New Jersey Car Accident Laws

New Jersey deadlines for filing car accident lawsuits, drivers' legal duties to report a car accident in New Jersey, and more.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 2/13/2024

When you've been involved in a New Jersey traffic accident, you'll probably want to know what the state's motor vehicle insurance and accident laws have to say. We'll tell you what you need to know.

We start with an introduction to New Jersey's no-fault car insurance system, including the compensation you can get if you're injured in an accident. We'll also cover what happens if more than one driver is to blame for a wreck, and your reporting obligations after an accident in which you were involved.

New Jersey Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State

If you want to make a claim for injuries after a car accident, in New Jersey, your options depend on the kind of car insurance coverage you've chosen to purchase. You may need to first file an injury claim under your own personal injury protection coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other financial losses stemming from your car accident injuries, regardless of who caused the crash. Get the details on the New Jersey no-fault car insurance rules.

What Compensation Can I Get After a New Jersey Car Accident?

Your injury compensation options after a New Jersey car accident depend on whether:

  • you're making a PIP car insurance claim with your own car insurer
  • you've chosen the "Unlimited Right to Sue" option that's available to New Jersey vehicle owners, and
  • you can exercise the "Limited Right to Sue" because the seriousness of your injuries lets you step outside of no-fault and bring a claim directly against the at-fault driver.

Depending on whether the "Basic" or "Standard" option, New Jersey no-fault/PIP insurance might cover:

  • the cost of medical treatment (including equipment) necessary to treat your car accident injuries ("Basic" and "Standard")
  • reimbursement of income lost because of your car accident injuries ("Standard" only)
  • payment for the cost of "replacement services" (i.e. household work you can't do because of your injuries ("Standard" only), and
  • "death benefit" and "funeral benefit" payment if someone dies as a result of a car accident ("Standard" only).

If you're able to sue the at-fault driver based on your election of "Unlimited Right to Sue" coverage, or because of the seriousness of your injuries, you can receive additional compensation for a wider variety of losses (called "damages" in the language of the law), including:

  • payment of your accident-related medical bills
  • compensation for your mental and physical pain and suffering (a category of damages that can come with significant compensation, and which isn't available in a no-fault/PIP claim), and
  • lost income and other economic losses related to the accident.

Important note: New Jersey no-fault car insurance applies to car accident injuries and related out of pocket losses, but not to vehicle damage. Since $5,000 in property damage liability coverage is part of even a "Basic" car insurance policy in New Jersey, you can usually make a claim for vehicle damage directly against the at-fault driver's coverage.

The New Jersey Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a law that sets a time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit. If you miss the time limit set by this law and you try to file your car accident lawsuit after the deadline has already passed, the New Jersey court system is almost certain to dismiss your case, unless some rare exception applies to extend the deadline.

In most situations, you have two years, starting from the date of the crash, to get your car accident injury case started in the New Jersey court system. For the details, learn more about the car accident statute of limitations in New Jersey.

Comparative Negligence in New Jersey Car Accident Cases

If you're able to step outside no-fault in New Jersey and the other driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, the result is usually predictable: the other driver (through their insurance carrier) will pay to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. But what happens if you were partly at fault for the crash?

New Jersey follows a "modified comparative fault" rule when more than one party is found to share blame for an accident. In most car accident cases, the jury is asked to calculate two things based on the evidence: the total dollar amount of the plaintiff's damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. Under the modified comparative fault rule, the plaintiff's damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to his or her share of fault.

For instance, suppose that the jury decides your total damages award should be $100,000 (including your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and "pain and suffering"). But the jury also decides you are 40 percent responsible for the accident (maybe you were speeding). Under New Jersey's comparative fault rule, you are entitled to get 60 percent of the $100,000 total, or $60,000—still a significant sum, but well short of the total dollar amount of your damages.

One important note: Since New Jersey is a "modified" comparative fault state, you will receive nothing at all if you are found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the crash. This is different from the rule in "pure" comparative fault states, where you can recover damages when you're more at fault than the other party. Bottom line: In New Jersey, you must be no more than 50 percent at fault in order to recover damages from any other at-fault party after a car accident.

Not only does the comparative negligence rule bind New Jersey judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. A claims adjuster makes decisions based on what is likely to happen in court, after all. But don't let that prevent you from pursuing an auto accident settlement or lawsuit. Instead, talk to an attorney about your situation and your best course of action.

New Jersey's comparative negligence rule can be found at N.J. Stat. § 2A:15-5.2 (2024).

Learn more about the New Jersey Auto Comparative Negligence Settlement rules (from the New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance).

Reporting a Car Accident in New Jersey

Under New Jersey law, you're required to report a car accident when the accident involves one or more of the following:

  • the death of a person
  • an injury to any person (including the driver), or
  • property damage in excess of $500.

(N.J. Stat. § 39:4-130 (2024).)

Immediately Report the Accident to the Police

Using the "quickest means of communication possible" drivers must report the accident to one of the following authorities:

  • the local police department
  • the nearest office of the county police, or
  • the New Jersey State Police.

For most drivers, the "quickest means of communication possible" is a phone call from the scene of the accident.

Make a Written Report to the Motor Vehicle Commission

Drivers are also required to send a written report to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission on a form provided by the commission within 10 days of the accident. The report should describe the accident, name the people and vehicles involved in the accident, and include details about accident-related property damage and injuries.

If a law enforcement officer responds to the scene and prepares a car accident police report, drivers aren't required to submit their own report. Officers are required to submit their written reports to the Motor Vehicle Commission within five days of the officer's investigation of the accident.

(N.J. Stat. § 39:4-131 (2024).)

What Should You Do If You're Seriously Hurt?

A seriously injured driver may not be able to immediately report an accident or submit a written report within 10 days of the accident. Under New Jersey law, a passenger or owner of the vehicle involved in the accident can make the necessary reports for the driver when the driver is physically incapable.

As a practical matter, when a car accident involves serious injuries, someone will call 911. Police officers are typically dispatched to an accident scene in response to a 911 call along with firefighters and emergency medical services. An officer will investigate the accident, prepare a written report, and send the report to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Drivers who didn't report an accident because they were seriously injured should reach out to the law enforcement agency that responded to the crash to confirm that the accident has been properly reported or talk to a lawyer.

Penalties for Not Reporting an Accident

Drivers who knowingly fail to report an accident must pay a fine of not less than $30 or more than $100 and may have their vehicle registration and driver's license suspended or revoked.

Getting Help After a New Jersey Car Accident

Hopefully now you have a basic understanding of the different state laws that could come into play after a car accident. But when you're actually injured in a crash, you might need more than just information. It may make sense to discuss your situation with an experienced legal professional.

Learn more about when you might need a lawyer after a car accident., and how to find the right attorney for an injury case. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a New Jersey car accident attorney near you.

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