Car accidents are a dangerous normalcy in New Jersey. Given the increase in technology use behind the wheel, accidents are on the rise.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation reported that, in 2017, there were more than 270,000 car accidents in New Jersey alone. Yet in the case of an accident, how is fault determined, and does a ‘full coverage’ auto insurance policy exist to protect drivers from the steep costs of accidents that aren’t – or are – their fault?
New Jersey is one of seven no-fault states in the country. This means that, regardless of who is responsible for an automobile accident, one’s own car insurance company will cover any medical and property damage expenses incurred as a result of the accident. As such, it is imperative to understand what type of New Jersey auto insurance coverage you have, and to what extent your service provider will cover damages.
What does New Jersey auto insurance typically cover?
“Full Coverage” is a subjective and misleading term. The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance reports that the Standard Auto Insurance Policy is no longer required by law thanks to the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act; as such, New Jersey motorists are often driving around with what is called a Basic Policy, which by no means represents ‘full coverage.’ It includes the following coverages, according to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance:
Property Damage Liability Coverage, up to $5,000 for an accident. This makes up the meat of an insurance policy. It is the primary way a person will cover damages to another person’s body or vehicle if they are the liable party in a car accident.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP), up to $15,000 per person, per accident, and as much as $250,000 for injuries that cause serious or permanent damage to the brain or spine.
As named, this is the part of the auto insurance policy that covers one’s own medical expenses if they are in a car accident, no matter who is at fault. Auto insurance providers in other states that do not have PIP requirements face difficulty when their clients are in an accident that is caused by an uninsured motorist, or they are part of a hit-and-run.
Collision Coverage, optional. Most New Jersey motorists elect to have collision coverage, though it is not required by law. It covers damages sustained by hitting objects or being hit by objects or cars.
Finding Fault: NJ Comparative Negligence
While PIP auto insurance coverage ensures that your medical expenses will be taken care of regardless of fault or the specifics of the accident, it is possible to recover those expenses by filing a personal injury lawsuit with the support of a skilled attorney in New Jersey. Your auto insurance provider and personal injury attorney will seek to prove that the other party was fully at fault for causing the accident.
It is important to have the support of a lawyer for this process because New Jersey has what is called comparative negligence, in which degrees of fault are determined. If you file a personal injury claim against another driver, it is certain that their insurance company will investigate whether you contributed to the accident at all. If it is found that you had a percentage contribution to causing the accident, that percentage will be removed from the monetary damages you claim.
Comparative negligence is investigated on a case-by-case basis, and while it is addressed in New Jersey Statutes Annotated (NJSA) 2A:15-5.2, there are no specific guidelines determining the process by which comparative negligence is determined. As such, again, it is important to have the support of an experienced legal team on your side.
Fault can be determined to utilize such evidence as photos taken at the scene by you or the police, the police report with all parties’ statements, area traffic laws, and other applicable data from the scene of the accident. Each insurance company will look for evidence of distraction, violation of traffic law, or failure to prevent escalation of an accident in order to defend their client and prove some percentage of comparative negligence on the part of the other party.
Retain an Experienced Car Accident Injury Law Firm in Monmouth County NJ
At Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh, our experienced team of experts supports the claims of drivers across Red Bank, Freehold, Long Branch, and Monmouth County in all auto accident cases, including as it relates to comparative negligence in the no-fault state of New Jersey.