At the top of most people’s list of questions after an auto accident is: how much will my settlement be? Will it cover my medical bills? This depends on many factors, and every case is different, so it can be hard to put an exact dollar amount or express an average.
One way to get a better sense of what level of settlement you may be entitled to is to understand New Jersey auto insurance laws, which can be a challenge to say the least. At Buttafuoco & Associates, we know how difficult it can be to comprehend what’s covered, for how much, and whose insurance pays in the event of an accident. An even more complex issue to understand, as our car accident lawyers serving Northern New Jersey can attest, is knowing when you can file a lawsuit in the event of a serious injury to receive compensation for medical costs (Simply identifying which injuries qualify as “serious” under New Jersey law can in itself be a challenge.)
In this article, I’ll attempt to illuminate some of the nuances of New Jersey car insurance laws, as well as a few key factors that will affect settlements after an accident.
New Jersey No-Fault Insurance
Oftentimes you’ll hear that New Jersey is a No-Fault state. In short, No-Fault Auto Insurance is when you file a claim with your own insurance company no matter who is at fault for the accident. However, there’s some nuance to this. At Buttafuoco & Associates, we think that one of the most important things for our clients injured in auto accidents to understand is this aspect of NJ Insurance.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
This is the no-fault aspect of New Jersey car insurance. Your personal injury protection covers anyone included under your car insurance policy (typically your passengers and yourself) no matter who is at fault in the accident. It is also worth keeping in mind that no matter the amount of PIP coverage, certain injuries, including significant brain injuries or injuries that require care in a trauma center, are covered for up to $250,000 in personal injury protection.
Property Damage Liability Coverage:
This part of your insurance policy depends on who is the at fault driver for the accident. This amount in your policy covers property damage for an accident for which you are liable. While bodily injury liability coverage pays for the medical treatment of the people who are injured (not including yourself).
Insurance Policy Types in New Jersey
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance lays out the specifics of Basic and Standard insurance policies in NJ:
Basic Insurance Policy:
This is the minimum required insurance in the state of New Jersey, and the coverage is very minimal. For this reason, most Northern New Jersey serious injury lawyers do not recommend it for most motorists. Though there are optional add-ons, these policies cover up to $5,000 in Property Damage Liability (damage for an accident you cause) and $15,000 per person in Personal Injury Protection (injuries for those under your policy regardless of who’s at fault).
Standard Insurance Policy:
Standard policies in NJ have higher amounts of coverage, for both Property Damage Liability and Personal Injury Protection, up to $100,000 and $250,000 respectively, depending on the policy. Standard policies also include Bodily Injury Liability from $15,000 to $250,000 per accident; this covers those exceptions when someone can bring a personal injury case against those at fault for the automobile accident.
Limited/Unlimited Right to Sue and the Serious Injury Threshold
Possibly more important than whether your policy is “standard” or “basic” is whether to opt for the “Unlimited Right to Sue” or the “Limited Right to Sue.” Your Personal Injury Protection covers economic losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages, but this does not cover “pain and suffering” or other non-economic losses. All of this can impact your settlement.
If you select the Unlimited Right to Sue, you can bring a lawsuit for non-economic losses for any injury. If in your policy, you opt for the Limited Right to Sue, you can only bring a lawsuit if your injuries meet the legal threshold of a Serious Injury. You can work with a serious injury attorney in Northern New Jersey to determine if your injury falls under this category, but the legal guidelines include:
- loss of body part
- disfigurement or significant scarring
- a displaced fracture
- loss of a fetus
- permanent injury
Working with an Attorney
These factors are just a few of the key elements in New Jersey car accident claims, and it can become even more complex when it comes to the specifics of any one accident and insurance policy. An experienced Northern New Jersey serious injury attorney can help your case as you get your life back on track. Even if your injury isn’t considered “serious” under the law, Buttafuoco & Associates can help you negotiate the payout you deserve from your Personal Injury Protection.
Call 1-800-NOW-HURT today for a free consultation.