The Secret That Automobile Insurance Companies Do Not Want You To Know About

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.

Protecting Persons with Disabilities from Unlawful Housing Discrimination

Fred Shahrooz Scampato, Attorney | Employment Law, Discrimination Law, Sexual Harassment, and Civil Rights Violations

New Jersey’s fair housing laws for persons with disabilities are among the strongest in the nation. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq., has been recognized as being one of the most powerful anti-discrimination statutes in the country. Another State act, the Uniform Construction Code Act [UCCA], also provides broad protection for persons with disabilities. The UCCA requires the NJ Dept. of Community Affairs to establish general construction standards for all types of buildings, including residential units. Among the most significant protections of this act is the mandate that the Dept. adopt a “barrier free subcode” to make sure that buildings are accessible to persons with physical disabilities. NJ’s Barrier-free Subcode [“Subcode:”] covers “[m]ulti-family residential buildings with four or more dwelling units in a single structure.” N.J.S.A. 52:27D-123b(5)

The Subcode requires architects and developers to make sure that all new housing construction includes accessible public spaces and routes of travel into the residential units. New housing construction must also have individual units that have adaptable elements, such as kitchen counters, sinks, and grab bars, that can be readily modified for individual needs. The Subcode also requires that local construction officials enforce it. The provisions of the LAD establish the right of persons with disabilities to sue when the Subcode is violated.

The Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (“FHAA”), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601 et.
seq., provides protection against discrimination on the basis of disability in housing. The following discriminatory behaviors are unlawful under the FHAA:

  • discrimination in the sale or rental of dwellings, or otherwise making unavailable or denying a dwelling;
  • indicating that a dwelling is not available when the dwelling is, in fact, available;
  • discrimination in the terms, conditions or privileges of the sale or rental of a dwelling;
  • discrimination in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the rental or sale of a dwelling;
  • prompting a person to sell or rent by indicating that a person with a disability is entering or will enter the neighborhood;
  • publishing any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination;
    refusing to permit a person to make reasonable modifications to a dwelling where such modifications are necessary to afford that person full enjoyment of the premises;
  • refusing to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services that would be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling; and,
  • a landlord or seller asking about a tenant’s or applicant’s disability, unless the landlord or seller is providing housing designed for occupancy by persons with disabilities or for persons with a particular type of disability, and the questions relate to that applicant’s eligibility for the housing.

The FHAA applies to all residential units in buildings with five or more units. The sale or rental of a single-family house is covered by the FHAA unless the owner owns less than four single-family dwellings, and does not advertise or use a broker to sell or rent the house.

NJ State law also prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of disability. The LAD; Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-66.1; Handicapped Access Law, N.J.S.A. 52:32-4, et seq.; and the Subcode, N.J.A.C. 5:23-7.1, et seq., all contain provisions that protect persons with disabilities against housing discrimination. These State laws are similar, but not identical, to the Federal FHAA. In some instances, NJ State law may cover housing units not reached by the FHAA, and/or bestows greater rights against discrimination than Federal law.

You can file a housing discrimination complaint with both Federal (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)) and State (NJ Division on Civil Rights) agencies. You can also choose to file a State court action, rather than going through government agencies. To file with HUD, call 1-800-669-9777 or TTY: 1-800-927-9275 or visit the agency’s website for an online complaint form. You have one (1) year from the date of the act(s) of discrimination in which to file a complaint with HUD. You can reach the Division on Civil Rights by calling any of the following local offices: Trenton Regional Office, 609-292-4605, TTY: 609-292-1785; Newark Office, 973-648-2700, TTY: 973-648-4678; Camden Office, 856-614-2550, TTY: 609-441-3100; or Atlantic City Office, 609-441-3100, TTY: 609-441-7648. You only have one hundred and eighty (180) days from the date of the acts of discrimination in which to file a complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights. If you choose to exercise your right to a jury trial, you can file a court action within two (2) years from the date of the act(s) of discrimination in which to file the complaint.
Fred Shahrooz Scampato, Esquire has been aggressively representing people with disabilities since 1991. He has successfully litigated and/or settled numerous State and Federal discrimination, harassment and retaliation matters. He is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Employment Lawyers Association of New Jersey and is currently being considered for the position on the board of trustees of a private, non-profit school in special education serving young people in grades K through 12. Mr. Shahrooz Scampato’s telephone number is: (908) 301-9095. Feel free to give him a call if you are seeking legal representation regarding any disability discrimination matter.


NJ Employment Law

The Law Office of Fred Shahrooz Scampato continues to be committed in meeting its goal of becoming a well established general law practice with an emphasis on the needs of its business and individual clients.  Over the past eight years, the law firm has cultivated relationships with many local clients and has provided diligent and competent services to meet their needs.  This has led to the development of a law practice that focuses on personal injury and accident litigation, employment issues, municipal court, land use, real estate and divorce.