For many, obtaining adequate financial compensation for broken bones, lost wages, and other injuries and losses following a personal injury accident in New Jersey is a complicated process. This is due in large part to the great number of statutes that are involved in any personal injury lawsuit. These laws, for example, describe the rights of plaintiffs and defendants (as well as detail how these rights are to be exercised), how claims are to be brought before the court for decision, and how important evidence is to be presented to the court for consideration. In certain types of personal injury cases, other statutes may apply that would not apply under other circumstances or in other types of cases.
Unless you are willing to spend thousands of dollars and devote three years of your life to studying the law, it is doubtful that you or any New Jersey personal injury accident victim will have the time or resources necessary to become intimately familiar with these laws and their application. Thankfully, this is not necessary: knowing just a few of the more commonly-applied New Jersey statutes can make you a more informed personal injury accident victim who knows what steps to take after an accident occurs.
Common New Jersey Statutes Injury Victims Should Know
Personal injury cases come in all shapes and sizes, from the “simple” and straightforward slip-and-fall case to a complex lawsuit filed following injuries a newborn child sustained during delivery. However, despite the differences in facts that personal injury cases in New Jersey may have, most all of these cases will require the application of at least some of the following statutes:
- N.J. Rev. Stat. Sec. 2A-14-2: This is known as the “statute of limitations” and it sets forth the time limits within which your New Jersey personal injury accident claim must be initiated with the court. In general, this period is two years from the date you are injured or you reasonably should have known you were injured. This statute contains various subsections that relate to specific types of personal injury cases, but most of these time limitations are still two years. Wrongful death cases – that is, those personal injury claims brought by the surviving family members of someone who was killed in a personal injury accidents – are covered by a different statute of limitations, but the time period is the same: two years from the date of the victim’s death or the date when the surviving family members should have known another’s careless acts caused the victim’s death.The main exception to this general two-year time period is found in subsections (a) and (b) of N.J. Stat. Sec. 2A-14-2, which relate to claims of medical malpractice involving minor children. In these cases, a minor child will generally have two years from the date of his or her 18th birthday to file a claim for injuries related to medical negligence. If the minor child was injured at birth, he or she will have either have two years from the date he or she turns 18 years of age (if born before July 2004) or until he or she turns 13 years of age (if born after July 2004) to file a claim based upon those birth injuries.
- N.J. Rev. Stat. Sec. 2A:15-5.9: This statute acts to limit the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a New Jersey personal injury case. This statute, then, places a “cap” on the amount of punitive damages that can be assessed against a defendant. Punitive damages are appropriate and available in limited circumstances, such as when the person responsible for causing your injuries acted not just carelessly but extremely recklessly or even with malice (such as firing a gun at your house knowing you were inside or excessively speeding in a busy downtown area). This statute acts to limit these punitive damages to either $350,000 or five times the compensatory damages received, whichever amount is larger. So, for example, a pedestrian who is injured when a driver deliberately runs him or her over in a crosswalk and who is awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages could, theoretically, recover up to $500,000 in punitive damages on top of his or her compensatory damages award.
- N.J. Rev. Stat. Sec. 2A:15-5.1: This law precludes personal injury victims from recovering any compensation at all if they are the primary cause of their own injuries. In other words, a victim whose own negligence is determined to be the primary cause of the harm he or she suffers cannot hold any other person responsible for damages. A victim may be the primary cause of his or her own injuries if, for example, the victim is also behaving in a careless way (i.e., not paying attention to where he or she is walking) or by failing to obtain medical assistance after an accident (i.e., getting hit on the head by a falling tool at a construction site but refusing to allow a doctor to examine his or her head for internal injuries).This law does permit recovery so long as the victim is not the primary cause of his or her injuries. If the victim is 50 percent or less responsible for the harm he or she suffered, he or she is entitled to some recovery from the negligent party or parties. In this situation, any recovery he or she is entitled to receive is reduced in proportion to the amount of fault the victim him- or herself bears in the incident. So, for instance, a victim who is 40 percent responsible for causing a pedestrian crash and who sustains $50,000 in financial loss may be able to recover up to $30,000 in compensation from the at-fault party.
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