Introduction to Car Accident Cases in New Jersey
Car accidents in New Jersey have the potential to turn your and your family’s lives upside down in the span of a few moments. One moment you are driving your children to school or sports practice, and the next moment you are being airlifted to the nearest hospital or being told you need emergency surgery. Although these and other consequences of a New Jersey car wreck can be visited upon you quickly, recovering from such a car accident can take a considerable amount of time. Not only do your physical and emotional injuries require time to heal, but obtaining a monetary judgment in your favor that entitles you to financial compensation for your losses and expenses can also take time. While there are some things that can be done to expedite the process of recovering compensation, in other cases, one must merely accept the standard timeline and progression of these cases.
How Long Will My New Jersey Car Accident Case Continue?
After being hurt in a New Jersey car wreck, you will want to file an accident claim with your motor vehicle insurance company as soon as possible. Because New Jersey is a “no-fault” car insurance state, your car insurance company will usually pay your claim – up to the policy’s limits – before anyone is determined to be “at fault” for causing the accident. Such an insurance claim should be filed quickly, as it can become difficult or impossible to obtain the benefits of your policy if too much time passes. For example, you may not be able to recover any compensation under your policy if you attempt to file an accident injury claim with your insurer months after the crash happened and your contract requires such claims to be filed within 60 days.
At the same time as you are filing your insurance claim, you will need to consider whether you will want to file a car crash lawsuit. This is because such a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the car crash or else you will lose your ability to seek any compensation through the courts. During this initial two-year period, your case will need to be investigated and prepared, and the initial documents setting forth the underlying facts and law of your claim will need to be filed. (Note that these steps can be completed any time before the two-year period has expired).
Once a car accident lawsuit has commenced, you can expect that it will take between 30 and 60 days to reach the first significant milestone in your case. During this time, the other party (the “defendant,” or the one from whom you are seeking damages) will have an opportunity to respond to your initial documents with any defenses and/or allegations that the other party may have against you. In some cases, the court will need to address certain defenses raised by the defendant in order to determine if your lawsuit can proceed.
Once this milestone is cleared, the next phase in the life of your car accident case is called discovery. In an effort to encourage parties in a car wreck lawsuit to settle their disputes where possible, modern statutes require parties in a car wreck lawsuit to disclose to one another the witnesses and evidence they would intend to use at trial. Evidence like records, photographs, and reports are generally able to be copied by the opposing side, and witnesses – especially expert witnesses – are usually able to be interviewed under oath by the opposing side. By requiring each party to reveal much of the evidence it intends to present at trial ahead of any actual trial, it is hoped that parties will be able to come to an agreement as to how the accident lawsuit should be resolved without the necessity of a trial or further court hearings. Generally, there is not a limit on how long the discovery process can go on, although courts can and do exercise general control over the discovery process in order to make sure cases do not languish. In most car accident cases, the discovery process is complete, and your case is ready to move forward within a matter of a few months.
When it is determined that your case is ready for trial, it can take between two or three months (or longer) for your case to actually reach the courtroom. If there are complicated legal issues in your case, one or more pretrial hearings may be necessary before your case is ready to try. Where the facts of your lawsuit are more complicated, or where the volume of cases handled by the court is greater, it may take longer for the court to have time to hear your case. If you file your case in a more rural area, you may find it easier to have your case tried more expeditiously.
All told, your car crash lawsuit may take several months to complete from the time you initially file your lawsuit. Being prepared for court hearings and ensuring you keep in contact with your attorney can help ensure that unnecessary delays are avoided, and your case continues on toward resolution.
A settlement agreement in which you and the at-fault party agree on how your case should be resolved and what compensation you should receive can significantly shorten the amount of time you wait before receiving monetary damages. You and the other accident party are able to reach a settlement at any time – even on the eve of trial. Your attorney can discuss with you whether the benefits of a settlement agreement make this a good option for resolving your case more quickly.
Call or Contact a New Jersey Car Accident Law Firm for Assistance
Parker Waichman LLP has years of experience in helping New Jersey families such as yours successfully navigate the justice system and obtain compensation for their car crash-related injuries. Call Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) to learn more about the services and representation we can provide for New Jersey car crash victims.
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