If you are injured in an accident which involves an automobile in NJ, your legal rights will depend on the choices applicable to your family auto policy, even if you are not in a car at the time of the accident. In other words, if you are riding your bike and you are injured because of the conduct of a motor vehicle, your auto insurance matters!
Keeping this in mind, there are three (3) key provisions I want you to pay attention to:
- The “Limitation on Lawsuit” option, AKA the “verbal threshold”: This is a restriction on your ability to bring a claim for injuries arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle, which provides that it is not enough that you are hurt. You must have an injury witch the statute deems is sufficiently severe in order to recover compensation for your injuries. And while this may seem to be no big deal, in reality it simply provides the person who hurt you with an additional defense. In practice, this generally plays out with the defense lawyer hiring an “expert” to say that the treating doctors are wrong, and you are actually fine. It’s an ugly “defense” which all too frequently deprives people of justice. Do yourself a favor – Make sure you have “no threshold” coverage on your auto insurance policy!
- Carry as much “uninsured/underinsured motorist” (UM/UIM) coverage as you can: New Jersey law does not require drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage. That’s right. The drivers whizzing past you while you ride may not have ANY coverage to address injuries they may cause you. Further, even when they do, it may very well not be enough. In either event, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you may have the ability to turn to your own insurance policy to compensate you for injuries you suffer due to the negligence of a motorist while you are cycling. This is usually the cheapest coverage on your whole auto policy. Carry as much as you can!
- The Family Policy Usually Covers All Resident Relatives: If you have a family, realize that the choices you make on your auto policy (coverage limits, UM/UIM coverage, the verbal threshold) will most likely apply to all members of your immediate family who reside with you. This means your kids and your spouse will be affected by your choices. If the person reading this post lives with their parents and doesn’t have a car and insurance of their own, realize that the parents’ choices will govern the child’s’ rights!
The point: Take a look at the family insurance policy and make proactive decisions to preserve your legal rights. If you have questions, speak with your insurance agent or your lawyer. And if you are hurt in an accident, seek the assistance of an attorney as soon as possible.