New Jersey Personal Injury Law and Settlements

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.

Exceptions

There are specific situations where the requirement to provide an affidavit of merit does not apply. One notable exception is the common knowledge doctrine. This principle allows lay jurors to use their everyday understanding and experience to judge a defendant’s negligence without needing expert testimony.

This approach is applicable in scenarios where the jurors’ general knowledge is enough to assess the standard of care and the possible preventive measures a defendant could have taken to avoid causing harm. Examples include cases where a dentist removed the wrong tooth, a medical professional mistakenly pumped gas instead of a fluid during a procedure, or a pharmacist filled a prescription with the incorrect medication.

Furthermore, the affidavit is not required in cases of ordinary negligence involving a licensed professional when applying the principle of res ipsa loquitur. In such situations, the defendant’s negligence is evident, and the plaintiff is not required to present expert testimony to prove the standard of care. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur allows for the inference of negligence if the incident typically indicates negligence, the defendant had exclusive control over the cause, and there’s no evidence suggesting the injury was due to the plaintiff’s actions or negligence.

How often does res ipsa apply in medical malpractice cases?  Rarely. The best play is to file a affidavit of merit in every case to be certain.

Malpractice Fees in New Jersey

In New Jersey, attorney fees in medical malpractice cases can vary, but they are almost always contingent on the outcome of the case. This means that attorneys typically charge a percentage of the settlement amount or jury payout rather than charging an hourly rate.

New Jersey has specific regulations concerning the percentage that attorneys can charge in medical malpractice cases. These regulations are designed to ensure that the plaintiff receives a fair portion of any settlement or award. According to New Jersey malpractice law:

  1. For the first $500,000 recovered, the attorney’s fee cannot exceed 33.33%.
  2. For the next $500,000 recovered, the fee is limited to 30%.
  3. For the next $500,000 recovered, the fee is further reduced to 25%.
  4. For any amount over $1.5 million, the fee is limited to 20%.

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. So §4:19-16, holds dog owners accountable in personal injury cases resulting from dog bites, irrespective of the dog’s prior aggressive behavior or the owner’s awareness of such behavior.

This is a huge advantage when you are fighting for a dog bite settlement in New Jersey. This statute creates a strict liability framework, where an injured plaintiff can claim against the dog’s owner by simply demonstrating the criteria specified in the statute.

But not every dog bite case is a slam dunk, even with strict liability.  The Dog Bite Statute establishes strict liability but does not preclude a defendant from using the plaintiff’s fault as a defense. Indeed, a defendant can employ the allocation-of-fault provisions found in the Comparative Negligence Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.2(a), within a lawsuit brought under the Dog Bite Statute.

New Jersey Car Accident Claims

New Jersey has a relatively unique system when it comes to car accident claims, mostly because of its novel “choice” no-fault system. Here’s a more comprehensive look at car accident claims in the state:

Car Insurance in New Jersey

It all start with buying car insurance oddly enough.  Because New Jersey operates under a “choice” no-fault system for car accident claims and that has real implications when you bring a car accident lawsuit in New Jersey.

This unique framework gives drivers the option between two types of car insurance policies: standard and basic.

Standard Car Insurance in New Jersey

A standard car insurance policy mandates a minimum of $15,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits per individual, with a cap of $30,000 per incident.  PIP benefits are designed to cover medical bills, loss of income, and other costs stemming from the accident, irrespective of who was responsible. Beyond PIP benefits, standard policies also typically offer additional coverage options and protection against lawsuits.

Standard insurance gives the policyholder a choice between the “No Threshold” and “Lawsuit Threshold” options concerning their rights to sue for non-economic damages in the event of a car accident.

  1. No Threshold (Zero Threshold): This option allows the policyholder to retain the right to sue the responsible party after any accident, regardless of the severity of injuries.
  2. Lawsuit Threshold (Verbal Threshold): By selecting this option, typically in exchange for a reduced premium, the policyholder agrees not to sue unless their injuries meet a certain severity threshold defined by law.

Basic Car Insurance in New Jersey

Contrary to standard policies, basic car insurance does not include PIP benefits.  Instead, they primarily offer liability insurance. This coverage kicks in if you’re responsible for an accident, covering any resulting damages to others. In the event of a car crash  in New Jersey, your immediate recourse is to your own insurance provider, even if you weren’t at fault. They will handle your PIP benefits up to the limits of your selected policy.

However, situations arise where injuries surpass the scope of PIP benefits. In such instances, you can potentially pursue legal action against the other driver. To secure damages for pain and suffering, you’ll need to establish that the other driver acted negligently.

When Can You File a Car Accident Lawsuit in New Jersey?

If you have standard car insurance with no threshold, you can file a personal injury lawsuit after a crash like you can in most other states. If you have basic insurance or lawsuit threshold with standard insurance, you can only file a lawsuit for pain and suffering if their injuries meet one of the following criteria:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  • Displaced fractures
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent injury (An injury that has not healed to allow normal function and will not improve with further medical treatment)

The battlefield is over what constitutes “permanent injury.”   Keep in mind, the definition of permanent injury is different in a medical sense that it is in everyday language.  To claim a permanent injury, doctor must certify that the injured party has sustained an injury that will not heal to function normally and will not improve with further medical treatment.

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.
  • Roundup lawsuit: There are an increasing number of Roundup lawsuits filed in state court in New Jersey in 2024
  • 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

  • $1,000,000 Settlement (Washington Township 2024): A truck driver stopped to turn into a driveway. Another driver, operating a black BMW, crashed into the truck’s driver’s side front.  The injured worker suffered multiple back injuries, including compression fractures and bulging discs at multiple vertebrae locations. His injuries required posterior lateral spinal fusion, bone grafting, and lumbar and thoracic epidural steroid injections.  After efforts to settle this spinal fusion lawsuit at mediation failed, the case headed toward trial.  But shortly before trial, a $1 million settlement was reached.
  • $1,400,000 Settlement (New Jersey 2024): The plaintiff was stopped at a sign and the truck, following too closely, failed to stop in time, hitting his vehicle from behind. Despite the safety measures like seatbelts, the impact led to the plaintiff’s head and legs striking the steering wheel, resulting in multiple injuries, including seven herniated and bulging discs, a rotator cuff tear, and an ACL tear. These injuries necessitated over a year of spinal and orthopedic surgeries and ongoing medical care projected to include procedures costing up to $100,000 each. The total medical expenses and other costs amounted to approximately $110,000. The plaintiff, previously in good health, now suffers from chronic pain and significantly reduced mobility and strength, impacting his daily life and work. This New Jersey truck accident lawsuit reached a settlement at a mediation.
  • $1,205,000 Settlement (Middlesex County 2024): In Sayreville, New Jersey, a 58-year-old truck driver suffered critical injuries during a workplace accident at a construction equipment facility. While securing a diesel hammer onto his truck, a stack of heavy metal braces collapsed, crushing his leg and causing multiple fractures along with a severe ankle wound. The subsequent medical care included vascular surgeries, skin grafting, and extensive rehabilitation, which, despite best efforts, resulted in permanent scarring and mobility impairments that ended his driving career. He now holds a restricted role at his employer’s facility. The lawsuit attributed the accident to the facility’s negligence in safely managing the work environment, particularly the hazardous stacking of metal braces. The settlement, achieved through pre-trial negotiations, saw the facility’s insurance carriers disburse $1.25 million, acknowledging the significant injuries sustained.
  • $55,000,000 Verdict (Essex County 2024): A 28-year-old former coffee shop barista, who uses prosthetic legs and requires daily assistance due to a severe accident, was awarded $55 million by a New Jersey jury. The victim had both legs amputated after being pinned against a guardrail by a truck on Interstate 95. The accident actually happened in Maryland so Maryland law applied.  But the plaintiffs filed suit in New Jersey where the defendants were located.  After a two-week trial,  jury awarded compensation for her for past medical bills ($559,413), lost wages ($2.5 million), future medical bills ($25 million), and pain and suffering ($26.9 million). Initially, the trucking companies offered a stunningly ridiculous $150,000 to settle.
  • $25,000,000 Verdict (Middlesex County 2024): The plaintiff, now 39, was sexually assaulted by four men in the 1990s while in the state’s custody. The lawsuit highlighted the department’s failure to provide necessary psychotherapy after the plaintiff’s first assault at age six, which could have offered a safe space for recovery and helped prevent further abuse.  The plaintiff hired a New Jersey sex abuse lawyer who sued the Department of Children and Families, the 2019 law we have been talking about that extended the time survivors of sexual abuse have to sue their abusers. The jury found the state grossly negligent, attributing 99% of the fault to it and 1% to the assailants, without faulting any foster guardians. The plaintiff agreed to a $12 million award from a pre-trial high-low agreement that set a financial range for the outcome and waived all appeals.
  • $2,500,000 Verdict (Trenton 2024): A 63-year-old woman slipped on a greasy substance on the floor at an Outback Steakhouse in Green Brook, leading to a broken hip that necessitated surgical intervention. She required hospitalization for five days, followed by a six-day stay in a rehabilitation facility. Post-injury, she developed arthritis in the affected hip and was advised to undergo a total hip replacement. After a four-day trial, a federal jury in Trenton awarded $2.5 million for the woman’s injuries and an additional $250,000 to her husband for loss of consortium. For context, Outback had offered $250,000 to settle the case, while the demand from the plaintiff was set at $700,000.
  • $1,200,000 Settlement (Middlesex County 2024): A 17 year-old was ejected from his vehicle and killed after being rear-ended by a drunk driver driving at 105 mph. The driver had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.193 and is serving a 17-year sentence for charges including aggravated manslaughter, was allegedly served alcohol while visibly intoxicated at two establishments prior to the accident. The family’s lawsuit contended that he was over-served despite visible signs of intoxication by two bars.
  • $950,000 Settlement (Monmouth County 2023):  A 61-year-old woman was rear-ended. She was stopped in traffic on Route 9 in Howell when another driver rear-ended her, pushing her car into the vehicle in front. Although her vehicle sustained minimal damage and she didn’t go to the hospital immediately, she later experienced cervical spine pain. She struggled to get an office appointment in New Jersey or near her home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, because of the pandemic. She finally saw a doctor who recommended a three-level cervical spine fusion based on an MRI. Seeking alternative treatment, she consulted another doctor in Reston, Virginia (this woman saw a lot of doctors in different jurisdictions, right?), who suggested a disc replacement for better functionality. However, during surgery, the spinal damage was found to be too severe, necessitating a three-level cervical fusion on both the posterior and anterior sides. The defendant argued, as they often do, that the delay in treatment showed the accident did not cause her injuries.  But the insurer agreed to a $950,000 settlement payout after mediation with a retired judge.
  • $13,000,000 Settlement (Hudson County 2023): A pregnant woman experienced severe pain and went to a hospital. Everyone agrees her baby was in distress. The hospital argued it was justified to wait, given potential pre-existing issues in a 28-week-old fetus. The child develops cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen during the delay. The case settled for $13 million.
  • $2,710,000 Verdict (Middlesex County 2023): A wheel struck the plaintiff’s truck . He ducked to avoid the wheel, resulting in an injury caused by the passenger-side airbag. Although he had been in two other vehicle collisions, the focus of the trial was on the cause of his neck injury. The defense argued the injury could have been due to a pre-existing condition or a later crash. However, the jury attributed the man’s medical bills to the accident and awarded him for pain, suffering, and disability. After rejecting earlier settlement offers, the defense faces potential claims for failing to negotiate in good faith.  To underscore how these cases often go, the plaintiff demanded $350,000.  The defendant offered $35,000.
  • $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.

Hiring a New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer

Our firm focuses on severe injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Though we are a national law firm, we collaborate with local attorneys in New Jersey – the best New Jersey lawyers we know – to maximum settlement amounts and jury payouts for our client’s personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Wondering about the costs of having two law firms represent you? It costs you nothing extra. We shoulder the expenses for your New Jersey lawyers, partnering only with the best, and the costs come from our attorneys’ fees.  This is really important – you don’t have to guess who is the best personal injury lawyer in New Jersey.  We are picking out the local attorney for you. You won’t be billed any additional contingency fees for the collaboration of two law firms over one.  The fee is exactly the same. Moreover, you only incur a fee if you secure a settlement or receive a jury payout.

If you’ve experienced an injury and think you might have a valid civil claim, reach out to us today at 800-553-8082 or request a free, no-obligation consultation online.

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