If you have been involved in a car accident, it is important to be able to prove who is liable, regardless of whether you intend to proceed with an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. If you can support your position as to how the crash occurred with hard evidence, you may prevent the insurance company from unfairly increasing your rate or, if you proceed with a claim, this proof is helpful in leveraging a favorable settlement or proving your case in court.
Determining who is at fault is simple for certain types of car accidents; for example, rear-end collisions. Drivers should leave enough space between them and the car in front of them to stop if needed. That way, if the front car makes a sudden stop, there is enough time to brake without causing an accident. However, liability is not always clear and, depending on the facts, there may be more than one party who is at fault for the accident. When this is the case, New Jersey law will “apportion” responsibility in such cases according to the parties’ respective “percentage” share of fault. Insurance companies will generally try to use this law to argue that you were somehow at fault, as this will reduce the amount they may have to pay for damages by the percentage they attribute to your conduct.
What if both drivers involved in a crash actually do share the blame? Can you still bring a claim if you were “comparatively negligent?” The answer depends on how much blame you share. New Jersey follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means that a person can only bring a claim if they were not more responsible than the other person. In short, if you bear 51% or more of the blame, you cannot bring the claim in New Jersey.
If a person is partially responsible, but no worse than 50/50, the amount of compensation they are entitled to receive for the harms and losses caused by the crash is reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if you are 20 percent to blame, and the other driver is 80 percent to blame, the total damages you suffer will be reduced by 20 percent. Because courts in New Jersey are required to follow this rule, it will generally be used by insurance adjusters during settlement negotiations. Gathering proof of what happened promptly, and capturing pictures of BOTH vehicles, can be critical. If you are able, it is advisable to take pictures at the scene
Showing both the damage to the vehicles and their positions of rest after the crash. These types of photos can be invaluable and generally cannot be replicated later.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you should also bear in mind that the law limits the time you have to file a claim. This is knows as a “statute of limitations”. Failure to file the claim within the “limitations” period will cause the claim to be waived, and courts strictly enforce these filing deadlines. In New Jersey, the general statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two (2) years from the date the person sustains or should be aware of their injury. For a car accident, this means a person generally has two (2) years from the date of their accident to file a lawsuit or the claim will be lost. If you have been involved in an accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer right away so you can protect your legal rights. It is important to note that all cases are unique, and there may be other facts which impact a person’s statute of limitations – either making it shorter or potentially longer. As such, seeing a lawyer RIGHT AWAY is the best way to protect yourself after an accident.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, an experienced car accident lawyer inMiddlesex County at Davis & Brusca, LLC can help. We zealously advocate for victims of car accidents in New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us today at 609-786-2540 or contact us online.