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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 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.

Slip and Fall Injury Claims in New Jersey

Slip-and-Fall-Injury-Claims

Your Rights When a Property Owner is Negligent

In New Jersey, as in other states, the owner or any person who exercises control over residential or commercial property has a duty to monitor and maintain the premises so as to minimize the risk of injury to legal visitors to the property—this is referred to under the law as “premises liability.”

The actual duty owed by an owner/controller of property depends to some extent on the nature and purpose of the visit. As a general rule, there is no duty owed to trespassers—persons on the property without permission, either express or implied. In limited circumstances, though, such as where the property contains an “attractive nuisance” that may garner the attention of children and essentially lure them onto the property, there may be liability. In all other instances of trespass, the injured party typically has no form of redress.

Legal visitors to the property are generally categorized as invitees or licensees. An invitee is defined as someone who comes onto land that is either open to the public at large, or who enters land to provide a financial benefit to the owner or controller. The duty to invitees is to use reasonable care to maintain the premises—it’s an affirmative mandate to ensure that the property is safe.

A licensee, on the other hand, is generally someone who has been invited onto the premises with the implied or express permission of the owner or controller. The most common example of a licensee is a social guest in a private home. An owner or controller has a duty to licensees to either repair any dangerous situations or reasonably notify potential visitors of conditions of which they are unaware.

It’s important to understand that the duty owed, in all circumstances, is a reasonable one and not an absolute one. The owner/controller does not have to guarantee that the property is safe, but must only take reasonable measures to monitor for problems and fix them when discovered.

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.

The Benefits of Expert Testimony in a Truck Accident Claim

Truck-Accident-Claim

To successfully litigate a personal injury claim, you need to present clear and compelling evidence that the defendant acted carelessly or negligently, causing actual losses. In a truck accident claim, that can often be a challenge, given the varied potential causes of such a crash, as well as the complex regulations governing trucking operations. As a result, it’s often essential to bring in expert witnesses to help juries understand both the cause of the accident and its consequences.

Here are the experts who are often called on in a truck accident injury claim:

  • Accident reconstruction specialists—These experts, usually engineers, customarily look at damage to vehicles, as well as evidence from the scene of the crash, so that they can identify exactly what happened. They’ll use all relevant data to recreate the accident, including skid marks, road gouges and information from the truck’s on-board data collection systems.
  • Human factors experts—One of the common causes of major truck accidents is truck driver fatigue, caused by drivers failing to take required breaks. A human factors expert will explain to a jury exactly what happens physically and mentally to a driver who does not get adequate sleep or rest.
  • Medical experts—Medical professionals will review all treatment and medical records and testify regarding both short-term and long-term injuries, as well as the care an injured person will require.
  • Economics experts—This expert will calculate the total monetary losses sustained by an injured person, both actual and projected, including lost income, unreimbursed medical expenses and property damage.
  • Mechanical expert—A mechanical expert will carefully examine the truck involved in the accident, looking to see if there are mechanical problems that should have been fixed or that directly or indirectly contributed to the accident. The mechanical expert will also confirm that the actual maintenance done to the truck conforms with what was reported in the vehicle maintenance log.

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.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

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

A Personal Injury Lawsuit – Part Three

Jury Selection and Jury Instructions

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part ThreeThe complaint is filed and answered, and discovery is complete. You’ve argued all dispositive motions and evidentiary disputes. There are still a couple very important steps before opening arguments can be made.

Jury Selection

Opening statements are made to the jury, so a jury must be seated before you can commence a trial. The jury selection process, also known as “voir dire,” can differ in minor respects from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but typically follows a common pattern:

  • Potential jurors are selected from voter rolls or drivers license lists
  • A certain number of potential jurors are notified that they may be called for jury duty during a specific period. Often, the jurors must either call in or receive to call to learn if they need to show up at the court.
  • Jurors are typically gathered in a separate room and are called into the court in small groups
  • Once in the courtroom, the prospective jurors are individually called to the witness stand, where they may be questioned by the judge, and by attorneys for all parties. The questions are designed to determine whether the jurors can render an impartial decision based on the facts of the case.
  • The judge may excuse a potential juror at his or her discretion. Attorneys for each side have two ways to challenge a potential juror—peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. A peremptory challenge allows an attorney to excuse a juror for any reason, but each side has a limited number of peremptory challenges. A challenge for cause must be based on the belief (gathered from the potential juror’s statements) that the juror cannot be impartial. There are no limits on the number of challenges for cause, but the decision is ultimately made by the judge.

Jury Instructions

In the American civil justice system, the judge makes determinations of law and the jury makes determinations of fact. However, juries must apply the law to the facts when rendering a verdict. Because the jury cannot be expected to know the law, they are given instructions, which essentially tell them what legal conclusions they must make based on their determination of facts. Typically, the judge will ask attorneys for both sides to prepare prospective jury instructions and will rule on what directives are ultimately given to the jury. Some judges prefer to wait to rule on jury instructions until it’s clear that the case will go to the jury. Others complete this as part of the pre-trial process.

Contact Us Now

Don’t run the risk that evidence will be lost— contact us online or call our office today at 856-667-4666 to schedule an appointment. Your first consultation is free. We are available evenings and weekends upon request. We’ll also travel to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all product liability claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

A Personal Injury Lawsuit—Part Two

Evidentiary and Dispositive Motions

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part TwoIn this series, we’re looking at the timeline for a personal injury lawsuit, so that you know what to expect and can work more effectively with counsel.

So, you’ve filed your complaint and the defendants have all answered in a timely manner. Settlement efforts were unsuccessful, so you conducted depositions, obtained copies of all relevant documents, examined any physical evidence and submitted and responded to all interrogatories. There’s still much that needs to be done before you’re ready to go to trial.

It’s important to understand that court dockets are full, trials can be time consuming, and judges have a vested interest in streamlining the process, should a case actually go before a jury. With that objective in mind, the next phase of a personal injury lawsuit involves proceedings in court designed to either eliminate the need for a trial, pare down the issues that need to be addressed at trial, or resolve issues that are best taken care of outside of the hearing of the jury. This is done through the use of two types of motions—dispositive motions and evidentiary motions.

Dispositive Motions

The purpose of a dispositive motion is to either resolve a claim or eliminate the need to resolve an issue. Dispositive motions may be filed by either party. An injured party may contend that, based on all the evidence gathered during the discovery process, the defendant has asserted no valid defense, and the plaintiff should be granted relief without the need for a trial. A defendant, on the other hand, may allege that the injured party has not produced evidence to support one or all of the claims made in the complaint.

Evidentiary Motions

During the discovery process, the rules of evidence are somewhat more lax than they are at trial. Evidence that would be inadmissible at trial—perhaps as opinion or hearsay—may be allowed during a deposition. If there’s a dispute as to the admissibility of any evidence obtained during discovery, those disputes are best resolved outside the earshot of the jury. Accordingly, any evidence objected to during discovery can be reviewed by the court before trial and ruled admissible or inadmissible. If the court concludes that certain evidence is not appropriate and a party introduces it anyway, it can be the basis for contempt of court and a potential mistrial.

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.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

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

A Personal Injury Lawsuit—Part One

Filing the Complaint | The Discovery Process

A Personal Injury Lawsuit Part OneWhen you have been injured because of the carelessness or negligence of another person, one of the first things you want to do is contact an attorney and initiate a personal injury lawsuit. You may be unable to work and without any income to meet your financial obligations. Unfortunately, a personal injury lawsuit is a process, one that can take months or years to complete. This series of blogs helps you understand the process, so that you can work more effectively with your attorney, and can make good decisions about how you want to proceed.

Initiating Your Lawsuit

A personal injury lawsuit begins when you file a complaint with the appropriate court. You’ll need to file your complaint within the specific period of time—what is known as the “statute of limitations.” But you’ll want to file your lawsuit without unreasonable delay, but it’s also in your best interests to do so. Memories can fade and witnesses can disappear. The sooner you file your lawsuit, the sooner your attorney can start to gather and preserve all relevant evidence.

Once you’ve filed your complaint, and served all defendants with a copy, the defendants have a specific period of time to file an “answer,” either admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint. In most jurisdictions, that’s 30 days. If a defendant fails to file an answer in a timely manner, you can ask the court for a default judgment, which will typically be enforced absent significant extenuating circumstances.

The Discovery Period

If the defendant(s) all answer in a timely manner, the court will next schedule a first meeting, where the judge will learn a little bit about the case, and will most likely explore the possibility of settlement before trial. In some instances, the judge may actually require that you try mediation or some alternative method of dispute resolution, so that trial can potentially be avoided.

At that first meeting, the judge will typically establish the “discovery” schedule. Discovery is a legal term that refers to the gathering of evidence, which is typically done through:

  • Depositions-Oral examination of witnesses by attorneys for all parties, transcribed by court reporters
  • Requests for production of documents and physical evidence, so that all parties can examine
  • Interrogatories—Written questions to parties that must be answered in writing and delivered by a certain date. The court customarily establishes limits on the number of interrogatories

Depending on the complexity of the case, the court may establish a discovery period of a few months or even more than a year.

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 or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

An Introduction to Personal Injury Litigation – The Standard of Care

an-introduction-to-personal-injury-litigation-the-standard-of-careWhen you’ve been hurt in an accident, one of the first things you’ll want to do is take an inventory of your losses and try to determine exactly what happened. If the accident was caused by the conduct of another person, you have a right to pursue reimbursement for past, present and future losses. Though you can always recover monetary compensation (also known as damages) for the intentional or reckless behavior of another person, most personal injury lawsuits are based on a legal theory of negligence.

In this three-part series, we’ll take a close look at what you must prove in court to succeed with a personal injury claim:

  • That the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would (breach the duty of care)
  • That the failure to act reasonably caused an accident
  • That you suffered actual losses because of the accident

In this blog, we examine the standard of care in a negligence claim.

Breaching the Duty of Care

Under the law of negligence, as it has evolved over the last millennium, initially in England and then in the United States, all persons in society are under a duty to use a certain level of care in all daily activities, whether it’s driving a motor vehicle, operating machinery, maintaining property or designing/manufacturing a consumer product. That duty requires everyone to act “as a reasonable person” would. The failure to do so can make a person potentially liable for any physical injury, financial loss or property damage sustained by another person.

The law, however, has never been very specific about what qualifies as “reasonable.” Though some courts have construed “reasonable” to be what an “average person of ordinary prudence” would do, the reality is that the standard is determined by the jury on a case-by-case basis (though prior decisions are given consideration).

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 or the hospital, if necessary.

We handle all personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. We won’t charge any attorney fees unless we recover compensation for your losses.

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