Frequently Asked Questions

put in faq pageWe have gathered some of the most common questions asked by our visitors and clients and have displayed both the questions and answered in this section.  Our Q & A section covers most questions that people have about their case.  Of course, every case is different and this information is more generalized.  Each has is unique and has its own set of facts and law that apply.  We strive to provide as much information to the public as we can.  This page is helpful for past and present clients, as well as people looking for legal representation.

Most of these questions and answers were all prepared and answered by the attorneys at the law firm.  If you have more questions about your own case, or the situation that you are in, give us a call, email, fill out a contact form (see to right (desktop) or below (mobile)), or chat with us live!

Most Frequently Asked Questions

There could be literally hundreds of questions that can be potentially posed by anyone who had Questions Answereddamages and personal injuries caused by the negligence of a third party. In particular, for those victims being their first experience, the unknown can be daunting and stressful to say the least. We understand this and in an effort to alleviate it, we have put together this section of Frequently Asked Questions. We hope that they will provide adequate answers to those immediate questions. Because each case is different, give us a call at (856) 665-5709 or click here to e-mail where we can answer them on a more direct, personal and under a highly secured, confidential environment.

The following is a short list of our FAQ section. For a broader source, you can visit our FAQ and Knowledge base website. Click button below, where hundreds of additional questions and answers are provided.

put in the frequently asked questions pageput this in the frequently asked questions page

General Questions and Answers:

What is a Personal Injury Case? (Answer from American Bar Association)

Every tort claim, regardless of its basis, whether intentional, negligence, or strict liability, has two basic issues—liability and damages. Was the defendant liable for the damages you sustained, and, if so, what is the nature and extent of your damages? If you can prove liability and damages, our system of justice will award you compensation for your loss.

What is a Tort?

A tort is a kind of personal injury case that involves a wrongful act to a person or group of people. The result of the wrongful act can be injury to health, property, or reputation for which the injured party is entitled to compensation. Many torts result from negligence.

You have an interest in (1) your physical person, (2) your property, and (3) certain aspects of your human dignity, such as your reputation, that are recognized and protected by the law. An injury to any of these protected interests, caused under circumstances in which the law will impose liability, is a tort

What is a typical personal injury case?

Automobile accidents, the area in which most personal injury actions arise, provide a good example of how the tort system works. You have a negligence claim in a “fault” state if you are injured by a driver who failed to exercise reasonable care, because drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care anytime they are on the road. When they breach that duty and your injury results, personal injury law says you can recoup your losses. (Note, though, that the system may be very different in states that have passed no-fault laws. Negligence reaches far beyond claims stemming from car accidents. It is the basis for liability in most personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice.

Do I have a Potential case?

You certainly can have a very strong case, one which can provide you with compensation, not only for the expenses you have incurred in medical treatments, loss of wages. etc. but, also for your pain and suffering. In order to determine the strength of your potential case we must evaluate the accident or personal injury damages caused by a third party on a personal basis. No two cases are never the same. There are many mitigating circumstances and facts that differentiate once potential case from another. A case in point, two accident situations both rear end collisions, both sustained similar auto damages and both where at similar driving speeds. The difference, because of poor passenger’s seat head restraint design, the first injured victim on this rear end collision example suffered significant neck and spinal cord trauma, as compared to the secondary accident’s victim  auto rear end collision example, which only suffered mild to moderate whiplash. Potentially, the first victim could receive exceptionally a much higher monetary recovery for damages than the second sample victim. The only and most assertive way to determine if you have a potential case is to provide us with the basic facts of your particular situation or accident. You can do this immediately by filling out a short form (available on the top left column of this page)our  or secured questionnaire which is processed under a secured environment. You can find the same by just clicking on any of the Questionnaire labels appearing througout this website.  Or if you prefer call us at your earliest convenience, at 1856 665-5709 or Toll free: 1866 665-5709. 

How much the case might be worth?

Very similar to the previous answer of, Do I have a potential case?, cases are extremely individualistic and never are the same. A case’s worth is determined by many factors, one being the amount and levels of damages and injuries incurred by the victim, medical treatment incurred, the outcome of his/hers recovery and final medical prognosis, and perhaps one of the most important aspects in the monetary recovery or awards to the accident victim is the level of expertise and negotiating capabilities of your legal representative. As you can see, to determine exact monetary figures is a daunted  task. We do have examples, out the thousands of cases we have successfully processed, that can give you an idea based on the specific case type and personal situation of the injured victim, the amounts that we were able to recover for them. If you would like to see these examples, please see the section ‘What my cse worth? on the menus.

How much time do I have to file an action, to be able to recover for damages?

Every State has its own timeframe when you can file an action or suit against a third party for personal injury sustained by you. New Jersey and Pennsylvania. for those parties over 18 years old provides a Statute of Limitations of two year from the date of the accident. For minors, the statute of limitations takes effect at the time of emancipation. There might be certain circumstances where provisions are given to circumvent the Statute of Limitations law. If you feel that your situation warrants a special evaluation or assessment, please call us at 856 665-5709 or if out of area, toll free at 1866 665-5709, to discuss them.

How much will it cost me?

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania provides injured victims with the ability to pursue an action for monetary recovery for damages,  almost exclusively from the insurance companies providing coverage for the person(s), corporation that caused the damages, on a contingent basis. What this means, is that you don’t have to put up any monetary expenses from your pocket to pursue a case, rather those expenses are eventually absorbed or paid by the monetary recoveries yielded by the case. In our situation, most of our cases are handled with the following statement: We don’t get paid, if you don’t get paid. Please  call us, (Toll Free 1866 665-5709) or click on the Questionnaire tab appearing on the footer menu if you have a potential situation where the filing of a legal action is warranted to recover monetary compensation for damages suffered by you and caused by a third party.

I have a ton of medical bills, can you help me organize them?

Certainly. Our case handlers are trained to carefully manage and get your medical bills paid through our computer assisted system. We deal directly with your health care providers and manage all aspects of your bills. If any medical bill collection activity is initiated against you, our pre-litigation department will handle and protect you against unwarranted collection actions. Rest assured that not only we will help organize your medical bills, but we will help you manage and pay time on a timely matter as your case progresses or at the end of the same. 

Will you keep me updated on a regular basis on the progress of my case?

As part of our client relations management program, you will be kept abreast of the status of your case on a continuous basis. Furthermore, our case handlers on a periodical timeline will contact you to obtain updates about your medical treatment and its progress. Our client relations management program also provides for our clients the ability to see a history of the contact activity between their case handler and themselves at any given time.

Do I have to come to your office regularly?

We understand that extracurricular time can be inconvenient, in particular to those that work, are not ambulatory or are exceedingly busy sustaining household responsibilities. Therefore, the answer to this question is No. In the event that we do need to communicate with you regarding matters to the case or vice versa, we rely on the following methods of secured communication; telephone, internet e-mail, voicemail, our own internal web based case handler/client communication system – (where constant communication and case updates between the client and the office are provided 24/7), client web based resource area – (where anything related to forms, communication pieces can be filled online or downloaded for later action), conventional US Postal Service mail, and lastly, if our client is not ambulatory , we do provide on site visits when required.

[expand title=”Will I meet with a lawyer?

You certainly can. We can arrange a meeting with one of our attorneys and will do out absolute best to accommodate to your particular itinerary. We say this, because for the greater working hours  timeframes our attorneys can be pre committed to other  appointments, including, but not limited to court appointments, settlement conferences or meetings and most frequently meeting with other clients. It’s customary and for the most part more convenient to meet with our office manager, an alternative well preferred by many of our current and past clients.

If I follow through with a claim or obtain a recovery will my insurance rates go up?

No. Based on the information insurance agents and insurance carriers provide us, simply because an injured person pursues a claim does not mean that his or her insurance premium will be increased. It is when a person’s negligent or wrongful acts cause injury that his or her own insurance premiums are increased.

What shouldn’t I do if I suffer an accident where I'm injured?

Don’t sign anything without consulting an attorney. Don’t attempt to negotiate with an insurance company (your own or the other party’s) without consulting an attorney. Don’t make any kind of statement, even one the insurance company rep or other party tells you is “off the record”, without consulting an attorney. Don’t downplay your injuries before you know the extent of them—it’s not always immediately apparent how serious your injuries are, and if you’ve said you were “fine” at the scene, that may come back to haunt you. The bottom line is that it’s best to get advice from an attorney before taking any kind of action outside of seeking medical attention.

Will I have to go to court?

It would be surprising to know that going to court is the last resort to resolve a case, although at times its necessary. Only a small percentage of cases are resolved in a court of law. Most cases are settled, either at the steps of the court or before a court date is set for a trial.

I'm currently hospital bound and unable to come to your office, what arrangements can be made to discuss the case with me?

If allowed by your primary health care or attending physician we most certainly will make arrangements to come to you and discuss the basic facts of your personal injury situation. In addition. as an extended service is our policy to provide adequate transportation, if you so desire while recuperating, to visit our offices. If it was absolutely necessary to meet with you personally, for example, the signing of legal documents, etc. we would come to your home.

What other case types does your firm handle?

Our firm highly specializes in Personal Injury cases. Within the realm of this general case type title, we handle many other associated case types. For a more comprehensive definition and a complete list of our areas of practice, please click here. To complete answering the question, in addition to ‘Non Personal Injury’ related cases, we offer services on Municipal Court representation and Social Security matters. 

The insurance adjustor claims I don't need a lawyer to help me and that the insurance company will take care of everything, should I get one anyhow?

Its in your best interest to immediately contact a lawyer to protect your rights. Insurance adjustors protect only the rights of their employers, the Insurance Companies. In particular, don’t sign anything until you have been properly counseled by an attorney. At the Law Office of Vincent J. Ciecka, P.C., we have been protecting accident victims rights for over 30 years, with over 10,000 cases and millions in recoveries for our clients during that timeframe. Experience and a successful track record also is very important to be on your side. Our law offices can definitely provide you with that.

What should I bring to the first appointment with my lawyer?

You should provide a lawyer with any documents that might be relevant to your case. Police reports, for example, contain eyewitness information and details about the conditions surrounding auto accidents, fires, and assaults. Copies of medical reports and bills from doctors and hospitals will help demonstrate the extent and nature of your injuries. Information about the insurer of the person who caused your injury is extremely helpful, as are any photographs you have of the accident scene, your property damage, and your injury. The more information you are able to give your lawyer, the easier it will be for him or her to determine if your claim will be successful. If you haven’t collected any documents at the time of your first meeting, however, don’t worry; your lawyer will be able to obtain them in his investigation of your claim.

What are the TYPES OF LEGAL ACTIONS?

There are many types of legal actions.  If you get hurt, or suffered an injury, then you may have certain rights under the law depending on how you were hurt.  People get hurt from other people, from animals, cars, trucks, from doctors, facilities and medical professionals, from products and recalls, and from being on the job and getting hurt.

Here are answers to questions about the different types of injuries a person can suffer.

What is a Tort?

A tort is a kind of personal injury case that involves a wrongful act to a person or group of people. The result of the wrongful act can be injury to health, property, or reputation for which the injured party is entitled to compensation. Many torts result from negligence.

You have an interest in (1) your physical person, (2) your property, and (3) certain aspects of your human dignity, such as your reputation, that are recognized and protected by the law. An injury to any of these protected interests, caused under circumstances in which the law will impose liability, is a tort

What is Malpractice?

Malpractice is negligence, or unreasonable conduct, by a professional, such as a doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a lawyer or an accountant. A jury may be capable of determining whether someone has acted reasonably on matters that are within most people’s common knowledge, for example, when someone is driving or maintaining property. However, juries cannot be expected to know what doctors or engineers, for example, should do. In most malpractice lawsuits, expert witnesses must give opinions as to what the professional should have done, and a jury applies what they have learned from these experts to the facts of the case to determine whether the expert has acted reasonably.

What is Products Liability?

When someone has been injured by a commercial product, it is easier to look at the condition of the product as it was sold to determine what is wrong with it than to try to reconstruct where, in the design, manufacture or labeling of that product, the manufacturer acted negligently. This shift in focus from the reasonableness of the manufacturer’s actions to the condition of the product itself is known as products liability. In New Jersey, a product is defective if it is not fit, suitable or safe for its intended or foreseeable purpose. Ordinarily, an expert is needed to compare the product to industry standards and alternative available designs in order to help a jury to determine whether the product is defective.

What is Workers' Compensation?

If you are injured while working, you cannot sue your employer or co-employees. However, you can recover for some of your injuries through another New Jersey court system. This is the workers’ compensation system and is discussed elsewhere on this website. You are entitled to medical treatment for your work-related injuries, temporary disability benefits, and a money award to compensate you for the permanent loss of function that you sustain due to your injuries. Persons who are injured while at work can sue anyone who caused their injuries other than an employer or co-worker. Such a lawsuit is called a “third party action”.

What are Wrongful Death Cases?

If you are injured while working, you cannot sue your employer or co-employees. However, you can recover for some of your injuries through another New Jersey court system. This is the workers’ compensation system and is discussed elsewhere on this website. You are entitled to medical treatment for your work-related injuries, temporary disability benefits, and a money award to compensate you for the permanent loss of function that you sustain due to your injuries. Persons who are injured while at work can sue anyone who caused their injuries other than an employer or co-worker. Such a lawsuit is called a “third party action”.

What are Examples of Personal Injuries?

  • Truck Accident Injuries
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Closed head wound
  • Back injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck injury
  • Paralysis
  • Paraplegia
  • Quadriplegia
  • Amputation
  • Broken bones
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Soft tissue injury
  • Whiplash
  • Wrongful death
  • Fracture
  • Dislocation
  • Laceration
  • Herniated disk
  • Nerve damage
  • Surgery
  • Mental injuries
  • Spinal surgery
  • Rashes and scarring and disfigurement
  • Ear, eye, and nose injuries

LEGAL PROCESS QUESTIONS

Who can make claims for injuries and damages?

Claims for injuries and damages resulting from motor vehicle accident cases can be made not only on behalf of drivers and passengers, but also on behalf of pedestrians, bicyclists, and people who are injured while working on or unloading vehicles—even a person who is partly at fault for the accident may have a valid claim. In addition—and to the surprise of many—the injured passenger’s automobile insurance company pays for their initial medical bills even though their automobile was not involved in the accident.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is a fact-finding process that allows the attorneys for each party to a lawsuit to learn about the other’s claims, defenses and evidence before a cases comes to trial. There are two reasons for this. The more that each side knows about the other side’s case, the better the case can be evaluated for settlement purposes. If the case does not settle, there will be no surprises and the trial will be fair. You are required to comply with legitimate discovery requests and the Court may dismiss your lawsuit if you fail to do so. If you anticipate a problem with providing discovery or if you feel that certain facts should be privileged from disclosure, advise your attorney as soon as possible.

Five types of discovery are routinely used. First, you will answer written questions called interrogatories. Second, you may have to submit to a deposition, in which the defense attorney asks you questions in a session that is transcribed by a stenographic reporter. Third, you may be required to produce relevant documents, such as tax returns to substantiate a lost wage claim, or items, such as defective products or x-ray films, for inspection by the defense attorneys. Fourth, you may be required to sign authorizations so that the defense attorneys can get your medical or employment records or other relevant documents that are kept by someone else. Fifth, you may have to submit to a medical examination by a doctor of the defendant’s own choosing.

What is Arbitration?

In an effort to settle cases before trial, all personal injury cases are arbitrated in both the state and federal courts in New Jersey. An arbitration is an informal hearing in which an attorney chosen by the Court holds a hearing in a conference room setting, listens to you testify, and reads medical reports and other written information submitted on your behalf in lieu of testimony from live witnesses. The arbitrator then evaluates what a jury would award after a full trial. Each party to a lawsuit has thirty days to reject the award by payment of a fee to the Court. If all parties accept the arbitrator’s award, your case settles on that basis, but if any party rejects the award, it is listed for trial. In the New Jersey state courts, if a party rejects the award but does not do at least twenty percent better at trial, certain sanctions may be imposed.

Our experience with arbitrations in the New Jersey state courts has been disappointing. About 70% of the arbitration awards are rejected by the insurance companies for the defendants, who often offer the same amount of money to settle your case later, after they have earned interest on it. If you are a plaintiff, your presence and participation at the arbitration is required, however, in both the state and federal courts.

A different type of arbitration is used to resolve Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist claims (discussed elsewhere on this website). These arbitrations are generally held before three attorneys and are usually conducted at a lawyers’ office, and, under some circumstances, may be binding upon the parties.

What is a Motion?

A motion is an application to a court to order that something be done. During trial motions are made orally before the judge who is presiding over the case. Before trial, motions are made in writing on several weeks’ advance notice to the Court and to all other attorneys involved in the case.

What is Summary Judgment?

A judgment is the Court’s resolution of a case, and is distinguished from a settlement, in which the parties resolve the case among themselves. Most judgments are based on a verdict returned by a jury after a trial. During a trial, the judge decides questions of law and the jury decides questions of fact. Juries apply the law, as instructed by the Judge, to resolve disputes over facts. Sometimes there is no significant dispute over the facts of a case, and a judge can decide whether the law permits the plaintiff to recover damages. Other times, there may be a significant dispute over the facts of the case, but, not withstanding that dispute, the defendant contends that an immunity applies or that a threshold has not been reached. The defendants may then make a motion asking that the Court resolve the case summarily, that is, without a trial.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Just as you must prove that the defendant acted wrongly in causing your injury, the defendant can claim that you also acted unreasonably in protecting yourself from the defendant’s wrongful act. If you slipped on something that the defendant should have cleaned up, for example, the defendant can argue that you should have seen what caused you to slip before you stepped on it. When a jury renders a verdict, it compares the wrongful act of the defendants with any alleged wrongful act on your part, and apportions the liability among all of the parties in terms of percentages of fault. The allocation of negligence to you, the plaintiff, is comparative negligence. The amount of money that the jury awards you for your injury is reduced by the percentage of liability that the jury allocates to you. For example, if the jury finds that your injuries are worth $10,000, but that you are 20% responsible for the happening of the accident, you recover only $8,000. If the jury finds that you are 51% or more responsible for your own injuries, you do not recover anything from the defendant under New Jersey law. If there is more than one defendant, the jury will also compare the wrongful acts of the defendants. Each defendant will ordinarily pay only the percentage of damages for which the jury finds it to be responsible, though there are some exceptions to this.

What if I can’t prove that someone’s negligence caused my injury?

Yes. Some persons or companies may be held “strictly liable” for certain activities that harm others, even if they have not acted negligently or with wrongful intent. Under this theory, a person injured by a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product, for instance, may recover compensation from the maker or seller of the product without showing that the manufacturer or seller was actually negligent. Also, persons or companies engaged in using explosives, storing dangerous substances, or keeping dangerous animals can be strictly liable for harm caused to others as a result of such activities.

Is there any other basis for personal injury liability besides negligence?

Yes. Some persons or companies may be held “strictly liable” for certain activities that harm others, even if they have not acted negligently or with wrongful intent. Under this theory, a person injured by a defective or unexpectedly dangerous product, for instance, may recover compensation from the maker or seller of the product without showing that the manufacturer or seller was actually negligent. Also, persons or companies engaged in using explosives, storing dangerous substances, or keeping dangerous animals can be strictly liable for harm caused to others as a result of such activities.

 

GENERAL LEGAL TERMS

Q:           What is strict liability?

A:            Some other torts also are not evaluated by whether the defendant’s conduct is reasonable. Instead, the law looks at the end result of that conduct to determine whether liability should be imposed. For example, the owner of a dog may be strictly liable if the dog bites you, regardless of whether the owner acted reasonably in controlling the dog, if you did not provoke the dog and you were not trespassing. Some environmental torts also fall under strict liability.

 

Q:           What are intentional torts?

A:            If someone has taken deliberate action that results in an injury, such conduct is evaluated as to its intent rather than its reasonableness. Such torts are intentional because the action or the injury was intended rather than the inadvertent result of carelessness or negligence. Common intentional torts are assault, battery and libel. Intentional torts often have a shorter statute of limitations than negligence or strict liability and many insurance policies will not cover intentional torts. An intentional tort may result in the award of punitive damages.

 

Q:           What are thresholds?

A:            Persons who have been injured can sue for their pain, suffering, disability and the loss or limitation of the use of a body function. These are known as “non-economic damages”, as distinguished from “economic damages” such as lost wages and medical bills. A “threshold” is the level of injury that you must suffer in order to sue for non-economic damages, and acts as an immunity for all injuries that do not meet the threshold. Only some defendants are protected from liability by a threshold. The two thresholds most often encountered are the “Limitation on Lawsuit” threshold that may affect lawsuits arising from motor vehicle accidents and the “Public Entity” threshold that affects lawsuits against government bodies.

 

Q:           What is liability?

A:            Liability means that someone has wrongfully acted in such a way that a Court or Jury will order that person to pay money damages to anyone injured by that person’s conduct.  If a person is liable, they are at fault.  There are varying degrees and percentages of liability.  There can be many different parties that are found liable in a given case.  If the person who is hurt is 50% or more liable, or at fault, for an accident, then they cannot recover.  There is an exception to this for work related injuries and workers’ compensation cases.  In workers comp cases it does not matter who is liable, or at fault, for the injury for the injured person to have a workers’ comp case.  Many times there are potential “third party” cases in workers comp.  For instance, a person who is working driving a company truck, and gets rear ended by another car.  That person may have both a workers’ compensation case and a case against the car that hit them while they were working.

 

Q:           What is negligence?

A:            People are expected to act reasonably. If someone acts unreasonably, that person is negligent. If someone has acted negligently and has caused an injury, that person has committed a tort. Questionable conduct is usually evaluated by a jury to determine if it is unreasonable. There are some circumstances in which the New Jersey Legislature or the New Jersey Courts have determined that certain conduct is, or is not, unreasonable so that a jury does not have to make that determination. Negligence is the most common type of tort, and is distinguished from intentional torts and strict liability torts.

 

Q:           What are immunities?

A:            Sometimes the law will protect certain persons or organizations by making them not liable for their negligence. This protection is an “immunity”. Immunities are discussed elsewhere on this website. If you are injured by a person or organization that is immune, that person is exempt from liability to you.

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