If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, your ability to file a successful personal injury lawsuit in New Jersey will be based, in part, on whether you elected the verbal threshold on your auto insurance policy.
The New Jersey Personal Injury Verbal Threshold
The election of the verbal threshold has an enormous impact on the ability of an injured plaintiff to seek just compensation for non-economic injuries. As was intended by the Legislature, the limitation on lawsuit option has drastically reduced the number of viable claims and rendered many otherwise meritorious claims worthless. As a result of the foregoing, when a client has been injured in an automobile accident, it is essential that practitioners be able to accurately determine whether the limitation on lawsuit option will apply.
New Jersey law typically requires a two-part test in order to determine if a person is subject to the verbal Tthreshold.
The first part of the test requires an analysis of the status of the defendant. The central issue is whether the defendant was, at the time of the automobile accident, the owner or operator of an automobile and is entitled to receive No Fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Benefits under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.9.
The second part of the test involves an analysis of the status of the plaintiff. Specifically, the plaintiff must either be subject to the verbal threshold and be required to maintain PIP coverage (or medical expense benefits under the basic policy provisions of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3.1), or have a right to receive PIP benefits under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4 when he or she sustains a bodily injury from the use of an automobile.
Expressed in other terms, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8(a) expressly exempts a defendant from liability for non-economic loss to a person who is “subject to” the Verbal Threshold Statute and is either required to maintain PIP coverage or is entitled to receive PIP benefits (or medical expense benefits under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3.1) when a plaintiff has sustained a bodily injury arising from the use of an automobile that does not meet the threshold.11
The categories of people covered under the Verbal Threshold Statute are linked to a policy where the option was either purposefully selected or applies by operation of law.
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