What is a Personal Injury Case?
As the name implies, personal injury lawsuits deal with some sort of physical injury caused by the negligence of another. An individual can be found liable for your injuries if he or she displayed careless conduct or failed to act when a reasonable person would have acted. Regardless of intent, if someone acts—or fails to act—outside the standard of care of a reasonable person, he or she could be found liable for your injuries.
New Jersey is a comparative negligence state. This means a plaintiff can win damages as long as his or her negligence was not greater than that of the other party involved. In other words, you can be partially negligent and still win damages, as long as the other party contributed more than 50% of the negligence in play. The damages will be adjusted according to the percentage of negligence on each side.
New York follows a rule of “pure comparative negligence.” This means, as a plaintiff, your compensation can be reduced by an amount equal to your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages add up to $10,000 and the court finds you are 10% at fault in the incident, your damages will be reduced to $9,000 to account for your portion of the fault.
What are the Most Common Types of Personal Injury Claims?
Car accidents make up a large portion of personal injury lawsuits. If you are driving or walking and are hit by another vehicle, there could be cause for a personal injury suit. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C. have experience in rear-end collisions, drunk driving incidents, hit and runs, pedestrian accidents, high-speed collisions, uninsured driver accidents, tire blowouts and more. If someone or something else was responsible for your accident, they could be held liable for your injuries; these incidents can include distracted drivers, speeding, defective car parts or unsafe roads.
Slip and fall accidents fall under the umbrella of premises liability, which states that the owner of a property is liable for injuries sustained on the property due to dangerous conditions, lack of maintenance, or certain other factors. Landlords, property owners and retail managers have a responsibility to their guests and patrons to ensure that the premises are safe. If they act negligently and do not address safety concerns, they could be liable for damages in a personal injury case. Determining negligence in a slip and fall case depends on several factors, including whether or not the plaintiff had a reason to be where they were, whether or not the safety hazard was marked, and whether a reasonable person would have noticed and avoided the hazard.
Medical malpractice accounts for 44,000-98,000 deaths every year in the U.S. Malpractice occurs when medical professionals fail to follow accepted standards of care, resulting in injury to the patient. Doctors, nurses or other medical staff can be found negligent if they fail to act the way a reasonable professional in the same field would act, resulting in an error in diagnosis, treatment or illness management.
Defective products fall under the umbrella of products liability, which states that a manufacturer is liable for injuries sustained as a result of a flaw in the original blueprint of a product. If this flaw made the product unreasonably dangerous and created a hazard for potential users, there could be grounds for a personal injury claim. Common types of defective design claims include automotive defects and defective medical equipment.
Motorcycle Accident in the state of New Jersey, about 2,500 motorcycles are involved in crashes every year. These crashes contribute to about 70 fatalities and 2,000 injuries per year. New Jersey law requires motorcycle riders to wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet while riding, which can significantly decrease the risk of fatal injuries. A rider without a helmet is almost 50 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury compared to a rider with a helmet. More than 1,800 motorcyclists’ lives were saved by helmets in 2003, and an additional 823 could have been saved if the rider had been wearing a helmet, according to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Trucking Accidents: A fully loaded 18-wheel commercial truck weights over 80,000 pounds. The average automobile weights about 3,000 pounds. An accident between these two vehicles will result in a very serious injury. Victims of trucking accidents can receive compensation by filing a claim and first establishing that the accident was indeed caused by negligence. If a driver acted carelessly and irresponsibly, those injured as a result may be able to receive compensation.
Pedestrian Accident: There were more than 4,280 pedestrians killed in car accidents in the U.S. in 2010, and another 70,000 were injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This adds up to one pedestrian death every two hours and a pedestrian injury every eight minutes. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a car accident than vehicle occupants. Inattentive or impaired drivers are a major risk to other drivers on the road, but pedestrians are particularly vulnerable. Without the protection of airbags or the structure of a vehicle, pedestrians can suffer major injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to recover what you deserve.
Construction Accident: Construction sites are arguably the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S. Of the 4,175 private-industry worker fatalities in 2012, nearly 20 percent were working in construction. Construction workers are charged with operating complex machinery, manipulating heavy objects, and meeting deadlines, often while working outdoors in tough conditions. Construction workers are nearly three times more likely to suffer an on-the-job injury than the average American worker.
When Do I Need To File Suit?
The statute of limitations on personal injury cases varies from state to state. In New Jersey, you must file a personal injury claim within two years of the injury. For minors, claims must be filed within two years of the individual’s 18th birthday. Medical malpractice suits are handled slightly differently; you must file suit within two years of noticing the injury (or within two years of the point when a reasonable person would have noticed the injury). There are many other variables that can affect the statute of limitation date. If you have been injured it is critical to contact an experienced trial attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.
In New York, personal injury claims generally must be filed within three years of the injury. In medical malpractice cases, you have two and a half years from the date of the malpractice or from the end of continuous treatment.
What Are Common Defenses in Personal Injury Cases?
An experienced trial attorney will understand how to effectively combat a variety of legal defenses for personal injury claims. Some common defenses are:
- Partial fault: Defendants will sometimes argue that a plaintiff was somewhat at fault for the injury. New Jersey and New York both operate under the principle of comparative damage, meaning you can win damages despite being partially responsible for the incident. (In New Jersey you must be less than 50% at fault, but “pure comparative negligence” states like New York only require that you are less than 100% at fault.)
- Assumption of risk: Another common line of defense is that the plaintiff “assumed the risk” of being injured by participating in a certain activity. Contact sports and spectator injuries are commonly associated with assumption of risk; however, the injury sustained must be inherent in the activity for the defense to be valid. For example, if you are hit by a fly ball during a game of baseball, the defense could argue that you assumed the risk by playing the game. But if you are injured because there was a nail sticking out of the plate as you slid into home, one could not argue assumption of risk because nails are not an inherent risk in the game of baseball.
What Could I Win in a Personal Injury Case?
If you file a personal injury claim and win, you could be awarded two types of damages:
- Compensatory damages are designed to reimburse the plaintiff for both “actual” and “noneconomic” damages. Actual damages have a specific economic value, such as medical bills, property damage and loss of income. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s behavior was particularly reckless or outrageous. Punitive damages are typically reserved for cases in which the defendant intended to cause harm or acted with wanton disregard for the well-being of others.
The state of New Jersey has no limit on compensatory damages in personal injury cases. The New Jersey Punitive Damages Act limits punitive damages to five times the amount of compensatory damages or $350,000 (whichever is greater).
How Will My Personal Injury Case Be Resolved?
The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi P.C. have experience in both trial cases and out-of-court settlements, and we will work to ensure the best result for you and your situation.
After the incident, keep detailed notes about the accident, your injuries, and any other losses you’ve suffered. Document any conversations you have with the other party involved and contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you decide to file suit. An experienced attorney will be able to take the next step and inform you of your options when it comes to a personal injury claim.
If you have suffered personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact us at (201) 585-9111 or fill out our quick inquiry form for a free and confidential consultation to start the path to recovering your losses.