Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Suffering a serious physical injury in the course of one’s daily life can be a jarring and disruptive experience, physically, emotionally, financially and psychologically. Immense pain and discomfort, unexpected trips to the emergency room and missed time from work or school for continuing treatment and rehabilitation can derail or substantially alter the course of our lives.
For precisely these reasons, the laws in the State of New Jersey and New York allow us to recover financial compensation for our personal injuries, pain and suffering and continuing medical treatment, so long as we can establish that those injuries were cause by the neglect or intentional actions of another person or business entity.
Even when you have sustained a serious injury, knowing how and when we can file suit is not always as intuitive or simple as we might believe. Therefore, it is important to understand the basic components or “elements” (in legal jargon) which comprise any successful legal claim.
It is important to note that here we are talking about lawsuits premised on claims of “negligence” which are the most common “theories of law” or “causes of action” which undergird personal injury suits.
Elements of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
Before filing any lawsuit, it is vital that you and your attorney discuss the relevant statute of limitations. “Statute of limitations” is a legal term which translates into the word “deadline.” When you hear a lawyer speak of a statute of limitations, what you are hearing them talk about is the deadline for filing a case with the Court.
The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in New Jersey which are premised on common law negligence is two (2) years from the date of the accident.
The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of legal claim that you file, so note that if your case is not a personal injury action premised on a claim of negligence, the deadline for filing your case may be more or less than two (2) years.
Duty of Care
The first element of a negligence claim is the “duty of care.” The duty of care means that the person you are suing has a legal obligation to you, for some reason or any reason. A duty of care is implied by the law in many everyday situations. The law imposes a duty of care on every normal person going about their daily lives to act “reasonably” such that they do not cause harm to other people. The law also imposes a duty of care on businesses and commercial landowners to maintain safe facilities so that customers or visitors do not become injured on their premises.
The duty of care is not unlimited in scope. The person you sue must have some actual or imputed relationship or proximity to you for the law to impose a duty of care upon that person in specific circumstances. Understanding who owes you a duty of care under the law is vital because you cannot sue someone where this element of the case is not present.
When in doubt as to whether a duty of care is owed, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney!
Breach of the Duty of Care
The second element of a negligence claim requires a showing that the person who owed you that duty of care acted in a manner that “breached the duty.” If the ordinary person owes a duty of care to act reasonably, then duty is breached when a person acts “unreasonably.”
These terms may seem vague, and they are indeed quite vague, that is the intent of the law! The intent being to provide a broad, unlimited category of potential acts that would constitute a breach of duty. Generally, people can breach the duty of care by being inattentive, neglectful, reckless, by speeding, by failing to adhere to a traffic signal, by failing to clear a wet floor, by failing to repair a broken driveway, etc. The category of acts and inaction which may constitute a breach of the duty of care is unlimited. The job of your attorney is present evidence that shows that the duty of care has been breached!
The most important element in any case is causation. This is because it is often the element that cases hinge on. It is not enough to establish that the person you are suing made a mistake and breached the duty of care, and that you were seriously injured. You must prove that the mistake caused your injury. This is trickier than it sounds because of the complexity of some events issues and the fact that there can be more than one cause of a serious injury. This does not mean that you should lose hope and that your case will not proceed, only that you must be more cautious and attentive in building your case to ensure that the defense does not have any reason to shift the blame away from the responsible actors!
Often the most obvious element of the case is damages. In order to bring a personal injury lawsuit, you must prove that you were harmed, and that your harm was caused by conduct or inaction (the breach of duty) of the person you are suing.
When we talk about damages, or harm, or injury in this context, we are not talking about psychological scars, stress, embarrassment, or even verbal or physical abuse. As alarming as these things may be, the significant cost and emotional and financial burden of initiating a personal injury lawsuit is only justifiable when you have suffered serious physical injuries.
You must understand that a personal injury lawsuit is a significant investment for both you and your attorney. It is an investment of time, money, emotion, and willpower. In order to be motivated to obtain the justice you deserve, to persevere through obstacles and attacks from the adversary, you must be passionate about the justice you deserve, and this passion for justice is usually only present where a great wrong has been suffered or serious injury sustained.
Let an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Handle Your Case
The Law Office of Alexander Schachtel protects the rights of injured clients all over the State of New Jersey and the Greater New York City Metropolitan area. With offices located in Hoboken and Jersey City, our Personal Injury practice is centrally located within the greater region and offers premier accessibility to our clients and the courts.
We offer 100% free case consultations. When you hire us on a personal injury case, there are no upfront fees and we only get paid if we win your case! If you are seriously disabled or injured and require accommodations, we will even come to you for appointments or consultations! Hire a firm that goes the extra length for its clients. We deliver dedicated personal service and achieve results that matter for our clients.
Let our firm help you determine how to move forward with your case calling us now at (201) 925-0660.