Frequently Asked Questions
If you have been involved in an accident and you believe another person or company is at fault, you probably have a ton of questions. As New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyers, we answer a lot of questions. Below are just a few that we hear all the time that we hope will help get you started on answering those questions. Always, we are a phone call away and ready to help give you the best advice for your situation.
1. Should I File a Personal Injury Case or Claim?
A huge concern in personal injury cases is people feeling wrong about bringing a claim for injuries they sustain as the result of the negligence of another. Some of my clients come into the office and they feel uneasy about pursuing money for personal injury they sustain in an accident. Recovery of money for the negligence of another is a well settled right under our laws. Many times, in not pursuing your just compensation you are only helping insurance companies and hurting your family and yourself.
First, you can pursue a claim for personal injury without filing suit or a legal action. Many personal cases are settled without a lawsuit of legal action with the insurance company or defendant settling before any case is filed. Unfortunately, because many insurance companies are unreasonable, cases do wind up in a lawsuit or litigation in order to force them to pay. Some factors you should consider in whether to pursue a claim are:
- Whether someone else was at fault in some way;
- Whether you are seriously injured with a permanent or temporary injury;
- Whether you have received treatment for the injury and the length and duration of that treatment;
- Whether you have lost time from work or school;
- Whether you have medical bills resulting from the injury;
- Whether you are limited in your ability to perform your job or normal activities as the result of the injury in any way.
If these factors do not weigh heavily, then perhaps you want to consider whether you want to do something about the injuries. On the other hand if these factors weigh heavily, then you most likely want to pursue a claim.
NJ Recognizes Full Recovery for Damages from Personal Injury
Always remember that you are not doing anything wrong in pursuing a claim for personal injury. Our law allows for full recovery of a loss a person sustains in order to put them back to the same position - as much as money can do - to where they were before the accident or injury. You did not ask to be injured as the result of someone else's negligence. At a minimum, it cannot hurt to speak to a personal injury attorney in one of our New Jersey offices and go over the pros and cons of bringing a claim for your injuries. The consultation is free and confidential.
2. Should I talk to the Insurance Company without a lawyer?
NO. With potential personal injury claims, insurance companies are becoming more and more aggressive with taking statements from victims of accidents. Our advice to anyone injured as the result of some type of accident or fall is to never give a statement either verbally or written without input from an attorney. We have recently had cases in New Jersey where insurance company representatives or investigators are at an injured client's home within a week after the accident taking a statement. Since it is so early after the accident, many people have not even consulted with an attorney as of yet.
You Can Refuse to Give the Statement Without an Attorney
Many times, the client is still having problems from the accident and not in the best frame of mind. The insurance representative will write out the statement in their own words, which are of course favorable to the insurance company and not the injured client. Believe me, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interest. The insurance company is trying to do damage to the claim you may have as the result of being injured. You do have the option of telling them to get lost and you will not give a statement.
If you are going to give a statement, make sure an attorney reviews that statement first. If you are asked to give a taped statement, have an attorney with you. Allstate Insurance is one of the worst and most aggressive in having investigators go right out and take statements. You are not in "good hands" with Allstate so be careful.
3. How Do You Know How Much Your Injuries Are Worth?
This is probably one of our most difficult questions to answer - especially in the beginning of a case. Every case is different and evaluating a claim is a dynamic and involved process. Much of the evaluation depends upon how injuries heal and if they heal properly. Clients typically want us to come up with a number to value their injuries. Because it depends a lot on how injuries heal, it is difficult to give a number at the beginning of a case. To be sure, the most important part of your personal injury case is figuring out how much your injuries resulting from an accident are worth. Hopefully, there is insurance in place to cover the injuries that occurred. Bottom line is that if your quality of life is affected and you have suffered personal injury because of the fault of another, our New Jersey law recognizes that you are entitled to compensation or money for those injuries. For more information on this topic read our blog.
4. What type of analysis on the personal injuries is performed in arriving at the amount of compensation?
Let us first analyze what type of things you are entitled to be compensated for. When you sustain injuries, here is a brief list of things to consider in evaluating the monetary value of your claim:
- What is the impact on the quality of life
- How high are the medical care costs and expenses
- Future medical care and potential medical bills
- How much lost income or time away from work will there be
- Will this impact the ability to work in the future
- Time lost because of your treatment for injuries
- Is there any permanent physical disability, discomfort, pain or disfigurement
- Loss of quality of life, such as family, social, educational experiences, hobbies, interference with physical activities
- Emotional damages, such as stress, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, or strains on family relationships -- for example, the inability to take care of children, anxiety over the effects of an accident, or interference with sexual relations
- What is the effect on the spouse and how much a spouse may have to take care of the injured party
- Was there any Property Damage
When determining compensation, it is easier to add up numbers on things such as lost wages and damage to property. The difficult part is putting a value on the intangible losses that result from injury, such as pain and suffering and the loss of quality of life. These are actually the more important parts of the loss and where an experienced personal injury lawyer can really help you.
Insurance companies are always trying to keep the number on a claim down because the lower the pay out the more profit they make. By contrast, our New Jersey and New York lawyers in our firm want the highest number possible for our clients. From an insurance company perspective, an insurance company adds up the medical expenses related to the injury. The insurance adjuster will start with that medical expense figure in analyzing from their end how much to pay the injured person for pain, suffering, and other non-monetary losses.
If the injuries are minor, an insurance company will take the medical expense and multiply by a factor as low as 2. If more serious and permanent injuries are involved, the insurance company will multiply the medical expenses by a factor of 5 to 10. In addition, the insurance company will usually allow for the amount of provable lost wages.
On behalf of personal injury clients, our law firm argues against such stringent formulas of the insurance companies and seeks to obtain more money. It is helpful, however, to know how the insurance companies value the personal injury claim.
5. How do you determine Percentage of Fault?
In New Jersey and certain states, the extent each person's fault is an important factor affecting how much the insurance company is likely to pay. You may have to reduce the ultimate damage or compensation number by the percentage of fault of the injured person. For example, in an auto accident where the person hurt was 20% at fault for the accident and has $10,000 in total damages, their damages would be reduced to $2,000 based upon their percentage of fault. Thus, they would be entitled to $8,000.
Determining fault for an accident is never an exact science. This is where creative lawyering is critical.
With any personal injury case, our law firm prides itself on putting ourselves in the shoes of the injured person and understanding every aspect of how the injury has affected their life. This analysis is critical in effectively valuing the loss and damage the person has sustained.
6. Is there a Statute of Limitations for filing a Personal Injury claim in New Jersey?
Yes. A person has a limited amount of time to sue for personal injuries. The Statute of Limitations is a law that sets forth the time period by which a lawsuit must be filed. If a plaintiff (the person filing the suit) fails to file the lawsuit within the defined period of time, then the plaintiff will likely be barred from pursuing the case further.
New Jersey law has various statutes that govern how long you have to file a lawsuit. The time limits within which one must file a lawsuit can be found in various statutes, including, but not limited to, the New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.) at N.J.S.A. 2A:14 and N.J.S.A. 2A:31 (wrongful death actions).
Examples of Statutes of Limitations in New Jersey:
- New Jersey Personal Injury Lawsuits.
For adults these lawsuits must be filed within 2 years from the date of the injury. For example, if you are involved in a car accident or slip and fall, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident that you suffered that injury. For Minors, these lawsuits must be filed within 2 years of the person's 18th birthday.
- New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.
If you are over 18 years of age you have 2 years from the time that a person could or should have known that malpractice was committed;
Minors - within 2 years of the person's 18th birthday (except for injuries which occurred at birth, see below); Minors (for injury at birth, only if born before July 2004) - within 2 years of the person's 18th birthday; Minors (for injury at birth, only if born after July 2004) - by the person's 13th birthday.
- New Jersey Wrongful Death Claims.
These lawsuits must be started within 2 years of the decedent's date of death (claims for pain and suffering prior to death must be brought within the 2 year time limits set forth above).
- Requirements for lawsuits against Public Entities, County, State or Municipal entities or affiliated institutions:
An adult must file a Notice of Tort Claim within 90 days of the occurrence;
A Minor must file a Notice of Tort Claim no later than within 90 days of the person's 18th or 13th birthday (depending upon whether or not there is a medical malpractice claim for an injury which occurred at birth - see above). After the tort claim notice is properly filed an adult has two years from the date of accident or occurrence to file a lawsuit and a minor two years from their 18th birthday or as set forth above in Medical Malpractice cases.
- New Jersey Product Liability Lawsuits.
Within 2 years of the date of occurrence . For more comprehensive and updated information with regard to mandated requirements applicable to Statutes of Limitations, always consult with an attorney in New Jersey. To read applicable sections of N.J.S.A. 2A:14 and N.J.S.A. 2A:31 (under Title 2A), log on to the New Jersey State Legislature Database. There are various nuances and potential exceptions, such as a legal principle called the discovery rule, which could extend the statute of limitations. The facts of each case must be discussed in detail with a personal injury attorney in order to evaluate the proper time limitations.
7. Can Insurance Companies use my Social Media postings against me?
YES!!! Be careful when involved in personal injury lawsuits or any litigation about posting information on social networking sites, such as Facebook. You may be seriously injured and post some seemingly innocent information about having fun or doing well and then have it used against you by an insurance company or defense counsel in your personal injury case. Or, you may post innocent pictures on your Facebook page only to have those used against you that you are doing fine. Keep in mind that you may be seriously injured, but still the wrong choice of wording on a social networking site could be used in the wrong way against you.
Insurance Companies Will Use Any Information They Can to Cut Down On the Amount of Your Claim
Insurance companies will look for any small piece of information to use it to cut down on the amount of money that you deserve to cover a serious claim. We now advise clients in our initial letter upon being retained to be conscious and careful of any postings on line. I have had cases where these postings have been used against my clients. Always err on the side of caution and watch what you say on line as once it is out there, it cannot be taken away.