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.

How Are Damages for Pain and Suffering Calculated?

Serving Personal Injury Victims and Getting Compensation for Damages in Trenton, Lawrence, Princeton, Hamilton, and Mercer County.

How Are Damages for Pain and Suffering Calculated?We can’t give strict rules or formulas to put a dollar value on the pain and suffering you endured in a personal injury case, but here are some guidelines for what an insurance company might consider.

If you were injured due to someone else’s carelessness, in most cases, you could seek compensation from that person’s insurance company by filing what’s known as a third-party claim.

This article will discuss the conditions under which an insurance company will compensate for pain and suffering and how these damages are calculated.

After you have established that the at-fault party, hereinafter called the “defendant,” is the person responsible for your injuries (in other words, “liable”), you will then need to present evidence of all the losses you sustained in the incident (called “damages”). The defendant’s insurance company should compensate you for your medical expenses as well as any wages you lost as a result of the defendant’s actions.

Besides, the insurance company should provide you with some compensation for your general “pain and suffering.” Let’s discuss when an insurance company will compensate for pain and suffering and how these kinds of damages are calculated.

First: What is “Pain and Suffering?”

This is a legal term that includes a host of injuries that a plaintiff may suffer in an accident. The term includes physical pain caused by an accident and physical discomfort resulting from necessary medical treatment. It also covers emotional and mental injuries such as fear, insomnia, grief, worry, inconvenience, and even the loss of life enjoyment.

Almost without exception, in an injury case, the plaintiff should recover some amount, sometimes small and sometimes very large.

An insurance company or a jury will look at both the type of injury you suffered and the nature of your medical treatment as two basic ways to determine the degree of pain and suffering you have endured.

If you’re in a car accident that results in $5,000 in damage to your car and $15,000 in medical bills, your “pain and suffering” damages are going to be significant. But if that same accident results in only $500 in medical bills (for x-rays that came back negative), your “pain and suffering” damages will likely be nominal.

Second: How Does an Insurance Company Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages?

No rule or law says how this must be done. But many plaintiffs’ attorneys use one of two methods for calculating pain and suffering. The first method is to multiply the plaintiff’s actual damages (medical bills and lost wages) by a factor between 1 and 5, depending on the severity of the injury. For example, if a plaintiff incurs $4,000 in medical bills related to a broken arm, he might multiply that by three and conclude that $12,000 represents a reasonable amount for pain and suffering.

The second method many plaintiffs’ attorneys use is a per diem (Latin for “per day”) approach. Under this method, a certain amount—perhaps $100—is given to every day from the day of the accident until the plaintiff reached maximum recovery.

Insurance companies are not under any obligation to use either of these two methods to calculate pain and suffering. Many insurers use computer programs to determine what settlement they should offer. These programs take into account the type of injury and the type of medical treatment the claimant sought.

For example, insurance companies usually give greater weight to a physician’s medical treatment than a chiropractor. Insurance companies also take into account the length of time the claimant sought treatment. If the treatment seems excessive for the type of injury, the insurance company will not include all of the treatment to calculate pain and suffering.

Third: How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering?

Third: How Do You Prove Pain and Suffering?Proof of this type of injury may take many forms. The more evidence you have to support your claim, the better chance you’ll have of recovering an amount you find satisfactory.

The extent of your injury and accompanying pain and suffering can be evidenced through documentation such as photographs. It can also be evidenced in personal journals that record your physical and emotional feelings. Documentation from friends and family is important. It can provide additional evidence of the way the particular injury has negatively impacted your life. Proof of treatment by a mental health professional is also helpful and necessary for forgeries such as increased anxiety, insomnia, or depression.

Fourth: How Do You Know What’s Fair?

How will you know if the offer an insurance company makes in the settlement is reasonable? A good approach is to use the multiplier method or the per diem method discussed above to get an estimated idea.

On top of that, you need to consider whether additional circumstances might influence that amount, either up or down. For example, if your injury left you with a permanent scar on your face, it would be reasonable to increase the amount of pain and suffering you consider to be fair. Conversely, a minor bump on the head that healed quickly probably will not be compensated for very much. Keep these factors in mind when evaluating whether the insurance company has reasonably and fairly valued your pain and suffering.

Contact a Trenton Personal Injury Lawyer Today

To learn more about proving and negotiating a personal injury claim, contact the experienced lawyers at The Law Office of Kamensky, Cohen & Riechelson – at (609) 528-2596.

What Settlement Offer Can I Expect for Pain and Suffering?

Personal Injury claims seek to recover compensation for three main factors; the victim’s medical expenses lost income and wages, and their pain and suffering.

What Settlement Offer Can I Expect for Pain and Suffering?For short-term injuries such as a broken arm, calculating your medical expenses and lost income can be fairly straightforward. Simply add up the costs of your medical bills, and the amount of time you have missed from work multiplied by your expected salary, and you have a pretty accurate idea of how much compensation to seek and expect in these areas.

For more serious injuries with longer-lasting consequences, calculating medical expenses and lost income becomes a bit more difficult, and is an area where having an experienced Mercer County personal injury attorney to assist you can be of great benefit. Not only will you wish to recover compensation for your medical expenses to-date, but serious injuries often require on-going medical treatment and rehabilitation which will need to be accurately estimated, something your attorney will have experience doing. The same goes for lost income, if your injuries prevent you from continuing in your previous line of employment, you will need to calculate exactly how much you may have earned given a lifetime of employment, including bonuses and promotions.

How Do Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering Compensation?

When it comes to pain and suffering however, calculations become quite a bit vaguer. How does one express exactly the pain their injuries have caused them, and then translate those feelings into a monetary number? Most insurance companies use a similar method when calculating what to offer in terms of pain and suffering for a given injury, and while you and your Mercer County injury lawyer may not immediately accept that offer, it is important to understand how the insurance company is arriving at that number, or what kind of offer you should expect for a given injury.

When it comes to pain and suffering, insurance companies will make their compensation offer based on whether or not the injury in question was a soft-tissue injury or a hard injury.

Soft Tissue Injury Compensation Mercer County Personal Injury Lawsuits

Soft tissue injuries are generally less severe, non-life-threatening, and not permanent. Common examples of soft tissue injuries are bruises, strains, and sprains. While certainly these injuries can be more painful for some people than others or cause more difficulty in some lives than others, insurance companies generally will offer between one to three times the value of your medical expenses like pain and suffering compensation.

Hard Injury Compensation Trenton Injury Attorneys

Hard injuries are generally much more serious injuries than soft tissue injuries. Hard injuries often require invasive methods to assess and treat, and can often cause long-term or permanent difficulties and pain to the victim. Some common hard injuries are broken bones, serious wounds that require transfusion or stitching, head, and brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries.

Due to the more serious nature of hard injuries, and the greater level of medical attention required, insurance companies will usually offer somewhere between four to five times the value of medical expenses as pain and suffering compensation.

Recovering Pain and Suffering Damages in a Personal Injury Case NJ

Recovering Pain and Suffering Damages in a Personal Injury Case NJWhile insurance companies do have these rough guidelines for offering pain and suffering damages in personal injury cases, in order to recover the compensation you need and deserve it is important to retain the counsel of an experienced Mercer County personal injury attorney. Many times insurance companies will try to devalue the full extent of the nature of your injuries, claim you were partially responsible and as such not entitled to full compensation, or even dispute the connection between your accident and the injuries you have suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney will understand how to combat these various tactics, and present a strong case on your behalf backed by expert consultants, detailed investigation and research, and effective presentation to courts and juries alike.

Contact Our Mercer County Personal Injury Attorneys Today

At Kamensky Cohen & Riechelson, our personal injury attorneys have a history of success when it comes to helping clients injured in accidents across Princeton, Trenton, Hamilton, Lawrence, and the greater Mercer County area.

Our goal in any personal injury case is to provide personal and attentive service to our clients, and secure them the compensation they need and deserve for injuries resulting from car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, construction accidents, slip and falls, ladder and scaffolding accidents, and more.

If you have been injured as the result of the reckless or negligent actions of another, contact our firm today to discuss your options in a free and confidential consultation. To schedule your consultation, please contact us online. or through our Trenton, NJ office at 609.528.2596.