Question: I was rear-ended in a car accident in Marlton, NJ, and the driver took off after the accident. I am seriously hurt, who do I sue?
Answer: If there were witnesses at the scene of the accident who have information about the hit and run driver, i.e., license plate, you will be able to file a NJ car accident lawsuit against the driver if you can locate the driver.
However, in most hit and run accidents, the drivers cannot be found. You would have to file a claim with your personal auto insurance policy to recover financially for your injuries and damages. When you bought your car insurance policy, your agent was obligated under NJ auto insurance law to have told you about underinsured (UIM) motorist and uninsured (UM) motorist coverage. UIM coverage financially compensates the insured driver when the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is not enough to compensate the insured driver’s injuries and damages.
UM coverage compensates the insured driver for his injuries and damages when the at-fault driver does not have car insurance or when the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident, like a hit and run accident.
UIM and UM coverage go together. If you bought UM coverage, then you have UIM coverage and vice versa. However, UIM/UM coverage is not mandatory.
Because you were injured in a hit and run accident, you would file a UM claim with your insurance company. You may be compensated for your injuries and damages up to the limit of coverage purchased. For example, if you bought UIM/UM coverage of $100,000, then you may receive up to $100,000. If your injuries and damages exceed $100,000, the maximum amount you will receive is still $100,000. If your injuries and damages are $50,000, then you may receive $50,000 from your insurance company. Again, UM coverage is only available if you purchased it. Therefore, it is important to check your auto insurance declaration page which lists the types of coverage you have.
The only other thing I want to mention is that if you chose limitation on lawsuit or verbal threshold on your auto insurance policy, you may not be able to file a UM claim. By choosing limitation on lawsuit or verbal threshold, an insured driver cannot file a claim unless his injuries fall within certain injury categories defined by New Jersey law. Some of the injuries include displaced fracture, significant scarring or disfigurement. For a detailed discussion on limitation on lawsuit and injury categories, see New Jersey Car Accidents & Verbal Threshold – Can Injured Car Accident Victims Recover Damages? (Part 3).
If you did not choose verbal threshold, then the type of injuries you have would not limit your right to file a UM claim.
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