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What Are My Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident in New Jersey?
If you’re traveling as a passenger in New Jersey and a car accident, knowing your rights is crucial.
The roads can be unpredictable, and New Jersey is no exception, with the New Jersey Department of Transportation reporting thousands of accidents yearly.
Understanding your legal position helps you navigate the aftermath of an accident and ensures that you’re adequately compensated for any harm or loss.
Can a Passenger be Liable for Car Accidents?
In most car accidents, the person driving is usually responsible. But there are some cases where the person sitting in the passenger seat might be partly to blame. Here’s how:
Riding with an Impaired Driver
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in the United States, about one-third of all traffic fatalities involve drunk drivers.
For instance, NHTSA reports that each year, 10,000 people are killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Additionally, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that drowsy driving was involved in an estimated 16% to 21% of all crashes in 2022.
Passengers who knowingly get into a vehicle with an impaired driver could be seen as complicit in any resulting accidents.
Distracting the Driver
The role of passenger behavior in contributing to vehicle crashes is notable. The NHTSA states that distractions are involved in approximately 3,522 life claims. This statistic was highlighted in reports covering the year 2021.
Engaging in activities that distract the driver, like loud conversations or messing with the vehicle’s controls, can significantly increase the risk of accidents.
Lawsuit about At-fault Car Accidents in New Jersey
If you’ve been involved in a car accident in New Jersey and believe someone else is at fault, you may be wondering about your legal options.
It is important to note that you have a limited time to file a lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations. In New Jersey, it’s generally two years from the date of the accident.
Here’s some important information to help you understand the process:
New Jersey follows a no-fault insurance system. This means that, in most cases, you must first turn to your own insurance company for compensation, regardless of who caused the accident. Only if your injuries are severe or meet certain criteria can you file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
To sue the at-fault driver, your injuries must be considered serious under New Jersey law. Examples of serious injuries include fractures, disfigurement, or significant scarring.
New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence system. If you were partly at fault for the accident, your compensation may be reduced proportionately. For example, if you were 20% at fault, your compensation will be reduced by 20%.
What are Passenger Rights if Involved in a Car Accidents Case?
Being a passenger during a car accident can be scary. But don’t worry; you have rights that protect you and can help with the costs that come after an accident. Here’s a simple guide:
Right to Money for Your Injuries
If you’re hurt as a passenger, you can ask for money to help with different costs. This could include:
- Medical Bills: Insurance can cover hospital visits or treatments you need.
- Lost Wages: If you can’t work because of the accident, you might get money for the paychecks you missed.
- Pain and Suffering: The tough times you’ve had since the accident.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report shows that medical costs and productivity losses from traffic accidents total around $75 billion annually.
Right to Claim from Both Drivers
If it needs to be clarified who made the mistake in the accident, you can ask both drivers for money in places like New Jersey.
That’s good news because it increases the chances of your expenses being paid. It’s important because, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, determining fault can be complicated, with over 270,000 accidents in 2020 alone.
Right to Information
You have the right to know about the insurance of both drivers. Why is this helpful? Once you or your lawyer have this information, you can ensure the right people help pay for the accident costs.
Significant Benefits for Passengers in Auto Accidents
When you’re a passenger in a car accident, knowing there are systems to help you out is a relief. Here’s what benefits you can expect:
Medical Costs Taken Care Of
If someone else caused the accident, their car insurance should pay for your doctor’s visits or any other medical care you need. Data shows that, in 2022, the U.S. average claim for bodily injury is around $23,900, which can cover a lot of medical treatment.
Money for Other Losses
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these compensations are necessary because accidents resulted in over $33 billion in lost workplace productivity.
Apart from medical bills, you could get money for other things like:
- Lost Wages: If you can’t work because of your injuries, you could be compensated for the money you’re not making.
- Pain and Suffering: If you’re in pain or have a hard time after the accident, you could be paid for your suffering.
No-Fault Insurance Benefits
In New Jersey, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) might cover you even if the driver of the car you were in was at fault.
That’s a big deal because PIP can pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses if needed. And with New Jersey’s PIP claims averaging around $8,700 per passenger, it’s a significant support system.
Procedure to Sue the Passenger in Car Accidents in New Jersey
Proof of Passenger Fault
First off, you’ve got to have evidence that the passenger did something wrong that contributed to the accident. It’s not common, but it happens. For instance, if they grabbed the steering wheel or distracted you in a big way.
Filing a Claim and Lawsuit
Next, you’d tell your insurance about it and might even take the passenger to court. Given that in the United States, only about 4% to 5% of personal injury cases go to trial, it’s likely to be settled outside of court.
Get a Lawyer
This kind of case can be complicated, so getting a lawyer is competent. They can sort through the messy details and determine the best way to do it. Legal experts often handle thousands of these cases yearly, although cases against passengers are less common.
See also: Jersey City Car Accident Lawyer
If a Passenger Leaves the Accident, What Should the Car Driver Do?
As a driver, if your passenger ditches the scene after an accident, here’s what to do:
- Get Their Details: Try to get the passenger’s contact info. About 1 in 10 drivers will have a passenger leave the scene, but having their details is key for any follow-up.
- Notify Authorities: Call the cops and report the incident. Accurate reporting is crucial since about 11% of all motor vehicle accident reports include details of hit-and-run incidents, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
- Talk to Your Insurer: Let your insurance company know ASAP. Despite the passenger’s quick exit, you might still be on the hook for their injuries since most policies cover injuries.
See also: Leaving the Scene of an Accident in NJ
How to Hire a Car Accidents Attorney in New Jersey?
Picking the right car accident attorney in New Jersey is a big deal when you’re in a bind after an accident. Here’s a quick how-to:
Aim for a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of car accident cases. In New Jersey, attorneys handle thousands of these cases every year.
Look at their win-loss record. You want someone with more wins, as only about 50% of personal injury cases win in court nationwide.
Check their reviews. About 72% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so they’re a goldmine of info.
Meet them first. It’s like a test drive for lawyers. Remember, they’re helping you with a case that’s part of the over 6 million car accidents in the U.S. annually.
How to Collect Witness Information in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, collect witness information by asking for their names, contact details, and a brief account of what they saw, then note this information securely or record it on your phone if they consent.
Can I Call the Police as a Passenger after Car Accidents in New Jersey?
Yes, a passenger can call the police after an accident. Ensuring an official report is filed is recommended, which is crucial for insurance and legal processes.
Being a passenger in a car accident in New Jersey entitles you to certain rights and protections.
You have the right to seek compensation for injuries and losses; in most cases, you won’t be held liable for the accident.
Understanding your rights and the steps to take following an accident is important, including collecting witness information, seeking medical attention, and consulting with a qualified attorney to protect your interests.
If you’re involved in such an unfortunate event, remember these points and take prompt action to safeguard your rights.
Hiring a competent car accident attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Stay informed, and stay safe on the roads of New Jersey.