What is the Typical Process for an Automobile Accident Suit in New Jersey?

Although most New Jersey automobile accident injury claims are settled without litigation, it sometimes may be necessary to go to court to seek compensation for serious or catastrophic injuries. A lawsuit can follow different paths in the court system and can take varying lengths of time. However, there are certain steps and phases common to most every lawsuit.

Here's a breakdown of the process and timeline for a typical case:

  1. Initial consultation and investigation — The process begins with the injured party contacting an attorney and discussing the accident and injuries. The attorney gathers evidence, reviews medical records and does other fact-finding to determine if there is a viable cause of action.

  2. Filing of complaint — Once it is determined that the injured party has cause for compensation, the attorney files a complaint in Superior Court, usually in the county where the plaintiff lives. The case is assigned to a case management track based on its level of complexity. The defendant is served with the complaint, a summons and other court papers and has 35 days to answer. 

  3. Discovery — During this phase, each side gathers additional evidence. The parties exchange information through document requests, interrogatories and depositions. If expert witnesses are retained, their reports are submitted. 

  4. Pre-trial motions and negotiations — Either party may file pre-trial motions to request the court's intervention on legal issues. Settlement negotiations often take place during this stage. If a settlement cannot be reached, a trial date is set. Both sides engage in preparation of witnesses and in readying exhibits and other evidence.

  5. Trial — The trial involves selecting a jury and presenting witness testimony and other evidence. Each side has the opportunity to cross-examine the other side’s witnesses and to make opening and closing statements.

  6. Verdict, post-trial motions and appeals — The jury deliberates and renders a verdict. Either party may file post-trial motions, such as requests for a new trial based on various grounds. A party dissatisfied with the result can appeal based on alleged legal errors.

Even if the injured party is granted a judgment awarding compensation, the case is not over. The plaintiff’s auto accident attorney must demand the amount due from the defendant and may have to take legal measures to collect, such as filing judgment liens. Sometimes, it is in the plaintiff’s interest to settle for a lower amount in return for the defendant agreeing not to appeal.

Seigel Law in Ridgewood represents victims of motor vehicle accidents in Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties and throughout northern New Jersey. Call our firm at 201-444-4000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. You owe us no lawyer fees unless you win compensation.

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