By, John Bazzarro
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 article is to educate the public with respect to its rights as they relate to automobile 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. This basically means that your own automobile insurance company pays 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 a “tort threshold” in insurance policies or within the state’s statutes. New Jersey is a state that contains a “tort threshold” in its statute. This is generally 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, because of this statute, in order to obtain damages for an injury from an injury sustained in a car accident, you must prove that your injury fits into one of several categories. Generally, in such cases which involve spinal injuries, an injured person must prove that they have 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 use the above statutory language in an attempt to convince a judge or jury that such injuries are not related to an accident and, even if such an injury was related to the accident, the spine now “functions normally.” Oftentimes, juries “buy into” these 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 even where the injured party has sustained rather significant life- changing injuries.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family against such a unfair outcome? Fortunately, in the State of New Jersey, you have a choice as to whether or not you 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. Unfortunately, you must pay an extra insurance 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” applies to your automobile insurance policy, please feel free to contact us so that we may 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 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 an unlimited right to sue in the event you are injured in an 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.
JOHN T. BAZZURRO, Esq. CERTIFIED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY AS A CIVIL TRIAL ATTORNEY
LAW OFFICES OF JOHN T. BAZZURRO, LLC
200 Meco Drive, Millstone Township, New Jersey 08535 Phone (732) 410-5350 Fax (732) 810-0006