New Jersey Motorcycle Accident Settlements vs. Trials: What to Expect
by Andrew Prince, Esq.
When you’re involved in a motorcycle accident in New Jersey, the aftermath can be overwhelming. Medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, and emotional trauma can take a toll. At such times, the legal complexities surrounding compensation may seem daunting. At The Law Offices of Andrew S. Prince, we’ve guided numerous motorcycle accident victims through this complex process. In this article, we break down the nuances between settlements and trials in New Jersey, giving you a clearer understanding of what to expect.
The Basics of Motorcycle Accident Claims
In New Jersey, if you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your damages. This can be done through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The process can culminate in either a settlement or a trial.
A settlement is an agreement between the injured party (plaintiff) and the negligent party (defendant) or their insurance company. In a settlement:
Both Parties Avoid Court: The plaintiff agrees to accept an amount of money in exchange for dropping any further legal action.
It’s Faster: Settlements are generally faster than going to trial.
Cost-Effective: Both sides avoid the potential costs and risks of a trial.
Confidentiality: Settlements are private, and the specifics are not made public.
The Trial Process
If both parties cannot reach an agreement, the case may go to trial. Here:
Presentation of Evidence: Both sides present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments.
Jury or Judge Decision: Depending on the case, a jury or a judge will make the final decision.
Potentially Higher Compensation: If the defendant is found liable, the compensation awarded might be higher than what was offered in a settlement. However, there’s also a risk of receiving less or even nothing.
Time-Consuming: Trials can last months or even years.
Factors Influencing Settlement vs. Trial
When involved in a motorcycle accident in New Jersey, victims face the critical decision of settling or proceeding to trial. This choice isn’t made lightly and can significantly impact the compensation received and the length and complexity of the legal process.
Here’s a closer look at the factors influencing this decision:
1. Strength of the Case
Evidence: If there’s solid evidence indicating the other party’s negligence or fault, it strengthens the plaintiff’s position. Strong evidence can push the defendant to offer a favorable settlement to avoid a trial.
Eyewitness Testimonies: Credible witnesses can validate the plaintiff’s account, prompting quicker settlements.
2. Severity of Injuries
The more severe the injuries, the higher the potential compensation. If injuries are extensive, leading to disability or long-term impairment, a trial might offer a higher payout. However, the defendant may also be motivated to settle to avoid potentially massive payouts from a jury verdict.
3. Economic Damages
This includes tangible losses like medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and potential future earnings. If these costs are high, the stakes for both settlement and trial rise.
4. Non-Economic Damages
These encompass intangibles like pain, suffering, emotional trauma, and diminished quality of life. While hard to quantify, they can substantially affect compensation amounts.
5. Comparative Negligence
New Jersey’s modified comparative negligence rule can reduce the victim’s compensation based on their fault percentage. If there’s a risk that the plaintiff might be found partially at fault, both parties might lean towards a settlement to avoid unpredictable jury determinations.
6. Willingness to Wait
Trials are time-consuming. If the victim needs funds immediately, especially for medical expenses, they might be inclined towards a quicker settlement. Conversely, if they’re willing to wait for potentially higher compensation, they might opt for a trial.
7. Emotional Toll and Privacy
Trials can be emotionally draining, exposing private details to public scrutiny. Some victims prefer settlements to maintain their privacy and avoid the emotional roller-coaster of court proceedings.
8. Defendant’s Financial Status and Insurance Limits
If the defendant lacks sufficient funds or insurance coverage, even a successful trial might not result in substantial compensation. In such cases, a settlement might be more pragmatic.
9. Attorney’s Expertise and Track Record
An experienced attorney’s perspective is invaluable. They can gauge the case’s strength, potential compensation, and chances of success at trial. Their past successes (or failures) can also influence the decision.
10. Public Image Concerns
If the defendant is a notable entity or individual, they might prefer a quiet settlement to protect their reputation rather than facing a public trial.
11. Predictability vs. Unpredictability
Settlements provide a guaranteed outcome, while trial verdicts are unpredictable. Both parties might consider the risks and rewards of potentially unfavorable jury verdicts.
What to Expect in New Jersey
Statute of Limitations: In New Jersey, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
Comparative Negligence: New Jersey follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This means if you’re found partially at fault, your compensation can be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Uninsured Motorists: If the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance or flees the scene, New Jersey law allows you to file a claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage.
Making the Right Choice Between Settlement or Trial
Whether to settle or go to trial is a significant decision. Here’s what you should consider:
Legal Counsel: Always consult with a trusted attorney who has a deep understanding of New Jersey’s motorcycle accident laws.
Evaluate Offers: Consider whether the settlement offer adequately covers your medical bills, future medical needs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Consider the Emotional Toll: Trials can be emotionally draining. It’s essential to gauge whether you’re prepared for the long haul.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer at The Law Offices of Andrew S. Prince for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Navigating the aftermath of a motorcycle accident in New Jersey can be complex. Understanding the difference between settlements and trials, and knowing what to expect, can make the journey smoother. At The Law Offices of Andrew S. Prince, we prioritize your well-being and rights, guiding you every step of the way. If you’ve been in an accident and are uncertain about the road ahead, we’re here to illuminate the path.