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How does the New Jersey “Verbal Threshold” Affect My Personal Injury Case?

Posted by Matt Rooney | Mar 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

When buying a New Jersey auto insurance policy, New Jersey drivers are compelled to select either the “verbal threshold” or “zero threshold” option.  In actuality, unless you affirmatively choose the “zero threshold” you are given the “verbal threshold”.

Mos people are encouraged to select “verbal threshold” because they are told it translates to lower auto insurance rates.  Often times New Jersey drivers will select the verbal threshold without knowing how much the “zero threshold” policy will add to their premium. Selecting the verbal threshold may save on auto insurance premiums, but how does a “verbal threshold” provision come into play when you've been injured in an automobile accident? As we previously discussed t he “verbal threshold” does not apply to economic or out-of-pocket losses. However, to recover for pain and suffering injuries in New Jersey, the injured driver who selected the “verbal threshold” option must submit a physician's certification attesting that he or she sustained an injury or loss fitting into one of the enumerated categories listed in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-8. Like what? These prerequisite injuries include just about anything capable of restricting bodily functions permanently, e.g. the loss of a body part, significant bodily scaring, a bone fracture (break), or some other “permanent” physical injury such as a herniated disc in your back or neck. By contrast, drivers who selected “zero threshold” pay more up front in their premiums but enjoy no statutory limitation on their right to sue insofar as being restricted by the character of the injury sustained. “Verbal threshold” drivers have a higher hurdle to scale; without demonstrating a “permanent injury,” they will be unable to sustain a successful personal injury suit in New Jersey. The New Jersey Supreme Court addressed the verbal threshold at-lengh in its 1992 decision Oswin v. Shaw and, in doing so, established the supreme importance of the verbal threhold standard for Garden State personal injury plaintiffs:

We hold that once a court determines that evidence bearing on a plaintiff's injuries could, if believed by the factfinder, satisfy the statutory verbal-threshold requirement, any disputed issues regarding the nature and extent of those injuries must be decided by the jury. Of course, in the absence of any factual dispute the court shall resolve the question of whether plaintiff's injuries meet the verbal threshold. Therefore, if the plaintiff moves for a partial summary judgment on the verbal-threshold issue and the court resolves that question in the plaintiff's favor–that is, the trial court determines as a matter of law that under no view of the medical evidence could a factfinder conclude that the plaintiff had failed to meet the requirements of at least one of the verbal-threshold categories–then the jury's task (assuming it finds liability in the plaintiff's favor) is limited to a determination of the noneconomic losses. That was 20 years ago. Since then, tens of thousands of automobile accident case have worked their way through the New Jersey court system. Familiarity with the nuances of personal injury practice in the automobile context, particularly concerning the verbal threshold and associated case law, will always prove absolutely critical for plaintiffs particularly in the early stages of a case when the threat of pre-trial dismissal is at its highest. Don't let the complexities of New Jersey's legal system deter you from pursuing the recovery you deserve following your accident.  All is not lost just because you have an auto insurance policy with a verbal threshold.  The  personal injury attorneys at  DeMichele & DeMichele will thoroughly evaluate your potential claim, explain the litigation process in-depth and,   vigorously labor to compile the physical and medical evidence necessary to meet New Jersey's verbal threshold standard and establish a successful personal injury case. To arrange a free personal injury consultation with  DeMichele & DeMichele, please  click here to contact us  online today or call  (856) 546-1350 to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys.  

About the Author

Matt Rooney

Practice Areas: Family Law (including Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, and Domestic Violence); Municipal Court; Personal Injury; Residential Real Estate; Civil Litigation; Collections.

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