Car Accidents in New Jersey
As suburbs have moved further and further away from metropolitan hubs over the past 25 years, so too, have commute times, making most people reliant on cars to get them to and from work and everything else.
Underscoring this population shift away from urban to sprawling suburban communities is the massive parking lots around NJ Transit train stations throughout the state. Even those who do use public transit regularly often rely on a car to get them to and from that station. This is the way our communities are designed now.
New Jersey has a population of almost nine million people, approximately four million of whom are working. About three million of those workers drive to their jobs, for an average of 30 minutes a day, according to informational service Data USA. That is a lot of drivers in one state, spending at least an hour a day behind the wheel, just for work.
More people driving means more car accidents, and this is particularly true when people are driving a long commute to work or back home.
Car accidents can be deadly and far too often, they do result in fatalities. Personal injury from a car accident is common. In the chaos and high-stress moments following an accident, where those involved are operating under high levels of adrenaline, some injuries do not show up right away.
The least traumatic accident is one that damages only vehicles or property. Those accident victims who do not suffer any physical damage still have the stress of lost time at work and increased bills with auto repairs, but this is a far better problem than the sorrow of losing a loved one or the fear and pain of injuries that change the life of not only the victim, but also their family and friends.
Those who have lost a loved one or were injured in a car accident should contact a lawyer right away. Insurance may not cover all the expenses from the accident, and victims deserve compensation for the losses they suffered.
Common Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents are real-life examples of Newton’s Laws of Motion.
The impact of two moving forces on one another is made more devastating by the size and weight of the forces, as well as the speed and angles of collision. One good example of Newton’s law of inert objects remaining inert until a force collides with it is when a car hits a fixed object such as a utility pole. With the collision, the pole is very likely to break.
Human beings are made up of much more vulnerable parts than a car or a utility pole, and when hit, injuries happen. As with Newton’s Laws of Motion, those injuries are made worse by the speed, weight, and angle of the oncoming force.
Car accidents often cause injuries, some that are not immediately seen. Some injuries are very serious right away, and far too often, people die in collisions.
Here are a few of the more common car accident injuries:
Head injuries. Brain injuries can be deadly, life altering, and at the very least, cause the victim to lose time at work or school to heal. Car accidents are a leading cause of the most serious type of brain injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI cases that do not result in death can cause long-term problems for earning, job skills and performance, lost memory, headaches, and sleeping difficulties. TBI is the cause of death for over 50,000 people every year. It leads to long-term disability for another 80,000 people annually.
Amputation. With body parts sometimes crushed underneath metal, some injuries are severe enough to result in amputation. For the accident victim, this trauma will likely mean a series of painful surgeries to accommodate prostheses; emotional counseling for the loss; and likely a job change and skills training or retraining for work.
Internal bleeding. The force of a collision pushes all the internal organs forward, making internal bleeding and injuries more likely. Because these injuries are internal, emergency responders are not going to be able to diagnose this type of damage. This is another reason people involved in a car accident should seek immediate medical attention.
Back injuries/spinal injuries/herniated disks. Injuries in this area of the body range from the very painful to the debilitating. Spinal cord injuries mean paralysis or partial paralysis. Bones can break in the back around the spinal cord without breaking the spinal cord, in which case it is remarkably painful and complicated to heal, but it does not result in paralysis. The term herniated disk means that one or more vertebrae is out of place, which can cause complications and impact the nerves.
Burns. With all the chemicals, metal, and glass contained in modern vehicles, sometimes collisions cause fires. Occupants inside the burning cars may suffer burns, which can be particularly severe if the people become trapped in the car. Severe burns require a series of surgeries called skin grafting to replace the damaged skin.
Broken ribs. These injuries are common in car accidents and often relate to the seat belt doing its job properly. By keeping the person’s body from flying off the seat, the body will move forward against the seat belt with force. Broken ribs can mean internal injuries such as a punctured lung. Immediate medical attention is needed.
Broken bones. Besides the rib cage, broken arms, legs, hips, and clavicles are common in car accidents. With the arms and legs, these will be moving unrestrained in a collision, even if the chest and torso are restrained, so they are likely to be pushed up against a force that is moving quickly and with weight behind it. With hip and clavicle breaks, these are often the result of the seat belt doing its job as well, as the torso is being forced back to the seat, but the force of collision is pushing it forward.
Soft tissue injury. This is a broad term used to describe damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This type of injury is common in a car accident, as the force of collision, the impact of fast motion with weight behind it, strains the body. Soft tissue injuries can happen anywhere in the body. This kind of damage is painful; can be disabling, as healing will likely require restricted movement; and it requires medical attention, physical therapy/occupational therapy, and time for the victim to recuperate.
Whiplash. This common car accident injury has become synonymous with car accidents. People suffering from this injury often wear a neck brace. Speeds as low as 15 mph can cause whiplash, with or without a seat belt. This is a head- and/or neck-specific soft tissue injury, which means muscles, ligaments, and tendons were strained in an unnatural way in the accident. It is often very painful and requires medical attention and physical therapy to heal.
Disfiguring facial injuries and scars. Car accidents can also lead to facial injuries from broken glass or impact with any of the hard surfaces that will be moving and breaking in a collision. Some facial disfigurement requires surgical correction and could leave a victim with a lasting scar.
Sadness, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Not all injuries are physical. People respond to trauma, sometimes right away and often for months and years to come, with sorrow, depression, and regret. Many people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of car accidents. Like broken bones and torn tendons, these injuries need to be treated by professionals. The more this is regarded as wounds that need to be healed, the more the patient will progress toward life post-accident.
Cuts, bruises, and road rash. With the force of collision, glass and metal are breaking, but the objects in the car are flying too. Besides the likely culprits, cellphones and coffee mugs, any number of items can hit the people in the vehicles involved. Cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and those ejected out of the car will experience road rash, tiny abrasions from the body dragging along concrete and/or stone, along with likely far more traumatic injuries.
Avoiding Car Accident Injuries
Accidents happen every day, everywhere across the globe. But being common does not mean they are less costly to human life and the wallets of everyone involved.
Because drivers cannot control the behavior of other drivers around them, the best way to avoid getting car accidents is to be focused on driving safely while in the car, watching the road and taking time to notice the vehicle in front that might be doing a series of unsafe lane changes leapfrogging through traffic. The observation of errant behaviors will allow a driver to react appropriately when that leapfrogging car makes its way over to their lane.
A few safety precautions to avoid a car accident:
Wear seat belts. The driver and all passengers should always wear a seat belt. There may be bruising and sometimes broken bones, such as ribs, hips, and clavicles, from seat belt use, but that is because the seat belt is doing its job and keeping the body from flying forward in a collision. Seat belts really do save lives.
Check mirrors. Drivers should check the side mirrors and the rear-view mirror, to ensure visibility of cars behind and beside the vehicle.
Set up travel directions before driving. Checking a GPS or phone for directions can take eyes off the road just long enough to hit the vehicles in front.
Select music or radio station before driving. Searching for a radio station or the right mix on an audio streaming application is considered distracted driving.
Maintain speed limit. Unfortunately, government statistics show that about half of drivers are routinely traveling 10 miles or more above the speed limit. However, speed limits are selected by government safety agencies to fit the conditions of the road.
Motorists should pull over from the traveling lane if drivers behind are flashing lights, honking, or driving dangerously close to the vehicle. This usually means the driver is going slower than traffic in that lane; it can also mean that the person behind is an aggressive driver. Best to let that person go ahead and get out of the way.
Put the phone down. People are tempted to use the time in the car to make phone calls, and unfortunately, they often check and make texts while driving. This is a leading cause of accidents and actually has a separate category in New Jersey Department of Transportation accident records.
But for the sake of the health of the driver, their passengers, and any other drivers and passengers and pedestrians nearby, it is best to utilize the Bluetooth features built into mobile phones, which are also often offered in late-model cars, making for an even easier transition to hands-free phone calls and texts. Drivers should keep interactions with the phone to voice commands. Technology is available to make distracted driving accidents far less likely.
Avoid distractions. Besides the phone, there are many distractions in a car. Motorists should avoid eating and drinking while driving. Beyond the distraction of eating a meal while driving, it is impossible to have two hands on the wheel, and a spill is very likely to take attention away from the road even more. Statistics show that drivers with young children in the car spend roughly one-quarter of the time driving checking the back seats. This too, greatly increases the chances of a car accident. Best to keep two hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Do not drive under the influence of intoxicating substances. Approximately 29 people die every day because of drunk drivers. Although legal substances such as alcohol, and in most states, marijuana, are consumed by adults, that does not mean drivers are OK to get behind the wheel afterwards. As our nation continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, it is clear that many Americans are on prescriptions that impact the ability to drive.
Thankfully, ride-sharing services continue to offer a low-cost option for those who need a safe ride home from an event or night out. People can find an alternate way to get home and get their car the next day.
New Jersey and New York are No-Fault States
New Jersey car accident laws are centered around no-fault car insurance. So are the laws governing car accidents in neighboring New York.
No-fault car insurance has a huge benefit in that claims are usually processed quickly for medical expenses and for loss of income to those involved in a car accident. Because there is no blame assumed to any one driver or person involved, no-fault car insurance is often less expensive and the amounts of coverage for claims are usually smaller than a traditional insurance plan.
That is the big drawback to no-fault car insurance: the financial limits for accident claims may not cover the injuries and property damages that result from the accident.
However, there are exceptions to these limitations for fatal accidents, loss of limb, permanent disfigurement, and other serious, life-changing injuries. In such cases, a lawsuit can be filed against a negligent driver.
It is important to note that New Jersey has a two-year statute of limitations for parties involved in a car accident to file a lawsuit. If the accident happened in New York, the statute of limitations is three years.
In either state, if the injuries and damages appear to exceed the limits of the no-fault insurance the drivers involved have, it is crucial for the injured person to contact a car accident lawyer right away. Building a case takes time. The lawyer will need to investigate what happened in the accident, and that means talking to the injured driver and all the other drivers. The lawyer will also be working with the insurance companies involved, getting copies of the police report and pictures from the scene, getting information from the medical providers for those injured, and preparing a case to go to court if settlement cannot be reached with the insurance providers.
What to Do after a Car Accident?
Immediately following an accident, drivers and passengers are likely to be in panic mode. In emergency situations like this, it is best for drivers to take a deep breath and if they are capable of getting out of the vehicle, take the following steps:
Do not flee the scene. Regardless of fears about any role in the accident a driver had, any driver involved in an accident should not leave the scene. This is not just unethical; it is illegal, and it makes that driver look guilty to insurance companies and/or in court.
Assess the damage. Drivers should check to see if everyone involved is OK. Those who need help should be given assistance if possible immediately. People and vehicles involved should be moved to the side of the road to safety if they can be moved.
Call 911. The next step is to get the help of emergency responders. Someone should call 911, which will bring police and emergency services to the scene. The caller should be clear on the location of the accident, as this will help the emergency responders get to the scene quickly.
The police will be talking to everyone involved, and they will conduct an investigation at the scene. The information will go into an accident report, and the insurance companies will use this report to determine if injuries will require additional damages than no-fault insurance policies cover.
Exchange insurance information. After police are on the scene, motorists should provide insurance information for the other drivers and people involved. Drivers should not admit guilt and not make comments about how the accident occurred.
Get emergency medical treatment if the paramedics arrive. This may well start the paper trail of treatments needed because of the accident, helping to establish the financial value for compensation to victims. More evidence means a better understanding of what money is needed to cover the costs for the injured parties.
It is important to remember that emergency medical treatment is going to cover just that: emergencies. Drivers involved in any accident that is worse than a fender-bender should follow up with the family doctor after the trip to the emergency room. Some injuries are not going to show themselves right away, particularly since adrenaline is taking over following an accident. It is best to be evaluated by a medical professional even if everything seems OK.
After things have settled down, drivers should do the following:
Get an accident report. Drivers should ask for a copy of the accident report from the police officers. This will be needed for both the insurance company and a lawyer going forward, to provide facts for the case.
Call the insurance company. Motorists should call the insurance company to provide details of the accident. The insurance company should be given a copy of the police report.
Call a lawyer to evaluate the case. Since New Jersey operates under no-fault car accident laws and the damages may be more extensive than those policies will cover, it is best to get a professional opinion before accepting an insurance company settlement.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
Getting compensation for injuries suffered from a car accident is more likely for those working with a lawyer.
Working with an experienced legal professional who understands the no-fault insurance system in New Jersey will help to maximize claims that may well exceed the limitations of the no-fault insurance policy.
No car accident is easy, but serious injuries may well mean pain, disabilities, and reduced income for victims after the accident, sometimes for life. A lawyer can take the necessary steps to get the best compensation package for the victims.
New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Fight for the Rights of Victims
If you were injured in a car accident, contact the New Jersey car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. We have a proven track record in settlements and in the courtroom. We will fight for the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.