Is No-Fault Insurance Different in New Jersey Than Other States?

No Fault Insurance Car Accident Lawyer Newark, NJNew Jersey drivers purchase auto insurance to help them cover the costs of accidents, from medical bills to auto repair costs. Making an informed choice about your auto insurance coverage, however, demands attention to certain details. For instance, understanding what no-fault insurance is, how it works, and what items your policy does (and does not) cover can all help you make smarter choices when it comes to buying and using your auto insurance coverage.

While we can’t cover the details of every auto insurance policy in this article, we can provide an overview of the basic elements common to New Jersey no-fault auto insurance policies, and we can explore how those policies differ slightly from policies used in other states.

No-Fault Auto Insurance in New Jersey: Understanding the Basics

In the past, auto accident costs were handled under an at-fault system in New Jersey and other states. In these crashes, bills were paid by whoever was found to be responsible for the accident.

Throughout the years, however, many states have transitioned to a no-fault auto insurance system. Under this system, each driver in an accident files a claim with their own respective auto insurance policies, which pay for medical expenses no matter who was responsible for the accident.

The goal of these policies was twofold, according to First, the no-fault system was intended to reduce litigation by providing a way that injured motorists could have their needs met without having to sue one another in court. Second, it was intended to speed up medical care and make it easier for doctors and hospitals to provide, since neither medical providers nor the injured accident victims had to wait for a court case to be decided before medical bills could be paid.

In order for a no-fault system to work efficiently, however, every driver must have auto insurance coverage that he or she can turn to after an accident. Consequently, all no-fault states require drivers to carry minimum auto insurance coverage as a matter of law. The primary form of coverage that addresses medical bills in a no-fault system is called Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage.

PIP coverage is part of the coverage drivers are required to purchase in no-fault states like New Jersey. PIP coverage pays for medical expenses for the vehicle’s owner, even if that owner is not in the vehicle when an accident occurs. For instance, many policies allow a vehicle owner to file for PIP coverage if the owner is injured by a driver while he or she is walking.

PIP coverage typically covers the relatives of the vehicle’s owner as well, although certain exceptions may apply. For instance, the covered relatives may be required to be related to the vehicle owner by blood or marriage, to reside in the same household as the vehicle owner, or both.

Most no-fault insurance policies, including those in New Jersey, also include two other types of mandated coverage: Bodily Injury (BI) and Property Damage (PD).

Bodily injury liability coverage provides coverage for claims and lawsuits by people who are injured in an accident caused by the vehicle owner, according to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. Property damage liability coverage provides coverage for damaged property in accidents you cause. It typically covers damage not only to vehicles or their contents in a crash but also to items like fences or mailboxes that may be damaged during the accident.

How New Jersey’s No-Fault Auto Insurance System Differs from the Other States

While the above features of a no-fault auto insurance policy are common among the states that use no-fault, New Jersey’s system is unique in one particular way: It allows drivers to choose whether or not they want an unlimited right to sue, according to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.

Vehicle owners who choose a “Basic” policy have access to the full limits of the PIP, BI, and PD coverage that they choose under the policy, just as any auto insurance policyholder would have. However, they are also bound by a “limited right to sue.” This right prohibits the driver, family member, or other covered individuals from suing an at-fault driver unless the injured person suffered:

· Loss of a body part,
· Significant disfigurement or scarring,
· A displaced fracture,
· Loss of a fetus,
· Permanent injury, or
· Death.

If any of these factors apply, the injured person may file a lawsuit against the driver to seek compensation for pain and suffering, as well as any other losses not covered by their insurance policy. If none of these factors apply, the injured person may not sue the at-fault driver.

Drivers in New Jersey who do not wish to be bound by the “limited” right to sue may purchase a “standard” policy, which lets drivers decide whether they want a limited or unlimited right to sue.

While the limited right to sue option is typically less expensive, it also makes it more difficult for an injured person to hold an at-fault driver responsible for an accident. The unlimited right to sue option removes some of the hurdles to holding an at-fault driver accountable, but it comes at a higher cost in insurance premiums for most drivers.

Whether you’re shopping for no-fault auto insurance coverage in New Jersey or in a neighboring state, understanding your options and how coverages change from state to state can help you make more informed choices about the policy you buy and how it works to help you and your family in a time of need.

This article was originally posted on The Patch. 

The Laws Surrounding Wearing Motorcycle Helmets in New Jersey

New Jersey Motorcycle Accident AttorneyNot everyone may agree with it but the law is clear: anyone riding a motorcycle must wear a federally approved DOT helmet when doing so in New Jersey. Many people have differing opinions on this law, as the line between what is safe for riders and the government’s infringement upon adult’s decision-making is constantly being walked on.

It is one thing when there is a law in place for children wearing protective gear, as they are not old enough or responsible enough to be able to make a decision such as this on their own. For grown adults, however, this is not as easy of a decision. Some people do not agree with being forced to wear a helmet, especially those who are old enough to remember a time when it was not required to do so. Nonetheless, the law states that whether you are the driver or a passenger everyone riding a motorcycle must be wearing a helmet at all times.

Even if you disagree with the law on the grounds that adults deserve the right to make a decision on what they can and cannot wear on their own without interference from the government, the statistics paint a scary picture that even the most hard-to-convince person must admit are not ideal circumstances. First of all, when riding a motorcycle any accident will almost always be more severe. That is because there is nothing to protect the driver from the road or any other vehicles besides the clothes they have on their back and hopefully a helmet.

This increases the risk of suffering from catastrophic injuries, and other injuries you would most likely not sustain if you had been in a car, such as road rash. From this perspective, making all riders wear a helmet makes sense. Statistically, the numbers are even more alarming, as in a five year period from 2010 to 2015 there were over 13,000 reported accidents involving motorcycles in New Jersey. Even more staggering is that over 90% of the people involved in those accidents admitted to not having proper motorcycle safety training. Some of these accidents could be attributed to driving under the influence but many of them also had to do with unsafe driving speeds as well as distracted driving, all things that may occur when driving a car but become extremely more dangerous when done while riding a motorcycle.

The number of fatalities that occur due to motorcycles vary every year, but the numbers are still too high for anyone’s liking. In 2015 it was reported that approximately 50 people were killed in a motorcycle accident which was thankfully down from 62 who died the previous year. Neither of these compares to back in 2006 when nearly 100 people were killed in motorcycle accidents. It is statistics like these that show the need for motorcycle safety improvement, and while wearing a helmet may not have saved all of the people involved in these incidents, they may have saved some of them while also decreasing the number of serious accidents that were not fatal that also occurred.

The condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE has been highlighted in the news lately because as more studies are being conducted, the more we are learning about just how fragile the brain is and how injuries can affect a person over the long term. CTE is more common in activities and sports where the brain is damaged repeatedly over a long period of time, but the reports prove that any damage to the brain can have significant impacts on a person’s health later in life and sadly, may even be the cause of why one’s life may end prematurely. There are some accidents that a motorcycle helmet may not be able to save you from but if there is a chance that serious injury could be averted and your brain can stay protected, it is a chance that everyone should take whether it is the law or not.

If none of this is enough to convince you that you should wear a helmet when driving a motorcycle then consider this, a person is 29 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than someone who is involved in a car accident – and 5 times more likely to be injured. Again, wearing an approved helmet will not reverse those numbers completely, but studies show that doing so can increase your levels of safety significantly, which is even more important than following the law. The fine for not wearing motorcycle helmet is not a terribly large one in New Jersey, as it usually will only be a $25 ticket with no points being issued to you either. Whether or not this fine is enough to ensure that everyone follows the law is up for debate. What is not up for debate, however, is whether the alternative of what could happen if you are involved in an accident while driving a motorcycle is worth not wearing the correct protective gear that is literally the only thing between your head and the asphalt.

The question on whether or not it is right to force all adults to wear motorcycle helmets in New Jersey may be a discussion that continues forever, but as of now the law in place has the matter settled, at least as far as the courts go. Until anything changes in this aspect, no one will be able to legally circumvent the law despite how passionate they may be in thinking it is unjust. Even if someone is willing to pay the fines just so they can have the freedom of riding a motorcycle without a helmet, it is a dangerous decision that statistics show is clearly not the smartest one. None of this means that people who drive a car can be less aware or responsible when they are behind the wheel and out on the road, but if you are going to ride a motorcycle it is very important to be aware of the risks as well as the law. For no matter how careful you believe you are being when you are out there on your motorcycle, you are not the only person out there on the roads and any small mistake by you or any of the other drivers can be the type that you may never recover from.

When A Drunk Driver Causes a Car Accident

When my mother was five, she watched her best friend get killed by a drunk driver. They were on their way to the candy shop that was located right across the street from my grandparents’ house when her friend realized she forgot her jacket. When she emerged from the house with her coat in hand, she sprinted across the street to join my mother. What should have been a momentary delay in a fun afternoon, instead turned to tragedy when a woman came barreling down the street in a truck, hitting my mom’s best friend and tossing her small body 50-feet into the air.

My grandfather ran out of the house and scooped her lifeless body in his arms. What I remember most about that story was my mother’s detailed account of my grandfather washing the blood off his hands in their kitchen sink.

My mother’s best friend, as it was later determined, was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Back in 1960, when the incident occurred, the punishment for driving under the influence wasn’t as harsh as it is today. The driver who took away that young girl’s life was hit with nothing more than a lifetime of guilt — and what I hope is regret — over the tragedy that devastated a young girl’s family, my mother and of course, the little girl whose life was taken before it ever began.

This story is a graphic (and difficult) read for many, just as it is for me to write. However, graphic accounts such as these are imperative to show just how dangerous driving while under the influence can be. So often we tend to believe that tragedies will plague “the other guy.” As my mother learned the hard way, sometimes the “other guy” is us. Ever since hearing that story — and seeking the kind of mark it left on my mother more than five decades later — has made me very passionate about drunk driving and the effects it has on car accidents.

Far too many families have had to grapple with the aftermath of a drunk driving accident, trying to put together the pieces of their lives after a loved one suffers a critical or fatal injury. Research from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), for example, shows that more than 10,000 people died in accidents tied to impaired driving in 2015. Young children are often the ones hurt or killed in these instances, too, since alcohol-related accidents make up around 16% of fatal accidents involving a child.

Why Are Drunk Drivers Are More Likely to Cause Accidents?

Anyone with a high a blood alcohol content (BAC) has a decreased ability to maintain control of their car and has decreased reaction times and overall judgment behind the wheel.

The person may assume that they are fine to drive but their faculties have been significantly impaired when affected by alcohol. The word impaired comes up often in descriptions of drunk drivers because when compared with their typical ability to operate a car safely, a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not have the same capabilities and protections. This helps to explain why my mother’s friend was hit in the first place, and even more so, why the driver kept on going before changing her mind and pulling off to the side of the road.

Drunk drivers are also more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as speeding or driving on the wrong side of the road. It is not always easy to spot a drunk driver, meaning that passengers in other vehicles or another driver may attempt to respond in mere seconds and be unable to avoid a catastrophic accident.

Civil and Criminal Penalties Associated with Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is especially important to understand when an accident occurs because those who are hurt in an accident may be curious about who will pay their medical bills. Furthermore, authorities dispatched to the scene who believe that alcohol may have been a factor in the accident itself may be interested in gathering evidence that could be used to pursue a criminal case. These situations may call for a civil, as well as a criminal claim. These are handled separately in the court system.

The criminal allegations involve the assessment of penalties associated with breaking the law directly. Although the illustration of property damage and serious bodily injury can be used to show the severity of the accident and to support the fact that the person who caused it was under the influence of alcohol, the criminal case does not mean that the person who was hurt or who lost a loved one is entitled to damages.

The criminal trial for drunk driving is handled completely separately from any civil trial. A civil trial, however, may be brought by someone who has been seriously injured because of the drunk driver’s behavior or family members who have lost a loved one allegedly because of that drunk driver’s behavior. Although this may be carried out at the same time as a criminal trial and involve many of the same facts, witnesses, and evidence, it is completely distinct from the criminal trial that is seeking to pursue the penalties against the responsible driver.

A person who is injured in a drunk driving accident needs to do more than simply reporting their suspicion that the driver was under the influence of drugs to the police officers at the scene of the incident. They should also get medical attention to identify a proper diagnosis and to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer immediately regarding whether or not they are currently eligible to pursue a case.

Common Injuries in Drunk Driving Accidents

Because a driver can easily lose control of a vehicle when under the influence of alcohol, a broad range of injuries many of which may be severe, typically associated with drunk driving accidents. Many of the injuries from a drunk driving accident can have ripple effects throughout the victim’s lifetime, including costly medical bills and serious daily pain.

Drunk drivers can amplify the impacts of the accident by engaging in reckless behavior as well, and may not even realize how fast they were going for the type of behavior that they were engaged in at the time of the accident. Some of the most common severe injuries associated with drunk driving accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
  • Fractures
  • Broken bones
  • Internal organ damage or bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Lacerations
  • Burns

A person who has sustained serious injuries in a drunk driving accident may not even realize it until he or she has gone to the hospital to get further medical attention after the accident has occurred. Many injuries such as concussions can be easily masked by the adrenaline and shock present at the scene of the accident in the injured person’s body. This is what makes appropriate evaluation by medical professionals extremely important for anyone who may have suffered a serious injury because of a drunk driver.

It is far better to be safe than sorry for anyone who is hurt in such an accident because the timely diagnosis of these conditions can dramatically increase the chances of a full recovery. Not everyone who is hurt in a drunk driving accident, however, will be able to recover in full and move on with their life after such a serious injury. As is the tragic case with my mom’s childhood friend — a cautionary tale of the catastrophic results of driving under the influence that’s stayed with my family for more than 50 years.