I Was Injured. Can I File A Lawsuit Against The Party That Caused My Injury?

In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person's negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. New Jersey has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a claimant's action is barred if his fault exceeds the combined fault of all defendants. Otherwise, the claimant's recovery is diminished in proportion to his degree of fault.

Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

In New Jersey, the law provides for no­fault automobile liability insurance coverage, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), for all owners of motor vehicles in New Jersey. You are required to elect either the Basic Policy or the Standard Policy. If you elected the Basic Policy, you are covered by $15,000 of medical payment coverage (up to $250,000 for catastrophic brain or spinal cord injury) if you or a resident family member is injured. The Basic Policy does not provide coverage if you injure someone else, however, you have the option of electing coverage in the amount of $10,000 for injury to one or more persons in the same accident if someone makes a claim against you. The Basic Policy does not provide any uninsured motorist coverage to protect you and your family if the careless driver who causes the accident is uninsured or is insured under a basic policy with no bodily injury liability coverage.

The Standard Policy provides personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which includes medical expenses up to $250,000 per person per accident. You may elect to purchase less coverage. The Standard Policy provides liability coverage if someone makes a claim against you with minimum limits for bodily injury of $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident and property damage of $5,000. In addition, the standard policy provides uninsured motorist coverage with minimum limits of $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident if you or a resident member of your family is injured by a person who is uninsured or has no bodily injury liability coverage.

Whether or not you can make a claim or file a lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused the accident depends on what type of coverage you opted for and the nature of your injuries. If you are covered under the Standard Policy, you were required to elect either the "limitation on lawsuit option" or the "no limitation on lawsuit option." If you did not sign the coverage selection form, you were assigned the lawsuit limitation option. If you purchased a Basic Policy, you are automatically assigned the "limitation on lawsuit option." The no limitation option permits you to make a claim or file a lawsuit against a negligent driver for all of your personal injuries. The lawsuit limitation option limits your rights to make a claim or file a lawsuit unless you sustain one of the following types of injuries: (1) death, (2) dismemberment, (3) significant disfigurement or scarring, (4) displaced fracture, (5) loss of fetus, or (6) permanent injury.

Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident. Liability claims are usually the subject of negotiation between your lawyer and the liability insurer for the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party's negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party's insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.

PREMISES LIABILITY

If you were injured at someone else's home or a commercial establishment, the person or entity responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises.

In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor. Factors used to determine whether the owner exercised reasonable care in maintaining the property includes (a) the foreseeability of harm to others; (b) the magnitude of the risks of injury to others if the property is kept in its current condition; (c) the benefit to an individual or to society of maintaining the property in its current condition; and (d) the cost and inconvenience of providing adequate protection.

The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. When the owner actually created the dangerous condition, then notice is presumed. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, the owner has a duty to warn of the hazards he is aware of or should be aware of. In the case of dog bites, however, New Jersey law provides that it is not necessary for the owner of the dog to have previous notice of the dog's dangerous tendencies.

The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. Business owners typically have the highest responsibility to those who are invited onto their premises. Homeowners also have a duty to their guests. The standard of care owed to an adult trespasser is less than that owed to a person who has permission to be on the property. An owner may be liable, however, if he maintains a condition that causes injury to a trespassing child.

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. Product liability cases may involve dangerous toys, automobile design, seat belt failures, improperly designed household products, industrial machinery, products causing explosions or burns, aviation products, prescription drugs, among others. A lawsuit can be brought against anyone participating in the chain of manufacture for that product, from the manufacturer, to the designer to the retail store. When a company designs and manufactures a product, they have a responsibility to ensure that anyone exercising reasonable care within the expected parameters of usage expected for the product will not be

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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