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What New NJ Legislation Could Mean to You If You’re Hurt in a Car Crash
There’s still no doubt that you should max out your auto insurance PIP coverage. However, new legislation could actually help you if you’re hurt in a car crash. Changes in the law could lessen your concerns regarding recovery of unreimbursed or uncompensated medical expenses.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Joshua Haines v. Jacob W. Taft created a dilemma for many prospective automobile accident victims. In the first place, the Limitation on Lawsuits option cuts down on the number of reasons injured parties can sue for noneconomic losses.
Meanwhile, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) was designed to pay for medical expenses. While New Jersey law allows policyholders to opt for just $15K and lower premiums, it’s easy to see how quickly bills could rise above the cost.
The Haines matter consolidated two separate legal matters with exactly those scenarios. In the one case, Joshua Haines was driving his father’s car when he was injured in a car crash. Although he maintained the accident wasn’t his fault, his injuries didn’t meet the criteria described in NJSA 39:6A-8(a) as far as noneconomic losses.
The same was true for Tuwona Little, the other party in the consolidated lawsuit. Her vehicle was rear-ended and she was hurt. Once again, she was not eligible to seek recovery because she chose the Limitation on Lawsuits option when she signed up for automobile insurance coverage.
In both cases, the PIP policy limits amounted to $15K. Joshua’s medical expenses exceeded the limits by $28K; Tuwona’s were $10K over the lower PIP option.
Even though neither Joshua or Tuwana could sue for bodily injury, they both attempted to seek recovery for their medical expenses.
Supreme Court Case Denied Recovery for Medical Expenses
When a case makes it up to the Supreme Court, it creates new law. The court considered the issue of no-fault insurance. Ultimately, the court found that the Legislature really never spoke on what would happen if someone elected to take less than a $250K PIP option.
Since there was no law regarding the determination, the court decided that an injured party could only sue for unpaid medical expenses if they selected the maximum PIP option. The case essentially created a horror story for people who weren’t “hurt enough” to file a lawsuit – but who needed medical treatment just the same.
The Legislature immediately reacted with two separate bills that Governor Phil Murphy just signed into law. Senate Bill 2432 amends NJSA 39:6A-12 and concerns uncompensated economic loss in an action for recovery of damages for bodily injury.
What does this new law mean to you? If someone else’s negligence caused your accident, you can now sue for “all uncompensated medical expenses not covered by PIP.” You won’t be stopped from doing so just because you chose the lower PIP option.
This includes “all medical expenses that exceed or are unpaid or uncovered by any injured party’s automobile insurance medical expense benefits personal injury protection coverage, regardless of any health insurance coverage, are claimable by any injured party as against all liable parties. This includes any self-funded health care plans that assert valid liens.”
In the meantime, the enactment of Senate Bill 3963 addresses unreimbursed economic loss in actions for recovery under certain circumstances. The new law amends NJSA 39:6A-4.6 and means the amounts claimed for unpaid medical bills default to what falls under the NJ PIP fee schedule.
The law doesn’t allow medical providers to balance bill patients for amounts exceeding the fee schedule. The good news is that claimants injured as the result of an accident that wasn’t their fault can seek payment.
Of course, there’s still another reason that choosing the $250K PIP option makes sense. What if you inadvertently caused the crash yourself? How will you pay for your medical treatment if it exceeds the lower limits?
Have questions? The Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafajlo can help you with understanding your car insurance and processing a claim. We only are paid if we are successful in recovering damages on your behalf. Contact us to schedule an appointment.