Automobile accidents happen so fast that we usually don’t see them coming until it’s too late leaving us little, or no, time to react. Accidents, while being upsetting, disconcerting, and possibly very painful happen at a surprising frequent rate.
Indeed, there are more than 6 million automobile accidents in America every year. Shockingly, almost 90 people die in car accidents every single day. Furthermore, out of those annual automobile accidents, about 2 million people suffer permanent injuries. And, as if those numbers aren’t bad enough most of these people were harmed due to driver negligence. In other words, many of these accidents didn’t have to happen.
An automobile accident can result in shock, confusion, stress, and physical pain. It can be hard to know how to manage yourself when an accident happens, but the things you do and don’t do at the scene and afterward can have a huge impact on how your claim for compensation works out.
If you’re injured in an accident there are things you need to do regardless of where it happens. And, there are things you need to know, and do, that are unique to being injured in an accident in New Jersey. Here’s what to do following an auto accident to make sure you get the compensation, support, and treatment you need.
Report the Accident
The first thing you should do at the scene of the accident is call 911 and report the accident. In New Jersey you are required by law to report any accident involving injury, death, or over $500 worth of damage to vehicles or property. If severely injured an ambulance should be requested during the 911 call which will take you to a hospital for treatment.
In New Jersey it’s required for drivers to exchange information, such as name, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance company and policy number. Aside from that it is best to limit your contact with the other driver and avoid making statements about what caused the accident or how much insurance coverage you carry.
See a Doctor Right After the Car Accident
If you are not too severely injured in an accident and don’t get taken to a hospital you should schedule an appointment with your own doctor as soon as possible after the accident. In New Jersey you have the right to see whatever doctor you want, so don’t let the insurance adjuster choose a doctor for you. Although you may feel fine or think your injuries aren’t very serious, symptoms such as pain, numbness, dizziness, and discomfort can emerge days after the accident:
Getting medical attention quickly is not just the right thing to do for your health; it will also strengthen any personal injury claim you might have. If you wait too long after the accident to seek medical attention, it will be harder to prove that your injuries were the result of the automobile accident.
Collect Evidence at the Scene
If you are physically able to do so, take pictures of the scene of the accident. This includes the damage to all vehicles involved, skid marks, debris and any surrounding damage. Although the police, and later insurance companies and attorneys, may conduct a more thorough investigation, sometimes important evidence can be cleaned up or washed away before it can be properly documented.
Write down anything that might seem important, such as the weather conditions at the time, traffic conditions, and so on. These notes can help your attorney and can also help you recall details of the accident. If there were any witnesses of the accident, see if you can get a statement from them about what they saw, and get their contact information.
Give the Police a Statement
Unless the property damage is minor and there are no injuries, the police should be called to the scene. Make sure that the police take your statement and that you give them a detailed account of what caused the accident. If you can’t give a statement to the police at the scene of the accident furnish a statement to the police at your earliest opportunity.
Request a copy of the police report when it becomes available. Review the report, and if you see anything you that’s not think accurate, ask to provide additional information to the report.
Call your Insurance Company
Most insurance policies require you to notify them anytime you have been in an accident. Whether your claim will ultimately be handled by your own insurance company or the other driver’s, or whether you will need your insurance company to defend you in court, following the procedures set out in your policy is important to protect your rights and make sure you get the coverage you paid for.
Now, we’re going to take a look at some New Jersey-specific laws and liability rules you need to be aware of.
New Jersey Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
All states have limits on the amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit after you’ve suffered some type of harm. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person two years to go to court and file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for the harm. The clock starts ticking on the day of the accident that caused the injury.
If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the two-year window closes, the New Jersey court system will likely refuse to hear your case, and your right to compensation will be lost, unless some exception applies to effectively extend the deadline.
New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Rule
In some personal injury cases, the party you’re trying to hold responsible for your injuries may claim that you’re partially to blame. If you do share some amount of fault for the accident, it may end up influencing the amount of compensation you can receive.
In shared fault injury cases, New Jersey follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means that if your personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, the amount of compensation you’re entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault for the accident. But if you’re found to bear more than 50 percent of the legal blame, you can’t collect anything at all from other at-fault parties.
New Jersey’s “Choice No-Fault” Car Insurance System
In car accident cases only, New Jersey follows a so-called “choice no-fault” system. Vehicle owners in New Jersey purchasing car insurance can choose between a Basic and Standard policy.
The Basic policy is a form of no-fault car insurance, which means any injury claim after a car accident must be made with the injured driver’s own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, regardless of who caused the accident. A PIP claim won’t include compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, but it expedites the payment of most covered out-of-pocket losses.
In New Jersey, an injured person can only step outside the no-fault/PIP system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if the crash resulted in the loss of a body part, significant scarring or disfigurement, a displaced fracture, the loss of a fetus, permanent injury, or death.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Car Accident Attorney
The sooner you contact a lawyer, the faster you can get your case started to collect compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other legal damages caused by the accident. Additionally, getting a lawyer will make sure you don’t waive important rights or make mistakes that can jeopardize your case.
Attorneys are trained in collecting and presenting evidence to prove our clients’ personal injury claims. In fact, our firm has over 35 years of experience doing exactly that, and we are ready to put that experience to work for you!
A Final Word
When someone is injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, it is only right that they receive the justice they deserve. If you have been injured in a car accident, The Law Firm of Steven Ellman is here to guide you through the legal process, protecting your rights every step of the way. Our singular purpose is to look out for you and make sure you are treated fairly throughout the entire process.
So, if you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, please contact our firm to discuss your case.