What the “Verbal Threshold” in New Jersey Car Accident Insurance Means
An accident in Clifton (Passaic County) in May 2013 that stemmed from a high-speed police chase left a New Jersey police officer seriously injured in a multiple-car pileup. This is noteworthy because police chases through heavily trafficked, highly populated areas have drawn scrutiny in the courts in recent years, as multiple crashes have involved third-party vehicles and even pedestrians. In such scenarios, the municipality and police department sometimes end up paying out large ($1 million-plus) judgments to the victims.
The Clifton case was unusual because it was an officer who was injured. In that case, the individual being chased was also injured and is likely to have charges filed against him.
Such cases illustrate the complexity of auto accident law in New Jersey, including where multiple-car crashes invite a look at the state’s no-fault insurance set-up. Some interesting points about no-fault should be noted by anyone involved in an accident:
- No-fault is intended to cover medical costs and your lost wages, regardless of who was at fault.
- Under no-fault, drivers must choose between lower-cost insurance that limits your ability to recover from damages and a higher-cost version for unrestricted recovery of non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering).
- In a lawsuit involving the lower-cost option, the injured party still has the option to prove a “verbal threshold” was reached when one or more of the following were found to meaningfully impact his or her life: death, dismemberment, disfigurement, fracture, loss of a fetus, loss of a body organ or its function, or impairment that lasts 90 days or longer. This would enable the individual to recover a larger amount of compensation.
It remains to be seen if the police officer’s injuries reach this verbal threshold, and whether his or his employer’s insurance requires reaching the verbal threshold before he might sue for non-economic damages. But suffice it to say, anyone involved in an accident where there is serious injury needs to work with a skilled attorney who can help prove their case in these often-complicated legal scenarios.