Judge: PIP Does Not Preclude Accident Victims from Recovering Excess Medical Expenses

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Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) limit a motorist’s right to sue for medical expenses to treat injuries suffered in a car crash? The answer lies in the interpretation of the no-fault insurance laws. If, after reading the following, you need a Hunterdon County lawyer to assist you with a similar situation, contact Ragland Law Firm located in Lebanon, N.J., which is in close proximity to Clinton and Flemington.

In a recently published decision, a Union County Superior Court judge ruled that people injured in an automobile accident may sue for medical expenses not covered by insurance regardless of the amount of PIP they carry. This decision contradicts an earlier ruling in which a Bergen County Superior Court judge concluded that those who choose to pay a lower premium for less protection give up their right to sue for excess expenses. (1)

Under New Jersey’s no-fault insurance law, motorists are required to carry PIP, which ensures even those who have no medical insurance would have coverage for injuries sustained in a car accident regardless of who was at fault in the accident. (2) In New Jersey, car insurance policies provide for a standard $250,000 in PIP coverage. Drivers, however, have the option of paying smaller premiums for less coverage, ranging from $15,000 to $150,000, or paying higher premiums for coverage in excess of $250,000. (1)

The recent ruling involved a 2007 accident in which two sisters, Cecilia and Nina Wise, suffered multiple injuries when their car was rear-ended by another car. Cecilia carried a PIP policy for $15,000, but the medical expenses incurred to treat their injuries exceeded that amount by more than $48,000. The two sisters filed a suit against the driver of the other car to recover those additional expenses. (1)

Previously, the Bergen County Superior Court judge concluded that drivers who choose to pay lower premiums for less coverage give up their right to sue for expenses that exceed their limit. The Union County judge, however, disagreed, noting that reasoning was not consistent with the purpose behind the no-fault law, which states accident victims should not be precluded from recovering unreimbursed losses, including medical expenses. He did note, however, that accident victims are prohibited from suing for expenses in amounts less than their PIP coverage. (1)

PIP insurance covers the policy holder and any relative living with them, as well as passengers in the car, anyone who drives the insured car with permission and any pedestrian hit by the insured car. (3) There are two parts to this coverage: 1). the cost of medical treatment; and 2). reimbursement of certain other expenses incurred due to the injuries. Such expenses could include the cost of hiring someone to care for your family or home or to cover lost wages while you are injured. You can choose to purchase both parts of the coverage or just the medical expense coverage. (2)

If you or someone you know is injured in an automobile accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Ragland Law Firm in Lebanon, N.J.

(1) http://www.law.com/jsp/nj/PubArticleNJ.jsp?id=1202542808973&slreturn=1
(2) http://www.njm.com/Auto/Faqs.asp

(3) http://insurance.lawyers.com/auto-insurance/No-Fault-Insurance-Whats-Covered-and-Whats-Not.html

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