It's your worst nightmare. A truck didn't see you on the McCarter Highway, and now you're severely injured. Or, just as terrifying, a neighbor's kid might fall down the stairs while the grownups are busy watching the Devils crush the Flyers. In either event, you have a Newark personal injury case on your hands.
Personal injury law covers a wide range of mishaps. People consult personal injury lawyers for common injuries to their bodies and mental anguish due to everything from auto accidents on the turnpike, to workplace accidents and nursing home care, from defective consumer products and medical malpractice, to dog bites. The facts of the cases will certainly vary, but this guide will help you understand some of the issues you may face. Also, check out our other Learn About the Law sections for a general summary of what to expect from a lawsuit.
A "personal injury" is a physical harm to the body or mental anguish suffered because of another party's intentional actions or negligence.
Time Limits for a Lawsuit
You may be minding your own business, and for some reason, you suffer a personal injury. From the time that you learned or should have learned that you suffered an injury, in Newark and throughout the state, you have two years to file a legal claim, or lawsuit. Similarly, if another person is blaming you for an injury, he or she has only two years to file a claim against you.
Several Legal Theories
In New Jersey, generally you can recover for your injuries based on one (or more) of several theories including: negligence, intentional tort, products liability, and others. The theories themselves have different legal elements and consequences. The law can be confusing, and your choice of a theory can have a huge impact on the amount that you may recover. It is probably best to find a lawyer in the Newark area to help you with your case. You don't want to make your case more difficult or lose out on a recovery because of a mistake early on.
Finding a Lawyer & Contingency Fees for Plaintiffs
If you are filing a claim because someone injured you, you are a "plaintiff." There are many lawyers who specialize in plaintiff-side legal work. Depending on your injuries, you may have significant medical bills or other financial stresses that makes it difficult to pay an attorney up front. Many plaintiffs' attorneys will work on a "contingency" fee. With this arrangement, you pay nothing up front, but the lawyer takes a percentage of the case award or settlement. If this arrangement suits you, be sure to ask an attorney what percentage he or she takes.
Insurance for Defendants
If, on the other hand, someone has sued you, then you are a "defendant." In this position, your insurance provider is a great place to start when looking for an attorney. If someone was injured in your home, for example, those injuries may be covered by your homeowner's insurance. Similarly, the insurance contract may also provide for an attorney to represent you if you are sued for accidents on your property. The same goes for car accidents and accidents in your place of business.
Electronic Communications and Social Media
Be careful what you say through text message, email, or social media about your case. Those communications are usually discoverable, and can possibly be used against you in court. For example, you may have been hurt at work. If you later email your mother to calm her down and say, "I'm not hurt too bad," the other side may use that email to limit your recovery. The same goes if you send a text message to your best friend after a car wreck that reads "The crash was totally my fault." The Rutgers webcam spying case is an example of how emails and text messages can become part of the court evidence in New Jersey.
Auto Accidents account for a large number of personal injury cases. In fact, Essex County alone featured 25,548 car crashes on its roads and highways in 2012.
In New Jersey, Workers' Compensation provides benefits to workers who become injured or ill due to job-related activity regardless of who is at fault. A worker cannot, however, sue the employer unless the employer acted intentionally to harm the worker. If you've been injured or become ill, generally you should report it to your employer as soon as possible so that you can start receiving benefits. Visit the New Jersey Department of Labor, Workers' Compensation Division online for more information.
You may need an attorney later if there's a dispute about whether your injuries are truly work-related, the extent of your injury, or other related issues.
You may become injured on someone else's property, or he may become injured on yours. Legal liability will turn on a number of key facts including: whether the injured person was invited for business, as a social guest or not at all; whether the owner knew of a danger; the age of the injured person; and several other factors.
Every year, thousands of Americans are injured by consumer products that have proved to be unsafe or defective. In some cases the product was designed poorly, and that's why it is unsafe. In other cases, the product design was great, but this one particular item was made poorly. In other cases it may just need a warning label.
A personal injury can be a terrible experience for the injured person and anyone else closely related or involved. In many cases it's best to find a lawyer. There's a decent chance that someone can assist you in your situation. Best of luck!
Contact a qualified attorney.