Personal injury law in New Jersey can be defined as any bodily injury or emotional distress a person suffers. When that harm is caused in whole or part by another party’s negligent, careless, reckless, or intentional behavior, then the injured party may be entitled to collect compensation.
In order to learn more about your rights and what you can do to protect those rights, it is important that you understand some basic facts about personal injury law in New Jersey.
Personal injury law is a branch of civil law that deals with legal disputes that arise when one party, the plaintiff, holds another party, the defendant, responsible for harm suffered as a result of an accident. In order to receive compensation, or damages, from the defendant, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was, in fact, at fault.
Read more: New Jersey Personal Injury Law
Negligence plays an important role in personal injury law. It is assumed that we have the right to expect others to b
ehave in responsible, safe ways. If someone acts in a careless or reckless manner and that behavior results in harm to another person, then that behavior is a form of negligence.
Although most personal injury cases are based on the concept of negligence, there are some instances where strict liability is in play.
Examples of strict liability: If an injury was caused by a defective product, the plaintiff does not have to show negligence. Instead the plaintiff must show that the product was unsafe when used as intended. If this is done, then the designer and/or manufacturer of the product will be held responsible. Also, strict liability applies to injuries sustained as the result of a dog bite in New Jersey.
Of course, the first thing you should do when injured is to seek medical assistance. However, if you believe that your injury was due to someone else’s negligence, then as soon as possible you or someone acting on your behalf should think about contacting a NJ personal injury lawyer.
Before doing so, think about the following questions. The answers to them will help your attorney evaluate your case and advise you as to the best way to proceed.
- How serious were your injuries?
- Did your behavior contribute in any way to the accident?
- What medical expenses did you incur?
- Did your insurance cover those expenses?
- Were you required to purchase any special medical devices or equipment?
- How much pain and suffering did you endure?
- Are you still suffering?
- Did you lose wages because of your injury?
- Are you now able to work? If not, is this inability permanent?
- Have your lifestyle and relationships changed because of your injury?
According to the New Jersey Statute of Limitations, most personal injury cases must be filed within two years of the occurrence of the injury. Rules for minors vary as do the rules when a municipality, a county, or the state is involved. You should consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the injury to be sure you stay within the time limitations.
If your personal injury lawyer decides that you have a strong case, then the next step is to file a lawsuit.
Once the lawsuit has been filed, the next step is the discovery process. During this period of time each side investigates the allegations of the other side. The process can take several months or longer depending upon the complexity of the case.
To seek the needed proof that the harm was caused by the other party or to refute that allegation, the attorneys for both the plaintiff and the defendant will do all or some of the following:
- interview witnesses, including the plaintiff and the defendant;
- examine medical reports and bills;
- take photographs of the scene;
- look for evidence of any conditions that might have contributed to the accident; and
- do anything else that might help throw light on the case.
If the insurance adjuster or the judge is convinced that the injuries are real, that substantial medical treatment was necessary, and that the defendant’s behavior was wholly or partially to blame, then the next step will be to determine how much, if anything, the defendant will have to pay in damages.
The two main issues in a personal injury case are liability and damages.
Before damages can be considered, the plaintiff must be able to prove the following crucial elements:
- He or she suffered damages.
- The damages were caused by the negligent behavior of the party being asked to provide compensation.
The amount of money that a defendant must pay to a plaintiff in a lawsuit is known as damages. When deciding what compensation is warranted, the judge or insurance adjuster will want to know the same type of information that your attorney requested when you first met.
Not all cases go to trial. In fact, most personal injury cases are resolved through negotiation between the plaintiff’s attorney and the attorney representing the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company.
If the two sides can agree to the amount of compensation, then the matter can be resolved with a settlement agreement.
If the parties are unable to agree on the terms of a settlement, then the case will proceed to court.
It is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after your injury. Your lawyer will evaluate your case to determine whether or not you have a strong case. Look for an attorney who will agree that you will not pay unless you are awarded compensatory damages.