Texting Liability In New Jersey

A driver who is texting behind the wheel is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Yet, nearly half of U.S. drivers admit to receiving or sending texts while driving, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. To crack down on this risky driving behavior, New Jersey has enacted strong distracted-driving laws regarding cellphone use while driving.

New Jersey imposes a texting ban for all drivers and also prohibits the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Both are primary offenses, which means that a police officer does not need another reason, such as speeding or erratic lane changes, to pull you over.

Drivers who cause accidents while texting can also be held accountable for their negligent driving behavior through a New Jersey personal injury lawsuit. Evidence of texting or cellphone use at the time of a crash is a strong indicator that the driver was negligent.

Under a recent court decision, liability may even extend to the sender of the text message. In Kubert v. Best, a New Jersey appeals court held that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will read the text while driving. However, the court was also clear to point out that texters are generally safe to assume that the recipient will view a text message only when it is safe and legal to do so.

Therefore, to prevail in a lawsuit against a “remote texter,” the plaintiff would have to show that the sender knew the driver would read the text while driving, thereby putting the driver at risk for a distracted driving accident. How difficult a hurdle this will be in practice remains to be seen.

If you suspect texting may be to blame for your car accident injuries, it is important to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer at Kardos, Rickles, Hand & Bidlingmaier. You may be entitled to compensation for your financial and emotional losses.

Governor Christie Already Facing Class Action Lawsuit Filed by Frustrated Drivers

As reported by Reuters courtesy of CNBC.com, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing a potential class-action lawsuit arising from the monster traffic jams his aides are accused of creating, although experts question the strength of the case.

A personal injury lawyer from Fort Lee, N.J., filed the case in federal court on behalf of six local residents who missed work or suffered other alleged damages due to the traffic jam last September. Many more people could join the plaintiffs if the court allows the case to become a class action.

The lawsuit was filed on Thursday, a day after New Jersey officials released emails that appeared to show the Republican governor’s staff plotting a massive traffic jam in September, seemingly to retaliate against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie’s re-election campaign.

The lawyer behind the lawsuit, said she has received “tons” of emails from residents detailing damages, including panic attacks, caused by the traffic jam.

“I have no political motivation whatsoever,” said the lawyer, who specializes in cases involving car accidents, defective products and wrongful death. “I’m a Republican. I voted for him.”

The lawsuit names Christie, the state of New Jersey, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the governor’s aides as defendants.

Some experts were skeptical of the lawsuit’s chances.

“Not every dispute ought to be resolved by a lawsuit,” said Howard Erichson, a professor of Fordham University School of Law in New York. “The idea of class actions can be very useful, but I’m skeptical of this one.”

The lawyer states she was aware some would see the suit as frivolous, but insisted the damages suffered by commuters were serious. “You were gridlocked in every sense of the word,” she said. “It was anxiety producing.”

The lawsuit purports to represent all “those individuals and business owners who reside, work or own businesses in Northern New Jersey and who were caused to sustain injury, either physical or psychological and/or who were caused to sustain economic damages and loss of liberty as the result of the conduct” of the defendants.

The six current plaintiffs arrived late for work when lanes to the George Washington Bridge heading into New York City were shut down for four days.

The lawsuit was filed on the same day Christie – one of the most prominent U.S. governors and a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate – apologized for the closing.

Monetary damages

The lawsuit asserts a mix of constitutional and tort claims on behalf of local residents and seeks money damages for their injuries, including docked pay for missing work.

Among other things, the lawsuit claims that New Jersey residents were deprived of their freedom of interstate movement under the so-called privileges or immunities clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The clause, which became part of the Constitution in 1868, asserts: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

The clause is rarely invoked in class actions, said David Noll, a professor at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, but he said it could be made into a successful claim in this case.

While state workers acting in their official capacities are protected from most claims, there is an exception for when they intentionally break the law.

“It’s not totally implausible because there seems to have been an intention to keep people from using the bridge,” he said.

But the proposed class is likely to be considered too broad for the case to move forward as a class action, say some legal experts. In recent years, courts have made it hard to bring lawsuits on behalf of large numbers of plaintiffs.

Courts generally want to see in class-action cases that the plaintiffs are affected largely in the same way. “But the questions of how that wrongdoing affected each individual driver are going to be hugely varied,” Erichson said.

Judges often want to test whether a case can move forward as a class action early on, claimed another plaintiffs’ lawyer who regularly brings class actions.

He said the lawyers in the bridge case would likely have to narrow their class definition to be successful or they would have to pursue individual cases.

“Class actions are designed with this kind of thing in mind, and I love the concept behind the lawsuit,” he said. “The problem is they’re biting off more they can chew.”

The lawyer bringing the class action suit disagreed.

“They all took the bridge and they all suffered as result of the Christie administration,” she said.

– Article Written and Published by Reuters

Michael P. DeRose is an Associate Attorney at Kardos, Rickles, Hand & Bidlingmaier. He concentrates on a variety of practice areas, including Domestic, Contract, Landlord/ Tenant, Municipal, and Personal Injury Law. He may be reached at (609) 989-7995

Pennsylvania Limited Tort Option and Its Ultimate Impact on a Driver’s Ability to Sue

LIMITED TORT THRESHOLD CAR INSURANCE OPTION IN PENNSYLVANIA:

In an effort to provide less expensive automobile insurance, the Pennsylvania Legislature created the Limited Tort or limitation on lawsuit option for policies issued to PA drivers.  In exchange for these lesser premiums, an insured who elected the limitation on tort threshold option and has been involved in a motor vehicle accident may only advance a personal injury claim if they suffer “serious bodily injury” as a result of the accident.  Pursuant to the law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, an individual who elects the Limited Tort option is precluded from pursuing an action for any non-economic loss except where serious injury occurred, 75 Pa.C.S. § 1705(d). “Non-economic loss” is defined as “pain and suffering and other nonmonetary detriment.” “Serious injury” is defined as a “personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.”

In Pennsylvania, there are several exceptions that convert limited tort coverage to full tort coverage, relieving the injured person of the burden of having to satisfy the limited tort threshold. These include:

  1. The other driver is convicted of (a) driving under the influence of alcohol, or (2) a controlled substance, or (3) accepts A.R.D., a program generally applicable only to first-time offenders;
  2. The other driver committed an intentional act that caused the injuries;
  3. The other driver was operating a vehicle registered in a state other than Pennsylvania;
  4. The other driver had no insurance.

Accordingly, a Pennsylvania driver’s rights to advance a lawsuit for an automobile accident is severely limited when he or she elects the limited tort option for their auto coverage.

Cliff Bidlingmaier is a partner at Kardos, Rickles, Hand, & Bidlingmaier. He concentrates on Personal Injury matters, Civil Rights cases, Criminal Defense, Municipal & District Court Cases, and Domestic Matters.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident, or any other type of accident, contact Cliff at  215-970-2755 or 609-989-7995 and learn your rights and options. 

Article Written by Clifford D. Bidlingmaier, Esq.

Know the Consequences of Electing the Verbal Threshold Option on Your Car Insurance

THE VERBAL THRESHOLD CAR INSURANCE OPTION IN NEW JERSEY

In an effort to provide less expensive automobile insurance the New Jersey Legislature created the Verbal Threshold or limitation on lawsuit option for car insurance policies.  In exchange for these lesser premiums a New Jersey driver who has selected the verbal threshold option and has been involved in a car accident may only advance suit if they suffer bodily injury which results in:

  1. death;
  2.  dismemberment; significant disfigurement
  3. significant scarring;
  4. displaced fractures;
  5. loss of a fetus; or
  6. a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability.

This limitation imposed on an individual who has suffered a “permanent injury” is one in which “the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.”  Accordingly, a driver’s rights to advance a lawsuit are severely limited when the driver in New Jersey selects the verbal threshold option for the automobile accident.

In short, while drivers who do not elect the limitation on lawsuit option will certainly pay higher premiums for their car insurance, they will not have to overcome New Jersey’s Verbal Threshold if they are injured in an automobile accident and decide to file suit, like those who elect the limitation on lawsuit option in exchange for lesser monthly insurance premiums.

Review your car insurance policy today and confirm whether or not you are subject to NJ’s Verbal Threshold.

Injured in a car accident or as a result of another type of accident? Contact Cliff Bidlingmaier or any of the Personal Injury Attorneys at Kardos, Rickles, Hand & Bidlingmaier at 609-989-7995 or 215-970-2755 to learn your rights and options. 

Article Written by Clifford D. Bidlingmaier, Esq.