersey car accident attorneys, the team at Buttafuoco & Associates has significant experience helping people get the settlements they deserve. If you need help managing your car accident settlement, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.
Fact #1: New Jersey is a “No Fault” Insurance State
“No fault” insurance states, where the victim’s personal injury protection insurance (PIP) covers their injuries regardless of who was at fault, are rare: only 12 states in the country have these laws in place, and many New Jersians don’t know that ours is one of them.
Under no-fault laws, New Jersey drivers MUST carry a minimum of $15,000 in PIP insurance. This covers any medical expenses, lost income, or other financial losses you incur as part of your accident. This might sound like it would make things simpler after an accident, but it’s important to keep in mind that $15,000 is not a lot of coverage for a serious accident. Because of this, many drivers carry insurance beyond the minimum requirement. And all drivers would be well-advised to carry liability insurance in case they cause an accident and the other driver’s PIP coverage isn’t sufficient to cover all damages. (In this case, the driver who is at fault has to pay any amount beyond the $15,000.)
Another key aspect of no-fault laws that many people aren’t aware of, is that in most cases if you have only basic insurance, you will not be able to file a claim in court. This can become especially problematic if the insurance company refuses to pay for injuries, or the at-fault driver carries only the minimum (or no insurance at all) and can’t pay additional damages beyond it. If you find yourself in a complicated scenario in regard to no-fault insurance, it is a good idea to connect with a car accident lawyer serving Northern New Jersey right away. Buttafuoco & Associates is happy to answer any questions you have about this process and explain the best course of action to take.
Fact #2: There are Times when you Can (and Should) File a Case
In many scenarios, you have a limited right to sue after a motor vehicle accident, but this largely depends on what type of insurance you have. If you have “basic” car insurance, you waive your right to pursue a case except in the case that you sustain very serious injuries in a crash. However, what is considered a “serious” injury under New Jersey law is often quite different from what a victim would consider serious. In order to qualify as a serious injury, your case must involve one of the following:
- Permanent injury
- Severe disfigurement and/or scarring
- Loss of a body part
- Loss of a fetus
As you can see, these are among the most dire and life-altering consequences one can experience after an accident. But if your case does meet this threshold, you can file a claim for financial losses AND mental and emotional pain and suffering. Another situation where you can file a case is if you have a “standard” insurance policy that gives you the right to sue. The premiums for these policies are significantly higher, but if you have one, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to ensure that you receive full compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, and other expenses. Even with a strong policy in place, however, insurance companies will try to avoid paying you what you deserve. Since all of this can be quite complicated, the best way to learn more about whether you have a case is to ask a qualified car accident attorney in Northern New Jersey.
Fact #3: Most Car Accident Settlements Don’t go to Trial
In part, New Jersey accident settlements don’t typically go to trial because they are handled by insurance companies under no-fault laws. But even once a legal case is filed, more often than not, it won’t go to court.
Settlements are popular because once a victim takes a case to trial, they face the possibility of losing. With a settlement, on the other hand, compensation for damages is essentially guaranteed and it resolves more quickly and easily than it would at trial. You also avoid the stress of going to court, paying attorney fees, or being present during a lengthy court case. Usually, the lawsuit is dropped and a mutually agreeable negotiation is undertaken, led by a knowledgeable attorney who can help you fully exercise your rights and get full compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, car repairs, lost wages, and other expenses directly incurred from the accident.
So if you are considering NOT filing a lawsuit simply because the hassle of court looms too large, you may want to speak with a lawyer who can offer guidance. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch at 1-800-NOW-HURT.
Fact #4: You Can Recover Damages Even if You’re At Fault
Another key fact about New Jersey car accidents that many people don’t know is that even if you were partly at fault for the accident, you can still recover damages. This is called “modified comparative negligence” in legal terms. If it is determined that your portion of the fault is 50 percent or less, you can still recover damages. In a nutshell, the total amount you recover will be reduced by the percentage you are considered responsible.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you qualify, our team would be happy to help you answer that question.
Fact #5: You Have Two Years to File a Case
Many victims are surprised to learn that they have up to two years after the date of their accident to file a personal injury claim. In addition, you have six years to file a claim for property damage. Knowing the law is crucial to filing your case on time, so it’s a good idea to consult with a Northern New Jersey car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.
Cases can take some time to file, so it is best to consult with a lawyer immediately. Even if your insurance claim is still pending, don’t wait: get in touch with an attorney to discuss your case. If the claim is denied, you may not have enough time to get a lawyer on your team.
At Buttafuoco & Associates, we have helped many people over our 40 years in the area. Even if you aren’t sure whether you have a case, we can answer your questions and help you understand your legal rights. We believe in treating each and every client like a part of our family, and will do the same for you.
Get in touch today with your questions at 1-800-NOW-HURT.