Summer is here, and many Pennsylvanians travel out of state for vacation by car. It is quite common for residents of Pennsylvania to go to New Jersey shore points, such as Ocean City, Cape May, etc. Unfortunately, they may also be involved in a car accident in another state. Are the drivers’ legal rights to financial compensation affected because the car accident was out of state?
As we discussed in previous articles, Pennsylvania drivers either have a limited tort policy or a full tort policy. In general personal injury accident cases, injured individuals may sue at-fault parties for economic damages (medical expenses, loss wages, etc.) and non-economic damages, i.e., pain and suffering.
Although limited tort drivers may sue at-fault drivers for economic damages, they may not sue at-fault drivers for pain and suffering, unless certain exceptions apply or the insured suffers a “serious injury.” Thus, they are limited in their legal rights to sue for pain and suffering. On the other hand, drivers with full tort policies are not limited in their rights to sue at-fault drivers for pain and suffering.
What happens when a Philadelphia limited tort driver is injured in a New Jersey car accident? Is the Pennsylvania driver still limited in his or her right to sue for pain and suffering if the car accident happens out of state? What happens when a Philadelphia full tort driver is injured in a New Jersey car accident? Can the driver maintain their full tort status?
PA Driver with Full Tort Policy Injured in New Jersey Accident
In New Jersey, there are also two types of policies that are similar to limited and full tort. New Jersey’s equivalent to limited tort is called verbal threshold or limitation on lawsuit. The equivalent of full tort in New Jersey is called no limitation on lawsuit. Like limited tort, verbal threshold limits injured New Jersey drivers from recovering pain and suffering damages, unless certain statutory exceptions apply.
When Pennsylvania drivers, who have full tort policies, are injured in New Jersey car accidents, their rights to sue may be limited despite having full tort. They may be deemed to have verbal threshold. Thus, they may not sue at-fault drivers for pain and suffering damages. This is due to New Jersey’s Deemer Statute.
What is New Jersey’s Deemer Statute?
The Deemer Statute was passed in 1985 and later amended in 1988. If an out of state driver’s insurance company conducts business in New Jersey, the statute requires the insurance company to extend New Jersey PIP coverage in the amount of $250,000 to their insureds who are in car accidents while driving their cars in New Jersey.
For instance, a Pennsylvania driver is injured in New Jersey in a car accident and requires medical treatment. His PIP medical coverage is $5,000. If the accident was in Pennsylvania, then his insurance company would pay for his medical expenses, up to $5,000 regardless of fault.
However, because the accident happened in New Jersey, coupled with the fact that his car insurance company does business in New Jersey, the driver now has $250,000 in PIP coverage due to the Deemer Statute. Therefore, his medical expenses will be covered up to $250,000.
The downside of the statute is that in exchange for this benefit, an out of state driver is subject to New Jersey’s verbal threshold or limitation on lawsuit tort election regardless of having a full tort policy.
As previously mentioned, there are exceptions to verbal threshold. Therefore, if the injured Philadelphia driver in the above example suffers a displaced fracture in his leg, he will not be deemed to have verbal threshold because a displaced fracture is one of the statutory exceptions. Stay tuned for an article about New Jersey’s verbal threshold and its statutory exceptions.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident injured in a New Jersey car accident, it is best to talk to a car accident lawyer about your legal rights. Even though you are deemed to have verbal threshold, you may be able to overcome the threshold. Call our office to schedule a free consultation. 215.985.0777