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You’ve been injured in a car accident. What happens now?

You are hurt in a car accident, either as a driver, passenger, or a pedestrian.  Maybe its your fault, maybe its someone else’s fault, maybe its not clear yet.  What happens now?

First thing first, take care of your safety and health first.  Get appropriate medical attention!  But this is a legal article and we are going to talk about the laws that matter in this situation.  In this situation, there’s basically 4 things you have to worry about: (1) PIP insurance; (2) liability insurance; (3) uninsured motorist coverage; and (4) the verbal threshold.   We will cover each topic in depth later separately, so for now we’ll stick to a basic rundown of these issues.

PIP Insurance

In a simple sense, there are three types of coverage on a New Jersey car insurance policy.  PIP is short for “personal injury protection” coverage.  You also hear them called medical benefits or no-fault benefits.  Regardless of who was at fault for an accident, your own PIP benefits are primary to pay for any necessary medical treatment.  Unfortunately, doctors have to jump through a lot of procedural hoops to get treatments and tests approved by the car insurance carrier.  That’s why its important to make sure that your doctors accept PIP and have staff that can navigate getting the necessary treatment your doctor recommends approved by your insurance company.

Liability Insurance

Realistically, most people don’t have the money or assets readily available to pay for medical care or for a judgement against them if they are at fault and hurt someone, which is why we are all required to have car insurance.  Even if you get a judgment against someone individually, if they don’t have the money to pay it then its not worth the paper its printed on.  However, not all car insurance policies in New Jersey carry liability insurance.  And depending on the type of policy at issue, it might cover as little as 10 to 15 thousand in coverage.  While that sounds like a lot of money in the abstract, its nothing when that is all that is available to compensate someone for a serious injury or a family for the death of a loved one.  That is why UM/UIM insurance, discussed to the right, is so important.

UM/UIM Insurance

Another type of car insurance coverage is called uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  Think of it as safety net coverage.  If the person responsible for injuring you doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough liability insurance considering your injury, your own insurance policy will act or pretend as if its the other person’s insurance to provide a source of recovery.  However, insurance carriers fight just as hard against their own policyholders to prevent paying out on claims as they would against anyone else.  What’s more, there are different deadlines and rules that may apply in uninsured motorist claims that effect the amount of coverage available, who its available to, and what legal standards apply.  So its very important that you consult with a lawyer who understands this area of law.

The Verbal Threshold

Ok, so you were injured in a car accident.  The other driver was clearly at fault and his insurance company has admitted it.  What happens next is a combination of the insurance company claiming either that your injuries aren’t permanent or, if they are, they are due to something other than the accident.  That’s because New Jersey drivers are subject to something called the verbal threshold, a.k.a. limit on lawsuit option, unless they elect to pay more to get out of it.  This threshold is a hurdle that accident victims have to jump over to receive compensation for their injuries.  And insurance companies use it to delay, deny, and defend claims sometimes for years.

It bars the recovery of non-economic damages to cases of death, serious scarring or disfigurement, loss of a fetus, or any permanent injury that you can demonstrate with objective medical evidence.  What this means is that you could be horribly and painfully injured and not recover for years.  But if you are subject to the verbal threshold, that means you are barred from bringing a lawsuit because your injuries weren’t permanent.  And even if they are permanent, the insurance company defending the lawsuit will hire a doctor to conclude that your injuries aren’t permanent, were from some other accident, or were just age related.

The New Jersey verbal threshold is a really tough law.  And there’s no guarantee as to how things will work out or how long medical treatment or a lawsuit will take.  The only sure thing is that you need experienced professionals to help you navigate this process and protect your rights.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the law office of Barry.Corrado.Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. for a free consultation to learn about your rights.

Know Your Rights
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the law office of Barry.Corrado.Grassi & Gillin-Schwartz, P.C. for a free consultation to learn about your rights.

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