Traditionally, standard auto insurance with three types of coverage is required in New Jersey. "Personal injury protection coverage" covers medical expenses incurred as a result of injuries from an accident, up to $250,000. It also covers lost wages and essential services, which you can tailor to meet your particular needs and your budget. Uninsured/underinsured coverage protects you and the members of your household if injured in an accident in New Jersey with a "hit-and-run" driver or one that has no insurance, or if the insurance coverage which you purchased exceeds that of a negligent driver. Finally, liability coverage protects your assets and property should you negligently cause injury or property damage to another. It provides for a defense lawyer at no additional cost, and the amount of coverage can be tailored to meet your needs and your budget. You may also choose to purchase an "umbrella policy", which provides additional liability (and sometimes uninsured/underinsured) coverage, for a modest additional premium.
Effective March of 1999, the law was amended to allow for a "basic" auto insurance policy as an alternative to the standard policy coverage discussed above. The basic policy, though less expensive, offers only $15,000 of PIP coverage, has no liability coverage for injuries to others, and no uninsured/underinsured coverage. It does not provide for a defense attorney at no additional cost. It leaves your assets and property vulnerable to a legal judgment, and offers no source of recovery should you or a member of your household be injured by a "hit-and-run" or uninsured/underinsured driver. Proving the old adage "you get what you pay for", the basic policy provides very little protection and should always be avoided.
Every auto policy in New Jersey has either a "no limitation on lawsuit" or a "limitation on lawsuit" threshold. If you purchase the "no limitation" option, you may file a claim regardless of the nature of the injuries you sustain. You must affirmatively choose this option, and it will add approximately $300 to your premium. On the other hand, all other standard policies and basic policies receive the "limitation on lawsuit:option. If you have such a policy, you must prove that the accident caused death, dismemberment, loss of fetus, significant disfigurement or scarring, a displaced fracture or a permanent injury resulting in function loss. In addition, you must obtain a doctor's sworn statement that such an injury was caused by the accident in order to recover damages. Since the law provides that doctors can be prosecuted if such a statement is found to be "misleading", many doctors are reluctant to provide these statements. Since the introduction of such thresholds in New Jersey, many legitimate injury claims have been dismissed by judges who have found that these technical requirements were not met. Despite the additional cost, it is very important to choose the "no limitation on lawsuit" option.
If you need to consult a New Jersey personal injury attorney, you need to contact Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari. The initial consultation is always free.