By a Southampton & Marlton, NJ car accident lawyer.
Many injured drivers in New Jersey are surprised to discover that they may not be able to sue the at-fault drivers after car or truck accidents because of the type of auto insurance policies they have. When drivers buy auto insurance policies, there are many options, i.e., types of coverage, amounts of coverage, etc. One thing drivers have to decide is whether they want “verbal threshold” (a.k.a. limitation on lawsuit) or “zero threshold” (a.k.a. no limitation on lawsuit). Most drivers do not know what verbal threshold is, but often choose verbal threshold because it is less expensive than zero threshold.
Verbal threshold, stated in the simplest way, limits an insured driver’s ability to sue an at-fault driver for non-economic damages or pain and suffering if the driver is injured in an accident. However, the driver may be able to overcome the threshold if his injuries fall within certain injury categories defined by New Jersey car accident/insurance law. For a detailed discussion on the injury categories which overcome verbal threshold, see New Jersey Car Accidents & Verbal Threshold – Can Injured Car Accident Victims Recover Damages?.
New Jersey law also provides a few other exceptions where verbal threshold is inapplicable. One of them is if a person is injured in a car accident caused by a motor vehicle that is not an “automobile” covered by PIP.
Before we discuss what is an “automobile” under the law, PIP must be explained.
PIP pays for medical expenses resulting from injuries sustained by an insured driver in a motor vehicle accident, no matter who is at fault in an accident.
NJ Auto Accident Law – What is an Automobile for Purposes of PIP
N.J.S.A 39-6A-2(a) defines automobile as:
“Automobile” means a private passenger automobile of a private passenger or station wagon type that is owned or hired and is neither used as a public or livery conveyance for passengers nor rented to others with a driver; and a motor vehicle with a pickup body, a delivery sedan, a van, or a panel truck or a camper type vehicle used for recreational purposes owned by an individual or by husband and wife who are residents of the same household, not customarily used in the occupation, profession or business of the insured other than farming or ranching. An automobile owned by a farm family copartnership or corporation, which is principally garaged on a farm or ranch and otherwise meets the definitions contained in this section, shall be considered a private passenger automobile owned by two or more relatives resident in the same household.
Therefore, if a NJ driver has verbal threshold and sustains an injury that does not fall in one of the injury categories which overcomes the threshold, he may still be able to sue for non-economic damages if the vehicle that caused the injury is not an “automobile” covered by PIP. Such non-automobiles include commercial vehicles like New Jersey transit buses.
Help After a NJ Motor Vehicle Accident with a Commercial Vehicle
If you have verbal threshold and were injured by a commercial vehicle, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for non-economic damages. Call our office to schedule a FREE consultation.
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