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Q. A company broke a contract it had with me. What rights do I have?
A. Various remedies exist for a breach of contract. Typically, a person injured by a breach of contract can seek compensatory damages (basically, money) in court. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate a person for injury or loss and are designed to restore the injured party to the position he would have been in if performance had been rendered as promised.
Q. What are "damages"?
A. Very simply, in law, the word "damages" means money.
Q. A business acquaintance said I breached a contract with him, but I never signed anything, so if he sues me I should win, right?
A. Not necessarily. Naturally, the specific circumstances usually dictate who will prevail in court. The mere fact that you did not sign a contract does not automatically mean you will prevail because not all contracts must be in writing. New Jersey's statute of frauds sets forth what types of contracts must be in writing to be enforceable.
Q. What is a statute of limitations?
A. A statute of limitations is a period by which a formal complaint or charge must be filed or leveled in court. The time period may vary depending on the type of claim.
Q. How much does litigation cost?
A. If you retain the services of a New Jersey attorney at law to represent you in litigation, you usually can expect to pay both the attorney's fee and out-of-pocket costs. Not all circumstances are the same. For example, in a case involving personal injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident, it is customary for the injured person to retain a personal injury lawyer on a contingent-fee basis. This means that the attorney's fee is a percentage of the amount the injured person recovers; if there is no recovery, the attorney does not receive a fee. In other types of litigation, the client may be asked to pay the attorney based upon the amount of time the attorney spends on the case, such as on an hourly basis.
Q. If I win my case, will the other side have to pay my attorney's fees?
A. New Jersey follows what is known as the "American rule," which provides that litigants must bear their own legal expenses. There are some exceptions, however. If a contract, rule, or statute, such as the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, authorizes an award of legal fees, then the prevailing party may be able to receive legal expenses from the losing party.
Q. How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
A. To sustain a valid personal injury case, the injured person (plaintiff) must be able to prove that he or she suffered a significant injury because of someone else's (defendant) fault.
Q. What is PIP?
A. PIP stands for personal injury protection. Under New Jersey law, automobile insurance policies written for private passenger vehicles require personal injury protection benefits for certain classes of persons without regard to who is at fault in causing the accident. This is what we call "no fault."
Q. What is underinsured motorist coverage?
A. Underinsured motorist coverage is that aspect of your automobile insurance policy insuring you against the possibility you may be injured or suffer property damage in an accident caused by a motor vehicle insured against liability in an amount that will not pay the total loss. In other words, if all requirements are met, a person may be entitled to recover compensation from his or her own insurance company if the person causing the harm does not have enough liability insurance coverage.
Q. What are some alternatives to litigation?
A. Two commonly used a lternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods are arbitration and mediation.
Q. What is the difference between arbitration and mediation?
A. Arbitration is a mechanism by which the disputing parties employ a neutral third party (arbitrator) who listens to both sides of the case and makes a decision on the outcome. This decision may be binding or may be subject to further review. The process usually is less formal than a trial in court. Mediation also uses a neutral third party (mediator), but in a nonadversarial, cooperative process to facilitate discussion with a goal of reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution.
Have other questions? Call my office in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, at (609) 953-2000 to get more answers to your litigation questions. If you prefer, send me an email.