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When You Are Partially Responsible for Your Injuries

What Happens If Your Carelessness Helped Cause an Accident?

When You Are Partially Responsible for Your InjuriesThere’s an old saying that it “takes two to tango.” While that may not always be the case with a personal injury, it’s not uncommon for an accident to happen because both parties engaged in negligence or carelessness. For example, suppose you were in a motor vehicle accident caused when another person ran a stop sign or red light. At the time of the accident, you weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Chances are you would have suffered injuries, even if you’d been buckled in, but the other party contends that your injuries were worse because you didn’t have your seat belt on. What happens in such a situation?

Contributory vs. Comparative Negligence

For most of the history of personal injury law, including that of New Jersey, the legal principle governing such a circumstance was known as “contributory negligence.” Under the concept of contributory negligence, if it could be shown that you contributed in any way to causing the accident where you suffered injury, you could not recover anything for your losses. When this rule prevailed, defense attorneys would commonly look for any indication that you had acted carelessly or unreasonably, claiming that you were not entitled to recovery. Such an approach led to frequent miscarriages of justice, where persons who were grossly negligent had no responsibility for injuries to persons whose careless was insignificant or inconsequential.

About one hundred years ago, courts and legislatures across the country, recognizing the inherent injustices brought about by the concept of contributory negligence, began to replace it with the legal principle of “comparative negligence.”

With comparative negligence, the court first establishes the full amount of your losses—let’s assume your total injuries amounted to $500,000. Next, the court decides the degree to which you were responsible for causing the accident, expressed as a percentage of liability—again, suppose the court finds you 25% liable. The court will then reduce your total damage award by your degree of liability. Your $500,000 award will be reduced by $125,000 (25%) and you will receive $375,000.

States take two different approaches to comparative negligence:

  • Pure comparative negligence, where you will receive something regardless of your degree of liability, as long as you can show liability on behalf of the other party
  • Modified comparative negligence, where your liability must be below a certain threshold (usually 50%), or you cannot recover for your losses.

New Jersey is a modified comparative negligence state.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Who Can Testify as an Expert Witness at a Trial?

How Does a Person Qualify to Give an Expert Opinion in a Court Case?

Who Can Testify as an Expert Witness at a Trial?In many types of personal injury claims, there may be factual disputes that are complex—medical malpractice and product liability cases often focus on engineering or surgical practices unfamiliar to the layman. In those situations, to help the jurors better understand what happened and why a party may be liable, it’s common practice to bring an expert witness to the stand, someone who can provide a clear and compelling picture for the jury.

Can anyone take the stand as an expert witness? If not, what are the qualifications so testify in a court case as an expert? Are there differences between the subject matter of expert witness testimony and other statements made in court?

The Rules Governing Expert Witnesses

Before you can testify at trial as an expert witness, you must be approved to do so by the court. The admissibility of expert witness testimony is governed by state and federal rules of evidence.

According to the federal rules of evidence, a person may only give expert witness testimony if the court believes that they have knowledge, skill, education, experience or training in a specialized field. Most states have similar requirements.

With respect to witnesses who are not qualified as experts, any opinions expressed will typically be inadmissible in court. However, an expert witness may (and typically does) express an opinion based on an interpretation of facts that have been introduced into evidence. When that evidence involves scientific matters, some state courts will ask for evidence of the reliability of the scientific testing before permitting the testimony at trial. Others will accept the expert witness testimony if it has been “acknowledged by the scientific community.” It’s fairly common for each side to produce its own expert, with conflicting testimony. The judge may choose to admit some testimony and prohibit some, or may allow all expert testimony and defer to the jury to make a determination of which testimony carries more weight.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Protecting Your Legal Rights after an Accident

The Steps to Take to Safeguard Your Personal Injury Claim

Protecting Your Legal Rights after an AccidentIn the aftermath of an accident, when emotions are running high and adrenalin is coursing through your veins, making rational decisions can be a challenge. The steps you take in the minutes, days and weeks after a personal injury can make a significant difference, though, in how quickly you recover compensation for your losses, and whether you get full and fair compensation for all your injuries.

Step #1—Get All the Medical Care You Need

Your primary concern, after any type of accident, must be your physical well-being. If you don’t believe that you can get up and move about under your own power, don’t try. If you’ve had an injury to your back, neck, or head, stay where you are until emergency responders arrive. They’ll know what to do and how to get you safely to the hospital, if necessary.

Even if your injuries seem minor, and you can walk away from the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Take yourself to the hospital emergency room, visit an urgent care facility, or make an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Some injuries may not be apparent to the naked eye and may not even show any outward symptoms. A medical professional can typically diagnose those conditions and prescribe appropriate treatment. The sooner you seek medical care, the more options you’ll typically have for a full recovery.

In addition, seeking immediate medical treatment will protect your legal rights. The more time you allow before getting medical attention, the greater the risk that defense attorneys will argue that your injuries were either not that serious or were caused by some intervening event.

Gather All Necessary Information and Evidence

Whether for an insurer or for use in court, you’ll want to collect as much evidence as possible, and get contact information for anyone involved in the accident, as well as any witnesses. If possible, take pictures of anything related to the accident or the circumstances at the time of the accident. The camera on your phone is sufficient. Take pictures of your injuries, any damage to vehicles, the scene of the accident, the weather conditions at the time of the accident, and anything else that seems relevant to the accident of your injuries.

Hire an Experienced Attorney

This should be one of the first things you do. If you retain legal counsel before you contact your insurer, your lawyer can act as your advocate with adjusters, helping you maximize your recovery. Your attorney will also ensure that you don’t do anything that jeopardizes your rights to full and fair compensation.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

What Compensation Can You Recover in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

What Are the Different Types of Damages?

What Compensation Can You Recover in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?When you have suffered injury and/or loss in an accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, you have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages–full and fair compensation all your losses. What does that include? What types of damages are available in a personal injury claim?

The Different Types of Damages

At the highest level, the damages awarded by a jury typically fall into one of two categories: compensatory damages or punitive damages. Compensatory damages are intended to come as closely as possible to returning you to the condition you were in before the accident. They customarily involve payments by the at-fault party to “compensate” you for your losses.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to “punish” the defendant for wrongful behavior, and to send a message to others who might engage in similar acts.

The Different Types of Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are generally categorized as either economic/monetary damages, or as non-economic/non-monetary damages.

Economic or monetary damages are those that are typically tangible and easy to calculate. They include losses that can be documented, such as lost wages or income, unpaid medical expenses, or the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property.

Non-economic damages, conversely, are those types of losses that are exclusively or primarily non-tangible, and therefore much more difficult to calculate. They include things like:

  • Physical or mental pain and suffering
  • The loss of enjoyment of life—the inability to engage in the simple functions of daily life, or to do things that brought you joy or pleasure before the accident
  • Loss of companionship or consortium—loss of the guidance, company, direction, influence, affection or intimate relationship with family members or others

Economic or monetary damages are usually calculated using wage or income statements, medical bills or invoices/bills for damage repair and replacement. Juries take a number of different approaches when determining non-economic damages:

  • Some courts will instruct jurors to identify a “reasonable” amount of compensation
  • Some courts apply a multiplier (anywhere from 1 to 10), first determining the economic losses and then multiplying that amount by the pre-determined factor

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Gathering Evidence in a New Jersey Personal Injury Case

The Tools Your Lawyer Will Use to Put Together Your Lawsuit

Gathering Evidence in a New Jersey Personal Injury CaseWhen you have been hurt because of someone else’s carelessness or wrongful act, you have a right to seek compensation for your losses in a court of law. To successfully recover damages, you must prove your claims before a judge and jury. How does your attorney find the best evidence to convince jurors of the merits of your case?

The Tools of Discovery

In legal language, the process of gathering evidence is known as “discovery.” In the American civil justice system, the principle of “open discovery” applies at all times. That means that both parties have a right to all evidence relevant to the case (whether it’s admissible in court or not).

A common way that most attorneys will gather evidence is through the use of a private detective. The private detective will typically interview witnesses, and other parties, if possible. It’s important to understand, though, that a person cannot be compelled to speak to or answer questions from a private investigator.

Another tool for gathering evidence is the use of an expert witness. Your attorney may bring an accident reconstruction specialist to the scene of a motor vehicle accident, or may have a safety expert look at a dangerous or defective product.

Perhaps the most common method of gathering evidence is through a deposition. With a deposition, your attorney can ask the court to subpoena a witness (or another party) for questioning. Because of the legal force of a subpoena, the witness must appear. A court reporter will typically be present at the deposition, so that all questions and answers will be documented. The deposition may also be videotaped.

At the deposition, attorneys for all parties to the lawsuit may ask questions. Because there is no judge and no jury present, the rules of evidence that apply in the courtroom do not prohibit a witness from answering a question that would be objectionable in court. If there are disputes about the admissibility of certain questions and answers, they will be resolved by the court before the trial starts.

A second form of discovery frequently used is a request for production. This may involve documents or other types of physical evidence. This allows opposing counsel to examine relevant physical evidence in preparation for trial.

Finally, attorneys for either side may submit written questions to a party, a process known as “interrogatories.” The court will typically set limitations on the number of interrogatories, so that the process cannot be used solely or primarily as a delaying tactic or to cause the opposing party to incur unnecessary expense.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal injury claim. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Common Accidents in the Fall

Dangers to Watch for When the Leaves Start to Turn Color

Common Accidents in the FallIt’s October—officially fall—when the temperature starts to drop and the world comes ablaze in color. Some of the unique attributes of autumn can lead to an increase in certain types of accidents.

Slips and Falls

As the trees start to shed, fallen leaves can pose a serious risk of injury, accumulating on sidewalks, steps, ramps, and other public thoroughfares. Often, they’ll accumulate for days or weeks, getting wet and slippery with every rain. A pile of leaves on a driveway or sidewalk can mask a potentially dangerous situation. If possible, when you’re walking in fall weather, avoid uneven piles of leaves. If you need to climb stairs that are covered with leaves, take the time to clear a clean path first.

The lower temperatures at night can also leave dew on steps or stairs in the early morning, making ascending or descending treacherous.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

The days can still be pretty warm, with the nights cooling off significantly. Those conditions are ideal for fog, particularly at dawn or dusk. If you have to drive in foggy or misty weather, make certain you turn your headlights on so others can see you better. Lower your speed and take time to look both ways at any intersection.

Unfortunately, the natural beauty that comes with the changing colors in the fall can also be a distraction, causing drivers to take their eyes off the road.

Furthermore, many forest creatures are more active in the fall, which is not only hunting season but also mating season. Studies show increased movement among deer populations between October and the end of December and, consequently, more deer-car accidents.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an email today or call us at 856-667-4666 / 856-600-HURT to schedule an appointment. Evening and weekend consultations are available upon request. We can come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

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