Whether you're involved in an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit after an accident, a number of New Jersey laws could have a big impact on your case.
All states have placed limits on the amount of time you have to file a civil lawsuit after you've suffered some type of harm. There are different deadlines depending on the type of case you're asking the court to hear. A law that sets this time limit is called a statute of limitations.
In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person two years to go to court and file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for the harm. The "clock" usually starts on the day of the accident that caused the injury.
If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the two-year window closes, the New Jersey court system will likely refuse to hear your case, and your right to compensation will be lost, unless some exception applies to effectively extend the deadline.
The New Jersey statute of limitations for personal injury cases can be found at New Jersey Revised Statutes section 2A:14-2.
Note that if you're filing an injury claim against the government (state or local) in New Jersey, you'll need to play by a distinct set of rules, which includes a shorter filing period. Talk to an attorney for the details.
It's important to remember that the statute of limitations we've discussed here applies to most, but not all, New Jersey personal injury cases. Like most states, New Jersey has a specific statute of limitations for lawsuits over injuries caused by medical malpractice, for example. Learn more about New Jersey medical malpractice laws.
In some personal injury cases, the party you're trying to hold responsible for your injuries may claim that you're actually to blame (at least partially). If you do share some amount of fault for the accident, it can end up affecting the total amount of compensation you can receive.
In shared fault injury cases, New Jersey follows a "modified comparative negligence rule." This means that if your personal injury lawsuit goes to trial, the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault for the accident. But if you're found to bear more than 50 percent of the legal blame, you can't collect anything at all from other at-fault parties.
So, let's say you're rear-ended at a stoplight, but one of your three brake lights wasn't working at the time. During a civil trial, the jury decides that you were 15 percent at fault for the accident, while the other driver was 85 percent to blame. Your damages add up to $10,000. How does your share of fault affect your compensation? Under New Jersey's modified comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $8,500 (or the $10,000 total minus the $1,500, or 15 percent, that represents your share of fault for the accident.)
New Jersey courts are obligated to follow this rule in an injury lawsuit that makes it to trial, and don't be surprised if the adjuster raises the issue of New Jersey's comparative negligence rule during injury settlement negotiations.
In car accident cases only, New Jersey follows a so-called "choice no-fault" system. While car insurance is required for anyone registering a vehicle for operation in the state, vehicle owners purchasing car insurance usually can choose between a "Basic" and "Standard" policy.
The "Basic" policy (and the "limited right to sue" option under "Standard" coverage) is a form of no-fault car insurance, which means any injury claim after a car accident must be made with the injured driver's own "personal injury protection" (PIP) coverage, regardless of who caused the accident. A PIP claim won't include compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, but it expedites the payment of most covered out-of-pocket losses.
In New Jersey, an injured person can only step outside the no-fault/PIP system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if the crash resulted in:
Learn more about how no-fault car insurance works.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone, if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. But in New Jersey, a specific law (New Jersey Revised Statutes section 4:19-16) makes the owner "strictly liable" for bite-related injuries. The animal's past behavior is irrelevant. The statute reads:
"The owner of any dog [that bites someone who is] in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness."
This article offers an objective summary of New Jersey laws that could affect your personal injury case. For information tailored to your situation, and a full understanding of your options, talk to an experienced New Jersey attorney. Learn more about finding the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.