Q: Who pays to fix or replace my car?
A: Assuming you have sufficient auto insurance at the time of a motor vehicle accident, your own insurance should cover your property damage, less your deductible. It is usually not a good idea to try and make a claim yourself against the other driver’s insurance for property damage costs since they are not your insurance company, and often don’t have your best interests in mind.
Q: Since New Jersey is a no-fault state, does that mean I can’t sue the driver who caused my car accident and injuries?
A: No. Basically, “no-fault” means that your own insurance company will cover the cost of medical treatment for your injuries if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. The PIP coverage in your policy may also cover essential services and lost wages, depending on the coverage you selected in your policy. You may also be able to sue the at-fault driver for personal injury under certain circumstances.
Q: What does my policy mean by “unlimited right to sue” or “limited right to sue”?
A: When you purchase your insurance policy, you have the option of choosing whether you want a limited or unlimited right to sue an at-fault driver for bodily injury sustained in an automobile accident. The policy premium is impacted by this designation. If you opt for the limited right to sue, you may only sue for bodily injury if you suffer qualifying injuries of 1) death; 2) dismemberment; 3) significant disfigurement or scarring; 4) displaced fracture; 5) loss of a fetus; or 6) permanent injury. You may also hear this limited right to sue option referred to as the verbal threshold or a limited tort threshold. If you opt for the unlimited right to sue, then your injuries needn’t qualify under the above-mentioned categories in order to sustain a claim for bodily injury against an at-fault driver.
Q: What if the other driver’s insurance policy limits are too low to cover my personal injury damages?
A: If you have underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage in your policy, you can look to these benefits and make a claim against your own policy to seek additional compensation beyond the liability insurance limits of the at-fault driver’s policy.
Q: What can I do if the other driver is uninsured or I was the victim of a hit and run?
A: If you opted for uninsured motorist (UM) coverage when you purchased your policy, you can file a claim against your own policy for damages when the at-fault driver is uninsured or you are hit by a hit-and-run or phantom vehicle.
Q: Is it okay to speak with the other driver’s insurance company?
A: There is no law prohibiting you from speaking or negotiating with the insurance company of an at-fault driver who injured you. However, it may not be the best idea. That insurance company is not your insurance company. They are interested in minimizing their exposure, based on their insured’s negligent driving. They are not in the business of helping you. An experienced New Jersey auto accident lawyer can help you deal with these companies. Attempting to negotiate a settlement on your own behalf may result in a poor outcome. You may inadvertently make a statement that the insurer can use against you, or you may not know what your claim is truly worth. It is typically advisable to consult with experienced legal counsel before communicating with the other driver’s insurance company.
Q: Will I need to go to court to prove my claim?
A: Pre-trial settlement is the most common outcome in successful motor vehicle accident cases. However, lawsuits filed in court should always be prepared as if they will go to trial. This ensures the best procedural posture and maximizes the effectiveness of the claim. If your case is filed in court, you may be required to give sworn testimony at a deposition, be examined by medical doctors, and ultimately, if an acceptable settlement is not reached, you may need to testify in court at your trial.
Q: I was a passenger in a car accident. Who do I need to file a claim against to pay for my medical bills and damages?
A: It depends. You may be able to obtain PIP benefits through your own auto policy. You may also be able to make a claim for bodily injury against the driver of the vehicle in which you were a passenger, as well as the driver of the other vehicle. This will depend on the facts of your case and the mechanics of the accident.
Q: What are some things I can do to help with my claim?
A: It is important to seek medical attention from a qualified professional as soon as possible if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, even if you don’t believe you have been seriously injured. Take photos of the accident scene, motor vehicles, and your injuries if possible. If there are any witnesses to the accident, try to get their names and contact information. Once, you have taken care of your medical needs, consult with an attorney to start building your claim. Evidence has a way of disappearing over the course of time, so don’t wait too long to pursue justice for your injuries.
If you have other questions, or if you have been injured in a car accident and need legal counsel, contact the New Jersey car accident lawyers at The Reinartz Law Firm for a free consultation.