Choosing the right auto insurance policy can be a very confusing process. There are a lot of legal terms and conditions to read through, forms to fill out and sign, and confusing provisions to agree to. Most folks do not understand half of what they are signing.
However, there is one key aspect of auto insurance in New Jersey that is vital to wrap your head around before purchasing your policy; make sure you know the difference between zero threshold and verbal threshold policies, and which of these would be best for you.
If you make your insurance selection blindly without fully understanding what the policy entails, you could be greatly limiting the amount of money you and your family are entitled to receive if you ever suffer injuries in an accident. Below, we briefly explain what verbal threshold policies entail so that you can make a more informed decision about your insurance policy. If you have specific questions about your policy or about compensation after an accident, call Cordisco & Saile LLC for a free consult: 215-642-2335.
What are my basic options with auto insurance in New Jersey?
There are multiple things to consider when buying an auto insurance policy. You will need to decide which types of coverages you want, how much coverage to purchase, and how to tailor your policy to meet your family’s unique needs. You will also need to decide whether you want to go with the zero threshold policy (also called a No Limitation on Lawsuit Policy) or a verbal threshold policy (also called a Limitation on Lawsuit Policy).
- Zero threshold – Prior to 1998, all policies in New Jersey were “No Limitation on Lawsuits”. With this option, you retain the right to pursue full recovery (sue someone and collect damages) after an accident.
- Verbal threshold – In order to give consumers a more budget-friendly alternative for their insurance policies, legislators created a verbal threshold option in 1998 that gives motorists the chance to waive their rights to emotional damages after an accident. In other words, those who opt for verbal threshold policies cannot sue someone for pain and suffering, hence the name “Limitation on Lawsuit Policy.”
What are the pros and cons of opting for a verbal threshold policy?
The only real upside to choosing a verbal threshold policy is that it is less expensive than a zero threshold policy. But although your monthly premiums will be a little lower with a verbal threshold policy, you could actually wind up losing thousands of dollars down the road.
When you self-waive your rights to sue for emotional damages, you can only recover economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages. This could mean the loss of tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars you deserve after a serious, horrific collision.
Also, when you opt for a verbal threshold policy, the limitation on lawsuits is placed not only over you, but over your spouse and children, too. So, your policy choice hampers their rights to compensation as well.
Is it ever possible to file a claim for pain and suffering with a verbal threshold policy?
Fortunately, New Jersey auto insurance laws have provided an exception for verbal threshold policy holders that enable them – in very strict circumstances – to still recover damages for pain and suffering.
If your injuries meet one of the following six criteria, you can still file a claim for non-economic damages.
- Loss of a fetus
- Significant disfigurement or significant scarring
- Displaced fracture
- A permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
How do I prove that I meet the verbal threshold?
Some of the criteria for meeting the verbal threshold are straightforward, i.e., death, loss of a fetus, and dismemberment. Others, however, are more open to interpretation and are harder to prove. For example, what types of scarring does New Jersey law consider “significant”? What kinds of “permanent injuries” are justifiable grounds to file claim for pain and suffering? It is easy to see how the open-ended nature of some of the legal requirements for verbal threshold exceptions has led to a lot of highly litigated cases.
In order to meet the criteria for a permanent injury, you must be able to prove that you either permanently lost a body organ or its function, or that your injury permanently or significantly impaired the use of a body organ or member.
The key to proving your rights to file for pain and suffering when you have a verbal threshold policy is to collect adequate amounts of medical evidence that proves your injuries meet the criteria. You will need a sworn statement from a medical expert that specifically says you sustained an injury in the accident that is in accordance with at least one of the six criteria.
How do I maximize my recovery if I was already in an accident?
The easiest way to maximize your recovery is to opt for a zero threshold policy from the onset. Then you will have no limits on your rights to sue or on your recovery.
But some people either just do not have it in their budget, or they do not realize the importance of opting for a No Limitation on Lawsuit policy until it is too late. If you were recently in a serious accident and need help maximizing your recovery with a verbal threshold policy, we encourage you to call our auto accident attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC for a case evaluation as soon as possible. We caution you to not sign any settlement offers until you have run your case by a lawyer because you will very likely wind up with a lot less money in your pocket.
Regardless of what type of policy you have, we can help you file your claim, collect proof to support your case, and help you secure the highest settlement you are entitled to. Contact us today at 215-642-2335 for a free consultation.