New Jersey Supreme Court Follows Through with “Ongoing Storm Rule”

We all know how much the variable climate affects every aspect of our lives in New Jersey.

New Jersey Ongoing Storm RuleThe snow and ice storms in the state create a plethora of precarious conditions for the roadways, sidewalks, and residential and commercial properties, but New Jersey residents have learned to navigate those conditions with caution to remain safe. One area of navigation that continues to be an issue regards public walkways and sidewalks in front of and within commercial properties. A recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Pareja v. Princeton International Properties & Lowe’s Landscaping and Lawn Maintenance, LLC, overturned the Appellate Division’s ruling that commercial and private properties are required to remove precarious walking conditions in the ongoing presence of precipitation, adopting the “Ongoing Storm Rule.”

What is the “ongoing storm rule”?

The “ongoing storm rule,” according to text from New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Fernandez-Vina’s majority opinion, is the precedent by which the owner of property does not have the legal obligation to remove snow or ice from public walkways until a reasonable amount of time subsequent to the precipitation ending. Given the amount of rain, ice, and snow that falls in New Jersey, the creation of precarious walking conditions is a practically inevitable aspect of winter and transitional months. The protection of property owners under the “ongoing storm rule” is quite vast, because the rule implies that it is impractical to remove snow or ice from sidewalks until the precipitation has ceased to fall. This argument of what is practical and therefore a safety responsibility, and what is impractical, has colored the New Jersey courts for decades. The majority noted in its opinion that liability lawsuits against property owners regarding slip and fall cases due to inclement weather have been on the record in New Jersey since 1926.

The Court noted multiple other states in the Northeast that adhere by the tenets of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” to protect commercial property owners from lawsuits that occur as the result of a slip and fall during inclement weather conditions. Yet, while the NJ Supreme Court’s decision was that the “ongoing storm rule” is justifiable and can serve as umbrella protection for property owners in inclement New Jersey weather, the ruling did leave the door open for future liability lawsuits to continue.

The Grey Area

While the majority of NJ Supreme Court Justices ruled in favor of endorsing the “Ongoing Storm Rule” (the Court ruled in favor of the defendant 5-2), left quite a bit of grey area. In overturning the Appellate Division’s majority opinion that it is the property owner’s legal duty to act in a reasonably swift manner to remove precarious conditions. The Supreme Court noted that such an imposition on property owners does not take into condition their reasonable capacity to remove such dangerous obstacles, especially if they are small businesses.

The ruling upholding the “Ongoing Storm Rule” noted its trust of juries to determine whether the property manager acted in an appropriate manner and with appropriate expeditiousness. This placed a large amount of the application of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” in the hands of the deciding party on a case-by-case basis. Justice Fernandez-Vina stated clearly in its opinion that the jury could of course hear testimony that would inform whether the “Ongoing Storm Rule” would be appropriate to apply. The majority opinion was also clear that there are extenuating circumstances, which they called “unusual circumstances,” in which the breadth of the “Ongoing Storm Rule” might be reconsidered or reconfigured, and the property owner may be held responsible for accidents occurring on their public walkways. The opinion stated,

What is the “ongoing storm rule”?“First, commercial landowners may be liable if their actions increase the risk to pedestrians and invitees on their property, for example, by creating ‘unusual circumstances’ where the defendant’s conduct ‘exacerbate[s] and increase[s] the risk of injury to the plaintiff….Second, a commercial landowner may be liable where there was a pre-existing risk on the premises before the storm. For example, if a commercial landowner failed to remove or reduce a pre-existing risk on the property, including the duty to remove snow from a previous storm that has since concluded, he may be liable for an injury during a later ongoing storm.”

To ensure that you navigate your slip-and-fall lawsuit successfully as a plaintiff or commercial defendant, it is important to have the support of an experienced attorney.

Contact our Injury Attorneys for Help with Your Claim

If you are engaged in or considering filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit due to inclement New Jersey weather, our skilled injury attorneys are on your side. Examining your case to understand if it has the necessary elements to obtain compensation for a slip and fall is crucial, and we can help.

At Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, we successfully represent clients in Hamilton Township, Trenton, Ewing, and across Mercer, Camden, Burlington, Atlantic, Somerset, and Middlesex County.

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 the grounds for your lawsuit for injury compensation.

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.

Attorney Client Privilege and Your Personal Injury Claim

Attorney Client Privilege and Your Personal Injury ClaimAttorney client privilege is a key part of our legal system, and in many legal systems throughout history including during the times of the Roman Empire. The attorney client privilege allows a client to speak with their attorney honestly and without fear over whatever they disclose to their attorney being shared with other parties including government agencies, criminal justice authorities, businesses, relatives, or any other third party.

However, there are situations in which you may not be protected by attorney client privilege when speaking with a lawyer, situations in which your own actions can break the attorney client privilege and force you or your attorney to disclose information which you may have assumed to be completely confidential, and considerations regarding the presence of third parties such as family members or expert consultants when communicating with your attorney.

In today’s article, we will discuss the above-mentioned concerns regarding attorney client privilege as they relate to personal injury law, but in general the same considerations can apply to any legal matter including criminal defense, employment law, commercial law, and more.

Ewing Township Personal Injury Attorneys and “Communicating Confidentially with Your Attorney”

One of the most common misunderstandings when it comes to attorney client privilege is the idea that all communications between a client and their attorney are privileged. While attorneys have an ethical duty to keep sensitive information private (referred to as attorney client confidentiality), their evidentiary duty to protect communications between themselves and their clients (attorney client privilege) generally only exists once their services as an attorney have actually been retained, or they are being consulted for legal advice by a potential client.

This means if you ask your attorney friend for advice, but aren’t necessarily seeking their legal representation, such communications probably aren’t protected by attorney client privilege. Or, if you speak with your attorney about matters pertaining to something other than what they are representing you for, that information is most likely also not protected by attorney client privilege.

All this being said, when you call our Ewing personal injury attorneys for a free and confidential consultation, you can rest assured that any information you share with our attorneys regarding your potential personal injury claim will be protected by attorney client privilege.

Lawrence Accident and Injury Lawyers and “Breaking Attorney Client Privilege”

Once you have retained the services of our Lawrence accident and injury lawyers, or any other attorney for that matter, all communications between you and your attorney are protected by attorney client privilege. In the case of a personal injury claim, this means that the insurance company cannot compel you or your attorney to disclose anything that was said between yourselves when communicating over the details of your personal injury case.

Critically however, your own actions can break this privilege if you are not careful. For example, if you tell a friend or family member any of the information you shared with your attorney or that they shared with you, you are choosing to break the attorney client privilege, and this information can now be compelled to be disclosed and potentially used against you in court if it is discovered you broke privilege.

As compelling as it can be to share your life, concerns, and situation with a friend or family member, it is extremely important that you understand that any information you share with un-privileged parties can be used in court against you should the insurance company learn of these communications.

Attorney Client Privilege, Third Parties, and Family Members, Trenton Injury Attorneys

The final consideration we will discuss is how attorney client privilege is affected by the presence of third parties during your communications with your attorney. As a general rule, your attorney client privilege will continue to apply as long as any third parties present during your communications with your attorney are there in order to help your claim.

In many personal injury claims, your Trenton injury attorney will wish to consult with experts in various fields, either for providing witness testimony, or simply for a better understanding of your unique situation and what you may require moving forward in terms of medical treatment or rehabilitation. As these experts are clearly present in order to help you succeed in their claim, it is very easy to show a court that their presence was “essential”, “necessary”, or “highly useful”, thus ensuring attorney client privilege is protected.

However, including family members in your communications with your Trenton injury attorney is a much more “grey” legal area. In some situations it can be argued that the presence of a family member was necessary such as when the injury victim is suffering from cognitive damage as a result of their injuries, or simply has a pre-existing medical conditions which make it necessary for a family member to be present. On the other hand, there are situations where including a family member in discussions with your personal injury attorney really is not necessary, and their presence does nothing to improve or help you win your claim. In these situations, while it is unlikely the insurance company would know of your family member’s presence in your meetings with your attorney, should they discover this information, they can compel this family member to share information which would have otherwise been protected by attorney client privilege.

When it comes to understanding whether or not, and to what degree, the sharing of information with your family members may be breaching your own attorney client prilivege, it is important that you raise this issue with your personal injury lawyer so that you can secure the support you need during such difficult times while still protecting the strength of your injury claim and your legal and financial future.

Contact Our Mercer County Personal Injury Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson, our attorneys have extensive experience successfully recovering full and fair compensation for our clients in personal injury claims of all kinds in towns across New Jersey and Mercer County, including Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence, Hamilton, Princeton, and West Windsor.

If you or a loved one has been injured in any kind of car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, bus or train accident, construction accident, a slip and fall, an accident on a dangerous or poorly maintained property, by a defective product, or any other kind of accident resulting from the reckless or negligent actions of another party or parties, it is important that you recover the financial compensation you and your family needs and deserves for your medical expenses, lost income, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. When it comes to making a successful recovery and navigating the often complex waters of NJ personal injury law, our firm is ready to provide you with the experienced, knowledgeable, and highly effective and attentive legal service that you need and deserve.

To speak with one of our personal injury lawyers today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your accident and resulting injuries, your options for making a personal injury recovery, and how exactly we can help you to do so, please contact us online, or through our Trenton, NJ office at (609) 528-2596.