We understand that you are likely very stressed as you try to make sense of your situation, which is why we are so happy to offer you a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.
Contact us as soon as possible so that you can partner with an experienced legal professional who will help guide you through the complex process of filing an insurance claim, performing your own investigation into the situation, and negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit. This process will be discussed in greater detail below, along with some additional helpful information that can give you a better idea of how personal injury cases work, common situations that end up with personal injury claims, and how your lawyer will be able to help you fight for what you deserve.
Understanding Personal Injuries
To know whether or not you have a right to seek compensation after an accident, it helps to understand what a personal injury is, to begin with. There are a lot of specific and confusing terms that you will hear in the early days of your work with your lawyer that will all begin to make sense after a while, but we try to discuss a few of the big ones below. Keep in mind that there are many different factors about your personal injury, as with all personal injuries, that make it unique – the following information is simply intended to provide you with some general information to get started with.
What Is a Personal Injury?
A good place to start is to understand what a personal injury actually is. The most simple definition is that a personal injury is an injury to the person, physically, mentally, and emotionally, as opposed to damage to property. However, this does not mean that a personal injury claim is warranted after any injury that someone suffers.
In order for the injury to be covered by tort law in New Jersey, there must be a few defining factors present in the situation:
- Someone (the defendant in a personal injury claim) had a “duty of care,” which is a standard of care expected when someone is performing any activity that could result in injury to others. For example: when you drive, you have a duty of care to others on the road including following the speed limit and not driving drunk.
- There was a failure to adhere to the duty of care. When someone decides to drive a motor vehicle while drunk, they have failed to uphold their duty of care to the people who they share the road with. This puts everyone in a dangerous situation because of this disregard of their responsibility.
- The breach of the duty of care caused an accident. When someone drives home drunk from a bar, they are violating state and federal laws that can result in criminal charges if the driver is caught. However, if no accident happens, and there are no injuries as a result, then there is no victim of a personal injury.
- The accident caused measurable damages. If a drunk driver comes to a rolling stop at a red light and causes a very minor fender bender where there are no injuries or damages that result from the collision, then again, the driver is in violation of a variety of laws, but there are no personal injuries with which to form a lawsuit around. If, however, the drunk driving causes an accident that people are injured in, then they are liable for the damages.
As you can imagine from these basic factors of a personal injury, there are many different ways that someone can be injured and be able to seek compensation from the responsible party through a personal injury claim or a lawsuit.
What Recourse Does a Victim of a Personal Injury Have?
Now that we have established the basics of what a personal injury is, the next step is to understand what a victim can do if they are hurt because of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or malice. The good news is that as a victim of a personal injury, United States’ tort laws lays out a clear path for the plaintiff to seek compensatory damages from the responsible party (or the insurance company covering the accident with a liability policy).
After an accident, the victim will be able to either file a claim with the insurance company or will be able to file a lawsuit directly against the defendant if they do not have an insurance policy protecting them from liability in the case. Regardless, the victim is entitled to compensation that includes things like medical bills and lost wages, but extends far past these obvious impacts and seeks further compensation for things like pain and suffering, and other emotional trauma.
Calculating Damages After a Personal Injury
Calculating the damages that a victim is entitled to after a personal injury is a fairly complicated process, and should be left to a personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of these types of cases. Once calculated, you (or better, your attorney) will need to negotiate directly with the insurance company, the defendant, or their legal representation in the hopes of reaching a settlement agreement, therefore avoiding a costly and lengthy court battle stemming from a lawsuit.
Economic damages are the basis of a personal injury case because they seek compensation for the measurable financial costs and losses that the victim has experienced as a result of the accident. They include things such as medical bills and all other costs associated with the injury (including copayments, physical therapy, medical assistive devices like crutches or wheelchairs), and lost wages for any missed work or decreased earning capacity.
In addition, economic damages also seek out repayment for any services that the victim must hire that they would have done themselves had they not been injured, such as grocery shopping, driving, cleaning, and childcare. Your lawyer will be able to help you understand what you can include in these damages and will be sure that no economic damages are left unaccounted for.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate, AND to negotiate, given the abstract nature of these damages. Non-economic damages seek compensation for the physical, emotional, and physiological impacts of an injury – things like pain and suffering, fear, depression, and anxiety. These damages do not come with dollar values or simple methods to quantify them, meaning that you and your attorney will need to work closely in order to reach a calculation that will hold up in court.
There are many different ways that an attorney calculates these damages, but one common method is by using a multiplier. This works by accounting for all of your non-economic damages and then identifying the severity along a scale, such as 0-5 with 0 being no damages and 5 being the worst damages imaginable. Once this number is determined, it is multiplied against the economic damages to reach an actual monetary value.
Seeking Compensation After a Personal Injury in New Jersey
Now that you understand what a personal injury is and how the damages are calculated, the following information is about how you can go about getting that compensation from the defendant or their insurance company. This process can be frustrating and complicated, but luckily your attorney will be able to handle it all while you are able to focus on getting your life back on track after your accident.
In many situations, you will be able to file a claim with an insurance company that the defendant has a policy with. This process, on the surface, is simple enough: you submit a claim to the insurance company, and they assign a claims adjuster who spends the next few weeks investigating the situation so that they can pay you with a check meant to cover your damages. Simple, right? Think again.
The unfortunate reality about an insurance claim is that the insurance company has a vested interest in paying as little as possible for a claim. If insurance companies paid victims what they were actually entitled to, the company would quickly go out of business. Instead, the adjuster will use their investigation to identify every possible reason to reduce your settlement amount. Once the investigation is complete, your attorney will need to initiate a series of negotiations in an attempt to close the gap between your own calculations and the insurance company’s offer.
If you and your attorney have reached an impasse with the insurance company during negotiations and are still unable to agree on a settlement amount, the next step is to either accept the low settlement or file an official lawsuit in the New Jersey courts. Even then, there is no certainty that you will have to go to trial, as there is a long and involved process that you and your attorney will need to go through in preparation. In some estimates, fewer than 50% of lawsuits make it to trial.
If the defendant does not have an insurance policy protecting them from liability, you will need to work with your attorney to determine whether you should attempt to negotiate a settlement directly with them, or if you should immediately file a lawsuit. Remember that seeking compensation directly from a defendant, there is no guarantee that they will actually be able to pay the damages awarded to you.
Common Causes of Personal Injuries in New Jersey
The following are just a few examples of common causes of personal injury in New Jersey. Whether or not you see an example of your own situation listed below, contact us now to talk to an attorney who can help you make sense of your case as soon as possible.
Car accidents are the most common causes of personal injuries of all; in fact, New Jersey had a total of 61,043 car accidents that reported injuries in 2018, many of which certainly resulted in insurance claims.
Pedestrian and Cycling Accidents
Walking and cycling are both great ways to get out and enjoy the fresh air, commute, and get exercise; however, even the safest pedestrian or bike rider is not guaranteed to be safe from being hurt in an accident. Each year, around 2% of all traffic deaths are cyclists, and 17% of all traffic deaths are pedestrians.
Medical malpractice is a serious issue that results from a doctor or other medical professional failing to uphold their duty of care to a patient. There are many different ways that these failures can occur, including failures to diagnose illness, improper treatments, surgical mixups, or prescription errors.
When you buy a product, you have every right to expect that the manufacturer has taken the appropriate steps to warn you of inherent dangers and provide you with clear operating instructions. Sometimes, the product fails to work as expected, and due to a defect or a failure to warn you of a certain risk, you are injured at no fault of your own.
Slip and Fall
When you are on someone else’s property, you have a right to expect that they have taken appropriate measures to ensure your safety, by doing things such as fixing any serious hazards, warning you of safety issues that they are unable to repair for your visit, and maintaining the area in a way that keeps you free from harm. Slipping on an icy walkway that should have been shoveled and salted is a great example of a slip and fall.
Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injuries
The following are just a few of the most common questions that attorneys answer during initial consultations about personal injuries. Keep in mind that the answers we have provided are very general, but you can get specific answers in context to your own situation by working directly with an attorney as soon as possible.
In order to determine whether or not you have legal rights to compensation for an injury, you must first determine who was at fault for the accident, and what type of liability they have for your injuries. This can be done by working with an attorney who can look at the whole picture and give you a clear understanding of your options moving forward.
In order to calculate your personal injury damages, you will need to add all of the economic damages up that you have suffered, including your lost wages and impacts to your earnings, your medical bills, and other injury-related expenses, and all other changes to your financial situation that are the direct result of your injuries. In addition, you are entitled to non-economic damages that are far more complicated to calculate and should be left to an attorney.
Some studies estimate that as few as 5% of personal injury claims ultimately make it to trial, either due to being settled before a lawsuit is filed, or both parties agreeing to a settlement during the trial. Trials are often the last resort, as it takes the control out of the hands of the plaintiff and defendant and into the hands of a judge or jury. However, punitive damages are only awarded by a judge or jury, so if you and your lawyer believe that your case may deserve these specific damages, then a trial may be a good option.
You should hire an attorney after a personal injury the first moment that you are able to stop focusing on your medical needs. If you are able to hire a lawyer BEFORE you file a claim, you can be confident that each and every communication between you and the insurance company is done through an experienced legal professional who is focused on your representing your interests and maximizing your compensation for your injuries.