You are walking in front of a business. Suddenly, you slip and fall on a bump in the sidewalk. You suffer great pain in your back. You are taken to the emergency room. There, the doctors order x-rays, MRIs and other tests. Say you live in Fair Lawn.
After the incident, you are disabled for several weeks. You must attend physical therapy near your Fair Lawn home. Of course, you retain a good Fair Lawn slip and fall lawyer to obtain compensation for you.
One day, on your way to physical therapy, a careless driver rear-ends the vehicle that you are riding in. In the accident, you injure your left knee severely. The left knee was never injured before. Now you need a knee operation. You have to start physical therapy for your knee after that operation.
This post is the latest in a series concerning recent changes to the New Jersey jury charges. Jury charges are instructions that judges read to juries in personal injury cases (or in any other case, for that matter). The charges instruct the jury as to what the law is.
In this post, I will discuss the legal concept of “proximate cause.” The New Jersey Supreme Court recently revised the jury charge concerning proximate cause.
Getting back to our story, it turns out that the careless driver doesn’t have car insurance. He has no assets. Unfortunately, when you purchased your own car insurance, you didn’t buy enough uninsured motorist insurance to fully compensate you for the knee injury. Therefore, how can you possibly be compensated for that knee injury?
Wait a minute, you say. Why can’t my Fair Lawn slip and fall lawyer sue the store where I fell for the damage caused by the careless driver?
At first hearing, it sounds like you have a point. After all, you were on your way to physical therapy for the slip and fall injury when the car accident occurred. If it wasn’t for the store failing to maintain its sidewalk properly, you never would have slipped. If you never slipped, you never would have required therapy. Thus, you never would have gone to the physical therapist and you would never have suffered a car accident.
THE MEANING OF “PROXIMATE CAUSE”
Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that the judge in your case will allow your slip and fall attorney to sue the store for your knee injury. New Jersey law states that you are only allowed to sue a person or business for injuries that are “proximately” caused by that person or business. Basically, “proximately” means “directly.”
In other words, you cannot sue anyone for injuries that they only indirectly caused.
It is clear that the injury to your knee in this example was not directly caused by the store.
In other cases, the issue of whether an injury was directly or indirectly caused may be more complicated.
The moral of this tale is that you need to buy adequate uninsured motorist insurance. If the person in this example had purchased enough uninsured motorist insurance, that insurance would have covered the knee injury fully. There would have been no need to worry about suing the store for injuries that were really caused by the careless driver.