By: Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq.
If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, you may require legal representation for several separate matters including, but not limited to, municipal court appearances; a property damage claim for damage to your vehicle; payment of your medical bills, if it was necessary for you to seek medical attention as the result of the accident; and a personal injury claim for any pain and suffering you may have sustained. Your ability to bring a claim for pain and suffering sustained in a motor vehicle accident may be limited under New Jersey law.
Under the Automobile Insurance Cost Reduction Act (AICRA), an injured individual’s right to sue is governed by the “tort option” elected under his or her own automobile insurance policy – an individual may select the limitation-on-lawsuit option (the “verbal threshold”) or the no-limitation-on-lawsuit option (no threshold). If you have selected the “verbal threshold,” or if you are subject to the threshold as a matter of law, you may only bring an action seeking non-economic losses (compensation for pain and suffering) if you have sustained bodily injury which results in death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement or significant scarring, a displaced fracture, the loss of a fetus, or a permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
In the event that a claim for personal injury which is subject to the threshold cannot be amicably resolved, and a complaint has been filed with the court, the Plaintiff must provide the Defendant with a timely certification, in proper form and relying upon credible and objective medical evidence, that an injury which satisfies the statute has been sustained. Hundreds of New Jersey cases have helped define the qualifying injuries as categorized by statute. While death, dismemberment, and loss of a fetus are self-explanatory, a Plaintiff claiming that he or she has sustained significant disfigurement or scarring must demonstrate objectively that the disfigurement or scarring substantially impairs or injures his or her beauty, symmetry, or appearance rendering him or her unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect. In regards to displaced fractures, the Plaintiff must suffer “the complete separation of a bone” – a broken tooth has been deemed not to qualify. An injury will be considered “permanent” when the body part or organ has not, and will not, heal to function normally with further medical treatment.
It is worth noting that New Jersey has a Statute of Limitations that prevents the filing of a personal injury complaint or claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits after two (2) years from the date of the accident in most instances. Furthermore, if you wish to pursue a claim against a public entity or governmental agency, or any employee of a public entity, you must give timely notice of the intent to file a claim, which is ordinarily within ninety (90) days from the date you knew or should have known of the cause of action. Failure to bring a claim within an applicable time period may cause any claim you may have had to be barred forever. Therefore, if you have been injured and wish to seek compensation, it is imperative that you do so immediately upon sustaining injury.
If you have been injured or have any questions in regards to personal injury law, you may wish to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. This article is for information purposes only, and is neither legal advice nor the creation of an attorney client relationship.
Justin M. Smigelsky, Esq. / Timothy J. Little, P.C.
Timothy J. Little, P.C. is a full-service law firm with offices in Woodbridge and Chesterfield, New Jersey. The attorneys at Timothy J. Little, P.C. represent individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey including Middlesex County (Old Bridge, Woodbridge, Sayreville, East Brunswick, Spotswood, Perth Amboy, Dunellen, Colonia, Sewaren, Iselin, Avenel, Fords, Keasbey, Menlo Park, Port Reading, South Amboy, Monroe, Edison, Carteret, Cranbury, Helmetta, South River, Milltown, Highland Park, Jamesburg, Laurence Harbor), Monmouth County (Hazlet, Aberdeen, Matawan, Keyport, Cliffwood Beach, Middletown, Freehold), Union County, Ocean County, Somerset County, and Burlington County.