In 1999, the State of New Jersey adopted the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act. The statute was intended to reduce the cost of automobile insurance; however, that purpose was accomplished primarily by reducing the benefits available to persons who are injured in automobile accidents. This means less coverage to pay for medical treatment and less rights to recover monetary damages from careless drivers who cause accidents. The following information is complements of ATLA and the attorneys that protect consumer rights.
1. Q. What choices do I have when I purchase or renew my auto insurance policy?
A. You are required to elect either the standard policy or the basic policy.
2. Q. What is the basic policy?
A. The basic policy (also known as the mini-policy) provides only $5,000 of property damage liability coverage if someone makes a claim against you and $15,000 of medical expense benefits (up to $250,000 for catastrophic brain and spinal cord injuries) if you or a resident family member are injured. The basic policy does not provide coverage if you injure someone else, however, you have the option of electing coverage in the amount of $10,000 for injury to one or more persons in the same accident if someone makes a claim against you. The basic policy does not provide any uninsured motorist coverage to protect you and your family if the careless driver who causes the accident is uninsured or is insured under a basic policy with no bodily injury liability coverage.
3. Q. If I elect the basic policy, will my insurance company hire an attorney to defend me if I am sued for damages by someone else who was injured?
A. If you elect a basic policy with no bodily injury liability coverage, your insurance company will not provide an attorney to
represent you. If you are sued - even if you are not at fault for the accident - you will have to hire your own lawyer at great expense to defend you or else you will risk the entry of a default judgment against you with the loss of your driver's license.
4. Q. Should I purchase the basic policy?
A. No. The basic policy does not provide adequate protection for your assets if you are sued nor adequate coverage for you or your family if you are injured by a careless driver. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT ELECT THE BASIC POLICY.
5. Q. What is the standard policy?
A. The standard policy provides liability coverage if someone makes a claim against you with minimum limits for bodily injury of $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident and property damage of $5,000. In addition, the standard policy provides uninsured motorist coverage with minimum limits of $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident if you or a resident member of your family is injured by a person who is uninsured or has no bodily injury liability coverage. WE RECOMMEND THAT
YOU ELECT THE STANDARD POLICY.
6. Q. Does the standard policy provide for medical expenses?
A. Yes. The standard policy provides personal injury protection (PIP) coverage which includes medical expenses up to $250,000 per person per accident. You may elect to purchase less coverage in the amounts of $15/50/75/150,000; however, if you do, you may not have enough insurance to obtain all of the medical treatment you need or to pay for all of your medical bills. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU PURCHASE $250,000 OF PIP MEDICAL EXPENSE COVERAGE.
7. Q. If I am injured, can I make a claim or file a lawsuit against the careless driver who caused the accident?
A. It depends on your policy and the nature of your injuries. If you purchase a standard policy, you are required to elect a tort option that will determine if you have the right to make a claim. You must elect either the limitation on lawsuit option or the no limitation on lawsuit option. If you purchase a basic policy, you are assigned the limitation on lawsuit option.
8. Q. What is the limitation on lawsuit option?
A. The lawsuit limitation option (also known as the verbal threshold) limits your legal rights to make a claim for monetary damages or to file a lawsuit against a careless driver unless you sustain one of the following types of injury.
Type 1 - Death
Type 2 - Dismemberment
Type 3 - Significant disfigurement or scarring
Type 4 - Displaced fracture
Type 5 - Loss of a fetus
Type 6 - Permanent injury
A permanent injury occurs when a body part has not and will not heal to function normally. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT ELECT THE LIMITATION ON LAWSUIT OPTION.
9. Q. What is the no limitation on lawsuit option?
A. The no limitation option (also known as no threshold) permits you to make a claim or to file a lawsuit against a careless driver for any and all personal injuries. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU ELECT THE NO LIMITATION ON LAWSUIT OPTION.
10. Q. Who benefits if I purchase a basic policy or a standard policy with the lawsuit limitation option?
A. You will reduce the cost of your automobile insurance; however, you will be giving up insurance benefits and legal rights in order to save money. The careless drivers who cause accidents will benefit because they may have no legal responsibility for your pain and suffering. The insurance companies who provide coverage for careless drivers will benefit because they may not have to pay any monetary damages for your injuries.
11. Q. How can I protect myself and my family if we are sued?
A. A standard policy provides liability insurance with minimum limits of $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident if you or your family are sued; however you may purchase additional coverage to protect your assets.
12. Q. How can I protect myself and my family if we are injured by a careless driver who is uninsured or unidentified?
A. A standard policy automatically provides coverage for injuries caused by an uninsured or hit -and-run driver in the amount of $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident; however, you may purchase additional coverage up to the amount of your liability coverage.
13. Q. How can I protect myself and my family if we are injured by a careless driver who is insured but does not have adequate coverage?
A. The amount of your recovery from a careless driver may be limited by the amount of liability insurance purchased by that driver and by the owner of the vehicle; however, if you purchase a standard policy, you can purchase underinsured motorist coverage up to the amount of your liability coverage.
14. Q. How much coverage do you recommend?
A. Most people feel that the minimum limits of $15,000 per person/ $30,000 per accident are inadequate. Many people purchase additional coverage up to $100,000/300,000 or $250,000/500,000. We recommend that you purchase liability coverage with single limits of $500,000 or the highest limits that you can afford. In addition, you should purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with the same limits as your liability coverage.
15. Q. How do I choose the type of automobile insurance coverage that I want for myself and my family?
A. When you purchase or renew your policy, you will be provided with a coverage selection form. We recommend that you make the following selections:
Standard policy - Yes
Basic policy - No
No limitation on lawsuit option - Yes
Limitation on lawsuit option - No
PIP medical expenses $250,000 - Yes
PIP medical expenses $15,000/50,000/75,000/150,000 - No
Uninsured/Underinsured - Yes, with same limits as liability coverage.
If you do not sign the coverage selection form, you will be assigned a standard policy with $250,000 of PIP medical expenses and the lawsuit limitation option.
16. Q. What happens if I do not purchase any automobile insurance?
A. The law requires the owner of every motor vehicle to purchase insurance. If you do not purchase insurance, you will be subject to civil and criminal penalties. In addition if you are injured while operating an uninsured automobile, you will not be permitted to make a claim or file a lawsuit against the careless driver for economic or non economic loss, even if you were not at fault for the accident.
17. Q. Can I purchase other insurance protection in addition to automobile insurance?
A. Yes. You can purchase a personal catastrophe liability umbrella at a reasonable cost that will provide additional coverage if a claim is made against you or any resident family member for injuries sustained by another person anywhere in the world due to the operation of a motor vehicle or for any other reason. In addition, some companies offer umbrella policies that include uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU PURCHASE A PERSONAL CATASTROPHE LIABILITY UMBRELLA WITH LIMITS OF $1 MILLION.
AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CHECKLIST
Since March 23, 1999, you will be faced with many new choices when you purchase or renew your automobile insurance policy. The failure to purchase the correct coverage will affect both your ability to receive medical care if you are injured in an automobile accident and your legal rights to receive monetary damages from the careless driver who caused the accident. We strongly recommend that you elect the following coverages to properly protect yourself and your family.
X Basic Policy (Absolutely Not)
X Standard Policy
X Liability Coverage (limits of at least $100,000)
X Uninsured Motorist Coverage
(limits of at least $100,000)
X Underinsured Motorist
Coverage (limits of at least $100,000)
X Pip Medical Expense Benefits ($250,000)
X Pip Medical Expense Benefits
(less than $250,000)
X Pre-certification of Medical Treatment
X No Limitation on Lawsuit Option
X Limitation on Lawsuit Option
WARNING: The basic policy provides no liability coverage if someone makes a claim against you and no uninsured motorist coverage if the careless driver who caused the accident has no insurance. If you are sued you will not have any insurance to pay a judgment against you, your insurance company will not assign a lawyer to represent you and you may lose your credit rating and your driver's license. NEVER BUY A BASIC POLICY.
SOURCE: ATLA- NJ We thank the Association of Trial Lawyers of America- NJ for providing this information to motorists in NJ. Please distribute this information to your friends.