KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS TO RECOVERY AFTER A CRASH: PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER IN NJ EXPLAINS
High medical bills and growing lost wages are often major problems for victims and their families after a motor vehicle accident. Fortunately, New Jersey law requires all motorists to carry auto insurance. However, most people do not realize how little that amount really is ($15,000 per person in an accident) until they get their medical bills—where the average cost of a broken bone with surgery is approximately $16,000. This means that the entire amount of insurance could go to paying for medical bills without compensating you for your lost wages, pain, suffering, or other damages in a crash. When this happens, our personal injury lawyers in NJ knows that many people wonder if they can sue the other driver personally to recover compensation.
The answer is, yes, you can sue another driver in a car accident lawsuit. However, that is not always worth it.
Rather, it is always better to explore your other options for compensation under the law. Here at the Law Offices of Craig Altman, our experienced personal injury lawyers can help you and your family investigate all potential avenues for recovering compensation before personally suing another driver. We offer FREE consultation and can advise what rights to the compensation you may have under New Jersey law after a serious accident.
What to Do After a Car Accident in New Jersey
Determining whether you should personally sue another driver depends on various factors and really should be a last resort. There are certain steps that individuals should take first before seeking to sue another driver.
CONTACT THE INSURANCE CARRIER TO GET POLICY LIMITS
Although the minimum car insurance for bodily injury liability is $15,000, that does not mean that a defendant will have that. Many people buy much higher policy limits, sometimes upwards of $1 million. If it turns out that a defendant has this much of a policy, you may be fairly compensated without having to go after the defendant personally.
CHECK YOUR POLICY – DO YOU HAVE SUM OR UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE?
Besides the defendant’s insurance, you may have also purchased what is known as supplemental underinsured motorist coverage (SUM) or more commonly known as underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This type of coverage is an extra type of insurance for you and your family that is in addition to the defendant’s coverage.
For example, if the defendant has just $100,000 in coverage, but your injuries are worth $300,000, normally you would only be entitled to recover $100,000 from the defendant. But if you had SUM/UIM coverage on your own policy of $500,000, you would be able to collect an additional $200,000 (for a total of $300,000, the value of your injuries).
SHOULD YOU GO AFTER THE DEFENDANT PERSONALLY?
After working with the insurance company and determining that the defendant has limited coverage and you have limited or no further SUM/UIM coverage, you will need to decide if you should go after the defendant personally. Some considerations you need to make include the following:
- Do you still have high medical bills?
- Did you lose a lot of wages?
- Were your pain and suffering compensated?
- Does the defendant have assets, or is the defendant judgment proof?
- Are you willing to pay extra to go after the money?
- Can you wait years for this money, or do you need it now?
These are all important considerations. If a defendant is judgment proof (meaning you cannot collect against him or her), the best you could do is register a judgment against him or her and hope to collect when there is an inheritance or the defendant comes into money. You can continue to register that judgment and it will grow interest, but it may take years and years—sometimes even decades—to recover. You will also need to monitor the defendant or the defendant’s assets to determine when you can attempt to collect. For some injured individuals, this is not worth it.
Are You Unsure Whether You Should Sue A Defendant?
If you or your loved one were seriously injured in a car accident, dog bite, trucking wreck, slip & fall, or any other type of serious accident in New Jersey, our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig A. Altman can help. Contact us today to speak to an attorney about your case.