An auto accident is usually so jarring and stressful that many people don’t know what to do afterward. Numerous questions arise at once: Where do I go? Whom do I speak to? How do I get my medical bills paid?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car collision in NJ, here’s what you need to know, with answers to frequently asked questions.
What do I do after a car accident?
These are steps to take immediately after a vehicle accident in New Jersey:
- Seek medical attention. Call 911 and have a doctor check your injuries. This is crucial for your health as well as for your compensation claim later on.
- Document the scene. As you wait for responders, and while the accident scene is still fresh, take photos of it and note down any relevant details (time and day of the crash, weather conditions, any road hazards, etc.).
- Ask for the other driver’s details. Jot down their name, contact details, and insurance information.
- Talk to potential witnesses. Also, request their name and contact details in case their testimony is needed.
- Report to the authorities. NJ law requires individuals to report to the police if the accident resulted in bodily injuries or property damage of over $500. Get a copy of the accident report as it could be valuable to your injury claim. Read our guide here on how to file and obtain a police report in NJ.
- Call a lawyer. Soon after the crash, you’ll likely be contacted by insurance representatives who may try to undermine your injury claim. Don’t give any statements or agree to any offer until you’ve consulted an attorney.
Who pays for my medical bills in a NJ car crash?
In terms of auto insurance, New Jersey is a no-fault state, meaning it doesn’t matter who was at fault in your accident — your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance should cover your expenses first.
PIP is mandatory in NJ. If you have at least the basic or standard insurance policy, it likely includes your Personal Injury Protection.
PIP typically covers the following losses, up to policy limits:
- Eligible medical bills (emergency room costs, diagnostic expenses, prescribed medication and other treatment, rehabilitation, and other treatments deemed necessary)
- Lost wages
- Essential service benefits (for everyday tasks you cannot do because of your injuries, such as cleaning, laundry, etc.)
- Death benefits (if your family member died in the crash)
- Funeral expenses (if your family member died in the crash).
If your accident expenses exceed your PIP limits, you have various options to get the excess costs covered. You may turn to other applicable insurance policies (such as your health insurance). You may also file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance.
How do I make a PIP claim?
To initiate a claim against your own insurance carrier, you must give them a copy of your medical bills (as well as the medical bills of other injured persons covered by the same policy).
Next, fill out the Personal Injury Protection claim form given to you.
If you’re getting medical services from a provider other than the hospital, such as being treated by a specialist, give your insurer a notice of “commencement of treatment” within 21 days of your first clinic visit.
Start your PIP process as soon as you can because delaying it can result in a reduced payout.
How do I make a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver?
Once you have exhausted your PIP coverage, you may be able to file a claim against the party responsible for your crash. Before doing so, it’s best to consult with a personal injury attorney, as you’ll likely have to deal with insurance companies that are experienced in minimizing or denying claims.
To initiate your third-party insurance claim, you must send a formal demand letter to the insurer. This should state why you hold the other person liable for your injuries and how much your damages are worth. The insurance company will then respond with its counter-offer.
Work with your attorney to determine the maximum value of your claim and negotiate with the insurance company.
How much could I receive for my accident injury?
When making a personal injury claim against the at-fault party, you may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages (compensation for losses). Economic losses include medical bills, lost wages, and other monetary expenses, while non-economic ones are less tangible, like pain and suffering.
There is no true “average” amount for car accident compensation because each claim is a unique combination of many factors. Your compensation amount depends on factors like the severity of your injuries, any necessary long-term care, the circumstances leading to the accident, and more.
How long does it take to get an injury settlement?
The length of the claims process largely depends on how complex the accident was.
If it’s fairly obvious who caused the collision, you and your attorney may be able to get a settlement in a few months.
On the other hand, if the other party strongly contests your claim or denies their responsibility, the case may proceed to trial, which could last a year or more.
Having a competent attorney on your side can greatly help establish the other party’s liability and assert the compensation you deserve.
What is the deadline for filing a personal injury claim?
New Jersey’s Statute of Limitations is a law that gives you two years to file a personal injury lawsuit, starting from the date of the accident. If you miss this time period, the court will likely dismiss your legal claim.
There are a couple of exceptions. If you were underage at the time of the crash, the two-year clock only starts running when you turn 18. If you’re suing a government entity for your accident, you only have 90 days to file your claim.
I have delayed or confusing injury symptoms. Can I get compensated?
Some accident injuries don’t manifest right away; they take days or weeks to show symptoms. Sometimes, these symptoms can be unclear. For instance, traumatic brain injuries like concussions can have symptoms that feel “normal,” such as headaches and fatigue. It’s even possible to sustain an injury without getting a hard blow to your body.
Injuries like these are still compensable, but you’ll have to prove that the injury is real and that it resulted from the accident. To do this, start documenting your symptoms and talk to a reliable attorney right away.
What if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance?
If you’re claiming from the other party but they have inadequate insurance coverage or no insurance at all, your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage should kick in.
New Jersey motorists are required to carry UM/UIM insurance, so this is likely included in your policy. This coverage also applies if you were injured in a hit-and-run crash.
What if the accident was partially my fault?
First, never admit fault or assign blame when speaking with the insurance company. Statements like “I made a mistake” or “I’m sorry” could be taken as an admission of fault and could damage your claim.
New Jersey car accident laws adhere to the legal concept of “comparative negligence,” also known as the shared fault rule. It takes into account the percentage of fault that each party had in the accident. The amount of compensation you receive could be reduced according to how much fault you contributed to the crash.
Further, if you were more than 50 percent at fault, you could lose your right to compensation altogether.
Insurance adjusters often invoke this rule to minimize injury claims. It’s crucial that you have an attorney to protect what you’re entitled to.
What if I was a friend’s passenger in the crash?
As an injured passenger, you may be able to claim compensation from whoever was at fault in the accident. But if your friend or relative was the at-fault driver, you may be reluctant to take any legal action against them — even though you need the payment for your bills.
To obtain a win-win solution, we at the Grossman Law Firm use personalized strategies for each case. We navigate the claims process skillfully so that you can get your fair compensation. We’ll be mainly dealing with your friend’s insurance carrier, without much stress on you or your friend.
What If I was an Uber or Lyft passenger in the crash?
Rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber have liability insurance for their drivers, which means they could pay for a passenger’s injuries. However, this coverage only applies to certain “periods” of driving.
A typical rideshare liability policy might be as follows:
- Period 0 – The Lyft/Uber driver is not logged on to the app and thus is not covered by the company’s liability insurance.
- Period 1 – The Uber/Lyft driver is logged on to the app but has not yet “matched” with a passenger. Uber or Lyft provides injury liability coverage of $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
- Period 2 – The Lyft/Uber driver is en route to pick up a confirmed passenger. Uber or Lyft provides liability coverage for injury and property damage, up to $1,500,000.
- Period 3 – The rideshare driver has a passenger in the vehicle. Uber or Lyft provides liability coverage for injury and property damage, up to $1,500,000.
If you get injured in an Uber accident during no-coverage periods – whether as a passenger, pedestrian, or other motorist — you may find yourself in limbo as to who pays for your bills. Both the rideshare insurance and the driver’s personal auto insurance may reject your claim. Get the help of an attorney with experience in this area of the law.
I don’t want a stressful trial. Can I still get compensated?
Suing someone for your personal injury doesn’t always mean you have to go through a lengthy and stressful trial. A vast majority of personal injury lawsuits don’t go to court. The widely accepted estimate is that 95 to 96 percent of personal injury lawsuits are settled before the trial begins.
Having a competent attorney can greatly help you arrive at a favorable settlement without going to court.
My loved one died in a car crash. Can I claim compensation?
Yes, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim if you’re a legal dependent of the deceased. Damages in a wrongful death case may include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of spousal relations
- Loss of financial support from the deceased
- Loss of care or guidance.
New Jersey Car Accident Statistics
Hundreds of thousands of car collisions occur each year in New Jersey. According to the NJ Department of Transportation, a total of 276,861 crashes occurred in the state in 2019 alone. The counties with the most accidents were:
- Essex County – 30,287 crashes
- Bergen County – 29,722 crashes
- Middlesex County – 28,932 crashes
- Union County – 21,171 crashes
- Hudson County – 19,729 crashes.
The NJ State Police also keep an updated record of fatal motor vehicle accidents. As required by law, accidents involving bodily injury or over $500 in property damage are reported to the police. So far this year, as of October 14, 2021, the NJSP has recorded 487 fatal car crashes and 508 fatalities statewide.
Camden County has had the most accident deaths this year, with 45 fatalities to date. Essex County follows this with 35 and Atlantic County with 31 deaths.
What are the top causes of car accidents?
These are some of the most common causes of motor vehicle crashes:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk driving/Driving while intoxicated
- Running red lights
- Improper turning
- Unsafe lane change
- Dangerous road conditions (slippery roads, poor visibility, etc.)
- Road hazards from construction sites
- Vehicle defects.
For more information on getting compensation for accident injuries, read our primer on car accident claims here.
Don’t delay. Contact an Auto Accident Injury Lawyer in NJ
Whether you’re only seeking an insurance settlement or are trying to sue someone for your car accident-related injuries, talk to an attorney as soon as you can. Any delay could be damaging to your claim.
In New Jersey, The Grossman Law Firm is a top-rated personal injury firm that has won deca-millions in settlements and verdicts. Our firm is committed to protecting our clients from the powerful insurance industry so that these individuals and their families can focus on healing from their accident.
Your consultation with the Grossman Law Firm is free and confidential. You lose nothing by discussing your accident with us. Call us at (732) 625-9494 or send us a message today.