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Car Accidents

Americans rely on cars and other motor vehicles in almost every aspect of our lives, from commuting to shipping to recreation. We use the roads every day, accepting the risks that go hand in hand with driving or being a passenger, and when things go wrong, they can have serious impacts.

Car accidents do not happen on their own. They require negligence or recklessness from one or all parties involved.  When you get in a car accident that was the fault of another person, you shouldn’t have to pay for the damages that ensue. These damages can range from medical bills to property damage to emotional suffering, all of which are valid reasons to file a claim. 

If you have been impacted by a car accident you shouldn’t hesitate to seek the compensation you deserve. If you are unsure how to proceed, the lawyers of Smith & Schwartzstein will help to guide you through the personal injury claims process.

Cause of Accidents and the Role of Fault

Car accidents can be caused by a variety of things, from poor conditions to poor drivers. Finding the cause of the accident is the first step towards determining fault. Some common causes of car accidents include:

  • Distracted driving;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving while under the influence of a substance;
  • Drowsy driving; and
  • Poor driving conditions

When a court determines the fairest amount owed in compensation, and who owes who what, they look at who was at fault. Both New Jersey and New York have comparative fault clauses in their state laws. This means that both parties can be found to be partially at fault, and their compensation will be reduced by their level of fault.

An example of this would be if Driver A was distracted by a notification on their phone while going through an intersection and got t-boned by Driver B, who ran a red light. If Driver A had been paying attention, they may have been able to avoid Driver B. The court might find Driver A to be 30% at fault, and Driver B to be 70% at fault. 

In this scenario, if the accident happened in New Jersey, Driver B would receive no compensation, and Driver A would receive 70% of the total amount they are owed. If it happened in New York, Driver B would still be able to recover 30% of their damages. 

Damages Available in Car Accident Cases

Car crash victims often suffer from a combination of damages, and for most of those damages you can be compensated. The three main categories of personal injury claims are physical injuries, mental/emotional damages, and property damage, all of which are eligible for financial compensation.

Physical Injuries

Physical injuries are important to identify early, as they are often refuted. It is vital that immediately following an accident you get a full medical examination and check for injuries that may not be initially obvious. The medical records are important for your case, as they prove that a doctor was able to find the injury and linked it to the accident. Without medical proof, damages for injuries can be denied on the grounds that you may have sustained the injury before or after the accident.

Common injuries caused by car accidents include:

  • Broken/fractured bones
  • Neck strain
  • Whiplash
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal damage

Physical injuries can receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost wages if you were unable to work while injured.

Mental/Emotional Damages

Emotional damages are often harder to quantify than medical or property damages but can be just as impactful. Car accidents can be traumatic events, and this trauma can have an omnidirectional impact on your life. Pain and suffering can make it hard to work, sleep, maintain relationships, and function ideally. To prove that you have experienced emotional trauma, you need to have seen a decline in your mental state as a result of the accident. This can be done through regular journaling that shows your mental state before and after the accident, testimony from a mental health professional, and testimony from friends and family. 

Property Damages

The most common form of claimable property damage in car accidents is damage to the car. Since cars are often the primary means of transportation for commuting, they represent significant value to the victim. If the victim is no longer able to get to work, they may lose income and even their job. When the victim’s car needs to be repaired or replaced, the at-fault party can be on the hook for the cost of repairs or the cost to replace the car, as well as the cost of hiring a rental car until the victim has access to their own car again. 

Property damages can also refer to anything of value that was damaged in the accident. If you had an expensive item in your car and it was damaged during the accident, you may be able to file a claim and be compensated for the cost of repairing it, or refunded the value of the item. 

Unfortunately, property damages do not extend to items of emotional value. If the sculpture your child made was cracked, the court will not award you it’s emotional value.  The item needs to have a provable market value to be claimable. 

Filing a Claim

In order to make sure the claim you file is airtight; you will want to have it reviewed by a team of experienced attorneys. They will be able to determine fault in your case, see which damages can be claimed, and help you get the compensation you deserve from insurance companies that might be looking to shortchange you.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys of Smith & Schwartzstein for a free case evaluation. We are proud to serve victims across Union County and Northern New Jersey. Contact us today to learn about your options and discuss your case.


Get a FREE initial consultation by calling Smith + Schwartzstein locally at 908-219-4457 or toll free at 800-779-4098, or emailing us at kathryn@sslawfirmllc.com and we will contact you. We offer flexible appointment scheduling.

Personal injury FAQs


Q: How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
A: Typically you must have suffered an injury to your person as a result of someone else’s negligence, however, you can also have a nonphysical loss or harm, such as in the case of an assault or infliction of emotional distress or invasion of privacy.

Q: What is “negligence”?
A: Negligence occurs when a person owed you, or the general public, a duty of care and you were injured as a result of the person’s violation of that duty. Essentially, a person is negligent if he/she fails to act like an ordinary reasonable person would have acted in the same or similar situation.

Q: What if I cannot prove someone’s negligence caused my injury? If there any other basis for personal injury liability?
A: Yes, there is the concept of “strict liability” for certain activities that harm others, even if not done negligently or with wrongful intent. For example companies who manufacture defective products or persons who own dangerous animals can be strictly liable for injuries to others.

Q: What is medical malpractice?
A: Medical malpractice, or medical negligence, occurs when a hospital, doctor, nurse or another healthcare provider or medical technician fails to perform his/her duties to the standard of those with similar training or experience, resulting in harm to the patient. Some examples include misdiagnosis, surgical error, medication error or misread test result.

Q: How much could I recover in a personal injury action?
A: The potential financial recovery, or compensatory damages, of your personal injury action are dependent on a number of variables, including medical expenses as a result of the defendant’s negligence, psychological damage, permanent injuries or long-term incapacities as a result of the injury, anticipated future medical care, lost wages or employment opportunities now and in the foreseeable future.

Q: If I was injured a long time ago, can I still sue?
A: No, according to New Jersey law you must bring your lawsuit within two years of your injury, or upon learning of your injury.

Q: What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
A: If a person dies as a result of their injuries from an accident, then the person’s heirs can bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the estate of the deceased.

Q: What is the difference between an injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit?
A: A legal claim is made with the responsible party’s insurance company to recover compensation for your injuries. A personal injury lawsuit is a formal legal action where you can seek compensation for injuries before a court jury to decide the merits of your case and your request for compensation.

Q: Why should I hire a lawyer to handle my personal injury claim and/or lawsuit?
A: A lawyer will explain the legal process, help you maneuver the system, and be your advocate. The responsible party or company’s opposing counsel or insurance company will try to settle your claim as quickly as possible, with as little payout as possible. A lawyer advocating for you will help even the playing field between parties and assist in getting you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

Q: Will I have to pay you any money out of pocket or upfront fees?
A: No, we take all personal injury cases on a contingency basis. You don’t pay any money until your case is settled or we obtain a verdict.

Q: How long will it take to resolve my personal injury case?
A: There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It can depend on the extent of your injuries, whether a settlement can be negotiated prior to filing a lawsuit with a court, or whether the case is fully litigated, including going to trial. It can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. We try to move things along as quickly and efficiently as possible, but there are court rules that prohibit infringing on either party’s right to adequately prepare their side in a case.


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