It was a beautiful fall afternoon, and you and the family were at the Plays in the Park production of School House Rock Live. Your client's daughter was playing the part of Dori. You hadn't particularly wanted to go, but it turned out to be a fun performance and you couldn't stop humming "Conjunction Junction" on the way back to the car. As you drove through Roosevelt Park your mind drifted back to Saturday morning cartoons in your childhood living room. Suddenly, your dream state was interrupted when you were hit by a speeding truck. What happens now? What should you do? Here is some basic information to help you with your car accident in Edison.
Stop Right There
Under New Jersey law (N.J. Statute 39:4-129), immediately after an accident you must stop at or as close as possible to the scene, exchange information, and provide "reasonable assistance" to any injured party. The consequences for failing to do so are substantial. In the case of an accident causing injury or death, a violation of this statute can result in a fine up to $5,000, imprisonment for 180 days, and loss of driving privileges for one year.
Even in the case of property damage to an unattended car, if you fail to stop and leave a note you can be fined up to $400, be imprisoned up to 30 days, and lose your driving privileges for 6 months.
So, make sure to stop after any accident and check right away whether anyone is hurt. If medical attention is needed (or requested), call 911 immediately.
Exchange and Collect Information
Once any emergency medical needs are addressed, make sure to exchange your name, address, driver's license, and registration information with the other driver. It is also a good idea to exchange insurance carrier names and policy numbers and to take pictures of the damage. You may also wish to jot down the circumstances of the crash to refer to later (weather conditions, approximate speed of the vehicles, etc.). Download and print out the FindLaw pamphlet entitled Motor Vehicle Accidents: First Steps (PDF) for more information.
If no one at the accident scene is in the condition to receive the information (name, address, etc.) and no police officer is present, you are required to make a report to the local, county, or state police -- so, if necessary, report the accident to either the Edison Police Department, the Middlesex County Sheriff, or the New Jersey State Police.
You should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you can after the accident. You are required to carry auto insurance in Edison and the rest of New Jersey, and as the Motor Vehicle Commission explains, in order to register your vehicle in New Jersey you are required to have three types of mandatory insurance:
- Personal injury protection (PIP); and
- Uninsured motorist.
As outlined, liability insurance pays for damage to others (but not medical expenses) when you are at fault. Personal injury protection, or PIP, pays for your medical expenses no matter who is at fault, while uninsured motorist insurance pays for your expenses when you are in an accident with someone lacking proper coverage. The three types of required coverage are included as part of either standard or basic policies.
Bringing Legal Action
If you are considering filing a lawsuit, keep in mind that there are limited periods for doing so. These are called statutes of limitations and they vary by state and type of action. In Edison and the rest of the state, the timeframe within which you must bring a personal injury action is two years.
Most personal injury suits are based on the claim that a party was negligent. To be negligent is to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident.
In many cases, both parties act negligently. In a few states, if you are even 1% at fault you are barred from bringing an action against the other party. In Edison and the rest of New Jersey, however, so long as your negligence was not greater than 50%, you may still pursue your claim, although your recovery will be reduced proportionate to your fault.
What damages can you claim?
Depending on the extent of your injuries and property damage, there are several types of damages you can claim following a car accident in Edison. These can include repair bills and lost wages, as well as more intangible things like pain and suffering. Be aware that, depending on the provisions of your insurance policy, you may be limited in your ability to sue the at-fault party for pain and suffering unless certain conditions are met.
Do you need an attorney?
Depending on the extent of the accident, it is often recommended that you at least consult with an injury attorney. The initial meeting may be free of charge and a discussion with a lawyer can help you assess and understand your case. For more information about hiring a car accident lawyer, legal fees and costs and more, check out the FindLaw section on Car Accident Legal Help.