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;
- 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 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
- 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.
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.
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.