Let's take a closer look at these rules, and more.
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, but the 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 legal entity responsible for the harm. (New Jersey Rev. Stat. section 2A:14-2.) 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. Speaking of which...
A few situations can pause the running of the statute of limitations clock in New Jersey, effectively extending the filing deadline.
When the Injured Person Is a Minor or Is Under a Mental Disability. If the injured person is under 18 or is subject to a qualifying mental disability, once they turn 18 or regain their competence they'll usually be entitled to the full two years to get their personal injury lawsuit filed. (New Jersey Rev. Stat. section 2A:14-21.)
When the Defendant Leaves the State. If the person the injured plaintiff is trying to sue leaves the state of New Jersey before the lawsuit can be started, the time of absence probably won't be counted as part of the two years. The injured person (or their attorney) will probably need to file a sworn document detailing efforts to "serve" the defendant with the lawsuit. (New Jersey Rev. Stat. section 2A:14-22.)
It's important to remember that the statute of limitations we've discussed here applies to most, but not all, New Jersey injury-related cases. Like most states, New Jersey has a specific statute of limitations for lawsuits over injuries caused by a health care provider's medical malpractice, for example. Learn more about New Jersey medical malpractice laws.
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 much shorter claim- filing period. Talk to an attorney for the details.
It's important to note here that an experienced personal injury attorney can handle the ins and outs of filing your case. But in general, a personal injury lawsuit is usually filed in New Jersey Superior Court (there's a branch in each of the state's 21 counties), which hears most disputes in the state's civil court system. The county where the person you're suing lives, or where the injury occurred, is typically the right place to file your case. Learn more about civil courts in New Jersey (from njcourts.gov).
You might want to consider New Jersey's small claims courts if your injuries are relatively minor and your damages aren't more than $5,000.
Learn more about how to file a personal injury lawsuit.
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:
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:
Under New Jersey's modified comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $8,500 (or the $10,000 total minus your 15 percent 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 insurance 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. Get all the details on New Jersey's No-Fault Car Insurance Rules (from Nolo.com).
New Jersey Rev. Stat. section 4:19-16 makes the state's dog owners "strictly liable" for bite-related injuries caused by their animals. The dog's past behavior is irrelevant, and the dog owner's negligence doesn't usually need to be proven. There are exceptions to this rule, as when the person who was bitten was trespassing. Learn more about dog owner liability for bite injuries.
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.
If you're looking for more details on how personal injury claims work and what to expect from the process, check out these articles: