Auto Insurance Companies Now Held to Strict Deadlines on Disclosing Policy Limits in NJ

A New Jersey Law Expedites the Process of Finding out Insurance Limits after an Accident

Policy Limits Disclosure for Auto Accidents

A car accident can stall your life plans. Even if all involved parties cooperate and leave the scene, this may not occur without one or both parties experiencing significant injuries. Not only does your world feel more unsafe by the jolt to your car and your belief that safe driving prevents accidents, but the aftermath can be grueling too. You have so many things to do to get yourself back to the life you had before you had the accident. First, if you are injured, you must see a doctor, undergo treatment and recovery plan, and suffer pain and disruption in your daily activities. Maybe you cannot work for a time. Then, there is the insurance side of the equation. You must contact your insurance company, which will open a claim. The follow-up may be a recorded statement, sending signed statements, and forwarding photos of your vehicle. And if your car needs repairs, you must bring your vehicle in and perhaps rent one while it is in the mechanic’s shop.

If you are not responsible for the accident, you most likely want and expect the responsible party or insurer to pay for your damages, including medical bills, repair bills, lost income, and pain and suffering damages. But insurance companies are often slow and reluctant to pay. They want to make sure that liability is clear and the damages claim is reasonable. All too often, insurance companies stall and impede the progress of a claim by withholding information from the other party, like policy limits. Policy limits include the insured’s maximum coverage amounts for bodily and property damages. Typically, the insurer obligated to pay wants to keep the total payout as low as possible. In contrast, the victim wants the settlement amount to be as high as possible, given the range of what is possible for a particular accident. So, the insurer’s goal in withholding policy limits is to keep the claimant from knowing the true amount of financial compensation that may be available to them.

Are insurance companies required to disclose policy limits?

Withholding policy limits does nothing but delay what an attorney can eventually get from the insurance company by litigation or legal pressuring tactics. For instance, a plaintiff who files a lawsuit against the responsible party has the right to discovery, meaning all the evidence applicable to the case, like police reports, medical bills, property damage records, and insurance policy information, among other evidence. But the driver who was not at fault for the accident should not have to file a lawsuit to discover the responsible party’s policy limits covering the accident. Thus, Governor Murphy recently signed a measure into law, mandating insurers to reveal policy limits to an attorney who asks for them.

The law, S-1558/A-3444, gives insurers 30 days to provide written notice of an insurer’s personal automobile insurance policy limits to a requesting attorney. The insurer must reveal policy limits to all policies the insured holds upon an attorney demanding the information. The attorney is then obligated to keep that information confidential. The legislation aims to expedite automobile accident claim resolutions and eliminate unnecessary lawsuits. Attorneys file personal injury lawsuits on behalf of injured clients in New Jersey, for which they must obtain policy limits information, as well as when a case has not settled before the statute of limitations tolls, meaning before the latest time for filing a lawsuit runs out. The new law reduces the number of lawsuits that attorneys must file due to settlement delays.

Personal injury attorneys and prospective clients generally welcome the new law, which went into effect in July 2021.

How much can policy limits impact your caseWe, as experienced personal injury lawyers, understand that knowing how much the responsible party’s policy covers is crucial to settling a personal injury claim in our clients’ best interests. This information is highly informative when it comes to a potential settlement amount or settlement figure that may be obtained from the insurer. It also eliminates the necessity of filing an underinsured claim with an individual’s own insurance company if the other party’s insurance does not fully cover the accident damages. Overall, the new law allows more efficiency in the personal injury claim process.

Unsurprisingly, insurers and their representatives believe the law is unnecessary. Attorneys can get policy limits without the law, and those accident victims with more damages than the responsible party’s policy covers must file a lawsuit regardless. However, proponents of the bill argue that the law will cut down on unnecessary lawsuit filings and, in turn, motivate more attorneys to take cases they may not otherwise accept if they anticipate having to file a lawsuit to settle a claim.

How much can Policy Limits affect your Case?

If another driver caused your injuries in an automobile accident, you would benefit from this new law. Settling a personal injury claim is a matter of adding up all the damages you incurred from the accident once the insurer establishes fault. If the other driver or drivers in an accident caused the accident, you want to know if they are insured and for how much, to formulate your best plan of action. For example, if you injured your back and neck in the accident, you may need to see a doctor and physical therapist for treatment over several weeks. In addition, your car may need repairs. If, after completing your treatment and repairing your car, your total damages, including compensation for lost wages, pain, and suffering, and attorney’s fees, is below the typical policy limits, you can settle your claim easier than if your damages exceed those limits. But understand that most auto insurance policies cover $15,000.00 for bodily injuries to one person or $30,000.00 for more than one person.

As such, an attorney who knows the policy limits can better guide their client in what they can expect as a settlement amount, if any, and the time it will take to resolve. Without knowing the policy limits, an attorney cannot fully advise their client as to whether an insurance company’s settlement offer is even remotely fair or does not cover all the client’s damages. Often, people without attorneys representing them may settle for less than what they want or deserve because their damages totals are high, the policy coverage is low, and the cost of filing a lawsuit and waiting out the year or more it takes to go through the legal system seems like it’s not worth it. The numbers must make sense in the big picture of settlements versus lawsuits. Still, it is highly advisable to have a knowledgeable lawyer review your case before deciding how best to proceed. In some cases, the accident is grave enough that the plaintiff has no choice but to sue the responsible driver when the policy limits are too low to cover even a fraction of the damages. These decisions of filing suit or not underscore the necessity for knowing the policy limits.

If your accident and subsequent injuries occurred within the last two months, you might benefit from this new law when planning to pursue a claim for motor vehicle accident compensation. To be sure, you should speak to a personal injury attorney about the new law, how it affects your claim, and what you can expect once you know the coverage for your accident.

Contact our Personal Injury Attorneys for Guidance with Your Case

Personal injury cases can be complicated, so you will need a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to take you through all the possibilities to resolving your auto accident injury claim.

At Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, we have represented clients in Hamilton, Lawrence, Bristol, Willingboro, Greenwood, Wilbur, and the greater Mercer County Area. We can properly guide you in the entire process of pursuing compensation for a motor vehicle accident.

Get in contact with us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss specifics of your accident, understand the new updates in the law, and the potential for obtaining compensation if someone else was at fault.

Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases in NJ

Though businesses and life, in general, are opening up lately, COVID-19 will have long-lasting effects on the courts and all the entities involved in a personal injury claim.

Impact of COVID-19 on Personal Injury Cases in NJIf you’ve been harmed in a car accident, in a slip and fall in a grocery store, or in any other circumstance where some other person or entity caused you injury on their property or anywhere else in New Jersey, you have the right to seek compensation for the medical bills, pain, and suffering that you endure by filing a personal injury claim.

There are some aspects of the courts, insurance companies, and businesses that have changed because of COVID-19, and that you need to be aware of under the unique circumstances. Know what to expect as you pursue your claim.

Is There a Limitation on When I Can File My Claim?

First and foremost, you need to be aware that the clock is ticking. You do not have unlimited time to file your claim.

Every state in the U.S. places a limit on how much time you can take to file a personal injury claim. The law that places this limit is known as a statute of limitations.

New Jersey’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases allows a person injured by a person or an entity two years to file a claim. Generally, the clock on that claim starts ticking on the day of the accident.

Though you may want to wait to collect all the doctor’s bills that accrue because of your injury, you must also keep in mind that if you don’t get your claim filed before two years is up, the courts will probably refuse to put your case on the docket. Your ability to gain compensation for your pain, suffering, and lost wages will, most likely, be lost unless there is an unusual circumstance that the court believes extends the deadline.

Don’t wait to file your claim because of COVID-19.

And don’t wait to file your claim because you feel that you don’t have enough money to pay legal fees. Remember that personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. They only get paid if the case is won.

My Personal Injury Case

Even during the height of the pandemic, when people mostly stayed home, there were still car accidents and slips and falls at grocery stores. Now that the economy and businesses are opening up, it’s unfortunate but likely that even more of these incidents will occur.

Pandemic or not, if you’ve suffered an injury that is not your fault, there are a few principles that you should follow:

·        Take pictures early on and steadily thereafter.

·        Keep a pain log daily that will document all that you endured.

·        Get a medical evaluation immediately. Go to all your medical appointments.

·        Documentation is key. It greatly improves your odds of getting compensation.

·        Never speak with any person from the insurance company, including adjusters, before speaking to a personal injury lawyer.

How Does the Pandemic Affect My Case?

How Does the Pandemic Affect My Case?Even though restrictions have eased, COVID-19 is still having a profound effect on personal injury claims in four broad areas:

Insurance companies.

They are worried about lower profits because of the pandemic, and they are aggressive in reducing settlements. They may try to take advantage of the fact that people might be more desperate because of lost wages due to the pandemic, and they are likely to low-ball their first offer. People should not just leap at the first offer from an insurer because it probably won’t reimburse them for medical bills, pain and suffering. As both sides dig in, more personal injury cases may wind up before a judge than usual.

Businesses.

Due to COVID-19, more businesses than usual are filing for bankruptcy. This means that compensation you might have been able to gain from them will be reduced to pennies on the dollar.

Courts.

New Jersey courts shut down and moved all proceedings onto technology platforms like Zoom because of COVID-19. Courts in New Jersey began to open up on June 22, 2021, but many hearings and procedures are still being conducted online. This means that personal injury cases might not be settled as quickly as they would in normal circumstances. Most PI cases get settled before trial, but many cases get at least one hearing in court, at least before a settlement is reached. Expect delays in getting your case settled.

Uninsured drivers.

Due to financial hardship during COVID-19, some drivers may have stopped paying for car insurance. This may complicate things for the victim of a car accident since they can’t be compensated by the driver’s insurance company. The victim may need to pursue compensation via the uninsured/underinsured driver policy through their insurer. A victim needs to be mindful that, in this instance, their insurer becomes an adversary and will resist paying. This kind of claim may be highly contested; the help of an attorney may be essential.

Don´t hesitate in contacting our Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you feel that you have the potential for a personal injury claim, please call Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson today. Our capable personal injury lawyers can fight for you with the insurance companies trying to take advantage of people in desperate straits because of COVID-19. You will need the guidance of experienced attorneys to get the best possible settlement for you and your family.

You can reach us at 609-528-2596 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your individual needs and concerns.

Types of School Bus Accidents and Injuries

Serving Clients in Trenton, Princeton, Pennington, Lawrence, and East Windsor NJ in all Matters Related to Personal Injury Cases.

Types of School Bus Accidents and Injuries AttorneysSchool bus-related accidents cause approximately 137 deaths per year, leaving hundreds of other people injured. However, there are years when this figure climbs higher. In November 2016, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 30 children were injured, and five others died in a school bus collision. The bus driver was identified as a 24-year-old male who was apparently speeding before the bus flipping over and crashing against a tree, being this a single-vehicle accident.

School bus accidents not only endanger our children’s safety while riding local buses. The school bus is, in fact, the safest place to be if a school-bus related tragedy were to happen. Deaths resulting from school bus collisions between 2001-2010 impacted 72% of the passengers and drivers of other vehicles compared to only 7% of people traveling inside school buses, having the remaining percentage represented by cyclists and pedestrians.

Growing figures of property damage, injuries, and death resulting from school bus accidents can be classified into three main types.

School Bus Collision Against Another Vehicle

Other motor vehicles are involved in nearly 75% of all school bus accident tragedies. An average family car is much lighter and smaller than a school bus, which is basically a truck, causing large damage and considerable injuries.

School bus routes are used during mornings and afternoons, affecting the regular traffic, slowing it down, and forcing other drivers to navigate otherwise easy-flowing roads. In other words, running late in your regular commute having a bus in front of you means the speed limit will drop to only 15 mph instead of the typical 45mph, including several stops to pick up or drop off children.

School bus drivers are sometimes found at fault for these motor vehicle accidents due to reckless driving, causing injuries such as fractured bones, whiplash syndrome, and even death.

School Bus Accident Involving Pedestrians

One cyclist or pedestrian is hit and killed by a moving school bus approximately once a month in the U.S. If the victim survives, they might suffer from extensive injuries ranging from fractured bones to paralysis. Whether you are a pedestrian or a vehicle driver, Complying with road safety regulations becomes of utmost importance during the school year (in-person school sessions).

Although crossing guards regulate traffic, they often halt traffic randomly filling the road with pedestrians. Pedestrians and cyclists could very easily get impacted by a distracted bus driver or a driver rolling through a stop sign, especially considering a large bus offers very poor visibility at a close range.

Bus Occupants Involved In School Bus Accidents

On average, over 23 million children in the U.S. are transported by school buses daily, and studies report that up to 17,000 injuries happen yearly inside those buses. Nearly 42% of the injuries result from actual school bus accidents, meaning that a larger percentage of the injuries are only minor scraping and bruising when occupants get on or off the bus or because of the bus not being in optimal conditions.

Bus Occupants Involved In School Bus AccidentsChildren between 11 and 14 years old sustained approximately half of the injuries, abrasions, strains, head injuries, and sprains shown as the most common ones. Unfortunately, nearly 7% of all school bus incident-related injuries happening onboard result in a child’s death.

Options are available to protect your family and children from situations that seem too hard to prevent, like school bus accidents. Study road regulations applicable to your state, avoid distractions while driving, maintain a safe distance from school buses traveling on the same road as you.

Learn more about personal injury claims and what they entail here: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/personalinjury/

Contact our Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free and Confidential Consultation

If you or your child are the victims of a tragic school bus accident, either as a pedestrian, cyclist, bus occupant, or another vehicle driver, you might have a personal injury or wrongful death claim; you are entitled to seek legal advice to discuss how to better recover from your losses.

At The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson,  we pridefully represent clients, including towns like Trenton, Princeton, Hamilton, and the greater Mercer County area. Whether you or your child was injured in a school bus accident, do not let a personal injury or wrongful death claim affect your life.

You can call us at 609.528.2596 or contact us through our online contact form.

Wrong-Way Highway Accidents In New Jersey Cause Fatal Injuries

Helping with Personal Injury cases in Pennington, Lawrence, and East Windsor

Wrong-Way Highway Accidents In New Jersey Cause Fatal InjuriesNew Jersey highways are frequent auto accident scenarios happening at any given hour, having wrong-way car crashes scored as the most disastrous kind. Wrong-way collisions are classified by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) as “one of the most serious types of highway accidents” and describes them as “collisions involving vehicles traveling the wrong way on high-speed divided highways.” In wrong-way collisions, injuries are thought of as fatal or life-threatening because they usually develop on highways with posted high-speed limits.

A Fatal Wrong-way Accident To Prove The Theory

Back in 2019, NBC New York reported a severe multi-vehicle wrong-way collision that left a toll of three fatal victims, located at the Parsippany-Troy Hills area, on Interstate 80 in New Jersey. This terrible accident highlights the devastating degree of wrong-way auto accidents and the utmost importance of complying with safe-driving precautions while being a motor vehicle driver. For this particular collision example, authorities ran an investigation to determine if the wrong-way party was DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) when the incident took place. Impaired drivers are the main cause of wrong-way collisions.

The reported collision occurred a little past 2 a.m., early on a Friday, approaching mile marker 45 going East on Interstate 80. Several motor vehicles were “completely destroyed,” while “at least one of the motor vehicles seemed to have caught on fire.” One male and two females died in the car accident. The driver of the vehicle traveling the wrong way was immediately driven to the hospital. Deputies indicated they were “considering the possibility the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” No data indicating whether there were any survivors of the collision or the exact number of motor vehicles involved was documented at the time of the incident.

Additional Facts About Wrong-Way Auto Collisions

The following are some figures and facts shared by the NTSB about wrong-way auto accidents:

  • Additional Facts About Wrong-Way Auto CollisionsOver 60% of the wrong-way crash at-fault drivers appeared to have signs of some alcohol use, compared to only close to 6% of drivers involved in accidents as “right-way” drivers;
  • Nearly 10% of wrong-way collision at-fault drivers who had drunk alcohol were found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.08 and 0.15;
  • Approximately 60% of drivers confirmed to be at-fault for wrong-way collisions and who demonstrated signs of alcohol use, were confirmed to have a high BAC, equal to or above 0.15;
  • Roughly 10% of wrong-way drivers have previous convictions due to DUI or DWI (driving while intoxicated) within three years before the wrong-way crash taking place;
  • The fatality rate on wrong-way collisions ranges from 12 to 27 times the fatality rate of other highway incidents,
  • Almost 22% of wrong-way crashes are considered as life-threatening, compared to less than 1% fatality on any other king of highway auto collision;
  • An increased percentage of fatal wrong-way accidents happen yearly, adding up to nearly 360 fatalities each year.

If you or someone you love got hurt in a wrong-way crash or DUI collision, you should get in touch with a car accident lawyer.

Contact our Car Accidents Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one resulted injured from a wrong-way auto collision or DUI collision, you are entitled to seek legal advice to discuss your rights and options regarding obtaining compensation and the best way to recover from any losses.

At The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson,  we pridefully represent clients, including towns like Pennington, Lawrence, and East Windsor.

Contact our offices by calling 609.528.2596 or fill out the online form today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your individual needs and concerns.

Was the Accident Caused by Snow or Ice or the Other Driver?

When an accident happens and you file a personal injury suit, the other driver will often claim that it was the weather’s fault for the crash and not their own.

Was the Accident Caused by Snow or Ice or the Other Driver?However, unless the weather was perfect at the time of the crash, it can be seen in New Jersey courts as a contributor to a car accident.  And even when the weather is perfect, other factors, like the setting sun in the driver’s eyes or the lack of light on a dark street, can influence a case. In reality, nearly all accidents are influenced by an exterior problem that made it more difficult—even slightly more difficult—to drive a vehicle.

However, that does not mean that every crash was avoidable or that every driver was without fault. Conditions like snow or ice do not excuse poor driving. On the contrary, poor conditions like these actually require drivers to exercise even greater caution and be even more attentive. A good lawyer knows this and refuses to let a driver off the hook when they caused a crash that hurt you, even if they claim that bad weather was to blame.

How Do Car Accident Lawsuits Work?

Car accident lawsuits are actually a type of personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits are brought by people who have been hurt by someone else’s negligence and want to be compensated for their losses.
Personal injury claims must include each of the following four components:

1. The person they are suing owed them a legal duty to keep them safe or out of harm’s way.
2. That person did not uphold this legal duty.
3. This failure was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
4. The plaintiff was, in fact, hurt in the accident.

Driver’s Have a Legal Duty to Keep Others Safe

Anybody who drives a car owes a legal duty to drive reasonably safely for the conditions found on the road. Determining what constitutes “reasonable safe driving” in any given circumstance can be difficult. However, some basic guidelines obviously need to be followed, including:

• Driving at a speed that is neither too slow nor too fast.
• Obeying traffic laws.
• Keeping a safe distance from the car in front.
• Being attentive enough for potential hazards to avoid them before creating an accident.

Even in pristine driving conditions, determining whether someone was driving reasonably safely can be difficult. For example, if someone was going five miles per hour over the speed limit, but so was everyone else on the road, does that automatically make them unsafe? In many cases, it falls to the jury to decide whether a driver’s conduct on the road was reasonably safe or not.

How Does The Weather Influence a Driver’s Legal Duty To Keep Others Safe?

How Does The Weather Influence a Driver's Legal Duty To Keep Others Safe?A driver’s legal duty to keep others safe on the road has this important aspect: they must adapt to road conditions. For example, someone driving at the speed limit and staying a two-car lengths’ distance from the car in front of them would be driving reasonably safely when the sun is shining. But when the roads are icy and snowing, that probably won’t be safe enough. So instead, the road conditions require the driver to slow down even more and increase their following distance.

When the weather is bad and driving conditions poor, drivers are legally required to adapt to ensure others’ safety on the road. However, when they fail to adapt their driving technique to the conditions they face, they can be held liable for the accidents they cause.

Poor Weather Does Not Take The Blame For Poor Driving

So, if you get hurt in a car accident in New Jersey, and the other driver claims they aren’t responsible because the weather was terrible, be assured that the weather does not automatically absolve them of their role in the crash. While the weather might have been horrible—icy roads, heavy rain, snow, or fog that reduced visibility, stiff gusts of wind that made it difficult to steer—drivers still have a legal responsibility to drive in a manner that is reasonably safe for those exact conditions. In other words, if the driver were driving the way he or she would in perfect conditions, then they were likely failing to uphold their responsibility to keep others safe.

In Sum, Bad Weather Demands Better Driving

When a potentially negligent driver tries to blame the weather for their role in a car accident that harmed you, it is often an attempt to avoid liability—that will fail. In summary, poor weather conditions actually require better and safer driving techniques than would have been necessary with nice weather.

Consult with Personal Injury Attorneys

The car accident and personal injury attorneys at The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson are accustomed to drivers claiming that the crash was the weather’s fault and not their own. But our attorneys can turn these claims back against them and use them to convince a jury that bad road conditions required the driver to drive even more safely than normal.

Using these legal tactics, we can fight for your interests, both in the courtroom with the jury and outside the courtroom with insurance companies.

With us fighting for you, you can be confident that everything will be done to ensure that you get the compensation that you need and deserve after the crash that hurt you.

Contact us at (609) 528-2596 in New Jersey if you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident and the other driver blames the weather.