In New Jersey, if you are injury in a car accident, the law may limit your right to recover noneconomic loss. This loss is the pain and suffering you were caused to endure because the injuries sustained in the car accident, past and present. At the time you purchase your automobile liability insurance policy for your car, which includes your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) endorsement, you will be asked to elect either the "Limitation on Lawsuit" option or the "No Limitation on Lawsuit" option. If your elect the lawsuit option, or make no election, you will limit your right to recover for noneconomic loss unless your injury falls into certain classifications as defined by the statute and the courts.
No Limitation on Lawsuit Option If you elect the "No Limitation on Lawsuit" option you will maintain your right to recover for pain and suffering without regard to the categorization of your injury. Limitation on Lawsuit Option If you opt for the Limitation on Lawsuit, there will be a small savings on your premium. This savings, however, may be outweighed by the loss of your right to receive a recovery if you are injured in an accident. Under this option, members of the immediate family of the named insured are also subject to the named insured's option. Thus, your option will also affect your loved-ones. Persons subject to the "Limitation on Lawsuit" option are barred from asserting claims for non-economic loss unless they meet at least one of six types of injuries. The six injury classifications are as follows: 1) death, 2) dismemberment, 3) significant disfigurement or significant scarring, 4) displaced fracture, 5) loss of a fetus, or 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.
A treating doctor must certify that the injured person has sustained one of the six injuries listed above. In addition, injury number six involving soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, muscle injuries, tendon injuries, herniated discs, or bulging discs, will also require a showing of proof of objective evidence of the injury, either by test results or clinical examination. Such tests may include MRI results. The injured party must also demonstrate that the injury had a serious impact on his/her life. If there is no showing as stated above, the claim may be dismissed by the court. There are certain situations where the Limitation on Lawsuit option will not apply even if you selected it. This option does not apply when the vehicle which caused the injury is a commercial vehicle, including a taxi, dump truck or tractor-trailer. It does not apply when the other car is an out-of-state private passenger auto whose insurance carrier does not do business in New Jersey. It also does not apply to a commercial carrier that does not carry PIP coverage, such as New Jersey Transit.
A privately-owned bus which does carry PIP will not exempt you from the Limitation of Lawsuit option. Given the complications associated with receiving a recovery under the Limitation on Lawsuit option and the relatively minor cost associated with opting out of the option, it is generally recommended to chose the No Limitation on Lawsuit option for your automobile policy in order to protect you and your immediate family. No one expects to be in a car accident. But they do occur, and they occur unexpectedly. "Hope for the best and prepare for the worse." Talk to your lawyer and insurance agent for what might be best for you.
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