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  • Writer's pictureJudge Michael Donio

Ask The Judge


by Judge Michael Donio

WHAT INFORMATION SHOULD I DOCUMENT FOLLOWING AN AUTO ACCIDENT?


The first thing that you should obviously do after an accident is produce your insurance information to the investigating police officer. That will be required to prove that you have insurance. The next thing would be whether or not you are injured in any way in the accident. You must remember that to bring a claim for personal injury, you have two years from the date of the accident to do so. Many people do not think they are hurt, but several months later have problems as a result of the accident and treat with a doctor for a period of time and totally forget about the two-year limitation.


If you are injured in any way, you should contact an attorney to protect your rights. The main thing the attorney will want from you is a copy of your automobile insurance policy to see what kind of coverage you have and under what circumstances you can make a claim. if you have what is known as the “verbal threshold” you are limited in your right to sue for specific types of serious injuries. If you have a “no-threshold” policy which costs more to obtain, then you have a right to make a claim for whatever your injury may be. Another thing of note talking about insurance is that everyone should carry more than the minimum amount required in New Jersey of $15,000/$30,000. That means, $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident no matter how many people may be injured. That is not a lot of insurance but is the minimum amount you are required to carry in New Jersey. There are several bills pending right now to increase that limit of minimum insurance that has not been increased for over 30 years.


However, even more important than that, is the amount of uninsured/underinsurance coverage you may carry. That insurance protects you in the event a party who causes the accident does not have enough insurance to satisfy any claim you may make. You can only obtain that coverage to the same limits that you insure for your own negligence. It gets a bit complicated, but it is really not. The bottom line is you should have a discussion with your insurance broker concerning this and make sure that you have enough coverage in the event you hurt someone and just as important enough insurance to cover your claims if you are hurt by someone who does not have enough insurance. Besides the above, you should obviously document all of your medical treatment and if you hire a lawyer, keep your lawyer advised every step of the way as to your current treatment and the names of your doctors. The above are the most important things to document and have readily available at the time of any accident.


WHAT TYPES OF ITEMS ARE COVERED UNDER THE NEW JERSEY LEMON LAW? DOES NEW JERSEY HAVE A LEMON LAW?


New Jersey does have a lemon law and there is a specific one pertaining to automobiles in the State of New Jersey. However, I must say that in all of the mediations that I do, I have not mediated a lemon law case yet. I think the biggest reason for that is that cars are made better these days and have better warranties. Also, the lemon law, if it is utilized, is very detrimental to the car company and car dealer. Legal fees are paid by the company if they lose and there are other ramifications of the law that put some real teeth into it.


In summary, the lemon law in New Jersey indicates that if your car has been brought in for repair while under warranty numerous times and is out of commission for a period of time which I believe is over a month, that you may be entitled to relief under the lemon law. Based on the way cars are made today, and the ability to diagnose and fix the cars, this appears to be now very rare. However, the law is on the books, it does exist and in extreme circumstances, someone should be able to take advantage of it. I believe there are some lawyers that hold themselves out a specialist in the area, but as I indicated, I have not seen much activity in this area for a long time.


Judge Michael Donio served as a New Jersey State Superior Court Judge for 20 years before retiring on July 31, 2015. He now operates a legal consulting and mediation firm on the White Horse Pike. Donio can be reached by calling (609) 481-2919. Send your questions for his columns to askthejudge@hammontongazette.com.


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