What Is New Jersey’s “Serious Injury” Threshold for Car Accident Lawsuits?
New Jersey is a no-fault auto insurance state, which means accident victims who have opted for limited coverage are restricted in their ability to seek damages from another party for their injuries. The victim must first look to his or her insurance carrier for reimbursement of medical expenses, lost wages and other accident-related costs. However, even if the no-fault option is selected, the insured can recover additional damages from a party at fault for the accident if it resulted in serious injuries. These include damages for pain and suffering, which can be far in excess of out-of-pocket costs.
The New Jersey Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act (“AICRA”) sets out six categories of harm from a car accident that meet the serious injury threshold:
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Displaced fractures
- Loss of fetus
- Permanent injury
Any person with a limitation-on-lawsuit insurance policy that experiences one of the six injuries (or the victim’s family in the case of death) may sue the at-fault driver for noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering. The first five types of injuries are fairly straightforward to prove. Permanent injuries are more difficult. They are defined as injuries in which a body part or organ has not healed to function normally and will not heal to that point, even with further medical treatment. In a lawsuit for noneconomic damages under this provision, the plaintiff must obtain certification of permanency from a physician and submit it within 60 days of the filing of the defendant filing an answer.
In addition, these injuries must be proved by objective, credible medical evidence, such as testing and clinical examination. Even soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, might constitute permanent injuries if they can be shown to be likely to have a significant and lasting effect on the victim’s life. A skilled New Jersey auto accident attorney can analyze your medical records and your explanation of the impact of the injuries, and then take the legal actions needed to recover the damages to which you may be entitled.
Personal injury lawyer Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq, with offices in Succasunna, New Jersey, has more than 25 years of legal experience in obtaining fair compensation for automobile accident victims. Please call 862-354-8931 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.