Car accidents are frightening, stressful experiences made even more so when you’re worried about who is going to pay the mounting bills after the crash. In no-fault states like New Jersey and New York, it can be even more confusing to figure out how you’re going to be fairly compensated for your losses after an accident. In this blog post, we’ll walk through your options for how to get your bills paid after a car accident in New Jersey.
No-Fault Insurance States
New Jersey and New York are both no-fault insurance states, which means that your own insurance is responsible and the primary insurer for covering the cost of most damages from the accident, including medical treatment, regardless of fault. In New Jersey, all drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) which covers medical bills and optionally lost wages and can choose between Basic and Standard options.
While it may sound surprising, your own insurance company will be the first option for seeking compensation to pay your bills after a car accident. In addition to personal injury protection, your insurance policy also covers property damage and optionally damage to your own car caused by a collision.
Standard vs Basic PIP Options in New Jersey
The minimum amount of personal injury protection insurance a driver must purchase in New Jersey is $15,000 -- regardless of whether or not they choose the Basic or Standard policy. Drivers can opt for coverage amounts as high as $250,000 with a Standard policy. Keep in mind, these coverage amounts are intended to pay for your medical expenses and optionally lost wages if you are injured in an auto accident. Even for relatively minor injuries, $15,000 may barely put a dent in the medical expenses. If you find that your medical bills and other expenses are more than your own coverage -- and the other driver is at fault -- you can consider filing an injury claim against the other driver’s insurer.
Compensation After an Injury Car Accident in New Jersey
Regardless of if you’re filing a claim with your own insurer or the at-fault driver’s insurer, your compensation demands should seek to make you financially whole from the losses of the accident. Compensation in a car accident claim can include:
- Doctors and hospital bills
- Diagnostic medical fees
- Prescription costs
- Medical devices
- Lost income from time away from work while recovering
Other elements of compensation include non-economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. These types of damages are intangible, meaning there isn’t a specific dollar amount to account for this kind of loss. However, in cases of serious injury, non-economic damages can be up to 5 times the amount of economic damages (medical expenses and lost wages).
What Happens if the Other Driver Is Underinsured or Has No Insurance?
Basic insurance policies in New Jersey offer no coverage for underinsured motorist claims. Typically these policy holders would be the ones who are underinsured as these plans can be purchased with very low liability limits. In an underinsured motorist claim, the driver using a standard auto insurance policy has a higher liability limit than the at-fault driver, thus creating the difference in insurance coverage. A Standard Policy for car insurance in New Jersey will have at least a minimum level of coverage for underinsured motorists. The minimum levels cover:
- $15,000 for bodily injuries suffered by one person
- $30,000 for harm sustained by all those injured in the accident
- $5,000 for property damage resulting from the accident
You likely will not know the details of the other parties’ insurance limits in the immediate aftermath of the accident. After determining the other driver was at fault for the accident, the claim will be sent to the other driver's insurance company who will pay you for your damages up to the liability limit of their insured’s policy. If that amount is not enough to cover your bills and damages, your own (optional) Underinsured Motorist Coverage would cover the remainder.
Who Pays My Bills for a Car Accident If I Have Health Insurance?
You must buy PIP coverage in New Jersey, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance. In some situations, your own private health insurance may or may not cover expenses related to a car accident. However, depending on your situation, there may be more benefits to choosing PIP as the primary insurer, even if you have health insurance, such as compensation for lost wages.
When you file a PIP claim, you may be able to recover compensation for any time away from work while you are receiving treatment. In the event of a fatal accident, PIP may pay for any funeral or burial costs. If you have a Medicare or Medicaid plan for health insurance, you must choose PIP as your primary insurer.
Help for Paying the Bills After a Car Accident in New Jersey
Getting fair compensation for your losses so you can pay the bills after a car accident is no easy feat. Insurance companies -- even if you’re own -- may still deny or devalue your claim. If you have questions about your insurance coverage or have been denied a claim, contact the New Jersey car accident attorneys at Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law.
When you hire our New Jersey car accident attorneys, you are assured a passionate team fighting for your best interest and putting your needs first. We work on contingent fees that are only collected if we win your case. Contact us for a free consultation. With our proven track record of success with car accident settlements and our commitment to client care, we can turn your setback into a comeback.