New Jersey insurance law can be a bit confusing, because even though drivers are required to have insurance, they are not required to have liability insurance. That means drivers are required to protect themselves in the event of an accident, but not the people they harm. Drivers can opt for a low-cost, Basic Policy, which pays for property damage and personal injury protection (PIP). Drivers who qualify for federal Medicaid can even purchase a Special Auto Insurance Policy (SAIP), which costs a dollar a day and covers emergency room costs following an accident. Drivers can also decide to flout the law and drive without any insurance. As a result, there’s a very good chance that a driver who hits you might not be insured.
When that happens, your remedy is to file a claim with your own insurer under your policy’s Uninsured Motorist coverage. If you have no UM coverage, you can file a claim against the policy of the vehicle owner, if that’s a different person from the at-fault driver. You might initially think that filing a claim against your own insurer will be hassle-free, but the truth is, your claim puts you in an adversarial relationship with the company. The adjuster who handles your claim may seem eager to please, but their duty is not to provide you with full, fair compensation for your losses, but to close your claim at as little cost to the company as possible.
Your claim can be even more contentious if you have “unlimited right to sue” under your standard insurance policy, or if your injuries are “permanent,” allowing you to exercise your “limited right to sue.” In either case, you would be able to claim “pain and suffering” damages, which would greatly increase the amount you can recover. Now, your insurance company has even more reason to treat you as a hostile party rather than a valued customer.
Complicating matters further is that your claim for economic damages (your medical bills, lost income, etc.) and noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) may exceed the limits of your policy. If that happens, you must get a judgment from the court against the at-fault driver, hold your insurer accountable for the maximum dollar amount under your policy, and then take legal action to compel the at-fault driver to pay the remainder.
Such a scenario might also play out after a hit-and-run accident or if an at-fault driver has liability insurance but not enough to cover your damages. To get a fair damage settlement or jury award that truly compensates you for a severe injury, you really need strong advocacy from an experienced injury attorney.
If you are injured in a car crash in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey, Seigel Law is ready to help. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free consultation and case evaluation.