Q: What kind of lawyers are you?

We are civil trial lawyers. We represent litigants in New Jersey’s Courts in all phases of the trial process including pre-trial discovery, trial, post-trial motion practice and any subsequent appeals. We are engaged primarily by property and casualty insurers to represent their insureds. As a result, we appear most often on behalf of defendants. We also represent insurers who at times are direct parties to the litigation.
Q: Can you give some examples of the type cases the firm handles?
A: Lawsuits arising out of automobile accidents typically involve claims by injured drivers and passengers against other drivers who are claimed to have caused the accident. When a driver is sued by someone injured in a car accident, the insurance company for the driver being sued hires our firm to defend him or her. A similarly typical situation would be when a property owner is sued as a result of an accident occurring on his or her property. When the property owner is insured under the terms of a homeowners’ or other general liability insurance policy, we are hired by that insurer to defend the property owner in that litigation. We also represent self-insured companies and governmental entities, and our practice includes the defense of workers compensation claim petitions. For our clients who have no insurance, we are retained directly by them. We also provide advice concerning insurance coverage issues.
Q: What is liability insurance?
A: Most people think of insurance as coverage to have property such as a car or home repaired in the event of an accident. Most automobile and other property and casualty insurance policies, however, also include liability insurance to cover the persons insured under the policy for claims made against them as the result of accidents. Liability insurance coverage generally includes both the cost to hire an attorney to defend claims and an amount up to which the insurance company will pay to settle claims arising from an accident or the amount of any verdicts returned at trial. The amount up to which an insurer will pay for any damages an insured may be found legally liable is referred to as the “policy limit”. Damages over and above the policy limit ordinarily are not paid by an insurance company. Excess insurance coverage is generally available in a number of different forms. For individuals, the most common form of excess insurance coverage is a personal liability umbrella policy which provides coverage over and above the policy limits of both automobile and homeowners insurance policies.
Q: What should I do if I am sued?
A: If you are involved in an accident and you know you have insurance for it, you should notify your insurance agent and/or company right away, even if you have no intention of making a claim yourself. You probably will be asked to provide some basic information concerning the circumstances surrounding the accident and how it happened so that the insurance company can conduct an investigation and prepare itself to handle any claims arising from the accident. Such investigation ordinarily will allow the insurer to better defend you in the event you are sued. If you are sued and know you have insurance, forward the suit papers to your agent or insurance company right away. If you are not sure if you have insurance for the claim being made against you, ask your agent, your insurer or a lawyer. Many people are surprised to learn, for example, that accidents that occur away from the home can be covered under the terms of a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Whatever you do, if you are served with legal documents telling you that you are being sued, do not ignore them. The Rules of Court require that you, or someone on your behalf, respond to the lawsuit within a very limited period of time. If a timely response is not filed, a judgment by default may be entered against you for which you can be held personally liable. If you ignore the lawsuit, you also may jeopardize any insurance coverage you might otherwise have been able to use to cover the suit.
Q: What's a plaintiff?

A: A plaintiff is the person or other entity filing a lawsuit and asking the Court for some type of relief. In lawsuits arising from accidents, plaintiffs generally demand that they be awarded money damages to compensate them for losses they believe they suffered as a result of the accident. Damages can be recovered for the cost to repair or replace property damaged in accidents. Damages also can be recovered for economic losses such wages lost because of an inability to work after an accident and in some instances for the cost of medical care to treat injuries caused by the accident. In addition, when a claim is made that a person was injured in an accident, non-economic damages for the pain, suffering, disability, impairment and loss of life’s enjoyments can be recovered when permitted by the law. Such economic and non-economic damages are called “compensatory damages” because they are intended to compensate plaintiffs for the losses suffered as a result of an accident. In some instances, “punitive damages” may be recovered. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate for losses actually sustained but instead to punish the person or entity responsible for causing an accident and to discourage that person or entity from repeating the behavior which led to the accident. Punitive damages are only awarded when the conduct of the person or entity causing an accident is particularly reprehensible. A person getting behind the wheel of a car knowing he or she was too drunk to drive and resisting the efforts of others to stop him or her from driving could be liable for punitive damages if he or she causes an accident. Punitive damages are not covered by liability insurance. A plaintiff, therefore, generally is a person or entity filing a lawsuit to attempt to recover the types of damages described above.
Q: What's a defendant?

A: If you are being sued, you are a defendant. The term refers to the person or entity being sued and from whom damages ordinarily are sought. Plaintiffs begin their lawsuits by filing a legal document called a Complaint against one or more defendants. A defendant begins the defense of the suit by filing a document called an Answer. The Complaint contains the plaintiff’s claims. The Answer contains a statement of the defendant’s defenses.
Q: Can I counter-sue for the aggravation of having to respond to a lawsuit?

A: The answer generally is no. The law of New Jersey does not recognize claims arising from the aggravation and inconvenience associated with defending a lawsuit even if all of the plaintiff’s claims are defeated. New Jersey adheres to the “American Rule” in connection with the costs and expenses associated with litigation. That is, unless there is a specific contractual agreement requiring a losing party to pay the other side’s lawyers’ fees, costs and expenses or a specific law or Court Rule requiring the loser to pay, each side is required to pay its own costs and fees. The same generally holds true with the distractions and inconveniences that can be caused by having to take time from your day-to-day activities to assist in the defense of a lawsuit. Except in rare instances, each side is expected to accept that participating in litigation will require some expenditure of time which might otherwise be put to a more beneficial or productive use. In those rare instances where provisions are made to permit a Court to sanction a party for abusing the legal process by filing completely frivolous or unnecessary claims, such sanctions ordinarily are limited to awards of costs and fees and do not encompass non-economic claims for the aggravation, inconvenience and/or annoyance caused by defending against such claims.
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