I am an attorney based in Jersey City, New Jersey. I have handled over a thousand New Jersey automobile accidents in New Jersey. During the last ten years, I have seen changes in the types of insurance policies a good number of my clients have had that can seriously affect their lives when they get involved in a car crash. About a decade ago, all auto insurance policies sold in New Jersey carried Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy limits of $250,000. The PIP coverage is the part of your auto insurance policy that pays your medical bills, regardless of whose fault the accident is. That is to say, your own New Jersey car insurance pays your own medical bills when you are involved in an accident.
However, the law changed about ten years ago and allowed consumers to buy smaller limits of coverage, as low as $15,000. They even allow NJ residents to make their health insurance their primary insurance coverage when they get hurt in a car crash. There are several problems with this, in my opinion. First, having only $15,000. or 20k or 50 thousand dollars in medical coverage is simply not enough. People involved in serious accidents – whether they are on Broadway in Bayonne, or Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City or Palisades Ave in Union City, often need significant medical treatment including surgeries. Surgeries can be very expensive – especially neck or back injuries which are a common result of serious car accidents. It has also been in my experience that about 95% of the clients that I meet do not know how much PIP coverage they have.
While they may have signed a form that indicated the amount, too often in modern society do we sign documents without knowing its content much less reading them. A good insurance agent explains in great detail these risks to their client and should urge them to buy the standard PIP coverage policy amount which is $250,000. Some people who choose their health insurance as their primary do not even have insurance. I’ve seen that a couple of times. Or, they may lose their health insurance if they lose their job. Also, many of these health insurance policies have large deductibles and copayments. Also they tend to limit the doctors that car accident victims can see because some doctors do not accept certain health insurance plans. The amount you likely would save is going to be minimal for the great risk of having so much less coverage. It’s bad enough when a person is injured in an accident and has to recover from pain and lose wages from their job, but it’s made far worse when they cannot pay their medical bills, too.
I have urged my clients, friends and family member to check their insurance policies and make sure they have the standard PIP coverage of $250,000. Anything less places you and your family at great risk while driving on any of our state roads including the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and US Route 1-9.