No fault is kind of confusing. The only thing that no fault means in New Jersey is that, regardless of fault, you go to your own insurance company to have your medical bills paid or, if you don’t have your own policy, you go to a family member with whom you live. If that isn’t the case, then you could go to the vehicle that you’re riding in or, if you happen to not have your own coverage or coverage through a family member and you’re struck by a vehicle, then the state picks that up. No fault only refers to where you go to get your medical bills paid. It is still a fault-based system in New Jersey. If you wish to receive recovery for a personal injury like a monetary award, then you must prove fault on the part of someone else.
In New Jersey, we started something called the lawsuit threshold – sometimes known as the verbal threshold statute – which was designed to eliminate all the small cases for people you’re suing who have a private passenger automobile insurance policy. It was designed to save people money on their insurance but, regrettably, I doubt that has ever occurred. Therefore, if a private passenger automobile is involved, it is possible and sometimes likely that you must meet this verbal threshold, which requires a permanent injury that can be proven by objective standards. That’s a bit of a glossing over but it’s fairly accurate. When you’re not dealing with a private passenger automobile carrier, then it could be virtually any injury that you’re entitled to recover for.
The most efficient way to bring a claim forward is to notify the person at fault and ask them to contact their insurance company and/or to contact their insurance company directly and present that claim to them. In many circumstances, the claim can be settled directly with the carrier much more quickly than if the case were actually litigated in court. In bigger situations or cases that are contested, sometimes you start the suit much sooner and you have to go through a litigation process, which takes quite a bit longer.
If there are multiple people who have been hurt and there may not be enough insurance money to go around, we would file a suit almost immediately. In situations where there is a very substantial or serious injury, we would probably file suit almost immediately. Usually, though, it is better for the client to obtain complete treatment without being in the litigation process and having insurance companies crawling all over their medical providers.
Basically, it’s two years. If the person who is seeking damages or recovery is under the age of 18, it would be a different statute – usually it’s 18 plus two years, or 20 years of age. In general, though, it’s a two-year statute for most of us, and certainly for adults.
It is. There is a six-year statute for property damage.
There are. Obviously they vary from state to state. New Jersey is a comparative negligence state, which means that your negligence, if there is any, will be compared with the other driver, and you must be no more than 50% responsible. If you’re 51% or more responsible, then you’re not entitled to any money at all. You must be equal to or less negligent than the other person.
The laws have been changing over the last two years. For decades, the minimum required coverage was $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident, and $5000 for property damage. Recently, there have been some changes to the law that permit even smaller policies. The worst one is something called the dollar-a-day policy, which is designed for people who just can’t afford any coverage at all. It doesn’t afford them any protection at all. There is no liability coverage, which would pay you if they caused the accident. They are not even entitled to a defense attorney, and they certainly have no coverage themselves. Even their medical expenses are limited to emergency room treatment at a maximum.
Those smaller policies are unusual, so the one that you see most often is 15/30/5. These policies are very small when it comes to serious injuries, so that’s why I encourage people to purchase greater coverage for themselves. It’s your own personal policy or the policy from a relative in the household that not only protects the other guy, it protects the family members. It’s a good idea to have more coverage because that permits you to carry larger uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which is what you can access when the person who causes the accident either has minimal or no insurance. That is a problem everywhere, I think, and it certainly occurs here in New Jersey, where most drivers carry that 15/30/5 coverage or, at times, less or even no coverage.
If you have just been an accident try to stay calm, stay where you are and first assess whether you or any of the occupants of your vehicle have been hurt. Call 911, and if seriously injured be sure to tell the 911 operator that you or anyone you know of has been seriously hurt. If you’re seriously injured, and if it is safe to do so stay where you are, and do not move until you receive assistance. Wait for the Police to arrive, and present you license, registration and insurance card to the officer.
If it is unsafe to stay where you are, then move your vehicle to the side of the road. If you are safe to move and not seriously injured, check on any other vehicle to assess other potential injuries. If the police have not yet arrived, call 911 again and advise them of additional injuries. Certainly ask the occupants of the other vehicles “are you all right?”
Be alert to what any other driver has said, and make an observation as to the damage on and location of the other vehicles. If and when appropriate, you may take pictures of the vehicles and the accident scene. Generally it is inappropriate to do this if the Police have arrived and are doing their investigation. If you are able to take pictures be certain to include pictures of the vehicles showing the damage and the license plates of the vehicles. General scene photos would be useful as well.
If you are hurt or anyone else in your vehicle is hurt request transportation to the hospital. If you go to the hospital be certain to let them know of all injuries that you may have sustained. If you do not go to the hospital, when you get home, call your primary care physician and try to see the doctor as soon as possible.
When you get home following the accident call your automobile insurance company and report the accident, and let them know if you have been injured. In New Jersey your medical bills are usually paid by your own insurance company if you have one. That is one of the reasons why it is important to call your insurance company. Even if you were not driving your own vehicle or you were a passenger in someone else’s car you must contact your company. If you do not have your own insurance policy and you live with a relative who owns an automobile, then that insurance company will probably pay your medical bills; then you must call to report the accident to your resident relative’s insurance company. If you have no insurance at all in your house and you are a passenger or driver in another person’s car, then it is the automobile insurance covering that vehicle which will pay your medical bills. Finally, if you are a pedestrian and do not have coverage in your household that claim must be made with PLIGA.
If you are the driver or an occupant of a commercial vehicle and are working, then you must report the accident to your employer and worker’s compensation will pay for your emergency treatment and likely they will choose the doctor that will take care of you from then on.
Certainly, calling an attorney who specializes in personal injury would be appropriate once you get home and they can guide you and assist you in completing the correct paperwork to have your bills paid. That attorney can guide you through making the appropriate claims to have your medical bills paid, obtaining temporary disability when appropriate, and making a claim for pain and suffering and all appropriate damages against the individuals and their insurance companies who are responsible for causing the accident.
For more information on auto accidents, personal injury law, and Attorney David Maran, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (973) 622-5303 today.