A three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled recently that an injured motorist who carries only the $15,000 minimum in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits may recover more for medical expenses exceeding $15,000, according to an article in the New Jersey Law Journal.
The court issued the decision in response to two consolidated cases, Haines v. Taft and Little v. Nishimura. In both cases, the plaintiffs had been seriously injured in car accidents. The costs for their injuries were higher than $15,000, which was minimum amount of PIP benefits they carried.
At trial, both plaintiffs argued that New Jersey law should allow them to recover more for medical benefits than their PIP limits. The trial courts in both cases disagreed and refused to let the plaintiffs present evidence of higher medical bills.
The Appellate Division overturned both trial judges’ decisions. The Appellate Division’s opinion noted, instead, that the PIP benefits limitation should apply to “the litigation of minor medical expenses,” like deductibles and copayments, not to all medical expenses incurred as the result of a serious car accident injury in New Jersey.
The Appellate Division also noted that allowing people whose PIP benefits were exhausted to seek compensation for remaining medical bills did not amount to a “windfall,” because in order to get the additional compensation, the injured plaintiff had to go through the process of bringing a lawsuit.
Critics of the court’s decision include the Insurance Council of New Jersey and the New Jersey Defense Association, which contested the ruling. Both argued that the Legislature had intended to limit medical expense recovery based on available PIP coverage.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, an experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer can help you keep medical bills and other expenses from ruining your family’s financial future.