Understanding the Limits of the Verbal Threshold in New Jersey

Categorized: General

Understanding the Limits of the Verbal Threshold in New Jersey

Selecting an insurance policy can be a labyrinth of barely-understandable provisions, unrelenting legalese, and seemingly unending signature pages. However, there is one important term, “verbal threshold,” with which a New Jersey motorist must be familiar, as it can make the difference between full and partial recovery for a severe injury.

Under New Jersey insurance laws, drivers have the option of selecting an option known as Limitation on Lawsuit – or, ‘verbal threshold’ – coverage when it comes to bodily injury and death as a result of an auto accident. The following examines this coverage limitation and the six exceptions to the recovery limitation as provided in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a. If you have questions about the verbal threshold provision in your policy, be sure to contact Cordisco & Saile LLC right away for more information.

Basics of verbal threshold coverage

In 1998, the New Jersey legislature recognized a need to reduce the financial burden of mandatory auto insurance coverage for lower- and middle-income New Jersey drivers. Without eliminating the coverage requirement entirely, the Legislature opted to allow motorists the option to self-waive coverage for non-economic damages following an accident – which are also known as “pain and suffering” damages and compensate victims for non-quantifiable injuries.

When selecting an insurance policy, drivers are permitted to select the type of coverage that best suits their needs and budget. However, there exists a large sector of people who may have unknowingly selected Limitation on Lawsuit coverage without realizing the significant restrictions this policy provision may cause.

Overcoming verbal threshold limits

In enacting N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8a, the Legislature carved out several exceptions to the policy restriction, which the injured plaintiff is required to prove in order to recover non-economic damages from the insurance provider. These exceptions include any of the following.

  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement and scarring
  • Displaced fractures
  • Loss of a fetus
  • An injury deemed to be permanent within a reasonable degree of medical certainty
  • Death

In the event of these scenarios, an injured victim who selected verbal threshold coverage may still recover the value of non-economic damages, provided she meets the necessary factual thresholds. While some of the categories are relatively straightforward (e.g., dismemberment, death), others require a bit more supporting evidence to succeed.

Nuances of permanent injury classification

Of these options, permanent injuries are the most highly-litigated matters, as these are most difficult to prove to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Under New Jersey law, there are three sub-categories of permanent injury, including:

  • Permanent loss of a body organ or function
  • “Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member”
  • “Significant limitation of use of a body function or system”

With regard to permanent loss of a body organ, function, or member, the victim must prove that the organ or member either no longer operates at all, or operates in a limited way. Consequential limitation is a limitation that is “significant,” or of some consequence to the victim. Lastly, significant limitation of the use of a body function or system similarly refers to limitation which is important or meaningful – as opposed to slight, mild or minor.

If possible, a victim should have a medical professional testify to the severity of his injuries. While the New Jersey Supreme Court recently did away with the requirement that the victim prove that the injury caused a “significant impact” on the victim’s life, the remaining requirements still necessitate medical documentation and “objective, credible evidence” of permanent injury.

Contact Cordisco & Saile LLC today for more information!

If you recently suffered an injury and would like to discuss the applicability of your coverage with a New Jersey car accident attorney, call Cordisco & Saile LLC at 215-642-2335 or fill out our online contact form today.  

 

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