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Understanding the New Jersey Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases

Posted on: June 12, 2023

Over the past several decades, car accidents have been one of the country’s leading causes of injury and death. Unfortunately, there is a good chance you may be injured in one at least once in your lifetime. Should this happen, you would want the at-fault party to be held accountable and pay for your losses. This could come in the form of filing a lawsuit against them.

If you have been injured in a car accident and may want to take legal action against the at-fault party, it is essential to understand your state’s car accident laws. One of the laws to familiarize yourself with is New Jersey’s statute of limitations. This is the time frame you have to file your claim.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases?

The statute of limitations is the state law that is essentially the time limit you have to file a lawsuit in civil court. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits is two years from the accident date. Understanding the statute of limitations and other car accident laws is crucial when seeking compensation for your losses. A car accident claim can be an injury claim for a driver, passenger, bicyclist, motorcycle rider, or pedestrian.

The two-year deadline also applies if someone has died due to their accident injuries. A family member or representative of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim begins on the date of death and not the date of the accident, which could be different.

Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations is not the same as filing an insurance claim with your provider.

Statute of limitations laws are implemented to give injured victims enough time to pursue compensation for their losses. For instance, a person in an accident may not realize that they have been injured because the shock or adrenaline felt from the crash masks their pain. This delayed injury can be costly, and the injured victim would want compensation for their pain. The time limit afforded to them by the statute of limitations allows them to file a lawsuit.

However, you do not want to wait to file your injury lawsuit. Filing your lawsuit immediately when discovering your injury is much more prudent. There are many benefits to filing your lawsuit as soon as possible.

If the two-year limit passes and you attempt to file the lawsuit anyway, the court will likely grant a motion to dismiss your case. You will probably not receive any compensation at all. However, there are a few exceptions to extending the deadline.

When filing a lawsuit, you and your lawyer must gather evidence, interview witnesses, and gather relevant documents, police reports, medical information, and other accident-related materials to build your case. All of this takes time, and filing your lawsuit as soon as possible gives you and your team enough time to prepare.

Most injury claims begin as insurance claims and end in settlements. However, if the insurance company denies the claim or they do not offer a reasonable settlement, you will have enough time to file a lawsuit with the civil courts.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

The time limit for filing a car accident claim in New Jersey is two years before the accident date. However, there are exceptions to this time limit, including:

  • Tolling of the statute of limitations: In many states, some exceptions allow for “tolling.” Tolling stops the progression of time under the statute of limitations until the exception is resolved.
  • The discovery rule: The discovery rule allows tolling the statute of limitations until the victim or family member discovers their injuries. In other words, the two-year limit begins when they realize their injury occurred due to the car accident. The discovery rule in New Jersey allows two years to take action, up to a maximum of four years after the date of the original accident.
  • The age of majority rule: This law involves injuries to a minor if they wish to file a claim for their damages. The age of majority rule allows the child who suffered an injury two years before their 18th birthday to file an injury lawsuit.
  • Mental disability: If the injured accident victim has a current mental disability at the time of the accident and was not caused by the accident, the statute of limitations can be tolled until they have the mental capacity to understand their rights.
  • Absent defendant: It is possible that the at-fault party is out of state, or you cannot serve them the lawsuit. Should this occur, you may be able to toll the statute until you can do the lawsuit. This can happen with you or your attorney filing an affidavit with the court.
  • Government claims: If a government agency or employee caused the accident that injured you, like a police officer driving while on duty, you have 90 days in New Jersey to file your claim with the government agency.

Why Time Limitation Matters in Car Accident Cases

Time is of the essence when filing a lawsuit for many reasons. New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state, which means that if you are injured in a car accident, you generally will file an insurance claim with your insurance, regardless of who is liable. Because of this, most accident claims are settled with insurance companies. However, those settlements take time, and if denied, you will have a limited timeframe to pursue compensation through a lawsuit.

Other reasons why time limitation matters include the following:

  • Loss of evidence: The more time-lapse, the more chances you will lose the evidence you need for your accident case.
  • Faded memories: It is human nature for your memories to fade over time. Reporting and filing your lawsuit immediately keeps your recalling of the events sharp.
  • Difficulty proving your case: The more time you take to file a lawsuit, the less believable your case may be in court. Insurance companies or a jury may think your injury may not be as severe as it is if you waited too long.
  • Changes in physical evidence: Physical evidence may change over time, such as your injuries.

What to Do if You Miss the Statute of Limitations in New Jersey

Like many states, the New Jersey court system takes the statute of limitations law seriously. Without the time limit, the injured victim can keep the possibility of a lawsuit pending over the defendant for as long as they want.

If you miss the deadline, there is a good chance you will miss your day in court, and any chance of you collecting compensation will be gone. Discuss your case with a lawyer immediately following your car accident to get the process started.

If your lawyer is negotiating with the insurance company, and you are approaching the deadline, your lawyer may save your claim by filing a lawsuit before the time expires. However, they need reasonable time to gather what they need to build a strong case on your behalf.

If you have been injured in a car accident, do not immediately accept the insurance company’s settlement offer because the first offer is usually the lowest. Talk to an accident lawyer first. Only a lawyer can fight to get you compensation for all of your losses.

Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Can File Your Suit in a Timely Manner

A car accident can be an overwhelming experience. If you need legal help after a collision, speak with our Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Our team has years of experience with accident cases. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.

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