In New Jersey, the cost of private (non-commercial) automobile insurance is high. In order to reduce the private auto insurance premium cost, as well as give adequate compensation to personal injuries in NJ drivers, New Jersey legislation has a tight lawsuit restriction called the “verbal threshold”. For the right to sue option in one’s auto insurance policy, the New Jersey driver picks either “verbal threshold” or “no verbal threshold”.
Having the verbal threshold in an auto insurance plan limits an injured person’s ability to sue for damages restricted to certain bodily injuries in a claim against the driver responsible for the car accident. Choosing this option comes with a much cheaper auto policy premium. In contrast, a driver can get a car insurance plan with no verbal threshold, which is a more costly premium with a much broader right to sue for pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
In New Jersey What is “Verbal Threshold”?
According to the New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a), the verbal threshold law, the injured person must prove in their lawsuit that a non-monetary threshold was reached because their bodily injury results in any one or more of the following 6 personal injuries:
- dismemberment (loss of a body part)
- significant disfigurement or significant scarring
- displaced fractures (bone break)
- loss of a fetus
- a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
Having any of these six personal injuries in NJ means that a person can sue the responsible driver for the related pain and suffering (called non economic damage). The verbal threshold law requires a physician to provide certification with objective clinical evidence that the injured person has one of the six injuries. The objective evidence may include medical testing such as MRI, x-ray, EMG or other diagnostic studies.
Risks of Having Verbal Threshold on Your Car Insurance Policy
In New Jersey, most car insurance policy holders have the verbal threshold option, sometimes called “limitation on lawsuit threshold”, which is a limited right to sue standard due to the large savings on automobile insurance cost. However, the insured is taking a risk of not being able to sue for pain and suffering for certain bodily injuries that are not listed above.
Injuries known as soft tissue injuries, like a sprain or muscle spasm disc are unlikely to recover for in a verbal threshold lawsuit because damage must be a permanent injury. A competent attorney knows that proving the injury is a permanent injury will improve the chance for money settlement. Injuries such as a herniated disc, torn rotator cuff, or head injury also need a doctor’s certification that the injury is permanent.
Testimony from an expert in the medical field may be needed to clarify the type of injury and whether the physical injury is temporary, permanent, or pre-existing. If the injury is not permanent and is not one of the first five types of injuries, but includes pain and suffering, then the lawsuit is limited; however, the injury needs to be discussed with an attorney in case the injury becomes permanent.
To Whom Does the Verbal Threshold Limitation Apply?
The verbal threshold limit applies to any driver listed in the automobile insurance policy, including resident family members such as children without their own automobile insurance coverage. However, there are many exceptions in which the verbal threshold limit does not apply:
- A motorcycle rider is not limited by the option of verbal threshold
- Worker’s compensation
- Auto accident lawsuit for any lost wages, uninsured property damage, or unreimbursed medical expenses
- Claims against municipal and state government (public entities)
- Commercial insurance policies
- Insurance policy written in a state besides New Jersey
In New Jersey What is “No Verbal Threshold”?
According to statute N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(b), the no verbal threshold law, the injured person has the unlimited right to sue for pain and suffering for any injury after an auto accident. Having “no verbal threshold” in an auto insurance policy is much more beneficial because the insured can obtain compensation for their pain and suffering even after a negligently inflicted bodily injury. The injured party can also include separate from no verbal threshold any lawsuit claim for any economic damage of lost wages, or housekeeping expenses, or uninsured property damages, or unreimbursed medical expenses.
The disadvantage of choosing no verbal threshold is a noticeably higher auto insurance premium cost. As New Jersey attorneys we recommend obtaining the no verbal threshold policy because it is far easier in a lawsuit to recover money for damages from pain and suffering, then in a verbal threshold policy.
Contact Villani & DeLuca about Claims for Personal Injuries in NJ
Highly experienced at personal injuries in NJ, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca are knowledgeable about car accident laws in New Jersey. Our accident lawyers work diligently so the injured party can obtain the compensation that he or she deserves. Since a bodily injuries in an auto accidents are considered personal injuries in NJ, there are no legal fees unless we recover for you. Call Villani & DeLuca today at (732) 965-3350 to speak with an attorney or contact us online. We can arrange for a free personal injury consultation to discuss your auto accident and your right to sue option.