Who pays your medical bills after a car accident?

There were over 276,000 car accidents in New Jersey in 2019, according to statistics reported by the state’s Department of Transportation. The vast majority were caused by driver error, with distracted driving being the most common — almost 1,400 were associated with handheld or hands-free phone use, followed by DUI, driver fatigue, speeding, tailgating, and poor passing behavior.

Accidents unrelated to driver error include roadway conditions, weather, and vehicle mechanical workings, according to legal website nolo.com.

Because car accidents and injuries are so common, U.S. drivers are legally required to have insurance that covers medical bills and property damage. New Jersey is a no-fault state, meaning no matter who’s at fault, your car insurance will cover the costs of medical treatment and property damage.

When choosing insurance, you can choose the level of coverage, which significantly affects who pays and how much after an accident.

Levels of coverage

There are two main categories of car insurance in New Jersey: standard and basic. Basic policies cost less than standard policies because they have fewer benefits.

A basic policy “is not for everyone, but it does provide enough coverage to meet the minimum insurance requirements of New Jersey law,” according to the State of New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance. “The basic policy could be an option for those with few family responsibilities and few assets to protect (including income from a job).”

A standard policy has different levels of coverage, paying as low as $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability to as much as $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. This coverage pays when you are at fault. The basic policy, on the other hand, does not include bodily injury liability, although that option is available for a higher premium.

As for personal injury protection — the portion of your insurance policy that covers your and your passengers’ injuries — the standard policy allows you to choose coverage up to $250,000, while the basic policy does not include this protection.

Major injury exception

Some injuries are covered up to $250,000, regardless of the policy you choose. This includes “permanent or significant brain injury, spinal cord injury or disfigurement or for medically necessary treatment of other permanent or significant injuries rendered at a trauma center or acute care hospital immediately following an accident” according to the DOBI.

The right to sue

If you have a standard policy, you can choose between having an unlimited right to sue or a limited right to sue.

While the unlimited option means you can sue the person who caused the accident for any pain and suffering you experience from an injury, the limited option means you can sue the at-fault person only if you sustain one of these permanent injuries, according to the DOBI:

  • Loss of a body part
  • Significant disfigurement or significant scarring
  • A displaced fracture
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent injury, meaning a body part or organ will not function normally again
  • Death

Even with a high level of coverage, insurance can be difficult to navigate after an accident. Hiring a personal injury firm can help you focus on your treatment and recovery while your attorney deals with insurance claims. The attorneys of King, Kitrick, Jackson, McWeeney & Wells can help you get back on your feet.

Request a free consultation by visiting KKJMLawFirm.com/contact.

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