A driver in New Jersey who carries only the $15,000 minimum in personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance benefits may seek compensation for medical expenses above and beyond that amount if they are injured by another’s negligence, according to a recent ruling from the New Jersey Appellate Division.
New Jersey law contains rules that limit “minor medical expenses,” like copayments and deductibles, to the limits of the injured motorist’s PIP coverage. The Appellate Division, however, declined to interpret that rule as meaning that injured motorists could not recover any damages beyond the $15,000 PIP limit.
The Appellate Division heard two consolidated cases that posed similar issues. In both cases, the court had refused to hear testimony from the injured plaintiff about the medical bills they had incurred that topped $15,000. In each case, the trial court had decided that New Jersey’s limitations on recovery meant that the injured plaintiffs couldn’t recover more than $15,000 from the negligent drivers who had injured them.
The Appellate Division, however, disagreed. The three-judge panel found instead that “major medical expenses,” such as those the injured plaintiffs had incurred, were not subject to the PIP limitation. Therefore, the trial courts should have allowed those plaintiffs to present evidence about their excess medical bills and to present their case for compensation for those medical bills to the court.
Opponents of the ruling include the Insurance Council of New Jersey and the New Jersey Defense Association, which argued that the legislature clearly intended to limit recovery for medical expenses to the PIP options drivers chose in their policies—even when those limits were too low to cover all their actual medical bills.
If you’ve been injured in a New Jersey car accident, don’t wait: contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you investigate your claim, negotiate with insurance companies, and seek the compensation you deserve.