The term “pain and suffering” gets thrown around a lot when discussing personal injury lawsuits. But the meaning of the term can change depending on what state you’re in.
If you’re considering pain and suffering damages after a car accident, your ability to sue may also depend on the type of auto insurance policy you carry. There are about 10 million car accidents per year, and only a small percentage of them lead to personal injury suits. Let’s learn more about what it takes to sue for pain and suffering in the state of New Jersey.
New Jersey auto insurance limitations
Like a lot of states, auto insurance policies in New Jersey aren’t one-size-fits-all. Buying a cheaper policy saves you money, but it also leaves you with fewer options to sue for pain and suffering. If you buy a more expensive plan, then you have more options to sue if you get injured, although you also pay a higher premium each month.
The cheaper limitation on lawsuit policy only allows you to sue within certain parameters. New Jersey law lists six possible conditions, including death, dismemberment, loss of a fetus, displacement fractures, “significant” disfigurement or scarring, or “or a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.” If that sounds complicated, it’s partly by design. Personal injury lawyers can do a better job of explaining what “significant” disfigurement means, as well as whether it applies to your case.
By contrast, the “no limitation on lawsuit” policy allows you more freedom to sue for pain and suffering should you get hurt because someone was reckless or negligent on the road. Let’s say another drive falls asleep behind the wheel and hits your car. This is common, as around seven percent of all car accidents happen because someone fell asleep while driving. You think you’re fine in the immediate aftermath, but the next day, something doesn’t feel right. You visit a healthcare center in Bridgeton, NJ and find out that you have whiplash and a concussion.
Defining pain and suffering
Your next move depends a lot on what kind of insurance you have. The “no limitation on lawsuit” policy allows you more freedom to go after the driver who fell asleep, but proving pain and suffering still won’t be a slam dunk. Providing medical records will help, since judges and juries prefer plaintiffs with paper trails.
In other words, you shouldn’t walk into a courtroom and say, “This car accident hurt me, but no, I don’t have any hard evidence.” Seeking out medical treatment immediately after a car accident shows jurors you’re operating in good faith. If you’re driving to a liquor store Woodbridge, NJ when someone rear-ends your car, it’s going to look suspicious to jurors if your first priority after the accident was still the liquor store, rather than the doctor’s office or emergency room. Getting checked out is important to your health, but it’s also important in case you end up in a courtroom later.
A jury needs to see clear evidence of suffering before they’ll award you money for pain and suffering. A lot of people are automatically suspicious of personal injury plaintiffs. They don’t understand that people faking injuries is rare, and they don’t look closer at the facts of high-profile personal injury cases like the infamous McDonald’s coffee case. People assume the woman had minor injuries, when she actually suffered third-degree burns that nearly killed her. Her lawyers had evidence of how badly she was hurt. They also had evidence that the fast food giant knew their coffee was at dangerously high temperatures. Those things worked in the plaintiff’s favor, and she eventually settled the case for six figures. Your own personal injury case may not come with such high compensation, but you still deserve something.