Financial Compensation in NJ Auto Injury Lawsuits – Basics of NJ Auto Injury Law

 

Auto accidents and crashes are one of the top causes of death and injury in the State of New Jersey. In 2013, nearly 550 people were killed in auto accidents in New Jersey. Even though this number represents a decrease from the number of traffic accident deaths in 2012, the number is still high. About 10 people die each week in car crashes in New Jersey. Source: NJ State Police, Fatal Motor Vehicle Crash Comparative Data Report 2013

Many highways and major roadways in South Jersey are hot spots for auto accidents, such as the Atlantic City Expressway and the New Jersey Turnpike, to name a few.

car accident head on collision crashDrivers and passengers who are seriously injured in car or truck accidents in South New Jersey are often misinformed about their legal rights to compensation. Questions such as, “who pays my medical bills?” or “can I get compensated for my pain and suffering?” are very common. Below are the top 3 things you should know about financial compensation after a car accident in South Jersey.

It is important to note that NJ auto accident law is very complex. Arguably, New Jersey has the most complex auto injury laws in the United States. The information provided below is subject to change based on court decisions and amendments to statutes.

1. NJ is a No-Fault State

Like other states, such as Pennsylvania and Delaware, New Jersey is a no-fault state. This means that regardless of who caused the car accident, your medical bills are paid by your own car insurance company. Basically, if you’re injured and need medical treatment, your medical bills are paid by your car insurance company. Claims for medical bills are known as PIP (Personal Injury Protection) claims.

Many individuals injured in auto accidents in NJ often think that this scheme is entirely unfair. It’s perfectly natural to assume that the at-fault driver, the person who caused the accident, should pay the medical bills of the innocent party. However, many years ago, the NJ legislature instituted the no-fault system in an effort to streamline and simplify the claims process for medical bills. The idea is that this reduces litigation for medical bill claims and in turn reduces auto insurance premiums. Thus, auto insurance is affordable for everyone.

NJ PIP law is very complex. There are eligibility requirements, care/treatment requirements, deductibles, etc. In fact, PIP claims are one of the most commonly misunderstand aspects of NJ auto accident law. If you have a question about PIP coverage in NJ, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.

Related NJ PIP articles:

NJ Car Accident Law – Who Can Make PIP Claims? [Who is eligible to make a PIP claim after an auto accident in NJ? Under the law, insured drivers and members of the household can make PIP claims. There are different rules for pedestrians and passengers.]

Injured in a NJ Car Accident? – The Basics of Medical Benefit (PIP) Claims [What is covered under NJ PIP? Reasonable, medically necessary treatment, lost wages, and more.]

2. NJ Employs a Limitation on the Right to Sue for Pain and Suffering (Verbal Threshold/Limitation on Lawsuit)

Verbal threshold or limitation on lawsuit is another complexity of NJ auto accident law and is often at issue in many NJ auto injury lawsuits. Verbal threshold is a tort election that applies to NJ residents who have cars registered in this state. When you purchase an auto insurance policy in NJ, you are required to choose between verbal threshold and non-verbal threshold.

This election is critical, and unfortunately, many NJ residents choose verbal threshold because it lowers their premiums. There’s a trade-off though. In exchange for lower premiums, a NJ resident with a verbal threshold policy seriously limits their ability to sue another party in an auto injury lawsuit for pain and suffering.

The verbal threshold election operates like a filter. If you elected verbal threshold, you are not allowed to sue a negligent party for pain and suffering unless your injury falls within specific statutory categories which include: death, dismemberment, disfigurement, displaced fracture, permanent injury, etc. These categories act like exceptions. If you have verbal threshold and your car accident injuries fall into one of these categories, you get to make a claim for pain and suffering. Why is this important? Because in most serious injury cases, the bulk of a monetary award is based on pain and suffering damages. In other words, if you aren’t able to make a pain and suffering injury claim, your financial award would probably be seriously diminished.

3. Out of State Drivers May be Subject to NJ’s Deemer Statute

Auto accident injury law in New Jersey is arguably the most complex of all the states. Not only do you have PIP law and verbal threshold, there is the Deemer law. This law has been in effect for 30 years and has been the subject of much debate.

In general, the Deemer law applies to insurance companies which operate in New Jersey. A car insurance company operating in NJ is required to provide NJ PIP benefits to out of state drivers who are injured while operating their cars in this state. The typical example involves a Pennsylvania driver who is driving in New Jersey and gets injured in an auto accident. So long as the PA driver’s auto insurance company does business in NJ, the PA driver would be eligible for NJ PIP benefits (up to $250,000 in PIP benefits).

The flip side of the Deemer statute is that out of state residents injured while in auto accidents in this state may be deemed to have elected verbal threshold. Using the same example above, the PA driver may be deemed to have elected verbal threshold. This is true even if the PA driver elected full tort on their own PA auto insurance policy. Basically, the Deemer statute transforms an out of state auto policy into a NJ policy, once the person crosses the state line and enters NJ.

Related: New Jersey Car Accident Law – New Jersey’s Deemer Statute Explained

About the Firm’s South NJ Auto Injury Law Practice

For over 35 years, Philip Ciprietti has been representing residents of South New Jersey for auto injury cases. He prides himself on client-centered representation. For a free consultation, please call 856.983.8695.

For more information, please visit the NJ Auto Injury Law Library.

*Disclaimer: Every case is unique and you should not take any action or make decisions in your case without speaking to a qualified car and truck accident lawyer in New Jersey. This website page does not provide any legal advice or create any attorney-client relationship. Use of the contact form on this website or emailing Mr. Ciprietti does not create any attorney-client relationship. In addition, confidential information should not be sent through the contact form.