You may be able to bring a lawsuit against the drunk driver in NJ to recover for your injuries and damages. However, there are two important issues in determining whether PA residents who are injured in NJ auto accidents can bring lawsuits: 1. whether your auto insurance company conducts business in NJ, and 2. the severity of your injuries.
Let’s assume your car insurance company is authorized to conduct business in New Jersey, i.e., it also provides insurance policies to NJ residents, or otherwise controls an affiliate which does so. You will only be able to sue the at-fault driver and be compensated for your injuries if you suffered certain injuries, such as dismemberment, disfigurement, displaced fractures or permanent lifelong injuries. The reason is because of New Jersey’s Deemer statute, which deems an out of state car accident victim to have verbal threshold (similar to limited tort in Pennsylvania).
Despite the fact that you have full tort, which allows you to bring a lawsuit against an at-fault driver in Pennsylvania for non-economic damages (pain and suffering), and regardless of the severity of your injuries, your full tort status does not apply because your accident happened in New Jersey.
The Deemer statute, which can be found in New Jersey Statutes Annotated Section 17:28-1.4, extends New Jersey PIP coverage (medical benefits coverage), among other benefits, to out of state drivers who are injured in accidents while driving their cars in New Jersey.
Your insurance company, if authorized to do business in New Jersey, is required to provide PIP coverage, up to the limit of $250,000. Therefore, even if you chose to have $5,000 PIP coverage on your car insurance, you will be able to receive up to $250,000 in PIP coverage because your accident happened in New Jersey.
The downside of the statute is that it deems out of state drivers to have verbal threshold or limitation on lawsuit.
An injured driver deemed to have verbal threshold can only sue if his injuries fall within the very specific injury categories provided by NJ law. Click here to learn about the verbal threshold/limitation on lawsuit tort election and the right to sue after a car accident in NJ.
In Pennsylvania, drivers with limited tort status may be deemed to have full tort under some exceptions. One of those exceptions is if an injured driver with limited tort status is hit by a drunk driver. If the drunk driver is convicted of drunk driving or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), the injured driver with limited tort is deemed to have full tort. Unfortunately, there is no such exception in New Jersey.
The car accident laws in NJ are complex, and it is best that you consult the advice of an experienced car accident lawyer. We offer free case evaluations. Call 800.281.8695 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.
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