Your Right to Recover Damages for Personal Injuries Suffered in a Motor Vehicle Accident Can Be Limited by the Tort Option You Select When Purchasing Automobile Insurance
When purchasing automobile insurance, many New Jersey drivers unknowingly limit their right to recover full and fair compensation for personal injuries suffered in an accident by choosing the Limitation on Lawsuit tort option without being fully informed of the impact of the tort option selection.
Sadly, often it is only after they or a family member has suffered injury due to the negligence of a drunk driver or careless driver, that the full impact of the tort option selection becomes apparent, and in many instances, they are legally barred from fair and just compensation for the injuries suffered because of the other driver’s negligence.
Why are there Tort Options?
The cost of automobile insurance in New Jersey has long been among the highest throughout the country. In an effort to reduce premium costs while still providing sufficient compensation to drivers, the NJ legislature passed the “Limitation on Lawsuit” tort option law, which offers the consumer a discount on the cost of their insurance premium in return for giving up the right to be compensated for personal injuries unless at least one of the injuries is one of six (6) serious injuries defined by the statute.
Under that law, all standard auto insurance policies in New Jersey require the consumer to choose from one of two options with respect to their right to recover compensation from the party responsible for causing them personal injuries in an accident. The first option is the Limitation on Lawsuit option, which permits you to recover damages only if you have suffered at least one of certain defined injuries. The second option is the
No Limitation on Lawsuit option, which allows you to recover for any provable injury.
Note that the selection of the “Limitation on Lawsuit” option will restrict the right of both you and your immediate family members (defined as spouse or child) from recovering damages in a lawsuit against the person who caused you or your loved one’s injuries.
Persons subject to the Limitation on Lawsuit tort option are barred from recovering damages for pain, suffering and disability (non-economic loss) unless they have suffered at least one of six (6) types of permanent injuries:
(3) Loss of a fetus
(4) Significant disfigurement or scarring; (Note: Significant refers to the subjective view of an observer, and not the opinion of the injured person.)
(5) Displaced fractures; (simple fractures do not satisfy the threshold unless they cause a permanent injury after healing)
(6) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement. An injury shall be considered permanent when the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.
- To recover damages, you must prove by objective evidence that your injuries meet one of the six (6) criteria mandated by the statute.
- Imposes the Limitation on Lawsuit on your spouse and all of your children and step-children living in your household
- Requires you to obtain a sworn statement from your doctor(s) when filing suit, certifying that you sustained an injury in accordance with one of the six injury criteria noted above
- At risk of a denial of your claim by the adverse insurance company or a dismissal of your claim by the Court based upon only medical reports and description of the injuries.
Note that the only advantage to the Limitation on Lawsuit option is that it is less expensive than the No Limitation on Lawsuit option.
Summary of the No Limitation on Lawsuit Option
The No Limitation on Lawsuit option permits the covered person to receive full and fair compensation for pain, suffering and disability caused by all provable personal injuries, permanent or temporary in nature, without limitation.
Important advantages of the No Limitation on Lawsuit option are:
- Provides the greatest level of security to you and your family members.
- Permits claims for all NJ auto accident injuries, regardless of the nature or extent of the injuries.
- Does not require a sworn statement from your doctor(s), certifying that the injuries are meet the criteria sufficient to satisfy the Limitation on Lawsuit statute.
- Is not subject to dismissal by a Judge, due to the nature or permanency of the injuries before trial.
- Eliminates the defense of a lack of permanency as a bar to recovery.
Note that the only disadvantage to the No Limitation on Lawsuit option is that the option is more expensive than the Limitation on lawsuit option.
A serious auto accident can have lifelong effects on your quality of life and finances. The selection of the tort option can have a profound impact on your ability to receive full and fair compensation for your injuries and those of your immediate family members. It is a selection which should be carefully considered after being fully informed of the implications of the selection.
In this article, we have discussed how to select coverage options to best insure yourself with respect to two important automobile insurance coverage options: The No Limitation on Lawsuit option and the Limitation on Lawsuit option. If you have a question about any auto insurance coverage options, or have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please call our office and one of our personal injury trial attorneys will assist.