Your Hackensack Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed August 17, 2017
Commuting into the City every day is not your idea of excitement, but what you wouldn't give for today's commute to have been normal and boring day as usual. Instead, you are stranded on the shoulder of the New Jersey Turnpike next to your smoldering wreck of a car waiting for an ambulance to bring you to the hospital. A day later your head is swimming in painkillers and everyone is saying you're lucky to be alive, but no one can give you a straight answer -- what happens next? How bad are your injuries? When can you return to work? Who will pay these medical bills? And when will this splitting headache finally go away? To ease your unexpected and undeserved burden FindLaw has created this guide to prepare you for your Hackensack personal injury case.
The most frequent type of lawsuit that stems from an injury is based on negligence law. Negligence governs harm that was inflicted accidentally. You must show that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable caution under the circumstances, and this failure caused your injuries. Read up on the five elements of negligence.
Often, the plaintiff was a little careless themselves and actually contributed to their own injuries. Historically, contributing to one's own injuries was a total bar to recovering any compensation. This harsh rule has been softened by the comparative negligence doctrine. Under New Jersey law, fault is assigned each plaintiff and defendant, and the plaintiff's total recovery is reduced by the percent he is found to be at fault. For example, if you racked up $1,000 in medical bills as a result of an injury which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900, from the other party. However, if the jury determines that the plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for the incident causing the alleged injury, the plaintiff cannot recover anything.
If your injuries were caused or exacerbated by a health care provider, you could file a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is significant to note that New Jersey is one of the rare states with no upper limit on "pain and suffering" damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
If the defendant injured you on purpose, you probably have an assault or battery cause of action instead.
If the injured person died as a result of the injuries, his or her action survives for close family members as a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for unfair costs borne by the family of the deceased, such as lost wages, lost companionship, medical bills and funeral expenses.
Alternatively, you could sue the manufacturer of the injury-causing product in a products liability lawsuit. This type of suit alleges that the product has a design or manufacturing defect that caused the product to malfunction and injure you in an unexpected way. Products liability governs a huge range of products, including medicine, cars, baby's toys, food and toxic materials.
New Jersey employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance in case one of their employees suffers a workplace injury. Benefits can include medical treatment, wage replacement and permanent disability compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses, and death benefits to family members of workers who have died as a result of their employment.
Workers' compensation is a sort of insurance, and functions through an administrative process. As a result, it is important to report your injury to your employer as quickly as possible in order to start receiving benefits. Your employer should automatically report this claim to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, but if your employer disputes the claim you can file it yourself with a Claim Petition or an Application for an Informal Hearing with the Division of Workers' Compensation.
How to Initiate a Lawsuit
To begin your lawsuit you simply draft a complaint, which is a brief description of the injury-causing event and a request for compensation. You then file the complaint at your local courthouse, located at 10 Main Street for Bergen County and 77 Hamilton Street in Passaic County. Once it is filed, send a filed copy of the complaint and a summons to every defendant via certified return-receipt mail.
If you get a writer's block, consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury. Personal injury attorneys almost universally work on a contingency fee basis, which means that they take a certain percent of your recovery instead of an hourly wage. Yes, this means they don't get paid until you win.
Every lawsuit is accompanied by a statute of limitations, which places a time limit on how long you have to initiate your lawsuit. The New Jersey statute of limitations bars lawsuits for injuries that occurred more than two years before the filing date. If you fail to file your lawsuit within two years of suffering the injury, you cannot recover regardless of your case's merits.
The harm you suffered converted into dollars is called damages. Damages are broken into two categories, economic and non-economic. Economic damages are fairly easy to understand, because they represent the monetary costs you were burdened with as a result of the injury. They can include medical expenses, lost future income, loss of property, costs to repair or replace property or loss of employment opportunities.
Courts put a price on pain on a daily basis. Non-economic damages are sometimes called "pain and suffering" damages because they are designed to compensate you for the mental and physical distress you suffered from the injury. Significantly, New Jersey is one of the few states with no upper limit on the amount of non-economic damages you could be awarded. Personal injury law is complicated. You may wish to read more general information about specific causes of action in FindLaw's personal injury section or can contact a local personal injury attorney for information specific to your circumstances. Many offer free consultations, too.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.