A New Jersey court has held that injured motorists whose medical bills exceed their personal injury protection (“PIP”) limits may recover the difference from the at-fault driver. On June 1, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued a decision in the consolidated matters of Haines v. Taft and Little v. Nishimura. These cases were both auto accidents wherein the plaintiffs had selected $15,000 in PIP benefits under their automobile insurance policies, but their medical bills exceeded this amount. At trial, the plaintiffs sought to recover their unreimbursed medical expenses from the alleged at-fault drivers. However, the trial judges barred this evidence, finding that any medical expenses up to the statutory PIP limit of $250,000 were inadmissible under New Jersey law.
On appeal, the plaintiffs did not argue that the defendants were responsible for the first $15,000 in medical bills, “as these amounts have been satisfied by plaintiffs’ respective PIP benefits and are undeniably inadmissible” under New Jersey law. Rather, the plaintiffs argued that “if they prove defendants are responsible for their medical expenses, defendants must compensate them for those medical expenses exceeding the $15,000 PIP limit, up to $250,000.” (Slip. Op. at 9.) The Appellate Division agreed, holding that New Jersey law “does not make inadmissible medical expenses between the PIP limit in an insured’s standard automobile insurance policy and $250,000, less deductibles, copayments, or exclusions. Such expenses are a kind of uncompensated economic loss that an injured party may seek to recover against a tortfeasor.” (Slip Op. at 22.)
This decision is important in that it permits individuals with low PIP limits to recover their excess medical expenses from the at-fault drivers. However, it is important to note that these excess medical expenses are not immediately recoverable. Rather, the injured party has to demand them from the at-fault driver, up to and including filing a lawsuit, engaging in pre-trial discovery, and conducting a full trial.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, then the Cherry Hill car accident lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. are ready to help. Contact us today at 856-354-9444 or fill out our online contact form to begin.