MUNICIPAL COURTS: It’s More Than Just a Speeding Ticket

For most people exposure to New Jersey’s municipal courts is the first, and sometimes the only, experience with our legal system.  Your understanding and navigation of the process is crtical to how you will view your experience there.

Some states have the misdemanor (less serious) and felony (more serious) system to define criminal offenses.  New Jersey uses different terms with similar meanings: non-indictable and indictable.  If the offense is of the latter (indictable) your matter is handled at the Superior Court level.  Future blogs will talk about these alleged offenses.  Non-indictable matters are handled at the Municipal Court level.  Think of these courts as your “town courts” or “local courts”.

Municipal Courts in New Jersey are empowered to handle all types of alleged offenses.  Some are criminal or quasi-criminal: domestic violence, disorderly person assault cases, drug offenses and driving while intoxicated.  Others are not criminal: speeding, careless or reckless driving, violations of licensing, registration or insurance laws and other motor vehicle moving violations.

There is a tendency to believe that these matters in the municipal courts can be handled without a lawyer in order to save legal fees.  From the outset let me tell you that this is a big MISTAKE.  The legal fees that you certainly will save will be spent, in other ways, as you mishandle your case.  Let me tell you some of the little known truths about municipal courts:

1) Those with attorneys are usually treated better than those without  because attorneys serve as “buffers” between you and the prosecutor and the police.

2) Attorneys can say things to the prosecutor and police in a way that you cannot because you are the accused and shouldn’t be saying anything at all.

3) Attorneys can advance real legal arguments to the prosecutor as oppossed to those who “just wanna break”.

4) Prosecutors and police “lick their chops” when someone tries to handle their own case.  The same is not true when someone is represented by a lawyer.

5) You are entitled to speak with the prosecutor and sometimes the police, but they don’t have to offer you a deal or if they do, it may not be as good as the guy before you who had a lawyer.

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Personal Injuries at Work? Understanding the Maze of Worker’s Comp

Have you or someone you know suffered a personal injury at work?  Did you know that, with few exceptions, you cannot sue your employer?  Your primary source of recovery is through the worker’s compensation court system.  Knowing your rights and those of your employer are critical to navigating the worker’s comp maze.

First, most personal injuries at the workplace fall into two categories.  One is ACCIDENTAL and the other is OCCUPATIONAL.  If you suffer a specific injury on a date certain (e.g. you suffer a knee injury on April 23, 2012) then your claim is accidental.  If your injury is one that evolves over time and is not linked to a specific occurrence, then it is deemed occupational.  Most claims are admitted by the employer’s insurance company although in some instances they are denied until proven.  In each case a full investigation by all of the parties involved is required.

Typically, the worker that suffers personal injuries on the job is entitled to 3 types of benefits.  The first is MEDICAL BENEFITS.  Your employer and it’s insurance company are obligated to provide you with the medical treatment you need at absolutely no cost to you.  This is totally different from any health insurance benefits you may also receive through work.  Understand, however, that your employer’s insurance carrier is permitted to control the doctors and facilities that treat you.  You are not, absent an emergency,  permitted to treat on your own with the doctors of your own choosing. The worker’s comp insurance company, generally, won’t pay these bills.

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Personal Injuries: Don’t get hurt twice. Know your car insurance.

How many of us actually take the time to review the auto insurance coverage that we have?  How many of us simply renew our coverage, year to year, without really knowing what we’re buying?  Did you know that the personal injuries that you sustain in a car accident have more to do with your insurance policy than the person that hit you?

Your personal auto insurance controls what kinds of medical treatment you can receive, if you are allowed to sue to recover money damages for your personal injuries and the maximum amount of recovery you may be entitled to.  Recovery for serious personal injury is less to do with what kind of auto insurance the other guy has and a great deal to do with what you purchase.

Look at the DEC SHEET (Declarations Page) of your auto policy.  It’s the page with the personal & specific information about you, your family members and the cars you drive.  Under COVERAGES, the first two are about LIABILITY.  These are important because its what the company will pay the other guy if YOU cause the accident.  Make sure that you buy enough coverage to protect your assets.  The next two that are listed are just as, or more, important.  UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORISTS.  This is the coverage that applies when the other guy causes the accident but has no insurance or not enough for your personal injuries.  Buy as much of this coverage as your budget will allow!  Don’t look to the other guy to protect you…protect yourself.

The next section is PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION (PIP) and this deals with how much medical treatment you can receive.  Purchase enough to cover serious personal injuries from catastrophic auto accidents.  Choose deductibles and co-payment obligations that fit your budget.

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