New Jersey’s no-fault car accident laws can make navigating a car accident claim a challenge. Unlike the majority of states that require the car insurance policy of the person at fault for the accident to pay for a victim’s property damage and medical expenses, New Jersey’s insurance law requires residents to file injury claims against their own insurance policies regardless of fault in the accident. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Not only is New Jersey one of only 12 no-fault car accident states, but it adds an additional layer of complexity by making it a “choice” no-fault state with many options for coverage. But what does this mean for New Jersey residents who’ve been in a car accident with property damage and injuries?
What Car Insurance Coverage Is Required in New Jersey?
New Jersey drivers must carry at least a basic minimum no-fault, PIP insurance policy providing both no-fault personal injury protection for themselves and liability coverage for damage caused to another vehicle in the accident. This “Basic Policy” choice provides liability coverage for another vehicle’s damage because, despite the no-fault insurance laws, fault in an accident does apply to property damage. In other words, the insurance of the person who causes the accident must cover the property damage caused in the accident, but not the medical expenses of injured victims. In New Jersey, “fault” only matters for property damage claims.
Drivers may choose to add coverage beyond the state’s required basic policy. By choosing a “Standard Policy” drivers obtain coverage not included in the basic policy such as greater amounts of available compensation for property damage and uninsured motorist coverage which protects drivers involved in an accident with a driver who is unlawfully without insurance coverage. Drivers may also select additional “collision” insurance coverage. Collision insurance covers the costs of repairing or replacing the driver’s vehicle even if they are responsible for the accident.
Who and What is Covered by a New Jersey Policy-Holder’s Insurance?
New Jersey’s no-fault PIP car insurance covers more than just the policyholder. A single policy also provides coverage for the following:
- Family and other household members who don’t have separate policies of their own
- Anyone driving the policyholder’s car with permission
- Any passengers in the vehicle without their own coverage
In both basic and standard insurance options, New Jersey’s no-fault insurance covers medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement costs for injury victims who have to hire household or yardwork help while they recover. It also provides funeral and death benefit coverage for car accident fatalities. No-fault policies in New Jersey do not provide compensation for pain and suffering.
New Jersey allows many options for policyholders to adjust their premium rates. For example, choosing a higher deductible lowers monthly costs. Policyholders may also choose to select their health insurance coverage as their primary source of medical care coverage after an accident to lower their auto insurance costs.
How Much Coverage Does New Jersey’s Basic Insurance Allow?
Many drivers in New Jersey choose the Basic Policy auto insurance coverage for the lower monthly premiums. This policy provides the following:
- Up to $5,000 in property damage liability to cover damage to another vehicle in an accident caused by the policyholder
- Up to $15,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for medical expenses and lost wages for the policyholder after an accident
The Basic policy does not provide bodily injury coverage for others injured in an accident caused by the policyholder. It’s important to note that this leaves the policyholder personally responsible for injury damages to another in an accident and opens them up to a potential lawsuit. For New Jersey drivers with significant assets, it pays to choose more than just the basic coverage. Drivers can add up to $10,000 in personal injury liability coverage to their Basic policy for an additional amount added to their monthly premiums.
Does New Jersey’s No-Fault PIP Insurance Cover Property Damage to My Car?
New Jersey’s PIP insurance is personal injury protection insurance only. Your No-Fault PIP insurance covers your medical expenses and lost wages but not damage to your vehicle. To recover compensation for property damage to a vehicle, accident victims must file a claim against the insurance policy of the at-fault driver. For accident victims with both property damage and injuries, this requires two separate claims, one against their own car insurance for their injuries and one against the at-fault driver’s insurance for damage to their vehicle.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against an At-Fault Driver in New Jersey?
Under the Basic Policy coverage in New Jersey, accident victims have only a limited right to file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver to recover compensation for damages. Injured drivers who’ve selected the Basic Policy in New Jersey may only file lawsuits under the following circumstances:
- The accident caused the loss of a body part
- The accident left the victim significantly scarred or disfigured
- The victim suffered the loss of an unborn baby
- The victim sustained a displaced fracture
- The victim lost the normal function of an organ or body part
- The accident caused a fatal injury
Drivers in New Jersey who select the Standard Policy coverage can add an “Unlimited Right to Sue” option at an additional cost. This option allows injury victims to sue the party at fault in an accident even if they’ve suffered less severe injuries.
When filing a lawsuit for injuries either as part of the limited rights to sue under a Basic Policy or as allowed under the unlimited right to sue option, injury victims may file a claim for compensation for pain and suffering as well as for their tangible economic damages.
What Do I Do After an Accident in New Jersey?
As you can see, New Jersey’s no-fault insurance laws are complex and nuanced. After an accident, it can be difficult to know how to file a claim or separate claims for property damage and personal injury damages. After a car accident in New Jersey, taking the following steps can help victims protect themselves physically and financially:
- First, call 911 to report the accident and give reasonable aid and comfort to anyone injured
- While you wait for help to arrive, use your phone to take photos of the damaged vehicles and the accident scene. If you’re too injured to move, consider handing your phone to an uninjured person to take photos for you
- Then, add the contact information of involved drivers and any eyewitnesses
- Go to the hospital for a thorough examination and ask for a detailed medical report
- Gather your medical report, medical bills, and a copy of the police report of your accident, and call a New Jersey car accident attorney to help
Don’t navigate this complicated process alone. A Cherry Hill car accident attorney in New Jersey can help a car accident victim obtain the maximum amount of compensation owed to them by examining all aspects of the accident, determining fault in the accident, and identifying the appropriate insurance companies to file claims against.