Is New Jersey a No Fault State?
Approximately one dozen states across the country have implemented some form of “no fault” car accident laws. Under a no-fault system, accident claimants generally turn to their own insurance company for coverage of select losses, including medical expenses and lost wages.
New Jersey is one of the few no-fault states to offer drivers a choice on their car insurance coverage. Motorists who choose the basic policy are typically limited to no-fault coverage after an accident. On the other hand, if you purchase a standard auto accident policy, your right to sue is expanded.
If you have been injured in a car accident in New Jersey, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The car accident lawyers at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi can review your insurance coverage and advise you of your legal rights and options.
Is No Fault Insurance Required in New Jersey?
Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, is the name of the insurance policy that provides no-fault benefits in the event of an accident. Drivers are required to carry PIP coverage whether they opt for the basic or standard policy.
The minimum PIP coverage required by New Jersey law is $15,000 per person, per accident. Drivers can choose between a policy that only includes medical coverage or coverage for medical care as well as certain other economic losses. Additional PIP coverage and a number of optional coverages (such as bodily injury liability, collision, and comprehensive) can also be purchased as part of the basic policy.
Depending on the coverage you select, PIP benefits after an accident may include:
- Income continuation, which pays lost wages up to the amount of coverage you select
- Essential services, which pays for necessary services you would normally do yourself, including cleaning, mowing your lawn, shoveling snow, or doing laundry
- Death benefit, which provides money to family members or estates
- Funeral expense benefit, which pays for reasonable funeral expenses up to the limit you select
Your PIP insurance will pay some or all of your medical bills and potentially other losses after an accident. These benefits are available regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
What Is the Purpose of the New Jersey No-Fault Law?
No-fault laws are designed to lower the cost of car insurance by eliminating small claims from the courts. Drivers who purchase no-fault insurance are supposed to benefit from a quick resolution of their claim, timely payment (as opposed to waiting for the case to work through court), and decreased pressure on the court system.
On the downside, no-fault laws limit the legal rights of drivers and passengers who are injured in car accidents. PIP insurance covers only a portion of the damages you may suffer and limits your ability to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.
Fortunately, the New Jersey no-fault law does have certain exceptions where third-party claims are viable.
When Can I Go Outside the No-Fault System?
As with many no-fault states, New Jersey law does recognize limited circumstances in which the party or parties injured in an accident may file a fault-based claim against another driver. New Jersey drivers who select the basic auto policy are only able to file a civil lawsuit if the accident resulted in:
- Significant disfigurement
- Significant scarring
- Displaced fractures
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent Injury
To recover compensation in a civil lawsuit, you must be able to prove that (a) you suffered one of these serious injuries in the accident and (b) the other driver was at fault for the accident. An experienced lawyer can gather evidence of the driver’s negligence and make a strong case on your behalf for damages beyond the losses covered by PIP insurance.
What If I Retain the Right to Sue?
If you have a standard auto insurance policy, you may have additional legal options in the event of an accident. The standard policy gives drivers the choice between a limited right to sue and an unlimited right to sue.
Under the limited right to sue, drivers and members of the household covered by the policy can only file a lawsuit if they suffer one of the serious injuries recognized by statute (see above). With an unlimited right to sue, motorists and their insureds can seek full compensation for damages regardless of whether or not their injuries qualify as serious and/or permanent.
Preserving the right to sue after a car accident entitles you to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver beyond what is covered by your PIP insurance. This includes all economic damages (including current and future medical expenses, lost wages to date, and loss of earning capacity) as well as non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
The standard policy also includes uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. If you or a member of your household is injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, your UM/UIM insurance will cover losses that the at-fault driver cannot. Receiving UM/UIM insurance benefits is contingent on your ability to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident.
Contact a New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer Today
The attorneys at Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have over a century of combined experience representing clients in auto accident claims. We understand the complexities of the New Jersey no-fault law, and we can help identify all of your options for compensation.
Our law firm is renowned for the results we achieve on behalf of our clients as well as the individualized, hands-on attention we give each case. The award-winning attorneys at our firm are committed to understanding your unique needs and fighting to recover all of the damages you deserve.
For a FREE consultation, please call Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi at (201) 585-9111 today. Our car accident lawyers are located in Fort Lee and serve clients throughout Bergen County and all of New Jersey.