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Car accidents have been since the inception of the vehicle. The first accident involving a gasoline-powered vehicle occurred in Ohio in 1891.
An engineer named James Lambert was testing out a gas-powered buggy that he had built. The vehicle hit a tree root and he lost control of it. James and a friend riding in the vehicle crashed into a nearby hitching post and both men suffered minor injuries.
A few years later, a London woman by the name of Bridget Driscoll was the first pedestrian fatality.
As she stepped off the curb of a London street, Arthur Edsall was driving down the road in his Anglo-French model car. He wasn’t going very fast, but Bridget, so bewildered by the sight of the vehicle froze in place.
Arthur wasn’t able to shift the car’s direction in time and accidentally ran over Bridget. She did not survive the accident. Arthur was arrested but later released.
Next, in 1899 the United States experienced its first pedestrian death by a vehicle. It happened in New York City. A man by the name of Henry Bliss was helping a woman out of an NYC streetcar when he was struck down by a taxicab.
As the popularity of motorized vehicles grew, so did the risk of an accident. Inexperienced drivers, lack of speed limits and traffic lights, no lane lines or brake lights. All of these factors led to many accidents and deaths in the early part of the 20th century.
Fortunately, city and government officials soon saw a need for traffic regulations and began to implement them. The number of deaths by motor vehicles reached an all-time high in 1974 at 27.6 per 100,000 people but has steadily declined since then.
Today, the number is less than half of this at 12 deaths per 100,000.
Still, many people survive the accident but are injured – in some cases permanently injured. The CDC released these statistics on motor vehicle crash injuries:
In the state of New Jersey, close to 2,000 people get hurt in motor vehicle accidents on the New Jersey Turnpike, the State Police reported. The highway also saw 21 deaths in 2016.
According to NJ.com, 32 people in 29 accidents lost their lives in 2016, making it one of the deadliest years on record.
Although our vehicles and traffic regulations have evolved, 2 million drivers in car accidents still experience permanent injuries every year.
Hiring a lawyer after a car accident ensures that your lost time from work, medical expenses, and pain and suffering are taken into account before any settlement with an insurance company is agreed to.
It also means having an advocate, a guide through the complicated legal process, and someone in your corner who won’t back down until you’ve gotten the settlement you deserve.
In the event of a car accident, a claim must be filed even if you are not working with an injury lawyer. However, working with an injury lawyer, especially if you’ve suffered serious injuries, could help you to get, on average 3.5 times more money for your claim than you could by filing on your own.
Although car accident lawsuits are generally between the drivers, it is usually the insurance company that pays out the judgment. And insurance companies generally prefer to settle because for them, litigation can be expensive.
In fact, 95% of personal injury lawsuits reach a settlement before going to trial.
However, in the hectic moments after the crash, many people experience confusion, underestimating their injuries, failing to call the police, and waiting too long to take action. Often times, they don’t realize how serious their collision was.
They elect not to contact an injury attorney and deal with the insurance company directly, even though many injury attorneys will take their case on a contingency basis.
If they aren’t careful with the information they provide to the insurance company or sign away their rights without meaning to, it could result in a settlement substantially less than what they could have received if they’d sought the advice of a professional attorney familiar with car accident law.
It normally takes between four and six weeks to receive a settlement for a car accident, although the settlement process will vary by case.
Once a settlement is agreed to, the insurance company requires you to sign a release to settle your claim. Next, there are a few steps that must take place before you receive your check:
Outstanding victim expenses may include things like vehicle repair bills, medical bills, or other expenses that have already been charged and require reimbursement.
You should provide your attorney with any invoices or statements related to the car accident to payout upon reaching a settlement agreement.
Attorney fees, court costs, and filing fees will also be deducted from the settlement amount. Your attorney will receive the agreed-upon fee for his or her services and provide you with a statement detailing the costs of your legal representation.
Your victim compensation will be issued by the law firm once any other bills, fees, and expenses connected to the settlement have been paid out.
While the payout for car accidents will vary based on the damages and circumstance, the average car accident settlement is currently between $14,000 and $28,000. In cases where the victim(s) have severe or permanent injuries, the settlements are higher. Cases where a driver was under the influence also tend to pay out more.
Damages refer to all of the harms or losses you have suffered. Some of the damages your NJ car accident attorney will seek compensation for include:
There is no set formula you can use to calculate how much your claim could be worth, however, insurance companies will often try to predict what a jury would award you if the case were to go to trial. They have compiled statistics on car accident injury lawsuits that have gone to trial in New Jersey and across the country.
Although they may not admit it, insurance companies use these statistics to formulate a multiplier to determine an estimated value for your claim. The multiplier is typically 2 or 3 and this is how it works:
Of course, every case is unique, and this is just an example of how insurance adjusters may calculate a claim. Working with a personal injury lawyer could significantly increase the amount of settlement that you receive.
Nationwide statistics place the average payout for a whiplash settlement to be somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $20,000.
Whiplash, resulting in back and/or neck injury is very common following a car accident, and relatively easy to prove fault because the driver responsible for rear-ending another vehicle is usually to blame.
While $10,000 to $20,000 range is an average whiplash payout, there have been cases where these injuries have happened in conjunction with brain injury or a concussion resulting in settlements of six and seven figures.
Whiplash symptoms do not always develop until days or weeks after the car accident. So if you were driving or riding in a car that was hit with sudden force causing your body to propel or jerk forward, you could be the victim of whiplash, even if you don’t realize it right away.
If you are concerned that you are experiencing whiplash, it’s critical that you go to your doctor right away for a proper diagnosis. If you are found to have whiplash, you’ll need to provide proof of your accident and your injuries.
Hiring an injury attorney to help you through this process could ensure that you have the information you need to pursue fair compensation for your whiplash injury.
The typical payout for a whiplash injury includes money for damages like:
Even though the average settlement ranges between $10,000 and $20,000 for whiplash, every case is different. And yours could be worth more or less depending on your circumstances and whether or not you are working with an injury attorney on your case.
The more severe your injuries, the more compensation you could potentially receive for your injuries.
Since each car accident case involves a unique set of circumstances, the settlement and court awards vary widely. One survey performed on personal injury cases found that the payouts range, on average, between $3,000 and $75,000.
Car accident cases where the injury is serious or even permanent tend to have higher payouts than those which are less severe.
Your damages can be economic – things with a clear numerical cost, like hospital bills and loss of wages – or they can be non-economic, like pain and suffering.
All of these losses are real, and they matter regardless of whether or not there’s an economic price tag associated with them.
Some of the primary factors that could impact your payout for a serious injury include:
If your injuries are severe, then you will likely have more medical expenses, lost income from work, and other damages. These factors often lead to higher settlements and awards.
However, insurance limits can also play a role in the amount that you are awarded. Insurance policies have limits. Even in situations where the case is worth more than the limit, and the insurance company is highly unlikely to agree to a settlement amount that’s over the limit set on the policy.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer could also have a significant impact on the amount that you receive for your car accident. On average, people who work with an attorney are awarded 3.5 times more than those who file on their own.
Car crash injuries can include minor cuts and bruises that resolve in a few days, broken bones that may take months to heal, to extremely severe injuries that cause permanent damage. There are two main types of car accident injuries: impact and penetrating.
Impact injuries are what happens on impact – when your body forcefully comes into contact with parts of the car. Penetrating injuries are wounds caused by broken glass or loose objects in the vehicle.
The top 5 types of injuries most commonly seen in New Jersey are:
Cuts and scrapes can occur on impact or from broken glass and loose objects during a car accident. These are often minor injuries; however, they can also be more severe injuries such as gaping wounds that must be stitched up to stop the bleeding.
Head injuries also vary in their level of severity from a minor bump or bruise to concussions and even permanent brain damage. These injuries may occur when your head hits the steering wheel, a window, or another object in the vehicle. Sometimes these injuries are not evident right away and can even start off as a minor headache.
One of the most common soft tissue injuries is whiplash. Whiplash and other connective tissue injuries occur when there is damage to your muscles, ligaments, or tendons. Back and spine injuries also fall into this category.
Arm and leg injuries happen frequently in car accidents. These can range from simple cuts and scrapes as your body is thrown against the car, to broken bones, sprains, and bruises.
Chest injuries are common after a car accident. Broken ribs, bruising, contusions, and sometimes even internal damage to the heart and lungs may happen as your chest forcefully comes into contact with a steering wheel or seatbelt harness.
If you do suffer any of these top 5 types of injuries, or even less common ones, it is very important to keep your medical records and receipts as part of your documentation of your injuries.
There is not one industry-wide standard that all insurance companies follow. However, even with varying procedures, there are similar patterns in how insurance companies view a settlement.
Most insurance adjusters follow a set of procedures that include:
The accident investigation that insurance companies perform includes getting to the bottom of the story of the accident. This includes reading police reports, talking firsthand to the people involved, and investigating any other information that will give them a better picture of what happened.
However, New Jersey is a no-fault state, which means that your own insurance company is the one responsible for paying any medical bills related to an accident. Your insurance company pays no matter who caused the collision.
The no-fault law is the reason any auto insurance policy sold in New Jersey includes a type of coverage called personal injury protection, or PIP.
Once the insurance adjuster has the details of what happened in the collision, their next step is to review the documentation on the claim. The adjuster will request this information from you, or your personal injury attorney, if you have one. Documentation includes things like medical bills, income statements and tax returns, and proof of damage to your vehicle or other property.
With the details of the accident and damages, the insurance company will then determine a value for the settlement.
The two main considerations that the insurance adjuster looks at when coming up with this number are 1) how likely you could win your case if you work with a lawyer and go to trial, and 2) what is the likely dollar amount that a jury might award you if you win your case.
Next, the insurance company will assign value to your pain and suffering claims. Since most insurance companies track data on personal injury settlements and jury awards, they will often use this data along with formulas or industry-specific software to determine a value for these claims.
Finally, after completing their due diligence, they will present you or your injury attorney with an initial settlement offer. There is not an industry-wide standard here, but many insurance companies have a set of procedures that they follow.
For example, an insurance company may train their adjusters to make the first offer at around 35% of the value of your case. Often times, the adjuster does have some discretion here. If you are represented by a lawyer for your car accident, then the offer may be higher.
If you are handling the claim yourself, the adjuster may opt to come in at a lower rate.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you can elect to work with an attorney on your case, or you can choose to settle with the insurance company on your own. Either way, you should understand the process of what happens next. In this section, we’ll cover the following:
Initiating a claim should on your auto accident should happen as soon as possible following the accident. In no-fault states like New Jersey, your policy’s personal injury protection insurance covers the damages.
However, there is a statute of limitations requiring victims to file a lawsuit for damages related to the car accident within 2 years of the injury.
But by starting the process quickly after the accident, you improve your chances of settling the case and being compensated sooner.
During this process, it is important to keep accurate records of the accident and any expenses related to it. Many police departments in NJ allow victims to get copies of their car accident reports online.
You’ll also need records of your property damage expenses, medical bills, and documentation of lost wages and other financial losses.
You’ll need these detailed records in order to calculate a fair settlement. These records added up will total your expenses for “special damages”. Additionally, you should calculate your lost earnings and lost earning capacity.
This is a calculation of your future lost earnings. And its generally calculated in terms of its present value.
If your injuries are severe and future earnings are affected, you may want to seek legal advice to ensure that the number you come up with is fair and takes your future financial situation into account.
Remember, your damages can be economic – things with a clear numerical cost, like hospital bills and lost wages – or they can be non-economic, like pain and suffering. All of these losses are real, and they matter regardless of whether or not there’s an economic price.
Once you’ve determined a fair settlement amount, the next step is to send a detailed demand letter to the insurance company. In your demand letter, you’ll need to be very specific as to why you believe that you deserve the compensation you are requesting.
Use your documentation to demonstrate current losses, expenses, and injuries as well as your calculations for future losses and expenses. This information will be useful as you begin the negotiation process.
Since New Jersey is a no-fault state, your PIP coverage allows for compensation for your injuries. But how much compensation you receive may depend on your negotiation skills – or those of your personal injury lawyer. In this section, we’ll cover the negotiation process including:
As you begin to negotiate an offer for your car accident settlement, keep in mind that the insurance adjuster is not going to give you his or her best offer from the beginning.
So it is in your best interest not to accept the first dollar amount that they propose. This is usually a percentage (usually less than half) of the value of your claim.
Before the insurance company comes to the table with an offer, they’ve already placed a value on your claim, and you should have a number of your own in mind too. When the adjuster proposes their number, which will likely be lower than yours, there are a few tactics you can use to help your case.
If their number is close to yours, you can counter-offer right away to keep the process moving swiftly. If it’s extremely low, then your next step should be to ask them to justify their offer and document their reasons and your responses in writing.
You didn’t deserve this pain. You shouldn’t have to compromise your quality of life or pay thousands of dollars because another driver made a reckless mistake. And you have every right to fight back.
Your responses shouldn’t rehash all of the facts of the case. Instead, focus on a few key points and emphasize the emotional points that support your claim. Emotional points could include things like how the injury has impacted your family and your ability to care for them, or the trauma you experienced as a result of the injury. These emotional points are difficult to assign a monetary value to, which can work in your favor.
Be sure to get everything in writing throughout the negotiation process. Documentation is key to keeping records of what has been said and agreed to. If you are working with a personal injury lawyer on your car accident case, your lawyer will handle the documentation.
So when should you hire an attorney to help you with your case? This is entirely up to you. You can find an injury lawyer in New Jersey who will take your case for no fees unless you receive a settlement or jury award. The best way to avoid making mistakes after a car accident is to get help early on.
The car accident settlement process will vary depending on factors such as the severity of the damages and whether you are in a no-fault or at-fault state.
New Jersey is a no-fault state, which means that drivers carry insurance that covers their own damages resulting from a car accident, regardless of who is actually at fault for the collision. This personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is also used to pay medical expenses.
When you are involved in a car accident in New Jersey, it is your insurance company that you or your attorney will negotiate a settlement with. The process of the settlement involves:
The steps for filing a claim sound simple enough, and sometimes they are, but that’s not always the case. Even in less complex circumstances, getting the insurance company to agree to a settlement may not be easy.
You’ll need to figure out what your policy covers and gather evidence to support your claim. And depending on where you live, you may have a statute of limitations to contend with. In New Jersey, you have two years to file your car accident claim.
When you’ve collected the evidence, you’ll need to draft a demand letter. If you are working with a personal injury lawyer, this is something that your lawyer would take care of.
Once the insurance company receives your demand letter, the next step in the car accident settlement process is to negotiate an agreement with the insurance company as to how much compensation you are entitled to for your accident.
Insurance companies prefer to settle outside of court because they have more control over the outcome. However, if you are unable to reach an agreement, the next step in the process would be to let a jury decide in a courtroom.
One of the reasons many people choose to file an automobile accident claim on their own is that they are concerned that they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Money is often tight after an accident, and the prospect of paying attorney fees is daunting.
Yes, suing an individual or business does cost money, but in car accident injury cases, you can find a lawyer who will take your case on contingency.
This means that the outcome of the case determines the fees and you don’t have to pay any upfront fees to hire an injury attorney. You pay only a percentage of what your lawyer is able to get for you.
Nothing upfront. No outrageous hourly rates. No costs to talk to an attorney. Even without attorney fees, the costs of pursuing litigation can be high. If you had to pay for these expenses yourself, you could end up shelling out tens of thousands of dollars in filing fees, fees for expert witnesses’ services, and other costs.
You can afford an experienced lawyer.
When you file a lawsuit for compensation after you’ve been involved in an accident, it is not the other person involved in an accident that you are typically suing. It’s the insurance company. In an at-fault state, that may be the other driver’s insurance company. Whereas in a no-fault state like New Jersey, it could be your own insurance company.
When the person responsible for your injuries is a friend or family member, you might feel uncomfortable with the idea of filing a claim against their insurance company. Don’t. Your friend pays for insurance so that when they cause an accident, everyone gets the care they need. Your personal injury claim is against their insurance policy, not them.
It is never too early to speak with a car accident injury lawyer. In fact, it’s a good idea to call one as soon as possible so you can avoid missing a crucial deadline. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for filing a claim is two years, but in some cases, the limit is as soon as 90 days.
Find an injury attorney that offers free consultations to discuss your accident with. Even if you are still undecided about working with the lawyer, you may gain some valuable insights.
You may have a case if someone else, like a careless driver, caused your accident and you suffered injuries. You might be entitled to compensation regardless of whether you were a passenger or a driver, or even if you were walking, riding a bicycle, or a motorcycle.
In some accidents, it’s clear right away that there have been catastrophic injuries and that there will be losses to file a claim for. However, in other cases, your injuries might not seem that severe at first, but even life-changing injuries can be overlooked in the immediate aftermath of a collision. It can take hours, days, or even weeks for the severity of an injury to become clear.
Speaking with an attorney about your case can raise your level of awareness about the things to look for in the upcoming days, and it may help you decide what next steps to take.
The claims process can be more complex than you realize. The facts of your unique situation are important. Talk to a car accident attorney privately to find out for sure whether or not you have a case – the sooner, the better.
The best way to avoid making mistakes after a car accident is to get help early on. Report the crash to the police, even if you hope it isn’t that serious. See a doctor just to be sure. As soon as it becomes clear that you are hurt, get a lawyer involved so that you no longer have to worry about the insurance company, the paperwork, or anything else related to your claim.
The sooner you speak with a lawyer, the more effective they’ll be at building a successful claim. Don’t wait until you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company to start talking to a New Jersey car accident lawyer.
You can sue for pain and suffering in most states, including New Jersey, when you are the victim of a car accident. Should you do so depends on the unique set of circumstances surrounding your collision.
Keep in mind that pain and suffering are difficult to prove and difficult to place a monetary value on. Even if you have an injury that generally involves pain, the degree of your pain is difficult to determine because every individual has their own threshold of physical pain.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple settlement calculator where you can plug in a few numbers and come up with a dollar amount.
Besides physical pain, you could also suffer from mental anguish and pain related to your injury. This is considered a part of “general damages” according to the law. But again, there is no set formula in calculating a payout for this type of damage and it can be difficult to prove.
When an accident has cost you so much, you want to know how much money you can expect from your claim. As you probably realize, insurance companies don’t want to pay you any more than they have to. They will assess the value of your claim offer you a percentage of it. While there may be a specific percentage rate that their company uses, most adjusters have discretion.
How much your car accident is determined to be worth depends on a number of factors, some of which you have no control over. There are factors like how much medical care you needed, how much insurance coverage is available, how much income you lost because of your injuries, and many, many more.
Additionally, for reasons such as handling the claim yourself or lack of records and evidence, they may offer you a lower amount than their standard percentage. But there are some measures you can take to help maximize your car accident settlement amount including:
Keeping records and photographs of both your accident and injuries shows the insurance adjuster you are serious about your claim and you have the evidence to support it.
Following doctor’s orders can also help you maximize your final settlement amount. Not following orders or failing to make appointments could reduce the amount you receive. Remember, the insurance company is looking for ways to pay you less money. If there is a gap in treatment or proof that you didn’t follow your doctor’s orders, you could lose out on money during the car accident settlement process.
Working with an experienced attorney can also help you maximize your settlement. Insurance adjusters and experienced personal injury attorneys work on these types of cases on a regular basis. So they are much more familiar with all of the legalities, technicalities, etc. that are involved. If you don’t have help from a lawyer, you could be giving the insurance adjuster an unfair advantage. Hiring an attorney can level the playing field and improve your opportunity for a fair settlement.
Personal injury lawyers do not generally charge you a fee upfront. Instead, they charge contingency fees which can vary from around 25 to 40 percent.
This is an average rate that can vary. Your lawyer fees are a percentage of your settlement after other expenses and costs are deducted. These costs separate from your attorney fees include things like court filing fees, deposition expenses, travel, or hiring expert witnesses.
Insurance companies would prefer to settle your car accident claim over going to court because a settlement means more control of the final outcome than if a jury decided the award. So you have a good chance of receiving a settlement.
In fact, some statistics indicate that about 95% of all car accident claims are settled outside of court.
Your primary challenge with your car accident claim is reaching an agreement with the insurance company on how much money you will receive. And this depends on your circumstances, the evidence of the case, as well as other factors such as your negotiating skills, or whether you are working with a personal injury attorney to help you get the most for your claim.
If you lose your suit against the insurance company, your costs may vary depending on the laws of your state, and your agreement with your personal injury lawyer. If you entered a contingency agreement with your attorney, which is common in car accident cases,
A contingency agreement, often called a No Win/No Fee arrangement means that you owe nothing to your lawyer if you lose your suit against the insurance company. This type of arrangement helps car accident victims to afford to hire an experienced injury lawyer to represent them.
Who is responsible for your medical bills after a car accident depends on the laws of your state. In an at-fault state, you and/or your medical insurance provider will pay your medical bills. However, as part of your personal injury lawsuit, you can include current medical expenses and projected future ones that you’ll incur as a result of the accident as part of the damages that you are suing for.
In a no-fault state like New Jersey, it’s different. In this case, the PIP insurance that you are required to carry as a NJ driver will cover your medical bills up to the limits of your coverage regardless of who is at fault. If your medical bills add up to more than your max coverage, then you and/or your health insurance provider will need to pay the amount that exceeds your coverage.
However, you can pursue further compensation from your insurance company for these medical expenses by hiring a personal injury attorney and filing a lawsuit against them.
While you don’t technically need a lawyer to win a car accident settlement, it may be beneficial to hire one. An experienced injury attorney can help you maximize your compensation and handle the documentation and paperwork involved in filing a lawsuit. If you suffered an injury in your car accident that is causing you pain or impacting your ability to function, then it may be difficult to handle these things on your own.
Depending on the circumstances of your car accident, there may be some complexities and special considerations that would be best addressed by legal counsel. These can include things like:
In both straightforward cases and those with special considerations, working with an injury attorney on your car accident claim could have an impact on the amount of compensation you receive.
During our 20+ years, Console and Associates P.C has represented car accident victims across New Jersey and beyond. We want you to know that you can afford an experienced lawyer to fight for the compensation you deserve.
“There are millions of car accidents in the United States every year, but your accident isn’t just a statistic – and we’ll never treat it like one.” – Richard P. Console Jr.
Don’t settle for a NJ auto accident attorney who sees you as a statistic and your case as just a claim number. Insist on putting your car accident claim in the hands of attorneys who provide the individualized attention you deserve. We will never charge you a fee unless we win your case. Contact Console and Associates P.C. today at (856) 778-5500.
“My experience with the attorneys and staff and Console and Associates has been nothing short of spectacular.” – S. Miller / Client