This page will provide a general overview of the key New Jersey laws that are applicable to personal injury cases including auto accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites, and product liability claims. We will also look at the average settlement value of these cases in New Jersey and provide examples of recent settlements and verdicts from New Jersey injury cases.
New Jersey Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
Every state has a legal deadline for how long a potential plaintiff can wait before filing a civil lawsuit. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. New Jersey has a general 2-year statute of limitations. This means that prospective plaintiffs in New Jersey must file their case within the two year SOL window or their claim will be legally barred.
New Jersey’s 2-year statute of limitations is set forth at NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A:14-2. This statute of limitations applies to all types of personal injury cases, including medical malpractice, auto accidents, and premises liability.
Discovery Rule in New Jersey
The most important question when talking about the statute of limitations in New Jersey is determining when the 2-year “clock” starts to run. New Jersey follows the doctrine known as the “discovery rule” for establishing when the 2-year SOL clock starts running.
Under the discovery rule, the 2-year clock starts running when the plaintiff first discovered (or reasonably could have discovered) that they suffered harm as the result of another person’s negligence. In simple personal injury cases, the 2-year clocks typically starts as soon as the injury or accident occurs. In more complex medical malpractice or product liability cases, however, the 2-year clock may not start until months or even years later.
Exceptions for Minors
New Jersey makes certain exceptions to the 2-year statute of limitations when the plaintiff is a minor (under age 18). For birth injury claims (medical malpractice claims for injuries sustained at birth) the child has until their 13th birthday to file suit. For all other personal injury claims in which the prospective plaintiff is a minor, the plaintiff has until his or her 20th birthday to file their case.
New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Rule
New Jersey has adopted a modified comparative fault rule in cases where the plaintiff is partly at fault for their own injuries. Under comparative fault, each party is responsible for their own percentage share of fault in an accident and a plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by his or her share. For example, let’s say Bob is in a car accident with Laura. Bob is found to be 80% at fault and Laura is 20% at-fault for the accident. Under comparative fault, Laura’s damages for the accident would be reduced by 20% to account for her share of fault.
In pure comparative negligence states, a plaintiff can recover some damages even if they are 80% or 99% at fault for an accident. New Jersey is not a pure comparative negligence state. New Jersey has modified the pure comparative fault rule with a 50% bar. Under this rule a person who is found to be more than 50% at fault is completely barred from recovery. This means if you are 51% at fault for the accident then you are unable to seek any damages.
No Caps on Damages in New Jersey
Unlike many other states, New Jersey has not enacted any laws which put a cap or maximum limit on the amount of normal money damages that plaintiffs can receive in personal injury cases. Even damages in medical malpractice cases are not capped in New Jersey.
New Jersey does have a maximum cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases. Under NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A:15-5.14, punitive damages are capped at $350,000 or five times the amount of compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
New Jersey Affidavit of Merit Requirement in Medical Malpractice Cases
Like many other states, New Jersey requires plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases to obtain and file an “affidavit of merit” in order to bring a malpractice lawsuit. The affidavit of merit is a written statement from a qualified expert (i.e., another doctor) stating that they have reviewed the medical records and facts of the case and that in their expert opinion, medical negligence occurred. The detailed requirements for the certificate of merit in New Jersey are set forth at NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A:53A-27.
New Jersey Dog Bite Law
New Jersey has what is known as strict liability for personal injuries involving dog bites. New Jersey’s dog bite law is set forth at NJ Rev. Stat. § 4:19-16:
The owner of any dog [that bites someone who is] in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
This means that dog owners will automatically be held liable if their dog attacks or bites someone regardless of whether the owner knew or had reason to know that the dog was potentially aggressive. In other words, owners can be liable even if their dog has never attacked anyone before.
New Jersey Product Liability Claims
Claims relating to defective or dangerous products that cause injury or harm to consumers are governed by New Jersey product liability law. The applicable law for product liability claims in New Jersey is derived from a combination of both case law and statutory law.
Under New Jersey law, a manufacturer or seller of a product can be held liable if that product is defective and that defect causes injuries or harm. New Jersey law acknowledges the 3 basic types of product defects as identified in the Restatement of Torts: (1) manufacturing defects, (2) design defects, and (3) failure to warn.
There are a number of national mass torts or “class actions” that involve New Jersey plaintiffs, including claims our law firm is handling across the country:
- Hair relaxer lawsuit: recent evidence has shown that long-term use of chemical hair relaxer products can cause uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, and other conditions. This has prompted hundreds of women to file hair relaxer lawsuits.
- Tylenol autism lawsuit: new studies have determined that using Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy can cause the baby to develop autism or ADHD. This has prompted a growing class action lawsuit by parents of children with autism and ADHD.
- Camp Lejeune lawsuit: A new law allowed individuals exposed to the toxic water at the Camp Lejeune marine corps base in North Carolina to file claims for compensation.
Settlement Value of New Jersey Injury Cases
Jury Verdict Research conducted a study and found that the median award in a personal injury case is approximately $100,000. This is twice the national average. The bad news for New Jersey Plaintiffs is that they only win in 36 percent of personal injury cases that go to trial.
New Jersey has a good sample size to work with to compute this data. Over 130,000 civil lawsuits are filed every year. I don’t have data on how many of them are personal injury cases. But I can estimate: a lot.
Sometimes, median and average jury verdict information is inflated because the state processes the overwhelming majority of tort claims in state district court or, as New Jersey calls it, Special Civil Part. But New Jersey’s limit is $15,000 which is actually lower than most states.
But there is an important difference in New Jersey than some other states that does lead to an inflated average settlement value of New Jersey injury claims. New Jersey has no-fault insurance, which means that victims bring more limited claims against their own insurance companies. Traditional civil claims are available if the victim suffered a “significant” injury that causes a fracture, scar, dismemberment or other permanent injuries (what constitutes permanent injury is a real battlefield in New Jersey and New York).
New Jersey Personal Injury Verdicts and Settlements
$15,000 Verdict (Atlantic County 2023): The plaintiff, 8-years-old, reportedly suffered a C2-3 disc herniation impinging on the thecal sac and left nerve root after the vehicle in which he was a passenger was involved in a hit and run accident with an unidentified driver. An uninsured motorist claim was asserted against defendant Allstate Insurance Company.
$17,500 Settlement (Atlantic County 2023): Plaintiff, a minor, claimed to suffer a right wrist strain after she slipped and fell at defendant Hamilton Mall. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in failing to keep the premises in a safe condition, causing a dangerous and hazardous condition to exist, allowing a nuisance to exist, and failing to correct a known defect on the premises.
$63,497 Settlement (Essex County 2023): The plaintiff, a minor, claimed he was attacked by the defendant’s dog without provocation resulting in a facial laceration with minimal scarring. The defendant was held strictly liable under New Jersey’s dog bite law and his home owner’s insurance settled the claim.
$25,000 Settlement (Cape May County 2022): The plaintiff, a 13-year-old female, reportedly sustained a fracture of the anterior process of the left calcaneus when she was struck while riding her bicycle by an allegedly underinsured motorist. After the driver tendered his policy limits of $15,000, the plaintiff, filed an underinsured motorist claim with defendant GEICO. Claim was settled for $25,000.
$50,000 Settlement (Middlesex County 2022): The plaintiff allegedly suffered dog bites and psychological trauma in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder in an attack by a pit bull owned by defendants. Lawsuit asserted strict liability against the defendants as owners of the dog.
$3,500,000 Verdict (Middlesex County 2020): A woman suffered the aggravation of her lumbar and cervical herniations after her vehicle was rear-ended. She initially sustained her disc herniations several years prior in a sideswipe collision. The received injections but did not seek surgical treatment for her aggravated condition. A Middlesex County jury awarded the woman $3,500,000. This consisted of $2,500,000 in non-economic losses and $1,000,000 in economic losses.
$500,000 Settlement (Bergen County 2019): A 72-year-old man underwent his third spinal surgery. The procedure lasted six hours. He was in a hypotensive state for much of the procedure, causing hypoperfusion that left him blind. The man alleged that the anesthesiologist failed to properly monitor him. The anesthesiologist denied negligence, contending that he properly monitored the patient and acted appropriately. He contended that the man’s medical history of diabetes caused his blindness. The man died from unrelated causes two years after the surgery. This case settled for $500,000.
$27,000 Verdict (Hudson County 2019): Plaintiff slipped and fell on a patch of ice on a sidewalk in front of a rental house owned and managed by Defendant. Plaintiff broke her ankle and claimed that the injury would result in a permanent impairment and scarring. The jury in Hudson County awarded $27,000 in damages.