Who Determines Fault (And How) After A Car Accident in New Jersey?
Sussex County auto accident attorney fights for your rights
Even though New Jersey is a no-fault state for auto insurance claims, the issue of fault is vitally important in serious auto accidents. If you sustain an injury so severe that your medical bills exceed the limits of your own personal injury protection, you must make a claim against an at-fault driver to obtain proper reimbursement. In fact, you might have to sue that driver to recover the compensation you deserve. Under those circumstances, you can’t allow an insurance adjuster to determine who was at fault simply by looking at an accident report. You need a Sussex County personal injury attorney advocating for your rights. For more than 25 years, my firm, Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq., has delivered strong results for seriously injured clients. If you’ve been hurt in a vehicle collision, I’m ready to fight for your rights, too.
How does PIP work under New Jersey’s no-fault insurance law?
In New Jersey, drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) as part of their auto insurance package. PIP covers medical bills, lost income and the costs of essential services. The law requires you to file a PIP claim with your own carrier regardless of who caused the accident. But PIP funds are limited and do not compensate victims for their pain and suffering. So, if you are seriously injured, chances are your insurance will fall far short of addressing the harm you’ve endured. You will have to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance and possibly even initiate a personal injury lawsuit.
At this point, your insurance may be a barrier to securing full relief. If you purchased a policy that limits your right to sue, you have to prove you have a “serious injury,” which New Jersey law defines as:
- Loss of limb
- Significant disfigurement/scarring
- Displaced fracture
- Loss of unborn child
- Permanent injury
To be able to sue, you must meet the threshold by proving your injury qualifies. Then, to recover for your losses, you must be able to prove fault.
Who gets to determine fault in a NJ car crash?
If you submit a claim with another insurance company, there’s a high probability that they will deny liability or try to limit you to a low-ball settlement. Fortunately, you have a say in the matter.
Whether you need an accomplished Sussex County car accident attorney or an advocate in a different New Jersey jurisdiction, my firm thoroughly investigates your accident, poring over physical evidence, witness accounts, and police reports. I look for proof of illegal or dangerous maneuvers that might have caused the crash to build a compelling case that stands up in court.
Establishing fault may include determining if a driver was negligent in one of the following ways:
- Exceeding the speed limit
- Driving under the influence
- Distracted while driving
It may also include third party negligence, for example:
- Manufacturer issues with the car
- Road hazards from improper maintenance or notice
- Mechanical errors resulting from poor service
- Another driver
The parties will then meet to discuss the determination of fault.
In New Jersey, fault is determined through a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, or by a jury if the matter goes to trial. Under New Jersey’s comparative negligence law, if you are less than 50 percent at fault, you can recover compensation. This amount would be reduced by the amount you are deemed responsible.
New Jersey’s comparative negligence law
Defendants in an auto accident case often use New Jersey’s comparative negligence law to reduce an accident victim’s recovery. Under this law, victims can still recover compensation even if they are partially responsible for their accidents, as long as they aren’t equally or mostly responsible for the crash. Under comparative negligence, a court reduces a victim’s recovery based on their percentage of fault. So, if your losses amount to $100,000 and the court finds you 20 percent responsible, you can only recover $80,000.
As your advocate, I not only prosecute your case against the other driver, I also defend you against allegations that you contributed to your injury.
Contact a board-certified trial lawyer for advice on a New Jersey auto accident claim
Personal injury attorney Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq. helps auto accident victims throughout New Jersey recover the full compensation they deserve. Call 862-354-8931 or contact me online to schedule an appointment. My office is conveniently located in Succasunna at 15 Commerce Boulevard, just off Route 10.