A careless driver rear-ended your car and injured you and now you are forced to search for the best car accident lawyer to represent you. You want compensation for your pain and suffering, lost income and medical expenses.
This post is the final in a series concerning recent changes to the instructions that judges give to juries in personal injury attorney cases. It concerns the jury charge about a car accident victim’s medical expenses.
In general, a victim of a personal injury accident is entitled to compensation for medical expenses connected with an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. However, in car accident cases at least, there often is no need to ask for such reimbursement at trial. Indeed, in many cases, New Jersey law prohibits even the best car accident lawyer from asking for such compensation at trial.
That sounds unfair, doesn’t it? However, it’s really not.
HOW NO FAULT INSURANCE WORKS
You see, New Jersey is a “no fault” state. That means that your own car insurance will pay for your medical expenses. Even if you were not at all at fault for the accident. This insurance is known as “Personal Injury Protection,” or “PIP” for short. You should buy as much of such coverage as you can when you purchase auto insurance.
Thus, there often won’t be any major medical expenses for even the best car accident lawyer to seek reimbursement for. However, in the unlikely event that there are medical bills that are beyond the scope of your PIP coverage, then your car accident attorney IS allowed to ask for reimbursement for those expenses at trial. But note that, unlike with PIP benefits, you only will be reimbursed if the jury finds that the other driver was negligent and mostly responsible for the accident.
Furthermore, there is one unfair aspect of the law. For medical bills that your PIP covers, you can’t seek reimbursement for your co-pays and deductibles. Again, to minimize this problem, you should purchase PIP coverage with the lowest possible deductible.
As with almost any law, there are exceptions to the above rules in some cases. Moreover, as I write this, there are cases* pending in the courts that could change those rules. A good car accident lawyer will know those cases and exceptions and can guide you accordingly.
*Haines v. Taft and Little v. Nishimura.