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The Law Offices of John T. Bazzurro, LLC

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Injured? How do you get medical treatment without insurance?
December 15, 2014
By John Bazzurro
If you or a family member are injured in an accident and do not have health insurance, you may be concerned as to who will ultimately be responsible for your medical bills.  However, immediately after suffering the accident or injury, … Continued
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Do you need a lawyer in Municipal Court?

By John Bazzurro

As indicated on our website, there are numerous charges that are heard in the Municipal Courts in the State of New Jersey. These range from low level motor vehicle violations such as going through a stop sign, careless driving, failure to maintain your lane and other charges that generally carry very low fines and two or less motor vehicle points. If you have been charged with any motor vehicle violation that carriesmore than two motor vehicle points upon a conviction, we suggest that you obtain the advice of counsel before going to court. The purpose of this blog post is to provide the reader with some information as to whether or not they need legal representation in Municipal Court on a low-level motor vehicle violation that carries two or less motor vehicle points.

As most citizens of New Jersey know, municipal prosecutors will, generally, as a matter of course offer a “no point” or “zero point” violation as part of a plea bargain if you are charged with one of these low-level motor vehicle violations. As most citizens of New Jersey also know, the monetary cost of these “no point” or “zero point” violations are rather excessive in that you are required to pay a $250.00 surcharge for this “privilege.” The statute which provides this “no point” plea is called the unsafe driving statute. The basic theory in accepting a “no point” or “zero point” plea bargain is to potentially avoid motor vehicle points on your license in order to keep your auto insurance premiums lower and, potentially, to avoid the suspension of your driving privileges where you are in danger of accumulating 12 motor vehicle points which will result in a temporary suspension of driving privileges. Because most municipal prosecutors offer this unsafe driving type plea as a matter of course on traffic violations that carry a punishment of two or less motor vehicle points, you generally do not require the services of a lawyer to negotiate this plea bargain on your own behalf.

However, it should be pointed out that there are a number of situations in which your acceptance of such a “no point” or “zero point” plea bargain may adversely affect your rights without your knowledge. One such situation is where you have already previously pled guilty to unsafe driving on more than one occasion. Your third guilty plea to unsafe driving within a certain period of time will subject you to four motor vehicle points when you may be under the mistaken belief that you will not be receiving any motor vehicle points. Another such situation where you potentially will need legal representation is where the low-level motor vehicle violation is the result of a motor vehicle accident. Under these circumstances, a guilty plea in Municipal Court may be utilized against you in the event you are sued civilly by the other driver. Finally, if you are a “provisional” license holder you are not entitled to enter into a plea bargain for a “zero point” unsafe driving violation and, as such, other arrangements will need to be negotiated on your behalf.

The bottom line is that, regardless of what type of motor vehicle violation you are charged with, you should seek the advice of an attorney before appearing in Municipal Court by yourself and entering into a plea bargain which, although may seem relatively harmless at first because “everyone’s doing it,” may subject you to other legal ramifications of which you were not aware.

Typically, when we receive a call for a motor vehicle violation, we initially attempt to obtain as much information as possible from the potential client to determine whether or not they will require legal representation given their individual circumstances. From a lawyer’s perspective, the last thing that we want is to have a client pay a substantial fee for representation on a low-level traffic violation only to have the client realize at the time of the court hearing that they could have obtained the same plea bargain from the municipal prosecutor that we have just negotiated for them after paying us our legal fee.

Accordingly, please feel free to contact to discuss your individual situation to determine whether or not legal representation is required.

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Do 15 Minutes Really Save you 15% on Car Insurance?

By John Bazzurro

The purpose of this blog is to inform my clients and other personal injury attorneys in the State of New Jersey about a phenomena that I have come across concerning the “bargain” automobile insurance companies that have been popping up and advertising not only in the State of New Jersey but nationally. In this regard, the problem I am about to describe has existed for several years in that I first noticed it when these insurance companies began doing business in the State of New Jersey. However, after letters from numerous attorneys and the threat of litigation, I was under the assumption that the practice had ended. That was until I met two new clients recently and realized that the practice is ongoing.

Did you ever wonder how these “bargain” insurance companies allow the general public to save 15% or more on car insurance? Well, is been my experience in a number of cases that the insurance they are providing to you for a lower premium is not the same insurance that you had with your prior insurance company. Specifically, what I have seen on numerous occasions is that these “bargain” automobile insurance companies reduce the medical expense benefits on newly opened policies from the “norm” in the State of New Jersey of $250,000.00 in medical expenses to only $15,000.00 in medical expenses without advising the insured individual or family.

What this means is that, in the event of a motor vehicle accident where you or a family member require medical attention, you will only have available to you or your family the amount of $15,000.00 in medical coverage as opposed to the “norm” of $250,000.00 in medical coverage. As you can imagine, given the high costs of medical treatment, the $15,000.00 in medical coverage it does not go along way and, as such, individuals injured in auto accidents who have this minimal $15,000.00 in medical coverage often have no means of obtaining medical treatment.

Obviously, unless you have a motor vehicle accident and require medical treatment, you will not even realize that your medical expense coverage has been reduced from your prior policy limits of $250,000.00 to the minimal medical expense coverage of $15,000.00. This scenario (the absence of a motor vehicle accident for which you need medical attention) is exactly what these bargain insurance companies are banking on so that you never find out that they have reduced your coverage without informing you of same.

As indicated above, it is unfortunate that many of my clients have had this happen to them. Several years ago, I was able to write threatening letters to these insurance companies demanding that the new “bargain” policy be reformed to include the higher medical expense limits of $250,000.00 or, in the alternative, I threatened to file lawsuits against them seeking the reformation of the automobile insurance policy and asserting a bad faith and punitive damage claim against them. Up until this time, I have not needed to file such a litigation in that the insurance companies have always reformed the policies at my request. I believe that, in the event such matters were ever litigated, the “bargain” insurance companies could be heavily fined for such practices within the State of New Jersey.

Accordingly, in light of all the above, it is important for you to insure that the policy limits in your new “bargain” insurance policy on the same policy limits that you had in your prior policy. Of course, it may be difficult for a layperson to decipher exactly what coverages are contained in their new or old policies of automobile insurance. I would invite anyone to submit their new and old declaration pages for my review so I may advise you accordingly. A quick review of your automobile insurance policy now could save a great deal of time later-especially if you require medical treatment the cost of which exceeds your policy limits.
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Can You Sue a City or Town for Falling on Ice or Snow?

By John Bazzurro

This blog is a follow-up to a prior blog on my website concerning the ability to sue a landowner where an injury occurs as result of a slip or fall on ice or snow. My prior blog discusses the liability aspects as they relate to private landowners. This blog will address the liability as it relates to the State of New Jersey and municipal subdivisions. Municipal subdivisions include Cities, Townships, Boroughs, Counties, and any other public entities that own property or control property.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question of whether a public entity is responsible for injuries when an individual falls on ice or snow on that public entity’s property or property controlled by that public entity is not straight forward. The short answer is that “it depends.”

In order to answer this question, we must start off with a brief discussion of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act which is contained in Title 59 of New Jersey’s Statutes. Specifically, the New Jersey Tort Claims Act was enacted in the early 1970s in order to provide citizens with the right to sue the State of New Jersey and its municipal subdivisions under various circumstances. Prior to that time, under common law, the State of New Jersey was considered a “sovereign” and citizens could not sue the “sovereign” for injuries sustained. However, when the Legislature enacted the New Jersey Tort Claims Act and allowed its citizens to sue the State of New Jersey and its political subdivisions, a number of exceptions were made. As a relates to this blog, the Tort Claims Act provided the State of New Jersey and its municipal subdivisions with immunity for snow removal. This means that neither the State of New Jersey nor its municipal subdivisions may be sued for personal injury damages where the injuries arise out of the failure to remove ice or snow. This is known as the “snow removal immunity.”

A review of the case law which has interpreted the snow removal immunity under the Tort Claims Act reveals a broad interpretation of its’ provisions to protect the State of New Jersey and its municipal subdivisions as much as possible. Basically, citizens are prevented from suing the State of New Jersey or any of its municipal subdivisions for damages or injuries as a result of the failure to remove ice or snow from its property or property controlled by it. This has been interpreted to include sidewalks, roads and highways. Further, this has been interpreted to include the negligent removal of ice or snow even if the State or its municipal subdivision attempted to remove the ice and snow, but did so improperly.

In order to determine whether or not the snow removal immunity applies in a particular case, it must be determined exactly where the ice and/or snow was located and whether or not the State of New Jersey or one of its municipal subdivisions either owned or was in control of the area. When the State of New Jersey or one of its municipal subdivisions actually own the property, the analysis is easy. However, there are other “pieces of property” that municipal subdivisions actually control for purposes of snow removal immunity which they do not own. One example are municipal sidewalks and right of ways in areas of non-commercial property. Additionally, it must be determined whether or not the entity actually qualifies for immunity under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. For instance, entities such as New Jersey Transit and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority are considered “public entities” under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act even though they are not “true” municipal subdivisions.

However, even if a slip or fall occurs as a result of ice or snow on property owned or controlled by the State of New Jersey or one of its municipal subdivisions, there may be other factors involved that prevent the application of the snow removal immunity. One example is where another condition of the public property causes the ongoing existence of ice and/or snow. For instance, where a drain pipe empties onto a walkway and, despite the fact that the snow and/or ice may have been been previously removed, it regenerates itself as result of freezing temperatures after the drainpipe places water onto the walkway.

One other warning must be discussed where one is injured as a result of falling on ice or snow on a public property. Any claims against the State of New Jersey or one of its municipal subdivisions must be reported to the State or the appropriate municipal subdivision within 90 days from the date of the incident. Failure to provide notice may prevent a person from pursuing a claim.

Accordingly, if you or a family member are injured as result of a slip and fall on ice or snow in an area that may be owned, controlled or maintained by the State of New Jersey or another public entity, it is important that you seek the advice of an attorney that has experience dealing with these types of cases so that your rights may be adequately protected.

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Slip and fall accidents

By John Bazzurro

As the weather turns bad, many store owners and landowners begin to ask what their responsibility is with respect to clearing ice and snow from their walkways, parking lots and sidewalks. Similarly, people begin asking whether they have a viable personal injury case where they have sustained an injury after slipping and falling on an ice and snow condition.

Typically, landowners (whether they be a homeowner, shopping center owner, parking lot owner, mall owner or storeowner) have a duty to make their land or premises safe for the general public and individuals that they invite on their land. Under general landowner liability principles, a landowner must take reasonable steps to protect people coming onto their property from being injured as a result of a slippery condition caused by ice or snow. This generally includes snow removal and salting or sanding to prevent slippery conditions from existing. However, the law only requires landowners to do what is reasonable under the circumstances to clear the ice and snow.

With respect to the existence of ice and snow on property that causes someone to slip and fall, the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the landowner’s action or inaction will be determined, in part, by the length of time that the ice and snow existed prior to person’s fall, the location of the ice and snow, whether any actions had been previously taken by the landowner to remove the ice and snow and whether other conditions of the land contributed to the existence of the ice or snow.

In addition to the landowners, other entities may also be responsible for the continued existence of ice or snow. These entities include tenants on the premises under certain circumstances, snow removal contractors and even those entities which may have designed or built the premises. Only attorneys trained in such matters will be able to properly determine the appropriate parties to investigate in that these cases are generally depend on the facts of each individual situation.

In these types of cases, it is important to preserve the evidence with respect to the existence of the ice and snow if possible. This may be done in many ways including, but not limited to, taking photographs, advising the manager of the store or facility of the fall and the condition at the time it occurs, and obtaining the names of witnesses if possible. Because the existence of ice and snow can be easily and quickly corrected (by shoveling or slating and sanding), it is imperative that the evidence be preserved as soon as possible.

If you or a family member have been injured as a result of a slip or fall on ice or snow on someone else’s property, it is imperative to seek advice of a competent personal injury lawyer to protect your rights as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case.
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Do You Have the Right Automobile Insurance?

In my day-to-day practice, I generally see two or three new clients per week that have been involved in automobile accidents. Unfortunately, about 90% of these people carry a policy of automobile insurance that does not allow them to sue for personal injury resulting from a motor vehicle accident. The purpose of this blog post is to educate the public with respect to its rights as they relate to iautomobile insurance policies and to inform the public of its options with regard to what type of car insurance they should obtain.

The State of New Jersey is one of many states that have a “no-fault” system of automobile insurance. What is exactly meant by “no-fault” will be discussed in a future blog post. However, it basically means that your own automobile insurance company is obligated to pay for your medical bills arising out of a motor vehicle accident regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident. In many states that have a “no-fault” system, there is generally included a “tort threshold” in either certain policies of car insurance or within the state’s statutes. New Jersey is one such state that contains a “tort threshold” in its statute. Sometimes New Jersey’s “tort threshold” is called the “verbal threshold” or the “limitation on lawsuit” threshold.

What does this “threshold” term mean as it relates to your rights as a citizen? Basically, New Jersey’s motor vehicle insurance statutes set forth that, in order to obtain money damages for personal injury from the driver of another vehicle, you must prove that you have sustained a bodily injury that fits into one of several categories. Generally, in car accident cases which involve neck and back injuries, an injured person must prove that they have sustained a permanent injury to an organ or body part that “has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment” before they will be entitled to money damages.

Insurance companies that defend motor vehicle accident cases use the above statutory language against people that have sustained neck or back injuries in an attempt to convince a judge or jury that any injuries claimed are not related to an accident and, even if such an injury was related to the accident, the back and neck now “function normally.” It is amazing how many juries “buy into” the insurance company’s arguments and refuse to find that a permanent injury has occurred. Once a jury reaches that conclusion, the injured party is not entitled to receive a monetary award. In my experience, juries have refused to award money damages to injured people that have sustained rather significant life-changing injuries.

You may ask what can you do to protect yourself and your family against such a unfair outcome. Fortunately, in the State of New Jersey, the automobile insurance companies are obligated to give you a choice as to whether or not want this “limitation on lawsuit” option to apply to your policy. Of course, it is better if this limitation does not apply to your policy. However, like everything else in our state, you must pay an extra insurance policy premium to have this limitation taken off of your insurance policy. Once you pay the extra premium, the limitation described above will not apply to you or any family members living in your household.

If you do not know whether or not the “limitation on lawsuit” option applies to your present automobile insurance policy, please feel free to contact us so that we may look at your insurance policy declaration page and advise you appropriately. If you do have this limiting option on your car insurance policy, we suggest that you immediately contact your insurance company or insurance agent to have the limitation removed. Generally, the increased premium will be no more than a few dollars per month but will provide you with in unlimited right to sue in the event you are injured in a motor vehicle accident.

Should you have any questions with regard to the above or other questions concerning automobile insurance as it relates to personal injury law, please feel free to contact our office.

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