Knowing When and When Not to Sue an At-Fault Driver
Did you know that less than 5% of all civil cases end up going to trial? While many claims are settled before going to court, others get dismissed or abandoned because proving that someone else owes you compensation can be challenging. To figure out whether or not you have a valid personal injury case, you and your attorney will need to carefully consider several factors.
Proving You Were Harmed
Typically, a truck accident lawyer will want to make sure you have a valid case before taking you on as a client. A major part of this is determining whether or not you were actually injured in any way. Without any definitive damages, you cannot request compensation no matter how negligent the other driver was. There are all sorts of potential damages you can face. In addition to basic physical harm, you can also sue for mental or emotional harm. Some common types of injuries that lead to a lawsuit include:
- Broken bones
- Severe burns
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Limb loss
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Being able to definitively prove you were harmed is important because this is the main deciding factor in how much compensation you can get. Typically, a lawsuit will ask the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s medical bills and compensate them for lost wages or earning potential due to the damage. You can also ask for damages to compensate you for pain, suffering, and mental trauma. In New Jersey, you can even sue for damages like not being able to have marital relations with your spouse.
Proving these sorts of non-physical injuries may be more challenging. Instead of just having a doctor’s note, you may need to speak with other medical professionals or be prepared to talk about how your injuries have kept you from enjoying your life. This does not mean that you will be told “no” when asked should you sue for non-physical injuries. It just means it might take a bit more work. A good lawyer should discuss the level of difficulty proving certain types of injuries. This way, you’ll be prepared for challenges down the road.
Showing the Defendant Was Responsible
The mere existence of an injury, no matter how severe it may be, is not enough to win a case. If you have a valid lawsuit, then you will need to show that the other party was directly responsible for causing your injury. You will need to show how their behavior caused your injury to occur. For injuries like vague chronic pain or mental trauma, proving this can be a little difficult. Having extensive records of when your injury occurred and how the defendant contributed to the injury may be helpful. Ideally, your case should be able to argue that if not for the behavior of the defendant, you would be healthy.
Keep in mind that the other party’s responsibility may be diminished if they can show you were even partially responsible for the incident. For example, if you were injured in an accident where a truck was speeding, you might not have a case if you failed to stop before moving through the intersection. The defendant’s lawyer could claim you would not have been hit by the speeding truck if you had followed the traffic laws, so you might not win your case. Anything that casts doubt on the idea of the defendant being solely responsible for your injury may diminish your chances of success in a lawsuit.
Just showing that you were injured and it was the defendant’s fault is not enough to win a lawsuit. Countless accidents happen every day where a person did everything they could to keep others safe, yet someone still got injured. For a situation to actually result in compensation, you have to show that the other party was negligent.
Legally speaking, negligence is all about showing that a person had a duty of care that was not followed. Considering the previous example of a truck accident, a driver might be negligent if they had the duty of following the speed limit but drove faster than this limit. The simplest form of negligence involves someone breaking the law or various safety procedures, but it is possible to be negligent without breaking any rules. For example, if it is snowing, going the speed limit might be so irresponsible that it counts as negligent.
In many personal injury cases, it’s necessary to show the other party was aware of a potential problem, like a slippery sidewalk or overly hot coffee, yet did nothing to fix the issue. A business usually has a duty to provide a safe environment, so something like ignoring a wet floor or broken stairs would be negligent. Similar duties apply to transportation companies, which are required to maintain safe vehicles for use on the road. If a fleet manager knew a truck had bad tires but let a driver take it out anyway, they could be held liable if an accident occurs. In some cases, government agencies can be held liable if missing traffic signs or a road in disrepair leads to a crash.
Filing Your Personal Injury Case Within Statute of Limitations
The final step a lawyer will take before encouraging you to pursue a lawsuit will be making sure your case is within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is meant to keep people from filing lawsuits long after potential evidence like witnesses or video footage has ceased to be available. For the majority of lawsuits, like medical malpractice, product liability, and personal injury, New Jersey has a statute of limitations of two years. However, if you want to file a lawsuit against a government office or other public entity, you only have 90 days.
The statute of limitations does not always begin at the date of the actual injury. Instead, it starts counting down as soon as you discover the injury. For example, if you only found out you had chronic back pain months after being in a car accident, the months before your diagnosis would not count toward your statute of limitations limit. Though you typically cannot sue after the statute of limitations runs out, this rule may be dismissed if the injury happened while you were a child. In cases where a minor is involved, the statute of limitations clock only starts counting down once the individual turns 18.
Get a Lawyer’s Insight on Your Personal Injury Case
Still not sure if your situation warrants a lawsuit? RAM Law can help you figure out whether or not you should sue. Our experienced personal injury and truck accident lawyers have spent years helping clients get the compensation they deserve. We will provide you with a free consultation so that you can discuss your situation and get our insight. If we think you have a case, we can offer the representation you need. To consult with us now, call (732) 394-1549 or fill out our online contact form. We have offices in New Brunswick, Somerville, and Freehold.