Personal Injury

What You Need to Know about the Verbal Threshold

Automobile insurance policies in the state of New Jersey provide three separate and distinct benefits for policy holders: Liability Coverage, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage. In addition, New Jersey insurance policies limit a person’s right to bring a claim for injuries if he or she chooses The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold.

What is The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold?

Probably the most confusing and misleading part of the New Jersey Automobile Policy is The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold. However, The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold is one of the most important insurance options to be aware of as you are considering your automobile insurance policy coverage. Choosing this type of coverage limits your ability to bring suit for injuries sustained an auto accident.

If you choose The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold, and most people do since it is significantly less expensive than the Zero or No Tort Threshold, then you automatically limit your right to bring a claim for pain and suffering unless you have a “serious” injury. The law defines serious injury as follows.

  1. Death
  2. Dismemberment
  3. Significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  4. A displaced fracture
  5. Loss of a fetus.
  6. Permanent Injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability other than scarring or disfigurement. Any injury shall be considered permanent when the body part, organ or both has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.

The first five categories are rather straightforward. Significant disfigurement generally pertains to scarring which must be visible in order to be significant. For example, a large laceration in the scalp may not be considered significant disfigurement if a person’s hair grows over the laceration and covers it. With regard to a displaced fracture, it is not enough for the bone to be broken. A non-displaced fracture will not fall into category four, but may be considered a permanent injury pursuant to category six. In order to bring a claim for pain and suffering against the driver of another private passenger automobile, you must obtain from your treating physician a certification whereby the doctor certifies that you have one of the six serious injuries listed above.

Most litigation involving The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold involves category six, Permanent Injury. The law requires a treating doctor to prepare and sign a certification describing the objective diagnostic or clinical evidence of the permanent injury suffered in the accident as a precondition to making a personal injury claim for pain and suffering.

A claim for pain and suffering cannot be based solely on subjective complaints of pain. This is a troubling requirement since an injured person may truly experience, express and suffer pain as a result of the accident, even while it may difficult for a treating doctor to pin down objective evidence of the soft tissue injury.

In order to maintain your full rights to sue in the case of an accident, you need to choose the Zero or No Tort Threshold option.

For example, suppose you and another family member are in an accident and suffer substantial injuries, but they do not fall into one of the six categories listed above. If your automobile insurance policy includes The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold, you are not entitled to recover money for pain and suffering against the other driver, even if the driver was clearly at fault for causing the accident.

While we hope that you never find yourself in this situation, far too often we have dealt with clients who sustained injuries that require substantial medical treatment, yet have no recourse to sue because they chose The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold when selecting their automobile coverage.

Why Choose the Zero or No Tort Threshold Option?

Far too often, our clients tell us that they did not fully understand the ramifications of selecting The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold.  Instead, they chose The Verbal Threshold because it was less expensive and did not seem important at the time. Rather than consider other options or seek guidance as they made their selection, they made the easier choice of checking a box that could potentially cost them compensation in the case of an accident caused by the driver of another private passenger automobile.  (The verbal or lawsuit threshold does not apply if you are injured by the driver of a commercial vehicle.)

It is true that The Verbal or Lawsuit Threshold is a less expensive option. For this reason, many people buy it without considering other options or the ramifications of not being able to recover damages for pain and suffering.

At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, we urge our clients to review their insurance policy to ensure that they are properly covered in case of a serious accident. In fact, our attorneys are happy to answer questions you may have as you are making the selections and can help you understand the potential ramifications of your choices.

Other Ways to Save on Your Automobile Insurance Policy

While it may be tempting to choose The Verbal Threshold option for your auto insurance policy due to the savings you may garner up front, we recommend considering other ways to save money on your insurance, without sacrificing coverage.

Here are a few ideas that have proven to be effective in reducing the cost of auto insurance.

  1. Increase Your Deductibles – Consider increasing your deductibles rather than reducing your coverage. While this could potentially save you money up front, it is important to remember that, in the case of an accident, you will be required to pay the higher deductibles before your insurance kicks in.
  2. Take a Driver Safety Course – One of the best ways to save money on auto insurance it to participate in a Defensive Driving or Driver Safety Course, many of which are now offered online for a nominal fee. Check with your insurance company to see what type of discount you would be eligible for by taking one of these courses.  In most cases, a discount is available for every driver in your household that takes the course. And most importantly, these courses teach evidence-based strategies to help keep you safe behind the wheel.
  3. Use One Insurance Company – Most people carry renters or homeowners’ insurance as well as automobile insurance, and may even carry other types of insurance, such as an umbrella liability policy. Another way to save money on auto insurance is by using one insurance company for ALL of your insurance policies. You could potentially save a great deal of money off of your total premiums by doing so.
  4. Drive a Safe Car – Driving a vehicle with added safety features like air bags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and automatic seat belts, can potentially mean additional discounts for you.
  5. Shop Around – Be a savvy policy holder and shop around to ensure you are getting the best rates. If you are looking to save money, many insurance companies will entice you by offering lower initial rates.  Why not take advantage of these potential savings?  Additionally, many professional and social organizations offer policy discounts for their customers, such as AAA or AARP. You may also receive discounts for being a teacher or a member of military or another professional group.

Petro Cohen’s Personal Injury Team Can Help with Your Automobile or Motorcycle Accident

An experienced personal injury attorney is in the best position to make sure that your doctors and your insurance company are not ignoring your accident related medical needs; determine the existence of any thresholds to recovery and if they have been overcome; to closely evaluate all issues surrounding fault, the monetary and non-monetary damages and harm caused by the accident; to determine the likelihood of a recovery – to let you know whether your claim has merit and, if so, then to vigorously protect you and your rights.

The personal injury lawyers at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo have successfully handled thousands of automobile accident cases throughout New Jersey and have a proven track record of success. If you are involved in an accident or would like to review your automobile policy, we offer free consultations and you will not be obligated to pay any of our legal expenses unless we are able to make a recovery on your behalf.

Led by Barry D. Cohen, who is also one of the founding partners of the firm, the Personal Injury Department is eager to assist you with your accident claim and answer any questions you might have about your insurance policy coverage.  Barry is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Civil Trial Attorney, which is the highest specialty certification available to NJ civil trial attorneys.   Susan Petro is also a founding partner and has a proven track record of successfully litigating many personal injury cases. Additionally, Richard W. Gaeckle and Mike Veneziani the firm’s other personal injury attorneys, have a wealth of experience and are eager to assist.  Together, the team of PI attorneys have successfully helped thousands of clients throughout southern New Jersey with their personal injury cases. In addition to automobile, truck, and motorcycle accidents, our attorneys have dealt with a variety of serious personal injury claims, from slip and fall accidents, dog bites, or construction site accidents, to claims against public entities, wrongful death claims, traumatic brain injuries, maritime personal injury and boating accident cases, premises liability claims, pedestrian injuries, and many other types of personal injury cases.

We know you have choices with your legal representation for your serious personal injury.  Select Excellence! In litigation, you don’t get a second chance.

Contact Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo Today

If you, a friend or loved one were injured in a car accident, you may have legal recourse. The team of experienced personal injury attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo are available to review your situation free of charge, and help you to determine if you have a viable case. With decades of combined experience, the attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo will handle your claim with the focus, dedication, and respect that you should expect from your legal counsel.

Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has four convenient office locations in Northfield, Cherry Hill, Hamilton, and Cape May Court House. To receive your free consultation, please call us today at (888) 675-7607 to speak with a member of our team or e-mail us at info@petrocohen.com.

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