I am big on New Year’s Resolutions for me and my family. We sit around the table and write them down. While I was doing that this year I started thinking not just about the usual stuff (exercise more, eat healthier, less Xbox for the kids) but also about some resolutions that friends and family may want to incorporate to keep themselves safe this year which popped into my head as an attorney who handles many accident claims in New Jersey.
Here are some of mine.
One of the major car manufacturers, maybe Volvo, uses an ad line that “the best way to survive a car accident is to avoid it.” So, the best way to survive a car accident here in Hudson County, Essex County, Bergen County and throughout the State of New Jersey is to not have one. The first winter storm of the New Year is coming, which reminds me that we should bring our cars in for a winter service this year to check and see that the brakes are good, that all fluids are filled and that the tires are properly inflated. By inflating the tires properly (which is frequently an issue in the cold weather), you get better gas mileage and better handling. So, getting my car in for a Winter Service is a resolution, which sounds more like a to do, but if it is just a to do list entry, it’s an important one.
After December 21st, the optimist and baseball fan in me likes to say that the days are getting longer, at least the amount of sunlight each day is, which is encouraging. However, we have a lot of icy road conditions to pass here in New Jersey before we get to spring. Those icy roads cause a lot more car accidents. So, my second resolution is slow down a little behind the wheel and put safety first. Let’s all watch out for those icy road conditions which make every road, from the New Jersey Turnpike to Route 21, or Kennedy Boulevard potentially hazardous this winter. I know that Route 1 & 9 in Jersey City and North Bergen has had a lot of problems over recent years with ice on the roads, which makes it very dangerous and causes a lot of car crashes.
My third resolution is one that should only take me a few minutes to do and I recommend that you do it too. It’s time to check the auto insurance declarations page. All New Jersey Residents should take some time to review their auto insurance declarations pages. In the event of an auto accident, you may have less coverage than you think. When we buy our auto insurance, we often give up some of our rights to sue or make a claim for our injuries. New Jersey has a tort threshold law, which limits a person’s right to sue in most auto accidents if they chose a certain type of car insurance. It’s been my experience that about 95% of the people I meet chose the “limitation on lawsuit threshold” or “limited tort” option on their New Jersey Auto Insurance Policy. That basically limits them to only be able to recover monetary compensation for an auto accident with another private passenger vehicle if they sustain a permanent injury. Therefore, a temporary injury, regardless of how painful, even for cases in which certain broken bones occur, would limit the injured party from recovering money for their suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering. You can choose, and should choose, the “unlimited tort” option or “full tort” as you then don’t have to have your case vault that injury threshold. When reviewing the declarations page, it’s a good idea to purchase as much coverage as you can reasonably afford. Everyone should have at least $100,000 of bodily injury coverage. The second part of that is to make sure that you have a good amount of Underinsured Motorist Coverage. We should all have at least $100,000. of coverage for that too, in case one of the far too many uninsured motorists driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 1 & 9, The Garden State Parkway or Main Street in your town causes a car accident and hits you and injures you or your family. The Underinsured Motorist Coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance company for your physical injuries, lost wages or other damages.
Recently, I concluded a case in which a Bayonne man was badly hurt while crossing Kennedy Boulevard in Bayonne when he was hit by a car that had no insurance. He had significant injuries. The only bright spot for him was that his mom had purchased a sizeable Under Insured Motorist policy which provided him the ability to make a claim for his serious injuries. As his attorney, I was concerned about whether his mother had bought only the minimum coverage, or more. Thankfully, she had purchased more than the minimum which will help him while he is attempting to recover from those serious injuries.
So, I wish you a Happy and Safe New Year, especially on the roads here in North Jersey! John