When is an Auto Accident a Personal Injury Case?
If you or a member of your family has recently been in an accident, don’t wait to report it. It’s certain that the insurance company for the other side has already started out work against you. In fact, you have an obligation to report all automobile accidents to your insurer, and generally should report all injury causing accidents to the responsible party. However, you also need to immediately report your accident to someone on your side. To protect your interest, the facts of your case should be quickly and clearly related to a qualified experienced attorney. Most important: Call the Police and have them make a report, and bring that report to your attorney.
Don’t delay in obtaining a consultation because you’re not sure there are no witnesses or because you hit “the other car.” You may still have a case. A legal investigator can locate witnesses, obtain photographs and uncover evidence helpful to you case before conditions change.
Even without an investigator there are certain, easily recognizable circumstances, that can indicate a possible winning case. Perhaps one of these situation describes your accident:
Rear-end hit – Usually the rear car is found to be at fault but if a car in front stops suddenly for no good reason with non-working brake lights or is backing up, that can be an exception.
Left-hand turn – When a car turning left is struck by an oncoming vehicle proceeding in the opposite direction, the turning car will likely be found at fault. This may be so even when the oncoming car is exceeding the speed limit. Point of impact will figure significantly in determination of fault.
Stop sign – A car entering an intersection without heeding the stop sign will more than likely be found at fault when the intersecting traffic is unregulated by signs or other signals.
Uncontrolled intersections – When all vehicles have equal responsibility for making proper observations, cases are decided on the basis of factors such as visual obstructions, respective speed of the involved vehicles, points of impact, arrival sequence and driver familiarity with the intersection.
Hit-and-run accidents – Pedestrians, passengers and drivers injured in hit-and-run accidents will almost always recover damages. Where the striking car or driver cannot be identified, damages are generally paid by the victim’s own insurance carrier under the uninsured motorist provision of his/her insurance policy or by a special State fund that pays up to $15,000 plus medical bills. Notification must be made within 90 days to qualify for the State fund, so consult an attorney immediately.
Passengers – Passengers are almost always entitled to damages if they are injured. Keep in mind that some circumstances necessitate prompt legal attention, particularly where the victim is a public transit rider or when an uninsured or underinsured driver is involved.
Pedestrians – In New Jersey both driver and pedestrian have obligations to make proper observations. Fault in these cases is determined after a thorough investigation. If you are a pedestrian, the earlier you seek legal help the more likely it is that you will recover money damages.
Choosing the Best Auto Insurance Basic Policies and Tort Threshold
Traditionally, standard auto insurance with three types of coverage is required in New Jersey. “Personal injury protection coverage” covers medical expenses incurred as a result of injuries from an accident, up to $250,000. It also covers lost wages and essential services, which you can tailor to meet your particular needs and your budget. Uninsured/underinsured coverage protects you and the members of your household if injured in a personal injury accident with a “hit-and-run” driver or one that has no insurance, or if the insurance coverage which you purchased exceeds that of a negligent driver. Finally, liability coverage protects your assets and property should you negligently cause injury or property damage to another. It provides for a defense lawyer at no additional cost, and the amount of coverage can be tailored to meet your needs and your budget. You may also choose to purchase an “umbrella policy”, which provides additional liability (and sometimes uninsured/underinsured) coverage, for a modest additional premium.
“Tort Threshold” Every auto policy in Livingston, New Jersey has either a “no limitation on lawsuit” or a “limitation on lawsuit” threshold. If you purchase the “no limitation” option, you may file a claim regardless of the nature of the injuries you sustain. You must affirmatively choose this option, and it will add approximately $300 to your premium. On the other hand, all other standard policies and basic policies receive the “limitation on lawsuit:option”. If you have such a policy, you must prove that the accident caused death, dismemberment, loss of fetus, significant disfigurement or scarring, a displaced fracture or a permanent injury resulting in function loss. In addition, you must obtain a doctor’s sworn statement that such an injury was caused by the accident in order to recover damages. Since the law provides that doctors can be prosecuted if such a statement is found to be “misleading”, many doctors are reluctant to provide these statements. Since the introduction of such thresholds in Livingston, New Jersey, many legitimate injury claims have been dismissed by judges who have found that these technical requirements were not met. Despite the additional cost, it is very important to choose the “no limitation on lawsuit” option.