Helping Injured Car Accident Victims in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland
Car accidents claim the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year and remain the leading cause of death amongst those ages five to 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, a car accident need not be fatal in order to have long-lasting implications. Even a seemingly minor fender bender can cause serious, debilitating injuries, resulting in years of recovery time. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you do not have to assume financial responsibility for your injuries and you may be entitled to compensation for the difficult road that lies ahead.
Establishing Damages and Timeline are Crucial
When you have been injured in a car accident, seek immediate medical attention and document each step in your road to recovery. This is important because victims are often entitled to compensatory damages covering past and future lost wages; past and future medical expenses; as well as damages for pain, suffering and emotional anguish. Additionally, when a victim can demonstrate that the offending driver exceeded basic negligence by completely disregarding the duty of care on the road, punitive damages may also be available. In New Jersey, an award of punitive damages is capped at whichever is greater – five times the amount of the compensatory damage award or $350,000.
Damages in New Jersey personal injury cases can also be reduced proportionally, depending on the role a plaintiff may have played in the car accident. Under the modified comparative negligence rule, the amount of compensation an injured party is entitled to relates to their level of fault. If a judge or jury deems a plaintiff ten percent responsible for the car accident in question, any damages awarded would be reduced by ten percent.
It is also important to note that in New Jersey, victims in personal injury cases have two years from the date of their car accident to file suit. Although recovering from a car accident can be physically and emotionally draining, it is crucial that victims seek out the advice of a New Jersey car accident lawyer as soon as possible after their crash. If you or a loved one has been left debilitated and devastated by the actions of a negligent driver, you should not have to shoulder the burden on your own.
Motorcycle riding has always had a certain appeal for adventurous people. Avid riders preach about the joys of riding through open air, being at one with the road and taking full advantage of scenic views. Unfortunately, riding motorcycles does not come without risk. Statistically, operating a motorcycle puts the driver at a much higher accident risk than operating a motor vehicle.
Many people think that motorcycles themselves are dangerous. Yet, most motorcycles accidents are caused by a negligent driver of a car, truck or SUV. Since bikers are not protected by their vehicle, motorcycle accidents are much more likely to be fatal than a typical car accident. Vehicles provide drivers and passengers with a variety of safety features that motorcycles lack. Motorcyclists who are involved in motor vehicle accidents can be seriously injured and many accidents result in death.
Safety Precautions Are Essential
Because motorcycle riders risk being in an accident every time they take their bikes out on the road, every rider should do their best to follow the law and take appropriate safety precautions. First and foremost, every motorcycle rider should wear a helmet while riding on a motorcycle. Without a helmet, the risks for traumatic brain injury and head trauma drastically increase.
In New Jersey, the law requires motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets with reflective tape. If the helmet lacks a wind screen, another form of eye protection, such as goggles, is required. Riders who disregard the law are subject to tickets and fines and may also be denied insurance coverage if an accident does occur.
Helmets are not the only pieces of safety equipment a motorcycle driver should wear; most motorbike retailers sell leather riding suits that protect a biker’s skin from road rash. Motorcycle boots, full-fingered gloves, leather jackets and jeans will also offer some measure of protection. The safest course of action is to wear fitted clothing that covers all exposed skin to reduce the risk and severity of injury.
Rules for Operating a Motorcycle in New Jersey
All motorcyclists in New Jersey must have a current driver’s license along with proof of registration and insurance for their motorcycle. New Jersey also requires that all bikes pass an annual safety inspection to meet the safety standards put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the emissions standards set forth by the Environmental Inspection Agency. Standard inspections check lights, steering, brakes, alignment and tires.
Motorcycle riders are required to abide by the rules of the road. Even though a motorcycle is smaller and more maneuverable than a motor vehicle, drivers should not share lanes with cars or other bikes. Lane sharing also increases the risks and severity of motorcycle accidents. Motorcycle drivers should maintain situational awareness at all times and be comfortable with their operating skills before driving on major highways.
Roads themselves can pose hazards for motorcycle drivers. Potholes and road debris can be deadly for a motorbike driver. Bikers should also take additional precaution in poor weather conditions and during dusk and dawn.
Motorcycle Accidents and Liability
If a motorcycle accident occurs, the first thing that must be established before filing a legal claim is negligence. For legal purposes, negligence is defined as “behaving in a thoughtless or careless manner that causes injury to another person.” Any driver who is not following common road rules can be found guilty of negligence; however, in most motorcycle accidents, it is the driver of the other vehicle who caused the accident. If it can be proven that the accident was the result of negligence, the other driver is liable for the accident and can be held accountable for their actions.
In order for a legal claim to be successful, certain elements of negligence must be present in the case. The plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant was breaking the law
- The defendant was not taking proper care on the roadway
- The defendant’s actions caused the accident and the driver injuries
It is important to note that the motorcycle driver must have sustained some form of injury or damages in order to pursue a claim. In the absence of these factors, a motorcycle driver cannot sue the person who caused the accident, even if negligence was involved.
Liability May Extend to Multiple Parties
In some cases, liability for the accident may be shared. The driver of the motor vehicle may be guilty of negligence, however the biker may have been operating the motorcycle in a reckless manner which contributed to the accident. If the other driver can prove that the biker was behaving recklessly, they may not be liable for all the motorcyclist’s resulting injuries.
A large truck – defined as any truck weighing in at 10,000 pounds or more – can do serious damage. A joint study by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of California, Berkeley, reveals that being hit by any vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier than your own can nearly doubles your risk of fatal injury. Because a fully loaded commercial tractor trailer can weigh 80,000 pounds – or 20-to-30 times as much as a passenger car – ordinary motorists are at a decided disadvantage.
New Jersey personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore note that commercial truck accidents result in thousands of deaths each year on American roadways. The vast majority of these crashes will involve multiple vehicles, and more often than not it is the occupants of these other, smaller vehicles who will perish in a truck accident according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.) Moreover, the NHTSA maintains that although large trucks account for just four-percent of all registered vehicles, they are responsible for nine-percent of all fatal traffic accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that almost one-in-ten of all highway deaths will occur in a large truck accident.
For those who are fortunate enough to survive a truck accident, life is rarely the same. Catastrophic injuries are common, including brain injuries, broken bones and damage to internal organs. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident think twice before attempting to negotiate with an insurer or accepting an initial offer of compensation. Our truck accident lawyers say you may be entitled to more.
Establishing Liability Following a Large Truck Accident
Truck accidents are unique in that various third parties – including a truck driver’s employer, the owner of the truck, the manufacturer of the truck or even the loader of the truck’s cargo – can be held financially responsible in addition to the truck driver, himself. Trucks today are often equipped with event data recorders which enable investigators to track the performance of a vehicle up until the moment of a collision. Additionally, because the trucking industry is closely regulated by both state and federal governments, trucking companies and their drivers must adhere to various laws and regulations. If a violation has occurred, such as a failure to routinely or adequately inspect a large truck’s mechanics, the task of assessing liability in a truck accident can be straightforward.
In other situations determining who is at fault in a truck accident is considerably more difficult. Problems such as lack of experience and underestimation of weather conditions can all increase the likelihood of a crash but are not as easily proven. An experienced New Jersey truck accident lawyer will also investigate the possibility of truck driver fatigue, which causes 18% of all large truck accidents according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. By law, commercial truck drivers can work a total of no more than 14 hours per day, with just 11 of those hours spent on the road. Drivers must also maintain a ten-hour period of non-work before starting any shift, and may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
A common challenge for all New Jersey motorists is sharing the road with aggressive drivers or drivers suffering from the emotional instability of road rage. Car accidents caused by road-rage and aggression are on the rise throughout the country. Both types of negligent driving, either aggressive or while emotionally enraged, can cause serious and sometimes fatal car accidents. Aggressive motorists will drive like they own the roads with little regard for other travelers. By willfully disregarding basic traffic laws, aggressive drivers cause car accidents that would otherwise be preventable.
Road rage differs from aggressive driving in that the emotionally enraged driver is intentionally trying to threaten or intimidate the driver of another vehicle. Many aggressive driving accidents are due to willful negligence, whereas in cases involving road rage, car accidents are often the result of a deliberate intent to cause harm or injury.
Aggressive drivers may be stopped and ticketed by law enforcement, while road rage drivers can face criminal charges and possible jail time. Drivers who have been involved in car accidents caused by an aggressive or enraged driver are not at fault and are often entitled to compensation. Victims of these types of car accidents should contact a New Jersey road rage accident lawyer to review their options and determine the best path to protecting their rights.
How to Spot an Enraged Driver
There are many types of drivers on the road, but a driver consumed by road rage can be easy to spot. These types of drivers make sudden and erratic movements with their vehicles, such as speeding up and tailgating other vehicles. Other common signs of road rage are a driver who honks the horn or flashes the vehicle’s headlights repeatedly. Enraged drivers may go as far as to confront other drivers by yelling, making rude comments or gestures. If other drivers try to maneuver away from the enraged driver, that driver may cut the other vehicle off or abruptly brake in front of it causing a rear-end collision.
How to Spot an Aggressive Driver
Aggressive driving occurs when motorists break numerous traffic laws putting people, vehicles and property at risk. The number one identifier of an aggressive driver is excessive speed. Another way to spot an aggressive driver is to be on the lookout for motorists who weave in and out of vehicle lanes with seemingly no regard for other drivers. Other acts of aggression include:
- Racing with another vehicle
- Driving on the side of the road or in a median
- Failing to yield to other drivers
- Failing to obey traffic signals or warning signs
- Passing in no-pass lanes
- Tailgating another vehicle
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also play a role in aggressive driving.
Avoiding Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Accidents
As New Jersey aggressive driving lawyers we know what an important skill defensive driving is for motorists. Drivers should stay vigilant while on the roadways and watch carefully for signs of aggressive drivers or drivers experiencing road rage. Try to avoid vehicles that are driving erratically by slowing down or by staying in the left or middle lane. If an enraged driver targets you, do your best to immediately remove yourself and your vehicle from the situation. This may be as simple as letting the other driver pass by or may involve leaving the highway to avoid the other driver.
Car accidents caused by distracted driving are increasing across the United States, largely stemming from a rise in mobile device use while driving. In the few seconds it takes to answer a call, read a text or multi-task in some other way, traffic conditions can change drastically. Drivers who are not paying constant attention to their surroundings can easily cause accidents that harm themselves and other drivers, as well as pedestrians and property.
Distracted Driving Defined
Distraction while driving falls into three main categories: visual distraction (disengagement of the eyes), manual distraction (disengagement of the hands) and cognitive distraction (disengagement of the mind). Drivers who are disengaged are inattentive to surrounding traffic. Many drivers don’t realize how quickly an accident can occur. At 60 miles per hour, a vehicle will advance 100 feet in the same time it takes to glance at a cell phone. Even the briefest distraction can prevent drivers from avoiding a collision.
Mobile device usage use has become the most common type of distraction; however, other causes of distraction include:
- Eating or drinking
- Figuring out directions or being distracted by a GPS device
- Picking up a dropped object
- Grabbing an object from the passenger seat or back seat
- Adjusting the radio
- Dealing with children
- Applying make-up
- Reading a book or newspaper
The list is almost endless. If a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to concentrate on something else, they are operating the motor vehicle while distracted. Even if a driver keeps their eyes on the roadway, they can still be distracted by conversation with a passenger or by a favorite song on the radio.
Distracted Driving and Liability
If a driver is found guilty of distracted driving when a car accident occurs, that driver will be found responsible for the accident and any resulting injuries. Accident victims will be entitled to pursue compensation from the distracted driver’s insurance company and/or via a civil lawsuit against the distracted driver.
Cell Phones and Driving
In New Jersey, it is illegal to use a cell phone while driving unless the driver uses hands-free calling. Texting and driving is prohibited at all times. Drivers who are under 21 cannot use any type of mobile or wireless device while driving. Savvy New Jersey distracted driving lawyers know the importance of the process to subpoena cell phone records to determine whether or not a driver was operating a cell phone at the time of a crash.
Accidents caused by drowsy driving are more prevalent than people think. Drowsy driving is proving to be as potentially deadly as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An individual who has been awake for over 21 hours has the same inability to concentrate as a driver with a .08 percent blood alcohol level. This level of impairment results in a lack of situational awareness and slows reaction times, which can result in a serious or even fatal car accident.
Risks and Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving
Any driver can be at risk for driving while fatigued. Causes can be as simple as a long day at work or lack of adequate sleep. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), certain individuals are more at-risk than others and should take precautions to avoid getting behind the wheel while fatigued. The NSF’s list includes:
- Younger, less experienced drivers
- Night shift workers
- Workers who regularly work overtime
- Truck drivers
- Drivers suffering from a sleep disorder
- Drivers taking sedating medications
Drowsy driving comes with several types of common behaviors. Common indicators of drowsy driving are behaviors such as frequent yawning and delayed reaction time. Drowsy drivers may become aggressive, miss an exit or make a wrong turn. Some drivers try to stay awake by opening the car windows or turning on loud music, but these methods are generally ineffective at suppressing the urge to sleep.
Consequences of Driving Drowsy
A lack of sleep impairs judgement, so drowsy drivers are at a high risk for causing car accidents. A lack of concentration and focus can cause a serious wreck, resulting in personal injury or injury to others. The NSF believes that drowsy driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving because if a driver falls asleep at the wheel, they have no ability to avoid an accident.
How to Prevent Drowsy Driving
Not all traffic accidents can be avoided, but car accidents caused by a fatigued driver are often completely preventable. Any individual who operates a motor vehicle on a regular basis should strive for eight hours of sleep every night. On long trips, drivers should travel with a partner to share driving duties or plan to take regular breaks at two hour intervals. Truck drivers or drivers of other commercial vehicles should avoid working overtime. All drivers should be aware of the dangers of fatigue and no driver should operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking certain types of prescription medications.
Drinking and driving leads to some of the most devastating car accidents in the United States. Government agencies and lawmakers have tried to address this problem by passing stricter DWI laws and imposing harsher penalties, but the number of alcohol-related car accidents continues to rise. In New Jersey, innocent victims are injured daily by drunk drivers. These victims have the right to pursue compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering. It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand all of your options.
Dram Shop Laws
Some states, including New Jersey, impose what are known as Dram Shop laws on local businesses that sell alcohol. Any establishment that serves or sells alcohol can be held partially responsible for drunk driving car accidents caused by its customers. Accident victims can name the business that provided the alcohol in their lawsuit if they can prove that the vendor knew the customer was already intoxicated but continued to serve drinks, or if the vendor should have known it was serving alcohol to a minor. Drunk drivers who are injured in an accident cannot sue an establishment under Dram Shop laws; this privilege is for sober victims only.
Liability of a Party Host
In some cases, an individual may get drunk at a private party or social engagement and then decide to drive home. New Jersey law will hold the host of that party partially responsible for any drunk driving accidents that result from an intoxicated party guest who was allowed to leave the premises. Again, only drunk driving victims are allowed to pursue legal action against the party hosts; the drunk drivers themselves may not bring suit against the party host. A drunk driving car accident victim can successfully sue a host if it can be proven that the host knew the driver was intoxicated or if the host provided alcoholic beverages with no regard for potential consequences.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Under New Jersey law, individuals who have been injured by a drunk driver in a car accident have two years to file a personal injury claim. This applies to personal injury lawsuits against the driver as well as to dram shop and party host lawsuits. Damages awarded can help pay for hospitalization and medical bills, lost wages and property damages as well as pain and suffering.
In New Jersey, accident victims also have the right to pursue punitive action and damages against liquor store owners, restaurants that sell alcohol and the host of a social engagement. This course of action may be pursued in cases of obvious wrongdoing such as willful or intentional negligence. All personal injury claims must be filed prior to the two year anniversary of the accident.
Car Accident Lawyers Remind Motorists that Drunk Driving Accidents are Preventable
Adults who are of legal drinking age are responsible for managing their drinking accordingly. Any person who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated is acting irresponsibly and endangering the lives of every other person sharing the road with them. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI) are illegal in all 50 states, and the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent nationwide.
Individuals who drink alcohol can prevent drunk driving car accidents with proper planning. After drinking alcohol, plan to take a taxi home or designate a sober driver before going to a party or a bar. New Jersey law enforcement officials take drunk driving seriously and will hold drunk drivers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore have vast experience representing car accident victims in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Contact us online or call 1-800-CANT-WORK (1-800-226-8967) or 856-761-1222 today to schedule your free consultation at one of our offices. Whether in settlement talks or before a jury, we will passionately advocate on your behalf. Because we work on a contingency basis, our fee is paid only when we win for you.