New Jersey is one of about a dozen states that has no fault laws relating to motor vehicle accidents and insurance. This means your sources for recovering damages from the accident are more limited. When a New Jersey driver gets into an accident, he or she must first seek to recover damages from his or her auto insurance policy. New Jersey drivers are legally required to carry auto insurance that insures themselves against damages and injuries resulting from an auto accident. There are a restricted number of situations — in which certain statutory conditions must first be met — when drivers are permitted to recover non-economic damages. If certain requirements are met, injured drivers may file a personal injury claim against the other driver for damages caused by the other driver’s negligence.
When no-fault laws are applicable
New Jersey drivers who suffer minor injuries or sustain damage to their car in an auto accident are covered by their own insurance policies. Your first source of collecting damages is your insurance company, even if the other driver was at fault. To recover damages, you must file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim, something with which a personal injury attorney can assist you. However, drivers are only allowed to recover economic damages, which include medical expenses, lost wages and vehicle repair and replacement expenses. No-fault claims do not permit the recovery of non-economic damages.
When no-fault laws are not applicable
Only in a limited number of accidents are drivers allowed to bring a lawsuit seeking to recover non-economic damages. You can bring a personal injury lawsuit for damages against a negligent driver if your medical expenses reach or exceed a specified level (each state has a minimum medical expense requirement that must be met before filing such a claim). Drivers whose injuries are considered particularly serious and life-changing are allowed to recover non-economic damages.
The serious injury threshold
States with no-fault laws, including New Jersey, have a serious injury threshold for bringing lawsuits in car accidents that were caused by negligence. In New Jersey, injured drivers can only bring lawsuits in accidents that meet this threshold. This includes accidents that cause dismemberment, serious disfigurement or scarring, displaced fractures, permanent injury or loss of a fetus. Cases in which the injury is not considered a “serious impairment” are typically dismissed.
How an attorney can help an injured individual with a no fault claim
If you have been injured in a car accident and have a no-fault claim, it would be wise to consult with a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney at Smith Magram Michaud Colonna, P.C. can offer you advice, explain your legal options for recovery and help you file your no fault claim.