You Need to Check Your Policy Before You’re Hurt in a Car Accident
More than likely, you’re familiar with the old adage. In many circumstances, there’s truth in the words that “the best defense is a good offense.” One could say that applies to your automobile insurance policy. You need to check it before you’re hurt in a car accident.
Over the years, it’s become more difficult to sue for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes. Tort reform made it cost prohibitive for many to keep their options open when it came to making claims. A great number of New Jersey drivers save money by selecting a limitation on lawsuit or verbal threshold option on their policies.
Truth be told, the cost differential often represents a jump in premium prices. You are not necessarily precluded from pursuing a lawsuit. However, an experienced personal injury attorney can best explain how your tort option choices limit you.
Check Your Policy for the PIP Option
In the meantime, when you purchase car insurance, you also make a selection regarding Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Among other things, this is the portion of your policy that provides payment of your medical bills.
Everyone likes to save money. Meanwhile, there are a few things you need to know about PIP coverage. In some cases, your health insurance carrier might agree to pay your bills if you’re involved in a car crash. However, if you sue the negligent driver, you can count on reimbursing the money paid out for medical bills.
Under New Jersey law, you’re required to maintain at least $15,000 for PIP coverage. As you can guess, that can easily max out with just a few medical tests and a trip to the hospital.
The cost of upgrading your PIP option to $250,000 is a nominal increase. Your automobile insurance policy becomes primary for your medical expenses. You will not be required to pay them back if you are involved in an accident.
Concerns about subrogation from your health insurance carrier aren’t the only issue. A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case adds to the urgency in making sure you’ve selected the right PIP option.
Plaintiffs Both Had Bills from Car Accidents
The court consolidated two cases in deciding the appeal of Haines v. Taft. Many legal experts refer to it as a game changer as it relates to New Jersey’s no-fault laws.
First, there’s the case of Joshua Haines. While he was driving his father’s car, he suffered personal injuries and incurred medical bills in excess of $43K. Since he was entitled to PIP coverage under his father’s policy, Joshua submitted the expenses to his father’s insurance carrier.
One problem. The policy only covered $15K for medical expenses. Additionally, the nature of Joshua’s injuries did not reach the standard necessary to pursue a lawsuit. (The father’s policy included the limitation on lawsuit option as well.)
In the end. Joshua had $28K in uncovered medical expenses as a result of an accident that was not his fault. He retained a law firm to sue for his losses.
Meanwhile, the other plaintiff in the case had a similar dilemma. She chose the lower PIP coverage for her policy. And, her bills went $10K over the coverage amount.
You Need Maximum PIP Coverage
When the case reached the highest New Jersey court, one thing became clear. Every New Jersey driver should make sure they select the $250K as their PIP option. Here’s why.
In these two cases, the higher PIP limits would have covered both plaintiffs. There would be no worries about outstanding bills. Of course, that’s the most obvious reassurance.
However, there’s more. The Supreme Court reviewed the intentions of the Legislature in setting up no-fault insurance laws in New Jersey. It was not acceptable to pursue a claim for economic loss against an at-fault driver just because that individual elected nominal coverage.
What’s the bottom line? If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer injuries in a car accident, you’re protected by the higher PIP coverage. You can sue for economic loss for bills in excess of the $250K. Of course, if you meet that threshold, you might also bypass issues if you’ve selected to limit your right to sue.
No doubt you already have concerns regarding your choices on automobile insurance. At the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone, we proactively assist clients in making decisions that could ultimately impact them. Need help? Give us a call and let us guide you through the process.