What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Motorcycle Accident in New Jersey
by Andrew Prince, Esq.
The freedom of riding a motorcycle on the open roads of New Jersey is incomparable. However, motorcyclists are also vulnerable to the dangers of the road. One such peril is a hit-and-run accident. Unlike car collisions where occupants have the protective shell of their vehicle, motorcyclists face direct exposure to harm. The aftermath of a hit-and-run can be overwhelming. Knowing the right steps to take is crucial for your health, legal rights, and financial protection.
Immediate Post-Accident Steps
Here’s a guide tailored for New Jersey residents on what to do immediately after such an incident.
1. Ensure Safety
Move to Safety: If you’re not severely injured and are in an active lane, try to move yourself and your motorcycle to the roadside or a safe area to avoid further collisions or injuries.
Stay Calm: Take a few deep breaths. Panic can exacerbate the situation and cloud judgment.
2. Check for Injuries
Self-Assessment: Examine yourself for any obvious injuries. Remember, adrenaline can mask pain, so be attentive to your body.
Medical Attention: Even if you feel uninjured, it’s essential to seek medical attention. Some injuries, like concussions or internal trauma, might not be immediately apparent.
3. Call 911
Report the Accident: Notify the police about the hit-and-run. They’ll create an official accident report, which is invaluable for insurance claims and potential legal action.
Provide Details: Provide as many details as you can recall about the accident, the vehicle that fled, and its direction of travel. Even minor details can assist in investigations.
4. Document the Scene
Take Photos: Use your smartphone to capture photos of the accident scene, your motorcycle’s damage, any injuries you sustained, and other relevant details like skid marks or nearby traffic signs.
Gather Witness Information: If there are any witnesses, collect their contact details. They might provide crucial information about the fleeing vehicle or the circumstances of the accident.
5. Avoid Speculation
Stick to Facts: When speaking with police, witnesses, or anyone else, only relay factual information. Avoid speculation or assigning blame.
Do Not Admit Fault: Even if you’re uncertain about the events leading up to the crash, don’t admit fault or liability.
6. Gather Personal Evidence
Jot Down Memories: As soon as you’re able, write down everything you remember about the accident. Over time, memories can fade, so capturing details early is essential.
7. Inform Your Insurance Provider
Immediate Notification: While you may be distressed, it’s crucial to report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They’ll guide you on the next steps for filing a claim.
Legal and Insurance Considerations
In a state like New Jersey, with its unique set of laws, understanding these complexities becomes vital. Let’s delve into the legal and insurance considerations that arise after such an unfortunate incident.
1. Reporting the Incident
Legal Obligation: New Jersey law mandates that all accidents resulting in injury, death, or significant property damage be reported immediately to the police.
Insurance Necessity: Notifying law enforcement provides an official record, essential when filing insurance claims.
2. New Jersey’s No-Fault System & Its Impact on Motorcyclists
General No-Fault Rule: New Jersey’s auto insurance operates on a no-fault system. Typically, drivers turn to their insurance policies for injury claims, regardless of who caused the accident.
Motorcyclists’ Exception: Motorcyclists aren’t considered “automobiles” under New Jersey’s no-fault laws. Thus, they aren’t eligible for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) by default. Motorcyclists must purchase separate medical coverage or rely on health insurance for injury-related costs.
3. Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Given that hit-and-run drivers may never be identified:
UM Claims: If your motorcycle insurance policy includes Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage, you can file a claim for damages up to your policy limits.
Scope: UM coverage can compensate for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, property damage.
4. Dealing with Insurance Companies
Immediate Reporting: Notify your insurer about the accident promptly. Adhering to timelines is crucial for claim acceptance.
Limited Statements: If contacted by another party’s insurance (if the hit-and-run driver is located), be cautious. Provide factual information but refrain from admitting fault or downplaying injuries. Consult your attorney before making any definitive statements.
Claim Denials: Insurance companies, aiming to protect their bottom line, might deny claims. This is where having an attorney becomes indispensable to challenge such denials or negotiate settlements.
5. Legal Recourse in Hit-and-Runs
If the hit-and-run perpetrator is identified:
Criminal Charges: The offender may face criminal charges, as fleeing an accident scene, especially with injuries involved, is a violation of New Jersey law.
Civil Claims: Victims can initiate a personal injury lawsuit against the perpetrator, seeking compensation beyond insurance payouts.
6. Statute of Limitations
In New Jersey, the window for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a motorcycle accident is generally two years from the date of the accident. Missing this window can negate your ability to seek compensation.
7. Protecting Your Rights
Legal Counsel: Engage an attorney experienced in motorcycle accidents in New Jersey. They can guide you through insurance claims, potential lawsuits, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Documentation: Maintain a record of all medical treatments, expenses, correspondence with insurance companies, and any evidence related to the accident. This will be crucial in both insurance negotiations and potential lawsuits.
Navigating New Jersey’s Legal Framework
New Jersey’s laws surrounding hit-and-run accidents are strict. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially when injuries are involved, can result in severe penalties. If the offender is identified:
Criminal Charges: They can face fines, jail time, and a suspension of their driver’s license.
Civil Recourse: You can sue for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In cases where the perpetrator isn’t found:
Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If your policy includes this, you can claim damages up to your policy’s limits.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP): As a motorcyclist in New Jersey, you might not have mandatory PIP. However, if you’ve opted for it, you can tap into this coverage for medical expenses.
Long-Term Implications and Recovery
A hit-and-run accident can leave physical and emotional scars. Rehabilitation, trauma counseling, and continued medical assessments might be necessary. A comprehensive legal strategy can help ensure you receive compensation to cover these extended costs.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer at The Law Offices of Andrew S. Prince for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Being a victim of a hit-and-run motorcycle accident in New Jersey can be a daunting experience. Amidst the shock and pain, it’s essential to remain informed and take proactive steps to protect your rights. While the roads might be unpredictable, with the right knowledge and a trusted legal ally like The Law Offices of Andrew S. Prince, you’re equipped to navigate the challenges that come your way. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey; expert help is available to ensure justice is served.