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Filing a Lawsuit for a Personal Injury—Part One

Initiating the Legal Process in Court | Gathering Evidence

Filing a Lawsuit for a Personal Injury—Part OneWhen you’ve been hurt because of the carelessness or negligence of another person, you hope that you can get the compensation you need to cover your losses without the need to file legal action. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. In most instances, you’ll need to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer and methodically move through the legal process. In this series, we provide an overview of what you can expect when you file a civil lawsuit for damages suffered in an accident.

Step One—Filing Your Claim

To initiate a lawsuit, you must file a document known as a “complaint.” The complaint must be filed in the appropriate jurisdiction—both geographically and in terms of the types of matters heard by the court. As a general rule, most personal injury claims are filed in state court, but there are circumstances where a federal court will have jurisdiction. Typically, the injured party initially establishes jurisdiction by filing with a specific court, though the defendant may seek a change of venue, or to have the lawsuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

In addition to filing in the appropriate court, you must also file in a timely manner. The statute of limitations sets forth the maximum amount of time you have to file, typically two years from the date of injury or discovery of injury. Once your complaint is filed, the defendant must file an answer within a specified period, usually 28 days. If the defendant fails to do so, you can ask the court for a default judgment.

Step Two—The Discovery Process

If there’s a timely response to your complaint, the judge will customarily set up an initial conference. That meeting usually has three functions:

  • It allows the judge to learn about the case
  • It gives the judge the opportunity to determine whether settlement is likely (and to encourage that process)
  • It allows the judge to set a discovery schedule

Discovery is a legal term that refers to the gathering of evidence. The judge will set a calendar for the completion of discovery and set any necessary limits on discovery. As a general rule, discovery is obtained through

  • Depositions
  • Requests for production of documents or other physical evidence
  • Interrogatories (written questions submitted to the other party)

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

What Can I Expect to Recover in a Wrongful Death Action?

The Damages Available in an Accidental Death Claim

Tipped over truck

In New Jersey, when your loved one has died because of the wrongful, careless or negligent acts of another person, and you can demonstrate that you qualify as a “real party in interest,” you have the right to bring legal action to compensate you for your losses. Of course, if your claim is based on allegations of negligence, you’ll need to show that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care, causing your loved one’s death.

If you can prove these elements, though, you have a right to pursue monetary compensation for:

  • The loss of all financial support you would have received from the deceased, based on his or her expected income. As a general rule, the amount of lost wages will be calculated based on the decedent working until retirement. A spouse will be entitled to all lost wages, whereas a child will be able to recover lost support until he or she would reasonably be expected to be self-sufficient.
  • An medical expenses incurred by the deceased as a result of the fatal accident
  • The costs of burial and funeral services
  • The loss of the companionship or consortium that the decedent would have provided, including comfort, care and guidance
  • The value of all services the deceased would have provided, such as childcare, housekeeping, cooking, laundry, home maintenance and yard/garden

New Jersey law does not permit a survivor or family member to seek any type of damages for emotional distress or injury in a wrongful death claim. A survivor, may, however, file a separate lawsuit for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

New Jersey Supreme Court Issues Ruling in PIP Claim

Court Rules That Personal Injury Protection Is Only Recourse for Claims under $250,000

PIP ClaimIn March, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down its decision in two consolidated cases (Haines and Little), overturning a lower court ruling addressing the rights of injured parties to seek compensation from at-fault parties after a motor vehicle accident. Here’s an overview of the court’s ruling and how it affects drivers in New Jersey.

Under New Jersey’s personal injury protection (PIP) laws, which have a default amount of $250,000 (among the highest in the nation), any expenses resulting from a motor vehicle accident that are “medically necessary” and proven to be caused by an accident are paid, regardless of fault. In exchange, any such expenses paid are not admissible and cannot be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit.

However, the state of New Jersey modified the law to allow residents to choose lower PIP coverage and thereby pay smaller premiums. A person may choose PIP coverage as low as $15,000. After the changes in the law, individuals who obtained the $15,000 coverage, but suffered damages in excess of that amount, would seek to introduce evidence of those losses at a personal injury trial.

In one of the first rulings, a Bergen County court held that evidence of medical expenses in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit are admissible only to the extent they exceed the $250,000 ceiling set forth in the law. In other words, by opting for lower PIP coverage, policyholders have waived the right to recover any damages between the policy amount and the statutory PIP amount of $250,000. Another court, in Union County, came to the opposite conclusion.

In 2017, a New Jersey appellate court cleared up the differing opinions, agreeing that injured parties could directly sue an at-fault party for damages between the amount of their PIP coverage and the statutory amount. The March decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court overturns that decision. The court reasoned that the legislative intent was to contain costs, and concluded that allowing parties to seek recovery of damages above their PIP coverage, but below statutory amounts, would contradict that intent.

For now, then, there’s a bit of a risk in choosing a lower PIP amount. You’ll be able to save some dollars on your premium, but you could have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of unrecoverable losses if you are in an accident.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Third Party Claims for Workplace Injuries

When Workers’ Compensation May Not Be Your Only Option

Third Party Claims for Workplace InjuriesIn New Jersey, when you have suffered injury or illness caused by an accident or exposure at work, your first recourse will typically be to file a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, your employer may even tell you that workers’ compensation is your “exclusive remedy,” that it replaces your right to file a personal injury lawsuit. In certain situations, that may be true, but there are exceptions. Here’s how it works.

The workers’ compensation laws were intended to be the “great bargain,” a program that would benefit both workers and employers. For workers, if your claim is approved, it means more rapid access to compensation. There’s no need to get on the court docket, to spend time gathering evidence, or to take your case to trial. If your application for benefits is approved, you can start receiving payments within a few weeks.

For employers, the primary advantage of the workers’ compensation system is the limit it puts on liability. Under the law, injured workers are paid a fixed benefit, mostly based on prior earnings. Accordingly, an employer doesn’t have to worry about a huge damage award from a sympathetic jury.

However, the workers’ compensation laws are a substitute for the liability of only the employer or a co-employee. If your injuries are caused by an unrelated third party, you can file a lawsuit to recover those damages. For example, if you were hurt in a motor vehicle accident involving an unrelated third party or because of the malfunction of a product or machine manufactured by an unrelated third party, you can still sue that party for damages.

In fact, you can file a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit simultaneously. The only caveat—you can’t recover twice for the same loss. If your workers’ compensation claim paid your medical expenses, you can’t recover for those losses in a personal injury lawsuit.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

What Is Negligence?—Part Three

Demonstrating Actual Loss

As we discussed in the first and second parts of this series, the initial requirements in a lawsuit alleging negligence are:

  • Evidence that would lead the jury to conclude that the defendant did not act reasonably under the circumstances (the conduct breached the duty of care)
  • The failure to act reasonably caused an accident

However, you can demonstrate conclusively that the at-fault party behaved unreasonably and that his or her actions caused an accident, but still be precluded from recovering any compensation in a personal injury lawsuit—you must also show that you suffered some actual loss.

Actual Loss in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

As a general rule, most damages paid in a personal injury suit are “compensatory,” i.e., intended to compensate the injured party for losses suffered. If, however, you haven’t suffered any loss, there’s nothing for which you need to be compensated. For example, assume that you were a motor vehicle accident and suffered bodily injury, incurring significant medical expenses. If those expenses are covered by your health or auto insurance policy, you won’t be able to recover any damages for medical expenses, as you haven’t had any out-of-pocket expense for medical care.

That’s not to say that the defendant won’t be responsible to someone for his or her negligence. In most instances, when an insurance company covers losses that you’ve suffered because of someone else’s carelessness, they have a right to seek reimbursement from the defendant for any amounts they’ve paid on your behalf.

It’s also important to understand that there’s another category of damages that are available in a personal injury action. These so-called “non-compensatory” or “non-economic” damages include payment for pain and suffering, loss of consortium or companionship and loss of enjoyment of life. Accordingly, you may not be able to recover damages for injuries covered by insurance, but you can still seek compensation for those non-economic losses.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

What Is Negligence—Part Two

Establishing Who Caused the Accident

As we explained in part one of this series, when you’ve been injured in any type of accident and have filed a lawsuit alleging negligence, the first element you’ll have to prove is that the wrongdoer (known as the “defendant”) failed to meet the recognized standard of care—that he or she acted unreasonably under the circumstances. But it’s not enough to show that the defendant breached the duty of care—you must then show a causal link between the breach of the duty of care and an accident.

The Different Types of Cause in a Personal Injury Claim

In any lawsuit alleging negligence, you must prove two different types of cause: actual cause and proximate cause.

Actual cause, also known as “but for” cause, is typically pretty straightforward. It simply asks whether the accident would have happened “but for” or in the absence of the wrongful conduct. Actual cause can become an issue when there are two or more parties who acted wrongfully. For example, if you are rear-ended at a stop sign and it pushes you out into an intersection, where you are t-boned by another driver who has just run a stop sign, there are two ways to look at actual cause:

  • Would you have been t-boned if you hadn’t been rear-ended first?
  • Would you have been t-boned if the second driver hadn’t run the stop sign?

It’s not enough, though, to demonstrate actual cause—you must also show proximate cause. Proximate cause asks whether the accident and its consequences were reasonably foreseeable, based on the careless act. For example, if you run a red light, it may be reasonably foreseeable that you will collide with another driver. However, if that driver loses control of his vehicle, careens into a gas station, hits a pump and causes a fire that burns an entire city block, you may not be liable for damages caused by the fire, as a jury may not consider that to be reasonably foreseeable.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

What Is Negligence?—Part One

Protecting Your Rights after You’ve Been Hurt

When you’ve suffered any kind of loss because of the wrongful act of another person—the loss of income when you can’t work or the loss of companionship or consortium; the costs of un-reimbursed medical care or the loss of enjoyment of life caused by your pain and suffering—you have a right to seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. While those types of legal action can be based on intentional acts of the wrongdoer, as a practical matter, they are almost always based on a legal theory of negligence.

What Is Negligence?

As the laws governing personal injury have evolved over many centuries, three requirements have been set forth to prove a claim based on negligence:

  • The injured party must show that the wrongdoer (the defendant) failed to meet (breached) the standard of care required under the circumstances
  • The injured party must show causal links (both actual and proximate cause) between the breach of duty and the accident
  • The injured party must show some actual loss as a result of the accident

In this blog, we will look more closely at the standard of care.

What Is the Standard of Care in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Under the principle of negligence, all persons in society have a duty to act as a reasonable person would, in whatever endeavor they are engaged in. Accordingly, when driving a car, manufacturing a product or maintaining property, a “reasonable” amount of care must be exercised.

Unfortunately, there is no concrete standard for what will be construed as “reasonable.” Instead, the appropriate standard of care is determined by a jury on a case-by-case basis. Juries are not, however, without guidance. Under the principle of stare decisis, juries must give weight to the prior decisions of courts in similar situations. But the standard is still a vague one and can vary to some degree from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Protecting Your Rights after a Car Accident

In the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, there can be great confusion. You may not know the precise cause of the accident or the full extent of your injuries. However, if you have been hurt because of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you have a right to pursue a monetary award to cover you losses. Here are specific measures to take to fully protect your rights:

Step One—Get the Medical Attention You Need

There’s nothing more important, after a car wreck, than ensuring you get all the medical care you need. Recognize up front that this is not the time to be stoic, tough or brave. You need to be willing to fully acknowledge the seriousness of your injuries. If you don’t, you may actually make things worse.

If you don’t feel like you can move under your own power, or you have any doubts about the nature of your injuries, stay put (as long as it’s safe to do so). Instead of diagnosing your own injuries, defer to the professionals. Wait until emergency medical technicians arrive and let them do what they are trained to do. If you need to leave the scene in an ambulance, be willing to do so.

Even if your injuries appear to minor, or you can move about under your own power, it’s still important to go to the hospital, an urgent care facility or to your family doctor as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that your injuries will get worse, or that you’ll have an intervening accident that makes it difficult to determine the source of all your injuries.

Be sure that you disclose all your injuries to medical personnel. Don’t focus on the obvious injury—the broken leg—and ignore the pain or stiffness in your back, neck or muscles. Often, those injuries can be more debilitating and take longer to heal.

Step Two—Gather Information

The more information you gather at the time of the accident, the easier it will typically be for your attorney when it comes time to resolve your case. Get contact information from everyone involved in the accident, as well as witnesses or bystanders. Take pictures of everything, from your injuries to the damage to all vehicles to weather conditions to any evidence on the roadway (skid marks, loose gravel, missing or blocked signage).

The most important thing to do, though, and as soon as possible—hire an experienced attorney to protect your rights. Even when liability seems obvious, a personal injury lawsuit can be time-consuming and complex.

 

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

What You Need to Know about New Jersey’s Dog Bite Law

about-new-jerseys-dog-bite-lawFor most people, most of the time, a dog is man’s best friend. Unfortunately, a dog can still be a dangerous animal, often because of the way it’s raised or treated. National statistics indicate that more than four million people seek treatment every year because of attacks by dogs, whether they’ve been bitten, mauled or otherwise injured. In New Jersey, the law governing liability for dog bites imposes what is known as “strict liability,” making the process easier for those who have been victims of an aggressive canine.

What Is Strict Liability?

In most personal injury claims, as we discussed in an earlier blog series, the injured party must prove that the defendant was negligent—i.e., that there was a duty to use reasonable care and that duty was breached. Under the principles of strict liability, there’s no requirement that you prove negligence. As applied to the New Jersey dog bite law, that means that you don’t have to show that the owner of the dog acted unreasonably or carelessly. Instead, if you can show that you were either on public property or on the dog owner’s property with permission, the only two things you will need to prove to recover for your losses are:

  • You were bitten by the dog
  • The defendant owned the dog

It won’t matter if the dog has a history of aggressive behavior. You can recover even if you are the first person the dog ever attacked.

It’s important to understand, though, that the concept of strict liability only applies to bites and maulings. If a dog chases you and you are hit by a bicyclist or hit by another car, you may still have to prove negligence.

Contact the Law Offices of David J. Karbasian, PC

Send us an e-mail today or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment.

Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We’ll come to your home or the hospital to meet with you, if necessary.

Protecting Your Rights after a Motorcycle Accident

Taking the Right Steps to Get Full and Fair Compensation for Your Losses

Protecting-Your-Rights-after-a-Motorcycle-Accident

When you have been hurt in a motorcycle accident caused by the carelessness or negligence of another person, your first priority will be your health and well-being. Go to the hospital by ambulance, if necessary, or get to an urgent care facility or set up an appointment with your personal physician. You’ll also want to do what you can to ensure that you gather and preserve all relevant evidence to support your claim.

The necessary evidence to prove a motorcycle injury claim can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • The statements or testimony of eyewitnesses—If there were others traveling with you or who happened to be on the scene at the time of the accident, get contact information from them, so that you or your attorney can get sworn statements from them. The sooner you gather this information, the better, as witnesses can move or die, or their memories can fade. It’s always a good idea to have a witness prepare a written statement, but you should also expect that your lawyer will set up a deposition, where the testimony will be transcribed by a court reporter.
  • Physical evidence—One of the most powerful forms of physical evidence is photographs—they can be from a smartphone, but take detailed pictures. Get shots of everything related to the accident, from your injuries to the damage to your car to the weather at the time or any irregularities with the roadway. You may also have your attorney hire a forensic investigator to visit the scene of the crash.
  • Expert testimony—Often, the causes of a motorcycle accident can be complex. One of the functions of an expert witness is to take that complicated information and put it in language that a jury will understand and find compelling. The types of expert witnesses typically used in a motorcycle accident claim include accident reconstruction specialists, engineers, medical professionals and financial planners.
  • Police reports—The police report may also include valuable information that helps establish liability.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

Contact our office online or call us at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is without cost or obligation. The sooner you call, the sooner you can move forward with your claim. We can accommodate evening or weekend meeting requests and will come to your home, if necessary.

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