Have you ever heard of verbal threshold? I bet you haven’t. You know why, because it’s the biggest secret that automobile insurance companies want to keep you from learning about.
Traditionally, there were no limitations in filing a claim for personal injuries in the State of New Jersey. That changed when the State Legislature enacted the Verbal Threshold Statute. This change was brought about by insurance company lobbyists whose primary objective was to make sure there was a law that made it much harder for victims of automobile accidents to be awarded money for their pain and suffering.
Every New Jersey residents who has auto insurance must select an option between verbal (also known as Tort or Limitation or Law Suit Threshold) and zero (or No Limitation) threshold. The insurance company will place in its brochure a very prominent statement that zero threshold is fifty to a hundred times more expensive than verbal threshold. Most people, not knowing anything more, choose verbal threshold to their detriment.
What is verbal threshold? Fundamentally, it is a strict limitation on a victim’s ability to sue for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. The verbal threshold would bar most personal injuries that are sustained in a typical car accident. In other words, people who have selected verbal threshold will usually be barred from bringing a lawsuit for personal injuries in most typical accidents. It doesn’t matter whose fault the accident was. If your vehicle got hit in the rear and you sustained a soft tissue injury to your neck or back, chances are that you would be barred from recovering money for your pain and suffering if you selected verbal threshold.
Here’s how it works. If a person selected the verbal threshold option in their automobile insurance coverage, generally, in order for that person to recover pain and suffering damages, that person's injuries must have met or fell into one of the following six (6) types or categories:
Type 1 – Death
Type 2 – Dismemberment
Type 3 - Significant disfigurement or scarring
Type 4 - Displaced fracture
Type 5 - Loss of a fetus
Type 6 - Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement. An injury shall be considered permanent when the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.
A great deal of injuries would not be considered within this short list. For example, Losses or injuries that are temporary in nature do not qualify. Fractures that are not displaced do not qualify. A victim’s claim must be supported by a physician’s certification based on objective clinical evidence. This means that a victim’s subjective or personal complaints are not enough. There must be an objective medical test that independently verifies the injury completely apart from the victim’s subjective complaints of pain.
The bottom line is that by choosing verbal threshold you are greatly reducing your opportunity to recover for pain and suffering if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident. Many insurance companies will not even settle case where the victim elected verbal threshold.
Now that you know what verbal threshold is, you can decide whether you want to keep it or not. You will now be making an informed decision about this issue. A competent personal injury attorney is the first person you should speak to in case you become involved in a motor vehicle accident. He or she will be able to provide you with knowledge of your rights and responsibilities. For this reason, you should seek the services of an attorney admitted to practice law in your State for assistance and guidance with your automobile questions or claims.